Internal Promotion and Blurbs

Over the weekend, in addition to proofing Mathias Enard’s Zone and rereading Julio Cortazar’s Cronopios and Famas, I started reading Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Now don’t judge—I’m a single guy in frickin’ Rochester who doesn’t own a TV and might possibly be spending too much alone time with avant-garde music and experimental literature. Besides, of all the post-apocalyptic vampire novels out there, this one is supposed to be the most literary. (See Ed Nawotka’s review at Publishing Perspectives.) And yes, it’s pretty damn compelling. And entertaining. And well-crafted. Like a movie, but on paper!

That last statement is actually what got me to thinking about a few things, about blurbs, promoting titles, etc. . . . See, the only reason I had a galley copy of The Passage in the first place was because my former intern and friend Rhea Lyons sent one along for me to use in my “intro to literary publishing” class (or “class”) as an example of how a massive, corporate publisher can get behind a particular book.

Seriously—there’s like two full pages inserted in this galley detailing all of marketing stuff going on for this book: ads, Facebook and Twitter campaigns, iPhone apps, a reading tour, ads in every major paper, massive review coverage, so on and on and on. My interns were very impressed, and I believe the marketing budget for this book alone would keep Open Letter running until 2020.

Now for those of you who don’t know, galleys (or Advanced Reading Copies) are sent out to potential reviewers, booksellers, and buzz makers months before the book is actually released to give potential tastemakers a chance to read it and start creating a baseline of buzz for the book’s eventual release.

And to demonstrate that ALL of Random House is behind The Passage and determined to make it a massive sales success, instead of a reproduction of the book jacket, this particular galley is covered front in back with blurbs by actual Random House employees. Which is kind of cute and kind of funny, and probably works well with booksellers and in-the-know industry folks who feel like their friends are personally recommending the book to them. Although . . . No offense, but the fact that the district sales manager for the Pacific Northwest’s quote is “Blew. Me. Away.” really didn’t convince me to read this book. But that’s just me.

But this is something that can’t be done all that often, right? If you used this technique for every big book the hyperbolic statements would shrink up and people would start saying more obvious, more honest things, such as this list Rhea and I put together last night, and which, could actually convince me to read a particular title. (And in case it needs to be stated, none of these are actually in reference to The Passage, which I really am enjoying):


“If I read books, I’d read one almost exactly like this.”

“Challenging to read in the dark, otherwise very readable!”

“Not worth 300 times my salary, but good, I guess.”

“Nice to cuddle with and makes me look smart on the subway!”

“My assistant liked it, so . . . there you go.”

“We paid waaayyyy too much for this. So buy two!”

“A future remainder!”

“Where’s the USB port?”

(This is what happens when all the serious news is being posted at another site . . . But seriously, this sort of kind of ties into the editorial I’m writing for Publishing Perspectives. I swear.)

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