A moratorium on blurbs

Let’s all give our whole-hearted support to Eric Simonoff, a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit Associates, who recently told the New York Times Book Review that “we should impose a moratorium on blurb-hunting.”

What are blurbs? Why, those phrase snippets on the back of books that allegedly make you crave the product but usually sound gushingly, ridiculously banal or over-the-top.

I have myself blurbed one book, been asked to blurb a few others, and will, no doubt, have to grovel for blurbs on the back of my own book whenever it comes out. Oh how I dread the thought already. Simonoff’s proposal is so on target because everybody–writers, authors, probably even readers (secretly)–hate this blurbing thing. As the article says:

Caveat lector! The endorsements on books aren’t entirely impartial. Unbeknownst to the average reader, blurbs are more often than not from the writer’s best friends, colleagues or teachers, or from authors who share the same editor, publisher or agent. They represent a tangled mass of friendships, rivalries, favors traded and debts repaid, not always in good faith…

For writers, to blurb or not to blurb can be a tricky matter. Blurb too little and you’ll have a hard time drumming up the requisite superlatives when your turn comes. Blurb too often, or include too many blurbs on your book, and you might get called a blurb whore.

Quite so. A moritorium then! Let’s do without blurbs for a while and see whether or not we’ll miss them.


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