On blurbing

As an author, I am not a big fan of the blurb — I generally find them superfluous and likely to say a whole lot of nothing very eloquently. There’s a blurb “style” that sort of makes my eyes roll back — they’re almost a literary genre in and of themselves. So, I seldom give them out (I had a terrible experience with a poet who I gave a measured blurb to who turned around and edited that blurb to sound more enthusiastic and put it on his book…yeesh), and even less seldom use them on my own work.

That said, I was very pleased to have three blurbs on the back cover of Glimpse, my first book of aphorisms back in 2010 (two poets I greatly admire and a third I also admire but who was an old friend). We sought out blurbs for that book for a couple reasons, one of which was that no one was really doing aphorisms here in Canada at that time (not even sure anyone else is now, frankly), and a few recommendations from some heavyweights went a distance towards getting people to actually pick up the book and give the form a chance, I think. It was something different, so it called for a different tactic.

My new book coming in September, Problematica, has a couple blurbs as well, both from writers I admire, along with some review quotes accumulated over the years, as well as a hearty introduction from a contemporary and pal (basically a more in-depth blurb). The reason we went with all this extra stuff is because a selected edition draws mostly from previous books, and it’s not something my generation here in Canada has done very often. As one of a handful of Gen X poets suddenly finding themselves middle-aged and trying to take stock of what they’ve accomplished, blurbs and intros seem a useful way to provide some context to browsers for why this book might be a) enjoyable, b) important to me and my work, c) necessary in an already saturated market of poetry.

So blurbs CAN be useful, but I think they have to be judiciously applied. I couldn’t have two better blurbers for this book, and I’m trilled to know these poets’ eyes have passed over my work. And if either of their opinions holds weight with someone who might like them but be skeptical about me, well, that’s a nice bonus.

It’s cliche, but books are judged by their covers. For one thing, often the cover lets the reader know what kind of book they are buying. White woman in a gown or a shirtless muscle-bound man: romance. Bright cartoon picture superimposed with san serif: young adult. Dark with silhouetted figure in the mist: mystery. Dripping font titles: probably horror. So, let’s say you’re a genre reader, have found your section in the bookstore, and are trying to find something new. The next thing to examine are the blurbs. If Neil Gaiman stans see he’s read and endorsed a book, they will be more likely to give it a try. Haruki Murakami says this book is a must read? Then read you must.

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