Blurbmania

So first up, regular readers — yes, that means you mum — will have noticed that I haven’t been updating much recently. Been working my ass off, is why. Not my actual ass, mind, just my literary ass. My editing ass and my writing ass. My literary ass is in pretty good shape right now! Tight! I’m going to get back to nearly daily posts here soon, promise.

In the meantime, here’s three things that I have come across recently about blurbs. You know, those juicy little quotes from authors, promoting other authors. First up, Rebecca Johnson in Salon, sharing about her blurb-hunting woes. Choice quote: Johnson spots a potential target at a party and sidles up to her, intent on extracting a blurb.

“Hi,” I said a little too brightly. Was it my imagination, or was she already moving away from me? After a few forced pleasantries, I brought up the book and asked if she might be willing to read it. The expression on her face — part horror, part sneer — was exactly what I would have expected had I released a large fart and asked what she thought of it.

Then there’s Rachel Donadio in the New York Times, talking about a company that intends to sell blurbs. Oh, the horror! Donadio talks about “blurbing up” (Rick Moody on William Gaddis), “blurbing down” (famous writers endorsing students) and “blurbing the safely dead” (young neophytes attaching their names to prestigious classic authors).

Then there’s the great churning mass of lateral blurbing, where patterns are harder to discern and dangerous rivalries might lurk, with hard feelings existing among the blurbers themselves.

Finally, agent Nathan Bransford, whose blog I have come to truly appreciate, writes about blurbs in query letters. Bransford has a four tier system for assessing a blatent blurb. Read his post for more.

The general consensus seems to be that blurbs do not actually matter too much, unless they are particularly super-duper. One of my coaching clients, Anita Naughton, was blurbed by Tina Brown, Oliver Sacks and Sandra Bernhard. That’s pretty super-duper. Her book sold out three print runs. I’m not saying it was the blurbs that did it — the book happens to be funny, moving, and brilliantly written. It sold on its own worth. But if you have contacts like Anita did, and can work them, it can’t hurt.

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