Reviews vs blurbs: a fish study

Today, over a lunch of fried mackerel cooked by my dad, the Frying Irishman, I read aloud the latest blurbs for my upcoming book, Tracking Giants. (I do this with every blurb. It’s very exciting! We are a theatrical family.)

“Now,” said studious Dad, “what’s a blurb? Is that a review? I believe your book is out with early readers…do they write reviews?”

“A bit different. Reviews are critical assessments of the book after publication. Blurbs are marketing tools: short words of praise, written by influential people, which appear on the book and in marketing materials. That book next to you,” I said, motioning to a brick-sized CJ Sansom novel. “What’s on the back?”

He turned it over and read aloud the short bits of praise from the Irish Times, New York Times, etc.

“Those are reviews. The publisher is able to run those reviews as praise because this edition is a paperback. The hardcover was reviewed favourably, and that praise is captured here.”

He started flipping through the opening pages, aka the praise pages.

“Ah, I see. And here is general praise for Sansom. Wow, PD James!”

“That’s right,” I said. “Sansom has written a ton of books, so there is enough praise now for him as a writer in general, and for his Shardlake series, to warrant a few praise pages in the front.”

I didn’t get into the question of blanks and folios, as I need to earn my lunch for another day.

“Could I write a review that you could use on your book?” Dad asked.

Mom nodded her approval.

“Sadly, no,” I said. “’Though BESTSELLER—Dad’ could be very cute, it might be jumping the gun.”

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