When I was a young reader I soon learned to trust – or not trust – the reviews on the back of books. My default weekly selection at the local library was one anthology, one book with a bright yellow cover and the VG logo (I’d soon learned to trust that as an implicit recommendation, and another novel. Back then it was all SF and fantasy, that was what I read, that was all I wanted to read. The blurbs on the back helped me pick and choose. One I learned to rely on was, as I recall, the reviewer for the Oxford Mail. I wondered why a provincial newspaper was so good at spotting good SF and fantasy (years later I found out: again, as I recall, Christopher Priest who was the reviewer). The thing was, I learned to trust their opinion.
Reviews I understood, but I didn’t get how one author got to pass comment on another’s work. I came up with some convoluted and, if I’d taken the time to think about it, implausible ideas.
Now, years, decades later, I have a book of my own and I know the answer. This is how it goes, and it’s pretty simple:
You, your agent or publisher asks some writers who you think will like the book if they’d be kind enough to read it, and if they like it, to write a blurb. If they don’t want to, they say ‘Sorry, too busy’.
That’s it. Then you sit and wait in fear and trepidation for the emails. Every single one of mine when they came I couldn’t open. I had to wander round the house for a bit, conclude I was being foolish, and go and read it.
I don’t have an agent so I decided I’d rather ask people myself. My book is SF, so, feeling like some pushy little gobshite, I got in touch with people who wrote SF of one kind of another. I wondered if they’d be so kind…
One said ‘Sorry, too busy’, one was flattered to be asked, one offered to read it before I asked them, one just said ‘Yes, sure’ and one said ‘I will if you want, but i hated the last thing you wrote.’ Which was, really, just what I wanted.
So I got my blurbs and that’s how it happened. Thank you, Mike Carey, Chris Beckett, Jaine Fenn and Francis Knight. Praise from the praiseworthy.. I’m happy as anything.
“Dave Gullen’s debut novel is huge, enthralling, packed with bold ideas and genre-shattering extrapolations. And his characters get so deep inside your head you’re still arguing with them days later. Seriously, you need this book.” – Mike Carey
“Global warming has really begun to bite, but human consumption of resources has become more frantic than ever in this clever, dark and often very funny satire on rapacious capitalism.” – Chris Beckett
“A sharp and witty take on the perils of consumerism. To be honest, it was fairly terrifying — very believable.” – Francis Knight
“Subversive. Hilarious. Touching. Brilliant.” – Jaine Fenn