“Blurb this book without actually reading it!”

In a mischievous send up of contemporary book-blurbing practices, contestants were invited to pen over the top and unfounded praise for Iris Smyles’ new book of fiction, Dating Tips for the Unemployed, without ever having read it, for a chance to see their name—and blurb—on the book’s back cover.


Writer, actor, and producer Alec Baldwin claimed first prize. As promised, his blurb was printed on the back of Dating Tips for the Unemployed. Because the National Blurb Contest Winner was “paid” in the form of the “National Blurb Contest Prize” (having one’s name and blurb printed on the back of Iris Smyles’ new book), the legal team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt required that this exchange be disclosed. Let it thus be known: payment for the endorsement was the printing of the endorsement. Hence the legal disclaimer attached to Mr. Baldwin’s quote: “Alec Baldwin was paid for this endorsement.”


Meanwhile, National Blurb Contest Finalists (William Souder, Scott Stossel, and John Stintzi) were awarded two signed copies of Dating Tips for the Unemployed, a copy of the author’s previous book, Iris Has Free Time, a pair
of “I love Iris Smyles” promotional underwear, an Iris Has Free
Time/DKNY tote bag, and trophies recognizing their achievement.

Unknown to National Blurb Contest entrants who had not yet seen the book, Dating Tips for the Unemployed includes 21 pages of fake advertisement that dovetail with the book’s broader themes of seduction, self-improvement, salesmanship, short-cuts, illusion and delusion. The National Blurb Contest was organized as a performative extension of the book itself.

Read about the National Blurb Contestin The Paris Review

Read about the Awards Gala in the East Hampton Star

Scroll down to see photos from the National Blurb Contest Awards Gala


“Fanny Hill without the sex!” —Bruce Sherman

“Superbly evocative of the fraught politics of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance during the Peninsular War.” —Ari Samsky, M.A., Ph.D., medical anthropologist and author of The Capricious Critic

“I will always remember the day I first became aware of Iris’s luminous prose. It was a Tuesday. I had a lunch date with Simon. He had the Nicoise salad.” —Noam Cohen

“Iris owns a baby snow leopard but I can’t prove it. Someone should call someone.” —Daniel Kibblesmith, writer of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

“Erudite as Crudites” —Dora McKelvey, Ylvis enthusiast

“With this book, five bucks for tacos at the walk-up window, a condom and a sleeping bag—you’ve got what we call on the streets ‘heaven on the streets.’ ” —Mark Sutz

“Of all the books I have read in the last 25 years—and there have been many—I can say with some confidence that this is probably one of them.” —Emily Epstein, photo editor, The Atlantic

“This book is a triumph in a way that others tried and failed … it’s the perfect size and weight for pressing flowers and leaves.” —Sean Greeson

“Iris Smyles has cut through all the fear and bellicosity of the election season in order to reveal the true historical origins, and cruel future intentions, of today’s jihadist nightmare.” —Vince Passaro, author of Violence, Nudity, Adult Content

“If you don’t read this, you are failing yourself and the person sitting directly to your left.” —Adrian Todd Zuniga, founder and host of Literary Death Match

“Buy this book, then read this book, then tell me how it is, and maybe let me borrow it.” —John Stintzi, poet, M.F.A. Stonybrook University

“For a book about tennis there sure isn’t much tennis in it.” —Sarah Peters

“Book’s binding is of decent quality.” —Geoff Schwartz, commercial real-estate developer

“If George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano mixed their sperm and inseminated Cynthia Heimel’s Sex Tips for Girls, and if the resultant child was raised in a communal home with Paula Vogel’s And Baby Makes Seven and Zoe Atkins’s The Greeks Had a Word for It, that child might be Iris Smyles’s Dating Tips for the Unemployed.” —Noah Milman, filmmaker

“Provocative and wildly entertaining … Smyles’s latest pokes piquant fun at the zeitgeist’s journey du jour, from the rags of loneliness to love’s embarrassment of itches.” —Emily Votruba, rabbit breeder

“Riveting … Written by a veteran British journalist who has an evident passion for Pakistan and can render its complicated history with pristine clarity, this is a book that should be read not only for its vidid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls.” —Sarah Beller, writer


On June 22nd 2016 in New York City, National Blurb Contest winners and finalists were honored at a red carpet black tie breakfast gala celebrating the launch Of Dating Tips for the Unemployed.

At 6am, 200 guests in formal dress gathered in the lobby of the Econo Lodge, during its “free continental breakfast,” next to the ice machine.