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Saturday, February 23, 2002

Normally, publishers and authors adopt a sort of scattershot approach to blurbs: manuscripts and bound galleys get sent out to dozens of people who might read a book and say that they enjoyed it. You sort of expect half the people you send it to not to read it, and the other half not to like it, so you send out lots of copies and you hope.

With Coraline we didn't do it that way. We only sent out three copies. Two went out with the kind of nervous notes that said "you really don't have to read this or like it or anything and I won't be upset if you hate it or feel uncomfortable about saying something about it --" and so on and so forth, because while those two were, quite simply, chosen because they were two of my favourite living children's authors, they are also friends -- people I've known for fifteen years, which meant that in each case we were all very aware that the last thing I wanted was for them to be polite and give a blurb because we're friends, or to give the apparency of log-rolling. (Readers of the blog may have already figured out that one of those was Terry Pratchett, the other was Diana Wynne Jones.)

That they both liked it as much as I had hoped they would, and were perfectly happy to say so in public, made me very happy.

The third copy went to the author who writes under the name of Lemony Snicket. I'd discovered him when Gwenda Bond gave my daughter Maddy the first of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, and I picked it up and fell in love with the tone of voice -- a sort of dire and joyful gloom, with added relish. He read Coraline... He liked it. But, he pointed out, Lemony Snicket was a fictional character who would certainly warn people away from a book like Coraline. Was this going to be a problem? We assured him that it wouldn't...

He just sent back an e-mail which reads...

This book tells a fascinating and disturbing story that frightened me nearly to death. Unless you want to find yourself hiding under your bed, with your thumb in your mouth, trembling with fear and making terrible noises, I suggest that you step very slowly away from this book and go find another source of amusement, such as investigating an unsolved crime or making a small animal out of yarn.
--Lemony Snicket

"Terrible noises." Big grin...

I don't think the back of a book needs anything more than a quote from Terry Pratchett, Diana Wynne Jones, and Lemony Snicket. Anything more would be over-egging the pudding.

i live in cleveland and am considering making the trek to the NKU lecture. before i do (we in cleveland tend to poke a bit of fun at kentucky--think of it like making fun of the scots, pikers, or france) id like to know that this is a lecture that i have not heard before. i've been lucky enough to hear you twice and i read the blogger often. i checked the NKU website and it said only that you were speaking for about 2 hours on march 25th. if you could just fill in some of the holes as to the subject of your lecture and whether or not youll be signing...
cheers. jeffrey

Jeffrey -- you are making the not unreasonable mistake of assuming that I have any kind of idea of what I'm going to say a month ahead of time. I'll probably give a short talk about myth and dreams and stories, and I have no doubt that I shall read some stuff, published and unpublished (even, quite probably at the time of writing this, unwritten), and I'll answer questions, and just generally burble. This is what I normally do. On the whole, if I get asked the same question I give more or less the same answer, unless I don't. Whether or not I sign anything is going to be up to the University -- how they arrange things. Normally talks and readings aren't signings because there isn't time and there are too many people ( If you have 500 people, and you sign for them at 30 seconds a person, that's over 4 hours...) On the other hand, when Harlan, Peter David and I gave a talk at MIT last year, we talked for several hours, then signed for many more. So you never know.
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