Entertaining Welsey Shaw goes on sale on March 28th
The usual outlets–Amazon, B&N, your indie bookstore (though you may have to request it).
Other editions, including the ever-popular ebook, are coming at a later date.
And I thought I’d take this moment to announce, there will be a sequel.
I’m generally not a fan of anything with a “2,” explicit or implied, after the title. (Actually the working title for this opus is Ravishing Welsey Shaw), but honestly this idea occurred to me one night when I just couldn’t get to sleep and I grew so excited thinking about it I got out of bed right there and started making notes.
I think it will turn out better than the original, but you do have to read the original first to get the full extent of it, sort of the way you can see The Empire Strikes Back without having seen Star Wars but it’s a much better experience if you have. Ravishing takes place five years later, both are older and wiser (but with many of the same foibles, of course) and they bump into each other again, in Amsterdam. Some characters
But back to the current book. It was a long birthing process and I can honestly say I learned more writing it than I have doing any other single thing in my whole life.
But as hard as writing the novel was, there was something even harder to write, and it’s the hardest thing to write for any book, so if you’ve never written anything for publication, or you are in the process of finishing up a work now, you should pay attention here: The hardest aspect of the whole production is writing the blurb, the thing that goes on the flap, on the back, on the retailer and etailer pages.
I can tell you exactly how many drafts of Entertaining Welsey Shaw I wrote: eight. But I can’t tell you how many times I revised the blurb copy. I may revise it still. I may be revising it right now, while you’re reading this. Somehow the summary, even more than the book itself, never feels like it’s good enough. Think about it: You have to sell your book, and sell it amidst the noise of all the other blurbs, ads, and assorted commercial copy that an average person sees on an average day. You have to tempt with surprises, but not give too much away. Most of all you have to (try to) avoid the cliches that are in most of the other book blurbs out there—I mean, seriously, read most blurbs out there. “…That’s when Jenny learns a secret that changes her life forever!” Stuff like that never makes me want to pick up a book. In fact, the best books out there, the best writers out there, can’t really be summed up.
So instead those authors get a very basic blurb on the flap, one that sells them by name or reputation. The back is adorned with review excerpts from Big Boys like The New York Times and The Economist.
But I’m not a big boy, so I can’t plaster praise from Michiko Kakutani on the back of Entertaining Welsey Shaw.
But how do you sum up Netherland, Joseph O’Neill’s astonishingly lithe and rich portrait of New York denizens unmoored and adrift in the aftermath of September 11th? (And if you thought you’d never read another post-September 11th novel, I highly, highly recommend this one; it’s not what you think, I can assure you.) The same is true of his follow up, The Dog, which a number of the critics didn’t like but I did. How do you sum up the complex stories of Alice Munro or Deborah Eisenberg?
That’s the paradox of book jackets: They’re so vitally important, but they tell very little about what’s really inside. Sort of like movie trailers. Yet, face it, we so often decide to plunk down $15, whether for a movie or a book, based on the advertisement.
So many ways to approach the blurb. Do I give an objective, overseeing view to the novel? Approach it by placing the reader inside the action (“Imagine that you met…” that sort of thing.) Tell lots of detail? Entertaining Welsey Shaw, like most upmarket novels, has lots of themes. Do I just pick one and highlight it or try to give an indication of the breadth? If I do the former, I may miss people who would be interested in many of the other aspects; if I do the latter, the resulting copy is sprawling and often confusing. When writing your novel you can take infinite length, but you only have about 100 words to sell it.
They have to be the right 100 words.
Are they? I’m still not sure.
I learned a lot about writing fiction from Entertaining Welsey Shaw. I don’t know if I learned anything about the difficult art of blurb writing.
Anyway, March 28th. Don’t go to Amazon and order it before that time even if you are able to, or you will get the wrong item. I’ve tried to tell them and they haven’t listened. Don’t blame me.
Barnes and Nobel has it right, bully for them.