Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Image description: Close-up of old manual typewriter with a document being typed: Terms of Service
One of my tenets as a writer (and human being) is generosity. There are times I’m not sure I would have made it—by which I don’t mean Made It, Baby! but survived—without others’ generosity, of time, money, attention, or encouragement. I remember every single person who helped me, or at least I try to. I’m determined to always do my best to reach down and help lift up others.
I get asked for blurbs a lot. I have no doubt some writers get asked more often, and some less; I have no doubt others are saints and superheroes and can read and blurb twelve books a month. I can’t. For me, those asks have become overwhelming. More and more often they are carefully crafted pleas designed to tug heartstrings—specifically my heartstrings (as I say, very carefully thought out). Often, they succeed—by which I don’t mean that I agree to give a blurb but that I feel like a heartless ogre when I say no.
Not long after I signed my contract for Ammonite, I went to a bookstore event for Ursula Le Guin. After the reading, when I took up a book for her to sign, I asked her if she would be willing to blurb my novel. She closed her eyes, sighed, opened them and told me gently she would consider writing a blurb only if a) the book was a first novel b) by a woman and c) requested by an acquiring editor at a trade press. At the time I vaguely understood her need for those conditions (though mainly I was relieved I met them). Now I understand them intimately.
So now it’s time for me to list my own conditions that a writer and their book must fit before Iwill consider giving a blurb:
- All blurb requests must come from acquiring editors at a trade press
- And go through my agent, Stephanie Cabot at Susanna Lea Associates.
- If you send one to me directly via email, this website’s contact form, or a DM, I will ignore it.
- From time to time, when deep into my own work, or seriously tired, or just want a holiday, I will direct Stephanie to not forward any requests—no matter how amazing, important, or urgent—for a while.
- You will know that being ignored or refused is not personal, because you will know that I’m not a mind reader and could not anticipate your specific request before I brought down the portcullis.
- I will not announce when and whether I’m open or closed to blurb requests.
- When I am open to them, I will look with greater kindness on some books than others. In no particular order, the book must be:
- written by an early-career writer
- and/or midlist writer making a career change
- who is a woman or nonbinary and/or
- a former student
Of course, even if the book does fulfill all those conditions it will also have to sound like something I might actually enjoy. I like exciting fiction—fiction in which the protagonists *do* things, memoir, nature writing, and densely-argued, well-cited nonfiction. I do not like, for example, books whose protagonists endlessly process their angst or trauma or loll about in a state of ennui. The book will also have to reach me, at least two months before cover deadline, in either .mobi format or paper or (preferably) both.
Finally, even if the book sounds interesting enough for me to want, it also has to be enjoyable and well-written for me to offer a blurb.
So if you think you and your book might fit the bill, feel free to ask.