Saturday, June 06, 2009

Blurb and Blurbers

On Jun 3, 2009, at 5:22 PM, wrote:

> Regretting a blurb is like regretting that cigarette you gave to a
> guy in the street. In other words, it's cheap.

Must be why I distrust blurbs -- they're cheap. Don't inhale.

I put more value in words, I guess.

When I see a blurb, I always hope it's from a legit review or other
source. But too often, it's just a premixed, premeasured endorsement
from one brown noser to another; a circle jerk of thumbs-up. A recent
book I've read featured some pretty nice blurbs from some writers I
respect -- or at least I used to. The book was horrible.

A blurbs B, B blurbs A, and neither seems to have read the other's
book. So why trust the opinion of either A or B?

Kevin Burton Smith
Thrilling Detective Web Site
Spring 2009 Issue Now Online
"Love Rears Its Ugly Head"

From Dave Zeltserman:

Don't tell me you're only discovering this now. This has been going on for a long 'frickin time, with some of the biggest names as guilty as anyone else. Although maybe it's become more blatant of late as publishers and writers are becoming more desperate.


There's been a lively discussion on the value of blurbs on Rara-Avis. I agree with most of Kevin Smith's points. A newspaper or magazine quote influences me more than an author quote simply because I know how the game is played.

However why can't one author blurb another if he truly likes the book? Writers have favorite writers, too. Kevin's certainly right about the Blurb-O-Matic nature of the process but again this is often publisher dictate. They start by saying Do you know any NY Times bestseller who might look at your book and possibly give you a quote? Well, as we know, there are the bestsellers and then there are the unbathed, uncouth urchins of street, alley and bordello known as the mid-listers. I may not buy a book because of an author blurb but I'll tell you, a book without a few quotes of some kind looks awfully naked. And I've seen a few.

One more point: less is more. If I see a Dean Koontz quote on a book I buy it and not just because Dean and I are friends. Dean rarely gives quotes so when he tells me a book is good I believe him.

How does everybody else feel about this?


Dave Zeltserman said...

Ed, not much to say. It's a game, and a game that benefits the biggest names as they trade blurbs with each other. When a big NY house is rolling out a book that they want to make into a bestseller, it will invariably be loaded with blurbs from the biggest names that that house has, and it's usually pretty easy to tell which blurbs are genuine (few, if any) and which are complete bullshit (most, if not all).

Nothing wrong with writers blurbing another writer if it's honest, but the dishonest more calculated quid pro quo stuff gets kind of nauseating--especially when the circle jerking is done so blatantly, with certain notable offenders probably having given themselves carpal tunnel syndrome many times over by now. But again, if it's honest and the writer is truly a fan of the other writer's book, nothing wrong with it, even admirable.

Anonymous said...

I have no blurbs on my books other than what editors have gotten for me. I much prefer review quotes, which the public understands as genuine praise and not mutual backscratching.

I do blurb, mostly to help new people along.


charlie stella said...

Don't get me started. I have too much writing to do today.

I have blurbs ... on my website. Those are all legitimate. Not very flattering, but legitimate.

I've had two blurbs in 6 books. One was legit for sure. The other I hope was.

It's part of the business I dislike the most (not necessarily the blurbing, but the fact authors have to hawk themsleves however they can).

The one other legit blurb I know I have was from my mommy. She wrote (about Charlie Opera): "It was good, sonny. I couldn’t wait to finish it. But do you have to put all that dirty stuff in there like that? All that was too much." – Momma Stella

RJR said...

I have gotten many blurbs from people I respect--Harlan Ellison on FULL CONTACT: Called my editor and said, "I was going to send you a card telling you I didn't have time to read this book, but I made the mistake of starting it." THAT wasn't the quote, but it was better than the actual quote. Dean Koontz on NO EXIT FROM BROOKLYN: As Ed said, Dean doesn't just hand them out, and the quote was to the point. Michael Cnnelly on EAST OF THE ARCH was very much to the point of the book.
I've gotten blurbs from friends, but have also been turned down by friends who wouldn't have had time to read the book. I respect that.
One friend, however, did tell meon the phone, "Just say something and put my name on it." I didn't. What would that be worth?


Anonymous said...

My late friend Norman Zollinger, who was a pal and colleague of Tony Hillerman, once sought a blurb from Hillerman, who was out of town. Time was short so Norman wrote one praising his new novel and sent a copy to Hillerman, who enjoyed the words put in his mouth.

Richard Wheeler