This is an old-ish piece, from 2001, but it gives a rare peek into the book world from the … editor‘s point of view. In it, Geoff Shandler at Little, Brown, keeps a diary for one week. He gets outbid, he has health problems, he sees the promise and problems in books, he sits through meetings and gets outbid again. He is, in short, refreshingly human. Authors forget that.
A few gems:
Public mention is, for a book editor, like sunlight to a vampire. We don’t want our names on the jackets. We don’t want to go on television. If we’ve been noticed, we’ve failed….
… my least favorite task: beg other writers for blurbs.
(This is becoming an anti-blurb theme.)
Autobiographies are popular, many of them proving that while life is amazing, most life stories are not….
A lot of people go into book publishing because they think they’ll get to read all day. What they don’t realize is that so much of what you read is junk….
A bad review hurts, but a sloppy review infuriates…
Let’s all give our whole-hearted support to Eric Simonoff, a literary agent at Janklow & Nesbit Associates, who recently told the New York Times Book Review that “we should impose a moratorium on blurb-hunting.”
What are blurbs? Why, those phrase snippets on the back of books that allegedly make you crave the product but usually sound gushingly, ridiculously banal or over-the-top.
I have myself blurbed one book, been asked to blurb a few others, and will, no doubt, have to grovel for blurbs on the back of my own book whenever it comes out. Oh how I dread the thought already. Simonoff’s proposal is so on target because everybody–writers, authors, probably even readers (secretly)–hate this blurbing thing. As the article says:
Caveat lector! The endorsements on books aren’t entirely impartial. Unbeknownst to the average reader, blurbs are more often than not from the writer’s best friends, colleagues or teachers, or from authors who share the same editor, publisher or agent. They represent a tangled mass of friendships, rivalries, favors traded and debts repaid, not always in good faith…
For writers, to blurb or not to blurb can be a tricky matter. Blurb too little and you’ll have a hard time drumming up the requisite superlatives when your turn comes. Blurb too often, or include too many blurbs on your book, and you might get called a blurb whore.
Quite so. A moritorium then! Let’s do without blurbs for a while and see whether or not we’ll miss them.