Monday, July 6, 2009

The blurb business

Very few books start big. Most start pretty small. So you've got to do something to inflate them. To outsize them. The big brains in publishing know what to do: procure big blurbs from big authors. The bigger the blurb the better it works. After all, it takes a lot of hot air to inflate a book. Sales reps say that it's hard to sell without a big blurb. Buyers tell the reps the same thing -- if there are no big blurbs on the back of an ARC, how do they know whether or not the book is truly big? Especially with so many blurbed books coming at them each season.
"Wells Tower is a blindingly brilliant writer who does more than raise the bar for debut fiction: he hurls it into space. With the oversize heart of George Saunders, the demon tongue of Barry Hannah, and his very own conjuring tools that cannot be here named, Tower writes stories of aching beauty that are as crushingly funny and sad as any on the planet." -- Ben Marcus, author of Notable American Women and The Age of Wire and String (on Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower)
If the buyer sees those big blurbs and 'gets' it, the blurbed book will get displayed on the big table at the front of the big store. That's what everyone wants. If that happens, then a customer might stumble upon the book, turn it over and read the big blurb. In turn, the big blurb might lead that customer to actually buy the book. And that's when the bells start ringing. But they gotta buy the blurb before they'll buy the book. It's that important.
"The Apocalypse is old news, but no one since St. John the Divine has written with such power and verve about the End of the World—and Currie's book is far more full of love and compassion than John could muster. If you're going to write about Doom you'd better be funny and if you're going to write about Global Doom you'd better be damn funny. Currie accomplishes one of the rarest feats in literature-- he makes you dread turning each page at the same time you can't help turning each page. He leads you toward The End with wisdom and honesty, pointing out the beautiful sights along the way but never shielding your eyes from the fires ahead." —- David Benioff, author of City of Thieves and The 25th Hour (on Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr. Both published by Viking)
It's a great system, this system of blurbing. Editors love procuring these blurbs because it makes them feel like they're doing something tangible for their properties, in addition to acquiring, editing, marketing, and attending meetings. They know it's all part-and-parcel of the same thing: building buzz. It's neat to be pestering your stable of authors for ever bigger blurbs. It's also a great system because it allows authors of all stripes to contribute to the industry. First, they're helping their fellow writers. Second, they're doing something nice for their publishers. And third, they're being really creative at the same time. It's a win-win-win. At the end of the day, if editors and authors don't do it, who will?
"Wow! This amazing book sits up, rolls over, and teaches you the wisdom of the universe in a breezy, easy-to-read style. It's a masterpiece!" -- Dr. Joe Vitale, author of The Attractor Factor and cast member of The Secret (on The Compass by Tammy Kling and John Spencer Ellis)

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. It does seem like some authors blurb every book. It gets annoying when one sees the same author(s) over and over...