Going Indie—What I’ve Learned (So Far)—Part 10

By HarperTeen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Liars, Liars, Pants On Fire! (By HarperTeen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Over the weekend I got into a short exchange about book blurbs. It was mentioned that during the BEA, that there was a “lot” of talk among editors about how important book blurbs are, now, for debut works to be taken seriously. I watched some of the comments, and saw that not everyone (as readers) seemed enamored over them.

Book blurbs are having some famous person giving a little mini review of your book, like “This is the best piece of literary action/adventure since Shakespeare!” It’s an “If all these people like this book, you will too” marketing approach. I have nothing against that. Personally, blurbs never really played much into my buying a book. As was mentioned by one or two others, it was always about plot, story, title, cover art (yes, I have bought books for the cool looking covers, before…but that’s no longer a factor, since I became a serious writer). That kind of thing.

Then one day, as the “serious writer,” I asked an acquaintance of mine to blurb one of my books.

This person got back to me within an hour or so (to be honest don’t remember the actual response period, but I do remember thinking this person could not have read the book that quickly) with a blurb.

A blurb that was written without having read my work.

I asked if this person had read the book and was, indeed, told no, they hadn’t. I thanked the person, but told them that I would not use it, because I wanted my blurbs to come from people who actually read my work.

Over the years, I had found that this was standard industry practice!

Yes, the traditional publishing industry, that place that brought you your Hunger Games, your Harry Potters, your Dragon Tattoos, even your Chicken Soups, or any of the Oprah-endorsed books…look at all those blurbs famous people wrote. It’s a sure bet most of those were written without the blurber having actually read any of the book in question.

Now, I could be wrong.

It could be that today’s publishing industry has grown morally and ethically since the 15-30 years ago when I discovered this from other authors (yes, I asked some others, and one or two even told me they’d supplied blurbs without having read the books…that it was just “the thing to do…how it was done.”)…buuut, I doubt it. So, I did some quick research over the Internet, and this article is representative of what I found. You might find it interesting, even if it is dated 2012, especially this little line: “Shteyngart admits that he hasn’t fully read all the books he’s blurbed….”

In this (and other articles I found online) nearly all of them all said the same thing: they don’t really sell books. They help get them into bookstores, perhaps, but readers don’t really pay attention to them. Oh, sure, the blurbers might be well meaning, helping out a friend or student…or are sleeping with an editor…or even have a gun to their head, one article joked…but a 2012 Bowker Market Research study showed that only 6% of readers become aware of books through jacket covers or testimonials…blurb effectiveness was anecdotal.

Back to my weekend comment: “So, given the comments, how in touch ARE editors with their readers? Are the blurbs more for official reviews?

Yes, was the basic response, but when I mentioned that most blurb writers do not read the books they blurb, and make stuff up, the person I interacted with no longer responded. I found that extremely unprofessional on this person’s part. Really, when presented with a “hard” question, you simply…ummm…ignore and run away?

Funny thing, is, I really wasn’t even looking for a fight…was just “organically” responding with the others, and providing my POV, in that I also don’t pay attention to blurbs. So, really, I wasn’t (nor am I currently) looking to embarrass anyone, I was just trying to have a meaningful conversation, in which (I’d hoped) I would be told that, hey, “We, here, in the Publishing Industry no longer hold to misguiding the public with the practice of MAKING UP book review blurbs so you will buy our books. That was then…this is now. But, hey, thank you for bringing up that concern so, we, here, in the Publishing Industry, can address this heinous activity and set the record straight.”

Yeah, well, guess I got my answer.

Yet, we all got all bent out of shape and pissy with the Amazon review scandal of a couple years back, with authors doing their own fake reviews. When you’re making shit up—aka, lying—does it really matter who‘s doing it, if you’re all part of the same bucket?

One may say that they’re not useless, they still get books into bookstores, but getting books into bookstores is not the same as selling them.

Oh, and there’s still the lying part….

As to my own books blurbs, every one of those are from people who read my books (and, in one case, the screenplay I adapted from The Uninvited, which I allowed, because I adapted the screenplay myself and knew it was perfectly inline with the novel). I will also not give any blurbs to books with which I have not read. Yeah, like I’ll be asked, but I’m just sayin’.

Perhaps I’ll even stop my own practice of asking for them, given their shady nature.

So, be wary of any blurb on any book, by anyone. Seems like it’s still a damned good bet that they’re all made up.

 

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About fpdorchak

Paranormal fiction author.
This entry was posted in Leisure, To Be Human, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Going Indie—What I’ve Learned (So Far)—Part 10

  1. Wendy Brydge says:

    I’ve always wondered if those blurbs were all just made up. They’re almost always very generic, like horoscopes — no (or very little) specifics, and they can apply in SOME way to nearly everyone.

    Personally, I don’t even read the blurbs. And if I do? It’s only after I’ve purchased the book and read it. And then, only if I LIKED it. Frankly, I couldn’t care less who else read a particular book and if they liked it or not. Obviously no one will be slapping a negative blurb on their book anyway!

    But it is a sad thought that something as simple as a book blurb can’t really be trusted. I mean, you can’t believe 90% of what you read/see on the internet, but it’s a sickening feeling to know that the printed word (I mean in book form) is riddled with blatant lies too. (Not that I didn’t know this, but you gotta hold out SOME hope for integrity!)

    What I would say to authors is this: If your book is good, it’s good. If it’s crap, then it’s crap. And no blurb, real or made-up, is going to change that. So have a little respect for your work and the readers you want to enjoy it, and just let it speak for itself. Let the cards fall where they may.

    (And I’m speaking of course, of authors in general. Not directing that last bit at you, Frank.) 🙂

  2. Karen Lin says:

    I’ve heard of paid-for blurbs.
    I’ve heard people say it is the blurb and cover that sell a book (esp on line) and yet, I heard someone just the other day that the cover doesn’t matter to them at all.
    I suspect it depends on the category of person we are talking about. Some are visual – artists may weigh more heavily the cover. Some love plot. Those might read more carefully the description of the book.
    I suspect the writers are the toughest and think hardest before they buy a book – partly since we are millionaires mostly and can imagine what it was like putting the sales “package” together. Readers who aren’t writers are significantly different, I suspect. Best plan make the entire sales pitch great and I say ONLY QUOTES FROM THOSE WHO’VE READ THE BOOK!

  3. fpdorchak says:

    I just get tired of all the little games people play with ethics in name of the almighty dollar…if they stretch this, what ELSE is also stretched in the name of some almighty rationalization….

  4. A couple of years ago I was floored when a writer friend said that she had asked a semi-famous author to blurb her first book, and he had said the price would be $900. I’d already learned about the “money talks” aspect of the book biz—how publishers paid for position in chain bookstores, the rampant cronyism in deciding who gets published, and other surprises—but this one really made me realize that it isn’t just the bean counters and corporate types who grub for every penny. Were I teaching a group of new writing students, the first thing I would tell them is to abandon any idea of the purity and honesty of the writing world. Yes, there are some of us who still believe in our art as art, but we’re not the ones making decisions about the future of the field. And those driven by greed are forcing the rest of us to play by their rules.

    • fpdorchak says:

      Forcing us to play by their rules…until Indie Publishing came along. Not a cure-all…every corporation has its closets…but Indie Publishing can now get our work out there.

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