Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blurbs and Studly Authors

So here I am, about six months away from publication, two months or so away from ARCs, and waiting for final edits. Which puts me at right about . . . Happy Blurb Day.

Those of you who are authors know exactly what I’m talking about here. For those of you who are not authors, blurbs are those little quotes on the back of the book that say something like, “I laughed. I cried. I loved this book.” Or “A real page turner. You don’t want to miss this one.” Or my favorite by Dave Barry. “I never read this book.”

People debate back and forth on the value of blurbs. Does anyone really buy a book because Sue Grafton said it was good? Or because Stephen King says it kept him up at night? Most people would say, no. But at the same time, don’t we all pick up a book, check out the cover, flip it over and read the back? Maybe we don’t buy a book just because of the blurbs, but isn’t it possible it has some subliminal effect on us anyway when we see an author who writes in the same genre giving their stamp of approval?

I kind of view blurbs the same way I view music on a movie trailer. Nobody says, “Wow, that music was so good I’m going to go see the movie.” But without the music, we wouldn’t feel the same power. We might not even realize why, but we would be less impressed by the images we were watching. (Just an odd side note here. Every time I think about movie music I keep picturing Jack Black walking Kate Winslet down the aisle of Block Buster doing all of the movie themes in the movie “The Holiday.” A chick flick, but a good chick flick.)

So anyway, before you become an author, you just assume that a publisher takes care of getting those cool back of the cover quotes for you. I mean after all, they know other authors. They are a publisher. What author is going to tell a publisher, “No, don’t think so?” Well some might. But a publisher isn’t going to get their feelings hurt, curl up in a ball, and mutter, “Nobody like me. Nobody likes me,” to themselves over and over when they get turned down. As you might be able to surmise, the publisher does not get blurbs for you. You have to do it yourself. That’s the first thing you discover.

The second thing you discover is how many authors do not have an e-mail link on their web site. Personally, I was really surprised by that. Of course I understand that some authors are so popular that they may not have time to e-mail all of their fans. But you know what, Dean Koontz let’s you e-mail him directly, and that is a man with a lot of fans. So let me publicly commit here and now that I will always take e-mails—heck, I can’t imagine a world in which I am not thrilled with another e-mail from someone telling me they liked my book—or hated my book. Okay not quite as thrilled with that. But at least they read it.

The third thing is that many authors do not want to give blurbs. Actually this didn’t surprise me. I know that authors are busy people and the more successful they are the harder it becomes to keep up with every request. I also understand that people have had bad experiences with blurbs. (Another odd side note here. When authors say they had a bad experience, it is usually something like a pushy author who won’t take no for an answer or someone who doesn’t think your blurb was good enough for their book. But when an author tells me they had a bad experience with blurbs, I can’t help imagining something like, “I was walking through a seedy area of town when without any warning these three blurbs came out of nowhere. One of them roughed me up. Another called my mother vile names. And the last one told me my adverbs sucked rocks. Now I stay away from blurbs.”)

Here’s the thing that might have surprised me the most though. Two of my top choices said, “Yes,” as soon as I asked. You might be thinking, “He probably went to a couple of no-name authors who have nothing better do to.” You would be incorrect, my friend.

The first author to agree to do a blurb for me—or at least to consider doing a blurb for me, (He could read it and decide it’s the worst trash he’s ever read. Which would make a really lousy—although unique—blurb.)—is Mel Odom. How busy is he? Well let’s just say he has published over 140 books. That’s right. 140! Think he just sits around waiting for someone to ask him to blurb? Some of his fantasy series include The Forgotten Realm series, and the Rover series which is a great read for kids and adults.

The second author to agree to give me a blurb is Dean Lorey, author of Nightmare Academy, a great book my two younger sons and I read together and all loved. Dean has finished his second Nightmare Academy book, is working on his third, just finished the screenplay for the first book, and oh by the way, was the screen writer for lots of movies including Major Payne, and lots of TV series, including My Wife and Kids, and Arrested Development.

In addition, Orson Scott Card’s assistant and Terry Brooks assistant have asked me to send manuscripts as well, although they can’t guarantee they will be able to get to them. And you know how busy those guys are.

Let me just say, these guys are studs. With all the things going on in their lives, it would be easy to blow off a guy publishing his first YA fantasy series. But they remember what it was like getting started. Will their blurbs send my books flying off the shelves? Probably not by themselves. But if my ten-year-old’s response of “Dad, that is wicked cool,” is any indication, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

So thanks, guys! Hopefully I can return the favor to another fantasy author down the road.

By the way, if you want to read more about Mel and Dean, their websites are:


Mel also has a great book review blog,

Dean (This is an incredible web site by the way. And he and I also share the fact that we both had our US cover art done by Brandon)


Chris said...

I'll keep my fingers crossed for you that you get the authors you want! Orson Scott Card would be great...I've read just about his whole library. Personally, I don't let cover blurbs influence me too much, though if I'm on the fence about a book and I see an author's name on a blurb that I like it can be somewhat of a deciding factor. Best of luck!

J Scott Savage said...

Thanks, Chris. I'm hoping I can get OSC. I'm actually going to have a chance to be on a panel with him at a conference this week. How cool is that?

Heather B. Moore said...

I definitely read blurbs on the backs of books. Then I read the first page and decide whether or not to buy it from there.

Congrats on at least 2 successful blurbs coming.

Irish said...

I've always been ambivalent about author blubs on books and for the most part ignore them. Although I have picked up a book before because of a blub on the front by an author I liked. Though if the back summary doesn't thrill me the book goes back down...same said if there is no summary at all. That really irks me on a book. How can I decide to buy it if I don't know what its about?

Brian said...

Hi Scott,
I never knew that those were called blurbs. I also hope that you can get OSC to do one for you. I've got one question that has been nagging at me for a while. It seems like some of the people who post comments know more about Farworld. Have you posted a synopsis about it somewhere, because I have no idea what it is about.

J Scott Savage said...


I agree on the synopsis. I HATE it when a book doesn't have a synopsis. Sometimes I will intentionaly not read them if I love the author. But for a new author or an author I can take or leave, it is a must.


Great question! I have not posted a synopsis, but some of the people on the blog know about it. Sounds like a great topic for tomorrow. Let's talk about hooks and then you can tell me whether Farworld has a good hook or not.

Tamra Norton said...

I'll buy a book on the merit of the blurb. What does that say about me? I guess I'm easily influenced and a follower. And I don't think I'm alone there. This is an exciting time, Scott. Congrats on snagging some great...blurbers? :)

Ms. Yingling said...

I let the blurbs influence what I might pick up, but I buy books for my library based on how they read. For fantasy, which isn't my favorite, I also run them by my son. He's a picky reader, so I'll be interested to your book when it comes out. I have added your name to my list to watch for!