Boy, I go out of town for a day, and come back to find a lively discussion burning up my comments section.Â Thanks, all, for providing me with the topic for this entry.Â First, I want to clear up some confusion about what we’re talking about.Â Â Today’s post is NOT aboutÂ authors reading unsold manuscripts (that’s a whole different subject, for a different blogpost.)Â Today’s post is aboutÂ “blurbing” manuscripts that have already beenÂ sold to a publisher, and are awaitingÂ release.Â Â A comment was made that too many established authors selfishly refuse to help newbies and won’t blurb manuscripts.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Pick up a copy ofÂ any debut author’s novel, and the chances are, you’ll find blurbs written by another author.Â Right now, on the stands, there’s a book called HEARTSICK by Chelsea Cain, with a blurb by me on it.Â Months ago, when I received the galley for that book, I didn’t know a thing about the author.Â I’d never met her.Â But I gave her a blurb.Â Â Â I didn’t get anything in return for it; I did it because I wanted to help out.Â In years past, I’ve given blurbs to authors who were early in their careers and relative unknowns at the time: Kathy Reichs, Karin Slaughter, M.J. Rose, and Lisa Gardner.Â They’ve since gone on to stardom.Â
Last month,Â my husband and I took a four-day vacationÂ to celebrateÂ our 30th wedding anniversary.Â We had a nice hotel on the beach.Â It was supposed to be a romantic getaway with great meals and champagne and sightseeing.Â What did I end up doing?Â I read three galleys, written by people I’d never met.Â I ended up blurbing two of them.
What was my rewardÂ for that?Â Nothing, exceptÂ some niceÂ thank-you emails in return.Â And a good feeling that I’d helped some authors out.
IÂ receive, or am offered, about a galley a week.Â That’s roughly 50 galleys a year.Â I’m not a speed reader, so it takes meÂ five hours, I’d say, to read a galley in its entirety.Â If I were to read every single galley that’s given to me, that would be 250 hours a year of galley reading.Â That’sÂ SIXÂ full work weeks!Â Six weeks when I could be working on my own manuscript, or taking a walk, or for heaven’s sake, going on my 30th wedding anniversary and focusing entirely on my poor husband. There is no way I can keep up with that, nor should I be expected to.Â I do as much as I think I’m able to, and believe me, there’s no payback in it for me except that nice feeling of helping someone out.Â So why do I do it?
Because I’m trying to pay it forward.
Back when my first thriller was published, I received blurbs from some well-established names.Â James Patterson, John Nance, Michael Palmer, Tami Hoag, and Philip Margolin all gave me blurbs.Â For later books, I received blurbs from Iris Johnasen andÂ Stephen King, For my UK editions, the wonderful Harlan Coben gave me a blurb.Â They didn’t have to do it.Â They got nothing out of it, except thank-you notes from me.Â (And I’m not even sure the notes all got to them.)Â But they did it because they were generous people, and I’m forever grateful to them.
Nowadays, I don’t receive blurbs for my own books.Â You’ll notice that most established authors have no blurbs at allÂ on their books, because they don’t need them.Â So no, it’s not established authors giving each other blurbs.Â It’s established authors giving blurbs to newbie authors.Â The benefit is all one-way.Â And sometimes, you get bitten for it.Â Once I gave a blurb to a relative unknown.Â And a few years later, that author wrote a lousy review of one of my books for a newspaper.Â
There ARE downsides to blurbing books, beyond the time taken away from our own writing and our own families.Â If you blurb too many books, you get ridiculed for being a blurb-slut.Â I remember seeing a newspaper columnist accuse blurb-happy authors of doing it to see their names in print.Â If you blurb a lousy book, and a reader buys that book because of your blurb, you’ll hear back from that reader, who’ll blame you for making her waste twenty five bucks.Â On an earlier blogpost, I mentioned an unhappy reader who hated my romance novel, and wrote an angry letter to someone who’d once blurbed me — a letter that generous author certainly didn’t need.
I can’t blurb every book I get.Â And I feel I have a responsibility to my readers to NOT give a blurb for a book I don’t like.Â Newbie authors think established authors owe them a blurb.Â Sorry, folks, but NOBODY owes you five hours and fake enthusiasm.Â Most of the time when I don’t give a blurb, it’s because I just didn’t have the time to read the book.Â I have the best of intentions, and will sometimes invite people to send a galley, but then it gets lost in the towering stack by my bed.Â It doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book.Â It just means I couldn’t get to it.
Sometimes, though, I do read a galley and I’m sorely disappointed by it.Â Should I give a blurb anyway?Â If I don’t, am I aÂ selfish bitch?Â Well, thinkÂ ofÂ an analogy in the business world.Â You’re an employer, asked to write a recommendation letterÂ for an employee you fired for incompetence.Â If you write that letter, you’ve put your reputation on the line.Â Everyone who’s later disappointed in that employee is going to think you’re an idiot or a liar.Â You try to do a favor to the employee, but instead, you end up having your judgment or your integrity questioned.
We all want to be liked.Â Most writers are generous people, who try to do favors and expect nothing in return.Â It’s not a heartless system.Â It’s just that we have too fewÂ free hours and we get too many books sent to us.Â I’ve left so many galleys unread, and have a stack so big, that now I’ve been forced to get very picky about which ones I’llÂ invite.Â Because to take delivery of a galley, and then not blurb it, for whatever reason, leads to yet more negative feelings directed at me.
And all because I tried to be nice.