Thursday, January 12, 2012

To Blurb Or Not To Blurb

By Jay Stringer

Bit of a cheat this week. Normally if I'm using content for both DSD and my own site, I'll out it on DSD first. But this week I've done it the other way round. Really, just so that I can pimp my new website to you all. Check. Touch it. Love it. Ahem. The other other reason is that it gives me another chance to show off the work of one of the friends of DSD.

To Blurb Or Not To Blurb

Something that writers start to think about, when we get all writerly an' shite, is blurbing.

Bit of a silly word, right? I think it's Klingon for fake word. Or Welsh for the wind through the mountains and valleys on a spring day. Some say it was the pagan festival of writers, others that it was a creature that resembled a cross between a dragon and a pig. Whatever it's ancient meaning, today it means pimping ma book.

Here's the deal; You ask a bunch of your favourite writers to say nice things about you in small quotes. When they turn you down, you then ask some best sellers to do it. There's a bit of back and forth; which authors best suit the book? Which names will draw the right crowd? Who owes us a favour? How far will these illicit photographs get us?

But me? I'm ambitious. So I say, go right for the best. So I went and got a testimonial from the greatest crime writer of them all. Enjoy.

Having long since shuffled off my mortal coil and retired hence to my Elysian repose, I have been some amused at the evolution of my reputation since – some good fellows of my acquaintance making bother to assemble such works of mine as did survive, and those becoming, over the course of lengthy decades, a kind of bible for the tweedy types who camp in the dank rooms of university campuses and touch themselves in private during their special meditations on Ophelia. Why Ophelia, I cannot say, as I did pen many women more bawdy in their appetites, but I do suppose the scholarly, thinking themselves somehow elevated above their own natures, try to wrap their animal congress in some cloak of innocence and pretended feeling that they may call in themselves love what they damn in the unwashed as lust.

I say amused because I was the unwashed. I was not in life the ink-stained fetish I have late become but was instead a writer and actor both – and in such capacities not admitted to the more polite strata of society but instead relegated with my fellows to the rougher districts of Shoreditch and Bankside, the liberties outside the City proper’s Puritanical regulation where I did ply my trade in the company of the whores, the bear-baiters, the vendors of ales and sack, and of those rougher fellows who made prey of the fattened purses of the Lords and Ladies who would visit our district in search of such entertainments as they could later revile as unholy on their return to their safer and more sterile climes.

But such districts did feel home to me, as my first home was not London (though its foppish dons have since made great pains to claim me for its borders, ignoring that in life they banned my art from them), no, the home of my breeding and formation was Stratford, in the dark Kingdom of Mercia.

My father was a glover and a sometimes merchant in hides, so in my youth it was the skins of the dead that kept my company, not the moneychangers or nobles of the City, and I did oft scrape and tan hides, and cut them to shape and otherwise work my hands in fashions unknown to the scholarly who now make my worship. What sense of place and story I have comes as much from such rougher environs as it does from such finer places I did know in my later life, and what sense of truth comes from there more fully.

As in my own day, London does still seem think itself England entire, that the quaint or rougher districts elsewhere are backdrop only to its glories. And yet the lives there lived are as real; the pains there suffered hurt as deep; and the dreams there crushed oft make a bitter vintage as they die unripened and the product of a vineyard long ignored and left to life’s margins. I have watched proud Mercia rise and fall. The Midlands serving granary to my day’s appetites and later furnace to England’s empire in which were wrought those terrible engines that once did make it great, long since sore neglected, as the nation turned itself to trade in shares and bankings and the financial Leger de Main of this modern age by which the suited swells of London do greatly prosper as they, through their cheating magics, mint coin from the sweat of the Midland’s brow.

And so I recommend you to these tales, set in the Midlands most with kin streets of Glasgow and Manhattan twinned, of such desperate lives as are oft lived beyond your notice, but that are played for as equal mortal stakes as any and in such desperation that is drama’s true forge.

And to your scholars touching yourself to Hamlet’s soft muse I say take care with your emissions, for the pages of my works grow sticky, and I do take affront.

Wm. Shakespeare,

As related in liquored séance and fevered channeling to Daniel O’Shea

That O'Shea fella is a serious talent. I'm reading through his forthcoming collection, Old School, and it's a cracking read. Something I look for in a writer is someone who takes chances, someone who gets out of their comfort zone. To me, that's where the art of writing lies. Somewhere between what Dickens said, "the writer that is natural has fulfilled the rules of art," and what I say, "get your ass on a fucking high-wire and take a risk," is the key to writing something good. And O'Shea has written a crime novel narrated by William Shakespeare. How's that for getting up on the high-wire? It's called Rotten At The Heart, it's out for submission now and, if you're a publisher, you need to take a look.

Now, has anybody got Dickens's email address? Steinbeck's skype handle?

1 comment:

Sandra Ruttan said...

I think, in order to succeed in this industry, you need to become a shameless whore when it comes to blurbs/reviews/endorsements. While around here we attract readers of an exceptional nature, it seems like in the spectrum of the average, the assumption is that if nobody blurbed it, it must not be good, they can't imagine anyone would blurb a book just to promote themselves, every author tells the truth in blurbs and it doesn't seem to occur to anyone that the reason X author blurbed some book from 2006 but not your release from 2007 is NOT because they didn't like your book, but because they adopted a no-blurb policy.

'Good' and 'popular' seem to go hand in hand. I find it curious that all the high-selling authors seem to be so very popular with everyone, with the exception of the few extreme sellers like James Patterson, who isn't part of the 'club'.

Some day, I want to publish under a pseudonym nobody knows so that I can find out if people really like my work, or are just saying nice things because they want me to review them or blurb them. I guess that really hit home for me with that Amazon review I got that the writer later deleted, after I didn't post a review of his book within two months.

There's a few blurbers and reviewers I trust. The rest, I just ignore.