Writers love to have wonderful words said about their manuscripts. Critique partners. Professors. Conference critiquers. We live for encouraging words. They keep us going during the long, tap-tap-tap days and nights with our keyboards. But what do you do when your manuscript is accepted for publication and you need people to write nice things—a.k.a blurbs—for the cover of your book?
Like many tasks in the publishing industry, there is no uniform, one-size-fits-all, process to getting blurbs. Every writer I’ve talked to has had a different experience. Debut authors. Series authors. Getting blurbs is as individual as the book you have written. That said, I think I can share a few tips so you don’t get too bobbled by blurbing, so to speak.
As soon as your manuscript is acquired, be thinking about who you want to blurb your book. Talk to your critique group about possible blurbers. They’ve read it. They know other authors in that genre. Talk to your editor and agent about who they think would be a good household name on the front or back of your book. Think about all the writers you know. Think about writers your writing friends know. Think wide.
Now narrow the list to those writers who write in the same genre as your book. Sort the list into people you know and people for whom you need introductions. Try to find out ahead of time, who blurbs and who doesn’t. Also, find out the requirements of asking for a blurb. Some writers require that an editor or agent approach them. In other words, do your homework. Prioritize the list: who are you asking first, second and third? No, you may not send a mass email to all these people.
Asking writers for blurbs takes time. The sooner you ask, the sooner you will know if they have the time to read your book. Talk to your editor about when they want to have blurbs for the arcs. Figure out when you will be able to send a clean, copyedited pdf of the book to the blurbers. Give your blurbers the deadline. As you can see, there are several time factors you are juggling: the blurbers’ busy lives; the publishing schedule, your own editing deadlines. You can do it. You wrote a book. Keep everyone in the loop and be respectful.
Yes, you might be the one asking for blurbs. Some editors want the authors to reach out to their community of writers because they think an author asking is more genuine and the potential blurber is more likely to say yes because they know the writer or the friend of the writer. While you might feel an editor asking is a stronger endorsement of your book, editors are concerned that their request might put a professional obligation on the potential blurber. Ain’t no right or wrong answer here, folks. Whether you or your editor asks for blurbs, realize that what blurbs do is build the community for your book. That’s your goal: build the community for your book.
Now if you are terribly shy or introverted or just plain get apoplectic about asking for blurbs, talk your agent. They can send out blurb requests on your behalf to those who authors who require a professional contact or to your entire list.
Okay, now the no’s and yes’s are starting to come in and only one person on the A-list has said yes. Do not get all pouty faced. One blurb from an A-list author is great. Also, B and C list authors have followings; their careers are growing and, most importantly, you are building community for your book, not celebrity endorsements.
Do figure out how many blurbs you want to get. I chose to get four. My reasoning was that I wanted each one to be important and matter. I also wanted the blurbers to be honored for the time they had taken to read the book and not find their words lost in a pages and pages of blurbs. That said, I have since had the happy good fortune to have a community of writers who have written spontaneous blurbs. I have sprinkled them in different places like on my website and videos. They don’t all need to go on the book cover.
Nice words are nice words. No matter where they go.
(Readers, please feel free to chime with any questions or other blurbely words of wisdom.)