Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blaats and Blurbs and Blowing the Horn

A trumpet from the tomb of Tutankhamun (1333-1324 BC )
Claimed as " the only ancient instruments of which the exact sound as heard by the ancients can be reproduced today." (Tutankhamun: His Tomb and Its Treasures: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Alfred A. Knopf, 1977)

Root-y-toot, Toots!
Endorsements are also an ancient advertising device for just about anything...
I used product X and the blood cleaned up really well ...
Book blurbs are a source of some anxiety, it seems, who does it, how they are acquired, how to avoid falling flat, the efficacy thereof in promoting sales, etc.
Before I returned to writing fiction I never read book blurbs, all that stuff at the beginning was irritation, I wanted to get to the story.
Now, I read them after I finish the book - just to see if the effusions match my impressions.
Have seen books touted as fast paced - when I thought dragged its ass would be more accurate.
Frankly, I think they are wasted pages, by and large... enthusiastic quotes by writers I've never heard of (which has the same effect on me as reading that their Mom liked it), effusions from anonymous magazines and newspapers. Should I be impressed by a flourish from The Smith Fall's Gazette?
Most suspicious are the short burbles....a good read....I always wonder what clause came before or after that strangely brief excerpt....if you have the IQ of a geranium, perhaps?
A writer to watch
...is another one. My imagination runs in supercillious riot. If this writer approaches me again, I'm taking out a restraining order.
Perhaps I have misunderstood the purpose of these frontis blurbs. Maybe they are not calculated to impress a potential reader but to position the novel within the industry.
I just wish they'd keep the buzz down to one page.


kmfrontain said...

I don't read the short review blurbs. I read the back of the book blurb to get an idea what the book is about, then look for any further info direct from the novel at the front, like an excerpt, stare at the cover again, and decide to buy it or not. The wee review blurbs seldom play an important part, because I know they've been placed there solely for sales purposes. I take longer reviews on web sites more seriously.

Bernita said...

That's my method too, Karen.
Sometimes I'll read the last page - just to make sure I'm not suckered into buying something where everyone dies at the end in some artistic fashion.
I don't care for that kind of catharsis.

kmfrontain said...

I hate that, discovering a novel is an "everybody dies" story. Hate those. I know writers want to put a blurb in back to sell their work, but really, if it's going to be a tragedy, some broad hint should be given.

MissWrite said...

OMG you've really hit the funny nail on the head this time. And it's so true about the blurbs. I was once told 'there is no such thing as a bad review. Even in the worst you can crop a few good words for an endorsement.' Your 'writer to watch' example was the funniest tongue-in-cheek example of just such a possibility.

I'm still laughing.

Sela Carsen said...

I never read them, either. It's just advertising, which doesn't usually change my mind about books one way or the other. Word of mouth makes a difference, but I always wonder about those ... too.
A fun game is trying read between the ellipses on movie reviews!

December Quinn said...

There are only a couple of writers whose blurb would make a book, not an auto-buy, but an auto-try; I'd definitely browse through it and give it a chance if it looked okay.

But then, some of my favorite writers have blurbed books I didn't particularly enjoy, too.

I read the back cover. I flip through and see if anything jumps out at me--a good sex scene, or action scene, or joke. I read the first page after I've done that, but the first page doesn't influence me much. I look at the end. Then I decide.

Endorsement blurbs I basically ignore, unless as I said it's by someone whose work I really like. And even that doesn't sway me to do more than give the book an extra minute or so of browsing.

Bernita said...

I think so too, Karen.
That sort of ending makes me hurl - and not just the book.

But...but...I was perfectly serious Tami!
One does wonder what the reviewer REAlly said though.

Right, Sela.
I don't giveasweetdamn who may plug the book. My thought processes are not indentured to the latest Book List/Writers Guild/Book Club opinions.

That about sums it up, December, may produce an extra look - if one recognizes the blurb-or.

Robyn said...

"Root-y-toot, Toots!" I am on the floor.

The best blurb evah came from the cover of Kinley MacGregor's Sword of Darkness: "Kinley MacGregor writes fantasy like I would!"- Sherrilyn Kenyon

Sherrilyn IS Kinley MacGregor. That took some cojones.

Ric said...

Hate those things - I don't feel they serve any purpose at all. If you can get Stephen King to endorse your book - it goes on the COVER! Anyone else is just letting the world know at least someone read the book - does that qualify as word of mouth?

Steve said...

The blurbs don't impress me. Some are probably given without the person having read the book. One author paying back another.

Bernita said...

Certainly did, Robyn!
One assumes it was tongue-in-cheek.
Makes one wonder, considering the proliferation of pseudonyms - some people claim to possess 4 or 5 - how many other blurbs may originate from a single source.

Right, Ric!
I think it some of it qualifies as networking, arm-twisting, same publisher-ing.

Quite possibly in some cases, Steve. One could write a perfectly reasonable blurb after all - just using the buzz words. All one has to really know is the genre.

writtenwyrdd said...

I might read the blurbs. If I see a writer whom I respect has a blurb on the cover, and it looks like it might be one that isn't lifted from a less than glowing sentence, I might read the back and the first page or two.

But then, if the cover and backmatter please or intrigue me, I might read further anyhow.

If the cover quote and the other stuff don't seem to jive, I get really annoyed at the author who was quoted for the blurb. Perhaps unfairly, given that what they said may have been doctored.

Ric said...

Bernita, totally off subject -
Palm trees in Vancouver - saw a great shot of them last night covered with snow!!!!
Not that I doubted you for a moment....

Bernita said...

Since most front-cover blurbs are usually in fine print, Written, I often don't even see them until later.
Probably I'm self-conditioned to recognize only title and author on the front.
A busy cover can also obscure any glowing quote.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your astute assessment of the blurbing mechanism!!

ROFLOL...does that sound sufficiently literary...LOL!

It has to do with the psychology attached to each word. I did a course about that in college (long ago and far away)!

They use the same psychology when writing real estate adds, like...charming...quaint...fixer-upper!

LOL...personally I prefer...out of touch with reality...their taste is in their butt....and money pit!

Bernita said...

Hee, Ric. All you had to do was google.
But now you "seen it on TeeVee."

Bernita said...

Hey, Bonnie, don't needle me about that "literary" thing! You know I have a vulgar mind.
The irony of it all is, any "fresh and new" novel has to be publicized by the standard cliches because those cliches can be relied on to instantly convey the necessary general information.
Have done it myself.

EA Monroe said...

Another blaaat toot...
It's a fake genetic website set up by HarperCollins to promote Michael Crichton's new book. Click on "New Book Reveals Trade Secrets." Fantasy and reality blur and no doubt misleads...

I don't pay much attention to the blurbs. I check the first couple of paragraphs and maybe the ending. If the author's name is in 2" or 3" letters and the title's a small font, I usually walk right past and search for something a little more obscure -- or a book that flies off the shelf and lands at my feet. Ha!

Jaye Wells said...

I do read blurbs, although with a more jaundiced eyes than before I was a writer. Now, I tend to read the author bio. Usually this is after I've read the book but sometimes before. I guess it's just a matter of seeing if there's something special about them that explains why they're in print and I'm not. Sometimes I resent how cynical writing has made me about reading.

raine said...

Great post, lol.

I read them. Just don't take them seriously!
And I had to laugh--I did have a reviewer once claim I was "a writer to be watched."
She has no idea... ;-D

Bernita said...

Site didn't open for me, EA.

You prefer discovery, I take it and are not particularly taken by the Big Name.

Perhaps one could view it more as wise rather than cynical, Jaye.
Sometimes we have idealized, unrealistic expectations about publishing and forget it's a business, these are people, who are selling something, and we forget caveat emptor.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Raine.
To turn it about, sometimes it's the writer who needs to take out the restraining order...

Marie said...

I must admit that I don't pay much attention to book blurbs and I hate writing them for my novels.

Gabriele C. said...

Publishing becomes more and more like selling toothpaste. Blurbs and bubbles, Dr. Best recommeding this paste because it will prevent parodontosis and Big Publisher Inc. & Co. recommending this book because it will cure your boredom. And in both cases it will fill their pockets with money, the only true measure in business.

I don't believe blurbs and I don't believe Dr. Best.

archer said...

There must someplace they take you if you read a novel and get shattered. Or seared.

Bernita said...

I trust you mean the mini-synopsis type of blurb, Marie...

They are, after all, Gabriele, merely opinions or tastes.
Some are more authorative or "expert" reviews than others, and society seems conditioned to depend on the "expert."

Bernita said...

Right, Archer.
Or riveted and chilled.

MissWrite said...

The best blurb evah came from the cover of Kinley MacGregor's Sword of Darkness: "Kinley MacGregor writes fantasy like I would!"- Sherrilyn Kenyon

Sherrilyn IS Kinley MacGregor. That took some cojones.

THAT is too funny! And probably a bit of an inside joke for all who knew the pseudo.

Candice Gilmer said...

"Kinley MacGregor writes fantasy like I would!"- Sherrilyn Kenyon

Sherrilyn IS Kinley MacGregor. That took some cojones.
-- That seriously made me spit my drink out... ;) That's too funny!

Course, I would do it. lol ;) If I wrote under a fake name. :)

spyscribbler said...

Funny! I think the blurbs on the front and back cover are hilarious. Do they think we readers are SO stupid that we aren't going to read the back cover and judge for ourselves whether we're interested?

And blurbs by authors I don't know has a negative effect. What? It's not good enough for a famous author to blurb?

Then there are those authors who will blurb everybody, just to get their name out there. LOL, I can't say that I blame them, but ... blurbs don't make me buy a book. They just don't.

Bernita said...

Spy, recently read a book by an award-winning, alleged NY Times bestselling author whose writing was clunky and whose characters were cardboard, imn-s-ho, whose other novels garnered words of inordinate praise, and I'm sitting here thinking WTF?
Almost tempts one to check and see if blurb-ors trot out the same phrases every time, regardless of book or author.

Sela Carsen said...

Cracked me up when I noticed one of Sherilyn Kenyon's heroines reading a Kinley McGregor novel!

Bernita said...

That sort of "cute" can look old and sly really fast though.

thephoenixnyc said...

We REALLY need to talk. We are experts in Egyptology and have a collection you would be most interested in learning about. Cheers,


EA Monroe said...

Hi Bernita. I forgot to mention you will have to copy and past the web address into your browser. I haven't figured out how to do links in the comment box yet.

Bernita said...

I doubt if we have anything to talk about, Michael.

Nah, EA, it was just my browser being sticky. It worked later.

PBW said...

I'm so jaded on the business of blurbs and how most writers and editors solicit them from authors that I can't take them seriously at all. I usually skip over them and go right to the story. Very few authors are honest when they blurb; most play crony games and I think it's a waste of their breath and my time.

I will say that if you ever do give a blurb to a new author who gets a lot of buzz because of it and later becomes an overnight success, you can expect agents and editors to come at you like piranha. :)

Bernita said...

Tends to confirm my take that the whole business of blurbs is largely a shill game.
Thank you, PBW.