Phil: This post was supposed to be decorated with a picture of a lovely, gooey, delicious and totally indulgent cupcake. Our plan was to meet up for lunch at a Brimingham cafe which makes excellent cakes so we could plot world domination and I could listen politely to stories of recent holidays. Sadly, as my train passed through Dorridge, I received a text “Going to have to cancel today im afraid as at home sick”. Since Candice isn’t one to take a day off lightly, I assume this has no connection with it being her turn to pay for the goodies !
Anyway, I was on a train and it wasn’t going to turn back just for me. I’d arranged to give blood in the afternoon anyway so this meant an extra hour and a half of spare time in my day. No matter, Birmingham is a big place with plenty to entertain anyone for a day.
One of the places I had intended to visit was the Central Library. This impressive building, a fine example of Brutalist architecture, is being demolished and replaced with something modern. The new home a few metres away will be made of glass and be all very whizzy but I wanted to have a wander inside the old one before it changed too much. The interior is confusing for the first time visitor but I eventually ended up in the engineering section marvelling at the many shelves of car repair manuals or “bloke-lit” as you might term them. Soaking up the studious air in the place made a little bit of me wish I’d not been too thick to go to university. I could have been one of the badly dressed men studying the intricacies of gearbox design, delving deep in my subject and moving into my own ivory tower. As it is I tinker with old cars and bits of metal but know that I don’t belong there.
Moving on I found the fiction mezzanine which is home to the exact opposite of engineering corner. The shelves are bright, the books small and pretty, much like the readers. Along one wall, there are the “books for women”. I knew this because someone had been busy with the computer to replace the boring old labels seen everywhere else in the library with bright pink ones bearing the legend “Chicklit”.
They didn’t need to bother though because something else gave the contents away. The covers were all pastel shades. Titles were written in a handwriting style font. In pink.
Since I had the time I decided a bit of research was in order. This is, after all, the biggest selling category of fiction so it seemed sensible to find out as much as I can. “Know your Enemy” as they say.
Once I’d got past the colour schemes I noticed several other points:
- The description on the back starts with a womans name. This will be printed in a brighter colour than the rest of the text. In the odd case when this isn’t true, there will be a name in the first 3 words.
- Once you write a novel then you are on a roll. There were very cases of an author only having a single book on the shelves. Many had half a dozen, all of which looked the same apart from the title.
- The readers like to know what the author looks like so a glamorous photo beside the bar code on the back is common. As I looked at the pictures, I now wonder if I’m too ugly to write chick-lit.
Writing the synopsis appears to be very similar to good writing for the web. Here you have to try to include as many key words as possible so the search engines can find you. I guess that the browsers in a bookshop work the same way as readers of a web page. They don’t take in all the words, just spot the jewels that appeal to them. As an example, I give you “Lorna is up to her eyeballs in debt but can’t help bidding for the newest Jimmy Choos on eBay”. See what they did ? You like Jimmy Choo shoes, you like eBay, you don’t enjoy opening the credit card bill each month, this book is about you ! Buy it now !
In the end though, amongst all the stuff about marriage breakdowns, new men on the horizon and life changing activities, I found a real gem. Out of all the dust jacket blurbs, you simply don’t get better than this:
Sometimes life can be as complicated as a knitting pattern.
Wise words indeed.