Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Dirty Little Blurb Secret, by Jess Lourey

secretMay Day, the first in my Murder-by-Month mysteries, hit the shelves in March of 2006. Two months before that, the reviews started coming in. You need to know that I’m a small-town gal from Minnesota. My life goals in early 2006 were not that different than the dreams I had when I graduated high school in 1988—find a boyfriend, become a published writer, and travel the world. I had knocked the big one off that list—my book was about to be published—and I was high on life. Who could pop my bubble? Kirkus Reviews, that’s who.

Here’s their review of May Day, sent to me by my publicist:

“Lourey's debut has a likable heroine and a surfeit of sass...”

I had to look up surfeit, and it means "a lot." So that's good. See the ellipses above, though? You'll see those in many blurbs on book covers. That's where the author or his/her publicist took out words such as, "...but I'd sooner chew my own foot off than read another one of her books." (I suppose some publishers might also put ellipses in their author’s reviews because there’s just not enough room to include ALL the good stuff. Whatever.)

With some urging (“You sure you want to see it? We won’t be putting the whole thing on the book cover anyway.”), my publicist revealed to me the unellipsesed version of my very first review: "Lourey's debut has a likable heroine and a surfeit of sass, but the projected series needs to find its mystery footing."

Pinch. Spank. Slap.

No one wants a “but” in the review of their first novel, especially when they also don’t have a boyfriend and have only been as far from Minnesota as Jamaica about a decade earlier, where they accidentally smoked so much ganja that they might as well have been in their own bathtub for all that they moved that week.

I still cringe when I think back to that May Day review, which isn’t often, fortunately, because it's more interesting to poke fun at others than to scrutinize myself. In that spirit, I’ve developed the “Reinvent the Review” game. The rules are simple:booklooking

  1. Go to your bookshelf and pull a book by your favorite author.
  2. Look at the front cover, inside front cover, and back cover until you find a blurb with ellipses in it.
  3. Replace the ellipses with whatever your wicked imagination tells you might have been there.

Below, I’ve demonstrated how this game works. Remember: italics=official ellipses replaced by my imagination. (I'll show you the "before" in the first one so you have a model):

  • Sue Grafton, F Is for Fugitive
    San Francisco Chronicle

"Exceptionally entertaining…An offbeat sense of humor and a feisty sense of justice.”


"Exceptionally entertaining except for the part where Jim is unmasked as the killer, which was just dumb. An offbeat sense of humor and a feisty sense of justice.”

  • Nancy Martin, Have Your Cake and Kill Him, Too
    Publishers Weekly

“Readers nowadays want comedy and a blend of fashion-forward romance. They could get it from this book, or check out something from Steve Martin for some witty suspense and Martin's wicked tongue-in-cheek satire.”

  • Janet Evanovich, Hot Six
    Dallas Morning News

"An appealing detective, a love interest, a little danger, and a lot of laughs would have been great, but instead she wrote this. I would have even settled for a classic screwball detective story."

  • William Kent Kruger, Purgatory Ridge
    Publishers Weekly Review

"Krueger's page-turner opens with a bang yet left me constantly smelling hard boiled eggs as I read. The plot comes full circle as credibly flawed central characters find resolution and that smell of eggs becomes overwhelming. Krueger prolongs suspense to the very end."

  • Elaine Viets, Shop Till You Drop
    Reviewed by Charlaine Harris

“I loved this book for balancing my wobbly table at the airport restaurant, where I was about to embark on a vacation that turned out to be tons of fun! If you have any uneven furniture, this book has it all.”

  • Carl Hiaasen, Skin Tight
    The New York Times Book Review

"This novel is Carl Hiaasen's latest dangerous weapon--Uzi satire in 9-millimeter bursts aimed at those classic baddies, vanity and greed. I wish I liked funny and terrifying bad guys because if I did, I'd like this book. No one has ever designed funnier, more terrifying bad guys."

Ah. That was cathartic. Thank you for playing the “Reinvent the Review” game with me. I’d like to remind you that no changes were made to the above reviews except to replace their God-given ellipses with my own silliness, and no authors were harmed in the playing of this game.

(On a side note, I heart the writing of the above authors, and my recommendation of it is ellipses-free.)

My west coast tour kicks off this Wednesday, May 21, with a signing in California, followed by an Oregon and a couple Washington signings. Check my website for more detail, and if you're in the area, stop by and say hey. The first three people to pick up a book at each stop get a free Nut Goodie, flown in fresh from Minnesota.

Oh, and here's the Kirkus Reviews blurb for just-released August Moon; care to speculate what goes in place of the ellipses? "Another amusing tale set in the town full of over-the-top zanies..."


Keith Raffel said...

Your tour kicks off in California? Boy, that's descriptive. Why not just say it begins west of the Rockies? Or east of Japan? Be specific! Why not say something like, "My tour kicks off at M Is for Mystery in San Mateo, CA on Wednesday at 7. I'll buy beers afterwards at the sports bar across the street. If you don't show, I'll whup your ass."

Mark Terry said...

For Kirkus, you actually have a pretty good review. Kirkus is widely viewed by everyone in the industry as being the Mikey of the review world--Mikey hates everything.

I have a friend who was a reviewer for Kirkus for a while and he said they were pretty much told to either love it or hate it. In fact, at one point he turned in a positive review and his editor told him to go back and make it negative, because they already had too many positive reviews for that issue.

Jess Lourey said...

Because, Mr. Raffel, I want people to go to my webpage, and I figure if they're interested, they will, and if they're not, they don't want the information anyways. But thank you for offering to buy beers afterward--I'm in.

Thank you for confirming my suspicions, Mark! Does that mean my book is something special to have obtained a milquetoast review in the land of love or hate? :)

jbstanley said...

Jess, I really enjoyed this post. In lieu of replacing ellipses, I'd like to have the power to leap through cyberspace and repeatedly slap those individuals that have left me scathing reviews on Amazon while I sit, seething, and question whether they actually read my book. Sometimes, I think I just cut them off on the Interstate or made a derisive comment about their sports team.

Jess Lourey said...

Ah yes, those scathing reviews on amazon. Been there. I can carry those around for days, while good reviews seem not to stick as long. Maybe we should just not read them?

Bill Cameron said...

See you Saturday! At Murder By The Book, 3210 SE Hawthorne, Portland, OR at 11am.

David Fitzgerald said...

Can't wait, Bill!

G.M. Malliet said...

My favorites are those one-word movie reviews that you see all the time in the newspaper ads.

"INCREDIBLE!" [that anyone would make this drek into a movie]

"FANTASTIC!" [lack of judgement in casting]

"MIND-BLOWING!" [that no one caught the plot holes before they put this baby in the can]