29 December 2014 - COVERS AND BLURBS


G'day folks,

Today I feature an author's comments on covers and blurbs - Matthew Gallaway. In the coming months I will present other views of other authors on many subjects relating to publishing. Stay tuned ...

Matthew Gallaway

I remember feeling a little sick when my agent told me in no uncertain terms that the cover is “the most important part” of a book, and I felt even sicker when he ended our discussion about blurbs by declaring that the process was “war.” 

As for my cover, I was asked for absolutely no input, but as it turned out, I genuinely loved what my editor sent to me. The only changes that were subsequently made—after consulting with my agent—was to change the font. Although I never would have thought of it myself, I think it was an excellent idea, and helped to make the cover more “readable.” (You can judge for yourself.) I was equally excited recently to get the paperback version, which also arrived without any input from yours truly. Short version: I consider myself very lucky in terms of covers. 

As for blurbs, I think it’s a horrible, ugly word, and I try not to use it in polite conversation, even going so far as to substitute the pompous “endorsement.” (Much the way I feel about using “gig” in the context of indie rock, which yeah, no.) Try saying “blurb” a few times without feeling humiliated and embarrassed: there, you see what I mean? Unfortunately, I think blurbs are important, less from a consumer-perspective than in terms of building “buzz” within a publisher, specifically helping to get the marketing and sales “on board.” That said, getting the blurbs almost gave me a nervous breakdown, because I didn’t know any “real writers.” For the first time, I felt sorry not to have an MFA (and the connections to potential blurbers it seems to bring) and even less logically about getting a C+ in my creative-writing class in my sophomore year of college, as a result of watching literally 99 percent of the network coverage of the 1988 Winter Olympics, which wouldn’t have been so bad except I somehow managed not to “get rid of” my television until May, at which point I was pretty much a zombie, academically speaking.

 I also regretted writing some nasty blog reviews about books written by prominent nonheterosexual novelists ___ and ___, which leads to my one piece of advice to unpublished authors on this subject: don’t waste time tearing down books you hate; focus on what you love, because it’s actually pretty difficult to scrub old blog posts from the Internet, as I learned the hard way lol. The last thing the world needs is another asshole critic, and if the time comes when you’re asking around for blurbs, trust me, you’ll regret being that asshole. 

I did send out hand-written requests to perhaps 10,000-15,000 of my favourite authors, including a few gay ones, one of whom was kind enough to write back saying that he “never” blurbs books, even those written by non-heterosexual debut novelists, a “solidarity card” I had been very naively hoping to play. (Note: just because gay writers have generally been ignored and abused and suffocated for the past century doesn’t mean that if you’re a gay writer you’ll be welcomed with a trumpet fanfare and red carpet through the gilded gates of the “literary community,” gay or otherwise; if anything you’ll be viewed MORE harshly by gay writers for reasons that probably are more deserving of sympathy than scorn, although as mentioned above I regret to say I’ve not always been able to resist the latter impulse, although I like to think I’m much better than I used to be.) 

As it turned out, the blurbs I received came either by way of connections to my agent or editor, or—for the two I procured myself—fellow denizens of the blogosphere. I will say that there was no connection I did not attempt to exploit, no matter how remote, and I still feel a bit “whored-out” from the whole experience. (Which is no reason not to do it; just brace yourself, is what I’m saying.) Happily, in every case the “endorsements” came from writers whose work I greatly admired and had written kind things about on my blog (see note above regarding not being an a-hole.) 

Matthew Gallaway is the author of The Metropolis Case.  

Matthew's website:

Clancy's comment: Thank you, Matthew. Mm ... I've said this before, but it's worth repeating. Besides the title and cover design of your book, the 100 or so words you write on the blurb are more important than any word you write in your book ... If you want it to sell it. Too often, authors tell us how the story ends before we have even opened the book. Don't! Suck them in, entice them and seduce them. That's your job. If you've done exactly that inside the book, why not do it on the back cover?

Not only but also, my simple, yet ruthless rule is this: COVER - BLURB - CASH REGISTER!

I'm ...

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