by Colleen M. Story
When the publisher for my latest novel, The Beached Ones, asked me about getting blurbs for my book, I replied, “Sure!”
Inside, I was thinking, “Oh no!”
Though I’ve published five books so far—two novels traditionally published and three nonfiction books self-published—I had never asked for blurbs. I hate to bother people. I know how busy everyone is. Plus it’s just plain awkward to cold-ask someone to read your book and give you a blurb.
But this is the best traditional publisher I’ve worked with to date, and I wanted to do everything I could to help The Beached Ones succeed. So I got to work.
Turns out the whole experience was extremely positive. I wrote about the process on my motivational blog, Writing and Wellness, in case you’d like some tips on how to do it.
But then there’s the question of where to find these people. Who has the credentials that would help your book succeed? And which of those might be willing to take the time to read your book and give you a blurb?
You know how the experts are always telling you to do your best to make connections at writer’s conferences? It’s not enough to just go, attend the classes, pitch your book, and go home. Much better if you reach out and talk to some people while you’re there. You never know who you might meet.
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some very nice writing mentors, teachers, and other authors while attending writer’s conferences. This group yielded more blurb writers for me than any of the others listed here.
To make more of these connections, sign up for a workshop near you. Then it’s just a matter of introducing yourself and asking questions. (Are you a writer? What type of writing do you do? Are you enjoying the conference?) Sharing a coffee or a few laughs can go a long way toward cementing a connection.
Follow up when you return by connecting with these people online. Support their posts by “liking” or “retweeting.” Sustain these connections and you’re likely to have people who would be willing to help you out when the time comes.
Social media can be a good place to make connections. Interact with other writers and readers by supporting their work, making comments on their blogs, and of course, posting your own content so they can do the same.
As you build your network, pay attention to the people who most frequently interact with you. Then when it comes time to find those who might be willing to blurb your book, you’ll know whether your book would be one they might like and whether they are the type of person willing to help you out.
If I admire the author’s work, all is well, but what if I feel it wasn’t a five-star read? Then I’m in trouble. If I give an honest review, the author may feel betrayed. If I give a dishonest review, I feel like I’ve betrayed myself.
If someone isn’t willing to read/review your book without you giving them something in return, feel free to thank them and move on. You can find others who will be willing to do so without tying you to some return favor.
When my publisher first asked me about blurbs, they told me to create a “wish list” of names I’d love to have on my cover. This is a great way to start, as it gets your wheels turning in terms of possible readers.
You may have big names on your list like Margaret Atwood, Lee Child, Steven King, and the like. I've found that these big authors rarely respond to blurb requests from authors they don't know. Most don't even offer their contact information anywhere online, as they're inundated with requests as it is.
Many other bestselling authors, on the other hand, haven't become celebrities yet. If you're regularly reading books like yours, you're likely to know who these authors are. Who are the breakthrough writers in your genre? Who are the newcomers?
I approached one bestselling author who had written a book that had a lot of similarities to mine. When I asked her for a quote, I included everything I loved about her book and briefly pointed out the similarities I saw in our stories. I was thrilled when I heard back from her. Unfortunately, she had a conflict and couldn’t get to my story in time for printing, but she still wanted to read it.
Over the years, you've probably gained several editor contacts. These may be editors who helped you early on in your writing career, those you hired to help edit your books or even editors you met at conferences.
Many will have great credentials, which can give your book the social proof that it needs. Most are busy but reach out anyway. You may find one who believes in your writing enough to help out.
If you make a regular practice of interviewing and featuring other authors—whether on your website, blog, podcast, or YouTube channel—you’ll have a ready-made list of people who may want to read your book.
It’s not about doing someone a favor so they’ll do one in return. It’s about meeting more people and growing your network list. Then when it comes time to ask for blurbs, you’ll have a group of people within which you may find some who may truly enjoy your new book.
Writing instructors are typically wonderful people. They dedicate their lives to helping other writers succeed. If you were lucky enough to work with such a person—in college, in a workshop, or in some other type of educational setting—reach out and ask if they might be willing to give you a blurb.
Most writing instructors have impressive credentials themselves—ones that will look good on your book—and their helpful personalities make them accommodating. Just be sure to give them enough advanced notice so they can fit your book into their busy schedules. (That goes for everyone—aim for at least four months before your book will be published.)
If you belong to a writing group—or even if you belonged to one in the past—this may be a source of potential blurb writers for you.
Those who read your early work may have an invested interest in seeing your book succeed. Plus they may just plain love your writing! Think of people in your group who fit that description, then consider asking them for a blurb.
Remember: You’re looking for people who are “qualified” to give your book a blurb. That means they have credentials that readers will trust. Though any good early review may be helpful, when looking for blurbs (that will be printed in the book when it’s published), you’re looking for people that, because of their credentials, seem like “authoritative” voices readers can trust.
Example: “Ah, well if a Pushcart-Prize winner liked this book, then I probably will too.”
Note: The Beached Ones is forthcoming from CamCat books on June 14, 2022. Get your FREE excerpt here, or preorder now! (Buy links and book trailer here.) Get FREE chapters of Colleen’s books for writers here.
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Colleen M. Story is a novelist, freelance writer, writing coach, and speaker with over 20 years in the creative writing industry. Her latest release, The Beached Ones, is forthcoming from CamCat Books in June 2022. Her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.
Colleen has written three books to help writers succeed. Your Writing Matters was a bronze medal winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards (2022). Other titles include Writer Get Noticed! and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue. Get free chapters of these books here.
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