Back Jacket Copy Revisions

I have had some great behind the scenes suggestions for improving my back jacket copy. I’ve decided to share it with y’all because I know this is the kind of nerdy stuff that interests me and I reckon it might interest some of you. Here’s my copy.

No one knows for sure why Nashville has so many ghosts. Is it because the place has been inhabited for thirteen thousand years? Or perhaps because the Devil keeps a summer home here?

Whatever the reason, this is the kind of place where the living and the dead often linger too long in each others’ company. Babies long dead cry in church parking lots, where they are comforted by current parishioners.  A friendly neighbor cooks breakfast even after his body is under ground. And something stalks and preys on the living in the old tunnels underneath the downtown.  In tales that range from spine-tingling to heart-breaking, A City of Ghosts offers up an alternative, haunted history of Nashville.

Here’s the suggested revision:

No one knows for sure why Nashville has so many ghosts. Maybe it’s because the place has been inhabited for 13,000 years. Maybe it’s the lingering memories of the War of Northern Aggression/War Between the States/Civil War (ed. note – choose the best term used by Nashvillians here).  Or maybe it’s just because this is where the Devil keeps a summer home.

Whatever the reason, this is the place where the living and the dead linger too long in each others’ company. Babies long since dead still cry in church parking lots only to be comforted by current parishioners.  A friendly neighbor continues to cook breakfast years after his body is under ground. And something, not animal, not human, not alive, stalks living prey in the old tunnels underneath downtown.  In tales ranging from spine-tingling to heart-breaking, Ghost City brings to life an alternate, haunted history of Nashville.

(I only suggest changing the title to Ghost City to mimic the town’s established nickname of Music City.)

Now, this is not the first person who’s suggested changing the title from A City of Ghosts to Ghost City precisely because it echoes “Music City,” and it may be that it would be wisest to do so. But I’m resisting. Here’s my reasoning. It’s not just that I think A City of Ghosts has a nice rhythm to it that Ghost City doesn’t. It’s also because “Music City” is a certain kind of fictionalized Nashville already, and one that, in general, carries with it a kind of performative obligation on the part of the people who live here. We must, especially when downtown or in other touristy destinations, be prepared to seamlessly move from resident of Nashville to resident of Music City, a place in which the locals are always cheery and helpful and knowledgeable.

But I want to create another fictive city–a city of ghosts, not a city devoted to its most famous industry. And, in part, I want to do this by signaling to my local readers that this is a new way to look at the city.

As for the changes to the copy, I think it’s smart to change the questions to sentences. Also, a better rhythm to have three maybe statements instead of two, especially because it echoes the structure of the second paragraph. And look what happens in that second paragraph when a few more descriptive words get added to that sentence about the tunnels.

This, my friends, regardless of what anyone tells you, is the major drawback to self-publishing. When you publish with someone else, you are, in effect, getting fresh eyes, who can see the solutions to puzzles you have written yourself into. Every other thing I feel is surmountable. But not having an editor is a major drawback. Well, and a marketing budget. That part sucks, too.

Anyway, honestly, if I have one weakness as a writer, it’s my desire to make everything overly dreamlike and nonsense-ical. Even with “Bone,” they had me cut a whole chunk at the beginning, which, rhetorically, only functioned to ask “Don’t you want to hear a strange story about a woman with a bone in her pocket?” instead of just getting down to the story. I need to stop asking people if they want to read my stories, you know?

5 thoughts on “Back Jacket Copy Revisions

  1. I like “A City of Ghosts” because “Ghost City” sounds too much like “See Rock City” to me.

    The second version does have a nice flow. I like it!

    One suggestion, though, is that I’d prefer if one of the iterations of “long” in the passage about the-living-and-the-dead-and-the-dead-babies-being-comforted were changed to another word. The two “longs” in such close proximity sounded a tiny bit clunky.

    Otherwise, LOVE it! Very much looking forward to more stories.

  2. I say no to Ghost City. A ghost city would be a former city that’s now deserted, like a ghost town but larger. And your city isn’t deserted. It’s inhabited; it’s just that it’s inhabited by people and things taking up several levels of time or space. You could call your book Palimpsest City and be much closer to what you really mean, except that “palimpsest” has been awfully overused in SF&F titles recently and you’d lose readers who are attracted to ghost stories in the title.

    Is there a word or concept that suggests both music and spirits?

  3. I like the second rendition as well.

    I don’t like the title “Ghost City” — it sounds like a sh*tty hipster band to me.

  4. Big NO to “Ghost City”. Just say it out loud and you’ll see why. It’s hard to say. An st s combo is hard to pronounce and doesn’t flow well. Anybody who says the name of your book would always be tripping over those sounds. As someone who’s done a bunch of theatre, I hated it when I had to say that consonant combination. “City Of Ghosts” has a romantic, gothic, spooky kind of feel. I agree with nm, “Ghost City” sounds deserted.

  5. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but if I were just rooting around at a bookstore, I would be more likely to pick up a book called A City of Ghosts (or City of Ghosts) than one titled Ghost City. Ghost City just sounds kind of cheesy. A City of Ghosts sounds more like the title of a really bad-ass book that I would want to read.

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