Author Blurbs

on January 25, 2007

I’ll admit, I was surprised when I was asked for an author blurb. This is basically a one or two-sentence endorsement of the book which may go on the front cover or on an inside page.

First, though my debut trilogy did well, I’m hardly a household name among suspense lovers like, oh, Robb, Coben, Connelly, King, Koontz, Gardner, Gerritsen, Hoag and many others. Second, and most important, who am I to judge whether a book is good or not? What if I love it and one of my readers hates it and gets mad at me? What if I hate it and the author gets mad at me?

I also have a hard time saying no to anything so I agreed to read too many manuscripts last year, which made reading them more a chore than a pleasure. But as the year wore on and I faced tighter and tighter deadlines, I started turning down requests to read. And feeling bad about it. (But that’s my problem. Sigh.)

I also read a book I didn’t care for, not because it was poorly written–it was fine–but because I didn’t like the story. But some people will love it. It’s not like it was bad . . . I ended up sweating and stressing about this for two weeks before declining to give a quote. Then I told myself I’d never read another manuscript again. Obviously, that didn’t last.

I also had several people ask for a quote based on just the first couple chapters of material. Again, I didn’t feel comfortable doing that though I have heard that many authors do it. They have their comfort level, and I have mine. I can accept that someone won’t love the same books I do. I can accept that I can’t read everything I’m asked. But I can’t endorse a book I haven’t read in its entirety.

My lightbulb moment occurred when I was speaking to my associate publisher at a conference. I lamented about how many books I’d agreed to read, and that I didn’t love one of them, and she related a story. She’d sent a book to one of the house’s top authors thinking that he’d love it. He didn’t and refused to endorse it. “It’s your name,” she told me. “Don’t endorse something you don’t like.”

Then I went through a bout of just refusing to read anything, even if I had the time, because I was afraid I wouldn’t like something and I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Then I had to decline to read because I honestly didn’t have the time.

Anyway, I can’t read everything. I know that. My deadlines have to come first. I’ve heard of authors who have said they’ll read the first five manuscripts to come by their desk in a year. I don’t want to be that stringent, but I do understand where that rule came from!

The truth is, I don’t even know how effective an author blurb is. I don’t make it a habit of picking up books with quotes, though I have been known to do it. But every new author wants one, and I was tickled with Mariah Stewart gave THE PREY an endorsement. So I go ’round and ’round on this.

Anyway, if you see my name on a book I didn’t write, I genuinely liked the book. You may or may not like the book, and that’s okay. Taste is subjective. Just like some editors didn’t like THE PREY and some loved it. Some agents rejected it and some requested it.

Now I want to know the truth: have you ever bought a book because an author (as opposed to a friend) gave the book an endorsement? Did it factor into your decision to pick up the book in the first place (and then maybe buy it or put it down based on the book summary or first pages?) How much weight do you put on author endorsements?