A writer I follow on Twitter voiced frustration recently at the idea that debut authors should be expected to collect blurbs for their novels. The tweet had a very woe-is-me vibe, as if it were a straight-up impossible task. But it’s not.
Querying for Blurbs
Since I started the work of reaching out to authors to ask for blurbs I’ve contacted 20 people. Of those, 14 have agreed to read the manuscript, 2 passed (with good reasons and kind words), and 4 simply never responded. In my book, those are totally acceptable numbers.
Asking for blurbs isn’t difficult so much as it is just painful. It’s kind of like querying all over again, and if you’ve been following along, you know I got super nerdy about that. So I brought the same strategies to the blurb quest. Here’s how I went about it.
Making the Ask
Step 1: Make a list of all the published writers you know and/or admire, anyone who’s name you would be happy to see on the cover of your book. Go ahead and dream big. You may not contact all of them, but this isn’t the place to worry about it. Just get the names on a list.
Step 2: Start with the authors you know personally – and I’m using the word “know” pretty loosely here. I reached out to authors I shook hands with once at a conference, and authors I took a class with years ago. I emailed my husband’s ex-girlfriend from college (now a well-established author whose latest book is getting great reviews). I mean, that was a long shot (but she said yes!).
Step 3: Craft a very nice letter. I emailed every person on my list personally, reminding them of how we met (if it wasn’t obvious), telling them the news that my debut novel was coming out, and then making the ask. You cannot just assume that because they’re a published author and you tell them your book is coming out that they will offer a blurb. You actually have to ask. Here are a few things to remember as you craft the email:
- Always give them an out. In every email I said something like “I know you’re busy, so if it’s not a good time, no worries, I totally understand.”
- Don’t assume they will blurb it. If they don’t like your book, you don’t want them to. I used the phrasing “I was hoping you would read my manuscript and, assuming you like it, write a blurb.”
- Blame your editor. This isn’t a requirement, of course, but I found it an easy way to lead up to the ask. I said something like: “My editor has asked me to reach out to authors I admire and ask if they would be willing to blurb the book.” Phrasing it like this also allowed me to:
- Flatter them. Don’t be a kiss ass, but do express that you admire their work (if you don’t, you shouldn’t be asking for a blurb).
- Let them know the blurb deadline. Your editor will have a date by which they need the blurbs. Make sure you include that in your email.
Step 4: Once you’ve reached out to the people you know, take a little break. Hopefully this will allow a few authors to get back to you with a “yes.” Then, once you’ve built up your confidence a little, try for some of your bigger fish.
I only contacted a few authors I didn’t have some connection to and I compensated by getting as close to them as I could without being a stalker. I’d read their books (duh), and I follow them on Twitter (and have for a while, because they’re awesome). I subscribed to their newsletters where applicable. I wasn’t bullshitting anyone when I said I was a big fan. (Side note, that was the subject line of my emails to these authors: “A request from a fan”).
I’m not done with collecting blurbs. There are still authors on my list that I’m feeling shy about reaching out to. Lucky for me, I’ve got plenty of time before the book comes out, so I’m taking it at an easy pace.
And that’s a good argument for starting early. Ask your publisher when you can start reaching out, or if you’re self publishing get started as soon as you have a the draft you intend to publish. The more time you have, the more relaxed you can be about it and the more time you can give your readers.
Lastly, a word on rejection. People will pass. If you’ve made it this far in the process of brining a book into the world, then you’re no stranger to rejection. Don’t let it get you down.
I also have to consider the very real possibility that some of the authors who agreed to read my manuscript may decline to blurb it. That will sting, I’m sure, because it basically means they think it’s so bad that they don’t want their name associated with it. Ug.
But being a writer is nothing if not humbling.
Are you a debut author in the process of asking for blurbs? Would love to hear how you went about it. Or maybe you’re working on book two or three. Does it get easier? Please do share your experiences in the comments below.