When the Blurb is on the Other Foot

Carolyn Roy-Bornstein's memoir CRASH: A Mother, A Son, And the Journey from Grief to Gratitude, about the car accident which temporarily derailed her son's life, goes on sale in a few short weeks. She was recently given the opportunity to consider what it feels like to find that the blurb is suddenly on the other foot.

By Carolyn Roy-Bornstein

I recently received my first request for a book blurb. It came in a flattering email from a New York literary agency. The author of the book, the agent claimed, was an admirer of my work. (Really?) The agent also theorized that someone of my “name recognition” could do a lot for the book’s visibility. More swoon-worthy words I’ve never heard.

I considered the solicitation carefully. I researched the authors. Check. Two bona fide MDs (both from Mass General no less.) The principal author had a web site complete with articles and interviews. I looked up the book on Amazon. Yup. It was legit. Part of a series of medical books edited by a physician who had blurbed my book for me. Ah, the mystery was becoming clearer. She must have been the one to suggest my name as a possible blurber. So I wrote back to the agent and told her to send the book along. I would certainly give it a close read.
The book came in the mail a few days later. It is a series of vignettes about children treated at the APS—the Acute Psychiatry Services—of Mass General Hospital. I read the first vignette. I read the last. I read all of them in between. And I genuinely liked the book. I thought it was honest, accurate, candid and well-written. Thank goodness. I’ve heard about blurbers whose criteria for blurbing books is rather minimal. In A.J. Jacobs’ humorous essay published last month in the New York Times, “How to Blurb and Blurb and Blurb, he quoted fellow blurber Gary  Shteygnart’s list of essentials as, “Two covers, one spine, at least 40 pages, ISBN number, title, author’s name.” I did not want to be that blurber.
But I did want to pay it forward. So many wonderful writers took the time to read my book and craft glowing blurbs. Lee Woodruff. Caitlin Flanagan. Heady stuff. I am so grateful to all of them. My blurb request for the psychiatrists’ book came post-publication—too late to land me on the back of a book jacket. For now, the long version of my quote is on the author’s web site. Later a shorter version will be up on-line. So I’m not getting all the attention a blurber usually receives. But that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because someone did it for me. I’m doing it because I have found writers, in general, to be supportive and generous and helpful. And that’s the kind of writer I want to be.