Authorguy's Blog

The Great White Hype

Posted on: March 2, 2011

I write the best books in the known universe. Every word is perfectly chosen, every action is in character, every character is dynamic and well-rounded. My themes and plots are epic in scope, dynastic in depth, and every saga written after me will be compared to me and my work. Come see what the buzz is all about!

Yah. Right.

I’ve actually read plugs for books that read like this. I don’t know about you, but when I see a series that describes itself as a saga, I put that book down. The Vorkosigan books are a saga, but I don’t think Lois McMaster Bujold or her publisher ever called it that, or that she thinks of it as such. Her fans started calling it that, after the umpteenth book came out. When it was a saga, and they were simply recognizing it as such.

“Come see what the buzz is all about!” I’ll believe it’s buzz when I hear it from someone other than you.

When I read a blurb that says a book is about an ‘epic struggle’ or ‘Mankind’s Ultimate destiny’ or some such, I think, “I doubt that” and put the book down. If I ever picked it up. Usually I see that kind of hype in online blurbs and don’t bother to click the links. Words like ‘epic’ are a bit slippery, though. I have trouble figuring out what makes an epic epic, and whether any of this applies to my own books. I don’t think so, there are certain stylistic conventions that apply, not to mention that epics tend to be narrative and my books are anything but. On the other hand, when the scale of the events in the story is huge, the cast of characters large, the story is described as epic without actually being an epic.

Calling it an epic or a saga doesn’t make it one. Any more than calling a fanged blood-drinker a ‘vampire’ makes it one, but I’ve already said what I wanted to say about that. I have no objection to a little metaphorical sideways slippage, nouns getting morphed over into adjectives, that sort of thing.  That’s how languages evolve, after all. But this ain’t little, and it ain’t sideways.

Is there something wrong with calling something what it is?


12 Responses to "The Great White Hype"

Dune is epic, but beyond that? The Wheel of Time series was epic, in the sense that it was far too long, far too big and contained far too much detail and not enough story. It’s a turn-off word for me, and anything claiming to be any kind of ultimate fight between good and evil for the destiny of mankind… I do not purchase.


To me epic is the scope available for the action, but they have to be able to move if you want to have a story.

Why would I want to do Ultimate anyway? That way I could never write a sequel. Look at what happened to Highlander.


I never think if anything as epic…maybe The Ten Commandments with Charleston Heston, but that’s more iconic.
Great post – I guess the take home message is: avoid hyperbole.


I must have said that a million times by now!

Hmm, iconic…? What can I do with that?


Amen! I’m tired of being advised to hype my work to the max, even though the media is polluted with hype.
I’m tempted to promote my writing thus:
I’ve written some stories. Some of them contain enough sexual description to get you off (I hope). The rest might be interesting enough to be worth your time & attention in bus stations, airports & doctors’ waiting rooms. I teach English, so my writing tends to be grammatical. Please check it out.



You must hate your publicist, don’t you?

I once heard a radio guy do a promo spot in a dull and drab voice. He said he did them that way so that no one in the publicity office would try to get him to do any spots!


Thank you, authorguy! At first I thought my response hadn’t been posted. (Now you see I do have an ego – I like to see my words in public places.) *g*


I think you’re right! I tend to just share my own excitement about the process in blog posts and social networking, and hope that a positive attitude garners some interest.

When it comes to talking about the book, I tell folks what it’s about, but leave the adjectives at the door. =)


The excitement is what matters, that’s what people want to hear about. “I love this book, and this is why…” Overblown descriptive phrases and spin-doctoring are no substitute.


Excellent point. I want the author to love their story, but don’t act like it is the next best thing since grits. An author I love said their work was “XX for thinking women” That just ticked me off.


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