Lately, I’ve been joking a lot about blurbs from big names. I don’t mean the back of the book blurbs, but rather those one line compliments that publishers and authors solicit for their books from well known writers. It’s not something I’ve ever pursued seriously because in talking with readers online most have said that they don’t pay any mind to these endorsements, regardless of how big the endorser is.
Still, I find myself wondering if I somehow got a blurb from a celebrity author, what would I do with it? Since I mostly publish ebooks, I don’t add a lot of extra text to the covers. It would clutter up the image, and anyway, you won’t be able to read tiny blurbs on the postage stamp image sample. It seems like a waste of space to put them on the first page of the ebook, and I’d much rather add a little note thanking people for taking a look at my stuff and then get on with the story telling.
But again, imagine that one day, out of the clear blue, I got an email from a big time author who said, “I just read this book, and I thought it was amazing.” Then, might I feel the temptation to ask for a blurb as endorsement of the title? Since I have so few reviews, a glowing one line review from any author would seem to be the perfect excuse for a little extra promotion, like “this famous author loved my book, and this is what they had to say about it.”
I think I’d feel more temptation to add a blurb if, say Stephen King or Anne Rice said something good, where as I’d be less inclined to ballyhoo an endorsement from Maurice Broaddus or Carlton Mellick III. It’s not a matter of respect, because I have huge amounts of respect for both of these guys. It’s just that they aren’t very well known outside of their markets. Another good example is John A. Lindqvist, who I am in awe of for his story crafting abilities, and who is nevertheless still unknown to a lot of readers even after Let The Right One In got turned into two theatrical releases.
Everyone knows King and Rice, so a blurb from them seems more like a strong selling point. But with the others, it’s only a selling point if the reader already knows and loves the author in question. What I’m saying is, even people who don’t read King and Rice still know who they are, and their name power carries an air of respect even with their work being unread by the blurb viewer.
On occasion, I have sent books to authors I respect, but I am always careful to hedge my request with assurances that I’m not looking for a blurb, just their opinion on whether the story is all right. And, more often than not, their answers are a mixed bag. Is the story good? Yes, but. And that but is usually that my writing style and my methods of telling the story are not mainstream. That’s not something I can use as a selling point to casual readers. “Good story, but too challenging for the mainstream” isn’t a strong selling point.
And then there’s the possibility that I could get a blurb from an author I despised. Or rather, I should say that I despised their writing style, since there’s only one or two authors who I actively loathe for their opinions on certain topics. I won’t name names for this example because this isn’t about tearing down the authors or their personal beliefs. But for those few writers I really disliked, I’d have a hard time even thanking them for reading my book, much less for their compliments. But what about a writer who I read their book and hated it, and they loved my book? Would I want to tout their interest, or would I just thank them in email and move on?
And finally, what about authors known to blurb everything? Since I’m not downing his work, I’ll use Piers Anthony as an example. Again, I’m not knocking his books, but it seems to me that he would give a favorable blurb to any book offered to him, even if the work was awful. Piers seems to be the go to guy when you need someone to say something nice when no one else will. Like, he might even blurb a cookbook with “The most amazing recipes I’ve ever seen in my whole life.” So what would I do if Piers read one of my books and then lavished praise upon it? I’m not sure, and it’s because I’m not sure I could trust that he really meant what he said. Which is kinda stupid, because why would he send an unsolicited compliment if he didn’t mean it?
I suppose I’m thinking on this because as my back catalog grows, there’s a lot of titles that I wish I could spend more time promoting, but I’ve already passed the appropriate shelf life for repeated ads. Sometimes I think about posting a list of linked titles that are two and three years old, but that I still want to draw new readers’ attention to. So I wonder, how can I promote these older works to new people in a way that doesn’t feel like panhandling? I can’t very well say, “buy these books so I can afford more music, books, and weed.” Even though I have thought about using that line many, many times because I consider it akin to the homeless guy who writes “Why lie? I need money for beer” on his cardboard sign. (And who then proceeds to take the money he gets for his “honesty” into a grocery store to buy a week’s worth of sandwich fixings.)
I guess it’s a moot point, since I don’t solicit blurbs from authors, nor do I expect them to pick up my titles through Amazon and feel so compelled by my stuff that they volunteer a blurb. I mean, it’s a nice thought, but much like my fantasies of moving to Amsterdam, it seems a very unlikely long shot. Still, stranger things have happened. After all, I never expected that I’d move to Italy and become a housewife right up until it actually happened. So anything is possible, right?