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View Full Version : One way to ensure I don't want to read a book...



seun
02-17-2012, 02:59 PM
...is to oversell the author.

I've just received a few copies of a new book at work. It's a thriller in the Lee Child area. The blurby bit is one of the most over the top pieces I've read in years. Basically, the author has (apparently) been trained by military personnel in just about all aspects of covert operations you can think of and is 'no ordinary writer' and his book is 'no ordinary thriller'. More than half of the blurb is about the author; the generic plot complete with generic tough guy gets a bit of a mention. Ignoring the fact that most of the reviews on Amazon suggest the book is awful, I'd give it a miss based on the overselling of the author. I know it's marketing but I want the story to sell itself to me, not be smashed over the head with how the author is Bourne/Bond/Bauer/Reacher/Superman rolled into one.

Ken
02-17-2012, 03:23 PM
... blurbs are pretty useless in general. It would be so much better in my view if publishers spent that space giving accurate descriptions of what books are about rather than souped-up sales pitches that leave you clueless.

bearilou
02-17-2012, 03:37 PM
... blurbs are pretty useless in general. It would be so much better in my view if publishers spent that space giving accurate descriptions of what books are about rather than souped-up sales pitches that leave you clueless.

yep

I find myself so very much not caring about what experiences the author brings to the table before reading the book. If I like what I read, I'll track the author down to be suitably impressed (or not) by them as a person. If I get a book, I'd really like to read the book and not about the author.

seun
02-17-2012, 03:50 PM
I find myself so very much not caring about what experiences the author brings to the table before reading the book. If I like what I read, I'll track the author down to be suitably impressed (or not) by them as a person. If I get a book, I'd really like to read the book and not about the author.

Exactly. I couldn't give a monkey's about the author's military history for the book in question. I don't want to know that they're a tough guy. If anything, all that is going to do is give me the impression the MC is nothing but a wish-fulfilment version of the author.

James D. Macdonald
02-17-2012, 04:10 PM
Experience the author brings to the table...

Many years ago there was a men's action adventure series about mercenaries in Africa. It was gritty. It was tough. It had sex. Things were going well enough ...

Then the publisher started getting letters. One from Africa, and it went roughly, "Mikey: Thought you were dead. Now we know you aren't we're going to find you, mate." Another was from a solicitor in London: "We believe that [author] is the father of our client's minor child...." And so on.

The editors were ... bemused.

The author was thrilled, because the author was really a pseudonym for a pair of little-old-lady librarians in upper New York State who had never been within a thousand miles of Africa (or London), didn't know any mercenaries, had never served in the military. All they knew how to do was research, and write cracking yarns.

Cathy C
02-17-2012, 04:18 PM
I don't mind that sort of thing in the "About the Author" section, but yeah, not in the blurb. But I do notice if the authors of the Bourne/Bond etc. give a quote on the book. I might take a look if they give glowing comments. (except maybe those deceased ones :ROFL: )

Phaeal
02-17-2012, 04:58 PM
Real life experience doesn't guarantee a good book, since being James Bond has nothing to do with writing well. Keep the creds for queries, I'd say, but I suppose there's a sizeable group of readers who are impressed by a tough guy/insider resume. I also suppose there's a big overlap between this group and the group that reads thrillers. This subset would prize authenticity, a sense of listening to someone in the know, someone who might be whispering secrets under the guise of fiction.

Apart from gleaning an idea of the plot, I ignore cover summaries and testimonials. The first pages of the novel proper are all that count with me.

seun
02-17-2012, 05:07 PM
The interesting issue with this particular book is that the important people (the readers) don't appear to be too impressed with the author's background, supposed or not. The reviews have focused on the writing and most reviews are finding it lacking.

PulpDogg
02-17-2012, 05:30 PM
... blurbs are pretty useless in general. It would be so much better in my view if publishers spent that space giving accurate descriptions of what books are about rather than souped-up sales pitches that leave you clueless.

I absolutely hate it when I pick up a book in the store, turn it over and see nothing but "Great read" - "Excellent written book" - "The funniest shit I've read in years" on its back ... without a single word of what the book is actually about. If it is a hardcover, I can usually look at the inside of the flapjacket ... but with most paperbacks - not so much luck.

Who in the publishing industry thought this was a good idea?

Filigree
02-17-2012, 05:58 PM
I agree. I'll actually put a novel back on the bookstore or library shelf if I read nothing but gushy blurbs on the back or jacket cover. I want to know what the book is about. Later, I *might* skim through a group of reviews on Amazon or Goodreads to see if I'd like to read a heavily-blurbed book. Generally, these kinds of covers are for super-popular commercial/thriller authors I don't read anyway.

I'm also not keen on spam emails from publishers about their latest offering, if those books are blurbed the same way. For some reason, YA is getting lots of this marketing treatment right now, and the inundation is actually turning me off reading new YA.

Over-hype: the fastest way to make me not want a book.

scarletpeaches
02-17-2012, 06:16 PM
I hate it when I read blurbs that tell me how good the books is. "The most exciting thriller of the year," "A heart-stopping rollercoaster ride."

Er, really? Reading this book will make my heart stop beating? I think not.

Whenever I read "From the author of last year's bestselling Shit Your Pants; I'm Coming to Get You, comes the bloodcurdling epic tale of the century, Corr Blimey Mother, the Vicar's Come to Tea," I think, oh piss off and let me make up my own mind how wonderful this book is.

Well...that's if I bother to fight my way through the brainwank to the actual book itself.

seun
02-17-2012, 06:35 PM
I absolutely hate it when I pick up a book in the store, turn it over and see nothing but "Great read" - "Excellent written book" - "The funniest shit I've read in years" on its back ... without a single word of what the book is actually about.



I agree. I'll actually put a novel back on the bookstore or library shelf if I read nothing but gushy blurbs on the back or jacket cover. I want to know what the book is about.


I hate it when I read blurbs that tell me how good the books is. "The most exciting thriller of the year," "A heart-stopping rollercoaster ride."


I often think about this and get the impression some people see plot or story as a dirty side-effect of a book. To them, a book should be concerned with something more important than just a plot. They want it to mean something. Me? I want a story and characters. I couldn't give a toss if it's An Important Book or One That Will Change How We Think or if the author is He-Man in his spare time.

Just tell me a fucking story and get your head out of your arse.

scarletpeaches
02-17-2012, 06:40 PM
Those 'rollercoaster' blurbs are often from publishers playing up the plot, making it seem more shit-your-pants scary than it is.

Dude, it's a book. I know it's not real. It won't make me void my bowels in fear or excitement.

LET. ME. JUDGE. THE DAMN THING.

bearilou
02-17-2012, 07:01 PM
I love this place. I really, really do.

/hallmark moment

elindsen
02-17-2012, 07:23 PM
Dude, it's a book. I know it's not real. It won't make me void my bowels in fear or excitement.


Now I've never shit myself from reading, but I have been known to yell at a book or spit my drink :)


But I agree with seun. Who gives a shit if the author is a military personel or my grandmother's rotting corpse, if it's good then I'll follow that author.

Mclesh
02-17-2012, 07:29 PM
Shit Your Pants; I'm Coming to Get You.

Great title for a book. I'd pick it up.:D

Overhyping is a complete turn-off for me. I usually read the first page to see if I want to read more.

scarletpeaches
02-17-2012, 07:30 PM
Great title for a book. I'd pick it up.:DI'd use it, but it's not really sexy enough for my genre.

You can have it if you like. :D

Mclesh
02-17-2012, 07:33 PM
Thanks, Scarlett. I appreciate the offer. Don't think it would work for the light rom-com I'm working on though.

This could work out for Seun though. ;)

seun
02-17-2012, 07:34 PM
It's my mission to write a book so scary that someone actually craps their pants.

Becky Black
02-17-2012, 08:06 PM
Exactly. I couldn't give a monkey's about the author's military history for the book in question. I don't want to know that they're a tough guy. If anything, all that is going to do is give me the impression the MC is nothing but a wish-fulfilment version of the author.

Heh, exactly. It wouldn't bother me if the author was an 85 year old nun who was just really, really good at research, as long as the book was exciting and felt authentic in the end. :D

ETA: Has, Just read James McDonald's post, pretty close to that exact scenario. Excellent!

Jamesaritchie
02-17-2012, 08:23 PM
The book still has to be good, but I prefer a writer who has been there, done that. Good research can cover a lot of bare spots, but I don't believe for a second that readers who have also been there and done that can't tell the difference.

If the writer hasn't been there and done that, he needs to talk to those who have, and get it right.

robjvargas
02-17-2012, 08:30 PM
I agree. I'll actually put a novel back on the bookstore or library shelf if I read nothing but gushy blurbs on the back or jacket cover. I want to know what the book is about. Later, I *might* skim through a group of reviews on Amazon or Goodreads to see if I'd like to read a heavily-blurbed book. Generally, these kinds of covers are for super-popular commercial/thriller authors I don't read anyway.
Heh. I was about to mention that almost all of Dean R Koontz's paperbacks are that way.

I have a theory based on movie commercials that are similarly formatted. Someone somewhere in the marketing department took a look at the plot and basically went, "Really? Someone thought this would sell? Shit. Okay, so what do I do with this..."

That's heavily simplified, but probably not far from the truth.

gothicangel
02-17-2012, 08:32 PM
I had a recent experience with this, big-name historical writer, boasting on her blurb about how much research she did for new book. It came across as really condescending to other historical writers, as though they don't spend days/weeks in the university library either.

And you know what, I don't care that she had spent an afternoon training as a Roman charioteer. Because the book proved she new sweet FA about Roman espionage, when - guess what - her MC was a spy in Ancient Rome.

Phaeal
02-17-2012, 10:16 PM
What? There's a Roman charioteer school?

Sign me up.

Ruth2
02-17-2012, 10:24 PM
I ignore the blurbs. I ignore the first few pages. I open a book to the middle and start reading there. If that catches my interest, then and only then do I look at the first page. But blurbs? Meh...

gothicangel
02-17-2012, 10:38 PM
What? There's a Roman charioteer school?

Sign me up.

I know. :)

Don't know how keen I would be to have the reigns tied around my waist though . . .

elindsen
02-17-2012, 11:46 PM
I was just skimming Amazon for a new read when I found an erotic romance. In the "ABout author" section it explained the writer had enough sexual partners and experience with bondage and stuff that her novel would really connect.

I got a little scared. And just to add but not slam, it was a self-pub.

Mr Flibble
02-18-2012, 12:25 AM
Meh, I don;t go for blurbs or 'about the author' on the back cover. - that shoudl be selling me the book, not the author's prowess. I do like the ones inside though, sometimes. *plans hers*

'Julia has never been a mage, or brained anyone with a poker, or shot anyone, not even a bit. But she can dream.....'

scarletpeaches
02-18-2012, 12:39 AM
I was just skimming Amazon for a new read when I found an erotic romance. In the "ABout author" section it explained the writer had enough sexual partners and experience with bondage and stuff that her novel would really connect.

I got a little scared. And just to add but not slam, it was a self-pub."I'm a slapper, so I wrote a book about sex," makes as much sense as "This crime novel was written by an experienced psychotic killer."

kuwisdelu
02-18-2012, 12:48 AM
as much sense as "This crime novel was written by an experienced psychotic killer."

Actually, that would totally make me pick up that book, and I ordinarily have no interest in crime novels.

scarletpeaches
02-18-2012, 12:49 AM
You're a weirdo, though.

elindsen
02-18-2012, 04:12 AM
"I'm a slapper, so I wrote a book about sex," makes as much sense as "This crime novel was written by an experienced psychotic killer."

Maybe not killer, but a novel written by a criminal who got away with it...I might pick that up.

But we saw how successful and tasteful the HOW TO BE A CHILD MOLESTER was.

gothicangel
02-18-2012, 12:33 PM
Maybe not killer, but a novel written by a criminal who got away with it...I might pick that up.



Would that not give the game away to the police though? ;)

dpaterso
02-18-2012, 12:49 PM
Why not dash off a quick email to the publisher, complaining there's too much twat about the author and not enough shiznit about the story? If enough of you do this, and they listen, the world could be a better place within days.

Dear Sir/Madam, it is with despondency and alarm that I draw your attention to the outrageous waffletude on the back cover of your latest ex-SAS action-man-turned-mercenary crap-fest, which hit me like a .303 round between the eyes...

-Derek

seun
02-18-2012, 03:24 PM
Derek swore.

I'm telling.

bearilou
02-18-2012, 04:10 PM
waffletude is my new favorite word.

ArtsyAmy
02-18-2012, 06:02 PM
I've been laughing my way through this thread--a clay duck, elderly librarians... Thanks for the nice break from editing.

Jamiekswriter
02-18-2012, 06:16 PM
. how the author is Bourne/Bond/Bauer/Reacher/Superman rolled into one.

My first thought. . . Is the author single?

And into overweight, middle aged chicks that write fantasies and play video games.

I'm sexy and I know it.

Pyekett
02-18-2012, 07:13 PM
I'd use it, but it's not really sexy enough for my genre.

You can have it if you like. :D

Not for erotica, but maybe for more standard romance (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/sep/12/shift-typo-romantic-novel-susan-andersen) genre.

Hah.

jjdebenedictis
02-18-2012, 11:53 PM
I actively avoid reading the author's bio until after I've read the book. I want to submerge myself in the story with no preconceptions. I don't want to know who wrote it.

Xelebes
02-19-2012, 05:09 AM
... blurbs are pretty useless in general. It would be so much better in my view if publishers spent that space giving accurate descriptions of what books are about rather than souped-up sales pitches that leave you clueless.

When marketing heads are not selling the product and rely on vagueness, there is a reason.

robjvargas
02-19-2012, 05:27 AM
Dear Sir/Madam, it is with despondency and alarm that I draw your attention to the outrageous waffletude on the back cover of your latest ex-SAS action-man-turned-mercenary crap-fest, which hit me like a .303 round between the eyes...


Derek, I just lost all respect for ya, man.

"...hit me like a .303 round between the eyes..." would DEFINITELY show up in the review blurbs for this book if we did that.

:poke:

KalenO
02-19-2012, 05:34 AM
One 'About the Author' bit that actually kinda put me off a fantasy book was one where it was like "So and so has several children, one of whom is severely disabled....between work and caring for his disabled child, so and so also spends time doing this and this..."

Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing but empathy for anyone with a disabled child and have a disabled relative of my own, but something about the way it was worded just rubbed me the wrong way. To be clear, its not an issue I actually have with the author, as it didn't feel like a self-written author bio, but maybe something a publisher or publicist put together for him....*shrugs*. Anyway, it just came off as kinda exploitative, like, 'we know this book is violent, gritty and more than a little controversial...but look, the author's actually a really nice guy who spends his time caring for his disabled child.'

Which basically is my point and speaks to blurbs as a whole....sometimes they can do more harm than good, especially when written by clueless marketing 'experts', because no matter what spirit or intent they were written with, you can't dictate or guarantee how people will perceive them.

thebloodfiend
02-19-2012, 12:03 PM
I don't like blurbs. The only thing they do is put me off of books. If I see a book blurbed by an author who's writing I can't stand, I don't read the book. If I see a book blurbed by an author I like, I warily read the book because if I don't like it, I'll always wonder why so-and-so had such awful taste and whether or not there was any "motivation" put into blurbing it. I mean, I know there wasn't, but I have an overactive imagination.

BenPanced
02-19-2012, 12:57 PM
I've put books back because the blurb consists of only one-liners from reviews. I don't give a flying fig what USA Today had to say about it or why Stephen King hates the author because the author is a better writer; tell me what the hell the book's about. One book had three more pages of reviews before the main title page!

"From the author of last year's bestselling Shit Your Pants; I'm Coming to Get You, comes the bloodcurdling epic tale of the century, Corr Blimey Mother, the Vicar's Come to Tea"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YrDQ18P9x4

WriteMinded
02-19-2012, 09:52 PM
Uhhh. To be blunt, I don't give a rat's about authors. I was amazed to find that a writer is expected to have a "web presence". What a waste of time and energy, especially if you don't have a lot of either. Do readers really visit those web sites, or is it only writers? I do not care if a book's creator is married with twenty-five children, has tribbles for pets, and rides alligators. Education, travel, and life experience: Please, yaw-w-w-n.

I only want to know what the book is about, so I ignore everything else in a blurb. Once in a while I love an author's works enough to remember his/her name. Okay, maybe a small exaggeration. :tongue

scarletpeaches
02-19-2012, 10:10 PM
In my genre, it tends to be other writers who acknowledge your online presence. Not readers. They're too busy reading.

It can often descend into an internet circle-jerk.

bearilou
02-19-2012, 10:11 PM
and rides alligators

Hmm...I dunno. That's actually interesting to me.