Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Blurb Disk Horse

Alert, alert. It has now been *flips number to ZERO* days since fresh discourse. In this case, blurb discourse — I’m guessing based on this (IMO) rock solid Esquire article by Sophie Vershbow that talks about the blurb system in traditional publishing being irrevocably broken.

First, I’ll note here that I did a whole blurb post slash FAQ two-ish years ago, and you can find that post right here. You may find it useful or interesting. Or not. I don’t know. Click the tantalizing link to discover your emotional reaction to it! Perhaps you will be fizzy with rage. Who can say!

Second, I’ll note that I don’t agree necessarily that this system is “broken” in part because it’s not really a system so much as it is an agreed-upon norm and practice that has, like many such traditions, wormed its way into book publishing not unlike a set of pushy, urgent roots. On the other hand, everything in publishing is kind of… mmm, if not broken, then chaotically janky. Publishing is a set of highly-complex but poorly-connected flywheels and dongles, and I think the poor connections between these aspects has only grown softer and jankier since the pandemic.

Here I figure I’ll talk a little about my feelings regarding blurbs, since the link above is more or less an overview, and also because the Esquire piece lays emphasis on how much authors hate them and how they are, quote-unquote, a plague on the whole enchilada.

My feelings on blurbs are like a freshly separated couple on Facebook:

It’s complicated.

First, I am honored to receive every blurb I get for one of my books. Some author with probably too little time on their hands took a hefty chunk of that too little time to read my book and then figure out something nice — arguably very nice — to say about that book. They were under no obligation to do so (and it is not, or at least should never be, an obligation), and I am infinitely thankful that they did so.

Second, I am honored to get asked to blurb a book. Someone for whatever reason thought my name and praise on their book would help it instead of, I dunno, marking it like a cursed sigil, and so it is genuinely a kind thing to be asked. Bonus: free book! Free early book! That no one has read yet! I fucking love free early books that (er, mostly) no one has read yet!

Third, I hate when an author has to ask me for a blurb directly. Not because I dislike them or their ask, but because I know that is very hard for them to ask, and then it makes it different for me to engage with the request, and worst of all, it makes me suspect that they do not have an agent or editor looking out for them. Because in a perfect world, that’s where the currency of blurbs should be earned and spent: within publishing. Someone representing the first author should be asking someone who represents the second author about a blurb. These official layers ideally pad everyone from the emotional entanglement of ripping out your heart and showing it to a fellow wordperson and saying “hey could you take a look at my heart and carve your praise into its meat, or you could instead just kick it under the bed where the cat throws up sometimes.” This is where the system is, or can be broken: when publishing is not handling the good work of making a book marketable at various levels. The publishing system all too often leaves authors swinging in the wind, and it can be real cold out there. (I note my fortune here that my editor handles these requests for my books deftly, and I appreciate it oh so very much because we put together a theoretical list of blurbers, it goes out, and I only get to see the good results.)

Fourth, I think blurbs represent a way to leave a light on and a ladder out for other authors. It’s hard for many of us, harder for many more beyond us, and successful writers have certainly been the recipients of kind words and praise from others in the past. Thus we pass it down. Not in a one-for-one currency (I blurb you, you blurb me) but in a larger, more general sense.

Fifth, and because of the last point, I can also feel that blurbs represent an occasional source of guilty obligation around the practice. I want to do my best. Books — writing them, selling them, hell even just getting them seen by readers — is fucking hard, and those last parts are getting harder. So, I always feel shitty not being able to blurb a book — or not being able to even read the book in order to get a blurb. So, I try my best, but I’m a slow reader, and I don’t like to read on screens now. Further, I have a TBR pile of already-published books that’s Babel-high, but I tend not to read from that pile if I have a “books to blurb” pile, but I aaaaalways have a books to blurb pile, and so blurbing has at its core a sort of ill vibe, a bad and unintentional feeling. It’s a me problem, not a problem for anyone asking. And I could get ahead of it by just turning on the NO VACANCY sign, but that makes me feel bad, and honestly, the blurb requests come in anyway.

But here is one place where the so-called system really does fail: authors are often given very little time to read and blurb a book. I’ve had blurb requests that require as little as two weeks to read a book and return a blurb. Maybe they expect me to do that in that time, or maybe they’re just hoping I’ll cobble together some very generic “wow book good go author many words make happy” marketingspeak. But that is not enough time. Six months. That’s enough time. Probably too long by some timelines, but you really need a lot of time to get this right.

So, should we eliminate blurbs? Ennh. I guess not, but it’s probably best we also don’t take them too too seriously, at the same time. Why? Listen–

Blurbs themselves are not going to be make-it-break-it for an author or a book, but they represent one of many theoretical points-of-contact for new and even existing readers, and the more of these points-of-contact that exist for a book, the better a shot that book gets. Right? Like, every blurb, every review, every BookTok video, every time someone has cause to buy the book for their bookstore or buy the book from a bookstore, that’s giving the author one more pinball for the table to try and hit a high score. Remove that and I don’t know that you address the blurb problem so much as you simply eliminate a point of access to give that book another chance at success. And success is hard. The Esquire article estimates that there are, what, at minimum half-a-million books traditionally published every year? This doesn’t include self-published books, either.

At their peak in 2018, I think the most movies released theatrically was under a thousand — so publishing is a crowded, crowded, crowded field. (I’m not advocating for fewer books to be published, because I know how that goes and who will get cut from that list.)

So with such a massive number of books coming out, finding as many hooks are possible for those books is key.


Blurb thoughts, complete.

Discourse beast, fed.

Now is the time I ask you to look away.

Look away, I say!

For now I will peacock my utter shamelessness to note that my upcoming book, Black River Orchard, has a phenomenal spread of blurbs from some truly spectacular voices, and I’m going to be additionally shameless and post those blurbs now, because I am a monster, but also because I die in the abyss if I can’t get people to read my books. Clap your hands if you believe in fairies, and pre-order books if you believe in authors.

The blurbs for Black River Orchard:

“Chuck Wendig is one of my very favorite storytellers. Black River Orchard is a deep, dark, luscious tale that creeps up on you and doesn’t let go.”—Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

“An epic saga that is at once a propulsive horror novel and a parable, a thriller and a cautionary tale, Black River Orchard is the immensely talented Chuck Wendig at his finest.”—Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six

“A gripping story of love and legacies gone rotten, deeply rooted in the landscape and as twisty and gnarled as an ancient apple tree.”—T. Kingfisher, USA Today bestselling author of What Moves the Dead

“This will undoubtedly be heralded as one of the finest horror novels of the twenty-first century.”—Eric LaRocca, author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke

“Enchanting, exquisite and dark, Chuck Wendig masterfully weaves a new horrifying fairy tale in Black River Orchard.”—Cynthia Pelayo, Bram Stoker Award winner of Crime Scene

“Creepy and insidious, Black River Orchard whets your appetite and then turns you inside out.”—Hailey Piper, Bram Stoker Award–winning author of Queen of Teeth

Black River Orchard should come with a warning label: You’ll never bite into another apple without remembering this dark, demented, and genuinely frightening novel.”—Jason Rekulak, author of Hidden Pictures

“Dark. Visceral. Creepy. Smart. Deep. So red it’s dark brown. Chuck Wendig’s Black River Orchard slithers and shines, its dangerous belly full of dark magic and accusations. I’ve been a fan of Wendig for years, and this is his best novel yet.”—Gabino Iglesias, Stoker Award-winning author of The Devil Takes You Home

“An essential for horror readers, and buy it for new horror readers—it will convert them instantly.”—V. Castro, author of The Haunting of Alejandra

“Plucks your heartstrings and preys on your fears at the same time . . . High-stakes horror meets peak emotional investment means Total. Reader. Devastation.”—Sadie Hartmann, author of 101 Horror Books to Read Before You’re Murdered

“A fresh and unexpected horror feat, expertly drawing from the ancient, endless wells of our greatest fears.”—Premee Mohamed, Nebula Award–winning author of Beneath the Rising

Also I’m going on tour, and you can preorder the book from any of those bookstores to get a signed, personalized copy. Or nab from my local, Doylestown Bookshop.