Sunday, July 11, 2010

I Want To Marry This Book: Blurb, anyone?

So today I’m going to tell you how blurbing a book is like getting married.

I honestly never really gave any thoughts to book blurbs, back when I was a mere muggle reading and writing in the stacks. I didn’t even know what a blurb was. For the record, a blurb is that line that goes across the front of many books. It looks something like:

“This book literally blew my shirt off in a public place; it’s just that good.” - Maggie Stiefvater, NYT Bestselling Author of Shiver.

That is a blurb. Ostensibly, blurbs exist for a couple of reasons.

a) they make the my fans pick up the book

b) they make even people who haven’t heard of me assume that the book’s good because I have “NYT Bestselling” in front of my name so clearly I know what I’m talking about

(There are also other, less integrity-full reasons that authors blurb books. It’s not uncommon for authors to blurb a book because they know said book will do well and writing a blurb for it will put their name all over several thousand covers out there in the world, thus acting as marketing for the blurber. But I pretend this reason doesn’t exist.)

Anyway, I never really used blurbs to aid me in my book buying decisions. And I sure as snot never thought I’d be asked for them. But, amazingly, I am, because, amazingly, people think my name holds weight in the YA book buying world. This is a fantastic and terrifying idea, as my idea of a good book is still A HOLE IS TO DIG.

Still, asked I get, and I’ve read dozens of advanced review copies of books at various editors and authors’ requests. And I just . . . haven’t wanted to blurb them. And this is where the whole marriage thing comes in. I liked some of these books. I had a good time with them. Some of them I even loved parts of or even most of. Some of them I even thought for the first half that this was the one, this was the one I was going to blurb, just don’t let me down or stand me up or turn out to be Pearl Jam fan. But in the end, I didn’t love them. Not that way. Not like forever. Not like I was sure that ten years down the road when someone waved a copy in my face and said, “I hated this book. Why did you blurb it?” I would still be able to say that I loved it and explain why I had blurbed it.

So . . . I haven’t. I’ve only blurbed two books so far, both that I watched grow into adult novels from literary infancy. For the record, the books are THE REPLACEMENT, by Brenna Yovanoff ("I loved this eerie and beautiful story of ugly things. It should be read aloud after dark, at a whisper.") and BLOOD MAGIC, by Tessa Gratton (“Reading this book is like having The Bravery sing to you while you eat fresh brownies and puppies frolic around your feet. In other words, the best day ever. Buy it.”)(okay, not really. Final blurb wording TO COME).

Why am I even talking about this? Because I have found another book to blurb! I just had a copy of STOLEN by Lucy Christopher put into my hands at ALA, and I was very cheerful to offer a quote for the paperback edition. It’s a YA novel about a girl who is kidnapped from an airport by a crazy guy and taken to a shack in the Australian outback. The novel features

1) crazy guy
2) camels
3) strong heroine
4) poisonous snakes! (did you know that Australia is the only continent where species of poisonous snakes outnumbers non-poisonous ones?)
5) hallucinating
6) kangaroos
7) psychological terror and thrillingness!
8) vehicular chases
9) did I mention crazy guy?
10) a supporting cast of chickens

It’s got a great sense of place and the character development is just fantastic (I love me some trauma), but the thing I liked best was that as Gemma, the main character, spends more time in the presence of her kidnapper, the author very, very, very skillfully messes with our brains just like Gemma’s brain is getting messed with. It makes for a very complex read with no easy answers, just like I like ‘em. I loved how all of the motivations were thoroughly grounded in past history; we get a profile of the kidnapper as a human, not just as a stick figure. As a teen, I would have adored this book even more. My only complaint? It reads a little long in places, but I think that may have been my deadlines speaking more than the book’s shortcoming. I know there will be many that say that this isn't how most kidnappings go down and tell you to go read LIVING DEAD GIRL instead, but I don't believe that books need to tell the most common story -- just the one most interesting to the author. Highly recommended!

Anyway. I’m working on my blurb. I’m thinking something like “The only thing that would’ve made this book better is a crocodile attack and some brownie batter during the denouement.”

Catchy, right?


Jillian said...

Well, I have to admit that -- as a reader -- book blurbs from some of my favorite YA authors DO sometimes influence my reading choices. Anyway -- oddity of oddities, I actually just bought a copy of STOLEN yesterday. . .along with your latest book, LINGER. I love the coincidence! :P

Zoë Marriott said...

I was going to say that I don't really notice blurbs - but then I realised that if I see Diana Wynne Jones or Lois McMaster Bujold (or someone else that I heart) quoted on the front of a book I probably *would* notice that. So it just depends who's doing the blurbing. Anyway, I do listen to book recommendations from people with similar tastes to me. Stolen goes on my wishlist. I love the cover with the Gothic baby carriage especially much...

Beth said...

Totally unrelated (I know I'm radom). Can you post your tour schedule again? I thought you were coming to Book Woman here, but it's not on their schedule and when I asked about it the employee didn't seem to know. I so hope you're coming!

Marn said...

I don't read blurbs until after I've read the book.
I just don't really see them until I'm done.
I finish reading and I think to myself 'I wish there was more to read'
So I read all the blurbs, then the summary on the flaps, then the page with the publisher info and library of congress crap, and finally the dedications/acknowledgements. Then I sigh and move on to the next book.

Anonymous said...

Coincidence. I'm reading Stolen at the moment! I really like the way it's adressed to her kidnapper- the use of second person is so powerful and direct.

Paula@Reading Lark said...

I am influenced by blurbs, if I notice the name of one of my favorite authors. I figure if an author I love likes the book, I will, too.
Which is why those three titles just went on my GoodReads to-read shelf. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to say that seeing my favorite author's blurb on the front does carry weight. It shouldn't but it does. A book is an investment of time, energy and spirit - I want to make sure I'm making a good investment, and I trust my favorite authors to guide me.

I had this book on my pile of things to get to for ages, but it wasn't until today that it jumped to the top. Maggie, it's down to you. I trust you, you wouldn't B.S. me, and the fact that you're discerning about what you endorse only makes you more worth listening to. I'm also going to invest in a Neil Gaiman book - although I'm not sure which one I should pick up...

I'm listening to Aim & Ignite by Fun right now - thank you and keep the recommendations coming!!!

Jen x

Unknown said...

Can you think of a blurb that might make me want to read this book and still be able to go to the airport with my kids without having a panic attack because I think they're going to get stolen?

Otherwise, I don't care how great it is...I'm not sure if a dozen books about faeries are going to keep the nightmares away.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Yay for Tessa! I can't wait for Blood Magic to come out!!
I always read blurbs when considering buying a book. It doesn't even matter if I don't know who the blurber is. I hope that's because I'm looking for a reason to buy it once it's in my hands, not that I'm easily influenced. :o

kate said...

I just think the word "blurb" is kind of hilarious. And a blurb-related marriage is even better. PS, when you do someday host a red pen edit party, could you also teach paper cut out stop motion movie making at lunch? Scissors and revisions do go well together...

Kit said...

I could only read half of Stolen--I found it really disturbing and had to put it down. Did I not give it enough of a chance?

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Alison, haha, I can tell you that this is not that kind of book -- it's not one of those that makes you look over your shoulder like that, and I'm sensitive to those things because I have kids. I won't read LIVING DEAD GIRL because of that.

hahaha, Kate maybe so.

Kit, really? I mean, it had disturbing elements, but I didn't think it was any more disturbing than Shiver or Linger's disturbing elements . . .

Beth, I will repost those tour dates tomorrow!

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