Spinning The Fix – those review quotes we read on book covers

So, today’s publication day, and the book tour begins. I’ve written a novel in which the central character (reluctantly) works in PR and is used to spinning corporate clients out of unattractive crises often of their own making. In The Fix, he’s hired to line up interviews for the winner of a bravery decoration, and manage him through that process.

 

Which of course means life is now obliged to imitate art, and I’ve got a publicist doing the same thing for me. It’s my job to make my book sound as fascinating as possible for several minutes at a time, perhaps many times a day over the next few weeks. Naturally, I think it is fascinating, and perfect for Father’s Day, birthdays and all sentient creatures, but it’s not that simple. Like Ben in the novel, I need to have my stories ready to go.

 

I’ve noticed, though, that an element of spin has already crept in without me having to do a thing. If you pick up a copy of the book, you’ll see two quotes on the back. One of them, from the Sydney Morning Herald, says, ‘a genuinely talented writer’. And, okay, someone did say exactly that about me in the SMH (not about The Fix and not even this century, but they said it). But is it the whole story? Not at all.

 

Here’s the whole story. In 1998, Tegan Bennett (now Tegan Bennett Daylight) reviewed Bachelor Kisses for the SMH. There were some things that frankly repulsed her about the book, but she went out of her way to give it a fair hearing. She seemed genuinely impressed with the writing, but appalled by the way the central character treated women (and fair enough), and that he seemed to get away with it, and that I milked it for every drop of comedy I could.

 

The review was headed ‘Say aaargh’ – yes, a neat reference to doctors, oral sex and revulsion, in only two words.

 

The quote that’s now on the back of The Fix came from near the end. On editions of Bachelor Kisses we’ve often used a somewhat longer version, which reads ‘Bachelor Kisses is a beautifully written book by a genuinely talented writer’.

 

The whole final paragraph actually reads ‘Bah, humbug. Bachelor Kisses is a beautifully written book by a genuinely talented writer. I hope he gets a new subject soon. I’m looking forward to the next one.’ Of course, we weren’t going to use all that, were we? But when you’ve come as close to maker a reviewer vomit as I did, there’s a certain perverse pleasure in finding a quote somewhere in there that you can use, year after year.

 

Anyone else seen – or used – any cunningly cut-and-pasted quotes on book covers?

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9 Responses to Spinning The Fix – those review quotes we read on book covers

  1. youthworx2 says:

    Not sure that this counts but, I guess it’s probably been used a few times – “Of all the books i’ve read, this is definitely one of them.

    Many years ago I was in a little band in Bris – I album/cassette, a couple of singles, and a track on a 4MMM compilation, that was only released due to contractual obligation – which received a pretty scathing review in Rolling Stone (but hey,it was still Rolling Stone!). I can’t remember the whole passage (even though I still have a copy of the review) but we picked out the bit that said ” a bunch of good eggs”. Delightfully obscure, not really appropriate for a record cover, but we could at least attribute it to Rolling Stone.

    • nickearls says:

      Nice. Reminds me of my years fighting any publisher who wanted to use Nick Hornby comparison quotes on my books, and then forgetting all about that when The Times said ‘gives Nick Hornby a run for his money’. I mean, The Times …

  2. Ross Sammut says:

    i think that Jon Marshall is just understood, i think you should write the prequel to clear things up, blame it all on his mother, school, or something. Plus everybody loves a trilogy.justPs I’m halfway through ‘the fix’ nice work man.

    • nickearls says:

      Halfway means you’re about to bump into someone with a very familiar name.

      Ah, a Jon Marshall prequel … I don’t see his teenage years as being entirely easy …

  3. Ross Sammut says:

    yep, but you can explain why!!
    and yes, i’ve already snopped out the page with my name in it, got the best job ever!!

  4. Kate says:

    Reading the Fix now Nick, always nice to read your work – my fav was reading the manuscript of Butterfish after you changed publishers – and it took me two full years of medical school to realise the irony of giving up my publishing job to become a doctor after having listened to you talk about something quite the reverse so often. One year to go now. Seems like a long time ago that you were teaching our writers’ camp and running past me on the river. Wonder if you remember.

    I laughed quite hard when I read this blog post though. Just yesterday I was thinking that I’ve developed a nasty habit of judging books by their review quotes and bylines…

    Eg. “Best-selling author of *book i’ve never heard of*” is probably not a winner for me – I did work in a bookstore for a long time, so surely I have some grounds?

    Every time I read a quote with an elipsis in the middle I think that’s the part where they’ve removed the real intent of the remark.

    But my favourite was the draft front cover of a particularly BIG book waiting to be published that had “‘Review quote here.’ Peter Carey” printed across it for several months while we waited for him to read the manuscript and give it a glowing review. We were all a bit terrified it would be sent to press/publicity accidentally. I also entertained the thought of all the unflattering things Peter Carey could potentially say that might make the cover, for instance I’d say it’s debatable whether “‘This book sux.’ Peter Carey” would have had a detrimental effect on sales…despite appealing to an entirely different audience…

    At the end of the day, I always remember you showing us your collection of international covers and bemoaning the number of photographs taken of you posing with your books or with your hand curled up under your chin to look ‘natural’ and read the first page or two before making up my mind. I would have bought the Fix anyway but seeing the Courier-hyphen-Mail (which is what I have been calling it since 2001 when you pointed it out to us) on the first page brought back a good highschool memory and we all know those are few and far between!

    Kate

    • nickearls says:

      It’s great to hear from you. From time to time when I’ve heard your electorate (OK, your great great grandfather’s electorate) mentioned, I’ve wondered what you’ve been doing. I wouldn’t have guessed it’d be living my life in reverse. Perhaps the medical degree is as far as you should take it though, ie, don’t finish that and then enrol at Churchie.

      That was doubly brave, hanging out for a good Peter Carey review quote AND flagging on the cover that you were doing it. For Butterfish we filled that space with ‘An awesome quote by a Very Interesting Person’ and then waited for a bunch of rockstars to get back to us. Lovely people, but expressions involving herding kittens come to mind. I think we got an email a year after publication from either Tim Rogers or his manager, checking to see if we still needed a quote …

  5. Kate says:

    Well I guess a good review from Tim Rogers might be confidence boosting, though it does seem alarming that he hadn’t been in a bookstore for 12 months. I might judge him for that.

    I’m in Yeppoon on rural rotation. It’s bizarre that hanging out in this town has made me think about writing for the first time in ages. This probably doesn’t mean that it will happen. Particularly if I filling my writing time with reading time, as I am more than prone to do. But with a choice between the med texts and the new Perlman, the pen is probs going to be postponed again.

    Next time pen.

    If all rural medical jobs could be near the ocean, I would seriously consider it as a career. There is a lack of bookstores though, which is troubling.

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