Monday, May 6, 2013

What if Obama refuses to write a blurb for your book?
Also, beware of blurb whores and blurb swappers.


Every author dreams of having cover blurbs (endorsements) from famous people who'll say nice things which may entice people to buy books.

Often, especially for a new author with a new book, it's just not possible to get the attention of a celebrity or expert who will add authority to yours.

That doesn't mean your book has to be blurbless.

There's nothing wrong with asking for and using blurbs from friends and family if what they say will be appropriate to your book. Later on, if the President or Lindsay Lohan falls in love with your words, you can revise the cover to incorporate the new comments.

My first self-published book was I Only Flunk My Brightest Students: stories from school and real life (2008). It deals with my life. It made perfect sense to use blurbs from people who know me, rather than some distant Nobel Prize winner.

The book is funny. Identifying Howard Krosnick, the source of my front cover blurb, as "author's classmate since first grade" is almost a parody of the traditional stuffy IDs ("professor of Indo-Eurasion folk medicine at the University of Guatemala), and reinforces the mood of the book. Howie said, "I couldn't stop reading. I couldn't stop laughing." blurbs don't get better than that.

Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults) is an updated replacement for the 'flunk' book. It has a fantastic cover blurb which says, "This book is so funny that I nearly peed in my pants. My girlfriend didn't think it was funny, so I got a new girlfriend."

The blurber, Nicholas Santiago, is someone I know through business. His words are sufficient. I see no need to explain who he is, and I doubt that Lindsay could have written a better recommendation. I received "five stars" and some nice words from the Midwest Book Review -- but those words are not as funny as Nick's words.

Most blurbs I've seen are written by authors, and many of them are not well known authors. Apparently "Author A" thinks she or he will gain some useful publicity by having a quote printed on the cover of a book written by "Author B."



 
(above) Barbara Barth wrote a wonderful book, The Unfaithful Widow: Fragmented Memoirs Of My First Year Alone. The back cover shows great reviews from authors Philip Nutman and Patrice Dickey. I never heard of them. The reviews on Amazon from 'ordinary' readers may be more persuasive. 
  • Try to avoid obvious blurb swaps (“I’ll kiss your ass if you kiss mine.”) Tit-for-tat is tacky.  
  • Some authors are apparently so desperate for publicity that they become 'blurb whores.' I know of one author whose name seems to be on many more book covers as a blurber than an author. When someone writes a huge number of blurbs -- particularly for books in the same field -- the blurbs (and the blurber) lose credibility. 
  • Avoid blurbs (and reviews) from people who are connected with your book. I know of one book that carries a blurb from an employee of its publisher, and another with an Amazon review from the book's editor. 
There's nothing wrong with your acting as a writing coach for your blurbers. You can even write a complete blurb and ask someone to "adopt" it.

If you’ve written a how-to book, the best blurbs will come from people who have actually been helped by it. A good way to find “amateur” blurbers who might write sincere comments about actually benefiting from your book is to observe online communities that are concerned with your subject. If you find articulate people with problems your book solves, offer to send them free advance copies (even PDFs if bound copies are not yet available or if you will not be publishing on paper) in exchange for their comments. You can say that you’d like to know if the book was helpful and how it can be improved. Mention that you might like to quote their comments, but don’t guarantee it.


James & Geoff. Which one did I sit next to on a plane?

Don’t be too timid to approach famous authors, politicians, business leaders and celebrities, especially if you have something in common which can create a bond. You might be pleas­antly surprised.

Write a good letter and explain how you think the book relates to the prospective blurber. Find a reason to compliment the candidate. If possible, refer to a time when you were in the same place, perhaps during a speech or a book signing or on an airplane. (I once sat next to James Earl Jones. Hmm. Actually, it may have been Geoffrey Holder.)

Short blurbs are usually better than long blurbs. Humorous blurbs (if appropriate) are often better than serious blurbs.
Request blurbs as long in advance as possible -- as soon as you have a draft of your book that is good enough to show. The book does not have to be complete. You can probably get by with an introduction, a table of contents, and a few chapters sent as a PDF. If you want a blurb from someone famous, it’s probably better to send an ARC than a PDF.

Incorporate good “early” blurbs into your back cover and first page as soon as possible. If other blurbers read them, they may be more likely to write similarly positive comments.

Mike Duran discusses blurb etiquette.

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