Thursday, April 13, 2006

In Praise

A small avalanche of e-mail requests have recently come in asking me for quotes and recs here on PBW, or asking me why I chose so-and-so's novel, how come I wrote this or that, etc.

Making endorsements is tough for me. For one thing, I'm still new at it, and I have no procedure to follow. I'm still fumbling with how to do it, as well as how often, for whom and so forth. I'm also aware of a certain freak value being attached to me because of past endorsements, so I'm getting even more leery about making them.

I can't write glowing, artfully worded blurbs. You know, the ones that sound a lot like those intimate scenes from certain romance novels where actual sex acts, body parts, and fluids are never mentioned, but lots of euphemisms throb and bud and dampen? Right. Can't do that. So my endorsements take a lot of time and thought, and still tend to be, shall we say, colorful. This makes editors nuts, btw, and some of them want to reword my quotes to be thus glowy and arty, which is also something I generally nix, creating even more headaches for all involved.

I also go out on numerous limbs when I endorse something. I know plenty of writers who don't sweat it, but personally, I put my rep on the line every time I do. My attitude is that I'm asking people to spend money based on my word, and that's something I take very seriously. To combat the rampant cronyism out there, I prefer to endorse writers who are total strangers to me, but in one instance that came back to bite me on the ass, so that's always a risk, too. This is all why I don't toss out quotes and recs like handfuls of confetti.

As far as reading manuscripts goes, I truly am quoted out at present. I don't intend to stop forever but my batteries need some recharging. I still recommend books here, and I'll keep doing that as I come across books I think you'll enjoy. There is no agenda. I'm a reader, you're readers, and I'll let you know when I find something I think is worth your time and money and then some.

There are good reasons to endorse other writers, and it's not simply to help them out. For example, this came in e-mail this week (posted with permission):

You certainly are doing something right! Your recommendation for Nightlife was right on. The book is slick, scary and YUM. I can hardly tear myself away from reading it to write this, and I can't wait to see what the audacious midpoint surprise that you mentioned turns out to be. If the rest of the book delights me as it has so far, I'll definitely be putting the word out. :) --Suzy

There are a couple of great things about what Suzy wrote. One is that she apparently got sucked into the book as quickly as I did. She's endorsing my endorsement, so to speak. The other is that despite the fact that I have recommended Nightlife, and she's reading a free copy, she's still reserving judgment until she finishes the book. Suzy is not a pushover or a suck-up, and I respect that. As reader responses go, this one is damn near perfect. As in, this is exactly what I want when I quote or rec something.

Let me point out one more thing to dispel some odd assumptions. I cannot make anyone into another J.R. Ward by the awesome power of my super endorsement of their book. Guys, my endorsements aren't that awesome or powerful or super. Nothing I did made J.R. Ward a success.* She accomplished that all on her own with her talent, imagination and hard work. Don't make me into some kind of rabbit's foot for books. I'm not.

Questions, thoughts, opposing opinions? Please post them in comments.

*I reserve the right to occasionally gloat about being SO right about her, though.

34 comments:

  1. Are we going to see anymore works by your good buds, Jessica Hall and Gena Hale, or have they moved to no-more-land?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hmm... I'm a day early with my question (it's been so long a day, it felt like two).

    Anyway, it's because you take such care and thought into the quotes that readers value them; they are genuine, not cliched quotes that any mutt could write. There are plenty of fans out here who will read anything you recommend, simply because you've enjoyed the books. And it is that which makes a quote by Lynn Viehl or S.L. Viehl special.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Can you mention the author of Nightlife so I can find it, or provide a link to your recommendation for the same reason? Sounds as if it is worth a read!
    Many thanks, Maxine.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm with you on the blurbing / promo-quote front: it's a lot more work than it seems. And a lot harder work too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. If you lose your honour, then all your quotes are useless, so I applaud your caution.

    That said, if you enjoyed a book, it's probably enough to say, "A damn fine read". A full review is not needed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As a book reviewer over on my site of many different books, all I can say is "be honest"

    Completely honest.

    Nothing irks me more than bull-shite in reviews. I may not agree with your opinion of a book, but I will respect it.

    In your situation (published novelist in competition with others, etc) you may want to follow the "if you have nothing good to say, then say nothing"

    And you mentioned in your post "as I come across books I think you'll enjoy." My 2 cents is change the "you" to "I enjoyed". Its your opinion we want, not a second guess as to what we might like or not. We may not agree with your opinion.

    But that is just tough shite.

    We will eventually figure out if we share the same opinions about books that you do and from that perspective be able to know what books "we will enjoy".

    Sorry for the small essay.

    ReplyDelete
  7. While I’m no where near the point in my writing career to have to worry about this, I do admire your principles - and I agree with them.

    For myself, it wouldn’t matter where I was in my career, I would be hesitant to ever put my name to something – be it a book, a review, or any other project – if I didn’t personally believe in it.

    That process might take more time and effort, and it might result in fewer releases, but I think that the trade off is well worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Quotes are nere wracking.

    I've been asked a few time but the only two I ever considered seriously were the ones that came thru my agent instead of somebody dropping me an email. When I get contacted directly, it feels really awkward. I'm usually really strapped for time, and that's part of the reason I always say no, but a few of been kind of ahhh... less than understanding, we'll say.

    The two that came thru my agent were from editors. Both were for erotic romance. I did one, turned the other one down, but it's a lot easier to make my choice based on what *I* feel like doing, instead of worrying what somebody will think if I say no.

    ...by the way... *G* as much as I respect your opinion, do people really think that she hit the USA Today best seller list based solely on your recommendation? THAT many people read your blog? Hmmmm... hey... *G* can you make me a Cinderella, too...

    Seriously, though, if people think that, my opinion is that they haven't read the book. Or they haven't heard the hype about it. Readers everywhere have been talking about it.

    I did pick it up and look at it based on your recommendation, but it was the blurb and the first few pages that had me buying it.

    Well, that and the fact that JR and I are in the same loca RWA chapter and after I read your recommendation, I grilled her about the book... and the upcoming ones...

    ReplyDelete
  9. The way I look at it (which could be wrong - I'm not near this situation, yet), recommendations should be viewed as coming from a READER, not a WRITER. You read the book, you enjoyed the book, you think others might enjoy it, too; you're sharing it as a satisfied reader. It shouldn't be seen as any different than your next door neighbor proclaiming that a book was wonderful and encouraging you to pick it up.

    I don't want to know what a WRITER thinks about a book - that's useless, to me. I want to know what a reader thinks (theoretically, anyway, since I rarely take recommendations seriously *-*), because I'm going to pick the book up as a reader. A reader will have devoured the book; a writer may have just skimmed the first five lines or so or run a mental grammar check.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I bought J.R Ward's first book because of your endorsement, and you were right on with it. I've since bought the second and I'll continue to buy her books. She's fantabulous.

    ReplyDelete
  11. As the recipient of one of your blogging recommendations, I can't thank you enough for what you do. It was especially thrilling to have you pick DEEP BREATH to profile, as it's a book I'm banking on for a number of things.

    I also do recommendations on my blog (I have one going up soon - waiting on some info from the author), and have a blast sharing and talking about books I love. I think blogging is truly one of the most effective word-of-mouth tools we have.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Nightlife was well worth the read! My roommate and I rarely share the same taste in books but I gave it to her and told her she had to read it! I was frantically trying to finish up yet another paper for my classes and it was tortuous: if I met my goal for the day, I got to read as many pages as Ii could before I fell asleep. I had to change that reward... the darned book kept me turning pages and it didn't take me long to realize I would lose too much paper work time the next day sleeping if I didn't. Had to limit it to a chapter a night. As soon as the paper was done htough... the book was the first thing I grabbed! Paper (and book) are both done now, and the book was far better! Far far better!!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Just want to mention -- THANK YOU for posting your recommendation for J. R. Ward. I probably never would've heard about her -- or if I had, not for quite awhile. Morgan and I picked up both books on your recommendation; he finished both, loved them. I'm reading the first and loving it. (It's very, very rare for me to read a romance where the alpha male hero makes me go all melty within the first few chapters. Last time that happened, actually, wasn't even romance -- twas Anne Bishop's Black Jewels books. Which, actually, you might check out, as she lifts very dark alpha male heroes from romance and puts them in a fantasy setting. :)

    We picked up Nightlife the other day, but haven't gotten a chance to read it yet. Looking forward to it, though!

    ReplyDelete
  14. As an author, I can say that it meant a great deal to me that you took the time to read my book, provided a quote and then used your forum to comment about my work. It matters to me that you honestly liked my book.

    I heard recently that an author might give a quote even if he/she never read the book.

    That just doesn't sit right with me as a reader or as an author.

    Bravo for you for your selectivity and for knowing when you're tapped out on quotes for a time.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Leave the artsy froth to somebody else. You have a reputation for honesty and integrity in all you say and do. You speak clearly and plainly. Anybody that asks for a quote should expect the plain truth about what you think. As a reader, I would much rather have that than some meaningless glitter-chatter.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The best quote I ever got just happened to come from my Mom: "This novel wasn't half as bad as his last one."

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm with you. I thinkit's important to only promote those books you truely like. Readers trust you, losing that trust could be a bad thing.

    That said, so far, any of your reccomends that I've followed have been worth it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Jaye wrote: Are we going to see anymore works by your good buds, Jessica Hall and Gena Hale, or have they moved to no-more-land?

    Gena Hale is a permanent resident of NoMoreLand, I'm sorry to say. Jessica Hall has continued selling, but her next book is still in limbo. I'll let you know if that changes -- Jessica tells me everything. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jaye also wrote: There are plenty of fans out here who will read anything you recommend, simply because you've enjoyed the books.

    That's the heaviest responsibility involved in this whole quote/rec business -- not just for me, but for any writer. If you blow your credibility with your readers by quote slutting around for your cronies, you never get it back.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Maxine wrote: Can you mention the author of Nightlife so I can find it, or provide a link to your recommendation for the same reason?

    Nightlife was written by Rob Thurman, whose website is is here. You can read my rec post for the novel here.

    ReplyDelete
  21. MacBride wrote: ...it's a lot more work than it seems. And a lot harder work too.

    Especially if you don't want your quote to sound as if it's about to throb or bud or dampen. :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Zornhau wrote: That said, if you enjoyed a book, it's probably enough to say, "A damn fine read". A full review is not needed.

    You're probably right, but you know how we females get swept up in enthusiasm and have to gush. :)

    I don't consider anything I write about another author's books here a review, though. Recommendations are opinion-based, but they're always favorable, and as such can't be classified as criticism.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Paul wrote: Sorry for the small essay.

    No problem. I don't censor comments for anything but SPAM and, lately, other SF writer pimpage.

    ReplyDelete
  24. JLB wrote: I would be hesitant to ever put my name to something – be it a book, a review, or any other project – if I didn’t personally believe in it.

    Exactly. Quote-slutting is like lying to your readers; eventually they're going to catch you at it. If you always tell the truth, you never have to worry about it.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Shiloh wrote: ...can you make me a Cinderella, too...

    Only if you give me the ugly stepsisters in trade. I need someone to scrub out the cat boxes, weed the roses and deal with Alegbra homework. :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Andi wrote: The way I look at it (which could be wrong - I'm not near this situation, yet), recommendations should be viewed as coming from a READER, not a WRITER.

    Agreed, but your perspective raises an interesting thought: can writers simply be readers, and are we different when we read than when we write? I read a couple of ways; absorbing a book for pure enjoyment, sampling/analyzing it for a market look-see, and putting it under my internal editor scope to line-edit, so I think so, but others may disagree.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Trace wrote: I bought J.R Ward's first book because of your endorsement, and you were right on with it. I've since bought the second and I'll continue to buy her books. She's fantabulous.

    I appreciate the investment, and I bet J.R.'s talent will keep you going back for more. She's another writer who's going to be fun to watch.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Alison wrote: I think blogging is truly one of the most effective word-of-mouth tools we have.

    I appreciate how you're always trying new things with your blog, Alison -- I think you're pioneering the way for a lot of author/bloggers down the road.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Mary wrote: My roommate and I rarely share the same taste in books but I gave it to her and told her she had to read it!

    Oh, so you're a book tyrant like me, then. :) On Rob's behalf, thanks for investing and for browbeating your roommate, Mary.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Nonny wrote: ...twas Anne Bishop's Black Jewels books. Which, actually, you might check out, as she lifts very dark alpha male heroes from romance and puts them in a fantasy setting.

    I did read the Black Jewels books a few years back, when I had just signed on with Roc. Very dark indeed. :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Mary Stella wrote: I heard recently that an author might give a quote even if he/she never read the book.

    Some authors don't have the time to read manuscripts, or don't care to. It's really not a good idea -- you can end up quoting a clunker -- but if you're tempted, you can always try endorsing the author instead of the book, as in "Mary Stella is one of my favorite writers."

    ReplyDelete
  32. Carter wrote: Anybody that asks for a quote should expect the plain truth about what you think.

    Yes and no. Sometimes they aren't looking for the plain truth, and you can end up with a writer in hysterics, a writer who forever after hates your guts, a writer who stalks you, etc. It is often impossible to know what the reaction is going to be, or how shaky the other writer's ego is. One way to avoid this with quotes is to deal with the editors involved and not the writers.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Ed wrote: The best quote I ever got just happened to come from my Mom: "This novel wasn't half as bad as his last one."

    Moms are tough customers. Mine is a very religious lady who always reads everything I write, no matter what it is and how she feels about it, and tries to say something encouraging. I'll never forget her honest reaction to reading my first inspirational novel, though: "The faith in the story was amazing. I can't believe you wrote it."

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sasha wrote: That said, so far, any of your reccomends that I've followed have been worth it.

    Thanks, Sasha. It means a lot to me to know that.

    ReplyDelete