Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Blurb Request.

John Ramsey Miller

One of the perks of being a published author is that authors and publishers will ask you for blurbs. Some are gems and writing a blurb is a pleasure, and you get to see and understand how difficult it is to write a great blurb that will do the book justice. Flip the coin.

Sometimes you eat the bear…

This week I received a book from an editor at Delacorte asking for my opinion on a book she edited that is being published in January 2010. I read the manuscript and the first 8o pages literally rocked my world. I’m serious. I found myself holding my breath as I read. This is a first novel by an unknown author and I read the book in five hours and I was blown away. Blown away. Blown away. The terms: an exciting new voice, and a talented storyteller, are tossed around every time a first novel is introduced, and often they are just marketing fluff from the book of standard sales phrases that was written in about 1820. I’ll just say one thing with conviction. This woman can flat write a coon up a tree backwards. The author’s name is Carla Buckley, and THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE should be a huge success. Hopefully this will be the first of many. It’s manuscripts like this that keep me excited about the requests and ready to read another manuscript.

Then …. sometimes the bear eats you.
I have also been asked to blurb a book and after reading it, wished I hadn't said I would. Occasionally the author is a friend, or connected to a friend, the best I can do is write something that isn’t dishonest. Years ago, I hated to disappoint people. Now I say I only blurb books scheduled for publication and submitted to me by the publisher. Years ago I didn’t want any aspiring author to think that I thought I was too good to help them out. Yesterday I found a list of blurbs I wrote ten years ago and sent to an author who was a friend of a friend and owed this weekend author his life or something. I’ll withhold the name of the publisher (an internet on-demand publisher) and the author, who is no longer among the living.

Here are a handful:
“Few authors would have even attempted to incorporate so many seemingly unrelated characters and plots into one novel.”

“ ___________ is an author who is truly in a class of his own.”

“Never before has an author utilized so many genres in one novel.”

“You will laugh and you will cry and you will not believe just one person wrote this book.”

“I was so entertained by _______________ that I found myself reading long sections of the book over the phone to my friends until my voice played out.”

“A rich tapestry of plots, genres and styles that will have the reader laughing one minute and crying the next.”

“If you live to be 100, you’ll never again read anything like ___________________.”

The author actually used two of the blurbs on the cover. I didn’t lie in any of the blurbs, and everybody was happy.

The book whose name cannot be said, was literature's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. It had a time-traveling villain who wore white robes so he could appear in any time period without drawing stares, a vampire dog, a thirty page sea battle that it turned out was a tank commander’s dream, a virus that could destroy the earth’s flora and fauna, a haunted house where a child lived with an old pirate, a gay ghost who followed the tank commander around, a lesbian detective who looked like Rip Torn, an alcoholic cigar-smoking chimpanzee, and more. Characters appeared suddenly, delivered a volume of information, and just vanished forever. The author wrote one chapter in first person and narrated the next. One chapter was simply dialog between a deer and an alligator as they discussed the viral threat to their habitat from the mad scientist villain. A gay ghost (I kid you not) lamented the fact that being protoplasm made him able to create suction. There was a battle between an evil army of swordsmen and a villain turned good by love, at the end that broke up an opera. The lesbian detective fired her pistol at the bad villain and accidentally killed the fat lady before she could sing. And the audience sat watching until it was over, whereupon they applauded. What New Yorker who attends operas would actually know a battle in the aisles was not part of the opera they had paid to see? And the gay ghost who had simply vanished halfway through the book returned to sit in the audience for the action. Out of about nine plots, none was more important than any other and none of the loose ends were tied up so (as the author told me) there could be a sequel. The author also told me that he never planned anything he wrote ahead, and always had a drink or two then simply wrote the characters that appeared and “pen to paper” he went traipsing wherever the characters led him. I suspect he was completely unaware that they’d taken LSD and led him on a wild goose chase through a burning asylum.

Some have it and some don’t.

So, authors, got any good blurb stories?


  1. "a vampire dog". This author was obviously way ahead of his time.

    I've been honored with blurb requests in the past and have enjoyed fulfilling all. All but one. The book dealt with graphic child abuse and was so vile and disgusting that I could not read more than the first 20 or so pages. I simply could not bring myself to endorse it with my name on the cover.

    Blurbs are a wonderful selling tool, not only for the author receiving them but for the writer supplying the blurb. If nothing else, it's free advertising. It's our names getting out there in front of the public. I've been really fortunate to have received some great blurbs by many great authors, and I consider it an honor when I'm asked for one. So if anyone needs a blurb from me, please forward your book or manuscript to John Ramsey Miller, my official blurb screened. Thanks.

  2. I'll send all of the "more unique" ones directly to you, Joe. Or I could just post your address here and suggest you live to blurb cross-genre authors.

  3. Geeze, that guy totally stole my idea. Only my ghost is a lesbian and my detective is a gay vampire. Everything else sounds identical.

    Back to the drawing board. ;)

  4. It's great that found Carla's book so good. I will definitely want to pick it up. I hope once mine is picked to impress some blurbers the same way.

    But man, that's a wickedly weird other book you mention. My fear would be to get my own that far along then discover it was all just an acid flashback and realize I was the only one who thought it made sense.

    Luckily of course, mine has not a single vampire dog in white robes or lesbian gay tank commanding detectives at sea.