The Dark Art of Blurbing

Tom Levenson’s series about the writing of his Newton and the Counterfeiter continues with a piece on the getting of blurbs for the cover:

Newton and the Counterfeiter (Amazon, Powells, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound) is by far my best-blurbed book, boasting enthusiastic and generous praise from a very diverse crew of luminaries — (David Bodanis, Junot Díaz, Timothy Ferris, Brian Greene, Walter Isaacson, Sylvia Nasar, and Neal Stephenson).

This follows, as I wrote last time, a much sparser field of those who promoted my three previous books. How — and why — did I go for this level of long-lead pre-publication encouragement?

This was of particular interest to me, because bound galleys were sent out earlier this week to a long list of people who might possibly provide cover blurbs for my book. I spent a fair amount of time last weekend thinking of people who might be good to get blurbs from, so I’m interested in seeing how other people do it.

I’m also relieved to see that Tom’s process wasn’t a whole lot less random than mine– his best blurbs were from people he happened to know somehow or another, and some friend-of-a-friend kind of things. My list includes a bunch of people I know from blogdom and SF, plus a couple of scientists I know from work. We’ll see how many of them, if any, have the time to read the book and write something, but I think it would be a hoot to have cover blurbs from Nobel laureates in science alongside best-selling novelists.

In addition to the high single-digit number of people I talked to in advance about the possibility of doing a blurb, there are another ten or so who were “What the hell…” picks. These include science writers I’ve met once or twice, people whose books I liked, people who are represented by the same literary agency I am, and one novelist whose talking-dog book I saw in Barnes and Noble while I was waiting for some work to be done on my car. It’d be really cool if any of them were to write something, but I’m not going to hold my breath. They have no reason to know who I am, and little reason to read a random book that arrives in the mail.

(I’m not listing names here because it feels wrong to do so, like I would be creating unreasonable expectations by putting names down. If you read the blog, you can probably guess who some of these people are fairly easily. If you want to play guess-the-potential-blurber in comments, go right ahead, though I will neither confirm nor deny anything. If you guess somebody great who’s not on the list, though, I may steal that…)

Anyway, at this point, it’s just wait and see. Which, I have to say, is not one of my strong points, but I’ll find something to distract myself for the next several weeks…