To Blurb or Not to Blurb

Posted July 17th, 2014

Nikki GrimesI love a good read. As for a free book, that gets me salivating as quickly as the offer of dark chocolate. Well, almost! So when a publisher sends me a book to blurb, my initial response is elation. After all, a new book promises the potential of a new literary adventure. Or it may be introducing me to a new author (Yay!). Or it may give me the opportunity to support an author that I already know and love. What could be bad about that? Well, hold on there, a minute.

To blurb or not to blurb is not as elementary a question as you might suppose. At least, it hasn’t been for me.

First, let me say that I’m always honored to be asked to write a blurb. However, writing one invariably comes at the expense of my own work. It takes time to read a book critically, which is what I feel I must do if I’m going to say something intelligent about it. That’s time taken away from my own writing and, trust me, there are already a host of other things that do that. Then, once I’ve read the book, I may decide not to blurb it, after all, for a number of reasons: I object to the language; I don’t find the story hopeful (for me, a required element of children’s or YA lit); I object to sexual elements (feel free to call me a prude. You wouldn’t be the first!); I believe the book would benefit from another revision; or I just plain don’t think the book is all that good. No matter what reason I have for ultimately deciding not to pen said blurb, the author—often, though not always a friend—is disappointed. I hate that. And it doesn’t much matter that I warned the author and editor going in that there’s no guarantee I’ll write a blurb. Everyone is still disappointed, and I feel bad about that.

But, say the book checks all of my boxes, and I do write a blurb. While it may be used for marketing purposes, it may never show up on the book’s cover. And, even if it does, how important was that blurb, anyway? I honestly don’t know.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to be responsible for hurt feelings. And if I could offer something useful in the way of critique, it’s already too late. Besides, I really need to concentrate on writing my own books. What with the demands that go along with maintaining a career in literature, as well as the ordinary demands of everyday life, I find precious little time to write as it is.

To blurb or not to blurb? I’ve finally landed on the only answer that makes sense for me: Not.

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