Book Blurbs: Marketers and Publicists Find Them Useful, But Do Readers?

The book I’m reading has seven blurbs on it, all from people of whom I’ve never heard. The blurb on the front cover includes a word whose meaning I don’t know. Also, the book is published and marketed as adult literary, but seems more realistic YA to me.

At times like this, publishing doesn’t understand me. I’m a reader…isn’t the biz supposed to know what readers want and sell it to them? So even though this book isn’t right for me in its marketing, why did I choose to read it?

Because when it sold to the publisher, all I saw in the deal announcement was “teenager on a family road trip to prepare for the rapture” (or something along those lines). I hadn’t heard of the publisher, so I didn’t know this would be adult literary. There was no marketing or publicity for the book, so only the story’s description inspired me to add it to the wishlist.

Marketing and publicity, however well-intentioned, often misses the point. Instead of marketing and promoting a book for what it IS, the biz appears more concerned about which market they WANT to target – even if it’s not the audience best suited to the book. But how do they choose? 50% into this story, it’s so clearly realistic young adult that my logic fails to comprehend WHY it’s marketed as adult literary. Does that sell better? Or is this publisher not about selling, but about “art”?

A week ago came this round-table discussion of industry professionals (agent, editor, author), regarding Uses and Misuses of the Book Blurb. It’s an interesting read, and says some smart things. But one important representative is missing from the group: a reader who’s not employed by the book industry.

So, what does an average reader think about blurbs? I can only speak for myself, but here’s the lowdown:

-Blurbs mean nothing if the reader hasn’t heard of the people blurbing. (See my above notes about the book I’m reading.)

-Blurbs aren’t entirely objective if written by those known to be the author’s good friends. (Even if they are also authors.)

-Blurbs are less relevant if the SAME blurb appears on all of an author’s books. (E.g. Yes, I know Charlaine Harris read a book by that author five years ago, but the author’s style and direction may have changed dramatically in the meantime.)

Perhaps when I was new to a genre, blurbs held more weight. But now that I’m established in my tastes, blurbs don’t aid discoverability. Maybe because I’m a grumpy old woman who can’t trust other people to like what I like ;-)

In short, those in the biz likely value blurbs for marketing and publicity. But as a seasoned reader, blurbs don’t affect to me (or if they do, it’s negatively). But maybe I’d feel different if MY blurbs were used ;-)

[GUEST BLOG] Holly Schindler on How FERAL Changed Through Its Various Incarnations

This guest blog is part of the official blog tour for Holly Schindler’s Feral. Below you’ll find Holly’s post, links, and information on her books.

How Feral Changed Through Its Various Incarnations

I’m sure it’ll come as a surprise to anyone who’s gotten their hands on a copy of Feral and read the opening two chapters when I say that the book started out as an MG mystery. In my initial version, the protagonist was seeking to solve the cold case of a murder involving a former student at her middle school.

During the revision process, the book became increasingly darker, grittier – so much so, I began to suspect that I needed to bump the book into the YA category. It might sound like a simple task, but it actually involved a complete overhaul. Moving it into YA, I also began to realise the genre was changing as well (initially, I thought it’d wind up being a horror novel). I also couldn’t keep my protagonist, not in the original way I’d envisioned her. That main character was just so…thirteen. She didn’t fit in a YA scenario at all. I had to invent a new protagonist.

Brainstorming who my new main character would be, I discovered her backstory: she survived a brutal gang beating in her hometown of Chicago. With this discovery, everything started to fall into place. The central theme of the book became recovery, and the genre, it was clear, was neither straight mystery OR horror, but psychological thriller.

Like classic psychological thrillers, Feral features elements of other genres: mystery, horror, paranormal…but the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller/action. The novel also features a Hitchcock-ian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain).

Essentially, every aspect of Feral is used to explore Claire’s inner workings – that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting. The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and in this instance is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state). The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley. Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche.

Ultimately, as I indicated, Feral is a book about recovering from violence – we often hear about how lengthy or hard that process can be. But it can also be a terrifying process. The parameters and conventions of the classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.

Holly Schindler
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Holly Schindler
Feral
HarperCollins Teen (CA: 18th August 2014; US: 26th August 2014; AU: 1st October 2014)
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It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words float through Claire Cain’s head as she lies broken and barely alive after a brutal beating. And they continue to haunt her months later, in the terrifying nightmares that plague her. So when her father takes a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out of Chicago will offer her a new start. But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire quickly realises something is wrong – the town is brimming with hidden dangers and overrun by feral cats. And her fears are confirmed when a popular high school girl, Serena Sims, is found dead in the icy woods behind the school. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it – for she was the one who found Serena, battered and bruised, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. Now Claire vows to learn the truth about what happened, but the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to discovering a frightening reality about herself – and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley…

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4 New Covers (Hart, McGarry, Silver, Stewart)

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20th September 2014 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Lori Devoti
Amazon Queen (Amazon Ink, Book 2)
Simon & Schuster Gallery (US, UK & CA: 20th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Amazon queen Zery Kostovska has never questioned tribe traditions. After all, these rules have kept the tribe strong for millennia and enabled them to live undetected, even in modern-day America. Zery is tough, fair, commanding – the perfect Amazon leader. At least, she was. A new high priestess with a penchant for secrecy and technology is threatening Zery’s rule. Plus, with the discovery of the Amazon sons, males with the same skills as their female counterparts, even Zery can’t deny that the tribe must change. But how? Some want to cooperate with the sons. Others believe brutal new leadership is needed – and are willing to kill to make it happen. Once, Zery’s word was law. Now, she has no idea who to trust, especially with one powerful Amazon son making her question all her instincts. For Zery, tribe comes first, but the battle drawing near is unlike any she’s faced before…and losing might cost her both the tribe and her life.

Yvonne Navarro
Highborn (Highborn, Book 1)
Simon & Schuster Pocket (US & CA: 20th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Brynna Malak is a fallen angel trying to earn redemption. She’s escaped from Hell in search of a new life on Earth, but Lucifer’s deadliest hunters are hot on her trail. Police Detective Eran Redmond is after her for a different reason: he needs Brynna to help him find a serial killer who is terrifying Chicago…and the trail leads them right to Hellspawned demons of the most dangerous kind. She’s also got a very human problem: dealing with a stubborn, attractive cop who makes her long for everything she knows she can’t have. Staying alive long enough to earn a shot at Heaven will mean breaking some major rules in the mortal world, as she learns just how complicated and wonderful being human can be. With so much stacked against her, even Brynna has to wonder if she’s crazy. But she’s not giving in without a fight.

Free Books on Amazon: Why & What

NOTE: For the purpose of this article, I don’t count “Free if you’re with Prime/Audible/etc” as free, on account of they’re conditional. E.g. Free-to-air TV has extra channels, but you can’t access them because they’re only compatible with high-definition televisions and you only have standard-definition.

A tech-giant recently released a new gadget, and possibly an updated operating system, and thus their affiliated online bookseller is marketing this as a great time for readers to stock up on some free books. (I don’t know who decides which books to make free, but I hope the publisher chooses, so the bookseller isn’t going rogue.)

Because of price-matching and whatnot, other booksellers are hosting the same deal. This is great, because I tried to download the software for the gadget’s affiliated bookseller, but apparently it’s not compatible with devices that aren’t affiliated with that particular tech-giant. (Yet their music software IS compatible…)

So I turned to Amazon, and they indeed have some of the same books for free. During my searches, I learned that offering the first-in-a-series for free – permanently, instead of just temporarily – is a great way to snag a potential reader’s interest, and self-publishers in particular are really going for this. And as self-publishers, these authors can change their prices if or when they want. (For traditional publishers, I figure their authors don’t get much say, but hopefully their publisher consults them about making a book available for free.)

Also, even traditional publishers offer short stories or novellas for free, to get readers interested in trying the full-length novels. Whether temporary or permanent, it’s a great opportunity for consumers.

Of course, in the past some self-published authors have been dismayed to learn that offering the first for free may not automatically boost sales for the author’s not-free books. So patience is a must – please understand that consumers may not immediately read something they just purchased, but buy so they have the OPTION of reading at any time. As much as publishers and authors may wish readers to read and review ASAP, readers actually have independent thought and decide what’s best for them.

As with any eBooks, geographical restrictions may prevent certain readers from accessing these stories. If books have the same publisher globally (such as in the case of self-published authors), there may not be restrictions. But if a book hasn’t sold World Rights or whatnot, that eBook may not even be available to PURCHASE in some regions, and certainly not free. Welcome to the world of geo-restrictions, which is an unfortunate hurdle that gets in the way of some people (e.g. me) buying some of the books we want to read. And because we only acquire books legally, we go without these eBooks.

But I digress.

Going through my author checklist today, some of their works are currently free on Amazon. (If the links don’t work for you, they may be geo-restricted.) Some may be free permanently, and others temporarily, so please check the price before automatically clicking the Buy button when it appears:

Maree Anderson: Freaks of Greenfield High
Abigail Barnette: The Boss
Kylie Chan: White Tiger
Debra Driza: The Fire
Colleen Hoover: Finding Cinderella
Katie McGarry: Red at Night
Richelle Mead: Bloodlines
Robert Muchamore: Rock War: The Audition
Diana Peterfreund: The First Star to Fall
Jodi Picoult: Where There’s Smoke
Veronica Roth: Free Four
Carrie Ryan: Flotsam & Jetsam
Karin Slaughter: Blindsighted

But these are just the authors I’m interested in, so use your own author checklist to find some legally free goodness.

16th September 2014 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Stefanie Gaither
Falls the Shadow
Simon & Schuster (US, UK & CA: 16th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

When Cate Benson was a kid, her sister, Violet, died. Two hours after the funeral, Cate’s family picked up Violet’s replacement like nothing had happened. Because Cate’s parents are among those who decided to give their children a sort of immortality by cloning them at birth – which means this new Violet has the same face. The same perfect smile. She even has all of the same memories as the girl she replaced. She also might have murdered the most popular girl in school. At least, that’s what the paparazzi and the anti-cloning protestors want everyone to think: that clones are violent, unpredictable monsters. Cate is used to hearing all that. She’s used to defending her sister, too. But Violet has vanished, and when Cate sets out to find her, she ends up in the line of fire instead. Because Cate is getting dangerously close to secrets that will rock the foundation of everything she thought was true.

Tracey Garvis Graves
Every Time I Think of You
Tracey Garvis Graves (US: 16th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA)

Thirty-year-old Daisy DiStefano has two people she holds dear: the grandmother who raised her, and her three-year-old son, Elliott. But when Daisy’s grandmother is killed in a seemingly random act of violence, Daisy must take steps to protect herself and her child. Despite a thriving career in San Francisco, thirty-six-year-old Brooks McClain has returned home to spend what little time his mother has left before she succumbs to the deadly disease that is ravaging her. The seasoned investigative reporter has taken a position with the local newspaper and been on the job less than twenty-four hours when he’s summoned to cover the death of Pauline Thorpe. Brooks is all business, but the more time he spends with Daisy DiStefano, the more invested he becomes; there’s something about a single mother, a defenceless child, and an unsolved crime that has stirred Brooks’s protective instincts like nothing ever has before. And when the unthinkable happens, Brooks will do whatever it takes to clear the name of the woman he’s fallen for and the child he’ll protect at any cost.

Malinda Lo
Inheritance (Adaptation, Book 2)
Hachette (US: 16th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Reese and David are not normal teens – not since they were adapted with alien DNA by the Imria, an extraterrestrial race that has been secretly visiting Earth for decades. Now everyone is trying to get to them: the government, the Imria, and a mysterious corporation that would do anything for the upper hand against the aliens. Beyond the web of conspiracies, Reese can’t reconcile her love for David with her feelings for her ex-girlfriend, Amber, an Imrian. But Reese’s choice between two worlds will play a critical role in determining the future of humanity, the Imria’s place in it, and the inheritance she and David will bring to the universe.

Kass Morgan
Day 21 (The 100, Book 2)
Hachette (US: 16th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

It’s been 21 days since the hundred landed on Earth. They’re the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries…or so they thought. Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost. And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.

Caragh M. O’Brien
The Vault of Dreamers
Macmillan Roaring Brook (US: 16th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success: every moment of the students’ lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students’ schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What’s worse is, she starts to notice that the ridges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding – and what it truly means to dream there.

Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Shade of the Moon (Life As We Knew It, Book 4)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US: 16th Setember 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

It’s been more than two years since Jon Evans and his family left Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to live, yet Jon remains haunted by the deaths of those he loved. His prowess on a soccer field has guaranteed him a home in a well-protected enclave. But Jon is painfully aware that a missed goal, a careless word, even falling in love, can put his life and the lives of his mother, his sister Miranda, and her husband, Alex, in jeopardy. Can Jon risk doing what is right in a world gone so terribly wrong?

Kat Zhang
Once We Were (Hybrid Chronicles, Book 2)
HarperCollins (US & CA: 16th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

As the recessive soul, Eva wasn’t supposed to survive this long, lingering in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away. Now fugitives, they take shelter with a hybrid resistance movement. Despite growing tensions between Eva and Addie, they both throw themselves into the cause. Soon they’ve joined a splinter group willing to resort to questionable methods…but as Addie and Eva fall ever deeper into their plans, the girls must decide how far they’re willing to go to fight for their new lives. What they thought was the solution to their problems just might be the thing that destroys everything – including their bond to each other.

Kat Zhang
Echoes of Us (Hybrid Chronicles, Book 3)
HarperCollins (US & CA: 16th September 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

All Eva ever wanted was the chance to be herself. But in the Americas, to be hybrid – to share your body with a second soul – is not tolerated past childhood. Now Eva and Addie, her sister soul, are constantly on the move, hiding from the officials who seek to capture them. But the tide is changing. A revolution is brewing, and people are starting to question the hybrids’ mistreatment. Then Marion, an ambitious reporter, offers Eva and Addie a daring proposal: If they go undercover and film the wretched conditions of a hybrid institution, she will not only rescue them, she’ll find a way to free Jackson, the boy Addie loves. It’s risky, and Eva will have to leave Ryan and her friends behind, but if she succeeds, it could also tip the scales forever and lead to hybrid freedom. As Eva and Addie walk into danger, they cling to each other and the hope of a better future. But the price they might pay is higher than they ever could have imagined.

Now Available for US Pre-Order

Naomi Clark: UNDERTOW: 24th August 2014: Buy (US)
Carolyn Crane: INTO THE SHADOWS (paperback): 16th August 2014: Buy (US)
Sylvia Day: CAPTIVATED BY YOU: 18th November 2014: Buy (US)
Rinda Elliott: BLOOD OF AN ANCIENT (paperback): 7th October 2014: Buy (US)
Avery Hastings: TORN: 23rd June 2015: Buy (US)
Karen Ann Hopkins: EMBERS: 21st October 2014: Buy (US)
Karen Mahoney: HUNTING THE DARK: 1st January 2015: Buy (US)
Carrie Mesrobian: SEX & VIOLENCE (paperback): 1st January 2015: Buy (US)
Megan Shepherd: THE CAGE: 26th May 2015: Buy (US)
J. A. Souders: REVELATIONS (paperback): 30th June 2015: Buy (US)
J. A. Souders: REBELLION: 9th June 2015: Buy (US)