A note to my friends at Writer Unboxed:
As a Type-A to-the-max sort of person, I prepared this essay weeks ago, when the world was different. Now, an essay about how to solicit praise for one’s book seems frivolous, irrelevant, and downright offensive—and yet I do want to offer it to you.
Rather than retracting the essay, I’ve decided to offer it in the hope that you will save it for when it may be useful.
Is there any writer who actually likes asking for blurbs? I suppose there is, but most of us wish we didn’t have to do it. We understand that it’s necessary—and we all like praise—but we cringe at having to ask for it. The challenge is how to do that sensitively and intelligently.
Let’s start with a few truths.
Truth #1: Endorsements matter. If we trust the person who recommends a product, especially when there are countless other options that could meet the same need, we’re much more likely to choose that particular shoe or car or coffee maker—or novel—from among the alternatives competing for our attention.
Truth #2: All blurbs aren’t necessarily equal. The question is whether a fantastic blurb (Best book I ever read) by someone relatively unknown is more or less “valuable” than a generic blurb (A well-crafted exploration) by someone famous. To a degree, it depends on an author’s goals; it may also be a matter of what’s realistically attainable. In general, the more authority the blurber is perceived to have, the more others are likely to be swayed by what she has to say.
Truth #3: Unless you’ve been pegged as a rising star by a major publisher who will get the blurbs for you, you have to ask—even if it’s terrifying.
Truth #4: Everyone agrees that it’s important to be polite, start early, make it easy for the person to say yes—and to thank the person afterward. Not just privately, but publicly. As Sonja Yoerg suggests in her 2017 essay: “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.”
So far, so good.
I started to reflect on all the advice I’d read about securing blurbs and to wonder how well it mapped onto real experience. I thought about my own experience, and I asked other people.
Turning to myself, first, I was reminded of what I discovered, years ago, when my then-husband and I set out to adopt our first child. My thinking, when we started out, went something like this: “You, pregnant person, have something I want. What do I have to do to convince you to give me this thing I want?”
It didn’t take long for me to feel the absolute wrongness of that attitude. Since we were going to be adopting privately, it meant (back then) that potential birth mothers would see our ads and call a special phone number we’d set up. Reality quickly smacked me in the face when I spoke with the first woman who called.
She was a person. This wasn’t about being clever enough to impress and persuade her. We were two women, each in a situation we hadn’t expected and hadn’t chosen. Could we connect, trust each other, find our common humanity?
I think asking for blurbs is like that. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of a potential blurber and ask ourselves: [Read more…]