Thursday, October 20, 2011

Before/After: "My Name Is Joe"

Today's blurb before-and-after is for Stefan Bourque's contemporary fiction novel "My Name Is Joe," and this time it didn't work out quite the way the author and his marketer/wife Holly wanted it. Sometimes that happens.

I'm sharing it (with permission) even though it looks like they're not going to use what I gave them. And that's okay--it's your book, folks. My way may not be the right way for you, or may be a way that you think still needs serious tweaking. Holly says, "You helped us see our title in a different light. ... You did bring a perspective that we hadn't been looking at before, and sometimes that is just what is needed."

I try to make the client 100% happy with what we come up with, but sometimes it doesn't work out. I'm not offended, nor are they wrong; it's their book, and they know it best. Here's what I came up with.


In what has been called a masterpiece of emotion, Stefan Bourque's "My Name Is Joe" has been celebrated by readers around the world as an inspiring tale and a reminder of the great capacity for human kindness.

Joe, a quiet and introspective loner has discovered he will soon cease to exist due to an aggressive, incurable cancer. Lonesome in his final days and after long contemplation he decides to do something that he has never thought to do before--Joe decides to reach out to his fellow man in an effort to teach others the valuable lesson he is learning before it is too late.

With a single act of kindness Joe inadvertently pulls toward him a young, single mother who carries her own deep-seated guilt for the death of her mother.

Can these two wayward souls find the redemption that they each so desperately need before time and death separate them? This is a tale of compassion, redemption and the deliverance that can only be achieved through the courage and love that human beings possess but too infrequently share.


Joe is dying. An aggressive cancer is killing him, and he's avoided personal entanglements so successfully that he's dying alone. He now realizes the life he built was all online, right down to the virtual pink slip for his work-at-home job. And all around him he sees his neighbors doing exactly the same. Even the children have stopped playing in the streets, ignoring the world around them for the anonymous safety of online games and virtual contact.

Rebecca is living, but barely. Guilt over the death of her mother is hollowing her out inside, and she struggles to mother her own young son alone.

Joe decides to start connecting with his neighbors and to help them connect with one another. When he and Rebecca meet, they both come to see that his dying may mean salvation for both of them--if they can muster the courage to trust one another.

Want me to help with your blurb? I can do that.


  1. I very much like your reworked blurb, but as you say, it's their book. To be frank, I found the original (which I had read before and decided me that I wasn't interested in looking at it closer) wordy and pretentious sounding.

    Sorry. I don't mean to be offensive, but that's how it struck me. However, as you say, they have to be happy with the blurb and hopefully they can look at what you did and go in a better direction than the original.

  2. I don't think they're necessarily going with the original; I think they're taking some of the points I made in the rework and taking their own run at it, which is totally fine and can be helpful in its own way as they said. (When I rework blurbs on Kindleboards that often happens.) I don't think I quite got their vision of the book the way they wanted to present it.

    As for pretentiousness: It's that first line. I'm sure the writer didn't mean to be pretentious at all; I've seen many writers do it. Heck, I did it in one of my early blurbs, and I do NOT think I'm all that and a bag of chips.

    I always advise people never to praise their own book or tell people how fascinating, enchanted, thrilled or hooked they're going to be if they read it. It's tempting to do so--it feels like you'll convince the reader s/he'll be missing out if s/he doesn't buy it--but avoid that temptation, writer. It's not attractive. If you must use that kind of language, be sure it's from a bona-fide reviewer you can give a name and source for as opposed to just "Linda," and put it at the end of the blurb rather than the beginning.

  3. Hi Mei

    The original blurb really lost me unfortunately. I read it through to have full perspective but on a book site I wouldn't have read past the second paragraph.

    By comparison, your blurb hooked me in, showed me a quick glimpse and the two key characters and left me hanging.

    Shame it didn't quite fit the bill for them but great that you could set them on a clearer path. Good work again!


  4. I didn't think they meant it to be pretentious or that it means that the book is. I was just saying how it came across to me. I've done it. It's an understandable mistake.

    There is certainly nothing wrong with using yours with some changes to make it fit a little better. I wasn't criticising that at all. :-)

    Great job on it.

  5. Interesting. My take is that the original blurb needed some structural rewriting. Too many words for what it was saying, and I'd get rid of the first paragraph of it entirely. The second one is extremely well-written and tight. That said...the emotion in the first one grabbed me a lot more. The second one didn't connect with me at all. They felt like two different books. Stuff like this is impossible to quantify, but on a high level, if they can create as well-written a blurb as the second one, but capture the feel of the first one, that may be what they're looking for.

  6. Edward: I hope so, and I'm fairly sure that's where they're headed--I got the strong feeling that I missed the emotion they wanted to see, though they didn't say it in as many words.

  7. I actually prefer the original blurb. It may sound pretentious to some but it reminded me of blurbs I would read in magazines. I also liked the sense of mystery behind the original version. What was the lesson & why do they need it? The revised blurb was too blunt for me & turned me off the book.

    That said, it's great that you show both the blurbs that worked and those that didn't (as per authors' opinion). It demonstrates transparency and offers a good balance for your blog. I always enjoy coming here and seeing the Before/Afters.

  8. Thanks, Fatima. I am a big believer in transparency.