Okay, I got a fair number of emails in response to my Blurb Bitching blog entry (a few back) so I thought I’d answer the main questions being put to me.
What makes you more likely to blurb?
1. A personalized letter from the author. I’ve gotten a few really great letters from editors that made me crack a galley, but for the most part, if the author doesn’t even have time to enclose her thoughts, I generally don’t have time to read her manuscript. So don’t leave it solely to your publicist/editor/agent/friend who walks dogs with Thomas Harris. Have them do the hand-off, but make sure you get your voice in there.
2. If the person requesting a blurb from me is familiar with my work, and makes that somewhat clear in the cover letter. Nothing says arrogance like an unpublished writer asking me to read his manuscript who hasn’t bothered to read one of my books. When it came to the authors I asked for blurbs from, I made sure I’d read virtually everything they had in print. And if their oeuvres were unrealistically weighty, I made sure I’d read at least four or five of their novels.
3. I won’t blurb books from vanity presses.
4. If the damn thing looks good. I don’t care if it’s a social novel or a book of lesbian haiku, the first few pages better sing.
5. (And here I feel like Ms. Curmuckle, your high school college admissions advisor): Don’t make dumb-ass spelling and grammatical errors in your cover letter. If you can’t be bothered to figure out the difference between “it’s” and “its” in a one-paragraph note, you probably shouldn’t be pointing a 300-page manuscript my direction.
Will you always blurb your friends even if their books suck?
No. And Ayn Rand better quit asking.
Do you ever tell people you don’t like their books?
No. They’re not asking for a critique, just a blurb. So I’m not reading looking to be helpful from an editorial perspective. I never want to undermine a young (or old, for that matter) author early in her career with a rejection, so I will often beg off mediocre manuscripts due to exigencies of schedule, etc.. Often this isn’t an excuse; much of the time it’s true.