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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Blurbs, Blurbing, Blurbers

Blurb. It's one of those words that, if you say it many times in a row, begins to lose its sense of word-ness.

If you take a look around the internet for opinions about blurbs, you'll find they run the whole spectrum. From being essential to the sales of your book to not mattering at all. (The site puts quite a bit of emphasis on blurbs, guiding you over to its parter site, so you stalk famous people to get endorsements.) Regardless of where you stand on the blurb spectrum, the fact remains that books continue to sport as many positive blurbs as possible, provided they say something nice, and most especially if they use the phrase "tour de force." So obviously publishers and marketers think blurbs are working to a certain degree, which means the blurb question - to blurb or not to blurb - rages on.

This week, The New York Times Sunday Book Review featured an essay called "He Blurbed, She Blurbed" by Rachel Donadio, which looked at the role of blurbs in the lives of a number of authors and books - from David Sedaris to Zadie Smith to Dave Eggers. And last week's essay "Why won't you blurb me?" from first-time novelist Rebecca Johnson on Salon showed the blurbing problem from the I-wish-I-knew-more-famous-writers point-of-view, ending with the conclusion that "So much of blurbing process is a corrupt quid pro quo."

Kind of depressing. For a blurb-related laugh, consider this sentence from blogger Max Ross from The Rake: "I've been taught to trust blurbs about as far as I can throw them, which is roughly about as far as I can throw a book, which is not very far, because I am quite weak, my muscles having been described as sauce-like." You can read his great blog post about blurbs (say that five times fast), "Judging a Book by its (Back) Cover." The post ends with a short quiz which asks you to identify the famous book by its blurb(s). Perfect for book dorks. Let us know your score!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The link to the London Times book is kaput. But, whatever it is, I quite frankly I don't want anything hewn out of my primordial psychological matter. Except maybe an Edwardian-revival endtable. Yes, if this book could whip that up and throw in that 'truth of the soul' stuff too, then I'd say that was a great blurb. The endtable would also have to be yellow - was I clear on that?