Could You Just Add These Words?”

A few months ago I was asked to blurb a book. Try­ing to antic­i­pate how much time it would take from work, guess­ing that I’d learn things by doing it, and appre­ci­at­ing that the book was about a top­ic deeply dear to my heart, I said Yes. Authors help­ing authors, con­tin­u­ing the cir­cle of good will.

I read the man­u­script over sev­er­al days in south­ern light at the din­ing room table, mark­ing the mar­gins in pen­cil, most­ly enjoy­ing turn­ing the pages, fol­low­ing the plot, turn­ing back from time to time to make sure the sto­ry and I were on the same page (so to speak). I draft­ed and redraft­ed an appre­cia­tive response, and sent it to the publisher.

What came back? A request. Two requests. My response to the book was appar­ent­ly accept­able, but could I add “mul­ti-lay­ered”? Could I what? And could I add that the nov­el has “much to unpack”? Could I what what?

Being a grownup who’s been taught from child­hood that self-con­trol is a very darned good thing to have in our lives, I left the requests in my Inbox for a cou­ple of days. Maybe more. When my heart rate had ful­ly calmed down, I thanked the pub­lish­er for the well-mean­ing sug­ges­tions, and declined.

I told hard­ly any­one. Maybe two close author friends. And watched their jaws drop. (Jaw-drop­ping makes a minia­ture sound, and I lis­tened.) And now I tell you, read­ers who’ve found your way here.

Back in the old days, in Novem­ber, 2000, Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Al Gore said to George W. Bush, “You don’t have to get snip­py about it.” True. We don’t have to get snip­py. And I’ve just done so. Mea cul­pa.

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1 month ago

Good­ness. Thanks for shar­ing this.

Reply to  Cynthia
1 month ago

You’re wel­come, Cyn­thia. I’m sure­ly not the only per­son to have had this kind of sur­prise. And, yes, Goodness.

David LaRochelle
6 days ago

Many, many years ago, at the very start of my career, I made the deci­sion to nev­er write a blurb for a book and nev­er to ask for a blurb. It has proven to be a wise decision. Part of my rea­son for this deci­sion was hav­ing seen pos­i­tive blurbs by some of my favorite authors on books that I thought were ter­ri­ble. Instead of reflect­ing favor­ably on the book, these blurbs made me think less of the authors who wrote them. The oth­er rea­son for this choice was that I did­n’t know how I could turn down a request to blurb a book that I did­n’t like, but was writ­ten by… Read more »

Reply to  David LaRochelle
4 days ago

Thanks for shar­ing your clear-head­ed view, David. The top­ic of blurbs has strings aplen­ty attached, does­n’t it?
Teapot tem­pests, mole­hill moun­tains: What­ev­er the dis­mis­sive voice calls them, a blurb may set the blood rush­ing or boil­ing in the moment. Moments. Some­times long ones.
I think we all want to write things we can look back on with­out flinch­ing. We need to hold our integri­ty cloak close, and I’m sure lots of read­ers are grate­ful to you for telling us about your prin­ci­pled stance. I cer­tain­ly am.