Book blurbs--those pithy statements on book covers extolling the wonderfulness of the book--are ubiquitous in the publishing biz. The hope is that a quote from your favorite author, or from a respected expert or pundit, will make you more interested in picking up a book, and possibly actually purchasing it.
Book blurbs are generally acquired well prior to a book's publication date, as part of the pre-publication marketing process. Manuscripts or galleys are sent by the publisher to a list of people whose complimentary words would be desirable. Often, the author has input into the list; sometimes the publisher or the author's agent calls in a favor or two. Many of the people approached for blurbs never do provide one, but usually at least a few blurbs result. Blurbs are used not just on book covers, but in the publisher's catalogs and other marketing materials. And of course, you, the author, can proudly display them on your website, Facebook page, etc.
Do book blurbs work? That's a complicated question to which there are no clear answers. I doubt that many people buy a book just because a writer they respect said something nice about it. But the presence on a book cover of several blurbs from recognizable, reputable individuals suggests to the potential buyer that the book has been seen and approved by people who know their stuff, and thus is a worthy purchase. (To those of us in the industry, it also says that the book is being actively marketed by its publisher, while books with few or no blurbs sadly reveal their place at the bottom of the publisher's priority list.) Like much book marketing, blurbs are done in hope rather than in certainty--because they might work, not because it’s definite that they do.
The above applies to larger commercial publishing houses. What if you are small press-published? Your publisher may make efforts to obtain blurbs, but may have difficulty getting attention from the kinds of people whose blurbs are worthwhile. What if you use a self-publishing company or a vanity publisher? Blurb-finding will be entirely up to you. As an unknown author, and especially as an author associated with a pay-to-publish company, you likely will have even more trouble than a small press.
What's a writer or micropress to do? Enter Blurbings.com. "Put a spotlight on your book!" its website declares. "We offer an inexpensive and accelerated service for long time promotion to authors and publishers through writing and receiving blurbs." In other words, Blurbings makes it possible for you to solve your lack-of-blurbs problem by buying some.
According to the FAQ page, "Blurbings Seekers" post digital galleys of their books for blurb writers to download and read. Writers can then submit a blurb to the book's profile page, if they choose. Seeker packages are priced at $19.95 (10 blurbs) or $29.95 (30 blurbs). If 30 blurbs are not enough, you can add more for just $1.49 apiece. (Blurbings claims that blurbs are guaranteed.) Blurbings will also create your digital galley for $29.95. For blurb writers, a digital book download costs $0.99.
Why is this a good deal? According to Blurbings' About Us page: "Normally, a blurb will cost an author and/or publisher $14 - $23, which includes printing of the galleys, packaging and mailing fees. The standard 30 – 50 blurbs expected per book can range from $420 to $1,150. It is also very time consuming researching and contacting prospective authors as well as conducting follow-ups during the duration of the process."
More important--who will the blurbs come from? "Other authors usually write Blurbs," Blurbings' FAQ page explains. "[H]owever, professionals in the field can also write them; for example, a psychologist can write a blurb for a book on stress or disorders. Professors who teach the subject of the book can also blurb books, for example, a professor in sociology can blurb a book on society or a professor in politics can blurb a book on politics. In addition, Owners of websites that deal with the topic of the book can submit blurbs."
And there’s the rub. Not all blurbs are equal. The whole point of a blurb is that the blurber be recognizable to the general public, or else be someone whose credentials suggest that his or her opinion is worth taking seriously. But how likely is it that someone like that will find his or her way to Blurbings and happen upon your digital galley? (And if you contact them yourself, what do you need Blurbings for?) It's far more likely that the blurbs you'll get will come from other site users--i.e., other self- or small-press-published authors--or, possibly, from random web surfers. No offense to Joe Micropress Author or Jane Random Web Surfer...but blurbwise, who cares what they think?
And Joe Micropress Author will be eager to blurb. As Blurbings helpfully points out, "[W]riting blurbs also puts a spotlight on the blurb writer. If you choose to write one blurb per week for a year, you can generate continuous exposure on over 50 different books, websites and profiles. It is a great promotional tool for authors seeking long-term promotion. Putting a spotlight on your name will increase your visibility to readers. Sustaining exposure over a long period of time for one work will lead prospective readers to all future works. "
The idea that you should pay for a bunch of blurbs from people no one has heard of as a promotional strategy for your book is bad enough--but the idea that blurbing itself is a promotional strategy, because you can stick your book title on other authors' books, is even worse.
Blurbings.com is the brainchild of Emily Maroutian and Jenna Peak of The Writers Mafia, a writers' organization/website that engages in a number of different projects, including publishing.