Today on the blog, I’m talking blurbs.
First thing’s first. . . .
Who might 1) need a blurb or 2) be asked to blurb? Authors
What is a blurb? According to www.yourdictionary.com, a blurb is “a short advertisement, announcement or description.”
While some consider a “blurb” to be a one-liner written by the author to promote a book (I typically refer to this as a tag line), in the traditional sense, a blurb is usually written by another author or expert in the field.
Where would you find a blurb? On the front or back cover of a print novel, in a product description, on a blog, on a webpage, etc.
When might a blurb be necessary? Before a book hits the market.
Why are blurbs important? Because they act as an endorsement for a novel. They are a “stamp of approval.”
Okay, so now that we know 1) what a blurb is and 2) how they can be used, I’m splitting the remainder of this post between authors asking for blurbs and authors asked for blurbs. I’m also basing this information on fiction blurbs, as non-fiction blurbs are an entirely different ballgame.
Authors Seeking Blurbs
Do you really need an author to blurb your book? No. It’s not mandatory. Will an endorsement from a well-known author help sell your book? Maybe (I don’t think it will ever hurt), but there’s really no way to quantify the impact a specific endorsement has on a particular book.
What will sell your book is a good story.
Still, if you’d like to put a few “feelers” out to see if there’s anyone interested in providing a blurb before you release, here are a few pointers:
1. Contact authors who write in or are familiar with your genre, or who have had success with the kind of book you’re writing. It doesn’t make sense to contact a mystery writer if you write sweet/traditional romance, unless he or she is a personal acquaintance. Even so, try to stick to writers your readers may recognize.
2. Give the author enough time to read and blurb. If you’re traditional, you have plenty of time during the publishing process to contact authors (your publisher might even take care of this for you, or put you in touch with specific authors). It’s trickier for Indies, because we can upload a story as soon as it’s ready.
The key here is to be considerate of the author and his/her time. Chances are, he/she is just as busy as you. Sending out a book a week before you plan to publish just isn’t practical.
3. Consider sending the summary and a chapter or two when you make the initial request. This way, the author can get a feel for your story/writing style before he or she makes a decision. We know that not every book is for everyone. (For instance, I prefer first person narrators over third—nothing wrong with third person; it’s just a personal preference.) Give the author a chance to make an evaluation before he/she commits.
There’s nothing worse than having to back out of a blurb promise. The more information you provide up front, the easier it will be to find someone who will connect with your story and give you the best blurb possible.
4. Be respectful. Everyone is stretched thin these days. There are work obligations and family obligations. I joke that I work three full-time jobs: the real day job, my family job, and my writing/publishing job. There are stacks of books to be read, stories to write, and everyone needs a little downtime.
Don’t take a “no” personally. Be respectful when contacting an author, even if the answer isn’t what you were expecting/hoping. A “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “never,” and you never know when you might rub elbows with that author in the future.
5. Be realistic. J. K. Rowling is probably too busy right now. So is Oprah. :)
Authors Writing Blurbs
If you’re an author and are approached about writing a blurb, you can handle this one of two ways: You can say yes or you can say no.
Either you’d love to blurb the story, or you can’t (for one reason or another).
1. You can say No, but know why.
Not responding to an email request falls in this category, though I think it’s always good etiquette to at least acknowledge the request. Authors are busy. We’re all busy. We understand if you’re on a deadline or are working hard to get a project out the door.
Consider putting a “blurb policy” in place. In the event you’re ever inundated with requests, it’s a good idea to have a few guidelines handy. In fact, you may want to post a policy on your blog/website for easy access.
A few potential “policies”:
Only blurb . . .
*within the genre you write
*within a genre you’re familiar with and enjoy
*authors you’ve developed a personal relationship with
*authors whose work you’re familiar with
*during a specific time of the year. (If you know that you have a lot of free time during the summer months, for instance, designate this as the time you’re willing to field requests.
*(insert number here) books a year. Depending on your schedule, three could be a feasible number. Or maybe you can handle five requests a year. If you’ve already met that number and can’t handle another request, your policy backs you up.
Find a policy that works for you, and don’t feel bad about sticking to it.
Also, consider asking for a sample chapter before you make a decision. The author would rather hear that you weren’t sure you could connect with the story/relate to the characters/get past the writing style in a private message than a blurb they planned to make public.
2. But if the shoe fits . . .
You can take your blurb in two directions: focus on the story or focus on the writing/author.
A blurb should point out the high points of the story and/or author in question without giving the plot or spoilers away.
The Book: Was the story exciting? Fast-paced? Romantic? Did it make you sigh? Did you fall in love with the characters? Did it leave you thinking about it long after you closed the cover?
The Author/Writing: Did you enjoy the author’s writing style? Did the words flow beautifully? Were the characters well-developed?
Blurbs don’t have to be long. In fact, the shorter, the better. Most blurbs are 1-3 sentences. Try to write snappy sentences so that the author can find a few “pull words.”
For instance, if I were to blurb your novel as:
“A beautifully written story that captures the highs and lows of teen relationships. A must-read for anyone who loves believable romances and happy endings.”
you (or your publisher, if you’re traditional) could potentially pull “beautifully written” and/or “a must read” for a cover quote.
Again, not every story will appeal to every reader. Focus on the good—that’s why you were contacted.
If you’re still with me, kudos.
I’m not sure how often blurb requests come up in the indie world, but I do have experience “cold-emailing” some authors for my first (traditional) book. (If you read YA, you know some of these names.) It was an interesting experience, to say the least.
Most authors were very kind, even if they had to refuse, and I did manage to get a couple of strong blurbs. The topic came up in a conversation recently, though, so I thought I’d share my two cents publicly.
(Though I should really give myself more credit, because a blog post this long totally deserves five cents.) :)
Katie Klein is a diehard romantic with a penchant for protagonists who kick butt. Her YA contemporary romance, Cross My Heart, is an Amazon Teen Top 100 Bestseller and was a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best YA Fiction.
During her first stint as a writer, she had the incredibly good fortune to be told by a “Big Six” author that they were offended on her behalf because her publisher was making her do all the blurb-related cold-calling. :)
You can find her on the web at www.katiekleinbooks.com, http://katiekleinwrites.blogspot.com/, or https://twitter.com/#!/katiekleinbooks.