I was recently thinking about blurbs following a discussion I had about so-called "Blurb Whores". The term, in case you have not heard of it, refers to an author or reviewer who gives too many "positive" endorsements of books, movies, etc.

I have heard about a number of authors who were referred to as Blurb Whores, but rarely publicly. (Often that is because the people labeling the author as such are hoping for a blurb of their own from the author in question.)

I have several hundred books on my shelves and the one constant is that almost every single one has a cover blurb. The majority of these are from famous authors. After all if given a choice between getting a blurb from unknown author A and, say, Lee Child, the choice is pretty obvious.

But let's look at this from the Blurber standpoint. If you are a well-known author, you can get as many as a few hundred requests for blurbs a day from authors you don't know from Adam.

And few of these authors who have a reputation for being supportive of other authors and will offer blurbs for as many as a fifty books a year. But does that make them a whore?

I say No.

Some people say that having your name on as many covers as possible will help the blurbing authors sales. But I find that hard to believe since if you don't know and respect James Patterson for example, then a blurb from him is meaningless. And if you know and respect him, you would already have his books.

(On a side note, I always think it is tragic when author sees everything as an opportunity to promote themselves.)

One ugly dis-incentive for a blurbing author is that other authors, publicists and publishers will send him/her boxes and boxes of books. Imagine getting your mail and finding twenty to fifty parcels five days a week. I have enough trouble with the ten to twenty packages we get a month.

Here is a true story, an author I know was trying to cut back on the number of blurbs she did. She believed in supporting other authors, but it was cutting into her writing time. So she politely refused a few. Some of these same people who wrote the nicest emails asking for blurbs, relied with belligerent emails attacking the author and calling her a blurb whore. One actually said they were entitled to a blurb.

Who wouldn't want their name endorsing a book by someone like that?

Now some authors refuse to blurb anyone but their friends. That is the fastest way to make a blurb worthless in my mind. Telling the world that best writers in the world are also your friends is beyond ridiculous. These kind of blurbs are in my mind the reason why so many readers I am aware of are wary of the validity of blurbs. There must be some honesty in it.

Personally, I have only picked up three books because of a blurb on the front or back cover. But blurbs are still an important part of the industry. Few books I see have no blurbs on them and when they don't, it makes me wonder why. It is almost expected to have at least one blurb.

So I guess the conclusion would be what makes someone a blurb whore? Well, a whore does it for something other than love.

So you can draw your own conclusions...

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So I guess the conclusion would be what makes someone a blurb whore? Well, a whore does it for something other than love.

That's it, right there. Anyone who'll blurb anybody, even if they haven't read the book - that's a blurb whore. They're doing it primarily to get their name out there, as many places as possible. Those blurbs are worthless.

And I agree about the relative worthlessness of blurbing as a marketing strategy. I can remember picking up books with blurbs on them, reading the blurb, and thinking, "Who's that?" Made the book sound nice but I didn't know who the person doing the blurbing was.

Where blurbs do have a different level of value is with sending out review copies. We usually get promotional material, quoting lists of blurbs from various sources. Obviously the more well-known the sources, the more likely a potential reviewer is to know who the blurber is. There must be a belief that it matters on some level, or else publishers wouldn't waste money printing that information and circulating it.

One of the things I hate most is asking for blurbs. I hate the whole business of it. If I know someone has a "no blurb" policy I will not ask them. If they have a "no blurb" policy but make exceptions for their friends I do consider the blurbs meaningless. There are a whole other range of authors, who will only blurb books from certain publishers. Again, it's really about the quality of the writing, isn't it? Some authors who are voracious readers do "seem" to blurb a lot, but in comparison to the actual number of titles they read per year they blurb a select few. I know for a fact that Ken Bruen reads over 300 titles a year. He might blurb 10%. I might read 50 books in a good year (slow reader I am, I envy Ken) and review as much as 1/3 of those titles. Ken's far more discriminating and selective than I am, but wonderfully supportive of other authors. There are some - Lee Child, Stephen King, Michael Connelly - that blurb quite a lot, and I appreciate the fact that they, like Ken, continue to support other people and their careers. Everybody starts somewhere, and often the reason a person achieves a fair bit of success if because they're fortunate enough to get good reviews and support from others in the industry. No man is an island, especially in this business, and I have some admiration for those who don't forget that they once needed help and got it, and repay that by supporting other newcomers. Sadly, though, blurbs can start to feel like a popularity contest. The more people I know, the more intricate my ranking scale of the merit of some blurbs. I got an ARC this year that had a blurb on the front that actually lessened my respect for the author of the ARC, just a touch.

Blurbs are the one thing that make me glad I do write reviews. I have only been requested to provide three blurbs thus far. Everything else I do is as a reviewer. If people choose to quote from it as a blurb, that's fine, I have no problem with that, and they almost always source it as Spinetingler Magazine. That, I like, because if the blurb is going to draw any interest to the blurber, it will bring them not to me but to Spinetingler, and that has the potential to benefit dozens of authors we've published, interviewed, reviewed or featured.

But in my dreams, the next book gets enough good reviews that I don't have to ask for blurbs anymore. I find it to be the most disheartening part of the whole publishing process.
i've worried about becoming a blurb whore, and have started turning down blurb requests, but i have a hard time telling people no. And if i decide to only blurb five books a year, i will choose books written by friends rather than books written by strangers. this is especially fun if the book is amazing. on the other side of blurbing -- i've never solicited a single blurb for any of my books. i'm simply too shy to ask for that kind of thing.
One factor is that it's often easier to ask friends to consider blurbing you than to ask a stranger. The people I feel comfortable asking to blurb me I trust to tell me "no" if they're not able, and it won't cause a problem between us... And I still feel bad asking. The only time I've got a problem is when someone has an official "not blurbing" policy, but continues to blurb friends. By that, I mean they've publicly stated they won't do blurbs (not that they're taking a break, or that they say no to a few requests, but the policy is no blurbs, don't even ask them). Obviously, if I'm asked by two people to review a book but only have time to do one of them, the temptation is to go with the author I know out of the two if that means I know they won't flip out over an honest review. And if I know someone does argue over reviews I won't even consider it. Been there, done that, and I don't have the time or energy for it.

Someone I don't know recently sent me a bunch of emails swearing at me over something I had absolutely no involvement in. Believe me, I won't be reviewing their book. I have to get the bad taste out of my head and if I think I can't be objective at the moment it goes to the bottom of the pile.

But in general, my first order of business is the subject of the book. I have great friends who write stuff that has no interest to me. It's out of my genre and as much as I feel bad when they ask, I have to put my time reviewing stuff I understand.
That's completely understandable Ann.

I don't believe a person who reads 50 books a year and gives 10 to 15 blurbs is a blurb whore. I have only seen one person who fits the standard definition of a blurb whore and he proudly states it is for marketing purposes. He believes it helps the author and himself.

In the industry, there is so much quiet whispering about who is a blurb whore and who isn't. But it isn't the industry to decide, it is the readers.

Like Sandra, I have heard that Lee Child, Stephen King, Michael Connelly and Ken Bruen are blurb whores. But is there a reader backlash? Are there huge numbers of readers calling them sellouts? All remain respected and sell well. Hell, if I had a blurb from any of them, I would be dancing a little dance of joy.

I have heard readers say they steer clear of books where the only blurb is from a certain person. When asked why, I've been told it is because the blurber will give anything a good blurb. But it is no coincidence that the blurber's sales are also weak. Little respect for the author has a halo effect on the books they blurb.

There are books I have avoided because the author will only blurb people who are as "famous" as they are. To me that shows a lack of integrity and is very cynical. This erodes value of blurbs for other books.
My point was about how some industry people slam authors who they feel do too much blurbing. My feeling was if the author reads the book and likes it, they have the right to give it a blurb without being judged.

To use your example about James Rollins, blurbing an unknown author does not help his sales. Therefore it is not a marketing tool for him. If he never blurbed another book, his career would not end.

Blurbing is, for the most part, a one way street. It helps the person receiving the blurb, not the person giving it.

But I am aware that some people strongly believe that blurbing is a tool for promotion. But if an author blurbs 200 books a year and 195 are not found in any bookstore, how effective was the blurb anyway?

And for the record, I have never bought a book because the author blurbed a book I liked.

Sarah Weinman had an excellent post on this a few years back. Check it out.
As a reader, I'm unlikely to be influenced by author blurbs - I am more likely to be influenced by certain crime reviewers "blurbs" - say Marcel Berlins, but this will only be one of many factors that lead me to look at the back and first few pages of a book, rather than directly influence a purchase.
I have never asked for author blurbs and never will. I don't have the nerve to lay such a thing on another writer. It's embarrassing to both.

I do love reviews, but those are freely given. Yes, I urge my editor to use lines from my best reviews on my books.

As a reader, I ignore author blurbs on books (they alwys look like favors), but I read review excerpts.
Two writers make eye contact across a crowded conference room, later they share opposite ends of a head table, finally they find themselves face to face at the cookie tray. She says to him, "Would you blurb my new book for a million dollars?"
He looks mildly surprized, then laughs and responds,"Well, sure, when you put it that way."
She studies him for a moment. "Would you blurb my new book for one dollar?"
He shakes his head. "What kind of a a blurb writer do you think I am?"
She smiles and says,"I think we have established that. Now we're just haggling about the price."
As a reader, I always thought they read the book and sincerely liked it or liked other things the author wrote. I never really thought that you all just blurbed each other for any kind of gain. It never occured to me. I have never bought a book because of a blurb anyway. I buy them for the author or for the summary on the jacket (or because it was on the Bargain Books table).
I do look at the blurbs on books. A good blurb isn't enough to make me buy a book, but often if I see someone whose work I like has said something about the work in question, I'll pick it up.

I like Janet Evanovich, Michael Connelly and Lee Child. Therefore, I think I'm predisposed to like something they like. I wouldn't want to know that an author blurbed someone just because they shared an editor or an agent; that seems a bit commercial. I'd prefer that the blurbs indicate that a published author (whom I may or may not know) has read the book and would like me to know something about it.

I asked a friend for a blurb for my new book. He writes about police, and so do I, so I thought his name might have some value for me, and at the same time people who didn't know him but were looking at or reading my book might see his name and that might help him.

He told me that he'd gotten 50 requests for blurbs in the last six months, and that his agent & editor had to agree to any blurbs he wrote. At that point, they'd turned down all 50. (Partly because he was behind on his deadline.) And he's not any kind of best-seller, as far as I know, just a good writer with a couple of books under his belt.


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