Saturday, May 03, 2008

To Blurb, or not to Blurb? - A Writer's Dilemma

In the last couple months, I've gotten ever so slightly famous enough that I'm starting to be approached by fellow writers asking for blurbs for their books. I have accomodated several. With several others, I have read through the manuscript and then declined to blurb it. I'm now wondering how delicately this should be handled. I mean, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and inevitably someone, somewhere down the road is going to be someone whose help I might need (i.e. writers often turn out to be editors and reviewers as well), so I don't want any hard feelings. But I do foresee two possible problems with praising everything:

I get called into the Dean's office. "I have in my hands a copy of Pedophile Cannibals in the Chipotle Jungle of Doom, Dr Paffenroth, in which a busload of children and nuns are raped and killed by rabid lamas before being pushed over a cliff into an active volcano. Can you explain why you are quoted on the back cover as saying, 'Best thing EVAH! I laughed my ass off!!'"? (There is a "moral turpitude" clause somewhere in my contract, I believe, not that I usually give it much thought.)

More generally, I want my name to be trusted. Not like George Washington or Honest Abe level of trust, but I don't want to endorse things I don't believe in, things that I wouldn't want to spend my own money on, partly because I'd fear a backlash and a reader not feeling like buying my books, if he feels I've misled him with a blurb.

Is all this too idealistic? Am I being a dick to fellow, struggling authors?


Blogger Ed Turner said...

Stick with the idealism. Your name gets connected to every book it touches; I know I've bought things solely from an author's recommendation. If they were terrible, I'd totally lose trust in that author. Luckily, I've not been let down yet.

Besides, I'd rather have a good critique than a meaningless blurb. As long as your turn-downs are constructive, I'd imagine only the most sensitive or self-absorbed authors would take real offense.

7:33 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Well said, Ed. Of course, just because I don't like something doesn't mean it's terrible, but it does mean I can't say honestly that I thought it was good, so I guess I have to go with that.

7:44 AM  
Blogger Gary D Macabre said...

Kim, feel free to use this line as often as you wish, "gee I'm so sorry, but I'm terribly busy right now and really don't have the time to read it through at the moment. When I get a chance I'll get back to you..." and wait for them to publish without your comment. A bold face lie? Perhaps but I'd rather live with that than have my name permanently attributed to praising Pedophilia obsessed Llamas.

11:35 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Yeah, I'd go with that, unless I'd said I'd read it, they sent it, and I actually did read it. Then I feel like I have to fess up to the situation.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Curt Purcell said...

Kim, I think this sort of thing is best handled on the front end. The last time I was contacted about a possible blurb/review, I responded (in part), "Please do send me that advance review copy, and I'll give it a read. . . . Of course I can't promise a good review, but it's not my policy to stomp on budding authors, so if I don't like it, I'd probably just pass on posting a review." This was well received and agreed to, and though fortunately I actually liked what I was sent, I felt like I was in a position to politely decline a blurb/review without owing anyone an explanation.

10:05 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

I like that, Curt - just raise the possibility of a non-blurb right up front. Good call.

10:18 PM  
Blogger A.P. Fuchs said...

Just be honest just like the disclaimer Curt mentioned.

All authors I approach for a blurb I give a similar statement, that is, if you don't like it, no worries and no hard feelings, just let me know either way so I'm not left wondering.

People like some books, dislike others. Another person comes along and likes what the other person didn't and vice versa. That's the biz (and the readership).

11:01 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

Thanks, AP. You're right that it's all subjective, so I'm not rendering some irreversible decision. I just want to be fair to everyone, and I know a lot of people went out of their way with blurbs for me, too.

11:13 PM  

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