I’m so pleased with the blurbs that will accompany the publication of The Home Guard on March 4, 2019. Here is one from the incomparable Margaret Evans, the editor of Lowcountry Weekly: “With a large cast of unforgettable characters – both historical and fictional – and a backdrop of indelible splendor, John Warley has spun a tale of adventure, romance, and reckoning set during a pivotal moment in our nation’s fraught history that reverberates profoundly, even today.”
But what is a blurb? A “blurb” is a term used in publishing to identify an endorsement of a book by another author, a recognized expert in the field, a famous personality, or an articulate fan. They are usually printed on the back cover of the book being endorsed. Readers browsing in bookstores for something to buy will often scan these blurbs as a way of determining the book’s appeal.
For example, a fan of the horror genre is likely to purchase a book which Stephen King blurbed: “I found this story scary.” A reader of legal thrillers would be inclined toward anything John Grisham recommended. My novel, A Southern Girl, sold quite a few copies based on Pat Conroy’s claim, printed on the back of the dust jacket, that “I wish I’d written this book.”
If you see a blurb, can you be certain the author of that blurb read and liked the book? Usually, but not always. The blurber may be returning a favor to someone who blurbed his or her book, or a blurber may be adopting the verdict of someone who has read the book, like an editor or a fellow writer.
These blurbs influence sales, so they form an important part of the marketing strategy for any newly released book. In a Christian bookstore catering to religious titles, a book blurbed by Billy Graham will not only cause the store to place a healthy purchase order with the publisher, but that publisher would likely highlight the blurb language in pre-release and post-release publicity: “Buy this book because Billy Graham loved it!”
Because I’ve been writing for a while now with some commercial success, I am sometimes asked to blurb the work of another writer. By and large I welcome these requests, mindful that earlier in my career some busy writers took time to read my work and offer their endorsements. Those kind souls “paid it forward,” in all likelihood because someone did the same for them. I believe in paying it forward, but at times these requests can pose problems. If there is an immediate deadline, I have to choose between my project and someone else’s, usually not an issue unless I am also on a deadline. Then there is the dilemma, thankfully rare, of simply not liking something you’ve been asked to blurb, when friendship goes to war with artistic integrity. To date, I’ve found something to praise in everything I’ve been asked to blurb, even if it’s merely the effort that went into producing it.