Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Blurbs (Ignore That Sucking Sound)

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 11 Jun 2009

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    Not wading in to the middle of this tempest-in-a-teapot, just making a couple of observations:

    I have followed this thread since its inception, and I am puzzled by the reference to Kevin's comments being clearly leveled at anyone (and I say this as a friend, mentee, and eternal defender of the literary prowess of our man Guthrie) in particular.

    After all, it's an open secret that people blurb books all the time without having actually read them ("An action-packed thrill-ride!" "A taut, noirish thriller!" How often have we all seen actual variations on this theme?).

    And that I reply: "So what?"

    I think the impact of blurbs is hugely over-estimated by everyone from publishers' marketing directors on down the publishing food chain. That said, if they help sell a few more books, that's great. If someone is willing to lend their name to another author's marketing campaign, I just don't see the harm in that.

    I happen to know of an author (not on this list) who is something of a mascot to a group of fairly accomplished authors, all of whom he prevailed upon to blurb his book. He got positive responses nearly across the board. For my money, the book he was peddling was pretty much unreadable. But do I begrudge him that small victory? Absolutely not.

    Getting a book deal in this business is tough enough. I have vast respect for anyone persistent enough to get one, and that goes for whether or not I like their book.

    So far be it from me to rain on their parade if they actually enjoy a bit of success as a result. This is one reason that I've refused nearly all requests to *review* the work of other authors (either fiction or nonfiction). The notable exceptions to this are reviews I've written for the work of authors who are far beyond my power to have any sort of impact on their careers (one review of THE HUNTER by Richard Stark on Al Guthrie's site and one of Ross MacDonald's THE DOOMSTERS on Patty Abbott's site).

    Talking here on Rara Avis doesn't count, for my money. This is just a bunch of friends/fellow travelers/inmates sitting around together talking about a subject we all seem to love to varying degrees.

    So who cares who blurbs and who doesn't?

    Oh, and secondly, could you guys take this increasingly personal back-and-forth off-list, before the outright flames begin to fly? It's been a hot summer so far, and I'd hate for anything to go up in smoke!

    All the Best-


    On Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 1:16 PM, davezeltserman <> wrote:

    > --- In <>, Kevin
    > Burton Smith <kvnsmith@...> wrote:
    > >
    > > When I see a blurb, I always hope it's from a legit review or other
    > > source. But too often, it's just a premixed, premeasured endorsement
    > > from one brown noser to another; a circle jerk of thumbs-up. A recent
    > > book I've read featured some pretty nice blurbs from some writers I
    > > respect -- or at least I used to. The book was horrible.
    > >
    > Kevin, you've made it pretty damn clear in your recent posts that the above
    > was meant for myself and Allan Guthrie, and I guess also Bill Crider and Ed
    > Gorman, who have all said positive things about The Disassembled Man. I can
    > only speak for myself, although I'm pretty sure the others feel the same
    > way, that we all saw the same excesses and indulgences that you did, but we
    > also saw real talent in the writing and wanted to support both that and a
    > new writer from a tiny press who was up against it and would be lucky to
    > sell 200 copies. For me what stood out in the book was the absurdest humor
    > when Avicious's mentor/tormentor/devil would appear. But let me ask you,
    > what it the world did you think any of was expecting in return from this new
    > and virtually unknown writer? Do you think a blurb from him would matter to
    > any of us? And if any of us were trying to play the quid pro quid blurb game
    > don't you think we could've picked much higher profile authors??? If you
    > really want to show some balls why don't you start looking at some of the
    > clearly manufactured blurbs on bestsellers? What was that famous quote from
    > Robert Parker when he was asked by an author seeking a blurb whether Parker
    > had read his book yet: "Do you want a blurb or do you want me to read your
    > book, you can't have both"?
    > --Dave

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