Does asking for a blurb ever feel like fighting the giant chicken from Family Guy? Ever wonder how authors got those awesome-sounding blurbs on the back of their books? They’ve asked for them! Blurbs are testimonials about your book from a published expert in the field who admires your work. They should be from folks whom you respect and who also respect you and know your work. You want to be extremely proud of your blurbs and blurt out, “the Poet Laureate of North Carolina wrote a blurb for my book!” (which is true, by the way—check out Joseph Bathanti’s blurb on the back of my most recent book, After the Steaming Stops)
When I first published my first poetry book, Right Lane Ends in 2006 I asked for blurbs from my poetry teachers and from colleagues who were experienced authors. I only received one rejection, which is about normal for me. I usually get one blurb rejection per book. That’s why asking for blurbs is hard—no one wants to get rejected, but if you don’t ask you won’t get the Poet Laureate or Homer Hickam of October Sky and Rocket Boys (check out the back of Unfinished Projects) writing a blurb for you.
Here Are Five Tried And True Tips For Scoring Awesome Blurbs:
- Send an email or Facebook message to your prospective blurber with the subject line, “Blurb Request for My New Book” or something similar. In the short email tell them how you know them, their connection to your work and why you think they are the right person for the job. Sarah Pinneo suggests you ask a famous author their parameters for blurbing books when you meet them in person at a conference or reading.
- If the prospective blurber rejects you, try not to take it personally, but I know that can be hard. Maybe they don’t have time, maybe they think your work stinks, or maybe they don’t know you well enough. When you do get a rejection, I hope it’s worded nicely—if it is a nicely worded rejection, you may want to send that person a copy of your book, too. I do treasure my nicely worded rejections because I know that I had the guts to ask. If it isn’t…well, that person must have forgotten what it’s like to be a new author.
- If they accept, congratulations! Then give your blurber a definite time frame of 30 days to write your blurb and ask them how they would like to receive your manuscript—email or snail mail. If you haven’t received the blurb in 25 days, give them a gentle reminder.
- Don’t ask too many people to blurb your book! I made this mistake and now wish to make this public service announcement so no one else will do what I did. I did it because I was scared everyone I asked would reject me—I wanted to hedge my bets! If you ask too many people and they all blurb for you, someone isn’t going to fit on the back of the book. That person will not be happy because they put the time and effort into reading your book—they may forgive you after a few years if you post their blurb on your website and marketing materials. Maybe. Instead, be very careful of the number of people you ask and how many slots (usually three) you have for blurb space.
- Be generous. After your book is published, at least send your blurbers a copy of your book—I also sent a copy of my book to those who read my manuscript, but didn’t blurb for me. Don’t ask your blurbers to pay for your book—EVER! And it’s also a good idea to send chocolate with your book copy—very classy.
And finally, asking for blurbs will get easier with each book. Soon, you may be asked to blurb a book. Please remember what it felt like to ask an author and deliver your blurb in a timely way. It’s such a feel-good moment to do a service for a fellow author!
For further reading about blurb requests, see: Sarah Pinneo’s “How to Ask For a Blurb (Even When You’re Intimidated).” Daphne Uviller’s “To Ask for a Blurb is to Feel Like a Turd.” See also Carolyn Roy-Bornstein’s “When the Blurb is on the Other Foot.”
What have I missed in the blurb-asking process? What have been your experiences when asking for blurbs?