New poll - Author cover quotes

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"A fast, sharp, ruthless read"
Joe Abercrombie
for The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

"With the Black company series, Glen Cook single-handedly changed the face of fantasy-something a lot of people didn't notice, and maybe still don't. He brought the story down to a human level, dispensing with the cliché archetypes of princes, kings, and evil sorcerers. Reading his stuff is like reading Vietnam War fiction of peyote."
Steven Erikson
for The Black Company by Glen Cook

"Monstrous, murderous, psychotic, deranged, possessed and insane - the only question is what our heroes hate more : the demons they're fighting, each other or themselves"
Stephen Deas
for Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes
Simply put, author cover quotes (front and back) are a marketing technique. That technique has been in use for quite a while and is probably more effective in the case of new authors struggling to be known. From what I gathered on the subject elsewhere on the web, it seems that less forty percent of the readers admit to be influenced by author quotes on a cover. Let's test the water with you readers. In this instance, I'm strictly speaking about author quotes. There's probably as much reviewers quotes on the cover of novels but we will get to that another time.

In most cases, an author's quote selected for a cover will probably be from an author writing in the same genre. That could be somewhat useful to pinpoint some works in a specific niche, more so since the author's identity seems to be more important than the quote itself. However, the synopsis of the book should be sufficient to catch the right eye. So can we consider them worthy to push sales of book? Certainly if you judge by the fact that the publishers wouldn't be using them if they hadn't shown their value.

One of the main problem with those quotes, is what is called 'contextonomy'. In some cases, a specific part of a much longer quote can be chosen to be printed on the cover. Out of context, you could praise a novel to a completely different degree simply by taking a smaller cut. The other problem I observed is the overuse of some writers. I have seen so much quotes from Terry Brooks that the guy seems to like everything. I must admit that Steven Erikson is also a frequent occurrence but in a more flavor-able fashion in my opinion (not always the case, I know). Example?
"Brillant, with action and suspense all the way."
Terry Brooks
for The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
In the past years, I remember being influenced by Abercrombie's quote for The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas. Other notable quotes that probably helped me subconsciously buy a book include Deas' one for Tome of the Undergates or Erikson's 'blurb' for The Black Company omnibus. And I wouldn't have read Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club without seeing the Dan Brown name at the top of the front cover to make me pick it up and read the synopsis.

Just for fun, let's finish with a bad example of magnification :
"I really think it's going to sweep the country as Tolkien's work did in the sixties."
Marion Zimmer Bradley
for The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind
All in all, as I admitted that I bought some books simply for the cover in the past, the same can be applied in my case for the author cover quotes (mostly before the burst of fantasy blogs and plethora of online reviews). In the end, when it happened it was usually a good choice but I not sure I will do it again in the future. So, the question is:

Are you influenced by author cover quotes to buy a book?

Feel free to share some memorable author cover quotes!


Scott Marlowe said...

Not really. In fact, even when they've put pages of quotes at the front I tend to skip those with nary a glance. The back cover blurb, the cover itself, and the quality of the writing (most often the beginning) are the criteria I use.

Bryce L. said...

Yes, but only slightly. I usually will already plan on reading the book and then the author quote just solidifies that fact.

Mostly, it's too much a marketing tactic and I've read enough crappy books with quotes by authors I like not to trust them totally.

Jackalwere said...

I don't think a quote ever influenced me, except perhaps in a negative manner. For instance, if I don't like Goodkind, and he says something is "wonderful", I'm thinking, "if he thought it was good I probably won't like it."

Still, it won't stop me from picking the book up, reading the jacket description, and then thumbing to 3 or 4 spots in the book to see if I like the writing style.

It is a marketing tool, and it is helpful for new writers to have someone else endorse their work. It couldn't hurt unless, as I stated above, you can't stand the recommending author.

I can't say that any were memorable, as I can't recall a single one off the top of my head...

Great topic!


Gamer Unlimited said...

I had to think about this question for a while. I was thinking "yes and no," but ultimately I have decided on yes. I think author blurbs can be influential. If there's an author quote from a familiar author, it might make the reader more interested in the book. Anything that informs the reader about a book is useful and important.

Phil said...

@Scott : You sometimes read the beginning of a book before buying it? not a bad idea I think.

@Seak : There sure is a lot of crappy books with quotes by author but do you remember any memorable titles?

So from what I gather in your comments guys, it seems that this marketing technique is mostly useful to make us pick up the book but then something else has to make us buy them...

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious how you believe Terry Brooks is overused on this front? If I recall correctly, he doesn't actually give out too many 'blurbs' as a matter of policy, and is quite particular about which books he does endorse in this manner. Have I missed a slew of books he's been endorsing recently?

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