There’s a multitude of tools in the publicist’s kit these days – advertising, social media, reviews, bookshop events, literary festivals all spring to mind – but what about those puffs that adorn book jackets, so often full of promise with seductive famous names attached to them. We all know about quotes full of ellipses where what’s taken out was not exactly flattering leaving just a few words whose irony is lost in the translation. Slate has quite a funny piece on the way that movie blurbs are constructed with a fine example of this. However, cynical as I am about it all, I can’t help falling for promising puffs, particularly when I’m not at all sure about a book. The Hilary Mantel and Kate Atkinson comments adorning its forthcoming paperback edition spurred me on through the slow start to Lauren Owen’s The Quick for instance.
Recently, however, I was pitched a novel that I’d already decided wasn’t for me. It’s from a publisher whose list is one of my favourites but the book’s described as ‘dystopian’, something which at the best of times doesn’t attract but given the events of this summer I think we’re all in need of cheering up rather than a dose of something even worse in prospect. Then I looked down the list of quotes praising the novel to the skies: Erin Morgenstern, author of the entrancing The Night Circus; Liza Kluassman whose Tiger in Red Weather I greatly enjoyed; ditto Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers; then there’s Jessie Burton, author of one of my favourite books of this year, The Miniaturist; and Emma Straub whose The Vacationers I’d liked. So I agreed to look at a copy. You’ll only read about it here if I enjoyed it but I’m hoping that it will live up to the promise all those starry names suggest. What about you – do you find yourself swayed by puffs? Or do you have other ways of deciding whether to read a book or not?