By Ellen Meister
“There is no word to describe its perfection, so I am forced to make one up. And I'm going to do so right now. Scrumtrilescent.”
The ultimate blurbgasm, from Will Ferrell parodying James Lipton on SNL
If you’ve seen this SNL skit, you know that’s there a tipping point where praise goes so far over the top it gets ridiculous (and hilarious). That’s why blurbing is such an art. When one writer endorses another’s book, he or she has to walk that fine line of exuberant praise. Too much and it sounds phony, or even borderline psychotic. (It is like looking into the face of God and seeing Him smiling back and saying, ‘You are my most wondrous creation.’) Too little, and it comes off as a grudging endorsement.
But there's more to the messy, emotional, complicated, high-stakes blurbing game than writing the quote itself. There’s also an art to requesting a blurb.
When a writer approaches one of his or her literary heroes for a blurb, it's a good idea to let the admiration shine through. Yet there’s a fine line here, too. If you don't hit that sweet spot between flattery and fawning, you might just come across as smarmy ... even if you mean every word of it.
And let's not forget about the pitch. You have to actually convince the writer that your book is something they might like. Most writers I know would rather run headfirst into a brick wall than try to encapsulate 400 pages into one snappy paragraph, but it's critical.
Still, I think most authors would agree that the hardest part of the blurbing game is rejecting a request. And of course, it's something every published writer has to do. (Bestselling authors in particular get dozens of these requests every week, and by necessity have to the reject the vast majority.)
As someone who's been on the receiving end of many of these rejections, I can tell you there are good ones and bad ones. My best advice? Don't try to convince the requester they don't really want your endorsement.("My blurbs don't help anyone sell books.") It's unconvincing. Trust that the individual writing to you knows it's a long shot, and will be gracious if you say you're simply too busy. They understand. And if they don't? Well, they'll pretend they do.
And that's acting at its finest ... acting that will make you re-examine your life ... acting that will make you see the world for the first time.
What's your blurb story? Have you received any sublime ones lately? Any terrible rejections?
Ellen Meister is the author of four novels and is grateful to have received blurbs from many of her favorite authors. Her new book, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER, will be published by Putnam in February. For more information, visit her website at ellenmeister.com. For daily fun, follow her Dorothy Parker Facebook page.