Monday, 12 September 2011

Should we beware author blurbs?

Skye from In the Good Books wrote an interesting and thought-provoking post on author quotes (otherwise known as "blurbs" on the front of books. To paraphrase her, she says that quotes from authors she admires will make her pick up a book that she might have previously overlooked, but a taglne along the lines of "Fans of Twilight will love this book!" are a deal breaker.

I found myself nodding in agreeance, because to be honest, sometimes I'll get put off books that have a quote from an author, or some other sentence urging you to "read this book!".

Sometimes I can't help but roll my eyes at really cliched taglines, for example, "you will devour this book" or "this book will leave you breathless". I mean, c'mon, really?! These words have been so over-used that they've kinda lost their meaning. I don't believe them for a second. And well, publishers are in the business of getting readers to buy their books, so of course they're going to praise the book. This doesn't mean that their opinion isn't valid; they obviously love the book so much, they've chosen to put their full support behind it and get it published. This just means that we have to take words from a potential source of bias with a grain of salt.

But what about blurbs from authors? Well...

a) If it's an author I have read and admire who has recommended the book, then I might be more inclined to pick up the book, for sure. But if I don't like the book, then the author is discredited in my eyes. I'd probably be less willing to trust their judgement.

b) If it's an author whose books I did not enjoy, then I'm even less likely to read the book.

c) If I do enjoy the book, the it will be because the author did a good job, rendering the blurb irrelevant.

Also, I know that authors are sent new releases from their publisher/editor/agent for endorsements. And this is where things get tricky. It's beneficial to an author to stay "in the good books" (terrible pun intended) of their industry connections by giving a positive endorsement, yet in blurbing a book, they put their own reputation with readers on the line. Declining to review a book will undoubtedly step on a few toes, and will be detrimental in the long run when attempting to forge new connections or ask for favours. Gee, aren't politics fun?

Anyway, blurbs I read are often quite vague and general; sometimes  I can't help but be skeptical about the reliability of obvious and gushing praise, and I end up ignoring them, relying on my own reading of the book to give it a fair judgement. After all, reading experiences are subjective.

What I personally prefer is a book with just the title and author's name on the front cover. I often turn to my fellow book bloggers and my librarian for recommendations, and then I make my own judgements from my reading.

So the real question is, how effective is an author blurb anyway? Would you read a book based on another author's recommendation, or do you ignore them completely?Also, what do you think about book blogger reviews? Do they influence your book-reading decisions in any way?

Here's an informative and much more eloquent article I found, which explores this issue from a perspective of an author.

Also, thanks to Skye for inspiring this post!