Sunday, June 05, 2005


Your editor e-mails to ask if you have any quotes for one of your published books. You don't have any.

Welcome to Writer Hell.

First level: review trawling.

I hate this. I hate this. You Google your book, click on and skim the first twelve reviews. Nice. Nasty. Cute. Vicious. Eh. Lukewarm. Oh, for God's sake get a job. Twit. Whoa-ho, very nasty. Ouch. Good one. That's not my book, moron.

You weed out and send the best of the lot to your editor, and pray it will be enough. Your editor e-mails you and says thanks, but could you get some quotes from writers? Preferably BSL-ers.

Second level: asking the BSL writer you know for a quote.

You write the following e-mail to a BSL writer you know, have helped in the past and have never asked anything in return:

Hey, stranger, it's me. You're not going to believe this, but I need a quote for my new novel. Mind taking a look?

Two weeks later, you receive the following response:

Sorry I didn't get back to you right away on this; was writing my next book and it's so wonderful!!!! Also signed a seven-figure deal with Huge Important Publisher. Dying to help you out but I'm just now going on tour again. Love to your hubby and the kids.

This is the same writer you helped find an agent, held her hand through her first five novels, gave quotes every time she asked for them, and hauled drunk out of more hotel bars than you can count. To add insult to injury, you've been divorced for twenty years and you don't have kids.

Third level: asking a BSL writer you have met once for a quote.

Review trawling wasn't that bad. You love reviews. Adore them. Next reviewer you see, you're going to kiss her on her lips.

On that note, you open a new e-mail window, address it to a BSL writer you barely know, and write: Dear Jane. Does a handshake and a hiya at a publisher party five years ago rate a first-name exchange? Survey says NO. You delete Dear Jane and write: Dear Ms. Doe. Why am I writing Dear? She could hate Dear letters. She could hate me. Oh, God, I bet she hates me. You delete Dear Ms. Doe and write: Ms. Doe. Too terse. I sound confrontational. If she doesn't hate me now, she will when she reads that.

You write: Hi Ms. Doe, I don't know if you remember me, but we met at the Big Important Publisher's cocktail party back in 2000. I know you must be extremely busy, so I'll get to the point. I have a new novel coming out, and my editor is looking for cover quotes. Would you have time to take a look at the manuscript? Let me know when you have a chance, and thanks so much.

Six days later, you send this e-mail, which you have rewritten twelve thousand times, to the BSL-er. Within 24 hours, you receive the following auto-reply response:

Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately, I am too busy writing my next New York Times bestselling novel to consider your novel for a quotation. I know so many readers enjoy your cute stories and wish you all the best. Yours, Ms. Doe. P.S. To subscribe to my new bi-weekly newsletter, send an e-mail to blah blah blah and win a chance for my next giveaway, a genuine self-adhesive bookplate signed by me!

Your head does not explode. It only feels like it does.

Fourth level: asking a BSL writer you don't know from Adam for a quote.

You copy the e-mail you sent to the writer you barely know, weed out the friendly parts, polish it like a submission, and send it off.

A short time later, you receive a response. It's from the writer's personal assistant,who gently but firmly delivers the no.

Fifth level: Telling your editor you can't get any quotes.

You're extremely depressed. For you, not being able to get a decent quote is like going to the prom and not being asked to dance once, not even by the class dweeb who's wearing the powder blue tux and dyed-to-match penny loafers. But your editor is waiting on you, so you e-mail her and deliver the bad news.

Ten minutes later, you receive the following response:

No problem -- John Grisham called and while we were chatting I got a nice quote for you. Will send it along as soon as I can find the darn notebook I wrote it in; I don't know where I put it.

Sixth level: John Grisham is reading your books. John Grisham gave you a quote.

You're on the floor. You're hyperventilating. Your significant other is hovering over you, waving something at your face. It looks like the New York Times. And there, there's your name, right at the top of the BSL. Right next to John Grisham's.

Seventh level: Your editor never finds the notebook.


  1. I HATED asking for quotes for my first book and have pretty much ignored asking for them for the one coming out in August. I feel like the novelist equivalent of Oliver, trembling while I carry my manuscript up to the quote-doling authority figure at the front of the room. "Please, Ma'am. May I have a quote?"

  2. Anonymous9:35 PM

    Mary wrote: I feel like the novelist equivalent of Oliver, trembling while I carry my manuscript up to the quote-doling authority figure at the front of the room. "Please, Ma'am. May I have a quote?"

    Know that feeling well. You probably don't remember this, Mary, but a few years back you came down to FL for a romance conference. At the con, there was a clueless and rather terrified rookie author who was there pitching her first romance to Harlequin (they didn't buy it.)

    Although you didn't know her, more than once during that con you took time to talk to her and made her feel less like a complete loser.

    Times change, as do situations, and that poor little clueless thing went on to do pretty well for herself. I bet she'd give you a quote in a heartbeat, too. You can e-mail her at :)

  3. Anonymous10:08 PM


    I'll quote for you even after I've become Mr. Wellknown Author. And you won't even have to drag me out of any hotel bars.

    Hey, stop laughing. I mean it. I do! Really!

  4. I recognize this all too well (as you should know ;)) for my first book (well story in an anthology). The editor asked and I didn't really know how much of a big deal it was until I sat down to write an email to two writers who I'd spoken to electronically half a dozen times or more. Suddenly, it wasn't easy any more. I also reworded the darn emails at least 20 times and then almost was too gutless to send them. Still, I knew they'd both turn me down gently because we did know each other so I'd survive the embarrassment of asking. I can't possibly explain how it felt to get back yes's from both you and Holly. I danced around the room enough that even my cats started looking at me strangely.

    Now part of me says I shouldn't have used up the good will so early, but it was my first published story, which only makes the support all the more meaningful.

    Thanks for not being like the BSL authors in your blog and for giving the newbies a helping hand :). And should (when--think positive) I get a name someone might recognize from Eve, you can count on the return favor. Besides, what better way to get a special copy of one of your books :)?

    /me has become an incorrigible fan girl :p.

  5. Boy, could I relate to this post. I dreaded asking other authors for quotes. Of course, publishers prefer that you acquire a quote from a well established author. That makes it even worse. They get flooded with requests and are typically on deadline for something or another. Stressed with next to no free time. Yet you're asking them to make time for you. To do you a favor. It doesn't much matter to me if I'm asking a friend or an acquaintance, it's still uncomfortable. Like Mary, I skipped this process for my latest release. I don't think sales are suffering for lack of an author quote, so I wonder... are they really essential?


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