Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Blurb

You know those endorsements you always see on the back of book jackets? The glowing praise, the author love? Poignant! Haunting! A stunning debut! You'd think from these quotes that authors must be an effusive lot by nature, a whole repertoire of glowing adjectives at their fingertips, happily spouting off praise for their colleagues. Yeah, sure. I have been at both ends of this process (as both blurber and blurbee), and the truth is that there is agony in both positions.

As one seeking endorsement, this kind of literary groveling takes a certain amount of grace, but it mostly requires blind audacity. Approaching a favorite author, asking them to take time out of their busy lives to read 300, 400, 500 pages of your work and then divining the perfect words of praise? You try it. And when they decline, see if it doesn't make you hot under the collar or filled with the cold awful drip of doubt and shame.

On the other end, I absolutely understand the inclination to just say no. What if the book is a stinker? What if you put your name on a pile of ca-ca? And when you are receiving multiple requests how on earth do you decide who to endorse and who to ignore? Is it easier to just say no across the board?

My novels have been endorsed by some very generous (and busy) people. Howard Frank Mosher and Larry McMurtry both took a chance on me with my first novel. Rene Steinke, Ursula Hegi, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Michelle Richmond, Lee Martin, Marisa de los Santos, Garth Stein, and Luanne Rice have all managed to find nice things to say about my work. Of course, there is no way to measure the effect of these kind words, no gauge to check the influence of their seals of approval. But what I do know is that I am entirely grateful for their generosity and time. And as an author receiving requests, I make every attempt to pay it forward. Of course, there are times when I too am simply too busy with my own work, or when I fear a novel may not sustain my interest...that I may not be able to find enough kind words to offer in return. But as a rule, if the author asks nicely, and the book looks good, I will make the time. Call me superstitious, but I suspect there are some karmic repercussions and rewards for all of this.

However, as I embark on the next round of solicitations (hoping the authors I love will love me back), I am steeling myself for whatever comes. Trying not to let my feelings get hurt...trying not to wonder if they're really busy or just think the book isn't worthy of their time.

On that's a pretty funny and revealing article on the blurb. Hmmm...Should I send an email to Nicole Krauss next??

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