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BlurbNation

 How many times, when reading the worst novels in history, have I raged at an author who put her name to comments like: "This book is honey without all them nasty stings! Read it and fall in love!" Or some such? Even the greatest writers have praised turds stinky enough to trigger a gag reflex decades later.

So, why do great authors blurb terrible books?

A few things come to mind:

1) The turd's creator (TC) is a close friend.
2) The TC has an editor or an agent in common with the blurber.
3) The blurb was sincere, but your favorite writer... does not share your taste in books.

--What?

Oh, I know that last one may seem a tad controversial-

--Controversial? The word you're looking for, is 'impossible'! I've read all the books of Ann M. Finn*. There's a real connection between us. Every page, every word of "The Pimple-Squeezers of Ancient Zod", is about me! Me!

All right, calm down, please. So, more than likely I'm wrong about number 3 up there. But it's not important anyway. My own personal rule -- an easy one to keep since I've only ever been asked to blurb twice in my life so far, is to tell the truth. As a reader, however, I discount blurbs completely, preferring to rely on reports from people whose taste I do share: reviewers; friends etc.

What about you? Have you ever been fooled by a blurb? Have you ever made an excellent choice as a result of one?


*Just in case there's a real Ann M. Finn out there, I want you to know that your name means something in Irish, but nothing rude.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
peadarog
Aug. 10th, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
Mmm... tasty blurbs, now available in German!
(Deleted comment)
peadarog
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
I tend to cough them up very quickly!
a_r_williams
Aug. 10th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
A blurb won't get me to buy a book. There are other factors that are more important. Cover, Summary on the back telling what the book is about, the first few pages of prologue or chapter 1.

I may read a book before I buy it, but it's generally more informative/entertaining to read them after you've read the book.

I do wonder though (because I haven't paid attention to it) if an author gives a wonderful blurb to a less than stellar book, if that makes me less likely to buy a book where they are the author.
peadarog
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
I try not to read them now too, but when I'm in an actual bookshop and browsing, I can still be swayed.
tchernabyelo
Aug. 10th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've ever been swayed by a blurb.

Many many years ago, a friend of mine who had read and was highly disappointed by Stephen Donaldson's first Thomas Covenant book fulminated about the cover copy. "Comparable to Tolkein at his best! What does that even mean? Everything is comparable! You can say West Ham are "comparable to Manchester United at their best" but it doesn't mean they come off very well in the comparison..."

A salutary lesson that has never left me.
peadarog
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
I was taken in by that very same blurb back in the day :) I have to admit, though, I did enjoy the second and third books!
hereward77
Aug. 12th, 2010 11:37 am (UTC)
Dissing Donaldson and West Ham in the same rant? I fear your friend and I will never be close!
bogwitch64
Aug. 10th, 2010 07:49 pm (UTC)
I have been fooled by blurbs, but they were more in the three category than the others. I simply don't share the same tastes as the aformentioned blurber, but others loved the book/s.

Then there are those who blurb for once-upon-a-time great authors who probably should have retired while they were still putting out great stuff but continued writing drivel they couldn't get published in their old houses.

Yeah, those don't fool me.
peadarog
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
I do think that taste is a huge, huge thingimummy.
bondo_ba
Aug. 10th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
I don't read blurbs.

But I do request blurbs (actually I haven't, yet), so be careful.
peadarog
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
That's because blurbs do make a difference still according to the surveys.
beniowa79
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
I never read blurbs. Mainly because while they tell you what a person thinks about the book, they often don't say anything about the book. Like you, I much prefer to rely on reports of people who share similar tastes.
peadarog
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
Well, you reviewers are amongst those creating the consensus these days...
tracy_d74
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC)
i don't know that i have ever really paid attention to blurbs. i see them . . . but don't really care. if an author i like writes a review about a book that i have pondered reading that may sway me, but blurbs just on their own? nah, they have no magical power over me.
peadarog
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
But they put them on there because they do have magical powers over some people...
tracy_d74
Aug. 10th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
yes, only those who refuse drink blurb repellant juice. ;)
jongibbs
Aug. 10th, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
I'm with you. Blurbs are to be ignored, mocked or scorned, never taken seriously :)
jongibbs
Aug. 10th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
PS: It would be so much easier if authors could just write their own.
peadarog
Aug. 11th, 2010 06:45 am (UTC)
Have to agree with that! Might be another competition idea for you...
saetter
Aug. 10th, 2010 11:11 pm (UTC)
Back in 1997 or so, I picked up the MMPB of Game of Thrones due to Robert Jordan's blurb.

I've been burned by blurbs too, so I tend not to listen to them as much, unless there are quite a few of them.
peadarog
Aug. 11th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC)
Game of Thrones was a good one to get, all right! I don't know if I knew who Robert Jordan was at the time or not. It's all so long ago.
fenryng
Aug. 11th, 2010 12:44 am (UTC)
I do not recall having been swayed by a blurb and found out that the book was abominable.

I have had the opposite happen many times. I tend to place some more weight if a book goes through the trouble of having multiple pages of blurbs in the beginning. I also pay attention if the blurbs remain positive from the biggest publications to the most remote of locales.
peadarog
Aug. 11th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC)
Blurbs or reviews from publications? There is a huge difference in my mind...
ben_jeapes
Aug. 11th, 2010 08:01 am (UTC)
Blurbs or reviews, if they're multiple, are reassuring. They can't all be the TC's friend ... can they? There's safety in numbers.

I believe A.E. van Vogt famously admitted to never having actually read Battlefield Earth, because LRH was such a good mate.

Be also aware of blurbs/reviews with [...]s in them, which far too often are used to replace complex clauses that can be summed up with the good old English word "not". "Ó Guilín's latest work is [...] highly reminiscent of Tolkien", and all that.
peadarog
Aug. 11th, 2010 08:17 am (UTC)
haha, great quote from van Vogt :) and yes, I've seen some great chopped reviews too and yet, I haven't learned to distrust them as much as blurbs for some reason.
fenryng
Aug. 11th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
Okay, I had the two of them meaning the same thing in my head, but there is a difference....
(Deleted comment)
peadarog
Aug. 12th, 2010 06:43 am (UTC)
You are probably correct. It must be hard to be nice, to hobnob with so many people... and then to tell them 'no'!
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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