I have read a lot about blurbs as I’ve been teaching myself book marketing and promotion, but I still frankly don’t understand the protocols. Are there really protocols? When should you write to people? What should you say? Should you aim big or be more realistic? Should you even bother with blurbs? Do they influence book sales?
I don’t know. I can tell you that the word “blurb” comes from humorist Gelett Burgess, whose 1907 book Are You a Bromide? featured a woman named Miss Belinda Blurb, who praised the book’s extraordinariness on its cover.
But even before that, in 1856, Walt Whitman was putting the power of blurbing into practice when he sent his (unsolicited) manuscript, Leaves of Grass, to Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Emerson wrote back to him: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” Whitman, naturally, stamped that on the spine of the second edition of his book of poetry, because he was relatively unknown and Emerson was like the J.Law of the literary world at the time.
NPR has a great article on the complicated and fascinating history of blurbs, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The Awl has advice on blurbs and covers from lots of authors, too.
This is all a roundabout way of saying, we got our first book blurb! And I am beyond ecstatic because it is from my idol, a person I read incessantly when I am sad or confused or lost, a person whose words are a profoundly spiritual reminder of an abiding faith in life.
I first became acquainted with Cheryl due to my habit of flirting with married women on Facebook. I had read her essay, “The Love of My Life,” in the Sun, as well as her Dear Sugar columns (I knew her secret identity because I wrote for The Rumpus and if you get editors drunk they’ll tell you anything). So I sent her an email that was the equivalent of a bunch of winky emoticons and exclamation points, and we became internet friends after that.
Later I reviewed Wild for SF Weekly, and it’s still my favorite book review that I’ve written. When she went on tour, we met in San Francisco and had thai food and she very sweetly offered me a place in the middle of the table so I could hear everyone better, because she knows I struggle with that. It’s such a small gesture really, but no one had ever tried to accommodate my disability before, especially not a near stranger, and now, as I am finally starting to deal with my hearing loss in a more concrete way, it stands out. A tiny vibration on the great wave of life’s infinite compassion. As Strayed would put it:
“Real change happens on the level of the gesture. It’s one person doing one thing differently than he or she did before.”
Years later and I am still awed by Strayed’s generosity and kindness and preternatural ability to distill life’s most fucked up moments into ones of grace and clarity and hope.
So thank you, Cheryl. I am so motherfucking grateful and humbled and inspired by you.