Do you take them seriously? Do you assume that someone who writes a blurb on the back of a history book has read the entire book? Kevin Levin reflects on these questions at Civil War Memory. Here is a taste:
I have a better sense of what goes on having recently written my first book blurb. The University Press of Kentucky, which published my book, asked if I would write a brief blurb for a collection of essays on the Civil War in popular culture and memory. The instructions were pretty straightforward: write a few sentences that can be used for advertising purposes. They asked that I complete the assignment in roughly six weeks and in exchange promised to send a complimentary copy of the book. I read more than half of the essays and skimmed the rest to get a sense of the book’s scope and the quality of the individual chapters. I felt comfortable with what I wrote.
My guess is that most book blurbs happen at this late stage in the publishing process so it’s probably not a stretch to suggest that authors don’t always have the time to review the manuscript in its entirety. That probably shouldn’t matter much.
They have helped me at least once…when I saw a book that looked interesting and I hadn't heard about it. Then I turned it over, and all of the blurbs were from uber-conservative pundits. *Put the book down and back away.*
John Fea says
Thanks for the comment, Lynn. I do find blurbs to be very helpful for this precise reason. I think this applies to books that are blurbed by uber-liberal pundits as well.