Friday, December 05, 2008


I've been thinking about blurbs recently, not least because I've just done one for Caroline Smailes's Black Boxes and two people I've mentioned this to have asked me whether I'd read it.


I'm not sure why I've put that in caps apart from the fact that I really really can't understand the idea that you might put your name and recommendation on a book that you didn't love. But much much more than that ... why on earth, as an author, would you want someone's name on YOUR book who didn't love it. Or, worse, hadn't actually read it.

I know there's a cynical attitude 'out there' that blurbing is just done as an act of croneyism but this hasn't been my experience or that of anyone I've talked to. Maybe I've just been lucky but I don't think so. Most writers aren't stupid. What will having your name on a book you don't think is all that good say about you? It's worrying to have to read a book by someone you've become friends with - if you don't like their writing, will you still like them?

But the other side of the coin is becoming friends with someone after you've fallen in love with their book. I've 'met' lots of the writers I am proud to call my friends now first through their words, and I can't understand why people think it's some kind of plot when writers become friends with each other and go out of their way to champion each other's books - even by giving reviews on Amazon. We are readers too.

And it makes me sad that I have to think twice about asking these friends to 'blurb' my books, or to agree to 'blurb' theirs, in case we get accused of not meaning it. It isn't a plot to keep other writers out of the in-gang, as some journalists seem to think, because there's nothing better than finding new writing friends.

I take the privilege of people agreeing to put their names on my books extremely seriously. When The ABCs of Love came out in the US, the publishers sent it out to various writers for quotes, and I made sure that I read something by everyone who had been kind enough to say something. Equally when I got sent Kate Long's book to read, and was proud to give a quote, I knew I'd found a writing soulmate when she contacted me to discuss my writing too.

The good thing is that this isn't unusual. It is a compliment to be asked to give a blurb for someone, and, from my experience, it's enormously frightening to have to ask for one. So I hate the idea that we might become cynical about it.

And so, for the record, I have read Black Boxes and I absolutely loved it and I recommend that you read it too.

Sorry, I'm not sure why this has turned into some kind of rant, and of course, asking people you like and respect for quotes can produce some stunners. Here's Neil's first attempt, and the one I wish I'd been brave enough to use! Maybe I will one day...

"Sarah Salway is the Madonna of writing books. The dancing one, not the Mother of Jesus one. Except she's younger and has had less plastic surgery. Sarah Salway that is. Also she writes really well."

The only thing I'd add to that is that I've had NO plastic surgery, not just less... I do love yoga though. And dancing. Perhaps that's the next stage of blurbing - the qualifiers.

This is the best book ever by the best writer ever!!! Blurber

(ps Actually Shakespeare is much better, Author)

No wonder we normally leave getting blurbs up to our publishers!


Caroline said...

I don't understand why people would ask if you've read the book? It just seems logical that you would have done, seeing as you gave a quote!

Unless it was said to question whether you'd read my work, because it's rubbish and if you had then you wouldn't possibly offer a quote?


Either way, I don't care. Sarah Salway likes something that I have written and that is enough to make me smile lots and lots and overuse exclamation marks!!!!!!


SueG said...

I'm so glad you wrote about this. Between you and me (and everyone else who comes by), I once wrote a review and worked rather hard at it, and then was asked if I had actually read the book. I was so hurt and insulted I swore I'd never write a review again. I've since reneged on that, happily, but I must say it has made me very wary. It does make you wonder why people so often seem to be assuming ulterior motives.

Sarah Salway said...

Caroline! It absolutely wasn't because your book was rubbish!!! Here are some exclamation marks for you too!! I think it's a misconception coming from people outside publishing - that we're all just flinging recommendations around for people we know, rather than the work. I suppose I was trying to say that it means a lot more to me than that.

Sarah Salway said...

Sue, I think it's part of developing a thick skin. I'm still working on that!

Tania Hershman said...

Crazy, eh? I found the four writers who blurbed me and asked one of them, Sunshine O'Donnell, to blurb me before I had even read her book - I read an interview with her in Poets and Writers and felt she was a kindred spirit. She gave me the most amazing quote... and then I read her book and loved it, and was so glad. I think you get a sense of these things, whether it's from the writer's book or from other words they have used to describe themselves. But yes, people are so damn cynical. What a shame. Let's form the anti-cynical blurbing alliance (ACBA? ABLA?) (ABLURBA)!

Sarah Salway said...

ABULRBA is us! And I want to be called Sunshine too.

Nik's Blog said...

What a great post. And I think that anyone who knows you (virtually or otherwise) and knows a bit about the industry, would know how things are. And if they (those who said bad things) thought about what they were saying, just for a second, I'm sure they'd see that they were being silly; passing comment on a book one's not read is quite a trick, innit!?

Anyway. You not liking my writing won't stop us being buddies (though, obviously, I hope you do!).

(Waves at Tania and naturally wants to be a part of the ACBA, ABLA, ABLURBA, or whatever form it takes!)


Sarah Salway said...

Thanks Nik. And I like what I've seen of your writing so far!

Nik's Blog said...

That's very nice of you to say (I wasn't fishing btw!).

Seriously though, I've been giving this a fair bit of thought and I wonder whether that sort of comment is indicative of what people think generally. I really hope not; it's certainly not a fair assumption to make and it'd surprise me (and disappoint me) if readers didn't trust authors and publishers. Makes you think, and I hope I'm wrong.