32: Production Schedule, Part II

20 June 2011

The Blurb

Summarise the book in 150 words? Tricky. I did a draft and sent it to my production team. They commented. I drafted anew. Concurrently, two of them drafted their own versions. One (by Sid, my editor) was profound and philosophical. I loved it. One (by Si) was lighter and more frivolous. I disregarded it. After re-writing my own version (literary and classical), I was persuaded into some market-testing.

I gave copies of the three blurbs to everyone on the second floor of Copenhagen House (where I work), telling them: “No right answers and no wrong answers; just tell me what you like, anything you hate, or if you don’t care.” We got 48 responses. The results were striking.

My version lost (19 per cent of votes cast). Comment from colleague, Chris Addison: ‘Personally, I find this a little condescending’. Ouch. Sid’s was popular (29 per cent of votes cast), particularly with my target demographic. But Si’s won. The market lapped it up with 52 per cent of votes cast. The collective consciousness had spoken.

Si and I then had a one-hour conference call (he was in Seattle, spending millions of pounds on a biotechnology company which makes microscopes so powerful they can film the HIV virus in real time). His mantra is “it’s all about marketing” – the blurb doesn’t have to explain the book, just persuade people to buy it. Acting as a two-man syringe, we sucked out the fluff and injected zing.

In all, it took 16 draft blurbs from beginning to end. Sorted.


Sara and Charlotte sourced the four images on-line or traced them off Google Maps. I covered them in red pen, Charlotte made the changes, bounced them back to me, then I showed them to my production team, who told me to add a dotted line indicating the exact route of the bicycle ride.

That entailed rummaging through the pages of the battered and gaffer-tape-reinforced black book I carried around the world, identifying the French villages where I drank coffee, and the forests where I stayed up into the night, giggling jokes to my bicycle, during the cosmically stimulating summer of 2005.

In the end, the maps required three waves of feedback across three weekends. It wasn’t a quick process, but we got the right result. With that done, our final task was the inners themselves.

In the meantime: teaser videos …

‘I just am thoroughly committed to theatre, with no intermissions.’ – Lady Gaga

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