Four Tips for Nabbing Your Book a Blurb

A survey of the stack of books on my desk (which we’ll be giving away Friday), reveals the following:

“That incredibly rare breed of book: a guide to grammar and style that is simultaneously smart, engaging and instructive.” —Author Elizabeth Little on It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences

“An indispensable work of contemporary fiction by an important novelist at the height of her powers. A compelling, seductive reading experience.” —Author Nicholas Jose on Habit of a Foreign Sky

“The greatest writer of post-Tolkien British fantasy.” —Michael Chabon on The Sword of the Dawn

[“As I told you in an earlier letter, you can sign my name to almost anything short of disgraceful madness.” —Hunter S. Thompson, when once asked for a blurb]

So you’ve jumped all the hurdles—numerous edits, queries, rejections, agents and, finally, publishers—but there’s still the blurbs, pull quotes that are both uplifting and delightful, and could help sell books. But how do you actually get them? Not too long ago, the awesome Jenna Glatzer, who has written nearly 20 books and has done her share of blurb hunting, pitched me an idea on this exact topic for Writer’s Digest. We acquired it, and it’s currently in our October issue. Thus, on this WD Mag Wednesday, here are four tips from the piece, which hopefully will unravel a bit of the mystery behind the soundbites. A regular Promptly prompt follows. And for six more blurb hunting tips from Jenna, check out the October issue of WD.

1. If you’re publishing traditionally, know that sometimes your publisher will help you get blurbs, but often, it won’t. Even if your publisher has bestselling authors in your genre in its stable, don’t assume your editor or publicist will have no problem getting blurbs from those authors—this is typically not the case. Bestselling authors are inundated with blurb requests and have little to gain from doing them. If you have a special request you think your publisher might be able to help with, go ahead and ask—but be prepared to do most of the blurb hunting on your own. (If you’re self-publishing, say so up front and include a sentence or two about how you plan to market and distribute the book.)

2. Don’t wait for your editor to tell you it’s time to get blurbs—ask for a deadline. When you’re close to finishing your manuscript, write or call your targets and give a short summary of who you are, what your book is about and who’s publishing it. Then say something along the lines of, “I’m hoping you will consider reading my book and providing a short comment about it if you like it. It would mean a great deal to me to have your endorsement on the book’s cover or front pages. May I send it to you?”

3. Don’t forget to explain why you think your target might be personally interested in the book. Blurbs are self-serving things. You’re asking for an endorsement because you think that person’s opinion will help you sell more books—but why will this book interest her? Be as personal and specific as possible, such as, “I attended a lecture where you advised people to pay more attention to food labels. I thought of that lecture as I wrote Chapter 4, and I hope you’ll like it.”

4. Never pay for a blurb. There are a few services online that charge for blurbs and reviews. Ignore them heartily. Their words are useless—no one cares that a person from “Bob’s Review Service” said your book was a timeless classic, and if readers discover that your endorsements were bought, you could be in for a big embarrassment. That said, it’s reasonable for you (or your publisher) to pay an author to write a foreword, if your book warrants one.

* * *

Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our
occasional around-the-office swag drawings (check out Friday’s post to see what we’re going to do about the latest one).
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

With the disguise on, you enter the party, and run into the last person you ever expected.



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7 thoughts on “Four Tips for Nabbing Your Book a Blurb

  1. Beverly Lofton

    With a disguise on I ran into the last person I expected to see that night. Death. We were introduced years ago when he snatched the life from my father. I was seven years old. Up until then I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I had trouble with the tooth fairy because I remember the time my mother slipped the dime under my pillow one night when she thought I was sleep.

    Death didn’t come around for a long time after that but I never forgot him; his look, his feel, his lack of compassion. He never said anything just came and took the life, leaving emptiness in its place and disappearing until the next time. Death didn’t acknowledge me or anyone else that night and didn’t seem in a hurry to meet his next conquest. He just hung around looking bored. I wanted to ask him about the timing of our appointment but some things are better left unsaid because even close brushes with Death can be just as devastating as the real thing and I didn’t want him thinking I needed a new BFF.

    Then Denial showed up and offered me a piece of chocolate black-out cake covered with reasons why I should indulge. I was just about to reach for it when I noticed Death watching me. I could tell he was calculating what the fat and sugar was going to do to my arteries and mentally speeding up our appointment date. When I picked up a carrot stick instead Death looked away. His boredom was palatable. It was obvious he was a workaholic and didn’t like inactivity.

    Just to up the ante I took the stairs and walked the rest of the way home. While walking I couldn’t help but think of those movies Death Takes a Holiday and Meet Joe Black. Both movies tried to personify Death and make him like one of us but I knew better and I felt better remembering Jesus said he took the keys to Death, Hell and the Grave. So Death is just wandering the earth for a time until the appointed time. It made me smile to know that Death is going to die someday too. Right now he is just a homeless entity waiting for Jesus just like the rest of the creation. He is locked out and not really in control of anything anymore; just biding his time. No wonder he looked bored.

    I took my disguise off. It was time to polish my armor and tell others what I had learned. Fear tried to follow me and I ignored her for a while. I know how to get rid of her. It’s easy. I’ve done it before; just turn around and face her and she’ll run away leaving room for my usual running partners Goodness and Mercy. They always have my back. I know Death will be back but no matter when he comes I’ll be surrounded by Peace and go through the one-way door to the next life.

  2. Dare Gaither

    I tugged awkwardly at the tight satin.
    Cathy had assured me the snug fit enhanced
    the Marilyn Monroe effect she was going for.
    She was resplendent in her flapper costume.
    We had parted ways so she could prowl on her own.
    I was really just there as backup.

    I teetered over to the buffet to peruse the offerings.
    A familiar voice stopped me in mid-bite.

    “There you are!”

    I froze, dripping blobs of salsa on Cathy’s too-tight skirt.
    There was no mistaking his salesman’s tone.
    My half-brother had found another opportunity to embarrass me.
    What was he doing here, anyway?
    He grabbed my shoulders and swung me around.
    His pirate’s outfit suited him perfectly.
    I opened my mouth, hoping something clever would come out,
    but the look on his face silenced me.

    He stepped back suddenly with a gasp.
    His fake parrot slumped over. Its foam beak pecked
    accusingly at his heaving chest.

    Hmmm…he hadn’t known it was me.
    Was there another Marilyn here….with him?

    “What brings you to Charlotte?” I asked casually.
    I was burning with interest to know who the other Marilyn was.
    His wife, Carol, never came with him on business trips.

    “Oh, uh, it’s….you know…business.” He stammered helplessly.
    Jason speechless?
    Now I was truly interested.

    “Jason, who are you flirting with now?”
    A curvaceous young lady sashayed up behind him and
    flung her arm around his waist.

    “You stole my costume, you brazen hussy!”
    She laughed almost jokingly.

    “Uh….this is just Sandra, my long lost sister.”

    I smiled sweetly and looked at Jason to introduce her.
    He was as silent as his fake parrot.
    “I’m Kendra, and he’s all mine!” Marilyn II said firmly.

    I noticed Jason’s wedding ring was conspicuously absent.

    “Yes…well, Sandra was telling me she has to leave now.
    She has an early appointment in the morning.”

    Jason could lie like a Persian rug.
    He was an excellent salesman.

    “I’ll send that new laptop we were discussing as soon as I get home.
    I’ll cover the connection charges, too.
    You know how much you mean to me.”

    I laughed. He really was desperate.
    Did Carol know about this?
    She had her own little something on the side when
    Jason was gone on his business trips.
    She was fairly certain he was unaware.
    He was obviously too busy to care.

    “Well, I’ll be looking for it,” I said, staring Jason right in the eye.
    He better not be lying now.
    He was scared of Carol.

    “It was wonderful to meet you,” I chirped at Marilyn II.
    I turned to leave.
    “I’ll talk to you later,” I gave as a parting shot at Jason.

    I tracked down Cathy to tell her I was going.
    She had already found another ride.
    I was not to wait up.

    As I drove home, I began making my list of demands for Jason.
    Cathy was right.
    Costume parties are a gold mine of opportunity.

  3. Nathan Honore

    Things had ended poorly. Karen and I had loved each other for just under a year before our little fantasy world fell apart. We actually broke up via AIM. That was pre-Facebook chat. Seven years later and I am dressed as the greatest superhero of all, Batman. For the record, he’s the greatest because A) He is just a regular guy in a suit and B) He beat Superman when Superman went bad. It had taken years of saving, but I finally found and bought a pretty good replica that made me look as fit as a young Adam West or Burt Ward. I had planned on going to my friend Rob’s party, playing the role of Batman, drinking an odious amount of Batcahol, and hopefully finding my way into some lady’s Batcave. I was so excited. Why did Karen have to show her tantalizing eyes here? Everything’s ruined. Damn it Rob. But maybe I can bluff my way through this. I’ll make my social circles around the party, always keeping one Bat-eye on her. My Batman voice has been perfected and sounds even better when I’m drinking, so my vocal cords are cloaked. This works for an hour. While enjoying my seventh Bat-drink, I feel a tap on my cowl. Oh no! Where is she? I’ve lost track of her! My eyes quickly scan the room, only to turn to the Tapster behind me: Karen, dressed as Poison Ivy. She looks good.
    “Batman, we meet again,” she says with a flirtatious tone.
    I stare back, not sure if she knows it’s me yet. Rob spots me from across the floor and has the “Oh shit!” look on his face. He tries running over, but it’s too late. His presence will only reveal my identity at this point.
    “Pamela Isley,” I muster out in my deep, gravely Bat-voice.
    She smiles.
    “When did you escape from Arkham? I continue.
    “I have my ways,” she blows me a kiss.
    Karen clearly does not recognize me. No kiss, even an air-born one, would reach my lips from hers. Phew! I just need to continue this harmless flirting and get out of here…My Bat-voice must be pretty damn good.
    She reaches for my mask, but I grab her soft, yet firm forearms before she can see under it. Karen gives me a puzzled look.
    “Let’s see who’s under the mask.”
    Where the hell is Rob. Worst sidekick ever. He is nowhere to be found, so I loosen my grip, but retain control.
    “We all wear masks, Ivy.” The best defense I can think of. Clearly bored with my antics, she withdraws her arms saying, “Well, find me later if you want in my Batcave” My God! She still speaks my language. Karen leaves me, again. Rob arrives.
    “Sorry dude! What happened? Nate, are you ok?”
    I turn to him, “I’m Batman.” I flourish my cape as I head to the door.
    “Nice costume Nate!” I hear behind me. Poison Ivy knows my identity.

  4. Mark James

    The stone dragon’s mouth was packed so close, there was barely room to squeeze between its teeth. “It’s your party too,” Michael said over the lutes playing.

    The archangel of Hell, disguised as a mortal in black Armani, tossed his brother a sour look. “I don’t see anyone lighting black candles and calling it Lucifermas.”

    “It’s the Feast of all Angels,” Michael said. “And if you hadn’t spilled orgasm wine all over the sheik’s wedding, you wouldn’t have to go where I go.”

    “Hell Wine.” A smile trembled around the edges of Lucifer’s lips. “An accident.”

    “Wander around,” Michael said. “Find something you like.”

    The party was inside the Lost Edge, a Magick Retreat that had once been an abbey. Hidden high in the mountains of a northern island, wreathed by clouds, bordered by ocean, the retreat was open to all who found their way there. On days like Michaelmas, the magicked ground allowed mortals and immortals to touch each other’s worlds.

    Lucifer leaned out between the sculpted dragon’s teeth. “The fall is impressive,” he said.

    Michael sprang to his brother’s side, pulled him back. “Don’t,” he said. “If you slip, I have to catch you.”

    “I’d forgotten.” Lucifer ran his eyes over the crowd. “You’re here to protect me. Are the guardian angels busy?”

    “I’ll guard you,” a silken voice said behind Lucifer. He turned and saw the reason he’d brought sin into the world.

    Lucifer took in her wavy black hair, flowing well past her bare shoulders, her low cut dress. Why was he was without his wings tonight, without Hell, where he would show her a new meaning of pleasure? “I’d lay down for you any century.” He shook his head, as if shaking off a spell. “My coat.” He tore his gaze from her neckline, but it was no use. His eyes fell on her full lips. “I would lay it down for you.”

    She leaned close. Her scarlet gown rustled between them. “I need no such comforts to lay with you, my Lord.”

    “A moment, please,” he said, and turned to Michael. “How long till my wings come back and I can’t touch her?”

    “Don’t even think it,” Michael said. “No nephilim babies.”

    Lucifer let the crowd press him into the woman, who touched her warm lips to his ear and whispered, “Sybil.”

    Before Lucifer could answer with one of his many names, a shriek split the sounds of the party. A mortal built like a wrestler was barreling toward him.

    “You.” The mortal was picking up speed like a freight train. “You dared profane my wedding. My wife, she was a virgin.”

    “So she told me,” Lucifer said. “The night before.”

    A low sound started in the mortal’s throat, grew with every rushing step. “Defiler!” he cried.

    With the mortal’s grasping fingers inches from his throat, Lucifer stepped aside, and let him go sailing between the dragon’s teeth to the ocean miles below. Leaning over just far enough to see arms and legs flailing through the night, Lucifer said, “I think he needs a guardian angel, brother.”

    With a curse, Michael flew past Lucifer, raced down toward the falling man.

    Lucifer turned to Sybil, kissed her outstretched hand. “You were saying?”

  5. LGwenn

    I was a snow white kitty cat, clad in thin lycra and not much of it. The mask was a requirement, for me at least, considering how provocatively some of the other party goers were dressed. It covered my blush.

    I tip toed through the crowd, desperately trying not to touch anyone as I picked my way through. I was a grown woman, now. In control of my body. I had no reason to be ashamed.

    A witch, dressed more to the pagan dancing under the moon stereotype, turned quickly and spilled her drink down my front. I looked down, then up. Professor McDaniel, who was wearing more jewelry than clothing, was patting down the newly pink and now fairly see-through front of my stretchy bra top.

    “Oh, don’t worry. I’ve got it.” I grabbed the napkin out of her hand and began to pat dry myself.

    Groggy recognition turned the professor’s eyes to slits. “Do I know you?”

    She reached out to lift my mask. I snapped it down onto my face and ran. Monday mornings were hard enough. I couldn’t have the professor think of her TA as “kitty cat girl” all year.