QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, October 8, 2012

How to Ask for a Blurb (Even When You’re Intimidated)

By Sarah Pinneo | @SarahPinneo

Asking an author to blurb your book takes guts, and for good reason. When you ask for a blurb, you’re asking another person to shine a little of his or her credibility down on you. By definition, you’ll most often ask writers who are (at least for now) more well-known than you are.

It’s perfectly rational to find the prospect more stressful than, say, oral surgery.

But the book publicity process will prove, over time, that many worthy things are initially terrifying. Asking for blurbs is one of the very first book publicity acts you’ll perform, which doesn’t make things any easier. But there are a few things you can do to make the process less intimidating.

1. Polish Your Pitch. Remember that query you worked so hard to write? Dust it off. In your request, you should be no less professional and forthcoming about your manuscript than you would be in a query. Never be vague, even if you know the author well. Make it easy for him or her to say “sure, I’ll read it,” by writing a request that is polished, professional and complete.

2. Make The Connection Obvious. Is your manuscript in the romantic suspense genre, just like the author’s? Say so right up front. Did you sit next to her at a conference luncheon? Mention that too. If you can’t state clearly why you’re asking this author specifically, perhaps you should rethink the request. A true connection between their work and your book is the most promising ingredient in blurb matchmaking success.

3. Be Clear About Your Needs. Before you pick up the phone, or fire off an email, make sure you can supply the blurber with all the relevant information. You’ll need to say in what format the manuscript will arrive (loose pages? Bound galley?). Most importantly, you’ll need to give a firm deadline. If you’re not prepared with these details, you’re making it easy for the author to say “no.”

4. Think Big, But Ask a Small Question First. If you’re too intimidated to ask a famous author directly for a blurb, there is a less terrifying way to broach the topic. This method works especially well if you happen to meet the author in person. Try starting with: “O famous one,  can you tell me your parameters for blurbing new books?” That question will break the ice, allowing you to broach the subject without asking the author to make a snap decision about your book’s worthiness. Besides, successful authors who receive frequent requests may have already made some rules about how they’d like to receive manuscripts, and what deadlines they can meet. The better you can tailor your request to the author’s expectations, the easier it will be to hear a “yes.”

5. When You Hear “No,” Ask Someone Else. Authors cannot say yes to everyone. They have deadlines and obligations, just like you. Nobody likes to hear “no,” but everybody hears it sometimes. The best medicine is to try again.

6. Feel Free to Admit Your Fear. It’s okay to tell an author, “I’ve never had to ask this question before, but I was wondering…” Even bestselling authors will remember their early, vulnerable days. Also, ask yourself how you’ll feel in five years when a newbie author approaches you for a blurb. You’ll be flattered, right? Chances are, the author you’re soliciting is flattered, too.

7. Show Your Appreciation. When an author provides you with a blurb, write a thank you note, on paper, just the way your mother taught you when you were eight. Buy a copy of that author’s book, too. “I just gave your latest book to my sister in law,” is a fine sentence to include in your thanks. Then, think about thanking the author again on publication day. When Julia’s Child hit bookstore shelves, I sent a finished copy of the book and a jar of dark chocolate peanut butter to each of my blurbers. Not only did I want to show my thanks, the timing of my gift helped to remind them that a tweet or a Facebook “share” of the book would not go amiss.

For further reading about blurb requests, see: Daphne Uviller’s “To Ask for a Blurb is to Feel Like a Turd.” See also Carolyn Roy-Bornstein’s “When the Blurb is on the Other Foot.”

Sarah Pinneo
is a novelist, food writer and book publicity specialist. Her most recent book is Julia’s Child. Follow her on twitter at @SarahPinneo.


Ash Krafton | @ashkrafton said...

FANTASTIC post, Sarah!

Intimidation is exactly the right word for how I feel about the whole blurbing thing--

I'm hoping to approach an author or three about blurbing my second book so you've given me very valuable advice at a crucial time.

Thanks for that!

Cheers, Ash

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Great post!

I'd like to add a recommendation that folks ask first if the author has a blurb policy. That will let you know if your book would fall under his/her consideration or not.

Also, I (and many other authors I know) require that blurb requests come from editors or agents. Feeling like you could be put on the spot every time you walk into a writing/publishing event can keep established names at home.

Stina said...

Thanks, Sarah, for the great post, and Cynthia for your extra insights. The last thing you want to do is be like the writer who passes her ms to agents in the bathroom stall. Never put authors on the spot at a conference. Talk about awkward.

Sarah P said...

Thanks guys!

The bathroom stall? Ugh. Forget publishing rules--that cuts against basic etiquette!

Awkward, indeed!


Stina said...

"that cuts against basic etiquette!"

And hygiene!