The writing of blurbs—the succinct quotes of praise from an author’s peers that exist on a book’s front and back covers—has become a “nuclear arms race” that can drain blurb writers of their most valuable asset (time), writes Marie Myung-Ok Lee yesterday in an extensive feature on this quirk of the publishing industry. (A piece the AV Club also covered.) In it, she provides examples of the different types of blurbs that have come to exist—including the “pre-pre-blurb” which is written for book proposals. She also speaks to several writers who are frequently solicited for them; people who mostly consider the act of blurb writing to be a sincere but possibly insignificant responsibility.
Reading this yesterday was particularly apropos because I’m currently in the process of asking people to write blurbs for What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker and I, for lack of a better term, hate this fucking shit. Perhaps there are other authors out there who enjoy the act of reaching out to people they admire—some of whom you know well enough, some of whom you barely know, and some of whom might not even know your name—and asking them to read your book and then write a thing encouraging other people to read it, but I am not one of those people. Let me put it this way: My book is a memoir that has a 300-word-long stretch about my masturbation habits in the fucking introduction, and writing that—and thinking about the fact that people are going to actually read it—gave me less angst and anxiety and acid reflux than soliciting blurbs has.
Anyway, I’m aware that most of you are normal and well-adjusted people who will not be compelled to bleed yourselves open and call it “writing a book,” which means that most of you will never experience what the process of blurb solicitation feels like. Fortunately, I have some analogies!
1. It feels like asking the finest girl in school to your prom, except if A) you go to different schools and B) she’s never met you before and C) your ask has to be a haiku and D) if she says “no” you’re not going to college.
2. It feels like asking the granddad of the first person you slept with for a recommendation letter for a government security clearance.
3. It feels like asking your neighbor if you can shit in their toilet while they’re on vacation because yours is broken and there’s no other house within a 12-mile-radius and you need convenient toilets because you might have dysentery.
4. It feels like meeting Anita Baker at an airport and asking her, right then and there, to sing “Caught up in the Rapture” for you.
5. It feels like doing that “fall backwards and let people catch you” team building thing with some niggas you just met in line at Costco.
6. It feels like going to The Cheesecake Factory and asking the first person you see if you can eat the rest of the food on their plate.
7. It feels like going to the bank and asking for a loan, but if you happen to be A) black and B) naked.
8. It feels like accidentally liking an Instagram picture of a person you genuinely like but aren’t quite ready for them to know that yet. (Or ever.)
9. It feels like how Ted Cruz must feel each time he has to visit the White House.
10. It feels like going to your mama’s house and seeing that she cooked this elaborate meal in anticipation of you coming but asking her instead to go to Applebee’s with you because it’s Wingding Wednesday and you made reservations.