When my publisher asked me to solicit blurbs -- the positive comments that appear on the back cover of books -- I wasn't enthusiastic. It seemed unrealistic to me that a noted author or musician who might otherwise want to read my book -- the story of two rock fans who created a wonderful record company that reissued the great music of the past -- would be motivated to tackle it in the four to five weeks that were allocated before the book went to the printer. I thought the book should stand on its own merits, rather than what might be a perfunctory attempt to fulfill a request.
The publisher explained that the blurb would encourage stores to carry the book, and browsing consumers to take an interest in cracking it open to explore further. As my publisher felt like it could help to sell the book, I would comply. I wanted to be objective. I didn't want to go after those who were profiled, almost as if to say, "Hey, I put you in the book, say something nice about it."
I came up with a short list of individuals I thought would enjoy reading the book, noted authors who were rock fans, and familiar musical performers who seemed like they enjoyed books. Although I read a handful of Stephen King's books, I was aware of his musical interests from reading his columns in Entertainment Weekly. When contacted, he replied, "I'm out of the blurb business." I thought Dave Barry would relate to our sense of humor, and he occasionally performed with the Rock Bottom Remainders, the intermittent band made up of published authors. He said, "I'm so far behind on blurb requests I'm not likely to get to the ones I already said I'd do." I devoured Nick Hornby's High Fidelity when it came out. I thought he must be a Rhino fan, and would relate to our beginnings in an iconoclastic record store, similar to the one in his book. Nick said that he was "way too busy."
This was very frustrating. One prominent writer of music books hipped me to the fact that many of those accredited don't even read the books or write the blurbs. He said that he wrote a lot of the blurbs that appeared on his books, and then got the approval of the celebrity to use it. He'd become so good at it, he even offered to write some for me.
By far my biggest disappointment was Pete Townshend's decline. I had been a fan of his since hearing the Who's "My Generation" on L.A. radio in 1966. Through the Rhino years I exchanged infrequent faxes with Pete -- met him once -- but we weren't able to work on a project together. I thought American Idol judge (OK, also a producer and musician) Randy Jackson could add some broad appeal to the book's back cover. Even though his manager, Harriet Sternberg, said she "loved reading every single page," Randy turned me down because we'd never worked on a project together. So, that was my problem. I didn't have personal relationships with those I solicited.
Thank goodness to Jonathan Kellerman, the New York Times bestselling novelist, who read the book and came through with a thoughtful quote: "This witty and compelling book can be enjoyed on several levels: as a fascinating insider's look at the recording industry, as a classic tale of rag-to-riches business triumph, and as pure entertainment due to Bronson's dry, ironic wit."
Harold Bronson's book THE RHINO RECORDS STORY will be published on October 22nd.