I have trouble taking things seriously. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, this probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise to you.
In medieval times, people probably would have referred to me as “Phlegmatic” and attributed this tendency to an imbalance of my humors. These days people just think of me as an an irreverent asshat.
It’s especially bad when I’m asked to write anything remotely promotional. A good example of this is my endless struggle with biography.
It’s also a real problem when I want to write a blurb for someone’s book.
I very rarely give blurbs, and part of the reason for this is when I sit down to write one, I feel like I have to be all professional and formal. I feel like I should use words like, “Luminous” and “Scintillating” and “Perspicacious” “Resplendent.”
But that’s not how I talk. If I really liked a book, I would say to my friend, “This is a really fucking good book. Seriously. Have you read it? No? Go buy it, shitweasel.”
However, that’s not really the sort of thing publishers are looking to print on the cover of a book.
My most recent experience blurbing a book was when Brandon Sanderson sent me an ARC of the Way of Kings a while back.
I read the book and liked it, which irritated me. Brandon writes way faster than I do, and his books are consistently good. This means that I feel like I should really despise him. Either that or hunt him down like an animal so I can devour his liver and thereby gain some of his power.
But even though I’ve tried really hard, I can’t help but like him. Brandon’s a really nice guy.
So I sit down and try to write a professional style blurb for him. Here’s what I come up with:
“Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite new authors, and The Way of Kings continues his tradition of creating vivid, fantastic worlds for us to visit.”
How’s that for awful? That isn’t just some first quick attempt, either. I worked for like twenty minutes to come up with that. It’s one part bland, one part stiff, and two parts fake-sounding. “Continues his tradition”? Who the hell says something like that? Not me.
So I try again:
“Sanderson knows how to tell a good story, and he’s created another vivid and fantastic world in The Way of Kings.”
If anything, this one’s even worse. It’s more boring. And I’m clinging to the word “vivid” like it’s somehow going to keep me from looking like an idiot.
At this point I’m frustrated. So I quit taking the whole process seriously and write,
“Brandon Sanderson’s books are so good that he’s starting to piss me off.”
And you know what? It feels pretty good. That’s something I’d actually say out loud. And in its own way, that blurb is more honest and complementary than the other two.
So I decide to run with it, and write.
“This book is cool, and Brandon Sanderson smells like fresh-baked cookies.”
“Sanderson’s newest Brobdingnagian epic is sure to please. Look it up, bitches.”
“Brandon Sanderson’s new book is printed on delightfully soft-yet durable paper. With more than a thousand pages, The Way of Kings is sure to bring you several weeks of good, solid use, though that may vary according to your diet and personal hygiene.”
“When’s book two coming out? What’s taking so long?”
“Brandon Sanderson is one of the great new writers on the scene today. And he’s not hard on the eyes either. Rawr.”
“The Way of Kings is a tour-de-force. Luminously meretricious, yet with a round oaky underbite, this book offers notes of toffee and broam with just a hint of having someone’s nephew hit you in the groin with a tennis ball. Best served with fish.”
Writing these sorts of blurbs come really naturally to me.
After about an hour of this, I sent a handful of potential blurbs along to Brandon and his agent. I told them the truth, that I suck at giving the classic blurb.
And that was the last I thought of it until I wandered into the bookstore two days ago and saw that The Way of Kings has just hit the shelves.
I picked it up just to check how many long it was. It’s over a thousand pages, so that made me feel better about The Wise Man’s Fear. Especially because I just added a new chapter yesterday.
Then I flipped it over and saw this:
What’s that down there on the bottom?
Just me and Orson Scott Card, hanging out on the back of Brandon Sanderson’s book.
And you know what? I kinda like my blurb. It’s not fancy, but then again, I’m not a fancy person. But sincere? I’ve got sincere in spades.
If you’re looking for something to read, you might want to check it out…