The Problem With Blurbs (Or How I Got My Reading Groove Back)

This will be a disappointing post for some, and an apology, too.

I get a lot of requests for blurbs.

They roll in, at least one a week. And I am genuinely honored each time that anyone would ever consider having my dumb name devaluing their book from the inside or on its exterior. Bonus: I like helping writers, from eager novitiate to well-practiced word-herder. And I’ve been there. I’ve been the guy with a book in his hand, just asking another author, DO YOU LIKE-LIKE ME Y/N COOL LET’S GO TO THE PROM TOGETHER I mean ha ha will you blurb my book?

Blurbs are currency — I don’t mean currency in the way that cigarettes and toilet wine are in prison, we don’t trade them. I mean they’re currency for readers. Some readers admittedly probably don’t give a lick of spit who said what about what book, but for others, they see a blurb on a cover and think: “Well, if MY FAVORITE AUTHOR likes this book, then I too might like this book.” Of course, therein leads to a slightly new problem, whereupon an author of one type of book blurbs a book in a genre that author doesn’t write, and people then make assumptions based on the blurbed book (or the blurbing author). “Ah, a horror novelist blurbed this fantasy book, so it must be a horror-fantasy novel,” and then that’s not true, and a reader feels cheated.

Anyway, that’s really not the point.

Point is, I get a lot of these requests.

And I’m going to have to start turning them down.

It’s due to a confluence of reasons. First, I am not a zippy reader. Worse, I do not have a great deal of time for reading — I can carve out a little time in the BATTLESHED, and I snatch time at night before bed, but all in all, life with mounting deadlines and a five-year-old I want to spend time with means my reading time is precious. When I’m trying to read roughly a book a week for blurbing purposes, that’s literally all I’m reading (except for research books, when necessary). And it’s not that I’m reading bad books. Hardly! I’m reading great stuff. New stuff. Stuff I wouldn’t have necessarily gone out to buy on my own. And even still, I was having to turn stuff down just by dint of having too many other books to read-for-blurbs. Worse, though, is that I have a now-teetering TBR (to-be-read) pile that includes a whole lot of books I’d very much like to read for pleasure, but can’t get to because I’m trying to read books for blurbing. Which means I’m reading the books-for-blurbing fast, too fast, and they’re becoming more a point of contention and disappointment because I feel obligated to read those rather than read things I want to read. It ends up making them a chore, rather than a noble delight.

So.

Over the last couple weeks, I set aside books-for-blurbing and started to dig into that pile. I read a couple McCammon books that had been sitting on the back-burner. I started the new Kevin Hearne ARC (Plague of Giants) and the second Broken Earth book by Nora Jemisin. And suddenly, I’m in love with reading again. I feel lighter, more buoyant. I don’t feel like reading is an obligation or a stressor, but rather, a pleasure.

And I really needed that.

So, for the short term, my BLURB DOOR is closed. You can always ask, of course, but generally, the answer shall be no, sorry — and most blurb requests should be sent through my agent, Stacia Decker, anyway. Further, it means if you’re waiting for a blurb from me — *winces* — nnnyeah, you probably won’t get one at this point. The desire is high but the reality is, you probably don’t want me feeling that your book is a chore — even if it’s a beautiful, staggering, sublime read, I’ll still feel right now like it’s homework I’m turning in late.

I AM SORRY

*throws self on the altar*

*reads a couple books while up there*

15 comments

  • I have always wondered how, when writers hit their groove, they have time to go to conferences, read for and write blurbs, promote their own work, write on social media, actually DO work and then have any time at all for a life outside of writing. Short answer: they can’t. And that’s a healthy expectation to set.

  • Kudos for doing what you need to do even though it may disappoint a few people. It’s like you’ve said in previous blog posts, you gotta take care of YOU, because it’s so easy for a writer to sit alone, stewing in their creative juices, slowly withering away into a tired old husk of bitter exhaustion.

    I do the same, now, with the Friday Flash Fic challenges. If I know that I’m not gonna have time to sit here and read the wonderful stories others have submitted, I don’t submit one of my own (because I feel super bad for not reviewing the hard work of others after they’ve reviewed mine). But despite my best attempts at time management, and figuring out just how much time between full-time job/hobbies/gaming/domestic chores/writing I actually have left over for reading other stories/blogs/tweets/whatever, there are still times when my muse forces me at gunpoint to my computer and threatens to pull the trigger if I don’t spend every waking moment writing some fantastic new chapter she’s just planned out. I’m sure the road to Hell is paved with writers telling themselves, “I’ll look at this later!” and I’m definitely a prime contributor to Hell Highway.

  • There should be a rule that the closest witness to the process of writing gets to do the blurb. They may have some genuine insight and if not, a small gift from the universe may be overdue.

  • When I sent the last blurb I wrote over to the authors & their rep, I got a response akin to, “You actually *read* the entire thing?”

    Um, yeah.

    If my name is going on your pub, yes, you’d better believe I’m reading it.

    But I think I’ve done my last blurb for a while. Finally got a library book out last week to read for pleasure, and having a hard time making time for that.

    • If my name is going on your pub, yes, you’d better believe I’m reading it.

      So you (and Chuck, since he’s the popular author) don’t just do the Castle thing (I really wish I could find the Youtube of the scene) where you hold a book up to your head, find a compliment and then toss the book aside while doing your own writing instead? 😮

  • I sent a request for a blurb to an author I have respected and admired for some time. I he *responded* ! Within, like HOURS. I was GIDDY. He said no, (same reason as Chuck). I didn’t even care, I was so thrilled he’d bothered to respond.

  • I hear you. I’m in the middle of judging a contest, I love to judge. That said, I’m writing, editing, working a dayjob, overtime, gaming, driving to and from work, eating… you know, if I had to void, don’t know where I’d find the time. ;}

  • I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’m in the part of my career where I get lots of requests to read for reviews and review trades, not blurbs, and it’s always dark fiction. While I LOVE dark fiction, sometimes I need a break before I start believing the world is a bleak and dire place (which it often is, but I need to focus on the silver linings for my own mental health). If I know I have books that I’ve agreed to read for review, those hang over my head until they’re finished. I feel incredibly guilty the more time that passes, so I can only guess how much pressure you’ve felt.

    It’s extremely difficult and embarrassing to ask a writer you’re friendly with for a blurb (OMG, WHAT IF THEY THINK THAT’S THE ONLY REASON WE’RE FRIENDS? THAT THIS WAS MY MASTER PLAN ALLL ALONG?), as you’ve mentioned, but you are an incredibly gracious, generous person who’s always giving other writers a spotlight or a hand out of the slush pile. You give back in so many ways. I can’t see anyone not understanding your position on this, and those who don’t are douche canoes.

    Thank you, Chuck, for everything.

  • April 12, 2017 at 2:08 PM // Reply

    Makes sense to me. I go through bursts of reading for review (by request; I review most of what I read, including what I pick out for myself), and then have to back off, because they all start to feel a little burdensome. When that happens, my reviews get more negative, so…yeah, not good. I do like finding new writers that way, but sometimes…I just want to read to turn off my damn brain.

  • If I were in your position I would have a hard time with this. I go to books, they do not come to me and in your case you’ve got them knocking on your door. That would be a tough one to deal with.

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