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Getting Blurbs For a Forthcoming Book

March 18th, 2013

One of our authors was heartsick because his publisher had done nothing to arrange for blurbs for his forthcoming book. He was rather surprised when I told him that is usually the author’s responsibility. Authors are typically taken aback when I let them know that everything is up to the author: content, form, blurbs, even much of the promotion and marketing. Usually they respond with a kind of sad, measured outrage that publishers “don’t do more,” but the reality is that only one authority exists on your book, and that is you alone. You’re the one who gets up this morning and every morning caring about the fortunes of your book in the world, and you are the one who is best positioned to arrange for blurbs, those comments on the cover that often help sell books. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

The usual method is to write to the highest-ranking people to whom you have access to let them know that you have a book forthcoming, and that you’d be honored if they would consider offering a word for it. Then you attach your materials to give that person some background. The briefer the better as many blurbers can’t/won’t read much, and you could also be specific about how you see the potential blurber connecting to the work (i.e. write some of the blurb by “leading” the person, e.g. “I would be honored if you would offer a word about this since you are the foremost authority on X and I write about X in this excerpt from Chapter Two,” and then send the person only that bit). Some further guidelines from my personal experience:

1. Ask more people than you need… some will say no, and you can always use any extras on the inside front of the book or at your website, on Facebook, etc.
2. Reach above your head to people you may not know but who might be willing to blurb. Prestigious blurbs help them, too, if you are publishing with a first-tier press. This isn’t about someone nobody knows saying you’re great… it’s about getting a leading name to endorse your work if you can.
3. Be prepared to remind and hand-hold if someone says yes but does not deliver. Be further prepared to do all of this followup yourself, because most publishers will not.

Some people will say no, but if you get a decline, please don’t be embarrassed that you asked. It is good form to ask, and it is good form to decline if one doesn’t wish to provide a blurb. It’s all part of the game, but some authors are mortified when they ask and a blurber says no. Feel comforted… you’re doing a right and appropriate thing! Many will say yes, and sometimes the bigger they are the more likely they are to say yes.

Here’s an article I found about blurbs from “Printers Row” at the Chicago Tribune.

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