North Texas Daily

Bring back book blurbs: cover design suffers from clout chasing

Bring back book blurbs: cover design suffers from clout chasing

Bring back book blurbs: cover design suffers from clout chasing
July 08
12:00 2022

While perusing through any bookstore, a reader will have the natural instinct to pick up a book look at the back cover. What has
been frustratingly absent of late is the reason we flip the novel over: the blurb. Whether it’s modern design or some other obtuse reason, a crucial element of a novel’s composition has disappeared from common practice.

What has replaced the traditional summary of the novel’s content is a shotgun spread of quotes from B-list writers and celebrities who all claim this book completely rewired their thoughts. While support from literature’s contemporaries is appreciated and at times a sign of reliability, it should not come at the expense of blurbs.

Ask anyone to describe a piece of media to you, and they’ll give you a brief description of the plot. What they won’t do is tell you Maya Hawke thought it was riveting, or that Rupi Kaur called it a must-have. It is unnecessary in the decision-making process of whether you want to read it, and even more moot in understanding whether or not you’ll like it. Book manufacturers are seemingly unaware of this though, and paste these quotes on every book they can in a strange attempt at last-minute marketing.

A good book doesn’t need celebrity endorsement. It is good and fine to put the well-earned silver circles of various awards on books as a sign of achievement, but a truly timeless classic would never need a 30 word quote from James Patterson calling it “the book of the decade.” It’s unnecessary at best and reads as narcissistic at worst. It is few and far in between that someone picks up a book because they saw a name on the novel that wasn’t the author’s.

These awkward admirations also strip away space for design choices. We shouldn’t judge books by their covers, any yet they can be an art form in and of themselves.

Like album covers, the outside of a book can spark thoughts or conversation about the piece’s deeper meaning. Crowding the cover with poorly spaced praise leaves less room for art that might give the novel more depth.

Blurbs also build suspense before a page is turned. If a book needs background, the blurb provides. Giving an author the chance to prime the reader with an exact set of information is a unique opportunity that can charge the first few pages of a book with the tension of context.

While just opening up a novel blindly and diving in can be an exciting endeavor, it’s also absurdly unrealistic for people with busy lifestyles. Unlike other pieces of media, a book takes active participation and hours of time, so it is understandable that people want to cozy up to a book they think they will enjoy before sinking time and money into something they may not even like.

Bringing back the blurb is a no-loss choice. A good blurb can reel a reader in, and a mediocre one is still better than pointless celebrity advertisement. The return of the blurb even encourages active participation from customers in the store, as all the information they need is on the back — no Google search needed.

Are there times where a shoutout from a celebrity can do good for a book? Absolutely. If a self-published author makes the big leagues thanks to a positive review from a well-renowned writer, a quote from said review is a polite nod to their contribution. These cases are few and far in between however, and the exception should not make the rule.

Movies have trailers, albums have singles and art galleries have posters. Giving books their blurbs back provides the perfect glimpse of what is to come, and gives the reader the chance to make a more informed decision on their next novel.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

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