Sunday, November 28, 2010


Thought it was time for some lighter stuff. Wish I knew who came up with these so I could give them credit, but have no idea. Anyway… enjoy!

New Rules of Life
New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for! There's a reason I don't talk to people for 25 years. Because I don't particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days: mowing my lawn and applying fertilizer.

New Rule: Don't eat anything that's served to you out a window unless you're a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a bowl of Wendy's chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain? Trout? Luckily, it was only a finger! If it was a whole hand, Congress would have voted to keep it alive.

New Rule: Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde teachers are permanently damaged. I have a better description for these kids: lucky son of a guns.

New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here's how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.

New Rule: There's no such thing as flavored water. There's a whole aisle of this shit at the supermarket - water, but without that watery taste. Sorry, but flavored water is called a soft drink. You want flavored water? Pour some scotch over ice and let it melt. That's your flavored water.

New Rule: Stop messing with old people. Target is introducing a redesigned pill bottle that's square, with a bigger label. And the top is now the bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his butt will be in the morgue. Congratulations, Target, you just solved the Social Security crisis.

New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the idiot. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n-Low and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge idiot.

New Rule: I'm not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card, entering my PIN number, pressing "Enter," verifying the amount, deciding, no, I don't want cash back, and pressing "Enter" again, the kid who is supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my Almond Joy. Paper, plastic? I don't have time for that. I've just been called to do a cleanup on Aisle Nine!

New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to "beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.

New Rule: Competitive eating isn't a sport. It's one of the seven deadly sins. ESPN recently televised the US Open of Competitive Eating, because watching those athletes at the poker table was just too fricking exciting. What's next, competitive farting? Oh, wait. They're already doing that. It's called "The Howard Stern Show."

New Rule: I don't need a bigger mega M&M. If I'm extra hungry for M&Ms, I'll go nuts and eat two.

New Rule: If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappy old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what's playing on the other screens. Let's remember that the reason something was a television show in the first place is the idea wasn't good enough to be a movie.

New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for weddings. Now it's for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab. Picking up the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't gift-giving, it's the white people version of looting.

New Rule: and this one is long overdue: No more bathroom attendants. After I zip up, some guy is offering me a towel and a mint like I just made it with George Michael. I can't even tell if he's supposed to be there, or just some freak with a fetish. I don't want to be on your web cam, dude. I just want to wash my hands.

New Rule: When I ask how old your toddler is, I don't need to know in months. "27 Months." "He's two," will do just fine. He's not a cheese. And I didn't care in the first place.


25 ways to tell if you're a Redneck

1. The Halloween pumpkin on your porch has more teeth than your spouse.

2. You let your twelve-year-old daughter smoke at the dinner table in front of her kids.

3. You've been married three times and still have the same in-laws.

4. You think a woman who is "out of your league" bowls on a different night.

5. Jack Daniel's makes your list of "most admired people."

6. You wonder how service stations keep their restrooms so clean.

7. Anyone in your family ever died right after saying, "Hey y'all watch this."

8. You think Dom Perignon is a Mafia leader.

9. Your wife's hairdo was once ruined by a ceiling fan.

10. Your junior prom had a daycare.

11. You think the last words of the Star Spangled Banner are, "Gentlemen start your engines."

12. You lit a match in the bathroom and your house exploded right off its wheels.

13. The bluebook value of your truck goes up and down, depending on how much gas is in it.

14. You have to go outside to get something from the fridge.

15. One of your kids was born on a pool table.

16. You need one more hole punched in your card to get a freebie at the House of Tattoos.

17. You can't get married to your sweetheart because there's a law against it.

18. You think loading a dishwasher means getting your wife drunk.

19. Your toilet paper has page numbers on it.

20. Somebody hollers "Hoe Down" and your girlfriend hits the floor.

21. You have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say "Cool Whip" on the side.

22. The biggest city you've ever been to is Wal-Mart.

23. Your working T.V. sits on top of your non-working T.V.

24. Your neighbors think you're a detective because a cop always brings you home.

25. You missed 5th grade graduation because you had jury duty.

 As you can plainly see, my wife Mary is rolling in laughter at my jokes and in tears at the hilarity. (I took this photo right after the lesson down at the community center on "framing your shot."

For Those Who Take Life Too Seriously

1.) Save the whales. Collect the whole set.

2.) A day without sunshine is like, night.

3.) On the other hand, you have different fingers.

4.) I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.

5.) 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

6.) 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

7.) I feel like I'm diagonally parked in a parallel universe.

8.) You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.

9.) I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.

10.) Honk if you love peace and quiet.

11.) Remember half the people you know are below average.

12.) Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how popular it remains?

13.) Nothing is foolproof to a talented fool.

14.) Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

15.) He who laughs last thinks slowest.

16.) Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

17.) Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

18.) The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

19.) I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.

20.) I intend to live forever - so far so good.

21.) Borrow money from a pessimist - they don't expect it back.

22.) If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends?

23.) My mind is like a steel trap - rusty and illegal in 37 states.

24.) Quantum mechanics: The dreams stuff is made of.

25.) The only substitute for good manners is fast reflexes.

26.) Support bacteria - they're the only culture some people have.

27.) When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane and going the wrong way.

28.) If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

29.) A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.

30.) Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

31.) For every action there is an equal and opposite criticism.

32.) Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.

33.) Never do card tricks for the group you play poker with.

34.) No one is listening until you make a mistake.

35.) Success always occurs in private and failure in full view.

36.) The colder the x-ray tables the more of your body is required on it.

37.) The hardness of butter is directly proportional to the softness of the bread.

38.) The severity of the itch is inversely proportional to the ability to reach it.

39.) To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.

40.) To succeed in politics, it is often necessary to rise above your principles.

41.) How many of you believe in telekinesis? Raise my hand...

42.) You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

43.) Two wrongs are only the beginning.

44.) The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

45.) The sooner you fall behind the more time you'll have to catch up.

46.) A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

47.) Change is inevitable except from vending machines.

48.) If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.

49.) Always try to be modest and be proud of it!

50.) Get a new car for your wife... It'll be a great trade!

True story…

Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I watched our neighbor walking her Great Dane and she took the dog into our front yard to take a dump. We both rushed out to confront her, but she had already disappeared. There, right in the middle of our immaculate, manicured lawn was a huge, steaming pile of dog poop. My wife leaned over and exclaimed, “There’s writing on this!”

I had to rush back inside to get my glasses. Why? Well, I can’t read shit without them…

Semi-true story… (If you laugh at this you’re just proven you’re a truly sick individual…)

A friend of ours recently had a stroke. After an hour in the ER, the doc came out to talk to his wife, Brenda.

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news,” he said. “Which would you like first?”

“Uh… the bad news?” she stammered, unsure.

“Okay,” the doc said. “The bad news is that your husband has suffered a massive stroke. That means that for the next thirty years, you’re going to have to handfeed him baby food for every meal.

“That means that for the next thirty years, you’re going to have to wipe his butt.

“That means that for the next thirty years, you’re not going to be able to take a single day off. You’re going to have to be there for every minute of every day and every night in case he has a relapse.”

Brenda sat down heavily in one of those uncomfortable chairs they furnish waiting rooms with.

“Oh, my,” she said. “Well… what’s the good news?”

The doc smiled. “The good news is that your husband’s had a massive stroke, but I lied. He died.”

(If you smiled at this, you've just crossed over and no legitimate rehab in the world will take you in...)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Disclaimer—some of the material here is what might be considered “R-” or even “X-rated" by the folks who rate things for us so that we don’t accidentally stumble onto something that we might have witnessed in junior high. Seriously, I don’t mean to offend anyone, so just be forewarned that some of the stuff here (in the story sample that follows) is a bit raw.

Hi folks,
I thought you might find it interesting and perhaps helpful to post a query letter for one of my novels to see perhaps a different take on such tools. While books on the subject of query letters, along with columns and blogs are helpful, I think that sometimes in trying to follow all the dos and don’ts we see in those sources, we may become overly-anal when composing our sales letters (which is what they are, right?). In the following query--which resulted in a success rate of 100% of those queried (agents and editors) asking to read the entire mss—I simply tried to create a letter that would do one thing—make the reader want to read the novel.

I’ve followed some of the so-called “rules” of these things… and I’ve broken or ignored others. As a former litmag editor who read thousands of submissions, I quickly noticed a commonality in almost all of the cover letters folks sent along with their stories. Almost to a person, each cover letter resembled whatever current book or article or blog post on cover letters and query letters that was then popular. The writer had just plugged in different names in the blanks and what resulted was an almost exact copy of the sample letter in the book.

I suspect the same thing happens with query letters which are kind of like cover letters and follow many of the same conventions. I know that when I encountered yet another of these slightly-altered clone cover letters, I threw up a little in my mouth and popped a Tums, and I would guess that agents have the same reaction when reading the four thousandth and one query letter that looks pretty much like the previous four thousand.

To be honest, when I was an editor, I never read cover letters until I came upon a short story that I liked. Only then would I look at the sender’s cover letter. Didn’t read any of the others. They were all so similar that all I could see was a future date with me on my deathbed with minutes to go until I could start going toward the light, and wishing desperately I had all that time I’d spent on reading mind-numbing cover letters back…

But, agents and editors don’t have that luxury. They have to read the query letters to find a novel description that they may like.

I think the primary consideration in writing a query letter should be to make it entertaining. After all, that’s the business we’re in—entertainment—and if the letter is pretty much like the previous ten thousand the agent has read, the entertainment value thing is pretty well shot.

That doesn’t mean it needs to be “cutesy” or “precious” or anything like that… unless, of course, you’re writing a novel for the “precious” market and see pink book covers for it… It should be a pretty good reflection of the novel you’re selling and it’s a good idea (I think) to mirror the voice and tone of that novel.

I see I’m starting to deliver “rules” at this point, so I’ll quit and just show the dang thing.

Dear Agent;

In my completed 92,000 word black comedy thriller, titled:


... a couple of two-bit hustlers come up with the bright idea of kidnapping the New Orleans Cajun Mafia King...with a twist. Instead of 'napping his entire body unit, the pair figure to amputate his hand...and hold that appendage for some serious jack. This is their story and how even though everything went wrong that could, they still won. Well, one of them did...sort of...

PETE HALLIDAY, turned out of baseball for gambling, and his smarmy sidekick, part-Indian and full-time polluter, TOMMY LECLERC, both in heavy debt to bookies, get the bright idea to get on the plus side of the ledger by kidnapping the Big Sleazy’s Cajun Mafia King, CHARLES LACY DENEUVE, but with the aforementioned twist. They get the loot—Deneuve, unfortunately, is unable to reattach his primary meat hook as it has suffered extreme freezer burn having not been burped properly placing it in a baggie and storing it in Tommy's girlfriend WANDA’S freezer under the veal cutlets—but Tommy doublecrosses Pete and escapes with the swag. With girlfriend CAT DUPLAISIR, a part-time hooker whose specialty is walking on client's backs in heels with a whip in hand and other tricks and stratagems of the hustling trade by his side, Pete recovers the loot and the chase is on. SAM “THE BAM” CAPALETTI, the Italian Mafia, and the Cajun Mafia go after Pete and Cat, through the French Quarters, the Jazz Fest and even in the "Mighty Oil Slick" before they escape. They decide to hide out in the open in Lost Wages by getting plastic surgery to look like famous folks and at the last minute, Cat talks Pete into going to a plastic surgeon who promises the lowest prices in town as he's sliced all the frills from his practice—frills such as over-priced anesthetics, a downtown office, or a nurse with a current license. They end up looking like famous people, albeit not the ones they had in mind. Instead of the Big El, Pete looks like a skinny Liberace with yellow teeth and Cat... well, instead of Cher, Cat now resembles Bette Midler with black hair and a big schnozz...

Think: Chris Moore meets David Sedaris and they have a love child with multiple deformities, none of a serious nature... unless it's your own self who happens to be the said love child... This book will appeal to fans of Christopher Moore, Tim Dorsey, and Stephan Jaramillo, among others (including my own fans which are legion and number in the dozens…).

I have nine books in print and work of mine has been nominated for or won: the Pushcart, O. Henry Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award (short story category), PEN/Faulkner Award, Texas Institute of Letters' Jesse Jones Award, and the Violet Crown Book Award. I hold the MFA in Writing from Vermont and a Certificate in Barbering from Pendleton Reformatory, both of which I count as of equal weight in value, especially the latter as I actually made a living with it.

It may be of mild interest that this story evolved from a short story I published in The South Carolina Review and I liked these characters so much I also wrote a screenplay that was a finalist in both the Writer's Guild and Best of Austin screenwriting competitions (reg. WGAe). I’ve refrained from sending the screenplay out for coverage pending publication of the novel.

I’m including the first 5 pages of KIDNAPPING below, to give you a taste of the voice. Thank you for reading and considering my query. I'd be delighted to send you the completed mss.


Les Edgerton
(Contact info)


Les Edgerton

            The first glitch came up right away. In fine-tuning the kidnap plan, in which Tommy explained we'd go in dressed in three-piece suits like insurance salesmen in case any neighbors were up and about and noticed two guys dressed like shrimpers at this guy's house early in the morning. Well, I didn't have a three-piece suit and not even a two-piece suit, and, upon further researching my memory, didn't even have a sports coat and after quizzing Tommy, discovered he didn't have one either. I figured we'd just go in like we were dressed, but Tommy wouldn't have none'a that.
            "Jeez Louise, Pete. We can't do that. This is a big-money community where this guy lives. In-ground swimming pools, that gives you any idea. We show up looking like we usually dress, there's gonna be some lame across the street calling the cops for the two guys look like a home-invasion team."
            Turns out he had a plan to get us a few bucks to get suits with. It was a strange-enough idea I thought it could work. I guess you had to be there when he was laying it down. Sounded righteous enough then... I mean, the guy was an Indian...
*                                                          *                                                          *
            An hour later, Tommy and me are sitting on the St. Charles streetcar, at the stop by the zoo down by Club 4141, watching people get on in the front. The last two on are a young tourist couple in matching yellow Bermuda shorts.
            "Cool," Tommy said. "Tourists. They'll have cash." He took a drag from his cigarette. He was sitting directly under the "No Smoking" sign, but held it outside the window.
            I didn't disagree. There were maybe fifteen people on board, not counting us and the motorman. This was looking better and better. Might get as much as a couple of thousand out of this crew. Get us suits somewhere else than the bargain bins of the Men's Warehouse.
            "See that?" Tommy said. I followed his eyes which were locked on the buxom female member of the tourist couple. She was a looker.
            "Yeah? So?"
            "So this." He brought his forearm up, pretending to take a bite out of it.
            "You wish," I said, grinning.
            "Yeah, well I got something her boyfriend ain't."
            I laughed out loud. "Right, Tommy. Ugliness. But I think she's maybe one of those weirdos goes for brains and looks. At least one of those."
            Tommy turned and gave me a look. "I'm talking technique here," he said. "I got this technique."
            "What... you got a cute way of gettin' on and off?"
            "Naw, man," he said, shaking his head like he can't believe how dumb I am. "That's like a big dick. Everybody's got that."
            I snickered. "I don't recall you was so blessed in the big wang department, Tommy."
            "Yeah, well I was cold that time. We just got out of the lake, for crissake. See, Pete, being a champion at sex is like being good at basketball. You got to be able to go strong to the hole."
            There was a young gal behind us who I could see was trying to ignore what Tommy was saying. She squirmed in her seat and studied the scenery out the window, them mansions sliding by.
            I was dying to know Tommy's 'technique,' and asked him.
            "I piss in 'em," he said.
            The gal behind us grabbed her purse and sniffed, loud, got up and moved three rows back to the last seat.
            "Fuck you, lady," Tommy muttered. "You don't like the conversation, relocate."
            I couldn't help smiling. "She did. What's this pissing thing?"
            I saw the street sign flash by. Coming up was where we planned to do our thing. The corner where St. Charles turned onto Carrollton, by the Camellia Grill. Three blocks from where we'd stashed Tommy's Nova to make our getaway.
            "Never mind," I said. "Here it comes. You ready?"
            "I was born ready," Tommy said. He stood up and reached his hand into his waistband.
            The gal who had relocated screamed out, "This man has a gun!"
            The streetcar went nuts. Pandemonium erupted—passengers screaming, brakes screeching as the conductor slammed the car to a half. Tommy lost his balance and recovered. The tourist woman in the front screamed one long banshee scream—Ayyyyeeeeeeeaaahhhh! She's just one long scream, punctuated only by the times she has to draw breath.
            Eeeeeeeeeaaaaaayaaaaah! Ayaayaaya! Aaaaaayaeeee!
            "Shut up!" Tommy screamed. "Shut the hell up!"
            He looked down at me where I was just kind of sitting, pretty much in shock.
            "You on a break here, Pete?"
            I just gawked at him. This wasn't what I'd envisioned. His eyes left mine and I followed his stare to the gal who'd blown the whistle on us in the rear seat. She had a gun out, trained on him with both hands, just like they do on TV. I couldn't move. My entire life didn't flash before my eyes, but about twenty-six years and three months of it did.
            "I'm throwing up in my mouth, is what I'm doing," I said. What had I got into?
            "You'll wanna brush your teeth before you kiss any girls, then," he said.
            Tommy brought his own gun up to bear on the woman in back, same two-handed grip she had. Mexican standoff.
            He turned his head slightly down to me, still keeping his gaze on the woman. "Shoot her!" he said. This was just completely screwed.
            "You got the gun, Captain Marvel," I said, finally. "You shoot her."
            Instead of answering or shooting her, he began to back up toward the front door, his piece still trained on the woman. I got up to follow him. It got worse. Four people in the back pulled out weapons and pointed them our way.
            "Shit! Shit, shit, shit!" It was all Tommy could say. My sentiments exactly.
            I had to hand it to him, though. He didn't lose it.
            "Look, folks," he said. "We're gonna just get off now, leave all you good people be. Everybody just stay calm."
            One of the male armed passengers near the back door stood up. He said, "Like hell. I'm taking you out, cowboy."
            I felt like I was going to pass out.
            The conductor opened the front door with his control and stood up. "Let 'em go," he said. "I don't want no blood in my car."
            The guy with the gun didn't like what he was hearing. "Aw, man," he said in a whiney voice. "You can't just let criminals roam around. We got to take a stand. This is New Orleans, not Pansy-Ass-New-York-City. We don't take no prisoners in this town."
            "Listen, Dirty Harry," the conductor said. "This is my streetcar. I make the rules. Siddown and shut up and let these folks pass."
            Tommy ran for the door and I was closer than his shadow behind him, leaping off a nanosecond after he did, scrambling as fast as we could across the street.
            The mouthy man and the woman in back opened up with their pistolas. I didn't turn back to look, just kept running as hard as I could, but I heard glass shattering, people screaming, and the pop-pop-pop of handguns. Something whizzed just past my ear and I was pretty sure it wasn't a mosquito unless insects came in calibers. I ran right into a braking car, bounced off the hood, got up and kept on running. My side was on fire. Any second now, I imagined a hot piece of lead finding my skull or some other tender part. The regrets were coming as fast as the bullets and I kept wondering like you do in such times of stress when it was exactly that God had dropped my case and went off to take a nap or something.
            I knew when. Like all of my wrong turns, it had started with my gambling jones.
*                                                          *                                                          *

This was the letter that snagged me my agent. Did he sell this novel yet? Well, no, because I had another novel he thought was even more marketable and that’s the one we’re going with at present. KIDNAPPING is on the on-deck circle though. So, at this time, it’s “only available in my room,” but he and I are both confident it’ll end up at Border’s.

I think the secret to writing an effective query letter is to remember that you had a lot of fun writing the story and to convey that same feeling of excitement to the agent. Not by telling him or her you had all that wild fun, but by showing from what’s on the page the joy you experienced in creating it.

One thing I would always include, no matter what the agent says about it—I’d always send a small sample of the novel. Always. In the final analysis, that’s probably what’s going to get you a yea or a nay.

Hope this helps!

Blue skies,

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Hi folks,

I’d like to bring up a topic I don’t see addressed on the writer’s and agent’s blogs I visit—the potential value of pre-pub blurbs.

First, because I know there are different levels of writers who visit this site—from very new and beginning writers to established pros—for the benefit of the new writers, a blurb is an endorsement of someone respected and who has name cachet. It’s those little paragraphs you see on the covers or books by someone whose name you recognize who vows that the book you hold in your hands is the best thing since sliced bread.

Also included in the category of blurbs are the reviews from various publications that also grace the covers of books. I won’t be talking about those here, since those are obtained after the book has found a publisher, and what I want to address here are the blurbs solicited before the book has found a publishing home. What I’ll be talking about here will be what I’ll call “pre-pub” blurbs, i.e., endorsements of the book before it has been sold to a publisher.

There are differing thoughts on the value of blurbs. Some think they help sales and others think… they don’t. Personally, I think that simply from the fact that they exist, and are found on the vast majority of book jackets, is proof that at least the publisher feels they have value.

And, this is usually how most of us view blurbs. As something that’s solicited after the book has found a publisher. However, there are a few agents and authors who feel that gathering endorsements before the manuscript has even been sent out to editors has value.

I’m in that camp.

And, so is my own agent.

We both see endorsements from the right folks as being beneficial in not only selling a manuscript, but also in sometimes raising the amount of the advance and attention paid to the manuscript with the marketing departments of publishers.

Tell me—which of two otherwise equally good manuscripts in the horror novel genre will get taken more seriously by publishers—one accompanied by a couple of paragraphs from Stephen King, saying this book is one of the scariest books he’s ever read? Or, the manuscript who doesn’t have a couple of paragraphs from Stephen King?

Okay. That’s my argument for pre-pub blurbs…

Until a few years ago, I didn’t realize there was even such a thing as a pre-pub blurb. I assumed, like probably most of us, that blurbs were only solicited after a publisher had purchased the book. An agent (whom I won’t name) showed me how he sold sports books, using this technique. He graciously sent me sample proposals for a number of sports books and always included in the proposals were pre-pub blurbs by renowned and respected sports figures. In fact, the blurbs were always the first thing the editor saw in the proposal. This guy sells just about all of his clients’ manuscripts and proposals and he’s quick to give a lot of credit to those blurbs. After all, if Curry Fitzpatrick and Bo Jackson give hosannas to a proposed book on baseball, who is going to resist at least giving that proposal a close read?

The answer to that is as clear as the fact that Roseanne has kicked anorexia’s ass.

Can everybody get pre-pub blurbs? Well… no. But, a lot of writers can—even previously unpublished authors. Don’t assume that just because you don’t have your first book out that you can’t.

Psychology of endorsements

Let’s look at the psychology behind pre-pub blurbs first. Almost all of us—including seasoned editors and agents—have at least vestiges of uncertainty residing in our DNA. In other words, like all of us as human beings, we’re at least sometimes a bit unsure of our decisions. It’s why Michael Jordan made millions of dollars shilling for tennis shoes and cereal. It wasn’t because Fortune 500 CEO’s liked Mikey so much, they just wanted to shower him with dollar bills—it was because they’re well aware that the average citizen doesn’t really know what’s good and what isn’t. When a prominent person says they like something—even though we know he’s paid to say it—we take his word for it that it’s good and therefore we feel okay about plunking our money down.

The same psychology works in book sales to editors. If you’ve written a thriller and are shopping it around to publishers and included in your sales pitch are blurbs written on its behalf by Lee Child, Joe Finder and Linwood Barclay, with what frame of mind do you think most editors will be in when they pick up the manuscript and begin reading page one? It’s already half-sold! Besides respecting these bestselling authors, the editor also knows the book already has gained blurbs for the book that the thriller audience is familiar with and respects as well. That’s an editor who is going to feel extremely confident when he presents the manuscript to his board. He already knows how accounting is going to view this bit of information. (With high-fives and spraying each other with bottles of Crystal…). In fact, there are a great number of… how should I say this?... “flawed” books that have become published, simply because it was endorsed by a brand name. That’s life. And, is an aspect of publishing many won’t talk about, but which exists. We can declaim against it as being unfair… or, we can use it to our advantage.

Okay. So we’re aware that pre-pub blurbs can help sell a manuscript. Now. How do we get them?

There are many ways. My agent is currently marketing two of my books. One is a proposal for a new writer’s how-to and one is a new novel. We’re using pre-pub blurbs for each.

For those of you who’ve followed this blog for awhile, you already know how we’ve gotten pre-pub endorsements for my nonfiction book proposal, titled, A Fiction Writer’s Workshop at the Bijou. I asked for your blurbs on this site. And got a ton of ‘em. Thanks! I also asked others via email for the same and they’ve also been extremely generous in sending me blurbs. As of now, I have nearly thirty of them and you can bet they’re included in our sales pitch to publishers.

This is one way. Many of you have blogs of your own—blog readerships you can ask the same of that I have. For a book such as this—a writer’s book—I received endorsements from the targeted audience—writers. Some of you were well-known authors yourselves and others were beginning writers. Blurbs from both sources work very well in this particular case.

But, for my thriller manuscript, I couldn’t ask the same audience for endorsements. I had to go to other thriller writers. Fortunately, because I’ve been doing this for a long time (writing books), I’ve been on many panels at writer’s workshops and become friends with those appearing on the same panels. Years ago, for instance, I was on several such panels, made a presentation, and conducted a workshop at Henry Perez’ writer’s convention, the Midwest Literary Arts Festival in Aurora, Illinois. I sat on panels with such renowned names as James Rollins, Dennis Lehane, David Morrell, J.A.Konrath, Hallie Ephron, and many other well-known writers, too numerous to list here. (Best writer’s convention ever! Henry, if you’re reading this—make it happen again!) Because of that, I was able to solicit blurbs from Henry Perez and others for my thriller, The Bitch. Recently, I was asked to submit an article for John Schoenfelder’s website for his new imprint, Mulholland Books at Little, Brown. A week or so later, I read an article on the same website from author Joe Trigoboff. I wasn’t aware of Mr. Trigoboff or his work at the time, but what he said in the article led me to realize we shared many of the same views. I was able to track him down through his publicist and he was gracious enough to provide me with a blurb. (In return, I’m pre-blurbing his brilliant memoir, Rumble in Brooklyn).

I’ve received other pre-blurbs for The Bitch from other contacts I’ve made over the years. I was a presenter the summer before last for both of the Writer’s Retreat Workshops in Erlanger, Kentucky. During one of the two WRW events, I met a bestselling author in attendance—Bob Stewart—who’s written several true crime bestsellers (No Remorse, et al) and we became friends. Bob was extremely gracious in providing a kick-ass blurb. A few years ago, Cortright McMeel founded Murdaland, a noir magazine, and he’d solicited me for a short story which appeared in the first issue. Cort sold his first novel to St. Martin’s, Short, which is forthcoming next month. He liked my work and voice and so I approached him for a pre-pub blurb. It’s coming on Monday. (And, Cort is going to be interviewed here in a few weeks.)

Another of my blurbers is a close friend I went to school for my MFA with at Vermont College. He’s blurbed my work before and I’ve returned the favor. A great source for those of you who have writer friends from high school or college to solicit.

I’m providing my own experiences in how I gathered pre-pub blurbs for the few reading this who’ve formed similar relationships with other writers. I suspect at least a few of you can do the same.

Can everyone do this? Of course not. Some can, some can’t. Does that mean you have to be in the business forever and have a bunch of books out to get these kinds of endorsements? Again, the answer is, of course not. There are a variety of ways to garner endorsements from those whose words count with editors.

I work with writers coaching them as they write their novels. One of my clients is a complete unknown as a writer. However, the novel she’s written—besides being absolutely brilliant—has a subject matter that makes it easy to solicit blurbs from prominent people. She’s a Jewish writer who has written a novel that shows, in a moving way, the story of a Palestinian. I can’t talk about it more than that at this point, but trust me—this is a book that I feel certain will not only become a best-seller, but also garner significant literary awards. I see a potential movie in her future as well. Because of its subject matter, its originality, and her marvelous voice, she’s getting blurbs from former presidents, from extremely prominent people both in the Arab-American and Jewish communities, and from famous people who just recognize a wonderful story, brilliantly told. She’s an unknown writer now, but she won’t be for long.

Another client is in a writing group with prominent writers. He obtains great pre-pub blurbs from his fellow writers from the group.

The point is, nearly everyone who has a good book has a way to garner pre-pub blurbs. I can’t tell you how to accomplish this in every case, but there usually is a way if you simply practice the same creativity you employed in writing your book with your marketing efforts.

Nonfiction book proposals are, as a rule, infinitely easier to solicit such blurbs for. Depending on the subject matter, look at the “names” in that field and approach them. One of the reasons nonfiction proposals are easier to get people to blurb them are that the potential blurber only has to read a chapter or two and the chapter outline to see if it’s something they’d be comfortable in lending their name to. In other words, they don’t have to read that much!

With novels, it’s a bit different. The potential blurber will almost always need to read the entire manuscript. All 416 pages! And, that’s a lot to ask of anyone, especially if the request comes from an unknown writer. To get a good blurber for a novel usually requires that the author have some kind of relationship with the person solicited. For many as-yet-unpublished writers, that’s almost impossible. But… there are ways.

For example, if you’ve taken a class or workshop from someone known in the field, that’s perhaps a person you can approach. If—as in the case of my client—you’ve worked with that person on a professional level—you can probably ask them to provide a blurb.

Here are a few things to consider when approaching someone for a pre-pub blurb:

1. Only approach those who have genuine name-recognition in the genre or field you’re writing in—the kind of name that will attract buyers because of who they are and what they say.

2. Always approach in a professional manner—be polite and don’t ever put them on the spot. Let them know that if they simply don’t want to, you don’t expect them to furnish you a reason for refusing. That a simple, “No thanks—I’ll have to pass” is fine. Many (most?)  writers just don’t have the time. Don’t ever make them feel as if you expect them to or you won’t be their friend anymore or won’t ever buy their books again! To blurb someone’s manuscript or nonfiction book proposal—especially one that hasn’t yet found a publisher—is a huge favor to ask of anyone! Be extremely thankful of anyone who will… and extremely understanding when they can’t or won’t.

3. If they do agree to read your work, find out how they prefer to look at the work. For instance, one of my recent blurbers doesn’t work with computers. He prefers to read hard copy only. Since I’m the one asking the favor, I was delighted to spend almost fifty bucks to have a copy printed ($31.00), and mailed to him ($17.00). You should do the same. Make it comfortable and easy for them to read it and by no means ever expect them to pay for any part of the process. Don’t for just one example, send them something they have to sign for.

4. Make sure they understand that after they’ve read your mss or proposal, that if they’re uncomfortable in providing an endorsement, you want them to know you don’t expect them to, for any reason. Make sure you mean this and that they know you mean this in the very beginning.

5. Make sure you offer to return the favor if ever asked. And then, if asked, give them a good ‘un!

6. Don’t solicit the wrong people for your project. For instance, even if you know Stephen King personally, don’t ask him to blurb your nonfiction cookbook proposal or romance novel. Even if he provides a blurb in such a case (unlikely), the editor reviewing your proposal or mss is going to have a hernia laughing… as he slips a rejection slip inside the envelop…

7. If someone does agree to pre-blurb your mss or proposal, and furnishes a good one, ask him or her if they could recommend anyone else who might be willing to do the same. Networking works here as well. If they’re agreeable to furnish names for this, ask if they mind you using their name or will possibly furnish an introduction to that person.

8. Allow them their own timeframe to read and write the blurb in. Don’t ever put pressure on them to furnish their endorsement by a certain time. If they ask, simply say you’d prefer it by (whatever date) and hope that’s okay with them, but if it isn’t, that’s fine. If you don’t receive it from them in time for marketing it, you can still probably use it once it’s sold. In fact, one of the assumptions blurbers will have is that their endorsement will appear in the book once published. While you can’t guarantee that (that’s the publisher’s decision), it probably will happen, especially if you’ve solicited the kind of blurber you should have—one that readers will know or respect because of who they are or what position they hold. Who are the only kinds of blurbers you should solicit in the first place.

9. Always be gracious and professional in all of your dealings with potential endorsers.

10. If you already have an agent, make sure he or she agrees with you that it’s okay to solicit blurbers. Some won’t be behind the idea and they will most likely have sound reasons for their view. Listen to your agent. And, some may be delighted that you’re going to try, but will want to help guide you as to who you solicit.

Can everyone get pre-pub blurbs/endorsements? Not at all. But, some can and more can than may realize it.

Please understand that this is a strategy that will work for some and won’t work for others. I just want to present it as a possibility you may not have considered that may help you in selling your novel or nonfiction book proposal.

Did everyone I solicited give me a blurb? Nope. One thought The Bitch was too dark to lend his name to. A couple didn’t respond to my request. One would have, but has recently had a number of family issues he was dealing with and just didn’t have the time. One told me he was no longer giving blurbs to others. Some in my blanket solicitation of my book proposal for Bijou that I was hoping for didn’t respond.

Just the way it goes. Like they say in sales: Every no gets you closer to a yes. And then there’s that thing about kissing a lot of frogs…

Good luck!

Hope this was of some help!

Blue skies,

P.S. It’s entirely possible that some disagree with this strategy and have good reasons for doing so. Hope to hear from you. Also, it’s entirely possible some agree with this strategy and have used it for their benefit. Hope to hear from you as well.

 One of my blurbers, Buddy...