I’m one of those needy souls who investigates books to see if my review has been excerpted in them. (I may never enjoy better exposure as a critic than having a blurb occupy the whole back cover of the hardcover edition of Lionel Shriver‘s The Post-Birthday World, though alas Kirkus doesn’t go for bylines.) So I was amused by an article in the Salt Lake Tribune about the fine art of book blurbing. Among those quoted is novelist and short-story writer Ron Carlson, who confesses that his stock went up with his students when his 2003 collection, A Kind of Flying, was blurbed by Stephen King. He wrote, “These stories glow with a radioactive cleverness.”

There’s a reason you’re seeing more awful metaphors like that on book jackets. Says Publishers Weekly editor Sara Nelson:

“Book marketing is much more complicated and difficult than it was 30 years ago, partly because we publish so many books [and] partly because publicity opportunities are fewer,” says Publishers Weekly editor-in-chief Sara Nelson, lamenting the demise of many newspapers’ book sections. “So yes, I think blurbs are thought to be a way of getting a reader’s interest. There’s no exact study or way to determine how much blurbs influence sales, but it certainly is a topic of discussion in the publishing business.”