Monday, May 22, 2017

Blurb, Blurb, Blurb...

Congratulations! Someone asked you to write a blurb for their novel.

After reading the book, it doesn't feel like an honor anymore, it feels like a trap.

Because you don't like the book.

You don't want to insult the author/friend with an honest "I didn't like it" tag, nor do you want to lie "I loved it!"

Sticky situation, yes, but it doesn't have to be, you're getting yourself worked up for nothing. You don't have to say you loved it, or even liked it. You are not required to mention the love triangle would bore your 90-year-old Puritan grandmother, or the over-description slowed the pace so much a snail was Indy 500 worthy in comparison. Nowhere are there rules for writing blurbs- except one: it has to come from the heart. Seems like a conundrum?



Consider this: "Fashion, witty prose, intrigue, and action- Blonde OPS has it all!" Author/publisher/ friend Shannon Delany wrote this blurb. Does it tell you if she absolutely adored it? No. Couldn't put it down? Nope. Had to create a fan club or she'd die? No way. What Delany does is tell you what the novel has: fashion, witty prose, intrigue, and action (all true). Those key words alone should help the reader decide if they want to read it. Using my own books as illustration (lest there be any misunderstanding about how wonderful everyone else's book is), here is the review for Sirenz Back in Fashion from Booklist: "The experiences of this sartorial odd couple are funny and entertaining... Bennardo and Zaman are bringing the gods into the twenty-first century." What a great review, right?


Well, kind of. Booklist was middle of the road; it liked some aspects, didn't like others. Those ellipses means there are other words in between the quotes. When using a not-starred review, authors, publishers, agents, and publicists put a positive spin on it by kind of hopping over the not-so-nice parts.

That's how you have to think- compartmentalize. List what you liked about the story; it could be that it's sci fi, that it has a dragon, that there is a tender romance. A few choice words are all that is needed. If I was asked to blurb Game of Thrones, which after three years I still haven't finished the first book because it's so dense, here's what I would say: "Rich and vivid description, deadly royal intrigue, and a diverse cast of villainy, Game of Thrones will keep you wondering who's next to die..." All that is true. And really, I constantly wondered who was the next corpse. Nowhere do I say I love it, or that you should spend your money on the books. Readers have to decide that for themselves. Perusing a few pages will tell them if it's something they would like.

So don't fret if someone asks you to do a blurb. You won't commit a mortal sin by helping an author out with a few words, even if you don't like the story. Blurbs are important because it may draw a potential reader in when they glance at the back cover. With so many books out there, decisions have to be made where to spend limited money. Books without a blurb may leave the impression that they aren't 'good' because no one will endorse them. Celebrities and well-known authors have no trouble getting blurbs. For a mid-list or debut author without connections, it's a struggle. I have seven books (soon eight) with my name on them and getting blurbs from the writing community is a nightmare (and I don't know any celebs) because they are afraid to commit.

Blurbs are an important starting point to book success. If you can help bring a reader to a book, it's the author's job to keep them in. Please say yes and gift the author with a few well-chosen words.

Char


Monday, May 8, 2017

Toughen Up, Cupcake!

Being an author is not for the weak, easily offended, or aggressive person. One critique can send you home in a fit of anger--or tears.



And then there are the agent and editor rejections. Nothing will prepare you for this, it's worse than being last one standing on the gym field and the two teams fighting over who has to choose you.

As I go through the latest rounds of submitting queries, hoping to hear, and reading the 'no's', it's time to bite my tongue (oh, sometimes it's so hard...).I thought I'd share a few of those memorable rejections so you know that you're not the only one who scratches your head at a response and thinks, what the hell?

The "Worst Rejection EVER":

On a scrap of paper (it was 2 inches wide. This cheap publishing house got 5 rejection slips on one sheet of standard paper), it read that not only did they not like the submission, but to "never submit anything to us again." Wow. That editor was definitely not a people person. But, they needn't worry; any editor who could send such a nasty rejection is not someone my Sirenz co-author and I would want to work with anyway.

The "Funny in an ironic way" rejection:

We submitted queries for Sirenz to many editors and agents. I ran into one such editor at Book Expo America, and said hello. She expressed interest in Sirenz. It was hard to keep a straight face when I told her she'd had it for two years- and that my co-author and I were at BEA to do a signing for it.

Runner up: a letter of rejection by another editor over two years later. Guess he was cleaning out his in-box and we were on the bottom.

Most rejections are form letters which is fine-as long as it isn't years later. Really, if an agent/editor was queried over six months ago, and I've followed up to ask if they were still interested and they didn't respond, I've written them off- and sent out queries to others.

The "Are you kidding me?" response:

You have to wonder about people in any business who take the time to write and send an insulting letter. A well known editor from a top publishing house wrote that besides not liking my story, she didn't like my writing. She wasted time better spent going through the slush pile looking for a possible bestseller just to write me a nasty letter. Based on that, I know I would not have liked working with her, so it was a win both ways. I still run into her at conferences. I'm cordial, but would never send anything to her again.

Believe it or not, it's nice to receive a personally written rejection. It's rare and special because not only does it mean the person queried took the time to read my manuscript, but to respond with thoughtful insight. Some offered general advice (join the SCBWI) and some suggestions pertinent to improving my story. To me, even though they are not accepting my manuscript, they are encouraging me. For the rare few who take the time to offer advice or suggestions, I thank you.

Most however, don't respond unless they're interested. To keep yourself from hanging around, waiting, waiting, waiting as precious time slips away (you should be working on something anyway), send out more queries. Gone are the days of 'exclusive submission.' Agents and editors can't expect a submitting author to wait for a single response-when it may never come. I can't count how many submissions never got a response. Asking me to send one query out at a time is unrealistic, and, I think, selfish.

The "Oh, that hurts"  rejection:

You get a rejection, and from the response you know they didn't read the query/excerpt/manuscript because they mention things that either don't appear in your story, or it's all wrong. Possibly a simple mix-up, but disheartening because the impression you made was so blah they mixed you up with others in the pile.

It's time to put these rejections in the recycle pile. While it was sometimes funny, it was bittersweet to look through them and wonder if I'd be farther down the road in my publishing dreams. I'm a different writer than I was back then, even a few months ago, when this new search began. And that's the nature of being an author. You take the rejections and suggestions, learn from them and move on.

Char