Friday, March 16, 2012

Blurbless in My Bubble

By Peg Brantley, Writer at Work; Stumbling Toward Publication


I'm in the local bookstore. I have a book in my hands with a compelling title and a great cover. I check out the first sentence. The first page. Not bad.

I've never heard of the author and need to make a decision about whether or not to buy this book because, um . . . I'm loitering. How long before a security person thinks I'm trying to figure out how to slip this book up my sleeve and leave?

Then I spot a familiar name on the back cover. A name I trust telling me so-and-so has written "a gripping, heart-pounding, sleep-depriving page turner" and I get hopeful. Since I don't have time to read more than the first page, I trust the name I know and part with my money. After all, one of my favorite authors thinks this book is great. It must be, right?

In a recent article in the New York Times, literary agent Sharon Bowers wrote that blurbs are "a necessary evil, a box that must be ticked." Frequent blurbers are known as quote whores, and in another section of the article written by author Bill Morris, novelist Colum McCann is quoted as saying that blurbs aren't intended for readers. "They are designed more for the bookshops and just help to get the books on the shelf." Apparently most readers, unlike me, see blurbs as cheap come-ons. Am I naive?

My first novel is getting close to a release date. I'm thrilled, but blurbless. My hope is that the ability to offer a free sample will make up for the lack of endorsement. That readers will be able to make a leisurely decision. That blurbless doesn't mean yucky.

What about you? 

12 comments:

  1. I've sold more than 150,000 ebooks without blurbs from well-know authors, so we know they're not essential. As indie authors, our books won't end up on bookstores shelves either way.

    I used to be influenced by blurbs, but now that I know how the system works, I pay less attention to them, especially if the blurb comes from an author who has the same publisher.

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  2. I'm with LJ - I used to pay attention to the blurbs, until I found out how it worked. Now I ignore them. I've actually picked up some books that had the first six or more pages of nothing but blurbs - that annoys me.

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  3. LJ, you have developed a brand. It may not have happened overnight, but it's happened. Your books would sell in bookstores without blurbs.

    I guess I wondered how one author, who read a gazillion books based on the blurbs, could find time to right.

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  4. Gayle, I asked about blurbs on Facebook a little while ago, and not only did someone make the same comment you did (pages and pages are annoying) but people emailed and messaged me with the same observation.

    Oh, and the other thing that gets me is the pages of blurbs that talk about previous books and not one for the new one. Makes me think this one is a dog and the publisher is trying to cover it up.

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  5. You raise some interesting points, Peg!

    If you want some blurbs, you could always get a few advance readers to write some for you...

    Good luck with your book! Can't wait to read it!

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  6. Thanks, Jodie.

    This is all new to me. At first I felt a little "naked" without a blub, but when I went and looked at some older books on my shelves realized that this was a fairly new phenomena. I'm hoping that it's only publishers who perceive blurbs as "a box that must be ticked" and not so much readers.

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  7. Great post. Makes us all think. Here's what I do know. Don't close your box. Think BIG! I asked Danielle Steele for a blurb. She or 'someone' emailed me back that she was unable to do so per her contract. I asked Paris Afton Bonds. She gave me one! I sucked it up and asked Sidney Sheldon. He not only gave me a blurb but he continued to mentor me. GO FOR IT! And you won't be blurbless! You have good lowly friends like ME!

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  8. Thanks, Lala. I might ask someone when it's ready. A review would be nice . . . actually, a nice review would be nice.

    I know I left my big girl panties somewhere. I'll look for then and pull them up at some point, but not today.

    One cautious step at a time.

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  9. As a reader, I never pay attention to blurbs. It doesn't sway be at all. As a writer, I hate approaching people for them. It's always awkward. But I do agree that it's a necessary evil. From my understanding those blurbs are not really there for the reader, but for the buyers from the chain stores. That's one reason it's very important to get blurbs from folks who are in your genre--or as close to it as possible.

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  10. Mollie, my understanding is that since I'm publishing through Amazon, I don't have to worry about chain stores putting my book anywhere.

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  11. Peg, you're right. But might there be something similar method of operation in the world of e-publishing?

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  12. Mollie, there probably is something similar. There's an entire section on the book's page on Amazon (for all books) where blurbs are often on display near the description of the book. There's also author websites and blogs and other promotional material where blurbs could be used.

    The good thing is (I think) that if I should garner a blurb down the line, it's not a difficult thing to make changes.

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