By Liz Alterman
After tons of hard work, your book is almost ready to be published. But before the celebration begins, you have one more hurdle to overcome…securing author blurbs.
What are author blurbs? They’re those ringing endorsements that grace the front or back (or both) covers of a book that can often sway readers from a “maybe” to a definitive “yes” when browsing bookstores or libraries. We can all picture those coveted quotes from Stephen King in which he professes he couldn’t put a book down or Ann Patchett extolls a novel as “brilliantly faceted and extremely funny.”
A blurb from a masterful storyteller lends credibility to your work and encourages readers who might otherwise be on the fence to give your book a longer look. In some cases, publishers will reach out and harvest these words of high praise from well-respected and best-selling authors on your behalf. In other instances, you might be asked to pitch in and make a few requests, or you may find yourself completely on your own. If that’s the case, you’re probably feeling a bit awkward about the prospect of soliciting strangers and wondering where and how you begin. The good news is you’re not alone. Asking fellow authors to read your book and then say nice things about it makes plenty of writers uncomfortable. Here’s how they got past it and garnered those coveted endorsements:
Aileen Weintraub, author of Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir, explains that she had “a lot of feelings around blurbs.”
“Nobody wants to ask for them; it’s embarrassing,” says Weintraub.
To psych herself up for the task, the author mused, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” She decided to really “lean in” and, ultimately, received eight endorsements.
“I’d remind myself: Nobody else got where they are today and had success without somebody else helping them along the way or providing them with a contact or a blurb. So most people are very aware of that and willing to pay it forward,” she says.
Stephanie Gangi‘s novel Carry the Dog elicited raves from New York Times bestselling authors Meg Wolitzerand Jess Walter, and Pulitzer-prize winner Richard Russo. How did she make it happen?
“I reached out ‘cold’ to four writers,” Gangi recalls. “I was a bit shy, a little bit funny, and slightly apologetic for barging in, but I made it clear: I was familiar with their work, made the case for how it connected it to my own; understood completely if it wasn’t possible. I was only turned down (in the loveliest way possible) by one!”
Needless to say, Gangi was thrilled to receive responses from her favorite authors.
“It was yet another example of how writers support each other, and thank goodness for that, given that my debut came at age sixty and I needed all the help I could get,” she says.
As Gangi points out, some key things to note when reaching out to an author for an endorsement include:
- your admiration for their work
- any connections you may share (i.e. you have the same agent, you attended a workshop taught by the author, you are writing in the same genre etc.)
- what your book is about
- the request for a blurb if they enjoy your book
- an offer to provide the book in their preferred format, ( i.e. print or electronic)
- the date by which you’d ideally like to have the blurb to send to your publisher
Most authors have to be protective of their time, so don’t be surprised or take it personally if your request is denied.
Think beyond authors
Traditionally, most blurbs come from fellow authors, particularly ones who’ve written in the same genre. But it doesn’t hurt to get creative. For example, Weintraub decided to ask her mother, a central figure in her memoir, for an endorsement. As her story is infused with humor, the author jokes that no one would be quite as honest as her mom.
In the “Advance Praise” section of Tina Fey’s Bossypants there are several eye-catching and amusing endorsements, including, “I hope that’s not really the cover. That’s really going to hurt sales,” attributed to Don Fey, Tina’s dad.
Deb Rogers’ novel, Florida Woman, boasts blurbs from beloved authors Jenny Lawson and Kevin Wilson as well as an endorsement from Joe Exotic, star of Netflix series Tiger King.
If you’re struggling with the traditional route, don’t be afraid to try someone with a different but just as valid connection to your work.
After you get the blurb
As awkward as asking for a blurb may be, receiving one from an author or individual you admire feels amazing. Be sure to thank the people who took the time to read and support your work. You can send a note along with a signed copy of your finished work, and don’t forget to return the favor by promoting their books on your social media channels.
Liz Alterman is the author of the forthcoming domestic suspense novel, The Perfect Neighborhood. the young adult novel, He’ll Be Waiting, and the memoir, Sad Sacked. Liz lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons. When she isn’t writing, Liz spends most days reading, microwaving the same cup of coffee, and looking up synonyms.
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Mindy Alyse Weiss says
Thanks for all these helpful tips, Liz. Great blurbs can make a huge difference with book sales. This post is going to help so many authors. 🙂
Liz Alterman says
Thanks so much for sharing it! I hope authors find it useful and feel like they can approach the process with more confidence. I learned that the generosity of fellow writers should never be underestimated!
All the best,
I just went through this process myself, Liz. I was surprised at how positive it was. Like you say, I was humbled by others’ willingness to help. Plus the blurbs were great which helped my confidence going into the launch.
Liz Alterman says
Congratulations on your book and receiving great blurbs! It really feels like such a gift and confidence-booster at a time when an author needs it. A few kind words make such a big difference!
All the best,
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
This is a mental hurdle for sure. I know when we first asked for blurbs, it was so hard to psych ourselves up to ask, but we did, and we got a great response. We did all of the above, and it’s great advice.
This advice is good for any sort of ask — a collaboration, an introduction, advice, a donation of a prize, etc. which is why we always send a personalized, genuine letter to each person we want to work with. People are busy, and the last thing they want to see cross their desk is a one-size-fits-all message. Know who you are speaking to and make sure you are speaking to them specifically. 🙂
Liz Alterman says
I’m so glad you had a great response. One of the most heartening things in the whole process, for me, has been the generosity of fellow authors.
I completely agree with you—tailoring and personalizing your message makes all the difference.
BECCA PUGLISI says
Liz, thanks for covering this topic. It’s one we’ve never discussed at Writers Helping Writers, which is pretty rare after 14 years of blogging. These are great tips :).
Liz Alterman says
Hi Becca, thank you so much for sharing my post. I’m grateful to authors Aileen Weintraub and Stephanie Gangi for talking about their experiences as well.