The Secret World of Blurbing

Today’s New York Times offers an interesting article on blurbing — the practice of putting those little quotes on the back of a book to pique your interest: “I couldn’t put it down!” — by _____, bestselling author of _____.

There is much debate in the publishing world about whether blurbs actually help book sales. I suspect most readers take author quotes with a huge grain of salt. We are more likely to decide whether to buy a book based on 1) the cover, 2) the book description, 3) the first page of the book, pretty much in that order. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and hand-selling by booksellers and librarians are also critical. What impact do blurbs have on sales? It’s hard to know, but I think it’s safe to say that blurbs alone cannot change the fate of a book, especially, as the article points out, if writers can now get on-line and buy a batch of 10 blurbs for the low, low price of $19.95. In such a world, maybe a moratorium on blurbs is not a bad idea!

Rick Riordan