Sunday, November 11, 2007

Do Blurbs Sell Books?

I’m a blurb guy—I love to read them, especially the cut-up kind that have been mined from, very likely, a poor a review—Mr. X is…a…writer…[who is]…unforgettable. Or even better a blurb that someone thought was terrific, but when I see it on the cover I wonder why it is supposed to make me want to read the book—this book is almost readable!

I’ve been pondering blurbs for several days. I interviewed an editor over at Leisure Books—Leah Hultenschmidt, who said one of the deciding factors on taking a chance with a new author is whether the author has “quotes or awards to help readers decide to take a chance on an author they might not have heard of.”

My question: Do blurbs from reviewers or other authors actually sell books? I can only speak from my own experience—I have no empirical data, nor do I have a deep desire to collect said data. With that said, I’m not sure. I rarely purchase a book because of a blurb listed inside or out, especially a blurb from another writer. I assume the two are either buddies, or hell, maybe the same person. Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it.

I can be swayed by a blurb from a starred review from one of the larger review factories—Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, etc. And I’ve also been known to pick up a novel on the advice of a blurb—I actually discovered Richard Laymon’s In the Dark from a Dean Koontz blurb on the spine—but it isn’t the blurb that sells me the book. It’s the first few pages. If it catches my attention I’ll buy it, but otherwise it goes straight back on the shelf and I make a mental note never to believe Writer X again. I’m an untrusting sort.

If blurbs do sell books, what are the best to have? The blurbs fetched from other writers at conventions, or those that can be wrangled from genuine reviewers? Is it better to have Stephen King say your book—nowhere else other than the front cover—is great? Or is it better to have the same words delivered from a Publishers Weekly review? Or does it matter?

I’m not convinced either way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I once read a book by Kevin J. Anderson called "Ill Wind." I enjoyed the novel but a blurb on the cover has me laughing still, it reads: "...almost unputdownable." Not much of a compliment in my book. Just had to share this great blurb.