Honest Blurbs For Honest Writers

Frequent visitors to this parish will know that it’s a constant source of disapuzzlement to me that I am still not famous, despite my constant stirring up of trouble, notoriously shaky arguments which would drive a saint to drink, and my flat refusal to make this blog more attractive with pretty pastel photography.

Indeed, despite winning 3rd prize – this rather lovely Bronze award – at the Blog Awards Ireland 2018 recently, and thus ending my run of always-the-bridesmaid at the finals each year, I am as far from fame as ever.

Best Books & Literature Blog 2018

Yet every blog post I write is on a knife-edge between causing offence to 46.7% of the world’s population, or making a handful of you giggle. I know you can all see how stressful this can be. (I can feel the sympathetic waves from here.)

But I’m also conscious that my complete lack of fame (and of course, to date, a publishing deal) also gives me the freedom to be honest where others simply cannot.

And so, I must in fact sympathise with my more famous writerly friends. This is because famous authors and, <cough> ‘social influencers’ <cough> are always getting asked by people to endorse other people’s stuff, whether they like the stuff or not.

Social influencers don’t seem to have much of a problem with this, but writers often do. And I can completely understand why.

If you can imagine the sort of difficult position a famous writer would be in, if, say, their publisher asked them to write a glowing blurb* for another author whose work they didn’t really take to, imagine then what it’s like for a famous IRISH writer.

Being famous in Ireland is a bit like being asked to be someone’s bridesmaid. You’re technically being favoured. You’re in the spotlight, where it’s assumed loads of other people want to be. But you’ve also been thrust into a position where you have to say yes to everything, no matter how distasteful or ridiculous, because people will turn on you and slate you behind your back if you don’t.

(This is quite apart from the fact that there’s only 2 degrees of separation between anyone in Ireland so you can’t run the risk of insulting anyone, because you’re always inextricably tied in some respect, even in the unlikely event you’re not related to their aunt/cousin/solicitor/godfather/fella they played the tin whistle with at a First Holy Communion when they were 7.)

Honest Blurbs for Honest Writers

So with all this in mind, I would like now to do my actually famous writerly friends a favour.

I’m going to write them honest blurbs for other people’s books, because they’re not allowed to. Yet we know they want to. WE ALL KNOW.

*For those pedants amongst us, a “blurb” can be one of two things: the story description on the back of a book, or those glowing comments masquerading as one-line reviews from famous people peppered all over the cover. For the purposes of this piece of snark, I’m referring to the latter.

Literary Fiction

“I waded through this for weeks and couldn’t count the number of times I put it down to read something else! I have no idea what it’s supposed to be about, or why anybody thought this story was worth writing, let alone publishing, but I persevered, so now I get to feel really clever. And for some reason my cat also took to hissing and clawing this book whenever he saw it, which was truly hilarious.”

PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: I couldn’t put it down! This story was worth writing.. really clever. And truly hilarious.”


“I have literally read this exact story 253 times before with interchangeable character names. I only finished this book yesterday, but couldn’t tell you now where it was set, or what any of the characters did for a living. Still, this book was perfect for me because I’m an exhausted new Mum: severe baby brain means I can’t concentrate on anything for more than 2 pages before I have to put it down again, so at least with this one I never had to go back over what I’d read before.”

PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: “This book was perfect for me!”

Honest Blurbs for Honest Writers

Crime Thriller

“A triumph of stereotypes! Dead woman: Check. Hardened, troubled investigator: Check. Generic issues with female relatives: Check. Dark secret which isn’t really a secret but a red herring the reader figures out by page 59: Check. Showdown which contains blatant info-dumps and out-of-character behaviour on the part of the investigator: Check. This book has all the ingredients of a bestseller on the cover. Sadly, the inside just didn’t deliver.”

PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: “A triumph! This book has all the ingredients of a bestseller”

Science Fiction

“I couldn’t follow this book at all. I counted 3 flash-forwards, 17 flash-backs and what I think might have been 2 flash-sideways. By Chapter 6 I suspected that all the characters were in fact the same person, and by Chapter 7 I realised that person was not even a person, but in fact a computer algorithm, written by a cat licking itself on a keyboard. Also, I don’t even know how I know this, but even the makey-uppy languages and names in this book were misspelled. An astounding black hole of ideas, even in the science-fiction universe.”

PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: “This book! …full of astounding ideas, even in the science-fiction universe.”

Historical Fiction

“Where do I start with this book? Chapter 2, which had an interminable 5-page description of the inner workings of a 17th century printing apparatus used to produce a pamphlet of prayers for illiterate orphans, or Chapter 17, where a lady of ill-repute gave a well-received speech about feminism? This book was 1100 pages of irrelevant research data and ideas from the 21st century. There were so many plot holes I couldn’t count them, but my favourite was the inexplicable 5-year gap in the narrative whereupon our hero had inexplicably become the manager of an ahead-of-its-time factory in Yorkshire rather than being hung for blasphemy in Restoration London.”

PUBLISHABLE EXTRACT: “This book was well-received… full of ideas of the century… my favourite narrative. Ahead of its time”

And, hey… famous people? You can thank me later.

  57 comments for “Honest Blurbs For Honest Writers

  1. November 4, 2018 at 11:34 am

    I have in fact in REAL LIFE been asked by a publisher to write a recommendation for the back of a book and could I do it by tomorrow? “But I haven’t read it!” I replied. “What’s they got to do with it?” they responded. Plus, it’s like asking Coca Cola to rave about Pepsi.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 5:28 pm

      What I don’t understand is why they didn’t just write the quote and ask if you’d put your name to it. I mean, what’s the point otherwise?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. November 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    I have in fact had my publisher pay good money for a Kirkus review that turned out deliberately flat, consciously designed to defy positive excerpting. In my heart of hearts, I don’t think the reviewer finished it- and THAT’s not good news either.
    But then I watched in fascination as my publisher excerpted it anyway, and the one-liner sounds great! So this absolutely does happen. Congrats Tara, perhaps a new ghost-writing avenue for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 5:31 pm

      I’ll be honest with you, Will, and admit that it’s not really what I had in mind when I decided to start writing! I think I’ll stick to my regular day job, thanks. I wonder what Kirkus thought of what your publisher did!

      Liked by 1 person

      • November 4, 2018 at 6:24 pm

        That’s the beauty! What complaint could they lodge, after taking her good money, when a five-question quiz would reveal their reviewer didn’t know jack about the book! You’re right though, it’s a pale shade of satisfaction…

        Liked by 2 people

  3. November 4, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    Lord Tundering Jesus, this is the best blog I’ve ever read! Wish to poop I’d written it, but Tara, admitting here you wrote it better than I could. Spit my coffee at literary. Hurt my neck nodding at crime. But sci-fi takes the cake. Cat licking itself on keyboard explains so much of what gets published these days. Sharing…

    Liked by 4 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 5:33 pm

      Lord Tundering Jesus is most gratified at your words of praise, Melodie. He’d tell you himself but I think he might be on the loo.


    • November 6, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      And here I thought Lord Tundering Jesus originated here in Newfoundland! Thanks for straightening me out on that.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. November 4, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    You’ve written thoughts that I have had and now I feel vindicated. Also, you made me laugh.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. November 4, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    It’s almost impossible to write a negative review of any length that can’t have a positive bit extracted. That could be your next project. A world of hurt is contained in the ellipses.

    Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 5:36 pm

      Unless you were to write one entirely devoid of conjunctions, Alicia, which I found out as I was doing this exercise! It’s possible, all right. But also kind of mean. Which would probably be the point!


      • January 1, 2019 at 4:29 am

        I did notice you left out the ellipses from the excerpts; technically, you need them there. They could be very small.

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 2, 2019 at 4:10 pm

          I break the rules for humour all the time, Alicia, jokes wouldn’t work half as well otherwise!


  6. November 4, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    It wouldn’t take much editing to apply your full-length Historical Fiction “blurb” to an especially egregious example of an everything-you-never-wanted-to-know-about-anything tome that was written by an inexplicably popular Michener wannabe back in the 1980s. No wonder the cover art didn’t have anything to do with the story – even if the artist had read the book (which I doubt), s/he couldn’t have made heads or tails out of it.

    But, hey, don’t slag the flash-sideways! It’s an ancient and honorable technique for changing the point-of-view character that’s been largely and unfortunately replaced by the hideous modern habit of head-hopping. Give that pathetic sci-fi author credit for having got one thing right.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 5:38 pm

      I can honestly say I wrote none of these with anybody particular in mind, Christine, so I claim innocence! And I thought I’d invented the flash sideways, but obviously not..

      Liked by 1 person

  7. November 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm

    It takes a lot of skill to write a flash-sideways that isn’t a mere “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…” scene, and flash-forwards should be limited (if used at all) to scenes written in the POV of a character who’s a precog.

    “[…] even the makey-uppy languages and names in this book were misspelled[…]” I’ve edited one or two books like that.

    Liked by 3 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      It’s like I read your mind, Thomas. Or perhaps your blog 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • November 5, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      Such skill is one reason why I prefer reading fiction that was penned not later than about the mid-twentieth century. All of the best authors and editors seem to have retired or died out shortly thereafter.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Ali Isaac
    November 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Hahaha! I don’t know who’s plumbing the depths today, Tara… me in my cave or you with this post!, You’re definitely funnier, although if you’d seen my ungraceful entrance into Oweyagat as I slid through the mud on my butt, perhaps that’s debateable! Loved them all, but especially the literary one, and the science fiction. You miissed a lot of genres though… you could keep this going for months! 🤣

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 7:15 pm

      ALI. Tell me you have photos. No, video. Photos AND videos. Tell me!!


      • Ali Isaac
        November 5, 2018 at 8:27 pm

        Haha! Photos and videos, yes, but not of me sliding through the mud on my arse… no, really! 🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  9. annerallen
    November 4, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    I am literally LOL right now, Tara. All too true. And congrats on the award!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. November 4, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Tara—Just fabulous! As someone who (barely) survived the slush pile as a very young editor, these blurbs should have accompanies the mss. Would have save me a lot of time. Aaaargh.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      Thank you Ruth. Although I suppose if writers could write this type of honest blurb for themselves, we might write better books in the first place….!


  11. November 4, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Can I just congratulate you on your stunning (and well-deserved) award? Your posts are always bang on point and splendidly entertaining.
    And you know that bronze is the best colour anyway, right? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 4, 2018 at 8:22 pm

      Funnily enough, Nick, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been taking to bronze more and more 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. November 5, 2018 at 12:21 am

    My lifelong dream is to be famous in Ireland and only Ireland. Preferably an Irish pub and only an Irish pub. Yes, I’m rambling.

    Liked by 3 people

    • November 5, 2018 at 8:22 am

      I know a few pubs who might do that for you for a grand or so, if you’re interested, Bryan. Disclaimers involved. Obviously.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. November 5, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    Tempting. Oh so tempting……

    Liked by 2 people

  14. November 5, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    Someday, when we are both famous and published (they might not be actually connected) I’ll do yours if you’ll do mine? I’ve yours all ready to go and to be honest if you don’t have time I’ve my own one ready too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 5, 2018 at 10:07 pm

      Oh, that’s splendid, Tric. I’m especially glad you’ve mine ready to go. Tell me, what did you like best about my book? I may still take you up on you writing your own blurb, but I can tell you now that your book had flashes of genius. Never thought anyone could team a bumblebee clown up with a sarcastic tin of peas and get that much pathos out of it, but you know, you did it, girl.


      • November 5, 2018 at 10:35 pm

        Thank you Tara. I read your lengthy work of literary fiction and believe it to be a work of great importance and it’s many words of high value will be welcomed and admired by scrabble boffins everywhere. A masterpiece and a wonderful tribute to the much ignored letters x and z.

        Liked by 2 people

        • November 5, 2018 at 10:59 pm

          Oh, that is much marvellous. I and the weirder extremities of my keyboard offer up our grantilations.
          (By the way, I note you never mentioned my ground-breaking use of the ‘|’ mark. But I suppose it is late, and you’re probably tired.)

          Liked by 1 person

  15. November 6, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Great stuff. I now feel prepared should my publisher ever ask me for a review. I write fantasy, but I think flash-sideways works there as well. I may even give you credit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 6, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      You what?? Good grief, Armen. NOBODY gives credit anymore. Is this your first time on the internet??

      Thanks, though 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  16. November 6, 2018 at 2:45 pm

    I was about to use my benevolence and power as an influencer to raise you from obscurity. Then I realised that you may not be able to tell the truth about the literary world in the way you do. So, I will not share, like, tweet, insta or add you to my buffer. Wallow in your irrelevance and continue to poke fun at the world. I would miss it if you didn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. November 23, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    I’m really laughing. Someone has used a genuine quote by me about a wonderful non-fiction book they wrote, with my full name and correctly mentioning the earlier book, as a strap-line on the cover of their new Science Fiction book. Only problem… I’m not famous!


    • November 25, 2018 at 11:51 am

      How do you know you’re not, Hilary? Maybe those reading the strapline THINK you are… and maybe you SHOULD be!!

      Liked by 1 person

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