It is the author’s responsibility to seek endorsements for their books and publishers expect you to get them. Blurbs – often only a few words or phrase of praise from a high profile author, celebrity, or expert – appear on a book’s cover or dust jacket flaps. Blurbs are also used in query letters to agents, on tip sheets to booksellers, in marketing materials and press releases. You need to demonstrate others have found your work worthy of publication to convince an agent or editor you can help market your future publication.
Does the prospect of asking for blurbs make you cringe because it requires a level of narcissism you can’t quite muster into self-promotion? Remember, Narcissus is a gorgeous yellow spring blossom. The perennial flower takes its name from the Greek myth of the hunter renowned for his beauty who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water and dies there unable to leave his own reflection. The moral of the story? It’s not about you, it’s about the book.
Asking for blurbs should be as easy as growing daffodils. Set the bulbs in the fall for spring blooms. It’s up to you to plant, fertilize, weed, water, tend, and harvest the bounty of book blurbs. In the seasons of publishing, now is a good time to plan ahead for the year so you can give readers an opportunity to know your work-in-progress.
Endorsements add credibility to your work in the eyes of readers. If someone picks up your book and sees a blurb from an expert or author whom they already know, respect and trust, they are more likely to purchase it. Blurbs can be extremely beneficial to a debut author, a writer who wants to break out of the midlist and move into mass market trade, or an established author switching genres. Blurbs can help your book break out in a big way.
Create a list of people you would like to ask for endorsements early on in your project, as you write your marketing strategy for your book proposal. So who should you ask? The answer depends on who your readers are. Who do they consider an expert or authority? You want someone with strong name recognition and high integrity. Who do you know that your audience considers influential?
If you don’t already have a professional relationship or personal connection, you need lead time to cultivate an alliance or affiliation before you ask for an endorsement. Key players in professional circles, opinion leaders in organizations, celebrities and public figures can lend the weight of their approval to your book, but before they provide a blurb you need to participate in their community of readers and writers. Make friends before you ask for favors.
So how do you get an endorsement? You have to ask. Write a one page letter that starts with why you write and your common connection, provide a succinct premise of the book, make your request clear and your interest in receiving written feedback. Don’t expect someone to promise a positive review or endorsement before they have read your work. Ask for feedback and professional advice, not a blurb. If they agree to read your proposal, sample chapters or your manuscript, then wait for their written response. IF they have written a lovely endorsement that contains a strong pull quote, request their permission in writing to use their words in support of your efforts.
Making your list of people you plan to seek endorsements from is part of early planning for publication. Don’t list Oprah, Charlie Rose, Ellen DeGeneres, Malcolm Gladwell, or Terry Gross in your marketing strategy unless the editor of Oprah’s Book Club is your neighbor, the booker for Charlie’s shows is your brother, Ellen’s mom and your mom were college roommates, Malcolm and you went to high school together or Terry Gross gave you her business card at an art opening and told you to contact her about your book. But you do want to include those influential people you know who have name recognition and status among your readers.
Make a list and keep adding to it. Between the time you write your manuscript and the publication release date new opportunities arise to garner endorsements from rising stars. Blurbs are the heartbeat to book buzz.
Your community of early endorsers is your advance sales team. If someone endorses your book, they have a stake in its success. Their name is on the book, too. And you should ask them to spread the word. Provide them with a personal copy of the book when it is published. Sign the book or advance review copy to the person using their name.
Even after your book is out, continue to collect endorsements. You can issue a news release, use them in feature articles, interviews and marketing materials. A second edition could include endorsements or blurbs in the front matter.
Getting blurbs for your book is about executing your marketing strategy and that work begins long before your book hits the shelves with your book proposal and doesn’t end once the book appears in print.
So who will you ask to blurb your book?
Six or seven years ago my advice to aspiring authors of nonfiction books was to build an audience platform by blogging. An example of how critical blogging could be to securing a publishing contract can be found in the case of Ann Marie Ackermann, author of Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee. After an initial assessment of her manuscript, I had recommended she start a historical true-crime blog, and she did. In fact, the editor of the ideal book series at Kent State University Press became a fan ofRead more…