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Word of Mouth in publishing and the Blurb

One question that comes up in publishing fiction is how to get someone in a bookstore to pickup and buy a book by an unknown author. We have all picked up a book where we didn’t know the author. What makes a reader take the chance on such a book? Part of the decision is connected with validation. If a friend or a member of our family has read a book and recommended it, that might be enough to tip the scales. And often it is. Or if we’ve read an appealing review of a book by a critic we trust, then we would often buy it.

Where there is no worth of mouth from friends or family, and no review, but you are attracted to the title, the subject and the cover, what can help you make up your mind? A recent article in the Denver Post says it is the blurb on the back of the novel you are holding. And bookstore employees are also readers, how do they view blurbs?

“Cathy Langer, lead buyer for the Tattered Cover bookstores, said that blurbs serve any number of useful purposes. As a reader, she said blurbs "really influence how I see things," and she believes the store's customers see things similarly.”

Crime fiction book critic Sarah Weinman looks at what might be behind the blurb:

“I tend to go with Langer's point of view but that's because as soon as I see who blurbs a book - or the number of blurbers - I have a ballpark estimate of how much the publisher is supporting the book. Even if it's only one or two people, the quality of writers chosen is still a pretty good indicator of how much weight said publisher is throwing behind the book. But reading blurbs is fun as a means of guessing semi-hidden relationships, whether the blurb was, in fact, written by the associated writer and other less-than-above-board things.”

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