Getting Out of Book Blurbs

Q: How do I get out of writing a blurb for a friend’s not-so-good self-published book?—Anonymous

A: Friends are always asking for favors—May I borrow your leaf blower? Will you watch my dog? Do you mind if I tell the police that we were together last Thursday just past midnight?

As a writer, you’re susceptible to getting asked writerly favors from writerly friends, and often it puts you in an awkward predicament, just like when a friend asks you to write a blurb for his boring, poorly edited self-published book. You can’t just flat-out say no—after all, it’s a friend. But you obviously can’t offer an endorsement to a book that isn’t up to par, either.

What’s a writer to do?

Thankfully, I’ve come up with a foolproof, 100% guaranteed-to-work “Guide to Getting Out of Book Blurbs” which provides five excellent options:

1. Fake an away message. Every time your friend e-mails the request, quickly send a response that says something like, “Thanks for your e-mail. I will be out of the country for an extended period of time and, unfortunately, they don’t have the Internet in Zimbabwe.” 

2. Explain that you don’t believe in book blurbs, but you’re willing to take a picture of your hand giving the thumbs up.

3. Ask for outrageous favors in return. “Funny you should call looking for a book blurb, as I’m in a bit of a pickle myself. I need someone to act as a tackling dummy to help train my pet tiger. He keeps gnawing off arms. You free Friday?”

4. Offer to write it, but only under your pseudonym: Don Rita Thisbook.

5. Break your hand. (Just seeing how far you will go to get out of this—and if it’s come down to option #5, that book must be bad.)

Of course, I hope you know I am kidding.

In all seriousness, the best way to politely turn down a friend’s request for a book blurb on a not-so-good book is to be honest. Tell them you appreciate the thought, but you’re uncomfortable being put in that situation. If they persist, explain your reservations about the book as nicely as you can. They shouldn’t get mad. After all, if you had a friend who was an accountant and you asked him to sign off on your self-prepared tax return, he wouldn’t do so unless he was comfortable with the numbers. You’re a professional, too. Be sure to be treated like one.

But I suggest getting your leaf blower back first. 

(Happy April Fools’ Day!)

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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0 thoughts on “Getting Out of Book Blurbs

  1. Donna

    Brian, I’m glad you posted this. Along with the fact that, as usual, you made me literally chuckle out loud, it brought to mind something that, if I’m fortunate enough to ever get published and have an agent, will definitely come up and I feel every time I think about it:

    Several times, during the course of my working on books, it’s been said to me, in several different ways: well, when (I love the "when" instead of "if") you get published, you can be my connection! You can give my book to your agent!

    This really upsets me because, although the few people I know who’ve said this to me may have creative minds, it doesn’t mean they’re good writers. Of course, I’d rather be in a position where I would be asked, but the truth is — this is something I would really dread! The only thing I could think of would be to blame the agent or publisher and say that I was told I can’t do that!
    : Donna

  2. Brian A. Klems

    Hey Anna,
    Just so you know, this isn’t a comment on self–publishing, this is strictly a comment on a bad book. Self-publishing has its place and can be very useful for writers. As long as you do your research and manage your expectations accordingly, you’ll know whether a self-publisher is for you.

  3. Anna Walls

    Reading this makes me shudder. Are self publishing companies really so bad? I know from experience that it’s very difficult to get a "friend" to read my work and getting them to give over an honest opinion is nigh on impossible. Forget the blurb, I’m doing good to get them to read more than the first chapter or two. Don’t get me wrong, Maybe my work isn’t all that great but I’ll never know because I can’t get anyone to read it so it’s self publishing for me. I’m open for suggestions though – You have no idea how anxious I am for some reader, any reader to tell me simply and honestly "It’s a cool story but…" or "It’s a really terrible story, I never want to see you again." Anything’ll do.