Wednesday, June 08, 2011

To Blurb or Not to Blurb

Recently, I wrote a back cover blurb for a friend, which got me thinking about book blurbs in general.

I still think book blurbs (or back cover quotes) are one of the best marketing tools for a writer to sell a book. Reading a quote from an established author, reviewer, or even a well-crafted plot summary acts as a preview for what’s to come. In fact, a few choice words can be most effective in that point-of-sale moment when deciding whether or not to take a chance on a new work.

Of course, we’ve all seen cases where the quote is more hype than honest praise. I don’t trust any blurb that claims the work of the author is the next best thing since the dawn of time. When I write blurbs, I treat them the same as if I were reading them: if I knew nothing about this literary work, what would be most helpful in making a decision. Most of us do not purchase new books solely on the back cover quotes, but I consider them because I do appreciate knowing who is speaking up for the author.

Securing quotes, especially for your first book, can be difficult. When I was looking for established poets to write quotes for Underlife, the writers I had hoped would come through for me did not, but the ones who did surprised me with their generosity and kind words. So when I get a chance to blurb, I almost never turn down the opportunity. I like to pay it forward.


Questions for you, dear reader. What's your take on back cover quotes? Are they important to you? Do they make a difference when deciding what to buy? If you’re an author, what’s the process like for you writing quotes? Also for authors, do you write them—and have you ever said no for a quote request?

6 comments:

Jessie Carty said...

I've written a few blurbs but I have to admit: I don't read them. I get them for my books because they are required!

Sandy Longhorn said...

I lean more towards Jessie's side of things. Usually, I'm reading a book of poetry because I already know of the author or I've heard about the book through word of mouth. Then, I want to come to the book untouched by anyone else's summary. I only read reviews and blurbs for books that I come to completely cold.

Jennifer Jean said...

I always read blurbs. They're not always helpful but I'm hopeful that they'll inform me about the "aboutness" of the book. Also, I like to see who liked the book enough to blurb it and HOW they experienced the book--this is especially interesting considering what kind of poetry or criticism the blurber writes.

jim said...

When I teach individual books of poetry, I love to talk about the covers, which invariably leads to discussions about blurbs and marketing (I really like it when relatively famous nonpoets are invited to blurb), and it creates an opportunity to talk about some dynamics in the po-biz.

For my first two books, I went the established poets route, and my third book was definitely blurbed by two friends of Jim. For my last book, which you kindly blurbed, I purposefully invited poets who had published only one book of poems. I'm not sure if my publisher dug that gesture, but I suppose the impulse was to get new voices on my book, or perhaps to get a little street cred from the young 'uns. It's never a pure thing.

So far, I have always said yes to a blurb request--not that I had that many. Usually, the person asking already knows I've admired their work, and it is an honor to be asked.

January said...

Hi Jim. I agree 100 percent.

Being asked to blurb your book was quite an honor. Hope to return the favor whenever my next book is published.

Hope you're enjoying the summer!

January said...

Jennifer, I like what you say about the "aboutness" of a book.

Sandy and Jessie, I wish I could say I don't read the blurbs. But I do. I like to read them and write them, even if I know the poet's work.

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