Saturday, March 5, 2011

On the Blurb Hunt

Right now, at this very minute, I’m sweating out blurbs. The publishers of The Taker have been very supportive; they’ve printed up an unheard-of number of galleys and drew up a daunting list of big-name authors to ask for blurbs. But asking for a blurb and getting one are two different animals.

Not just the editor at the publishing house, the entire staff digs into their rolodexes to call up favors. The agent presses his contacts. Many emails are exchanged, requests made over lunches. I write up letters to the prospective blurbers, trying to be funny, winning, persuasive. It comes down to begging and pleading, and whom you know.  I am not a shrinking violet, but I have never felt this whorish before (dear reader, there is no other word for it.)

The first blurb is in, from a NYT bestselling author (a thousand blessings on his head!) who is also a client of my agent, a writer whose beautifully written books I adore. Thanks to him my book will not be released blurbless, like a new kid at school standing friendless and alone, clutching a dented Jonas Brothers lunchbox. A second blurb has come in, this one from another debut novelist like myself, so amazingly generous with his time, turning the request around quickly because, undoubtedly, he still remembers this precise kind of agony.

I continue to sweat it out. Authors are busy, yes. There’s the next book to be written, seemingly endless promotional duties to attend to. Some will plain not like your book and set it aside. At least one has handed it over to a bookseller who has put it up on eBay. News comes back from editors, agents who promised to send the galley on to their writers: no, they won’t do it after all. The writer is crashing on revisions and has asked not to be disturbed. Others have signaled they’re reading your book this very weekend (hallelujah!) only for weeks to pass and no sign of a blurb. Does that mean they didn’t like the book; that’s how it’s usually handled, I’ve heard. A discreet absence of a reaction. No writer will blurb a book they can’t stand behind, to some degree, and no fellow writer would want them to. Still, you itch for some kind of closure.

Debut author friends tell me the same thing, we commiserate over drinks. I run into a friend who is a literary agent with two big-name bestselling authors in his stable; he, too, commiserates but does not offer to approach the star authors . My editor tells me getting blurbs is a lot like getting dates: you’re in a drought for months and then all of a sudden, there are men everywhere. I want to believe her, but I  never had the experience of being flooded with men when I was single.

When you’ve been trying to breaking into publishing for a long time, when you finally sell a book you’re tempted to think that the hard part is over. The reality is like everything else in life: it’s a wonderful thing, yes, but just part of the experience, the way the wedding is part of a marriage. There are big milestones and minor skirmishes, setbacks and catastrophes, triumphs and episodes of quiet personal happiness. And unending weeks of wonder and worry. I remind myself it’s not bad, it is what it is. All part of the experience.


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