Please welcome back guest Sonja Yoerg to Writer Unboxed today!
Sonja grew up in Stowe, Vermont, where she financed her college education by waitressing at the Trapp Family Lodge. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and published a nonfiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox (Bloomsbury USA, 2001). Penguin/Berkley publishes Sonja’s novels: HOUSE BROKEN (Jan 2015), MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE (Sep 2015) and ALL THE BEST PEOPLE (May 2017). She lives with her husband in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
We’re so glad to have her with us today to talk with us about how best to go about gathering blurbs for a novel.
Rattling the Cup for Blurbs
Ask any author, even a very successful one, how they feel about hunting for endorsements for their books and “ugh,” will be a common response. Why? Well, asking for a favor can be awkward and this favor is rather large and rather important. A great blurb is like a gold star for your book.
Wait, you say. Don’t publishers get those blurbs for you? Occasionally, yes, but the bulk of the chore belongs to the author. Each new book you write will need endorsements from fresh authors so it’s a chore you can look forward to again and again.
I’m here to help. I don’t have a secret formula for getting an author to say yes, but I do have a few tips to make the process less frightening and, possibly, more successful.
Use email. Don’t pitch your book via direct messaging, or god forbid, in a tweet or any public space. Find the author’s email address or that of their publicist. Accept no substitute.
Explain your rationale. You’ve chosen this particular author for a reason, right? Perhaps because you admire their work? Tell them so. No need to gush, just let them know there is a rational basis for your request.
Show the author some love. It doesn’t hurt to follow them on social media and show some interest in their career. Dare I say that if you are asking them to read your book, you should’ve read one of theirs? I’ve been approached for an endorsement by writers who didn’t appear to know my work at all and hadn’t even shelved one of my books on Goodreads. Authors know how the blurb dance goes—they’ve been there–and most want to help, but throw them a bone.
Make it easy for the author to say yes. Provide a clear deadline. Offer the book in various formats, if possible. Do not, however, propose to streamline the process by sending only your “very best chapters.” (True story.) How thoroughly an author reads for a blurb is between them and their Kindle but to suggest a short-cut upfront is, in my view, unprofessional.
Do not, under any circumstances, offer to write the blurb for them. Smoothing the road for the author doing you the favor is one thing and unethical greasing is another. Ghost-writing your own blurb is the latter.
Always give the author an out. Always. I know. You really want that blurb and you’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get to yes, so why pull back? Because it’s polite. Because writers work hard and are extremely busy and have many books to read. If you acknowledge the demands your request is making on their time, they will think you are thoughtful, reasonable and a very nice person. I’m going to go a step further and suggest that after an author agrees to read your book, you give them another out: “While I hope you will be able to provide an endorsement of my book, I understand completely if you cannot, for whatever reason.” You are focused on your blurb, but the author is focused on his or her career and life. Deadlines loom. Stuff happens. And if the author doesn’t come through on this book, maybe he or she will do so next time. Play the long game.
If an author says yes, don’t rush to tell the world. Congratulations! You have a fantastic endorsement in your Inbox and the first thing you want to do is share the news. It is exciting, but my advice is to wait until you have all the endorsements you expect to receive in hand. Why? Say you post a blurb from Incredibly Famous Author on Facebook and that post is read by Not Quite So Famous Author whom you also asked to endorse the book. “Hmm,” says Not Quite So Famous Author, “she doesn’t need my blurb as much as I thought she did.” And your book moves lower in her TBR pile. Of course, not every author will feel this way, but discretion won’t hurt you.
Say thank you. I thank authors who blurb my books in three ways. First, I express my gratitude in an email. Second, when I have all my endorsements in hand, I publicly thank the author on Facebook. This post is not about the blurb (i.e. me and my book) but about the author and his or her generosity. As part of my thanks, I tout their most recent book. Third, when the finished copies are ready, I send them one and sometimes include a small gift. If this seems like a lot, think about how much time it takes to read a book and write an original, meaningful paragraph about it.
Gathering endorsements is a chore. But when an author you admire says wonderful things about your book, there is no better feeling. Good luck!