Wednesday Witterings – The Secret Code…

The shock truth revealed!


(Yes, I know it’s Thursday, but the scheduling all went horribly wrong this week…)

One of the things loads of bookie people comment on is the annoying habit publishers and authors have of splashing the covers of books with straplines that bear little relationship to the actual content. After many months of dedicated research, involving top secret undercover work and great personal danger, I can now reveal the true meanings hidden behind these coded messages…


* * *

“The next Gone Girl!!”

(Please, please, please buy my book! I’m desperate!)

* * *

“The most inspirational book ever written!!”

(I haven’t read it, but I share a publisher with the author…)

* * *

“The No. 1 Bestseller!!”

(In Inverurie where my mum lives.)

* * *

“Shocking and hair-raising!!”

(And that’s only the grammar!)

* * *

gullible 1

* * *

“Sweet Sixteen and So In Love!!”

(Comes complete with free sick bag…)

* * *

“Award-winning author!!”

(Winner of the 1986 prize for Best Handwriting in Auchtermuchty Primary School.)

* * *

“The next Jo Nesbo!!”

(But Irish. And female. And chicklit.)

* * *

gullible 2

* * *

“Brand New Short Story!!”

(2 pages followed by a twenty-page ad for my next novel.)

* * *

“As mentioned in The New York Times!!”

(In the small ads when I sold my old bike.)

* * *

“First book in an exciting new trilogy!!”

(It doesn’t have an ending.)

* * *


* * *

In the public interest, if you know the true meaning of any other straplines, please post the information below…

60 thoughts on “Wednesday Witterings – The Secret Code…

  1. Thank you for performing such an important public service!! This is absolutely brilliant!! Made my day! May I humbly share this one:
    ‘I couldn’t put it down!’
    It was so heavy and ponderous I couldn’t lift it. 😉


  2. I love these coded messages! It made me laugh.
    Here are some more that come to mind:

    ‘A real page-turner’ = you keep turning the pages in the hope you’ll find something of substance

    ‘The next phenomenon to come out of Scandinavia’ = er, actually, it’s not a weather front, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to jump on the continuing bandwagon of success of Scandinoir and the writer is actually from the Netherlands rather than any Scandinavian country but they sort of speak the same language, don’t they?

    ‘Perfect for fans of (insert random recent success of your choice here, such as Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Divergent, Hunger Games etc.)’ = has a very superficial initial resemblance to that book, but if you want a clone of that book just read that book again.


    • HahaHA! Great examples! I’m pretty sure I’ve even seen a German book being described as Scandinoir – not helpful for someone with my already shaky grasp on geography! And yes – I’ve never seen why enjoying a book should make people want to read the same thing over and over again, just written by someone else…


    • Yes, or just Nordic Noir altogether, which must annoy the hell out of the other Scandinavian countries, if they’re anything like the UK (like that thing we say about Andy Murray being Scottish when he loses, British when he wins!) Great list, FF, and Elena.


  3. Very funny and very true. LOL

    I love it when there is something like ‘for fans of Stieg Larsson and Mary Cartland’. What????? (Haven’t actually seen that exact one but I have seen some others that I can’t recall specifics about at this moment.) Plus I love it anytime bloggers use Eeyore to illustrate a point. I love Eeyore.


    • Haha! Yes – sometime the connections are so ludicrous you have to wonder if the publishers are mocking us… 😉 Eeyore is so insightful – a true philosopher!


      • You know it wasn’t ‘Mary’ Cartland I meant – it was Barbara Cartland. Why did I say Mary??? Anyway, I was thinking of all those Barbara Cartland romances and then putting them beside Lisbeth. Ha!


        • Haha! Reminds me of the old song made famous by Ronnie Barker (whom you may never have heard of!) called “We heard what she said, but we knew what she meant!” 😉


  4. Brilliant! First, that it’s a Wednesday post on Thursday! Loved that to many deaths.

    The Sweet Sixteen, shocking and hair-raising, and award-winning author ones are so funny!

    This makes me wonder, though, do you suppose there are any truthful straplines?


    • *laughs lots* I felt it was important to point out that I did know it’s Thursday though – in case you sent me off to Crackjaw!

      I thought you’d like the Sweet Sixteen one – reminds me of Cassie and Evan…

      The only way to be sure would be to read every single book in the world! You go first…


      • You know, the disturbing thing is it didn’t dawn on me till you said it was Thursday!

        And Darby and Lizio! And beauty and the beast. And…all the romances ever!

        No you! Plus, you’re probably way closer to that goal than I am. Enjoying Trillions, by the way. The captain is so serious!


        • That is disturbing! Imagine how forgetful you’ll be by the time your BUS’s age…

          Darby and Lizio don’t count! They don’t have a romance – they have true love! Anyway you like romance – you Chani-fan!

          Let’s make BUS do it. Glad you are! I’m hoping it might put you off beards for life…


          • I’m about one and a half years older than BUS.

            True love = romance. Now, there’s a fact, don’t you know. I…I…never said I didn’t like romances!

            Okay, let’s do that. Funny you should say that, since I just cut mine off.


            • Impossible! You must have been born before the dawn of time then!

              Oh nonsense! True love lasts for ever, whereas romances can last for less than two hours! *thinks back* Or even one.

              *growls* Just as well!


  5. I’m not quite sure what straplines are. Maybe they are something that esteemed book reviewers receive along with the books? 🙂

    Well, I cannot attest to those, but of course virtually all books come with a number of one-line “reviews” on the back cover, sometimes from other authors; or often from magazines like Entertainment Tonight, or People. So I have to try to interpret what they might mean to me, as follows:

    “Evokes Fitzgerald in this tale of thwarted romance.” The author read some Fitzgerald, and unconsciously or consciously tried to copy his writing style. to no avail.

    “A steamy tale of forbidden passion.” The author can’t write a bit, but maybe there is a sex scene or two.

    “Exposes the dark side of the American Dream.” The most trite description ever; used hundreds of times. Book is likely as trite as the description.

    “Turns the vampire novel on its head.” It is a vampire novel, I hate those. The author desperately searched for a new twist on this exhausted genre.

    “A postmodern masterpiece.” The story makes no coherent narrative sense.

    “A darkly comic fable.” The story makes no coherent narrative sense; plus the author undercuts any serious scene with inane humor.

    “The funnniest novel since ‘Garp’.” Garp was not a bit funny, and apparently this one is even less so.

    “Milne’s whimsical and charming tales will delight children of all ages.” Oh, boy, a nice new edition of Winnie-The-Pooh, I will buy it!


    • HahahaHA!! Well, Garp may not have been funny, but this is! Brilliant! And all so true! I only have to see the word ‘postmodern’ to start quivering in terror. And NO MORE VAMPIRES!!! I bet the one with ‘steamy passion’ also has a shirtless cowboy on the front… or a priest! And as for ‘darkly comic fables’ there really ought to be a law against them! Thank goodness for Pooh! 😀

      There are a couple of authors who recommend any old tripe – when I see them quoted on the front saying ‘A brilliant understated masterpiece’ I now know not to go within a country mile of the thing… but I guess publishers probably think ‘A rambling, incoherent, grammar-free, plotless mess’ might not sell so well…


    • Bravo! This is a great thread, FF! I have a similar allergy to “post-modern”, ditto (sorry Lady F, if you happen to read this!) “magical realism”.

      I’ve always thought it’s authors from the same publishing house who write the strapline for each other’s books. I read that once, years ago. I’ve not done a statistical study, but feel free anyone who has WAYYY too much time on their hands….I’m trying to think of examples. Possibly Harlan Coben, I see his name a lot. And Linwood Barclay, possibly – his too. Although I’ve read both writer’s works and enjoyed them, I wouldn’t call myself a fan – I prefer Cohen though. And they’ve tons of money, probably a fair bit of spare time, it makes publishing people happy, and it gives someone a hand up. But I’ve never grabbed a book as they’ve said it’s good. They’re at the top-end of the thriller market, American-Everyman-in-totally-unbelievable-scenario sub-genre but it’s not my favourite type of book so I’d give them a wide berth anyway, so I can’t say if they hit you with bum-steers. (We’re back to the naked cowboys FF…who reads/reviews/BUYS them? We should each try and write and see one. But I’m guessing that would mean reading one…

      I like it when, in 40s/50s films, the theatre, or art, or whatever critic, who is – surprise! – arch,.snarky, queeny, luvvie – says something like, “Well, it’s certainly something…” or “It has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi…” Bear them in mind should you be asked for a strapline for a cowboy/vampire book at any point in time, FF.


      • Yes, I’m sure it’s same pubishing house authors all scratching each other’s backs. Kate Atkinson is one of the worst for it, and Val McDermid! And Stephen King’s name pops up on anything remotely connected to horror.

        Haha! I suspect any author/publisher who’s read any of my reviews would be very wary about asking for a strapline – “Great writing – shame there’s no plot!” 😉


  6. *laughing lots* Well done, FF! I’m glad somebody has finally deciphered the meanings behind these claims. Why are writers so needy?? You don’t see plumbers screaming, Please use my services! Same goes for doctors. Who decided writers have to BEG, along with the often-scary prospect of putting their inner thoughts on paper for all to see? Sometimes, social media is sooo annoying, with all the drivel from writers to buy their books (for a whole 99 cents, too!!). Can you tell you struck a nerve, ha?!


    • *laughing too* I nearly put a PS telling authors I love them really! Poor souls – I know they just want to get their stuff out there. Of course they do, after all the time and brain effort that’s gone into it. But by the time I’ve dealt with the million requests for review I get every day I could cheerfully blancmange some of them. Especially the ones who start with ‘I just love your blog, and am sure my book will fit in really well with your tastes. It’s an erotic romance/horror novel about sixteen-year-olds who are being chased by a psycopathic vampire with a chainsaw.’ Or ‘It’s a book about baseball.’ Uh-huh! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My pet hates include cover pictures which have no relationship to the book – like the perfectly respectable mystery written by a perfectly respectable author, which was illustrated with a blonde in her (very scanty) underwear. Only problem was, there were only two women in the book, one an elderly white-haired lady, and the other, a nun, hair colour not specified. Oh, and nobody took their clothes off.


  8. I think you should send this to every lazy publisher and agent out there. It might let them know we are on to them.

    I expect to see, any day soon (well, I almost have) for fans of Charles Dickens, Patrick Hamilton and Martin Amis…..all that will mean is that the book is set in London, and is actually the A-Z streetmap.

    I did see one which mentioned, if memory serves, 3 books which were not at all similar but had a setting in Holland.

    But even worse are those (no longer answered, even to say NO! GO AWAY!! ) emails from the self pubbers saying ‘I read your AWESOME review of (whatever it was) and (whatever else it was) – lets say, for argument’s sake The Grapes of Wrath and Pride and Prejudice and I think you would really like my new book, which is similar.

    I must admit, when I was new to getting these ‘please read my’……….requests I did take a look inside on the Kindle page if I could, and it was extraordinary to see the badly written tosh which these hopeful self-pubbers had thought stood muster with whatever wonderful book I had been praising. Or maybe they knew full well what they had written was tosh, but somehow did not realise that if I DID read it it would get a lashing, not a genuflecting, review

    Curiously, some of the really good new stuff I’ve read was getting no screaming raves from the publishers – maybe we have got to a state where positive comments about an advanced title means it is bound to be shoddy tat!


    • Haha! Love the street map thingy! I bet if any publisher reads this, they’ll steal that idea!

      I know – I started out so helpful with these e-mails, with a little system for sifting them, and a nice little rejection e-mail. Now – deleted without a glance, I fear! It’s also when they say how they’ve looked at the blog and feel their book would fit in so well – and then go on to tell me it’s a book of pub drinking games or a sizzling erotic cowboy/zombie romance.

      I’m glad it’s not me who has to draw up the Booker longlist this year – it would be a blank piece of paper… with perhaps just a strapline saying “As good as Donna Tartt!!”


  9. Thanks for a great laugh to start the day, FF. I might use one or two of these at some upcoming writers’ festival events I’m chairing.

    One of my own bugbears is this:

    “[insert name of country]’s Stig Larsson” = A crime thriller written by a man


  10. I enjoyed these. Quite funny. I don’t know if the authors have any say in what gets put on the cover. Might be a publisher thing but I don’t know. Just sayin’.

    What I don’t like is looking forward to reading my first book by a famous author, reading it, marvel at the unbelievably weak writing and then discover with horror that underneath the famous author’s name there is another name but it sort of blends into the background and you almost miss it. That is a cheap trick. Luckily it was a bookcrossing book and I didn’t pay for it.


    • Oh, yes, I reckon it’s usually the publishers! Though I’ve had the odd self-published authors modestly compare themselves to Dickens too… 😉

      Goodness, I haven’t come across that one! That really seems like cheating! Though there does seem to be a trend developing of famous authors writing with other less well-known people – I wonder who does most of the work. Seems almost like a franchise.


      • Well, I don’t mind two authors co-writing (like Neil Gaiman did with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens – a book I didn’t like. I love Gaiman’s work but Terry…I think he’s an acquired taste) but hey, make it obvious. The book I’m talking about is “Toys” by James Patterson.

        Self-published authors comparing themselves with Dickens, now that’s laughable. I don’t think even a well-established author would do that.


        • Funnily enough, it was James Patterson I had in mind – he seems to be allowing his name to be used as co-writer with all different people. And I always wonder how much he actually has to do with it – from what you say of the book you read, not much perhaps! Oh yes, proper co-writing is fine – under the circumstances, it was great that Pratchett was able to produce one or two extra books with a bit of assistance and Gaiman seemed like an excellent choice for co-writer.


          • It was my first Patterson book so I don’t know if this was even partly his work but I sincerely doubt it. He also had an excerpt from another one of his books included in this one and it sounded a lot better.

            I did not like the humor in Good Omens. It felt like it was more Pratchett than Gaiman. I gave up halfway through.


            • I’m not a Pratchett fan either so haven’t tried it, but my sister is a huge fan and I know she felt they kept the tone of Pratchett’s work well. As for Patterson, I guess he’s maybe just run out of steam but knows his name will still sell books – I suspect he gets a percentage just for allowing his name to be used. But perhaps I’m being unjust…


          • Apparently Patterson writes the story outline, and has a coterie of young writers (probably getting paid a flat fee, but it’ll still be a lot of money) do the dialogue, etc. It’s like a factory producing poor thrillers. His first few he wrote alone (Kiss The Girls, Along Came A Spider) were okay but then I picked up one about children who could fly, due to some kind of experiment, I think. I’ve never read another of his. Kudos, though, to him for giving huge amounts of money to literacy projects. (Maybe they can teach people his books are not v good…!)


            • Well, interestingly, his most recent one issued a couple of weeks ago is only at 15,000+ in Amazon UK’s thrillers chart, so maybe the experiment isn’t working out too well…


            • Yes, I read one or two of his early ones too and thought they were all right – though the films were better. But as soon as they start with the franchising of their names, it seems to me they’re just taking their readers for mugs. And I can see the attraction for the young writers, but better to make their own names, I feel…


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