Wednesday, January 24, 2007

blah, blah, blurbs

Last year, I was asked to write a blurb for the upcoming book Kimchi and Calamari, by Rose Kent (which is a really nice book, by the way). I agreed. However, recently after perusing Amazon and looking at the images, I think my quote was not used.

Now, I am NOT upset in any way, shape or form that it wasn’t used. In fact, I am pretty relieved. I had never written a blurb before, so I tried to “sparkle”; and whenever I try to do that my writing comes off really fake. I realize now I should’ve just written an honest line about how nice I thought the book was instead of trying to be some kind of marketing soundbite. Oh well.

I think the reason why I overreached was because I was so flattered to be asked. Famous people give blurbs! It’s their name that helps sell the book, right? But in the case of Kimchi and Calamari, I couldn’t imagine how having my name on the cover would help it, except perhaps as an additional, unnecessary curiosity factor. I imagine the conversation would go something like this:

“Look, this person Grace Lin liked the book.”
“Grace Lin? Who’s that?”
“Um, wasn’t she on one of those reality shows?”
“No, I think she’s an actress on that sci fi show, Battlestar Galactica.”
“Gee, I wonder if this book is about aliens eating human food, then.”
“Maybe, are you gonna get it?”
“Naw, I hate that spaceship stuff.”

But, regardless of my blurb-writing shortcomings and pitfalls, it is the idea of the blurb that I find fascinating. Do these one to two line quotations REALLY make a difference? Do they push a browser over the edge to actually buy the book? Or does the difference come in the judgement of the book? Do these blurbs bias the readers mind, filling them with preconceived notions? Does it elevate the book to a certain stature if Famous Person A endorses it? But book people are smarter than the average George Foreman grill buying public, aren’t they? They don’t need a big name to validate their purchase or opinions. They can choose their own books without a celebrity sanction, I’m sure. Right? Right?

I ask this as I shove my George Foreman grill into the closet.


Anonymous said...

Actually, your blurb is on the back cover of the ARC. :) And for what it's worth, I think it's a spendid blurb! Rose's book is indeed, as you said, "both delicious and satisfying."

Anonymous said...

oh great, i can't even spell my name right - i just noticed above! How embarrassing!!!!

alvinaling said...

I'd love to hear what booksellers/librarians/parents/ kids think of this. I myself read blurbs with a grain of salt, and don't really like soliciting for them, although I've done it a lot, especially for debut authors, to varying success. Oftentimes it depends on how connected the author is (although I have occasionally gotten blurbs without any connection to the author who is blurbing).

But maybe I'm just making excuses for not wanting to send books out for blurbs, which takes a lot of time, effort, and paper.

Anyway, I guess what blurbs or any quotes are good for is getting a better idea of what kind of book it is--funny? Suspenseful? Poignant? I guess that serves a purpose, although you can glean the same info from the flap copy. And readers can know that "Oh, if I liked Meg Cabot's books I'll like this one" if Meg Cabot is blurbing it. Again, it's just another indicator for what kind of book it is when you see which authors are blurbing it.

Erin said...

About a week ago, I would've said that blurbs didn't influence me in the least!

Until, that is, I saw a book at Barnes and Noble sporting a nice big LEMONY SNICKET quote on the back. I don't know if I would've even picked the book up otherwise, but know I simply MUST read it.

The same would go for Shannon Hale, but I haven't seen her blurb a book yet. Pretty much any author I love is going to get my notice if their name is on a book.

Grace Lin said... if I could only track down JK Rowling for a blurb for my new book...

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your book being named an ALA notable!

I think the blurb with your name makes a huge difference. Sometimes that is what catches my eye or convinces me to buy a book over another. I think I bought IDA B. because Kate DiCamillo had a quote. I trust that my favorite authors must know other great authors. The quote/blurb from some celebrity author is like someone introducing me to a friend. It makes a difference to me, your average book buyer!

Vivian Mahoney said...

I love blurbs and often look to them when choosing a book. Congrats on being chosen. And a children's book about Kimchi? Yum. One of my favorite, favorite side dishes.

Blue Rose Girls said...

I ignore blurs. But then again, I don't. If I see an endorsement from an author who I really love, then I'll think--hmmm, I love his books, and he likes this one, then perhaps I will also.

My conclusion: yes, blurs work! Sometimes...