Ask ten writers how they feel about writing blurbs, and you’re likely to get ten different answers. Some writers blurb hundreds of books over the course of their career because they see blurbing as a way to champion other writers they admire or as a way to help young writers along. Others turn down every blurb request because they simply don’t have time to read through a manuscript and develop a short, sweet, superlative quote about what they’ve just read. (Or as Mark Twain is often attributed as saying, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” It takes real concentration to be succinct.)
Two recent, humorous articles examine the art of the blurb:
- Jake Adam York breaks down different “genres” of blurbs on the Kenyon Review’s blog
- A.J. Jacobs tries to work out his blurbing addiction in a recent article for the New York Times’ Book Review
York parses out six different genres of blurbs, from “Lavish” (think “An exciting read all the way through!”) to “Breviaries” where “the brevity should indicate to all observers that even a brief perusal of the wonders within will amaze and leave the reader capable of only single-sentence responses.”
Meanwhile, Jacobs had his agent and editor enforce a moratorium on his blurbing after he “blurbed so many books that they fill a bookcase in [his] apartment,” and a book critic for the New York Times tweeted, “Half the crap galleys I’ve seen in the past year were blurbed by one human: A. J. Jacobs.” Not exactly the kind of press he was looking for!
Both articles, though, agree on one thing: Blurbing isn’t going away. And whether we, as readers, ignore them completely or savor every hyperbolic word on every book jacket, booksellers and publishers certainly view them as an important marketing tool. And there’s definitely a craft to writing an effective blurb.
As writers, of course, we struggle with our fear of requesting blurbs for our books, and once we’re more established, weighing the merits of those who request blurb requests from us.
So how do you respond to blurb requests? How do you view blurbs in general? Give us your thoughts by commenting below!