Would You Please Read This? How to Get Book Blurbs
You wrote the book and then edited the book. Then you found someone interested in publishing it and edited the whole thing again. Now you have to write copy for the back and, if you don't have a publisher that takes care of it, get some blurbs.
In a way, getting blurbs is worse than everything that came before. For starters, blurbs aren't paid, so you're basically asking someone to take time out of a busy schedule to read your work and then some more time to write a few lines about it. Furthermore, a lot of the time you are asking this of writers who aren't your friends, which makes it that much harder... and easier for them to say no. There is no surefire way of getting the blurbs you want, but there are things you can do to increase your chances. Let me tell you about them.
1. Be familiar with the writer you contact
I know this sounds almost stupid because it's so basic, but I've seen some stuff and gotten some emails... Anyway, when I say familiar I mean EXTREMELY familiar. To be honest, you look like an ass when you approach a writer and they can tell you don't know what they do. It's easy to think, "I want this and that name on the back of my book," but not knowing what those names write decreases your chances of getting that blurb. Being extremely familiar with a writer's oeuvre means you can mention specific aspects of their work, and then point out similar elements in your own as the reason you thought of them. Also, showing how much you know communicates to them that you're a fan, that you're reaching out to them because you respect what they do, and that you think what you wrote is something they could potentially enjoy.
2. Be respectful
Sometimes I get a few blurb requests and think, "But I'm no one!" As soon as I think that, I try to imagine how many requests famous writers get and I feel their pain. Being respectful of their time and attention is the least you can do no matter what level a writer's at in their career. Again, remember you are basically making them work for free. Also, remember that interacting on Twitter once or twice or having read all of their books doesn't mean you're friends with someone. A professional tone in an email goes a long way. Don't make it sound like you're telling a childhood friend "Hey, fuckface, do this for me. I need it soon. Beers on me as soon as you're done."
3. Present your work engagingly, but be humble about it
I hate getting emails that start with "I'm no one," or "You haven't heard of me." On the other hand, I also hate emails where the author is promising me their book is the best I will ever read. Yeah, this second one is worse than the first. You need to present yourself as someone humble but also worthy of a blurb. If it's your first book, mention it, but don't put yourself down. There's a difference between being humble and self deprecation; the first is great, the second makes your email easy to ignore. What you want to do is take the spotlight away from you and put it on your work. Mention why you think this writer is the right person to ask for a blurb and then sell them the book in a few lines. Keep it straightforward and honest and leave the superlatives alone and your insecurities in your pocket.
4. Tell them what a blurb from them would mean to you
If you're familiar with their work and you're asking them for a blurb, chances are you are also a fan. Let them know. Don't sound like a stalker, but mention what their work means to you, if you consider them an influence, and if you know of any books similar to yours they have blurbed in the past. This is tricky, but being honest and speaking from the heart can make the difference between them deciding to give your their time or adding you to the pile of nos.
5. Acknowledge their time
One line. That's all it takes. "I know you're very busy" works. "I can imagine the number of requests you get" and "I know you have various deadlines" also work. You don't have to go on and on, but you want to let them know you think their time is limited and valuable.
6. Keep it short
This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous suggestion. It's an email to a busy person. Keep that in mind. Keep it short. If you write 3k words about what their work means to you and how your ex stole your copy of their last book...well, you better make it interesting or they won't even finish reading your request.
7. Remember to thank them for their time and add a line about accepting a no
Again, this is basic, but a lot of people get nervous and forget to do it. You want to thank them for their time and consideration. Also, you want to let them know you understand how busy they are and add something like "no problem if you're too busy or not accepting blurb requests at this time." I've received emails from authors saying they couldn't give me a blurb at that time, but they were willing to blurb my next book.
8. Be fearless
Listen, you have to do this. Just accept it and move on. Write those emails, click send, and wait for a reply, That's it. Panicking doesn't help. When you submit something, you know there's a 50-50 chance of getting a "This is great!" or a "We regret to inform you..." Well, blurbs are the same. All you can do is ask and wait for a response. Sometimes they won't reply to you, sometimes they will say no, and sometimes they will say yes. It's all part of the business. Freaking out about it is as useless as complaining about editing. In the end, you're going to have to do both, so do it and go back to writing the next thing.
Blurbs are tricky, but they're part of the game. A lot of folks say they don't buy books based on blurbs, but I know plenty of people who pay attention to them. I've had readers tell me blurbs I received from David Joy, Jerry Stahl, and Roxane Gay made them buy my books. If they work for some readers, you want to have them. Now go get those blurbs.
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