Do you buy books based on their covers? I’m not talking about the actual cover image, here. That’s a whole other blog post (ooh, look, I’ve already written that one!). I’m talking about blurbs.
A blurb is a short, positive description of a book, written by other authors (because let’s face it, your mom is a little biased). Blurbs are featured prominently on a book’s cover and sometimes on separate pages inside the book as well. NEWPORT has four, and I am extremely grateful to the generous authors who provided them: Deanna Raybourn, Simone St. James, Ashley Weaver, and Beatriz Williams. No matter how much someone enjoys a story, providing a blurb takes time – time to read, time to think, and time to compose a few-sentence sketch that might encourage readers to pick up the book. I so appreciate that these four authors made room for NEWPORT in their busy lives.
So, how do those blurbs get there? For fiction, blurb requests usually are sent by editors to authors whose own work attracts an audience that might enjoy the book in question. But just because an author has been approached does not mean she is obligated to provide praise. Requests to read can be turned down. Even if an author is kind enough to read, she may decline the opportunity to blurb. There are all sorts of reasons for passing: the book may not be the author’s cup of tea, or there may be time constraints (like most parts of publishing, blurbs come with deadlines). But those blurbs on the cover were not command performances, churned out by authors through sheer obligation.
Of course, you won’t pick up a book that screams, “Worst book ever! Read at your own risk!” Even though blurbs are not coerced, they are meant to be marketing tools, not warning labels.
Since NEWPORT’s release, I’ve had the opportunity to blurb a few books myself. To me, it’s an honor to be asked at all, and I take my blurbing seriously. I know the feeling of being the one waiting to hear whether or not a reader (me, in this case) likes the book enough to endorse it. No matter how gentle or logical the refusal to blurb is, the author of the book will always see it as a rejection. We can’t help it; we’re wired that way. It helps (a little) to remember that these are professional decisions, not personal slights.
Good book blurbs allow you a glimpse of the story that awaits once you start reading. Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, the books those blurbs adorn are not the only written words subject to review: the blurbs themselves are, too.
This brings me back to my original question: are you influenced by the blurbs you read on book covers? I’d love to know.