01 December, 2011

Does A Lot Of Promotion In A Blurb Deter You?

Most books seem to follow this basic format when it comes to blurbs:

First line/the hook: distinguishes for the reader why this book is different, through tone/intriguing line/excerpt from the novel/etc.
First paragraph: introduces the characters, plot, and setting in a highly distilled form
Second/Third paragraph: tells a little about the consequences of the actions the MC(s) take(s)
Final Paragraph: promotional language about how excellent, riveting, and/or captivating the book is, plus some comments on the author's brilliant writing



That final paragraph is the one I'm wondering about. I have nothing against a bit of promotion, but for some books it's longer than the other contents of the blurb. In other cases the roles are reversed and the final paragraph becomes the first; the blurb starts out with promotion, and continues to go on and on about the author's talent and the book's significance.

It's in such cases as those when I become less and and less inclined to turn the page. I want to know what the book is about; who the character's are, what they're up against, whether I should look forward to hyperspace jumps or magic runes. In addition, while I find reviews by major reviewers such as The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) interesting in their own right, I don't really pay much attention to them when they're on the front flap; which is where they're placed for a lot of blurbs.

One exception to promotion is when I've read something by the author before. I wouldn't mind a paragraph about a writer I really liked in a blurb--though I still prefer it if they mention "NYT Bestselling Author" at the bottom, after the information about the story. A novel should stand on its own regardless of who wrote it.

What do you think? How much promotion is too much for you when you're browsing and looking for something to read?


-----The Golden Eagle

43 comments:

mooderino said...

Doesn't really bother me, I just ignore any kind of hyperbole like that. How would they know what I like or consider good?

not that I hold it against them, they're trying to sell books.

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino
The Funnily Enough

KarenG said...

This is such an excellent summary and breakdown of the blurb! I like knowing setting as well, and yes, something about the characters and what they're up against. I bit of promo is good because it can be helpful in determining what kind of book it is. Like, "the most suspenseful mystery you'll read this year!" Well, it may not be, but it lets me know that if I'm looking for a suspenseful mystery I will take a closer look.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A little promotion is all right, but I've seen books that don't really even have a blurb - it's all promotion.

David Macauley said...

I don't read the review quotes. I do get annoyed if a book has only review quotes and no summary whatsoever.

Reece said...

Those promotional paragraphs drive me nuts! I'd much rather hear more about the story. I can form my own opinions of the author's voice, style, etc.

Old Kitty said...

I don't mind the promo bit - the bit where the author's amazing talent is lauded and the book is bandied about as the best thing ever. I just skim over these bits! I still say it's the first para of the book that grabs me as well as if it's a favourite author. Take care
x

Annalise Green said...

I get annoyed when it's all promo quotes and no description, and shockingly I HAVE seen this. Summary is pretty much the biggest thing to get me to pick up a book - if it sounds exiting and interesting, I'll pick it up. The ONLY promo that works for me is small (emphasis SMALL) blurbs by authors that I love and respect, because it makes me think, "Hey maybe this is sort of like XYZ which I love!"

David P. King said...

A little promotion is fine by me. I do like reading praise quotes more, I have to admit. :)

Pat Hatt said...

I'd rather just have the blurb, with maybe a tad bit of promotion. But I like it and am more intrigued when there is way more blurb than promotion.

Marsha Sigman said...

It can be irritating. I try to ignore them but if the blurb is by an author I like then it has made me think I would really enjoy the book more. However, that is not always the case.

And then if the promotional blurb is by an author I can't stand...well, I move on.

Carrie Butler said...

They don't really bother me. After all, I want my work to be fawned over someday, too. *grins*

L'Aussie said...

Hi Golden. Thoughtful post. I agree that it's the book I want to read about not a whole lot of promo. That's not the aim of a blurb, but I guess we live in the age of self promotion so we'd better get used to it.

Congrats on finishing NaNo. What are you going to do with your effort?

Denise

J. A. Bennett said...

I so agree! If it's all promotion I'm not sure the book has any substance. Especially if there is no blurb at all, blah.

Melissa Pearl said...

I agree. I think too much promotion can put you off. In fact, I usually stop reading after the blurb. I either like what the story's about or I don't. Some of the best stuff I've read recently has actually been from debut and indie authors. I don't need a whole heap of promotion to enjoy a book.

Christine Rains said...

A little promotion is good, but too much can be irritating. It's the story that speaks to me, not the reviews. It's the other parts of the blurb I'm interested in. I'll judge after I'm done reading if it was exceptional or brilliant.

Trisha said...

I think that if there are a few simple lines of praise for the book that's okay. But when it takes up most of the back cover or something, that can be a bit much!

Deborah Walker said...

I don't mind. It wouldn't put me off a book, but I'd only take notice if I'd heard of the reviewer.

the writing pad said...

Hi
Interesting post - I think I only ever read enough to assure me that (a) I haven't read the book before and (b) I think I might enoy it. My pet hate, though, is blurbs that contain snippets of glowing reviews of OTHER books by the same author. This usually comes under a small print heading of 'praise for the author' - or something equally sneaky! On closer inspection, it often turns out none of the praise is for the book in hand, which is very likely a flop :-)
Thanks for Birthday Wishes!
All best
Karla

....Petty Witter said...

I don't think it so much as deters me but it often leaves me feeling disappointed and sometimes even cheated.

JennaQuentin said...

I don't really take note of the promotion unless it's by an author I know and respect or someone of that genre! There are lots of books (and movies) that have won awards that I didn't care for...

BTW, there's a little blogging present for you on my blog!

Talli Roland said...

Hm, it doesn't bother me at all, actually. I just skip if if I don't want to read it. Interesting post!

Stephen Tremp said...

The main thing I look for is reader reviews. If I see most have good things to say about the book then I'll buy it. Everything else is fluff I generally do not pay attention to.

Emily Rose said...

I think that at this point (for me) it's just white noise. Promotional jazz just doesn't have an effect on me any more. Well, sometimes I see a review from The New York Times and I go "wow!". But not often.:P

Inger said...

A bit of promotion is OK and I like to know something of the content, the characters, and what the story is about. Too much promotion can be a turn-off.

Nancy Thompson said...

I don't read the promo stuff at all. Only the summary or blurb. I really don't care what author so-and-so believes.

But I also think if the summary is too long, more than 2 or 3 very brief paragraphs, the browser will lose interest, or might only skim. They want all the facts up front, in their face. with no clutter.

We are a society on the run, after all.

The Golden Eagle said...

Mooderino: True. But it still bothers me when there's a lot of promotion in a blurb.

Karen: Thanks!

Good point--promotion does usually say something about the genre of the book.

Alex: Me, too; though they're a lot rarer.

David: Same here. Reviews are usually even less informative about the story than promotion.

Reece: I agree!

Old Kitty: I rarely read the first paragraph of books I'm looking at in, say, the library . . . I probably should start reading them.

Annalise: Yeah, me too. :P

That will sometimes influence my view of a book--though as you said, I don't like a lot of it.

David: They can be interesting to read!

Pat: Agreed.

Marsha: It's happened to me, too, where I've picked up a book and thought I'd like it because another author endorsed it.

Carrie: Me, too. LOL.

L'Aussie: I suppose--though I still think some books have too much of it.

Thank you! I'm still trying to finish the novel, and then . . . I'm not sure. I'll definitely set it aside for a while, but I'm not sure whether I'll revise it or not.

J. A.: Same here. I sometimes start wondering if there's anything to the book at all--and what whoever wrote the blurb is trying to hide, if anything.

Melissa: Yup. A good book is a good book, regardless of how much it's been lauded by others.

Christine: That's what I usually do, too; unless it's really bad, in which case I'll give up mid-way.

Trisha: Definitely!

Deborah: I'll read reviews occasionally, but for me as well the reviews that really stick out are ones by people/groups I've heard of before.

Krispy said...

As long as the part about the book is decent, I don't really pay much attention to the promotion. It's more annoying if it's just ALL promotion.

The Golden Eagle said...

Karla: Oh, I had forgotten about cases like that! I agree, if the "praise for the author" isn't about the book I'm holding, then I start looking at it with some skepticism. :P

Tracy: Me, too.

Jenna: Good point about genre; even if I haven't read something by a reviewer, if they're a prominent author in the genre, I'll pay attention.

I'm heading over to check it out. :)

Talli: I try to--but sometimes there's content and promotion mixed in with each other, and I'd hate to miss a bit of information.

Thanks!

Stephen: Reader reviews are always handy. Usually, though, when I'm on an online book site I look at just the star rating to see what the overall opinion is.

Emily: I do the same. If it's from some famous company like that I'll sometimes look at the book with more interest.

Inger: Which seems to make the fact some people put a lot promotion on a blurb--it seems that information about the content was the reason for using the front/back flap for text in the first place. :P

Nancy: I know I often skim if there are more than 2-3 paragraphs; if it's promotion-free I often get a good enough impression to decide if I want to read the book or not.

Krispy: Definitely.

C D Meetens said...

I'm with you in that I would much rather read what the book is about than a load of self-promotion. I don't mind a bit, but if I've turned to the back-cover, please give me more detail on the book than the author.

Charles Gramlich said...

I do read the blurbs but generally not closely. I'll try to read the first page or so to see what I think. ANd that's where I make most of my judgement on the story.

Shelley said...

Hmmmm, I've never really thought about this much. I guess too much promotion is when there's more promotion than info on the actual book. Great questions! :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I only get annoyed if I have a hard time finding the summary because of the over-promotion. I want to first know what the book is about.

Li said...

Yep, long breathless reviews turn me off. I like simple, concise promos, as well as a reason: I loved this book because...

It's really the intro that hooks me though: what sets this story/book apart from all of the others? (Also, a good cover that catches my attention AND actually has something to do with the book.)

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Lynda R Young said...

erm, cough, I don't tend to read any of that stuff. If I like the author, the title and/or the cover, then I'll buy the book. Although lately with all my ebook purchases, I've been trying the sample chapters first before I buy.

Tanya Reimer said...

I like how you broke it down so simply and then left us with a debate! Ha! Promoting it never hurt... but it's all about how it's done. Know what you like. You've worked so hard, now is not the time to end up with something you don't want on the jacket! Ah!

Heather said...

I think a little by known authors or renowned reviewers is good. But I'm like you, if there are over three, it's too many.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I guess it's not something that sways me, so it doesn't bother me either way. I almost never read a book without getting a strong recommendation from someone I trust, or without at least going to goodreads first to see what the general consensus is. Of course those paragraphs are going to tell me what I want to hear! It's real people that convince me whether or not it is true.

The Golden Eagle said...

C D: Indeed!

Charles: I usually wait until I've read a few chapters in to really decide--though by that point I hate giving up on a book. :P

Shelley: I agree!

Thanks. :)

Medeia: Same here.

Li: I like those, too. They give actual reasons, not just a generalized overview.

I'm the same. I love a good cover!

Richard: I'll be right on over! Thanks for the award. :)

Lynda: Good for you. Most of the time I just read it because I'm searching for the blurb.

I've only read a very few e-books; but I'll have to keep that in mind.

Tanya: Hadn't thought of it that way . . . I guess it just goes to show there are exceptions to the rules.

Good point!

Heather: Actually, as long as they're not obscuring the blurb beyond recognition (or shoving it to the back) I don't mind more than three.

Peggy: Sounds like a safe way to choose books. I often just pick up whatever looks good on the shelf and has an interesting blurb. :P

Michael Offutt, Expert Critic said...

I'm highly suspicious of any promotion that comes with ellipses. That means it's been edited for content, probably to give the work a better "spin".

The Golden Eagle said...

Michael: Especially if it's mid-sentence. I've looked up a few reviews that had ellipses, just to find out what was said in full, and they're not that flattering. :P

Laura Barnes said...

I agreee!! I want a blurb about the book. I could give a flying fish what so and so thought about the story or how it is riveting and I won't be able to set it down. Let me decide for myself!!

The Golden Eagle said...

Laura: Exactly. :)