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The Blurb and Me

I have some news to share, and I hope I can open a conversation with it. And I hope other authors—and readers—will comment. Please do tell me what you think.

I’m completely stepping out of the blurb game. That is, I’m no longer going to write endorsements of other authors’ books. This is not because I don’t want to help other authors succeed, and find a wider audience. I very much do. As a result, this has been a difficult decision. But two incidents brought it to a head.

A couple of months ago, I picked up some tweets to and from a blogger I very much like, respect and trust. (He is one of the bloggers I interviewed for my Blogger Wednesday series.) In other words, someone tweeted to him, and he tweeted back, and I saw the conversation because I follow both of the people involved. It was a little bit like being a fly on the wall. The gist of the conversation was that he was being asked to make time in a very busy schedule to read and review a book…because I had endorsed it. I had no idea which book, and I immediately ran through all my recent endorsements in my head, with a sick feeling in my gut—because, if I am to be absolutely honest with you and with myself, not all of them were books I would feel great about putting into his unusually busy and discerning hands.

Yes, a lot of the blurbs I’ve done have been along the lines of wanting to help the author. Someone, almost always a stranger, wrote to me asking for help. And I wanted to help. And the book was good. Enough. Certainly would be enjoyed by many. And the words I said about the book were true enough. But the offering of the blurb was done as a favor.

Now. I will clarify that statement very carefully. I don’t mean “favor” as in giving something of value in return for something else for myself. I never benefitted in any way. I never did that favor because someone else had done a favor for me. I never blurbed a book I didn’t like. Just some that didn’t so blow me out of the water that I would be proud for the vast majority of people I know to take time out of a busy schedule to read it based on my endorsement alone. And even if I loved the book, which in many cases I did, who am I to suggest that you will?

And…if I did, would you believe me anyway?

Most of you know that there has been quite a scandal going on in the book world surrounding reviews. Paying for reviews, trading reviews. Authors opening accounts under false identities to praise their own books and slam those by “competing” authors. None of which I have ever done, or ever would do. But one more point was raised during this debate. The idea that blurbs are widely seen as favors, therefore nobody takes them very seriously.

Now, the use of the word “favors” in the above paragraph is much stronger than the way I used it above. They meant a quid pro quo resulting in false endorsements. Which I never did. Yet it brought my growing discomfort with the blurb system to the level of a fever breaking. Yes, every blurb I ever offered was extremely honest compared to the complaints set forth during this controversy. But if a new author writes to me, needing help, and I understand how they feel, and I want them to succeed, is that enough to sway my opinion even slightly? I’m just concerned enough about the answer to draw a stronger line for the sake of integrity.

I will no longer write blurbs,  because I no longer feel right attempting to sway the sales of some books over others, based on my opinions.

Now I’ll take it a step further than that. I would like to propose that the system of author endorsements is broken, and we should perhaps move beyond it. More and more new authors are being told to aggressively gather blurbs, at the same time as the reputation of the blurb as a whole is more tainted—as the blurbs are less and less likely to do any good. Blurbs are becoming, I’m afraid, the loose equivalent of that glowing 5-star Amazon reader review from someone you suspect has ties to the author. I think we can find better ways to choose our books, and I’m open to suggestions. The system of honest, thoughtful book bloggers (who tell you exactly why they did or did not like a book, helping the reader choose in a way the blurb does not) seems the best thing we currently have.

Meanwhile I will continue to explore new and different ways to help new authors. I do want to help. I just don’t want to prop up a system that seems to be in a state of increasing decay.

So…comment section below. Please discuss with me. What are your thoughts on author blurbs? Am I making the right decision? 

 

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A better way?

In the comment thread of this post on my website, an idea emerged. Why not help out new authors by featuring their books on my blog? We can discuss the book at length, in a way that will help readers decide if it's their type of thing or not. Sort of "the anti-blurb." I might even call it that.