The Jane Doe Novel Experiment

Creating Two New Novels. Writing One Chapter Weekly. Podcasting As I Go. Welcome to The Experiment.

Use Your Blurb to Set Readers’ Expectations


My friend and the movie, “The Vow”, helped me realize something: it is possible that a reader may not like a book because the blurb set the wrong expectations.


I’ve helped a few friends write a blurb over the last few months and I’m sure they became tired of my wanting to change one little phrasing with the explanation: “That makes it sound like your book is about this, but it’s really about that.” I’m sure I sounded petty. But, now, I have solid proof that I just may know what I’m talking about.

A friend comes over last night after watching, “The Vow” and tells me how much she liked it. Really?!?!? I go on a rampage as I cut the fruit for her smoothie.

“I was so disappointed! The previews were beautiful! A man’s wife loses her memory of him and he says the best & sweetest thing ever! ‘I have to find a way to make my wife fall in love with me all over again.’ That’s what made me pay $13 on opening night.  I wanted to see a man win the heart of the girl of his dreams…again. (And Channing without a shirt) What did I get? One date. A divorce. Her rediscovering herself. And just when she agrees to really give it a go with him, they walk off into the night and the credits roll. What?!? That’s the part I came to see. Keep filming! I want to see their dates. I want to see her start to love him again. I did not pay to see her consider trying to love him again after an hour of other drama.”

Out of breath, I hand her the smoothie I had prepared for her during my rant and collapsed onto the stool. She kindly looked at me and said, “Maybe that’s why I liked it. I never saw the previews.”

And voila! She solved the mystery. I went back through my mind and imagined watching the movie without any  expectations. She was right, it was pretty good.

And she shined the light on my advice for my friends’ blurbs: Don’t set the expectation for A, when it’s really about B. Even if the work is wonderful, you may be asking for a bad review because the reader just wasn’t expecting “B”.

Want to know where to start to write your “accurate” blurb? 😉  Here’s an article: Give Me the Skinny: How to Write a Blurb.


2 comments on “Use Your Blurb to Set Readers’ Expectations

  1. sarah
    August 9, 2012

    I so agree with this. I missed seeing The Vow in theatres, so decided to buy it based on the blurb. It sounded like such a beautiful love story. But then I came across a summary of the plot and was so disappointed, I didn’t spend my money after all. And I’ve read books which set me up for certain expectations and fail to deliver, and I’m left wondering if there really was a problem with the story or if it was the fault of the back cover summary (or even the cover picture.)

    • Jane Doe
      August 10, 2012

      “I’ve read books which set me up for certain expectations and fail to deliver” – I think we’ve all been there! Sometimes, it is the fault of setting the wrong expectation in the blurb, sometimes, it’s the story its self that failed to deliver. This last part will be a blog on Monday or Tuesday of last week. It’s a “Ask Jane” question. Come back and check it out!

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This entry was posted on August 3, 2012 by in For Writers and tagged , , , , , .

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