Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Wrote my last promised quote for another writer over the weekend. I don't know the writer personally at all, and it was not a piece of cake this time. The novel was excellent and extremely well-written, but it was also one of those stories that just doesn't want to be pinned down.

Not to be snotty, but I think I'm pretty much quoted out for this year.

Part of my problem is that I'm wondering if I'm doing this right. Hardly anyone ever talks about writing quotes, and I've never understood the politics involved.

When I write quotes these days, I try to go with something about the author, something about the book, and a short ending tag line (six words or less) that can be used as a standalone quote. Three, four sentences tops. I have no idea if this is a correct or even desirable sort of quoting -- there is no Chicago Manual of Quote Style, I've checked -- but that's how my quotes have evolved over the last year.

I don't mine quotes by others for their buzzy wording; I prefer coming up with my own. No one writes the quotes but me, but I am generally okay with editors snippeting or changing a little of the wording, although that's only happened once or twice. The same editors have asked for quotes from me more than once so I think they're okay with what I write. No one's bitched, anyway.

I am enthusiastic, which is probably all to hell vulgar, but I don't know -- why be lukewarm? Honestly, I don't quote books that leave me lukewarm (and yes, I have sent a few manuscripts back with a polite no-thank-you.) Sometimes I've done multiple versions or different quotes for the same book and told the writer or editor to pick the one he/she liked best. Again, have no idea if this is the accepted practice.

Sometimes -- most times -- I feel pretty ridiculous writing quotes, as if part of me knows I'm winging something serious and important. Kind of like deciphering those weird symbols they put on a copy-edit; after fifteen novels I finally broke down and begged an editor to tell me if I was screwing them up. She reassured me (and sent me a comprehensive symbol-definition list which I consult every copy-edit now.) Those feelings don't help.

Anyone got a how-to-quote list?


  1. "Anyone got a how-to-quote list?"

    Nope, but I do have my very first 'book to quote' sitting on the TBR pile. It's by some wierd -looking bloke and you know what he's like.

    I think I'm going to aim for a couple of short sentences and hope to God that's OK.

    There's also a strange pressure to Blurbing - not to mention the uneasy feeling of being in a competition. If someone else produces a better blurb than mine, will I be consigned to the print room floor? Dare I aim for that coveted back-of-the-jacket spot?

  2. You know, quotes by other authors is very low on the list of things that catch my eye about a book or lead me to buy it. I've only started to pay attention to them now that I "know" (in the internet acquaintance and fan con attendance way) a few authors. It feels more like word-of-mouth that way.

    Sheila, I've liked all the quotes I've seen you do. They work just fine for me. I guess quoting is one of those "emulate what you like" things in writing.

  3. Sheila,

    Everything you've described sounds ideal to me (not that I know anything about the process). Enthusiasm is key--and you covered that well.

    Sounds like you know what you're doing to me.

  4. If there is a list, I want to see it. I've never done one and I have my first quote waiting, once I read the story. A friend wants the quote for her webiste. I told her she should aim higher, but hey, I wanna read the story.

    On a different subject entirely, I just found this blog thru a friend's blog-and I could have kicked myself for not stumbling on it sooner. I love your books. I can't wait for Duncan and Cherijo's next one. It's been way too long.

  5. Anonymous12:17 PM

    I like honest and enthusastic quotes. if they sound market-y, I'll ignore em.

    A quote won't inspire me to buy but it will influence. I tend to ignore publisher list quotes and reviews from places I don't pay attention to.

    That being said. I'd love to ask you for one when mine sells. I'd have to ask!

    Still waiting for new book to hit the shelves here. The first one is sold out, and your books seem to be well stocked one week, sold the next and well worn the copies I see at the library. That makes me happy to see.

    The stardoc series especially. They'll have 7 copies in one week and all gone the next.

  6. I think you write wonderful quotes! :-)

    I think the best quotes are ones that show the author sincerely enjoyed the book. That's the most important thing. If that enjoyment is expressed, then I think the quote can be 'mined' for the pithy 'call-out' comment that marketing departments are so fond of.

  7. Sheila, do you ever wonder how many authors don't even bother to read the book? How could the Stephen Kings and Neil Gaimans of the world have the time to read that many books?

    I don't read the quotes. I look at the title (and, I admit, the cover art) and I'll read the first page. If the first page doesn't grab me, and if I'm not familiar with the author, I probably won't buy the book.

  8. I have to agree with Nico. *grins*


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