Pub Rants

Will You Blurb?

 26 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: It was a miserable Monday. Two contracts that should be done, aren’t.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SMOOTH by Santana and Rob Thomas

Several of my authors have quite a bit of name recognition so it’s no surprise that just recently, they are being asked to blurb quite a few upcoming books. This in, itself, is not a bad thing at all but it certainly got me thinking about some blurb rants.

So, I think I’ll indulge.

A blurb request is great if the author reads the manuscript and loves it. Piece o’cake. Blurb is provided with enthusiasm and delight. However, what should an author do if they don’t like the work?

Tricky situation but a great question. Do you blurb it anyway? What if the author is a “hot” rising star who is getting lots of attention? What if the request came straight from an editor? Can you say NO? Will that burn bridges? What if the request came from an author influential on a loop?

What if… and there can be any number of scenarios.

My advice?

If you don’t like the work, don’t blurb it.

Ah, easier said then done. Big smile here. That’s my general advice but if ultimately you, as an author, think there might be severe repercussions to saying NO (and those really vary), well, hey, it’s a valid, professional decision to weigh carefully and you might decide to blurb it. And yes, I can hear the chatter from the comments section already about how that might be jeopardizing one’s principles, blah, blah, blah. My guess is that you really don’t know what you’ll decide until faced with the question for real.

My other advice? If you’re not sure about a blurb decision, consult with your agent.

26 Responses

  1. Manic Mom said:

    Can’t an author find ‘something’ endearing to say though, like a tidbit about how a character rings true, or the plot was ‘way out there’, which could be good or bad?

    I bet some do hate the work but still try to find something kind to say? Hmmm, but then again, I’m not published, so this is only an uneducated guess.

    Also, don’t hate me for this, but in this phrase, should it be ‘than?’ This is one of those that always confuses me.

    “Ah, easier said then done.”

    Thanks for keeping us readers up to date in the world of books!

  2. Kendall said:

    Yes, almost no book is totally worthless. 😉 I’ve gotten a few ARCs from HarperCollins & Del Rey (who offer them in drawings to readers) and have submitted reviews. The only reader review of mine that got any part of it used? The book I didn’t care for that much…I said some good & bad things, and they quoted the good. 😉 I suspect some blurbs we read are like that…although with a blurb, I imagine an author only bothers with the good stuff and leaves out the bad, knowing criticisms wouldn’t be quoted. (I knew this writing my reader reviews, too.)

  3. Anonymous said:

    After reading the books and comparing blurbs, I’d be very surprised if most blurb-givers read more than a few pages of the book anyway. Most of the time they say absolutely nothing about the book, in a very nice way. I’m sure those authors grit their teeth(remembering how they received their own first blurbs), give them, and move on.

  4. Pennyoz said:

    Integrity. Years ago I had a part time job in a swimwear section of a department store. Fat ladies buy bikinis. Okay buy the bikini if you must but don’t ask me how you look. I lost the job because they asked me.

    The blurb is to sell the book. If you don’t like the book but still say you love it that is a lie.

    Advertising people lie. Politicians lie. Car salesmen lie. Everyone knows it. If they didn’t we wouldn’t believe them anyway.

    But you as an author shouldn’t be expected to lie. Lies have a habit of coming back to bite, specially when they are in indelible ink.

  5. Pennyoz said:

    Let me add too, that if you are being asked to blurb it’s because your name is recognised for whatever reason, so you are not exactly in the doldrums, so I still think that if you don’t want to do it, then don’t. Just say you have an urgent revision and are too busy to read.

    I always think that years down the track, when you forgot you blurbed, somebody mentions that author’s name and you say:

    “Oh I never liked his/her work!”
    (You are now famous enough to say what you think.)

    And the big blink back at you…

    “But your name is on the back… you said…”

    Uh Oh.

    Who’s name is mud?

  6. Virginia Miss said:

    Although saying no is hard, I like to think I would be able to refuse a blurb for a book I didn’t like. It would make me uncomfortable to ask fans plunk down $25 for a work I didn’t wholeheartedly endorse.

    I wouldn’t want others to think I had bad taste in books, either 🙂

    I’d probably try to weasel out of it by saying I didn’t have time.

  7. Jules Jones said:

    I’ve got enough name recognition in my own tiny niche that I’ve been asked to blurb a few books. And if I really don’t like it, I won’t blurb it. (I’ll refuse politely, of course.)

    I have very specific tastes, I’m not overly shy about them, and there are people with similar tastes to me who would use that in deciding whether they might like a particular book. If I praise a book that I didn’t actually like and wouldn’t like no matter how well it was written, then I’m misleading people.

  8. Jim C. Hines said:

    I chatted about one author with this when I asked her to blurb my book. (Thankfully, she liked mine enough to blurb it.)

    One point she made was that, in providing the blurb, she’s putting her name out there. Her readers will see that, and they trust her. If she recommends something she doesn’t like, that’s a violation of her readers’ trust in her.

    Of course, it’s also possible she’ll recommend something some of her readers just don’t like. But personally, I think the obligation to be true to your readers trumps the obligation to say something nice because you’re uncomfortable saying, “I’m sorry, it turns out I’m just too busy to blurb this. Best of luck with it!”

  9. BuffySquirrel said:

    Publishing is so quaint. In no other business would the celebrity assisting with publicity be expected to have any acquaintance with the product. Oh, and they’d get paid to endorse the ad company’s script.

  10. Anonymous said:

    Implicit in the whole blurb thing is the idea that if you share a sensibility with Author A, then you’ll like Author B. If Author A doesn’t even like Author B’s work…

  11. Anonymous said:

    It seems to me that if you agree to blurb, it amounts to an endorsement of the book, even if the blurber (?) hates the book. I’m always suspicious of all and any quotes because they can usually be manipulated: e.g., [this would be] terrific [if it weren’t for the lousy grammar, swiss-cheese plot, and obnoxious characters]! Guess how much of that appears in the blurb.

  12. Catja (green_knight) said:

    Blurbs go both ways.

    On the one hand, famous author’s recommendation means I’ll pick up a book by an unknown. On the other hand, unknown name endorsing book I like means I’ll pick up *his* book, just to see who this person is.

    If I see writers I love saying genuinely nice things about a book, I’ll pick it up. If I see writers I dislike praise something, I’m wary from the outset. Etc etc.

    So… (not that I’m going to be asked soon) I’d consider ‘do I want to be associated with this product’ and if the answer is ‘no’ then I’d – politely – refuse to blurb it.

  13. katiesandwich said:

    Thanks, Kristin, for this post. I’ve been wondering about that because I’d like to get some blurbs for my book after I get an agent a million years from now!

    I don’t like the idea of an author blurbing a book just to be nice to the other author, even if they really hate it. I’ve bought a few books based soley on an author’s blurb before, and I would feel so betrayed to find out that the author didn’t mean it. I hate, hate, hate confrontation (which means I often get suckered into things just like this), but I don’t think I could blurb a book I didn’t like or hadn’t read. I’m sure there are authors who have, and I hope not the ones I’ve trusted by buying books they blurbed, but this isn’t for me.

  14. Elektra said:

    Do authors get some sort of “query” or synopsis when they’re asked to read a book, or is it just “Here’s my book, BLURB IT NOW!!!”

  15. otterb said:

    Misread elektra’s line as “Here’s my book, BLURB IT MOM!”

    Mom would do that for you, right? 🙂

  16. Anonymous said:

    My mother’s not even allowed to read my book- but she’d still write a blurb saying it’s the best! 🙂

  17. Ryan Field said:

    Blurbs…but how serious can you take them? I’ve yet to read anything, or watch any film, where the blurb was accurate. So, whether or not you like the material doesn’t seem to matter.

  18. Zoe said:

    I saw a book once where the only blurb was from… the author of the book.

    Is that better or worse than a recommendation from Mom?

  19. GutterBall said:

    I always wonder what mothers think when they read their kid’s book and it has a steamy sex scene.

    Elektra, the first time my mom read a sex scene of mine, she said, “Wow! It reads just like one of those bodice-rippers!”

    *dies* She meant it well. She couldn’t figure out why I winced until I explained what a bodice-ripper really was. Heh, she did take it back, though.

  20. Virginia Miss said:

    elektra, it’s not my parents’ reaction to steamy sex scenes that worries me, it’s my kids’ reactions!

  21. Kanani said:

    I was noticing how different the sources are for the blurbs on Frank Schaeffer’s books.

    In his Calvin Becker trilogy, they’re all from literary journals, book review sections of major papers.

    In his military non-fiction and his latest novel “Baby Jack,” they’re from people with military backgrounds with only one literary blurb from Carolyn See.

    Anyway, I think in regards to “who pays attention to them” it’s all right there. A lot of people do.

    But I wonder… just for fun… who would’ve blurbed:
    -Jane Austen
    -Charles Dickens
    -Robert Browning
    etc. etc.

  22. Vicki "Ten" Pierce said:

    It seems to me that this is reason #312 to have an agent! 🙂

    “I’m sorry, my agent says I need to focus on my final edit (promoting my current work, having lunch & schmoozing with editors, traveling to Europe for research) right now. But thank you so much for asking.”