dear publishers: sometimes i feel weird about blurbing

dear publishers,

you probably already know this, but i love books. and even more than i love books, i love stories. and possibly even more than i love stories, i love being one of the first people to hear a new story.

which is why you send me galleys. oh, how i love galleys! they are fresh and new, sometimes barely even a book at all, full of the latest (and hopefully greatest) stories fresh out of manuscript form. (i think a lot of you know that i also hate galleys, because there are 90 mabillion of them and i get four of the same one and then they fall on me, but that’s another post.)

and all you ask in return for this largesse of material to feed my addiction is that, if i like it, i blurb it — and then, preferably, tell absolutely everyone i know (especially the IndieNext List) how much and why i like it. which, really, i am happy to do (as anyone who follows my twitter feed can tell. just try shutting me up).

(i use a lot of parentheses, don’t i?)

for the most part, i am fine with this arrangement. but every now and then i stop and think about it — and it makes me feel weird.

here’s one example: the ABA sends out, every month, the White Box. inside this box are TONS of goodies — not just galleys, but posters, bookmarks, finished copies, etc. generally speaking, the reason the ABA can send this cornucopia out is because publishers are paying for it. it’s an opportunity for them to get their (presumably favorite) new books into the hands of indie booksellers, for them to read and blurb. the thing that bugs me about this is, we’re all getting the same books. let’s say there are 20 galleys in a White Box. even if booksellers pick through and only read 5 of those 20, and then blurb only 1 of those 5, that’s still a lot of booksellers blurbing the same 20 books. and you can tell from the IndieNext List — odds are that at least 5 of the titles from the White Box are on the appropriate month’s list.

i’m not saying this is a bad thing. but as someone who habitually ignores the NYT Bestseller List, Oprah, and “popular” buzz in search of the undiscovered gem, it makes the White Box feel a little too … safe. is that the word? i understand that publishers have to make a big push on specific titles in order to stay in business, and i’ve got no problem with that. the trouble comes from the conflict between my desire to find hidden treasures with my desire to help initiatives like the White Box and the IndieNext List succceed. for the ABA to keep sending out the White Box, publishers have to keep paying for it. for publishers to keep paying for the White Box, the titles they put in it have to make it onto the IndieNext List. for titles to make it onto the IndieNext List, booksellers have to read and blurb them. and for booksellers to read and blurb them, the ABA has to send out the White Box. see where i’m going with this? and right now, this is working. (i will leave out the limited number of publishers who are able to afford this, because again, that is another post.)

but the very fact that it’s working makes me feel a little less inclined to read the titles in the White Box. the impetus for me to read and rave about them is lessened, because odds are someone else is going to do it for me. now OBVIOUSLY if we all thought this way then the whole thing would collapse and publishing would be destroyed and i would be out of a job and the entire American culture would implode and then it would be 2012 and it’s all over anyway. or something.

but that doesn’t change the fact that there are days (more and more often of late) when i feel more inclined to spend an hour or so digging through the back room (a bit like the elephants’ graveyard, at this point), looking for the one that slipped under the radar and is waiting for me to catch its signal.

so where does that leave us? i don’t really know. i have no good answer for this one — just an obsession tonight with putting this weirdness into words and throwing it out into the cloud, to see what everyone else thinks about this.

so. what do you think?

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dear publishers: sometimes i feel weird about blurbing

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