Book Blurbs: How accurate? Pointless?

Posted: January 22, 2011 in Books and their issues
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I was just wondering the other day about the blurbs on the backs of books and how important they are.

I admit i am one of those people who picks a book by the cover if i’m just wandering round a bookstore, and then i will pick up the appealing book and flip it over to see the blurb on the back to see if the book sounds attractive too.

And OK, a lot of the time, i am given a book or forced to read it during my studies, and don’t take much notice of the blurb, or think it is awful but still read the book anyway.

I find myself wondering how many books i rejected purely because of the blurb being unappealing. And how many books i missed out on because someone wrote a bad blurb.

However, maybe we are only attracted to the books which sound like what we have read before and therefore are considered as “safe reads” in our heads? You could get quite philosophical about this compulsion which drives us to pick a certain book.

Maybe the blurb makes the plot sound really normal and unspectacular, but then wins you over by the descriptive words it uses, seducing you with romantic terms. I found this applied to the Twilight series, with the first book using phrases like “with his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts”, which appealed to me (as a fan of fantasy, and having a love of poetic description). The later books don’t seem to have such romantic terms in their blurbs so i am less attracted to them as blurbs. However, by the time i’d finished the first book and become addicted to the plot, i cared less and less about the blurbs, and preferred to just read the books without reading the blurbs, because i already trusted the quality and content of the first book, and was more inclined to carry on with the series based on the  content.

You might be sitting reading this thinking, why is she going on about blurbs? What’s the point?

Well, after studying English, i find myself over-analysing even little bits of texts, and as the author doesn’t tend to be the one who writes the blurb, i wonder just how you go about describing how good the book is, and finding the right words to describe it. It must be quite a challenge for the publisher to find the few sentences which will make the book a success, especially at the moment that a potential reader picks the book up and reads the blurb, which is the making or breaking of that book!

Maybe i will find out soon when i start my career in the publishing industry!

I also wonder if Ebooks will remove the need for blurbs…. after all, you can’t pick up a virtual book and read the back of it!

I’m interested to know what everyone else thinks about this!

  1. Landen says:

    It’s BY FAR not pointless. I choose books almost strictly by what the blurb says, and without that I’d be totally lost >///>

    I’m a novelist myself, and honestly, I completely disagree with everything going digital. If I couldn’t have a solid book in my hands I don’t know when I’ll be able to measure myself as a successful or unsuccessful writer, and the back of that book should have something like this;

    The blond takes a couple steps backward and points the gun at my head again. I want to give him the code. I really want to give him the code. I yell something incomprehensible, a combination of Arabic and Urdu. I can’t think in English right now, let alone speak it. Blood dribbles from my mouth down my chin and onto my shirt. I swallow metal tasting liquid and cough a couple times and stare down at my knees shaking.


    • bluecloverbelle says:

      Of course, but if that’s the most exciting bit in the book then people won’t want to read the rest of it! However, an exciting paragraph like that is quite a pull for those people who like that sort of content, so they would read on to find out what happens!
      I agree with your point on digital, i need the escape from computers and screens, an a book is the perfect place to go to.

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