Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Author Quotes

I suspect I’ve blogged about this before, but it’s a subject that I frequently find myself pondering. How much attention do you as a reader give to author quotes on the covers of books? You know the ones where some famous or at least well-known author says, “Don’t miss this!” or “Compelling! Spellbinding! Impossible to put down!”

I suppose there was a time when a positive quote from an author I liked plugging an unknown writer might have compelled me to pick up a book. Now I know to take such quotes with a grain of salt. Because the truth is that authors give quotes (or “blurbs” as they are sometimes called) to other authors who are their friends, or at least their friends’ friends. They also agree to read books for quotes as a favor to their editors or agents. There is even one famous male author (who shall remain nameless) who has been known to give quotes to young, attractive female writers in exchange for, well, you know. Do all those authors really loooove all the books they plug? What do you think?

I’d like to believe that the wonderful, generous authors who have given me great quotes over the years did truly love my books. I know some of them did because they have gone to the trouble of contacting me privately and telling me how much they enjoyed my book. But did they all? I doubt it.

Since I'm not on the NYT bestsellers list, I don’t get asked for blurbs that often, although I’ve noticed a definitely uptick in the requests this past year. When you get to be really famous, everyone wants a quote from you. Some authors, such as Anne Perry, almost never give quotes. Others, such as Steve Berry, are very, very generous. (Yes, I have a Steve Berry quote on my book; thanks, Steve!)

Sometimes finding the right author to give a quote for your book can be really, really hard. I had a NYT bestselling author lined up to give a quote for Where Shadows Dance only to have my editor say, no, she didn’t think that author set quite the right tone for the book. Sigh. Of course, when you’re James Patterson or John Grisham, you don’t need another author plugging your book; that Number 1 NYT Bestseller! banner over your name pretty much says what needs to be said.


liz fenwick said...

For me the author quotes help me to place the type of book it might be...you don't generally have a crime author giving a quote for a romance and vice versa. But what they say doesn't really mean anything....

orannia said...

Because the truth is that authors give quotes (or “blurbs” as they are sometimes called) to other authors who are their friends, or at least their friends’ friends.

And that's why I don't set much stock in them.

As for the NYT list - I firmly believe one day you'll be on it Candy :)

Angie said...

How much attention do you as a reader give to author quotes on the covers of books?

Pretty much zero. The only time I'd pay any attention whatsoever would be if the blurbing author were a friend of mine, someone whose taste I'm familiar with and know is very similar to my own, in which case it has about as much influence as any other friend recommendation. Note that this hasn't happened yet, so I'm speaking hypothetically. :)

I don't care what some bestselling author thinks. I don't care what some random (even if famous) reviewer thinks. I don't read blurbs, certainly don't base my buying decisions on them, and when a bunch of blurbs actually replace the summary on the back cover or the excerpt just inside the front of the book, I get extremely annoyed.

Reviews can persuade me to try a book, but it has to be the whole review. A good reviewer doesn't just say "Loved it!" or "Totally sucks!" They say why, in detail, and that why might influence me to buy or reject a book, even if my reaction is the opposite of the reviewer's. It's the detailed why that makes a review of anything valuable. Blurbs don't have that, so they're pointless IMO.

I'll grant you that if I got a bunch of short "Attagirl!" bits from famous authors for my novel, I'd be delighted :) but I wouldn't fool myself that they meant anything to anyone else.


Charles Gramlich said...

I typically pay no attention to quotes. I suppose, as someone said here, that seeing quotes from a particular author might make me think that 'Oh it's in a genre I like," but I probably already know that.

Anonymous said...

Yep - I'm with everyone else. I usually don't even read the quote or blurb. I just assume that whomever gave the quote is a friend or acquaintance of the author. Sometimes, on a book I'm wavering on, if the big name is one I particulary dislike, I actually end up not getting the book, as I assume it will be similar. So, it can work in reverse. Can't wait for Codex!!!!! Sabena

Anonymous said...

I do judge books by their covers, but story-blurbs and cover art have more weight for me than fellow-author blurbs. That said, I am wary when I see a really vague 'hacked-up' quotation, as in: "Fabulous...book...great...story".

cs harris said...

Liz, I think you're right, the author quotes do give readers a hint that "if you like x's type of books, you'll [maybe] like this one."

Orannia, the funny thing is, I've known editors to pick up a book based on an author quote, and they surely know the drill. As for the NYT list...ever hopeful!

Angie, I also get annoyed when a long list of author raves replaces the description of what the book is about. I think, Why are they trying so hard?

Charles, I guess that's what makes it tricky when there is no big name author writing exactly what you write--it makes any author quote a double edged sword.

Sabena, So true. I've actually been unhappy in the past with some of the authors my editors wanted to ask for quotes because I'll think, "Ew! But I can't read their books! I would be tempted not to buy a book that X raved about!"

Anon, some authors seem very gifted at coming up with original, sincere-sounding quotes, while others...are not. Then again, a generic quote may be a sign that the author just didn't have the heart to say no.

Pax Deux said...

I think it depends on the author who is quoted, and sometimes on what he/she has to say. I think the most helpful quotes are fairly specific, and reference something explicit in the book -- sense of place, character development, sub genre, etc. That way I can quickly peruse the book and agree or disagree with the reviewer's assessment.

le fleur said...

I have to admit that I read a book because of a blurb on it was from an author that I loved. The book was.... okay. So, it has happened once in my lifetime.

cs harris said...

Pax Deux, so you do sometimes pay attention to quotes?

le fleur, this is what I worry about when I give a quote, that a reader will not like the book and them blame me. On the other hand, I once gave a lukewarm quote to a book that hit the NYT bestseller list. Obviously others like it much more than I did.

Lainey said...

And I always thought the author blurbs were given under pressure because the author and the blurber (!) had the same publisher.

I'm with Orannia re the NYT list. Both your series are outstanding. But don't get me started about the dreck that's currently landing in the top 20.

cs harris said...

Lainey, there is definitely pressure involved, although it's not the arm twisting type. It's more that authors know that making their editors happy helps their careers. And then there's the human element, that if you like someone you don't want to tell them no. Plus we all remember what it was like staring out and we want to help.

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Well, I've never had a big author quote on any of my books until the one that's about to release in a little over a week. For that one, Alyson Noel gave me a gorgeous blurb-- while we don't write the same sub-genre of YA (since I'm contemporary and she's paranormal) we're both St. Martin's authors, so that was enough of a connection for my editors. I have to admit, it looks nice to see "#1 New York Times Bestselling Author" on my cover, albeit beside someone else's name! :)

Oh, and Alyson did contact me privately to let me know she'd really loved the book, so I was able to breathe a sigh of relief there.

le fleur said...

I didn't blame the author for the book that I felt lukewarm about, I don't know why she wrote what she did, but I still like author, and will continue to read her books.

I think as long as you are sincere in your review- find something that you did like about the book, then that will come across. I think a person would rather disagree with a blurb, then think it is fake.
And, ultimately, we can all understand that we all have to do things that we aren't excited about, to advance our careers and as long as they stay within ethical boundaries, we're okay with it and with others doing it.

Pax Deux said...

I must be strange (oh, why be modest, I already know I am ;-) ) but I do read author's review quotes. And I have, many times, taken a second (or sometimes first) look at a book based on them. I like reading, and do it all the time, so I am always running out of things to read, and having to find new authors (or old ones I have missed.)Again, the important part for me is if they do a good job of highlighting something in the book. The "she is just the best!" quotes are indeed useless.

cs harris said...

Barbara, I do believe author quotes help. And since she genuinely liked your book, she may mention--which also helps.

le fleur, I think you're right, as long as the author finds something to praise rather than just randomly gushing, they stay within the bounds of honesty.

Pax Deux, I don't think you're strange; I've even heard of EDITORS who picked up a book based on a quote!

Firefly said...

Must admit, I don't really pay a lot of attention to quotes and if I do, they do rather wash over me! I tend not to buy my books based on quotes. Don't care for quotes replacing the synopsis either, it is rather frustrating to say the least!!!!!

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Medina said...

Pax Deux, so you do sometimes pay attention to quotes? le fleur, this is what I worry about when I give a quote, that a reader will not like the book and them blame me. On the other hand, I once gave a lukewarm quote to a book that hit the NYT bestseller list. Obviously others like it much more than I did.

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