This is not another post about how to get book blurbs. The questions I address are how to incorporate them into the book publishing process.
The timing is tricky, especially for self-publishers. That’s because most of us have limited time and we’re using POD printers such as CreateSpace and IngramSpark. And if we are using them in our pre-release marketing, it requires a lot of coordination during the book production process.
The key is to start early by building a contact list specifically for this purpose. Remember, this is different than soliciting people to post reviews on Amazon. That comes later and those individuals should also be part of your contact list.
Blurbs are essentially endorsements and testimonials for your book. They are often—but not always—from a notable individual. They could be notable because they are well-known, notable because they are an expert in the field or subject area of your book, or both. Blurbs can also be pulled from media mentions and Amazon reviews.
There are several excellent resources for how to solicit blurbs. Here are 2 good ones, or just search for “how to get blurbs.”
- Writer’s Digest: 10 Basics on How to Nab Your Book a Blurb.
- Jennifer Brozek’s excellent How do you ask for a blub?, published by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. (It includes email templates.)
Before moving on to the process, I want to share 2 pieces of advice—the first is for authors, the second for authors and blurbers alike.
- Never stop collecting blurbs. Just because your book is published doesn’t mean you should stop seeking blurbs. Use them on your website, in your Amazon book description, on your collateral like bookmarks. You can also use them to replace an existing blurb.
Keep aiming higher (in terms of name recognition), and look for new angles. I like to use excerpts of blurbs to highlight different elements of a book, and of course the author.
One of my clients uses a long list of blurb excerpts on her book’s Amazon page (scroll down to reviews). About every 4-6 months she’ll send me a new blurb with instructions about whether it should replace an existing one, or slotted in at a specific location. I ask Amazon AuthorCentral support to make the change because they have better control over HTML and formatting (usually book title italics).
- Some blurbs may not be useable. A pet peeve of mine is when the writer’s attribution is excessively long, even longer than the blurb itself in some cases!
Here’s a made-up example:
“A heartwarming story about growing up alone and poor.” —John H. Doe, author of the New York Times best-seller The Ones We Left Behind: How Our Society Has Changed since 1917, and president of the Writing Road Warriors, a retreat for single writers in Southeast Arizona.
I’m exaggerating the blurb, but not the proportion between attribution and blurb length (9 words vs. 37 words).
I’ve had this happen several times. I thank the blurber and try to find someplace to use the blurb, or replace it as soon as possible. It isn’t worth jeopardizing a relationship by asking them to shorten their qualifications.
Move on to finding your next blurb.
Timing and timelines
The better you know someone, the sooner you can ask for their endorsement. But assuming you don’t know them well, you’ll need a copy of your book to send them. Whether that is a PDF, Kindle eBook, EPUB file, or a physical ARC—advance reading copy—depends on your ability to meet their requirements.
I recall reaching out to best-selling, self-published author Cheryl Kaye Tardif, about blurbing my first book. I sent what you’d call a “cold email”, and she replied with a “maybe, please send a PDF.” Had I contacted her before the book was ready, she probably would have lost interest.
Don’t let a warm lead go cold! That’s why you need to know your publishing timetable (#2 below).
Here are the steps, considerations, approximate order, and rough timing I recommend. Note that the more time you have, the easier the process.
- Make a list of potential, initial blurbers. These are blurbs you want to launch with. Do this well before release date, several months is best. I like to use email.
- Determine the timing for having a solid, but not publishing-ready PDF and physical ARC. I don’t generally recommend using Kindle or EPUB eBooks as ARCs because they can be so easily shared, but that depends on your status as an author.
(Btw, the problem with eBooks at this stage is that you will need to make corrections to these files should you discover errors. That might result in programming the eBook twice, or extra time and expense to correct it. Discuss this with your book production team.)
- If approaching someone you know well, ask them anytime. Then reconnect when the PDF or ARC is ready, and ask which they prefer.
Tip: Offer to write the blurb for your blurber. This obviously assumes you have a trusting relationship. You know your book, and you know your blurber, so craft something you feel works for both of you and be careful how you present it. I will usually start by saying something like this once they’ve agreed to consider writing one: “I know you are busy so let me know if it would be helpful for me to send you a few sentences you can edit, or build on.”
It’s a balancing act between being presumptuous and asking for what you want.
- If approaching strangers, the timing will vary depending on their schedule, which is impossible to know in advance. I suggest soliciting interest 2 to 4 weeks prior to the ARC being ready. If they are interested, respectfully ask how much time they need. Be conservative with timing so you don’t get them teed up only to lose interest if you can’t deliver as promised. That reflects badly on you.
- There needs to be sufficient time between sending the ARC, and the launch date. Be respectful of their time; they usually need a few weeks—sometimes more—to read your book and write something thoughtful.
- Know your launch date, and don’t let it slip. If you are using POD and/or eBooks, you can always add it later.
- If you aren’t doing the layout work, ask your author services company how long it will take to incorporate them into the book.
- Do you want to order another printed proof of the book, a version with blurbs to use as your ARC? Allow at least 2 weeks for shipping and review, longer if you need to make changes.
Tip: The page count of print books increases in increments, called forms. For example, a 6”x9” book using white paper, printed by CreateSpace, uses 10-page forms. If your book is 288 pages, it will be a 290 page book. If it is 301 pages, the length is 310 pages. That means you will have lots of blank pages in the back. This is both expensive, and it looks amateur.
- If you are adding blurbs to your book, the customary location is the front. The number depends on how many you have, space requirements (see my above tip), and your sense about how they will help you. (Also see the AuthorImprints post, Where to Put Testimonial Blurbs in eBooks.)
- Feel free to shorten them, but don’t change their meaning. Ask your blurber for permission if in doubt. And definitely don’t edit their attribution!
A few years ago, one of my clients approached Paul Hawken, the co-founder of Smith & Hawken. Mr. Hawken was no longer associated with his retail stores, and had moved on to other interests which happened to align perfectly with my author’s. It was a reach because my author was unknown to him.
We waited weeks for a reply that he would even consider it. Then a few more weeks for the blurb itself. Just as we were about to give up and publish, Mr. Hawken came through.
Today, that blurb sits proudly at the top of the testimonial page. Even better, it essentially validates the author and the author’s perspectives, which has conferred long-term marketing benefits.
It was well worth the wait.
Mining your audience for blurbs is just one element of a successful pre-release marketing strategy. Other elements include setting up pre-order, book registration, metadata, and as mentioned above, producing ARCs—Advance Reading Copies of your book.
To learn more about these steps I invite you to take my free Countdown to Book Launch course available in the AuthorImprints Learning Center. Click here to learn more.
Have you used blurbs in your books? What’s been your experience?
Photo credit: m_n_r on Pixabay