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 😉

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