Ahhhhh, the sweet smell of imposition . . .
Last week I wrote my first blurb for a book jacket. Opportunities have come up before, but they’ve never worked — didn’t like the book, found the writing painful, couldn’t spare the hours to give the manuscript a good read.
Not this time.
Yeah, I knew the author. But I only agreed to look at her work on the condition of honesty. If I liked it — great blurb. If not, no go.
What a relief to enjoy it so. What a pleasure to craft an endorsement that might benefit this brand new piece of literature (THE GHOST OF MARY PRAIRIE, Lisa Polisar, UNM Press, Spring ’07).
Even though the read took me away from my own writing, I didn’t begrudge a minute of it. This was a chance to return some of the kindness shown to me during these almost three years since my first publication.
You know what? Doing that for someone else was just as big of a high.
Frankly, most writers in our community enjoy helping each other. When I wrote the blog about that, the response was astounding. However, committing to read someone’s manuscript is a tremendous promise. Perhaps that’s why rumors abound about big-name authors who want to be paid for this gift.
The Pollyanna in me hopes that those rumors aren’t true. If they are, what a horrid taste there should be in our collective mouths. How hypocritical. Even the biggest name writers had to press upon other people’s good will to get blurbs in the beginning, when they were nobodies.
Better simply to have a policy of no endorsement — and to stick to it.
Blurbs have been on my mind because my newest mystery, THE SOCORRO BLAST, has started its long journey through production. Part of the process is getting those praise-sentences to be used for a variety of marketing purposes. Even if I don’t do the ask, my publisher wants me to provide suggestions.
I’ve gone through this twice before. Each time, I weighed the latest discussions on the listservs and at book clubs, the comments from blurb snobs that scoffed at the whole concept and assigned a negative value to each written enthusiasm.
Me? I like to read ’em. At the very least, I get to see what some of my friends in the crime fiction world think of a new work. At best, a hitherto undiscovered writer enriches my life.
I also enjoy getting blurbs. They build confidence at times when my insecurities peak — the months before the book is released.
In the past, writers — famous and less known — have kindly given me their words. How can I thank Gillian Roberts, Elaine Flinn (before we were on Murderati together), Charlaine Harris, Deborah Donnelly, Carol Luce, and Denise Hamilton for their generosity? Tony Hillerman has come through again; he’s given me a blurb for the new book so early that we can use it on the ARC. What words are there to express my appreciation for that?
In the middle of all of this joy, I have to think about who I’ll impose upon for book #3. It’s daunting this time because I now know the effort it takes to consider and write an honest blurb.
Which leaves me with this: I pray never to lose the deep sense of gratitude I feel toward those who’ve helped me thus far.
And, as my own career progesses, I hope to double this benevolence — to pass it on as long as I can.