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Friday, June 11, 2010

Book Blurbs: Are They Significant?







Book Blurbs: Are They Significant?




by Jacqueline Seewald



As a reader, do you find that book blurbs influence whether or not you choose to read a particular novel?

I confess I never thought much about it in the past. However, when I first contracted with Five Star/Gale I was informed that it was important to get book blurbs. I find it difficult to ask for favors of any kind. But I did know Sara Paretsky. At the urging of my editor, I e-mailed Sara and she was kind enough to read THE INFERNO COLLECTION, liked it, and provided an excellent blurb/review.

Readers of Sara Paretsky’s novels are cognizant that she’s a serious writer with a social consciousness. THE INFERNO COLLECTION, although a romantic mystery/thriller, has much to say about the university system and is also a serious novel. The connection was a good one. BOOKLIST gave the novel a very nice review and that caught the attention of librarians. Many of you know that Five Star/Gale is essentially a library publisher. So reviews are very important.

For the second novel in this romantic mystery series, THE DROWNING POOL, I didn't request any blurbs. I did get another very good review from BOOKLIST and a number of other publications as well. However, the book didn't sell nearly so well. Did lack of blurbs effect sales? Possibly.

For my romantic suspense historical, TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, due out in late August, I asked my favorite author, Jayne Ann Krentz, to read the novel. She liked it and was generous in providing an excellent blurb. Will this help in getting the attention of reviewers? I can only hope that it will.

So far, I've heard nothing. I suppose time will tell as the old saying goes. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here with fingers crossed. Of course, I’m also keeping my mind active writing other things: working on a new novel, short stories and nonfiction, as well as poetry and a screenplay.

Fellow authors, what experiences have you had with book blurbs? Do you feel they’ve helped get the kind of reviews that sell books?

Fellow readers, do blurbs matter when you select a novel to read? Are you influenced by big names recommendations? Your comments are appreciated!

18 comments:

dkchristi said...

Yes, I am influenced by the recommendations on a cover of a book. With the surge in ebooks, these will be online. Therefore, online reviews should also work for any book. It doesn't seem the same. I pick up a book and look for the little one-liners to see if it's the kind of reaction I like. www.dkchristi.com, author of Ghost Orchid, a mystery of love, lies and redemption wrapped around a ghost orchid.

Drue Allen said...

It does matter - to a point. FIRST and foremost for me is author recognition. That said, I was unsure about a Stephen King novel (I adore King), flipped it over, and saw the endorsement by Nicholas Sparks! Strange to see Sparks endorsing a King book since their genres are so different. I read more and was intrigued, bought the book (Lisey's Story) and adored it.

When Jordan Dane endorsed my book, I was thrilled. I never dreamed someone so big in the industry would be willing to help a newbie, but I'm finding that authors are like that - helpful. I hope one day I'll be able to return the favor to someone else.

Terry Odell said...

Timely post--I'm in the middle of this dilemma myself.

From the reader side, I might be influenced by a cover quote--which, I think, is why it can be hard to get them from authors higher up the totem pole. Because what if someone buys the book based on a cover quote, and then doesn't like it? Does that influence their opinion of the writer who gave the quote? Some agents and editors won't let their clients give quotes unless they 'approve' the author.

Christy Tillery French said...

Reviews don't influence me as much as the blurb does - or reading the first page or two. I know if the author's writing hooks me from the start, I'll probably enjoy the book. Great blog, Jacqueline!

max said...

In my case, I write for tween boys. But the truth is, a lot of my books will be purchased by moms or grandparents for those boys. So I chose two of the top authors in my field to endorse my work. New books begin coming out in August, so I'm hoping that those popular authors will have an influence on sales.

Books For Boys Blog
http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

Pauline B Jones said...

I don't care what another author said or didn't say about a book and it torques me off if there is no blurb about the book, just a bunch of recommendations. Also, if I don't read that author, why should I care if they liked the book?

A well written blurb can catch my attention. Then I turn to amazon or other review sites and read as much as I can about a book. Next I look for a digital edition. I love that the kindle lets me read a sample before I buy. So a blurb is the start of the process, but in the end, it is the story that makes the sale for me.

The only advantage I can see for having a high profile author blurb is your book will be picked up by the search engines for their name. If it brings people to check out your book, that is a benefit.

I've also checked out books that other authors I liked have recommended on reader loops. I figure if someone took the time to make that personal mention, then they truly liked the book. But I still have to be engaged by the story. And if I can't get it on kindle, get the sample to read first...I usually move on (or if the digital book is priced too high.)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

D.K.,

You make an interesting point. I wonder if blurbs will be less important as e-publishing becomes stronger.

Terry,

It is very difficult to get quotes from authors higher up on the food chain. They are taking a risk endorsing unknown authors. You're right about that.

Drue,

You just demonstrated that blurbs are important. If a writer you like endorses a novel it obviously helps sales since you're more likely to purchase it.

Christy,

I agree with you. The beginning of a book is extremely important. It has to hook the reader. That goes for agents, editors and regular readers as well. Think I'll blog about that in the future! Thanks for the idea.

Max,

Thanks so much for joining in the conversation here. Boys are too often ignored because publishers think they read less. They do need books written for their interests. Congrats on your publications!

ladybirdrobi said...

Yes the blurb or a synopsis on the back of a book are what hits me when I go browsing through book stores on and off line. As long as it gives just enough to snag being a spoiler.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Pauline,

You're obviously a discriminating reader.
You don't just take a blurb/recommendation at
face value. That seems wise to me.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Ladybirdrobi,

I like to read a brief synopsis of a novel before I buy it myself. I agree, an author recommendation, no matter how famous that author might be, is not enough.

Maryann Miller said...

I am influenced by blurbs from writers that I know and respect their work. That will often get me to read the short pitch on the back cover of a book, then sample a few pages.

Pauline B Jones said...

Not sure I'm wise. LOL! Just know what I like. I know people worry about bad reviews and such and we all hate them, but i've bought books from something that caught my eye reading what someone else didn't like about a book. I'm like, but I like that. LOL!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Maryann,

A blurb from an author whose name we recognize and whose work we enjoy does help unknown authors get reviewed and hopefully it also sells books. But I agree that the pitch on the back cover or synopsis on the flap has to draw the reader, as do the first pages. Cover art is important too. It's all rather complicated. Best of luck with your new police procedural!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Pauline,

I agree with you about reviews. They are so subjective. Sometimes too, a publication will either ignore or give a poor review to an author simply because the publisher doesn't advertise with them. So reviews aren't everything and a discerning reader realizes that.

Susan Whitfield said...

First of all, the cover art attracts me unless I'm looking for a particular title or author. Then I read the blurbs, and go to the first page. I'm like Christy; if I'm not hooked by now, I put it down. That's one reason I try to begin all my novels with a KAPOW! I do often read reviews for books I've learned about online, and that sways me one way or the other.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Susan,

Well, your novels do begin with a KAPOW! And you're right, writers have to draw the reader in quickly. I think that's the big difference between modern novels and those written a hundred or so years ago. TV, movies, computers, all draw our attention. Books just have to be more interesting nowadays if they're to capture an audience.

JanetElaineSmith said...

I don't pay as much attention to some big-name author on a back cover blurb as I do to whether or not the storyline draws me in. If the story is something I think I'd like, I don't care what other people thought of it. Same thing with reviews; if a book appeals to me, bad reviews don't bother me. That's from me, the reader.
Now, from me, the author, I think it is terribly unfair for an author to have to try to figure out how to put a "hook" on a back cover blurb. I mean, I just wrote that story in 70,000-100,00+ words, and now I'm supposed to condense the whole thing into 50 words or less? Give us a break!
Janet Elaine Smith, multi-genre author

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Janet,

I agree with you about wanting to read a novel that appeals to me as a reader and not worrying much about blurb endorsements or reviews.