How do I get quotes from popular authors for the cover of my book? Most books have them, but I'm not sure how first-time authors get them. —Anonymous
Testimonials (or blurbs, as they’re known in the industry) are an important part of the publishing equation. Getting the right blurb from the right person can give your work credibility, which helps entice potential readers as well as the buyers for retail chains.
There are a few approaches to securing blurbs from well-known people. The first is to have your agent (or your publisher) reach out to the famous person of your choice on your behalf. Agents (and publishers) are connected and have friendly relationships with others in the industry, so they know who to contact and what to say. I provided my agent with a “wish list” of writers I wanted to blurb my humorous parenting book, Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl. (Always target prominent voices in your genre whose opinions will carry weight with readers.) My top choice was my writing idol, Dave Barry, so my agent asked me to write a paragraph about why his blurb would mean so much to me. She used it to reach out to his agent. Within a week Barry had agreed to look at the book and, shortly after, wrote the wonderful blurb that now adorns the top of my cover.
If, say, you self-published, or your agent/publisher isn’t having any luck, you can also attempt to contact your dream blurber directly. Thanks to social media, blogs and Google, you can find (nearly) anyone’s contact information pretty easily. (Also, if you know someone with a connection to your hopeful blurber, ask for help!) Send a polite letter explaining who you are, what your book is about and why you’d love to have a blurb from that person. Attach a copy of your book’s page proofs, which your publisher should be able to supply. After my agent had little luck reaching out to humor writer Dan Zevin, I dug up his contact info and wrote him a note, and soon he responded—agreeing to take a look!
If you do contact a potential blurber personally and don’t hear anything for three weeks, feel free to follow up once. If you still don’t get a response, it’s probably best to move on.
Keep in mind, the majority of famous people will say no. It can be for any number of reasons—too busy, doesn’t like to write blurbs, etc. (I was turned down several times.) Don’t get discouraged; it’s just part of the business. Keep a running list of people you would love to have quoted on your book jacket and continue to reach out. Like anything in publishing, this is a numbers game—the more authors you contact, the more likely you’ll get the killer blurb of your writerly dreams.
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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.