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On quoting reviews on jacket blurbs

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M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Sun October 3rd, 2010, 5:32 pm

Having been a book critic for many years for an American newspaper, the rule in the business is, you never know when you're going to be quoted on a book cover or paperback edition. And frankly, you don't even think about it--you're onto the next thing anyway.

As long as the word limit is observed, and the newspaper is named, that's how it's done. Permission is not sought. Though once or twice a publisher has got in touch with the book editor to thank them for the positive or even glowing review.

It's not considered rude at all. Once that review is published it's out in the public domain. And no book editor would have time to field all those queries from publicity departments.

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Diiarts
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Post by Diiarts » Mon October 4th, 2010, 2:05 am

We've printed excerpts from both online and print reviews - on the jackets of our books. We have always given attribution and have never quoted more than a couple of sentences. We would always quote a print review over an online review as they are so much more credible. And we've never quoted an online review by a private individual - only those where the reviewer is representing the publisher or the website.

In these circumstances we've never sought permission, we wouldn't see the need to do so, and we certainly don't see it as rude. Reviewers put their opinions into print precisely so that they can help to inform readers' buying choices. That said, I agree that it might be considered rude to quote a private individual reviewing on (say) Amazon without their consent.

But anyone who posts a review, online or anywhere else, should be aware of the possibility that phrases or even single words can quite legally be quoted out of context - e.g. "This book is a tedious waste of shelf-space - the phone directory is a more gripping read" can be quoted on the dust-jacket as "...gripping..."
Last edited by Diiarts on Mon October 4th, 2010, 2:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: correcting typos
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Michy
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Post by Michy » Mon October 4th, 2010, 4:43 am

[quote=""rockygirl""]
My question to all of you--do any of you use the reviews on the jacket as one of your criteria when buying a book? I never do. I'd rather see a synopsis of the book.[/quote]

Not at all. I don't even bother to read the blurbs by other authors on book covers. More than once an author that I really like has said "this book is wonderful! blah blah blah" And I ended up not liking the book. So, to me, they are totally meaningless.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Mon October 4th, 2010, 5:26 am

But anyone who posts a review, online or anywhere else, should be aware of the possibility that phrases or even single words can quite legally be quoted out of context - e.g. "This book is a tedious waste of shelf-space - the phone directory is a more gripping read" can be quoted on the dust-jacket as "...gripping..."
Same thing with movie reviews. Which is why I pay no attention whatsoever to the one-word or one-phrase quotes on jacket covers and movie ads! I would give more consideration to a complete sentence or several intact sentences quoted from a reviewer on the back of a book jacket, but I have never bought a book on that basis alone - it's the sort of thing that would make me want to take a second look at the book and, if I'm in a physical store, read the first page to see if I liked the author's writing style. I pay less attention to quotes from other authors on the back of a book jacket, because I figure the book's author is either a friend or represented by the same agent and the blurbing author is under a certain amount of pressure to say something nice.
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M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Mon October 4th, 2010, 1:32 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]Same thing with movie reviews. Which is why I pay no attention whatsoever to the one-word or one-phrase quotes on jacket covers and movie ads! I would give more consideration to a complete sentence or several intact sentences quoted from a reviewer on the back of a book jacket, but I have never bought a book on that basis alone - it's the sort of thing that would make me want to take a second look at the book and, if I'm in a physical store, read the first page to see if I liked the author's writing style. I pay less attention to quotes from other authors on the back of a book jacket, because I figure the book's author is either a friend or represented by the same agent and the blurbing author is under a certain amount of pressure to say something nice.[/quote]

They're called 'vanity quotations' or 'vanity endorsements' for a reason. They get sent the book in advance proof format, they say something nice for the back of the book, they may or may not get paid for it, and it's good publicity for them.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Mon October 4th, 2010, 2:14 pm

[quote=""M.M. Bennetts""]They're called 'vanity quotations' or 'vanity endorsements' for a reason. They get sent the book in advance proof format, they say something nice for the back of the book, they may or may not get paid for it, and it's good publicity for them.[/quote]

They can backfire if it's done too often. I recall a discussion on a book at Amazon wherein one of the commenters stated that since *so-and-so* author loved it, it must be good. I get a bit jaded after seeing the same blurbers over and over again. Or perhaps we mere mortal readers just see a book differently than a writer does? :confused: ;)
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M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Mon October 4th, 2010, 5:19 pm

No, it's just gush. And 'mortal readers' aren't as stupid as some publishers and agents might like to think they are.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Mon October 4th, 2010, 7:16 pm

honestly, i think blurbs are an enormous waste of space. ive never read a useful one, ever. wouldnt the space be better utilized by maybe a summery of the contents or something.

and when the recommendation come from another author, well it always strikes me as a "ill scratch your back if you scratch mine" situation.

just once it would be nice to read a blurb that didnt endorse a book. "This book is ok but you'd be better off buying something over there..."

M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Mon October 4th, 2010, 8:16 pm

Blurbs are frankly pigs to write. No author can do one well, I don't think. They're either too abashed to say what the book is really about or too full of themselves to sound like anything other than honking vuvezulas. So it's left to the editor or publisher or publicity agent. Who may or may not have read the book. The ones where it was written by someone who didn't read the book, clearly, are the funniest in retrospect though. Unless of course you've bought this thing having been told it was going to be some life-affirming wunderfest and half-way through you realise it's a wallow in the open sewer of misery via Victorian laudenum addiction.

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Post by rockygirl » Tue October 5th, 2010, 2:05 am

This is a little OT, but I remember a theatre review in the New York Times, in which Ben Bradley totally bashed a new musical. The play's producers found two words in the whole review (I think it was complimenting the orchestra for playing such horrendous music well or something banal like that) that they could use and did.

By the way, Bradley was right. I ended up seeing the show and hating it. I wished I had read the review before I ordered the tickets!

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