In this context, lovely writers, we are not speaking about the BLURB, the big text at the back of your book or on the inside of the dust jacket that tells the reader all about your book. It’s not the Amazon description.
Here, we’re talking about the little quotes you often see on the front or back cover of a book with another author’s name tacked on to it:
These are just a few books I pulled off my TBR that included blurbs.
Do all books have them? No.
Are they necessary? Obviously not.
So what purpose do they serve?
Well, let’s take a closer look.
As you can see, most of these blurbs came from published reviews from well known sources–Booklist, the Chicago Tribune, Kirkus. There’s also one from another author.
Blurbs act as endorsements for your book. Consider them bite-sized reviews, sort of like a reference letter attached right to the cover of your book. Your potential readers may not have heard of you, but they’ve probably heard of the author or publication your blurb comes from. So if I pick up a book by a new author I’ve never heard of, and I like the cover, and the book sounds interesting, in theory seeing a positive quote from a name I recognize should be enough to tip the scales and make me buy the book.
Personally, I don’t ask for blurbs. They don’t have a huge impact on book sales (though they can help), but I have been asked to provide one. So below are some of my tips as well as several internet how-to guides on getting the best blurbs possible.
Before you jump in and start sending off letters to Neil Gaiman asking him to blurb your YA romance, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The author should have a decent backlist and be reasonably well known.
- They should write in your genre. While readers often read across genres and many books straddle them, what the blurbing author writes should be semi-related to your book. So asking Neil Gaiman to blurb a YA romance would NOT be a good idea, and your email would probably get filed under junk.
- Do you have personal relationships with published authors online? Great! If you write in the same genre, then these people should be at the top of your list of people to ask.
- If you are writing nonfiction, find a well-known professional in that field.
- Also keep in mind that you can pull blurbs from existing reviews. It’s obviously better if they come from a recognizable source (like a publication or another author), but I have used quotes from Amazon and Goodreads in my marketing materials before.
“But-But–” I hear you stutter. “Don’t publishers or agents get blurbs FOR you?”
Well, sometimes. But I’m also gearing this tutorial at indie and self-published authors, who don’t have those kinds of resources to back them up. But even if you are traditionally published, you might find yourself on the hunt for blurbs.
So once you’ve identified the perfect target, how do you approach? My biggest piece of advice for this is to be respectful, but that covers a lot of different aspects of the process, so let me break it down.
- Send an email or use their preferred form of contact
Usually authors prefer to handle requests like this via email. There are some exceptions, and a few I know are starting to work through Instagram or some other form of social media. HOWEVER you should always check their website for their contact information. Some of them even have forms set up on their websites specifically for professional requests. Email is always a safe bet if it is not specified.
- Be polite
Don’t demand responses or walking in like you’re hot shit and deserve this. You are entitled to nothing at this point, not even a form response or a polite refusal. Think of it as sending a query letter, only this time your query isn’t “will you represent/publish my book” it’s “will you endorse my book.” In the links below you’ll find several examples of potential emails you can use for reference.
- Know your stuff
Make it clear why you are requesting a blurb from this person. Start by telling them how much you loved their last book, or that you admire the work their doing in the community. Don’t go overboard, but be sincere. The reader shouldn’t be left wondering if you just picked their name out of a hat.
- Have a deadline in mind
It’s important to be flexible, but if your book is coming out on June 1, you’re going to need time to finalize the cover before it can be printed. With Amazon, I usually like to upload final versions of everything at least a week before the release date, so that would be May 25. If you’re doing your own cover, you can tweak it on a pretty short notice, but if you are paying a cover artist you’re going to need more time. I would give them at least two weeks, if not more, for this (and make sure you talk to them about it, first). That pushes things back to May 11. I always like to add extra time wherever possible, so to be safe I’d tell the potential reviewer that I need to hear back from them no later than May 4 with their blurb.
And this is the part where we run into trouble. Because as you may have noticed, it’s already May 3, and I would not give an author less than a month to read the book. Which means this email should have been sent months ago.
And this, my friends, is an excellent example of why publishing takes so long.
If you are looking for blurbs or ARC reviews, you need to send out your requests at least 3 months before the release date.
- Make multiple formats readily available
This includes different file types for ebooks (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc), as well as hard copies. Some reviewers will only take hard copies. Some readers have migraines and can only read physical copies. Some readers (and even writers!) have visual impairments and need the flexibility to change font size and style and background color/brightness. I prefer to either send/receive an email with a kindle copy of the book, but I also keep hard copies on hand for reviewers who prefer them and I use a program called Calibre to convert documents to the recipients preferred file type. Calibre is free and can turn pretty much any .doc, .docx, or pdf file to any of the major e-reader formats, or even change between formats (ex. a mobi file for Kindle can be converted to a Nook file).
There are services where you can make your book available as a free download for reviewers, but I do not have much experience with them. Personally, I think email is by far the most convenient.
- Make it easy for them
This goes along with 4 & 5, but make sure they have all the information and resources they need before they get started. Don’t offer to write the blurb for them and then tack their name on. And I think it goes without saying that you definitely shouldn’t do that without telling them!
- Remember it’s out of your hands
Your request has been accepted, the author is reading your book (hopefully) and the deadline is fast approaching. It can’t hurt to check in, right?
It’s okay to send a reminder email a couple of days (i.e. less than a week) before the deadline you’ve agreed upon, but don’t nag. Don’t hassle. Understand that sometimes people just don’t get back to you for one reason or another. Yeah, it sucks. But it’s life, and as any querying author can tell you, it’s an unfortunate part of the business.
Keep in mind that once you have provided the book or a link to it, everything else is out of your hands. The person might not get back to you. Or they might tell you they didn’t click with the book and don’t feel comfortable giving a blurb or leaving a review. THAT IS OKAY. Not every book is for every person, and you need to keep that in mind.
- Say thank you.
Keep it polite, and be professional. Respect their time and space. Understand that you have asked them for unpaid labor, and depending on the subject matter of your book, this can also be emotional or mental labor, not just a simple act of sitting down to read a novel.
For more tips on asking for blurbs, please check out the links below.
Got questions? Pop them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them.
Like what you see? Check out 7 Tips for Beginner Writers.