Ever wondered if they are honest?
There’s been a few posts on the subject just lately: Justine Larbalestier and John Scalzi (read the comments section) and Meg Rosoff.
The consensus seems to be that “if I don’t like it, I won’t blurb it.” I must admit, though, I have read quite a few books that have loads of praise on the cover but have left me thinking, “Did these guys ever read this??”
Getting my booked “blurbed” by an author never crossed my mind when I started out. I have still never asked someone to do one for me. I never will.
So, how did some of my books get to have another author’s comment on it?
Havenstar English cover: None. But it did have a 10/10 rating from Starburst magazine mentioned.
Havenstar German cover: None. It has a quote from Publisher’s Weekly about being in the upper league of fantasy
The Aware Australian cover: “Witty, gritty and enthralling” comment from Trudi Canavan. This one has a story behind it. Voyager sent a pre-publication print to a Melbourne sff specialist bookseller. He didn’t have time to read it, so passed it to Trudi, author of The Black Magician Trilogy. She loved it and wrote a magical blurb, bless her. At this stage, I had not met her.
Other Isles of Glory covers – even American ones – have repeated this or give quotes gleaned from one of more Australian reviews. Happily, I have been reviewed fairly well in Oz so there was plenty to choose from…
Heart of the Mirage Australian cover: Quotes Trudi on The Isles of Glory trilogy “Hard to put down. It’ll keep you up late and make you stay home all day”
Heart of the Mirage UK cover: Quotes Kate Elliot saying : “Exciting, robust adventure. Glenda Larke is a fabulous writer.” Another story here. I read some nice things Kate had to say about my previous books on the blog Deep Genre, which just blew me away – because I admire her writing so much. We have the same editor at Orbit UK, and he read what she had to say and asked if she would mind writing the blurb for the new book.
The Shadow of Tyr UK cover: Quotes Karen Miller saying, “Glenda Larke is magical. If you don’t read her, you’re missing out a treat”. (Karen is much more famous than me, so I feel she lost out when I was asked for a blurb for her first book in the UK.)
Song of the Shiver Barrens UK cover: Karen Miller’s quote on the front, and Kate Elliott’s on the back.
As you can see, I have benefited from some really splendid writers being kind enough to write a blurb – and each of them was asked by the editor, not me. Similarly I wrote a blurb for Karen Miller when an editor asked me. And yes, it was honest. I had already read the book in the Australian edition and was delighted to be asked.
So my question now is this: do you readers take any notice of famous writers writing nice things for a book cover?
[Russian covers? Absolutely no idea what any of them says…]
Personally, no, I don’t take much notice of what authors say on blurbs. If I find a book has been forever on the top 10 list or something like that, it might influence me, but my biggest influence is the synopsis of the novel which is often on the inside flap. If I like that, I will probably like the book. Lets face it, because one person likes a book doesn’t mean another will.
Lately I have been finding new authors based on recommendations from current authors via blogs such as this one. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Blurbs don’t mean much to me, although it’s nice when I see one of my ‘fave’ authors being nice to one of my other ‘fave’ authors.
Publishers seem to think that cover quotes are effective in raising sales figures by an extra couple of per cent, enough to make it worthwhile. It’s apparently part of the battle to push the top end of the sales ratings, like trying to nudge a good B grade up to an A (or A minus, if you never award straight As). I concede it interests me to see who commented, but I don’t know that that ever influenced my decision to buy.
My favourite ever cover quote appeared on a certain biography several years ago. The quotation was simply ‘I couldn’t put it down’ … but the name beside it was Bette Davis. You could just hear the drawling irony…
I’ll admit that my view of most author blurbs has been on the cynical side. Two peer authors saying “You scratch my back and I will scratch yours”.
Like Joanna though, if another favourite author does the blurb I do take notice.
When I see a gushy mushy blurb by a more-established author on another’s book, I tend to go,”Yeah, right.”
BUT I do keep tabs on what my favourite authors say in their blogs about other books. When I follow up and read the synopsis of the book, AND I like the synopsis, then I will buy.
Some plots just turn me off while others will always reel me in. It’s a personal thing.
In my young and impressionable days I would read any book that was recommended by my favourite author of the time. I discovered a lot of stinkers this way and eventually realised that cover blurbs couldn’t be trusted. So I don’t take any notice of them any more, but I can be influenced, like Roslyn, by an author I like recommending someone else’s book on their blog. Not sure why this is more trustworthy. Perhaps because I assume that people will only recommend a book on their blog if they really like it, whereas they may feel constrained by politeness or obligation to give a favourable blurb to a book that doesn’t really grab them.
I tend to assess a book (by an author I don’t know) by reading the first third or so. If it’s not good enough to keep me interested for an hour in the book shop, I don’t continue with it.
Only a couple of books I have ever felt let down with by this method. Most recent was Empress if Mijak, which just had no joy in it. Continually held out the opportunity or hope for it, but never delivered and left me wishing I hadn’t read it. Only other one I can think of was ‘Keeping Place’, but that was a long time ago.
Strangely, this number is pretty much matched with the number of books I have read all the way through in the shop(s) without purchasing… considering I go through about a book a week, neither instance occurs often.