He Blurbed, She Blurbed
A new company recently emerged on the publishing scene, offering writers the chance to buy and sell book endorsements. Aimed at self-published authors, Blurbings LLC traffics in “blurbs,” the often hyperbolic declamations on book covers alerting readers that they’re holding the greatest single work of literature since the Bible — or perhaps since “The Da Vinci Code.”
At least one writer was so affronted by the idea of blurbs for cash that he complained to the Authors Guild. But the more jaundiced might say that asking one unknown writer to endorse another unknown writer hardly helps to make one of those writers known. Besides, some might argue, what the company appears to have done is simply put a price — starting at $19.95 for 10 blurbs — on the logrolling and back-scratching that have long marked the process by which mainstream publishers or agents ask authors to blurb a book.
Caveat lector! The endorsements on books aren’t entirely impartial. Unbeknownst to the average reader, blurbs are more often than not from the writer’s best friends, colleagues or teachers, or from authors who share the same editor, publisher or agent. They represent a tangled mass of friendships, rivalries, favors traded and debts repaid, not always in good faith. There’s some debate about whether blurbs actually help sell books, but publishers agree they can’t hurt. Often, agents try to solicit blurbs even before a publisher buys a book.
I think this is hilarious – at least selling blurbs is more honest than what usually goes on. When I was a kid my father picked up a book I was reading by Kurt Vonnegut that had a blurb from John Updike & he said, “I guess Kurt Vonnegut owes John Updike one now.” & that pretty much fixed how I think about them but I guess in the publishing world they’re still taken seriously.