Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blurbs in black and white

Blurbs are on my mind, as we are seeking them for my next novel. I'm thrilled to report we have a great one so far. I'm grateful for any author of any race who takes the time to read my work and lend their name to help out. But the process has got me thinking. This blurb is from a white author. My first novel also had blurbs from black and white authors. A quick look on my bookshelves finds Stephen King blurb My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due; Dorothy Allison blurb The Untelling by Tayari Jones; Jill McCorkle blurb Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Ansa. First question it raises is: Does it matter to white readers to have a white author say, "hey this is a good book"? Second question is: Why? Third question is: Are there white authors who have blurbs from black writers? Maybe Walter Mosley, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison. Anybody know?


Angie said...

As a reader, I don't pay any attention to the blurbs on a book -- whether from other writers or from reviewers -- unless the writer giving it is someone whose craftsmanship skills I worship, or someone I know personally and whose taste as a reader I know is very similar to my own. So for me, no, it really doesn't matter.

I wouldn't buy a book just because Toni Morrison said it rocked; I've read and enjoyed a couple of her books, but although I respect her ability I'm not a major fan. But I might buy a book if Zoe Winters (who's also Black, and is a writer I know in my own genre) recommended it.

As a writer, I know that some other readers do pay attention to blurbs (or at least, that's the industry wisdom -- I don't actually know anyone who does [wry smile]) so if I ever get to the point of needing them, I'll take whoever I can get. :)


Lisa said...

The main purpose blurbs serve (for me) is to let me see that a writer I know is recommending a book by a writer I may not. The bigger and more respected the blurber (is that a word?), the more prestige it gives the book. It also tells me what type of book I can expect. If Toni Morrison or Annie Dillard blurb a book, I'm going to assume it's probably literary fiction. If a women's fiction author blurbs a book, that's what I'll assume the book is too. I don't expect a blurb to be a guarantee that the book is great, but it does give me a clue as to what kind of book it is.

Having a well known white author blurb a black author's book and vice versa can only be a good thing. I think I've read enough comments on these posts and heard enough anecdotes to recognize that there are plenty of white readers who probably still assume books by black authors may not appeal to them. A blurb from someone they recognize could well make those readers reconsider.

Doret said...

I think blurbs can help a lot. Readers need a reasons to try a new author. So if there's a blurb by an author they like, they'll more likely to give it a try or consider it. Also blurbs give a customer a reason to pause before they move on to the next book to browse, and that extra moment of thought could result in a sale. I don't think the race of the blurber matters so long as the read is familiar with their work. Since a lot of White readers are not familiar with Black authors, than a blurb by a White author can only help. I can't recall any Black authors blurbs on White books.
Though some authors blurb too many books and so their blurbs mean nothing to me. They'll like blurb Whores.
And Mitchard does not blurb a lot far from it. Its a great blurb Congrats.

Claudia said...

So first things first: congrats on that awesome blurb!

I have to admit that, yes, I read blurbs and I pay attention to them. I agree with Doret that some folks put their seal of approval on everything, but most of the time, hearing from a well-respected author is likely to increase the probability that I will take a second look.

I know this because a few months ago, I happen to be skimming a review of a book by Julia Leigh, a white Australian woman, called Disquiet. It looked okay, nothing special, but then I saw smack dab on the FRONT cover a blurb from Toni Morrison - what? I read the review more closely after that, since I love TM and she doesn't blurb often, much less for a white writer, so I put the book on my TBR list.

Race is usually not a factor for me, but I think a range of blurbs from writers of different races and genres can go a long way to making an appeal to a broader audience.

Paula said...

Race is usually not a factor for me, but I think a range of blurbs from writers of different races and genres can go a long way to making an appeal to a broader audience.

These are my sentiments exactly. While I pay no mind to an author's race for a blurb, I can see it making a difference just like it makes a difference to me when I'm looking for a good horror book and Stephen King blurbs it. His blurb was the reason I purchased The Ruins. If it scares him, then I'm all in!

I see it working that way for other readers. Race may not be on their mind, but they may find themselves more willing to consider a book/author they may not have without the blurb.

Claudia said...

Paula, I read The Ruins for the same reason! Scared the crap out of me and I loved it.

OEBooks said...

I don't usually read blurbs. I barely read the synopsis. Still at the stage of considering the title, the cover and the first page of the opening chapter; foremost.

For some reason blurbs remind me of sales pitches... which to this end... now if a literary giant like Toni post a blurb on a cover that said, "this book is mess..." oh my goodness! ...Now that will probably catch my eye Quick & in a hurry... to which I will certainly (at the very least) pick up the book and flip through it.

Anonymous said...

I really don't pay attention to the color of the author. I didn't even know the author of Secret Life of Bees was of color. I love the book - end of story.