Tuesday, February 22, 2022

What Do You Think?


Terry here. 

This week we’re talking about providing advance blurbs and reviews. As authors we often get to read books ahead of publication because we’re asked to provide comments for other authors to use as blurbs, or as early reviews. 

I always feel that it’s an honor to be asked to read a manuscript in preparation for its publication. It means the author or editor trusts me to give an honest appraisal of the work. It also means the author or editor thinks that my opinion matters to other readers. So to that extent I do approach it differently, because reading a book that’s already published leaves my opinion out of the equation. I might give a review of a published book or tout it on social media if I find I really like it, but the author doesn’t expect or depend on my opinion. 

 Reading a pre-published book is usually time sensitive. The publisher wants endorsements, but often you’re given little time to read and comment. 
So, I usually get right to it and try to read it quickly. With a published book, I can take my sweet time. 

 If the author is a friend, even a casual friend, I will probably read the book with a more positive attitude going into it. That doesn’t mean I’ll say I like it if I don’t; it just means that I’m pre-disposed to like it. 

Early on in my career, I was so flattered to be asked to read for a blurb for early review that I didn’t pay enough attention to the type of book I was being asked to read. Once or twice I found myself reading with little enthusiasm,

yet feeling that I had to follow through since I had said I would. 

 And a couple of times I had to reluctantly tell the author that I couldn’t give a blurb. WHAT? Yes, it was very hard. The first time it happened, I had happily said yes and the more I read of the book, the more reluctant I was to praise it. I asked the advice of a more seasoned writer. He said I absolutely should not put my name on a book I didn’t fully endorse. He said I should tell the author, “You want someone to blurb this book who is very enthusiastic, and I just don’t have that level of enthusiasm.” Happily, the author in question took it with aplomb. And also happily, the book was a great success with a lot of buzz. 

 That taught me a good lesson. Just because I don’t have enthusiasm for a book doesn’t mean others won’t—my word is not the “great blessing,” it’s merely one opinion. That freed me up for having less ego involvement. It also taught me another lesson. Now, when I’m asked to blurb a book whose author I’m unfamiliar with, I always reply that I’m busy, but I’ll try to get to it, and will let them know soon if I can’t. Then I immediately start reading to find out if the writing/subject/characters engage me enough to continue. It’s rare that I have to say no. I don’t have to think a book is the best thing ever read in order to give it an endorsement. I simply have to think it’s a good read. 

I hope anyone reading this doesn’t automatically assume it means if I say I don’t have time, that it means I didn’t like their book. Sometimes I really don’t have time! 

And one more lesson. I shouldn’t try to blurb a book that isn’t the type of book I generally read or write. I read widely, but I’m sometimes asked to read a book that puzzles me why my endorsement would matter. I remember one book in particular that was sent to me. I started reading and realized it was a hard-core noir/thriller.

After a couple of chapters I wondered why the author thought my name in a blurb on the cover would entice a reader. If they knew my work, they knew I didn’t write anything like this, and it might confuse a potential reader. But I thought the book was well-written. So I asked an author I knew who wrote that type of book if he would be willing to take a look at it. He said he would. I wrote the author who was asking for a blurb and told him that I thought he would be better served by having the other author endorse it. He was thrilled. Everyone was happy!

BULLETIN: Last time I posted, I alluded to coming news. I’m excited to announce that I just signed a two-book contract for Samuel Craddock # 9 and # 10 with Severn House. Murder at the Jubilee Rally will be out October 3! Think motorcycles!

 Cheers! Terry


Brenda Chapman said...

An illuminating post, Terry. Congratulations on your book deal!

Josh Stallings said...

Great post, I wish publishers and writers would read it. I read infamously slooow, and I’m always up to butt in research nonfiction books, so I rarely agree to do blurbs. The requests that drive me crazy are from writers who clearly haven’t read my work. I don’t expect anyone to have read me, but if your trying to convince me to review your book, it’s really a basic start point, otherwise how would you know if our work and readers are compatible?

So glad Samuel Craddock was picked up, congrats!

Susan C Shea said...

That's the best response to the situation of blurbing I've read. And I'd just add that if the publisher pushes for a blurb from Author A, they'd damn well better use it. I was pressed to ask an award-winning author who I knew was approached for the same thing every day if she'd blurb my book. She gulped but agreed, gave me a lovely quote. Then, my publisher didn't even use it! Shame. I felt so guilty.

Congrats again. We are among an interesting handful of American mid-list writers who've now been picked up by Severn, which is apparently making a real move into the American market. Fingers crossed!

Terry said...

Josh, I was actually talking about you! I don't know if you recall, but someone sent me a book that I thought was a little on the edge for me and I asked if you would read and blurb it. This was a few years ago. You agreed and the author (whom I don't remember) said yes.

And Susan, I agree about the blurb being used! I just heard from one of my favorite authors who said one of her favorite blurbs was from me and she couldn't use it--because it used (ahem) unladylike language. And you thank Tim Hallinan for the brilliant response. Both kind and firm.