I’m not meaning to be snide, just seeking information. Do blurbs really help sell a book?
Compared with old hands – sorry, well-established writers – like the other Lady Killers, I’m still quite new to fiction writing. I’ve never been asked to blurb anybody’s work, and after reading about the trials and tribulations that can be involved, I’m not sorry. Of course it’s great when writers are generous in endorsing other people’s books; mystery writers are nearly all, in my experience, wonderfully generous and supportive of others. And it must be terrific to have one’s novel blurbed by someone well-known. But does it actually help sell the thing?
As a reader, I can honestly say I’ve never been influenced by authors’ blurbs in my choice of reading matter, unless the blurbist (have I coined a new word?) is someone I know, and then it’s like a recommendation from a friend, well worth having and taking notice of. But the views of strangers, however genuine and unforced, don’t do it for me. I like the dust-jacket to give me a taste (without spoilers) of the book, and if I can, I’ll glance at the first few pages, and then I’ll decide. Whether you like or dislike a work of fiction is such a personal thing. I’d make an exception for non-fiction books though, because here the judgment isn’t so subjective but should be based on facts. If I read that a great classical historian described a history of Roman innkeepers as “a first-class book,” that would make me want the work in question.
Since I started writing and realised how tough some reviewers are, I might be influence a tiny bit by an extra from a prestigious book review on a dust-jacket, but only if it was a reasonably long and plausible one: we all know how easily bad reviews can be edited into something wonderful. “This author should on no account give up the day job, because this is definitely not an impressive debut. In fact it’s incredible that one book can contain so many outstanding examples of poor writing. I can’t think what persuaded the publishers to believe that Joe Bloggs has talent.” becomes: “This author should…give up the day job, because this is definitely…an impressive debut. In fact it’s incredible…Joe Bloggs has talent.”
So I return to the million-pound question. What evidence is
there that a blurb from someone well-known really helps to sell a novel? Research evidence - or even the anecdotal kind? If the answer’s yes, an endorsement gives a book
a real boost, then great. But I can’t help wondering if the marketing people are simply “keeping
up with the Joneses”. Are we all being played a con-trick, being made to feel that we ought to have blurbs, and
write blurbs, just because other authors have, and do? Wouldn't our books sell just as well without them?