November 5, 2013

How Margaret Atwood declines blurb requests


Margaret Atwood retired from the business of writing blurbs — one of the ugly things we must do as editors is conjure up some supportive words for the back jacket of our books, hoping to attract readers’ attention. Her assistant was kind enough to send along a hard copy of the form response Atwood sends out when she gets a blurb request now:

On her website, Atwood explains:

“Publishers and writers often send me manuscripts with a request that I read the book and give them a quotable quote to use on the back cover. It takes four to six hours to read the book, and I get 10 or so of these requests a week. Multiply 5 hours times 10 requests and you get a 50-hour a week job. Choosing a few of the books to blurb doesn’t make things much easier, partly because it takes a long time to make a well-informed choice, and partly because choosing between books is akin to choosing which of your two sisters should be your maid of honour … no matter what you do, someone’s bound to have their feelings hurt. So my answer is no, to everybody.”

We don’t blame her, and we do appreciate the many adjectives she managed to rhyme in the third stanza. The “Ode to No” is also available on her website.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.