Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Who Else Dislikes Book Blurbs? by Karla Stover


     I just finished reading Stephen King's book, Joyland. Brian Truitt provided a recommendation on it for USA Today. He called it "tight and engrossing. The Washington Post's Bill Sheehan called it,
". . .appealing coming-of-age tale that encompasses restless ghosts, serial murder, psychic phenomena and sexual initiation." Mr. Truitt has a book about the movie, Twilight available on Amazon. Sheehan has one about Peter Straub, a horror-fiction author. I guess that is supposed to make them experts but I will never take their reviews seriously, again. Joyland was a dull--308 pages with the above-mentioned "restless ghost" etc, making weak appearances on page 271.

     So I ask myself, does anyone read a book based on these blurbs? And who is responsible for providing them, the publisher or the author?

     The first thing I did (naturally) was Google. Here are some quotes from the website, ( says websites should be italicized).

     "Most often its someone in the marketing department at the publishing house."

     "They are usually arranged side-by-side with pull quotes (blahs) by authors. These are usually people working in the same genre and often in the same publishing company."

     "packaging/marketing firms."

     And the saddest one:  
     "I once had a job, among other things, writing back cover copy for books. My official title was "marketing assistant," and I was completely unqualified to do such a thing. I was right out of college, I was writing blurbs for academic books in disciplines which I had never studied, and I often had no more than the introduction to go by. I'm sure my blurbs were often highly misleading. I apologize."


     From this website, I went to Here's what one author had to say:

     "I wrote critiques for them (well-known authors) and asked if they could kindly say this. They agreed. Saves them time/effort."

     More than one person on that website said they wrote their own endorsements.

     Back when I was a newspaper reporter, I interviewed an east coast news journalist whose name I've since forgotten but who had written a book and who was doing a signing tour. I asked her about book cover endorsements and she said they were very important to east coast publishers. I wonder if that still holds true, or if more people look to Amazon. My bet is Amazon.

     For my first nonfiction book on Tacoma history I asked a couple of local, well-known historians provided endorsements. For the second I didn't bother. My opinion is that an attractive cover is more important to potential reader/buyers that a quote from the Seattle Times. Jo Linsdell on seems to agree.

     "With millions of books for readers to choose from," she wrote, "the first 'sales pitch' is the cover."
     Sometimes it seems as if the three-legged stool of writing--plot, place and people--are the least important things about a book, but not to readers and certainly not to me. Sometimes getting rich means finding those little gems in plain green covers that everyone else has over looked.