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Blurbophobia

November 19, 2013

Tags: blurbs, favors, writing tips

Years ago, I was asked by a friend to come up with a blurb on his soon to be released science fiction novel. I hate doing these things. Throw friendship, honesty, and my own peculiarities concerning what constitutes good storytelling into the mix, and unmindful of my agonies of effort and decision in coming up with said blurb, certain things are guaranteed to happen: (1) I am going to lose a lot of time; (2) I am going to be emotionally torn seven ways from Sunday as integrity and honesty come up against a tale that essentially doesn't fit my pistol; and last, but by no means least, (3) I am going to lose a friend.

"I will say what I think," I warn the seeker of said blurb.

"That's exactly what I want," the author, editor, or publisher will always say. "I want your honest reaction to (Insert Title)."

As a result, the friends I've lost and the editors and publishers that have posted armed guards to keep me and my mail out of their offices until the next Big Bang have become legion.

I've tried begging off, pleading ill health (usually true), the demands of my current opus (always true), but these ploys have the same effect. Depletion of friends, unpleasant responses from editors, emotional wreckage in my office that, frankly, interferes with my own writing.

None of which is to be taken as judgments on a particular author's writing. Stuff that I think is crap (defined as stories that don't appeal to me) get six-figure advances and win awards every year. Not having a Barry B. Longyear blurb on the cover doesn't seem to injure them at all. Of the few positive blurbs I have written on request, I have yet to have anyone say to me, "Well, your blurb on Alien Hookers Gone Wild certainly made up my mind. I just had to read that book."

One fellow who asked for a blurb had a somewhat snide response to what I wrote. Because I limited myself to only the positive things I could say about the book, the blurb came across as rather tepid. The fellow sent me a snail mail letter pissing and moaning about all of the really great things I could have written in my blurb, then, in a sarcastic postscript, he wrote, "Perhaps you can send me some writing tips." He even included a self addressed stamped envelope.

I busted off a few pencil points, put them in the envelope, sealed it, and mailed it back to him. Mission accomplished.
Catching the big ones.


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For writers & readers. For writers, this is stuff I've learned, am in the process of discovering, and stuff that is imparted to me by other writers. For readers, I believe the more one knows about what goes into the writing of a story, and into the life of being a writer, the more one appreciates an author's writings.

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Barry B. Longyear is the first writer to win the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer all in the same year. In addition to his acclaimed Enemy Mine Series, his works include the Circus World and Infinity Hold series, Sea of Glass, other SF & fantasy novels, recovery and writing instruction works, and numerous short stories.