Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writer's Block Wednesday: The Blurb Revealed

What's one thing writers hate and editors will always require? Asking for blurbs. Those little snippets on the back of books from New York Times bestselling authors and prominent book critics. They rave about the characters, claim the book kept them up all night, and praise the exceptional prose. A great blurb can give a lesser known book a boost and being paired with a NYT bestselling author in Amazon searches always helps. But are blurbs really accurate recommendations?

Well known authors can receive as many as ten manuscripts a day from authors requesting blurbs. Many of them, in the interest of helping fellow writers, will try and read as many as they can, but obviously, can't get to them all. Others will blurb based on the back cover and first 50 pages. Some will give an okay book an exceptional blurb by finding one or two things the author did really well.

The blurbs are not mean to deceive readers, but to help writers. However, if you pick up a book because your favorite author blurbbed it and the book was bad, does it make you feel different about your favorite author?

After years of reviewing and spending a lot of time with authors, I've learned that there are four types of blurbers:
  1. The Blurb Whore - This is the big name author whose stamp of approval seems to be on every single new release, whether it be a crime fiction novel or a low-carb cookbook.
  2. The Fair blurber - This author will blurb a fair amount of books, but only ones they honestly enjoyed.
  3. The Newbie - This is the recently published author who is so flattered when approached by authors for blurbs, they feel obligated to provide one, even if they didn't enjoy the book.
  4. The Coveted Blurb - This is a blurb from an author who never blurbs anything, and if s/he said something wonderful about your book, it must be amazing.

As a reader, you learn to identify the difference, and the blurb whores will soon lose credibility. A book with a coveted blurb may rise to the top of your list and a blurb from a newbie author may have no affect at all. As an author, it's important to identify a big name author who will enjoy your book and who doesn't dole out blurbs by the dozens. You can go after the coveted blurb, it may pay off, but it's risky and time consuming.

Lastly, there's the issue of conflict of interest. Can an editors ask one of their big name authors to blurb a book by one of their lesser-knowns? Can an agent? Would people outside of the industry notice?

I think now, with Amazon reviews and book bloggers, blurbs aren't playing as much of a part in book buying. Most people will consider reviews and friend recommendations rather than solely relying on a blurb to tell them whether a book is good or not. But looking at all the implications of a blurb and all the outside factors, it's impossible to say without a doubt that the quotes on the back of the book are accurate recommendations.

No comments: