Important Symbols

15 Oct

My niece and I were walking along the green belt of Boise, in a park across the road from my house, and spied our first bald eagle of the season. What a magnificent creature! It got me wondering about how it became a symbol of the United States. So, I did a little research.

The bald eagle was chosen to symbolize the United States because of its perceived fierce independence, unwavering strength, long life, majestic beauty and great courage.

As shown on the Great Seal of the United States, adopted by the Continental Congress in 1782, a front facing eagle bears a shield on its breast and is holding an olive branch in its right talon, 13 arrows in its left talon, and a scroll inscribed with the phrase, “E Pluribus Unum: in its beak. The bald eagle became the official bird of the United States in 1789.

One legend has it that during an early morning battle in the beginning stages of the Revolutionary War,
the loud fighting awoke sleeping eagles from their nests nearby. Screeching, the eagles flew to the battlefield and circled it. The fighting men believed the eagles’ shrieks was their way of yelling for freedom from the British.

The bald in the name refers to the eagle’s white feathered head, not an actual “bald” head. The reputation for the eagle’s strength, beauty and agility is not unfounded. The male bald eagle weighs between 7 and 10 pounds, with a wingspan of over six feet, while the females can weigh up to 14 pounds, with a wingspan of up to eight feet. The birds can live up to 30 years and they mate for life. (So sweet)

Symbols are important for many reasons. For writers, photos, Facebook pictures, blogs, and book covers are all important “symbols” of themselves and their work. With so many books competing for sales online, book covers and book blurbs are more important than ever.

As fellow writers, do you find yourselves drawn to certain books by their covers, and further drawn in by their back cover blurbs?

When you write or set out to start a new book,do you think in terms of blurbs? In today’s world, it might be every bit as important as first lines.

What do you think?


Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Idaho


23 responses to “Important Symbols

  1. Liz Fredericks

    October 15, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    Interesting post, Judith! Symbols are very important in our plots – so much so that I don’t think we’re often aware of them. In terms of blurbs . . . tend to agree with you, but don’t usually buy a book unless it’s recommended by another writer.

    • Judith Keim

      October 15, 2012 at 8:40 AM

      Liz, of course! You’re right! Hadn’t focused in on that but symbols in our books are important, especially in mysteries. And I agree, there are so many good books a writer’s recommendation holds a lot of weight with me.

  2. Kara

    October 15, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    Wonderful post! Love the bald eagle and all it stands for. A true symbol of all this country is built on, and a beautiful creature of nature.
    Covers and blurbs do draw me into a book, but most of the time, it’s a sample reading. Sometimes blurbs fall short and I would hate to overlook a great story because of it.

    • Judith Keim

      October 15, 2012 at 8:42 AM

      Kara, like that idea that once you’re drawn into the book, you do a sample reading! Blurbs can’t take the place of first pages but I’m finding with e-books especially a blurb often keeps me from opening a book. Thanks…

  3. Janis McCurry

    October 15, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    I put more weight on blurbs than covers. I’ve heard too many authors telling horror stories about covers that don’t look like the h/h’s hair color or anything. One author had a cover that there was snow in the background and the entire book took place in summer!

    • Judith Keim

      October 15, 2012 at 9:58 AM

      Yes, I’ve heard all kinds of stories about bad covers and I’ve also read bad blurbs that sound exciting but don’t really match the story!

  4. marsharwest

    October 15, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    Hey, Judith. Love the info on the eagle. We were fortunate on our Maine trip in August to see a bald eagle purched at the top most of a tree. His little white head clear even without the binocs. It was quite cool. I’m a fairly concrete person so don’t think in terms of symbols much. Often don’t even recognize them when I’m reading. LOL Covers are good, back blurb better. At that point if I have a question, I’ll check out the first paragraph. I’m not much of a fan of first person, I read some, but . . .I can’t always tell from a blurb what the POV will be, so that’s why I check the first page. Good post.

    • Judith Keim

      October 15, 2012 at 10:00 AM

      Thanks, Marsha! Interesting info on POV checks…Blurbs are almost always in 3rd person. Hadn’t thought about the difference it might mean to some people. Glad you got to see the eagle so close. Very inspiring creatures…

  5. JoMarie DeGioia

    October 15, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    I don’t think I look at the symbols on book covers much. Colors will draw me in and, hopefully, the book will deliver on the tone those colors evoke. As for blurbs? I’m always thinking in terms of promo, even as I’m writing the book I want to write. Blurbs help me encapsulate my thoughts should anyone care to ask me what I’m working on!

    • Judith Keim

      October 15, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      Blurbs are hard to write for the very reasons you mention.. They’re a little bit like one to three sentence pitches in which you have to market the book in a very brief summary. Personally, I find them hard to do. Thanks, JoMarie!

  6. Peggy Staggs

    October 15, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    I love the wildlife in Boise. Right now I’m on the lookout for that cougar people keep seeing along the Green Belt.
    It isn’t so much the cover though I will pick up certain colors first. For me it’s the title. I love titles. Then the back cover blurb. Finally, I read the first page. If all is good the book goes home with me.

    • Judith Keim

      October 15, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      It’s interesting how color does draw a potential reader to the book, making it a real package- color, design, words, and the ever-present first page! Thanks, Peggy! Our homeowners association sent out an email with pictures and descriptions of cougars. They tell you not to run from them but to carefully back away so that they don’t think of you as prey!!

  7. marymarvella

    October 15, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    Judy, a cover might make me pick up a book, but the blurb and reading a few pages will take me toward the cash register to purchase it.

    Love the symbols, especially the eagle!

    Enjoying the grandkids?

  8. Barbara Barrett

    October 15, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Judy, if what they say in the musical and movie “1776” is true, Benjamin Franklin wanted the national bird to be the turkey. Can’t recall the reason, but that exchange with John Adams is part of the script. Guess it’s the national bird for the month of November anyhow.

    As for blurbs and covers, yes, I think they’re important, although I tend to agree with whoever said they select a book on others’ recommendations, which means word of mouth is so critical in the current state of publishing. I keep saying I’m going to write the blurb for my next book first, so I don’t have so much trouble writing it after the book is finished. I also think book titles help sell books too, that’s why I put so much effort into coming up with my titles.

    Barbara Barrett

    • Judith Keim

      October 15, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      I’m willing to eat Turkey at Thanksgiving but I’m sure glad it wasn’t chosen as our national symbol because unfortunately they’re one of the dumbest creatures ever…I’ve heard stories of them drowning in their water bowls because they didn’t know enough to lift their heads. Yes, titles as someone else mentioned are important too. Thanks, Barb!

  9. Corina Mallory

    October 15, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    Judith, interesting post. I hadn’t really thought of blurbs as symbols before, but of course they are. As a romance reader I rely on blurbs a lot. There are romance tropes I just immediately shy away from and others I eat up with a spoon and the blurb helps me weed through the millions of books out there. As a writer, I definitely try to think in blurbs. I’ve found it helpful if I’m stuck on a story to write a blurb, or pull up and re-read one I’ve already written. It reminds me of what’s really important in the story I’m trying to tell.

    Covers – not so much. Some of the best books I’ve read have had the worst covers (and vice versa) so a bad cover doesn’t put me off anymore.

  10. Judith Keim

    October 15, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Corina, I agree, writing a blurb first helps keep the focus on the story. It’s still hard for me to condense all the threads that make a good story into something so simple. Thanks…

  11. Brenda Sparks

    October 15, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Interesting blog, Judy. I think covers and back blurbs are extremely important. I can’t tell you how many times I have passed up a book because the blurb didn’t catch my interest or the cover just wasn’t enticing. I love writing the blurbs. Personally I’d rather write a blurb than revise a scene. 😀

  12. Judith Keim

    October 15, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    I had to laugh at your comment, Brenda, because no matter what we write, there’s always some part of it that’s more difficult than another. Revisions, blurbs, all of it is much harder than people think. Love that writing blurbs is fun for you!

  13. Karla Darcy

    October 15, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    I’ve been surprised when I started looking at covers how much they do influence me in making a decision to buy. I’m not sure I’m much convinced by blurbs but I always check the book descriptions. Thanks for the info on the eagle. Good blog.

  14. Judith Keim

    October 15, 2012 at 8:52 PM

    Hi, Karla! It’s been interesting to me to learn how much covers vs. blurbs influence people. I guess I’m one of those people who look at titles, covers and then blurbs in a hardcover book but then look at blurbs first in e-books… Thanks…

  15. maryvine

    October 16, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    Thanks for making me think harder about the blurb that goes on my next book. You are so right!

  16. Judith Keim

    October 16, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    Hi, Mary! I’ve been reading more back cover blurbs. It’s interesting how they either draw you in or make you put the book down. Thanks!


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