Once upon a time I was a naive reader. I would walk into a bookstore, eager to find a new book to read. A pretty cover would catch my eye and I’d quickly pull the book off the shelf and let the book jacket description whisper sweet-nothings to me. Was this enough to get me to purchase a book? Not always.
But then there were those pithy review blurbs that would demand my attention. “Spellbinding”, “Electric”, “Utterly engrossing”, “Unputdownable”, “A gripping thrill-ride”. I couldn’t believe the amount of praise and if that wasn’t enough one of these quotes was by an author whose books I loved. Who better to recognize an exemplary read than an author who has written one themselves?
There I was, practically skipping out the store with a brand new book clutched to my chest. I’d arrive home with no obligations for the next couple of hours and would immediately dive into my new book. I’m amazed, excited, moved. My insides are in a jumble but in the best possible way. These characters! The plot! I’ve never read anything so brill—
This is not the scenario. This is so far from the real scenario that if I still had a sense of humor up to that point, I would have been laughing. Instead, I wept inwardly, steamed a little, shook my fist at no one in particular. I came to the realization that I’d been taken, bamboozled, cheated….swindled.
Why, why would this author be so willfully deceitful? I understand that people have different tastes in books, but I don’t think anyone who reads as much as we book bloggers do would disagree that there are some books that are just bad and don’t deserve the glowing endorsements found on their covers.
I’ve come to realize that the whole review blurb business is really a quid pro quo between authors. A you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours kind of deal. Most authors it would seem will not write a negative review about another author’s work out of fear of receiving a negative review themselves. It’s basically blackmail…at the expense of the reader. If you follow any authors on Goodreads you may find a disturbing trend. The vast majority (and in some cases, all) of the books these authors rate receive five stars. I came across one author (who I won’t name) who had rated over 200 books and each one received a five-star rating. If I was less cynical, I might try to defend these authors, but I am not and I simply do not expect any sort of real honest reviews from any of them.
I can hardly blame these authors though. I imagine they view the whole write-a-glowing-book-blurb as a kind of game. How can I manipulate these words to make this book sound brilliant? It’s a challenge, a necessary challenge, they must pass in order to ensure that this same author doesn’t turn around and bash their book in return. But as a reader I cannot ignore the dishonesty. This is why I never rely on any author’s recommendations. This is why I no longer pay attention to these little review blurbs…though they still make me a little angry and if I happen across a book that I end up hating and see a pretty, empty recommendation on its cover, I might shake the book and lament aloud, “Why, why do you lie?”
What about you, do these book blurbs influence whether you buy a book or not? Do they get under your skin the way they do mine?