Saturday, July 9, 2011

The 10% Rule

I'm really sick of this.

You know when you're reading the back cover of a book, and it references something? And you're like, "Oh, that must be something pretty basic and simple! I mean, it's not like the back cover would have spoilers, right?" So it turns out that back cover blurbs actually have spoilers. Often.

Recently, I've found myself reading books that go into immense detail in the back cover blurbs. Now, I don't have any problems with the concept of a blurb. I don't think it's inherently bad to have a short, summarizing introduction. But giving away plot points or revealing character traits that aren't introduced in the book until very late...? Here I must draw the line.

A few weeks ago, I finished reading a novel that hammered home this problem. In the overly descriptive back cover blurb, it's casually mentioned that the main character lies about her name. This fact, it turns out, is only revealed on page 89. Even in a 500 paged book, that's pretty flipping late. Annoyed by this revelation, I wondered what could be done to avoid this in the future. Then it hit me: the 10% Rule.

Basically, the 10% Rule would state that the back cover blurb cannot include any reference to plot points, characters, ideas or concepts not mentioned in the first tenth of the novel. This would mean that a novella could have only a simple background description, while an epic fantasy novel could probably squeeze in a lot of information. We're so concerned about spoilers all the time but ultimately these blurbs can do more harm than a somewhat spoilery review. The reader spends so much time expecting events and characters and revelations, often times realizing that their effect is significantly diminished by the prior knowledge.

So readers, writers, publishers... let us join together to make our reading world a much more enjoyable and fulfilling place. Let us implement the 10% Rule and enjoy the surprises as they hit us. Because for heaven's sake: if the book spoils itself, what's the point?

13 comments:

  1. That is a fair rule and I will try to adhere to it in my reviews from now on. That is seriously so useful to me; I never know where the line should be, because I love spoilers so much myself.

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  2. I am totally with you, except I would get even more radical about it. Because sometimes the spoiler comes at the very beginning. And I HATE having a book ruined for me!

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  3. Amen!
    Sometimes I like blurbs if the book is complicated (or boring) and I need reminders about what it's supposed to be about, but that's usually a bad sign anyway!

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  4. I hate when that happens, seriously it makes me furious, I like to read a book and no nothing about it, but if I read the blurb I already know some important things.

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  5. I also hate it when the jacket copy gives too much information, and sometimes it ruins the book for me. I like to go in totally blind, and not read any of the jacket copy at all. This way everything is exciting and unexpected. I will go along with your 10% rule, for sure!

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  6. Agreed! I've stopped reading most of the jacket, if I already know the basic concept or the book was recommended to me. Sometimes they're helpful if there are a lot of characters, but otherwise the book should explain itself.

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  7. I agree with you. I have had a book spoiled by the back cover too. I try not to read the blurb until I'm at least half way through the book and am amazed by how often I still find things I haven't read about yet. 10% sounds like a good suggestion - if only we could get everyone to agree with it.

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  8. I agree! And recently mentioned this in a post. It's one thing that I'm finding I love about the Kindle. No cheesy cover, no endorsements, and no back cover summary to influence how I like the book. I just start on page one.

    I try to write my reviews with maybe a 20% rule, though I've never quantified it. It's important to me not to give too much away. I like the 10% rule.

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  9. I do hate that feeling of waiting for the event on the back cover to happen. Sometimes the book descriptions have really messed up my reading experience, because I kept waiting and waiting and waiting, and soon I was irritated because the event wasn't happening. That's not fair to the book!

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  10. I totally agree! Drives me nuts when they do that.

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  11. Heh. I discovered long ago that blurbs often giveaway things about the book I would rather not know and so I rarely ever read blurbs anymore.

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  12. Eh, I don't think 10% is enough to get a sense of what the book is about. I prefer something more like a 30% rule. Although, I'm not super particular about spoilers in my own reading, the journey is more important to me than the specific plot point.

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  13. Brilliant idea! You win the prize for best idea of the day.

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