Writers have always exchanged high-praise blurbs with each other (with the most famous example being the writer who blurbed himself using one of his pseudonyms). But lately I’ve been exploring other types of promotional swaps that are less direct, but also effective. For example, a group of us who have been networking through a Yahoo group recently paired off to post articles about each other on Wikipedia. Read more →
As I looked back on this year, I found this guest blog, which sums up the highs, lows, and strange encounters a novelist can experience in one day.
9:42 am: As I write page 162, I realize that an entire investigative thread in my new novel is not quite logical. And there’s no way to massage it or spin it. So I go back to the beginning and try to pick out and rewrite every reference to this line of inquiry. Did I get them all? Or did I leave a little silver of foreign material that will pop up and irritate readers? Now I have doubts about other plot threads. So I decide to print out all 162 pages and read through them before continuing to write the story. How many trees have I killed in my career as a writer and editor?
12:29 am: Another writer posts on my Facebook page, “Congrats on the review in Mystery Scene. ‘A thrilling, eye-opening read.’” I am excited. I haven’t seen this review, and it will make a great blurb. I search Mystery Scene’s webpage, but I can’t find the review and I don’t have a copy of the magazine. So everyone in mystery world knows what this review says, except me. I worry that the one line I know about may be the only positive thing the reviewer said.
3:10 pm: After months of waiting, my beta reader sends an e-mail with her feedback on the first 50 pages of my new story, Secrets to Die For. After commenting, “This is a very worthy story, a page-turner with great potential,” she says, “Try to SHOW rather than TELL.” Aaaghhhhh! I like to think that I live by this ubiquitous writing rule. But now I wonder: Do I even know what I’m doing?
6:17 pm: After months of waiting, the book trailer for my recently published novel, The Sex Club, arrives via e-mail. I excitedly click open the file, ready to be thrilled and amazed. But no, the trailer is weird and confusing. The girl in the last scene is at least 20, dark-haired, and kind of heavy. She doesn’t even look dead. The victim in my novel is 14 and blond and thin and very dead. I show the trailer to my husband. He hates almost everything about it and cannot stop talking about how much he dislikes it. I am crushed. I spent the last of my promotional money on the trailer, and I counted on it selling a few books. Now I have to compose an e-mail that diplomatically says, “Start over.” It takes an hour that I don’t have. (New and improved trailer is viewable at the bottom of this page.)
9:05 pm: I receive an e-mail from a mystery book club leader named Ruth Greiner, who apparently does have a copy of the Mystery Scene review and says she’ll never read The Sex Club no matter how great all the reviews are. She does not say why, and she does not have to. Just seeing her name horrified me. The antagonist in The Sex Club is a very nasty woman and her name is Ruth Greiner. How was I to know? Now I have to write an e-mail that explains how I chose the name—Ruth is Biblical and strong, Greiner is the name of a street in my old neighborhood. I also try to carefully express my concern for her feelings, without admitting any liability. I offer to send her a free copy of my next novel, then feel lame about it.
10:16 pm: Yet another fun-filled e-mail arrives. This one is from a local author whom I met at a book fair and exchanged novels with. He says he’s quite sure he’ll find a publisher for his new novel and wants to know if I’ll read his book and write a blurb for the front cover. This is the first time anyone has asked me for a blurb, and I’d like to be excited. I’m flattered that he thinks I have any clout. But I didn’t get past the first page of his first novel (which started with a rectal search by a large German woman), and this one, he says, is much more sexually explicit. How do I get so lucky? Oh yeah, I wrote a novel called The Sex Club, so he must think I’m a sex fiend. (It’s a mystery/thriller, really!) I spend 20 minutes composing an e-mail, then delete it, thinking I’ll deal with it tomorrow.
I’ve been sending my novel (with permission) to other writers I’ve gotten to know online. I haven’t directly asked them for a blurb, but that is my hope, that they’ll saying something nice that I can use for promotion. I’m also lining up writers to read and blurb (yes, it can be used as a verb) my new Detective Jackson manuscript with the idea that it will help sell it. This is common practice in the industry. I haven’t asked, nor do I want, anyone to lie or fudge or say something they don’t mean. But apparently, this is common practice in the industry too.
J.A. Konrath has written extensively about the dishonesty in the blurbing business (authors who give rave blurbs without ever reading the book), but now the NY Times reports that a company has taken it to a new level: Blurbs for Sale.
Now I wonder if there’s any point in what I’d doing. Does the blurb still have value or has it become meaningless? Have you ever bought a book because a writer you like said good things about it? Will you do it again in the future?