Reminder to Authors: Route Blurb Requests Through Editors/Publicists
Posted on January 8, 2017 Posted by John Scalzi 50 Comments
A reminder: Per my blurb policy, which I’ve had on this site for years, and for which a link is prominently featured on the sidebar that appears on every page of the blog, please do not send requests for book blurbs directly to me. I will reject the request. Have them come through your editors or publicists or agents or publishers instead.
Why? Bluntly, because I am very selective about the books I blurb and most books I’m asked to blurb I don’t. Often that’s because I run out of time in terms of when the blurb needs to be in, but sometimes it’s because I’m not in love with the book. I have to be in love with the book to blurb it. A blurb is explicitly an endorsement; it’s me saying “I love this and you should try it.” My name is attached to the book, and that matters to me.
(If I don’t blurb a book, it doesn’t mean the book isn’t good, I should note; just that I didn’t love it. I can think of a couple of books I was asked to blurb that I chose not to that went on to be bestsellers and/or award winners and/or critical favorites; conversely I remember a couple I did blurb which then sank beneath the waves and were never heard from again. My taste is my own and my endorsement does not guarantee sales. Fair warning.)
It’s really awkward to have an author — a peer — directly ask you to blurb their book and then have to come back to them after reading and say “I can’t”; it’s a little like someone asking you if you think their kid is smart, when you saw the kid shoving crayons up their nostrils five minutes beforehand and saying the cat is made of ham. There’s not a good way out of it — or at least there’s not a good way out of it for me.
Which is why I’ve made it a requirement for all blurb requests to come through editors/publicists/agents/publishers — that way, at least, there’s an intermediary, and it’s an intermediary who won’t take it personally if I have to pass on the book, for whatever reason (time, too many books of the same sort coming to me, less than complete love for the book, etc), and who can help manage the expectations of an author in terms of blurbs in general.
“But I would never hold it against you if you didn’t like the book!” I hear you, a completely rational, grown-up and understanding author, say. And I want to believe you! Alas, experience tells me that some authors who believe they would totally be okay with me not endorsing their book get a little salty when I say “I can’t.” Which totally makes sense! These books are our brain babies. We want people to like them. It’s one thing to say we’d be fine with someone turning down our book for an endorsement. It’s another when it happens. Some authors can handle it just fine; some can’t. How can you tell which is which? Well, you can’t, until it happens. To be fair, often they don’t know, until it happens. Which is why I route blurb requests through others.
“But we’re friends!” Dude, I need this policy especially for friends.
(For those of you wondering: I myself do not ask people for book blurbs, nor have I ever. My editor or publicist handles that end of things. Honestly, I don’t even know if my books go out for blurbs, or to whom, unless and until I see the book has blurbs somewhere on the cover. When they do, it’s a pleasant surprise. I don’t ever know who said “no” to blurbing it; I don’t ask, and no one ever tells me.)
I should note that there are some authors who have asked for blurbs who I have pointed in the direction of my blurb policy explaining why I pre-emptively turn down direct author blurb requests, who have then gotten pissy and annoyed with it, and with me. That I can handle, one, because the policy isn’t about the specific book or author, it applies to everyone; and two, because, again, the policy has been up and easily findable for literally years on my site, and I make occasional reminders (like this one!) that it exists. It’s not entirely unreasonable to have the expectation that people know about the blurb policy — or at least, understand why I have it and apply it. If they’re still unhappy about it, that’s fine.
So, again, authors: If you want me to consider your book for a blurb, don’t ask me directly. Tell your editor/publicist/agent/publisher that I’m one of the people you want them to consider asking for a blurb. And then let them handle it from there. Thanks.
Also, for those curious, at the moment there are two upcoming books I’ll have blurbs on: Kameron Hurley’s The Stars are Legion, and Fata Morgana by Steven Boyett and Ken Mitchroney.
Also also, this blurb policy is why I get annoyed when publicist/publishers take something out of my Big Idea intros and pass them off as blurbs, especially without first asking. Those intros are generally not reviews and oftentimes I haven’t even read the book currently up for the Big Idea. Publicists, etc., should check with me before using them.
Also also also: What does this mean for self-pub folk? It means that if you’re the author, you should not contact me directly for a blurb. If you have a publicist (and some self-pub folk do) then route it through them.
Sorry, I sent you a book for a blurb before I read the policy, no biggie. I figure it’d be donated if it didn’t catch your eye…
“I’m a well wisher, in that I don’t wish [author] any specific harm.” –John Scalzi
In fact there is a blurb for a Sam Sykes book that reads “I do not wish Sam Sykes dead.” It was to a book a enjoyed, so that was all right.
“John Scalzi consistently rewrites the universe of blurb policies! Riveting, surprising, and meaningful. He is our new Heinlein of blurbiness! Anyone who isn’t reading Scalzi’s blurbaliciousness is missing out! Read this blurb now!” — Vonne Anton.
Wait… Cats AREN’T made of ham? Why hasn’t anyone told me this until now?!
Shouldn’t it be ‘I won’t’ rather than ‘I can’t’? After all, you *could*…
Not a writter, so cat ham is all I took away from this.
I got stuck on cat ham too. And the delicious irony that it was this very site which made bacon and cat’s “a thing.”
[ducks and runs away] :)
LOOK PEOPLE CATS ARE NOT MADE OF HAM
I’m sorry I have to be the one to break it to you but there it is.
“LOOK PEOPLE CATS ARE NOT MADE OF HAM”
I’d love to see that as a blurb.
Anyone who had ever cooked and eaten a cat would know they are not made of ham.
So, are you going to blurb me or not dude? (I will explicitly mark this JOKE, so there is no confusion)
That kid is going to go on to pen the best-selling Are Cats Made of Ham?children’s book series. And I hope he contacts your agent for a blurb.
But what is your policy for imagniary blurbs (for imaginary books)?
I get why people are now fascinated with the concepts of cats being made of ham, but the line that sticks with me is this:
“These books are our brain babies.”
That’s the most apt way of describing this whole writing thing that I’ve heard in a long time. Thanks. ^_^
At the risk of derailing the whole cat ham conversation…
I’m curious, John. Have you ever read an advance copy of something (that you weren’t asked to blurb), and then been like, “I just *have* to blurb this!”?
If they’re not ham (and I’m not necessarily agreeing to that!), what is the best way to cook a cat?
Well, if we are what we eat, and the cat eats ham, then at least some of the cat is made of ham.
This ham is delicious! And can someone help get these crayons out of here?
Cats are NOT made of ham?
OMG! I’m shaking. I can’t even. I gotta get to my safe space. I need a hug!
I felt that way about Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother,” which I thought was a tremendous YA book.
I was very sad that you rejected my request for an endorsement for my adult children’s book “My little Poo and the glass floor of DOOM.”.
@mjfgates well, I would certainly start with blanching…
It’s a sad state of affairs that unfortunately a great many publicists (etc.) simply *won’t do this* anymore. For about five years now I’ve been hearing horror stories from the industry here in Canada (I’m a critic and copyeditor, so this isn’t the part of the industry I work in) about writers who have to request blurbs themselves because literally no one else in the production/marketing chain is willing to do it anymore.
I say “horror stories” because these are generally from folks who are already riddled with a million anxieties about their book and who really don’t want to add yet another avenue for rejection to their list of responsibilities.
According to a friend who was an editor, “You haven’t been in the publishing business very long if you haven’t turned down a best seller.”
Cats aren’t made of ham, don’t be silly. Cats can be made INTO ham though not sure if the yield justifies the effort. Anyone have recipes?
One of these days, my Firefly/The Tomorrow People/Ayn Rand furry slash fanfic will meet your rigorous standards for a blurb! (even if it’s something I can just take grossly out of context…)
Cats can be indistinguishable from ham if properly seasoned and baked at a low temperature.
“people cats” are not made of ham. What about cat cats?
I think you just need one of a suitable size and then ham making can begin.
Its all seasoning and smoking.
I don’t think they’d fit rolling papers for smoking though.
Stuffing one in a pipe might work though.
I’m Jewish, so I guess cat is off the menu. Bummer.
The rules of the game ‘Kittens in a Blender’ end with “Then everybody goes home and apologizes to their cats.” Might apply to this discussion, too. :)
John I’m intrigued. Which books did you love enough to blurb that then sank without a trace? Can you remember one or two titles?
Also if you are what you eat, then cats are proprtionally more tuna than ham.
OMG ! So many people beg for a “blurb” or a “Like” these days !
A true artist just create and do not seek for others approval.
Cats are not made of ham? The next thing you’ll be telling me is that Soylent Green isn’t made of people!
what is the best way to cook a cat?
If truly interested, check out Calvin Schwabe’s 1979 book, “Unmentionable Cuisine.” Schwabe was a world-renowned veterinarian and wrote the book, in large part, because he feared an imminent food shortage and believed Americans needed to overcome their many food prejudices.
Chapter 6 is title “Dog and Cat Meat.” He relates that “native American wild cats, the lynx and cougar, taste very much like the white meat of chicken” and that “domestic cat tastes more like rabbit than chicken and has often been sold as rabbit in Europe.” There are domestic cat recipes from Spain, Ghana, and China.
There was a story about wartime London in which a scientist went to a restaurant after a long day’s work. He ordered veal. When he received his portion, he had one look and it, and wanted to see the cook. When the cook arrived, he announced: “I’m a scientist and have spent all week dissecting cats. Believe me, I know cat meat when I see it. This here is definitely cat.”
Finally! I normally just lurk, and Andrew made the comment I was thinking of making. Could you remember any books you blurbed that sank without a trace?
Of course, I currently have at least ten (twenty?) books waiting for me to read….
What’s a few more?
Watch the Netflix Series entitled “Black Mirror” episode “NoseDive” (Season 3 episode 1)
Cats are not made of ham. They are made of bacon. And they would eat themselves alive if they weren’t covered by fur.
>But what is your policy for imagniary blurbs (for imaginary books)?
I’m guessing that the author can imagine that the blurb is there.
Thank you for semantically saturating the word “blurbs”. Blurbs, blurbs, blurbs.
That is a particularly fine picture of a kitten looking reproachful, which chimes perfectly with the sadness of those whose Scalzi blurbs are not to be. Obviously the kittens have a brilliant publicist, though the other kitten is probably demanding to know why sister got the gig…
So where do I send requests to book my blurbs? I have this blurb, and would really like a book to attach it to:
Note to self: Find crayons for author photo. Crayola brand? Or would that be too ‘establishment’? Whatever. Blue, green, and red (check diameter fit). Wait, not green, yellow–but what about my cool skin tone? Damn you, Scalzi.
“Frequently, John Scalzi writes something in a comments section that reminds me, very strongly, that he writes for a living.” — me
Thank you for being both creative, and politically engaged.
Big Idea vs. Scalzi Blurb… *sigh* Is reading comprehension not that important in publishing these days?
It’s funny how people ignore guidelines and then get their panties in a bunch when you thoughtfully point them out.
In the real world, the easiest way that HR staff for any potential employer (or a small business owner for that matter) to cull the job pool is to see if the potential applicant can follow the requirements for submission exactly as written.
You be amazed on how many professionals can’t follow the specific guidelines. Sad to see what today’s higher education churns for graduates.
@ Nancy Curtiss
Harry Harrison was always very, very insistent that “Soylent Green is made out of soya and lentils, damn it!”