I remember not long after House of Leaves came out, with Lethem’s way cool blurb on back, that there was an article or interview somewhere, where he (Lethem) was saying his agent was making him not do blurbs for six months or a year. Just because he, being him, wanted to do them all, of course, and that was clogging up the works. And he’s all of us—me anyway: I want to give each writer, each book whatever small boost I can.
You can’t, though, I’ve found. Seems each year, I’m lucky if I can get . . . five done? Six? Which is maybe twenty percent of what I get asked to do. Which is great, and of course I don’t mind. Makes sense to pay back into the system that’s helped me out. I’ve gotten some solid blurbs, I mean, from people I’d have never considered reachable back then.
Anyway, I’ve heard other writers have good policies:
- only one book at a time, max, no exceptions—and each book takes a couple months, regardless of length
- four books a year, no matter what, and that’s on a good, free ‘resting’ year
- no blurbing while writing or promoting your own book
- “I only blurb debut writers”
Those are all good policies, seems. Still, I always end up saying . . . “Maybe, man. I’ll try. I hope to, really I do” (except for second blurbs for the same writer, which I fear sends the message that I’m the only fan…). Last six or eight weeks, though, I’ve been flaking out more than not. Not because the reading’s in any way displeasurable, but because I’ve been juggling two in-process novels of my own, and juggling the usual rest-of-life as well (as always, but? better to have life-stuff to juggle than no-life stuff, I say).
Starting now, though, I’m going to have to start regretfully declining all blurb requests for a while. Not for sanity or anything (I hear it’s overrated), but because I’m judging for the World Fantasy Awards. People I know who’ve done this judging, they say that, if you want to do it right, be honest, then it completely monopolizes every second of your life for
six seven months. In the most wonderful way, of course, and for good and noble cause, but still: that doesn’t leave many extra seconds, I suspect.
So, this is the link I’ll be passing back to people who come asking.
Wish I could. I’m sure it’s great, and worthy, and I’m certain I’m accruing bad karma or something for being unavailable, when people have, before, been available for me.
Related: any of y’all out there remember what Mitch Cullin did some twelve, fourteen years ago? Swamped with blurb requests, completely drowning in them, his solution was to have his publisher build a page with a textarea entry form, like this:
—Mitch Cullin, author of Whompyjawed
Pretty clever, I thought, and think. He would say whatever you wanted him to about your book, so long as one of his titles was associated. And of course it was a smart way to cheapen his own blurbs—I mean, when he wanted them to be cheap, not asked-after, please.
What I’ll miss, though, it’s reading stuff early. I can always get stuff early, I mean (except, back when my kids were the right age, Rick Riordan’s stuff—those books were sealed TIGHT), but it tends to be paper ARCs/AREs, not digital. And digital is what I prefer for early reading, by far, as those super-cheaply-made early versions fall apart fast.
Too, I should note: I don’t think I’ve been any version of ‘burned’ by blurbing, so that’s not why I’m backing off them for a bit. It’s never come back to bite me, I mean. That even possible, to get bit like that? I guess . . . yeah, if you say of something that it’s ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ and it turns out to be somehow fraudulent. But, c’mon, you’d really just be the first of the victims in that case, I think, not actually associated in a negative way.
I would imagine—if this counts as ‘burnage,’ as Bill or Ted might say—that people have been frustrated that I never got around to their book, have maybe even delayed something thinking I might, but, you know, the world’s the world, and things don’t always happen the right way, especially around my environs. Closest I’ve come to actually being burned, I guess, is one writer hitting me up over and over for words on their novella, which I finally got around to either right at the deadline, or a couple days late (it’s been a year or two, maybe more). Felt pretty heroic, trading in other pieces of my life to finally get around to this. But then that writer . . . disappeared? Not sure. Maybe the novella came out, maybe not. It was all right, though. I wouldn’t have said words for it if it weren’t. Wish that writer and novella the best. Just, won’t be considering the next request from them, of course. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve submitted blurbs for a couple other books, that ended up not making the cut. So it goes.
I guess there’s the usual way of getting . . . not burned, but, when you blurb something and then never have a copy of that book show up, it feels odd, you feel kind of used. But, too, in the madness of a book coming out, I’ve probably done that same thing, especially when it’s the publisher who’s solicited the blurb, not me. I for sure don’t hold it against anybody. Just, feels weird.
Anyway, didn’t mean like to go all essay on “Blurbs and Blurbing, and My Experiences Therein” (didn’t even get into being used to bait other blurbers, or people editing your blurbs). Just meant to say: truly, I’m so much more jammed than usual for the first half of 2019, I can’t even consider considering anything, I wouldn’t be able to give it the attention I’m sure it’s due. And I strongly suspect that this state of jammedness may leak over into the rest of 2019, when I recover from that rush of reading by going back, reading all the stuff I would have been reading, were my mailbox not stuffed with books to be considering. Books I’m excited to consider. Feels like cheating, really, ‘having’ to read through all this. It’s a very lucky kind of burden, but, it is a burden, one that’s already starting to eat away my afternoons—one that keeps me from considering your book for a blurb, alas.
And, I’ll close with one of the coolest blurbs ever. So happy for Paul to have got it. You can’t ask for this kind of stuff. You just live well, write for all you’re worth, and . . . this: