Four Tips for Nabbing Your Book a Blurb

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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.

* * *

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

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