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« The Doctor is In | Main | Networked Books »

September 11, 2006


JA Konrath

Barry brings up many valid points that I simply don't agree with. :)

The fact is, publishers want blurbs. The more blurbs an author can get, and the bigger the blurbing names, the more excited the publisher is. That excitement transfers over to the sales and marketing department. In-house enthusiasm is essential to have a career in this business, and getting some good blurbs is one more feather in your cap.

Your publisher believes--and I tend to agree--that blurbs help sell books. In fact, I believe a blurb on a book has more value than a review snippet or an award mention.

Readers are looking for books they'll enjoy, but are hesitant to give new books a chance. That's why bestsellers continue to stay bestsellers--brand loyalty. But a blurb can make it safer for a reader to try a new writer, because it is endorsed by someone they already enjoy. It's like a word-of-mouth recommendation.

And if the reader doesn't like the book you blurbed? They'll forgive you, because everyone has different taste. My wife has dragged me to some really awful movies, but I still love her. My friends and family have recommended things that I didn't particularly enjoy, but I never questioned their integrity or thought less of them.

The blurber can benefit, in all of the ways Barry has mentioned, and the blurbee certainly benefits as well.

Is the system perfect? No. It's riddled with lies and corruption. But then, so is publishing.

As crimes go, blurbing may indeed be one, but it's as victimless as a crime can get. No one gets hurt and everyone is helped.

As far as integrity goes, I don't think it is as black and white an issue as Barry does. Every book has some redeeming quality--that's why it is getting publishing in the first place. It's possible to concentrate on the good when blurbing, even if you didn't love the book.

I think it's odd that some authors blurb without reading the book (I've never done this) but I can even understand that. The fact is, if Clive Cussler or James Patterson or Stephen King said some nice things about my work, I wouldn't care if they read it or not. I personally wouldn't do the same, but I'd never look a gift horse in the mouth either.

The blog entry Barry referred to is here:

Blurbing is one way that writers really can help each other. If you feel that you can't endorse anything unless you truly love it, that's fine. I'd suggest telling authors that they're free to send the book, but your schedule is really backlogged and you probably won't be able to get to it. Then, if you don't like the book, tell them you're sorry but you don't have time.

You can still help writers, benefit yourself, and keep your integrity.

David J. Montgomery

One thing I know for certain is that blurbs work. Hell, they even work on me sometimes, as jaded and cynical as I like to think I am.

If I get a galley of a new book, and it's got a blurb from Barry Eisler on it, I'm going to at least give it a try.

(Of course, I did that once before, and I hated the book... but even so, it got me to pick it up.)

Katharine Weber

It seems I am among the rare few authors who read the book all the way through, and I do that before deciding if I can give it a blurb. (And I do at times say I may not get to it and may not be heard from, so I don't have to come back with a negative response.) Yes, there is pressure from editors and agents and friends, and friends of friends, amd there are all kinds of blurbs for all kinds of reasons...but there are also genuine words of praise sincerely meant.

I volunteered to give Emily Barton's Brookland a glowing blurb because I really loved the book and wanted it to get as much attention as possible. It's a brilliant book! Yes, we had the same editor, and yes, she reviewed my third novel favorably in the New York Times Book Review. So you could call it logrolling -- but it would be a misrepresentation to think the blurb was about favors or payback. Have you read Brookland? You should.

I have received blurbs from writers I don't know, writers who had no reason at all to offer a blurb unless they had a positive response to the novel. Muriel Spark offered a thrilling blurb for my second novel, which I sent her in galleys without asking for a blurb. I did ask May Sarton for a blurb, and she called me up and harangued me about my first novel for twenty minutes, and then she sent a lovely blurb for it in such microscopic cramped handwriting that my editor and I practically needed to do a forensic analysis to puzzle out the words, one at a time (we succeeded finally by enlarging her note on a copying machine).

It is tempting to regard all blurbs as puzzles to solve, relationship clues. Lots of them are just that. But there are also genuine endorsements here and there, and it would be a shame if their value to readers is ever more diluted by the social blurbs that surround them.


I can only speak for myself, but as a consumer, blurbs don't really work for me. Blurbs once did factor in my buying decisions, but in the past couple years, books have gone blurb-crazy.

Now it seems that every book has blurbs.

Back a few years ago, that wasn't so. And seeing an author's name blurbed on a ton of books has made me seek out his books only one time, and I swear his name was on a thousand books.

When a favorite author blurbs AND they very rarely blurb, I sit up and take notice.

But like I said, nowadays it seems like most books are blurbed, and I don't even bother looking anymore.

And if I do look? If I see a bunch of blurbs from authors that I don't know? The first thought that pops into my head is "What? This author isn't good enough to be blurbed by a recognizable name?"

In my mind, it's a strike against them. How is a blurb a good thing, in that case?

I don't fault anyone for blurbing or being blurbed. It's a hard business, and whatever helps keep authors in business is a good thing. I'm just wondering: with all this over-blurbing, when is that technique going to start going sour?

Roddy Reta

One thing I know for sure is that I've never bought a person's book just because they happend to blurb a book that I enjoyed.

Carla Arpin

Dear Barry,

What an eloquent and informative blog. MOST helpful for piddly little online promo and publicity person, me. ; )

I thank you so much for sharing!

Carla : )

Patrick Balester

I'd be flattered to be asked for a blurb on someone's book. And I don't think it harms one's reputation if the readers don't enjoy it.

If the author is unknown, and I see a blurb from an author I know, and have read, it does influence me to buy the book. So I think they are helpful.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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