Blurbs, Stan Lee, & Turning Down Marvel

(I recently wrote a book on writing call The Glorious Grind: Meditations on Crafting Fiction & The Writing Life and have decided to simply publish it in installments here.)

Chapter Twenty-Three

Blurbs & Bleeps

Stan-Lee

When my first novel came out St. Martin’s Press somehow snagged me a blurb from the one and only Stan Lee, comic book scribe and former chairman of Marvel Comics. I’d never heard of a novel getting a blurb from the comic book realm before but I was glad to receive a blurb from anybody, much less a well-known figure of such creative zest and life. Chances are if you’ve picked up basically any of my novels you’ve seen the blurb already, since I’ve been coasting on it ever since.
“Just when it seems that there are no new plots left to write about, David Oppegaard has come up with a doozy. His THE SUICIDE COLLECTORS takes us to a startling theme we haven’t encountered before, with every page a thrilling new surprise.”

-Stan Lee, writer, editor, & former Marvel Comics chairman

Not only did Mr. Stan Lee blurb my first novel he sent me a copy of it in the mail which he signed “Excelsior, David!” That’s correct—he made an inscription in my own book to me. That’s when you’re big time, right?

I also had what might have been an opportunity to write for Marvel Comics, a quasi-telephone interview with a young lady who I’m guessing was some kind of intern. I pitched her the idea for a Hulk story line involving his father coming back from Hell but apparently the Hulk and all other big names were off-limits for some reason. She wanted to know if there was some second-tier character I liked, which stumped me. I asked what sort of outline or whatever they were looking for and she really couldn’t tell me much. She’d called much later than the stated meeting time and she was breathing heavily as she walked through New York City and I lost my patience with the whole rigmarole—I could only imagine this was the start of the creative bullshit I’d have to put up with going forward. I told her I’d have to pass on the vague opportunity and she sounded confused and put out. I think I might have been the first person to say no to her since she’d started working for Marvel.

I may have impulsively passed on a chance to make big Marvel money but at least I will always have Stan Lee’s magnanimous blurb and a Stan-signed copy of The Suicide Collectors in my closet, wrapped in bubble wrap and glowing like a magical orb.

#

There’s an art to writing a good blurb and good dust jacket copy and catalogue copy. A blurb should feature both the author’s name and the book’s title and seem to come from the heart in two, three lines at most. A good blurb is a sexy soundbite that doesn’t sound generic. Dust jacket copy, or the brief description of a book that goes either on the back of the book or on the interior liner, should be a tightly written description of the book that hooks the readers interest and gives them at least a vague sense of what they’re in for (kind of like a dating profile). Catalogue copy is similar to dust jacket copy except it’s much shorter—a good sale line, really—and can fit into the small amount each book’s description is allotted in the ordering catalogue they send to libraries and bookstores.

I’ve written the dust jacket copy for each of my novels, agonizing over every word. Your ability to write copy for your book goes back to the book’s elevator pitch and your ability to distill what your novel is about and why readers will enjoy it. When you write copy you get to set the expected framework for the novel and personally lead your reader to turning to that all-important page one.

The Suicide Collectors

The Despair has plagued the earth for five years. Most of the world’s population has inexplicably died by its own hand, and the few survivors struggle to remain alive. A mysterious, shadowy group called the Collectors has emerged, inevitably appearing to remove the bodies of the dead. But in the crumbling state of Florida, a man named Norman takes an unprecedented stand against the Collectors, propelling him on a journey across North America. It’s rumored a scientist in Seattle is working on a cure for the Despair, but in a world ruled by death, it won’t be easy to get there.

Wormwood, Nevada

Tyler and Anna Mayfield have just relocated from Nebraska to the sun scorched desert town of Wormwood, Nevada. They find themselves in a strange new landscape populated with old school cowboys, alien cultists, meth dealers, and doomsday prophets. Loneliness and desperation pervade Wormwood, and when a meteorite lands in the center of town, its fragile existence begins to unravel as many believe the end of the world is near, while others simply seek a reason to believe in anything at all.

And the Hills Opened Up

When the Dennison Mining Company tunnels too far, a bloodthirsty creature is set loose upon the isolated mountain town of Red Earth, Wyoming. If a reluctant alliance of outlaws, miners, misfits, and whores cannot stop the Charred Man, everyone in Red Earth will be dead by morning.

A blend of old school horror and gritty Western shootout, And the Hills Opened Up is about fighting for life in the midst of death.

The Firebug of Balrog County

Dark times have fallen on remote Balrog County, and Mack Druneswald, a high school senior with a love of clandestine arson, is doing his best to deal. While his family is haunted by his mother’s recent death, Mack spends his nights roaming the countryside, looking for something new to burn. When he encounters Katrina, a college girl with her own baggage, Mack sets out on a path of pyromania the likes of which sleepy Balrog County has never seen before.

A darkly comic tour-de-force, The Firebug of Balrog County is about legend, small towns, and the fire that binds.

I’m particularly proud of the Firebug copy because it was by far the most difficult book to describe (as more literary-type books tend to be). I think every writer should write their own copy because nobody knows the book better than you do and you should hopefully be a better writer than some random publishing house intern.

Besides, it’s kind of fun.

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