I have talked about blurbs in the past, but it’s been a while, and if something’s worth saying once, I always think it’s worth saying a.) at greater and greater volume and b.) over and over until your victim is bludgeoned into agreeing with you. So here are a few thoughts about blurbs:
1. The perfect blurb, for the uninitiated, is a quote on the cover of a book, which reads, “This is the book I wish I’d written. Buy it now or you’ll regret it forever.” And is signed by JK Rowling, Nick Hornby, or Jody Picoult.
2. Many blurbs are a bit hedge-y, as in, “It doesn’t get any better than this,” (ie, this writer isn’t very good, and never will be) or “an amazing success,” (ie, how on earth did this book get a six-figure advance?) My personal favourite, “X is a writer to watch,” is one I unwittingly provided after the following conversation with the writer’s PR.
Me: It’s quite good, but I have reservations.
PR: But it is quite good.
Me: Well, ye-es.
PR: So you’d be interested in what he writes next?
Me: I suppose I might.
PR: So, you might say, “X is a writer to watch?”
And there it was, on the cover of the book: “X is a writer to watch!” and it was signed, Meg Rosoff.
In the end, it turned out that X wasn’t actually a writer to watch. But that’s a conversation entirely else.
3. Not all blurbs help. Despite the loveliest quote from Anthony Horowitz on my last book (“Genius!”), somehow Anthony Horowitz’s twelve gazillion loyal readers failed to purchase it.
4. It’s true that people do supply blurbs for friends, but most people are too worried about their own reputations to write an insincere rave, so as to avoid the following syndrome: “William Shakespeare thought this load of rubbish was GOOD? What a tosser.”
5. Just by the way, it is genuinely, teeth-grindingly difficult to blurb someone you think is about to outsell you five to one. But it happens. To me it seems to happen with relative frequency, but I can only assume that this is because I have such impeccable taste.
6. In case you can’t find anyone to blurb your next book, you might want to use one of these: “As a gorgeous, young woman, I found this book so hilariously funny, I’d seriously consider having sex on the spot with any guy I saw reading it.” “If you read only one black comedy by a disaffected, urban, 26-year-old Catholic transvestite this year, make it this one.” Or maybe, “If David Foster Wallace had written Eat, Pray, Love, it would be this good.”
And finally, this blurb, by Pablo Neruda for a novel by his friend, Julio Cortazar: “Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease, which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder . . . and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair.”
I’ll have that one.