It’s a good time to be a book lover. With more than 32 million books listed on Amazon, there is no shortage of choice for readers.
Those same stats, however, are stacked against authors.
With the average reader finishing only an estimated 15 books a year (and many picking up far fewer), you’ve got to squeeze through a pretty fine filter for a reader to pick your book over someone else’s.
With competition this fierce, high-profile blurbs and endorsements are more important than ever to build your book’s credibility and visibility. Reader reviews are great, but they’re no substitute for praise from a bestselling author or high-profile leader in your field.
You need a few good blurbs to help convince readers to pick up your book.
If you’re working with a publisher, they may assemble an information package for you to send out to potential contributors, or even handle the collection of blurbs themselves. But most authors are their own marketing department.
Even if you’ve got the support of a publisher, don’t leave it to them to solicit contributions without your input. Leveraging your direct — and even indirect relationships — will get a better response than an anonymous request from a publishing house ever could.
Here are my top tips for getting the right blurbs for your book.
1. Aim high
To trigger actual sales, your blurbs need to come from people your audience knows and respects. They fall into four camps:
Name recognition trumps perfect alignment of subject matter, although it’s best if your contributors are strong in both respects.
If they aren’t a household name, their title and organization must be. Think heads of large organizations and CEOs of major corporations.
For example, a blurb from the director of cancer research at a major hospital would carry some weight. Your family doctor, not so much.
If a reporter likes your book, they may give you a blurb even if they can’t do a full review. And if you’re successful at landing pre-publication press, of course you can pick out the best line for the book jacket.
This doesn’t have to come from a literary reviewer or books editor. Depending on your subject matter, the endorsement of a health or tech reporter would have even more impact, as long as they’re affiliated with a credible media outlet.
If a journalist has written and published a full review of your book, they should expect that you’ll want to use their words on your book’s jacket or in its praise pages. You don’t strictly need to obtain their permission to do so, but it’s good practice to run the cut-down quote past them, as a courtesy (and as a thank you!).
Maybe we shouldn’t care what a movie star thinks, but we do. People are shallow. Send inquiries to their publicists. If you’re writing about a pet interest of theirs, they might just say yes.
Start working on your dream list of blurb-writers as early as possible. Who’s name would you love to see on your book jacket?
2. Work your contacts
Sometimes the greatest rewards can be found closest to home.
Tap any high-profile professional contacts you might have first, of course, but don’t be shy about putting the word out through family and friends too.
If someone you know has a connection to a high flier, ask them if they would mind passing your manuscript along. And of course, put it out to social media. People are more helpful than you might give them credit for, but you won’t get anything if you don’t ask.
3. Start early
It’s never too soon to start drafting your network into providing endorsements for your book, especially if you have influential people among your personal friends or professional contacts.
Even while you are writing, ask your warmest contacts to look at your manuscript when it’s ready. Keep their names and contact information in a spreadsheet, and make a note of who said yes, no, and maybe. It will be easier to get the goods from them later.
Send your package out at the earliest possible opportunity. The manuscript must be complete, but not necessarily polished in order to send it out. A common time to start gathering endorsements is when the manuscript is with your copyeditor for fine-tuning.
4. Make it easy
When you’re asking someone a favor, make it as easy as possible for them to say yes — especially when this busy person’s help means a lot to you.
Start with an email inquiry or third-party introduction. Include a single page with all the background information for your book: Synopsis, format (hardcover, paperback or ebook) and book specifications (number of pages, trim size), price, release date, and publisher info.
Don’t forget to include a short author bio. Send full-color cover art too, if it’s ready, and maybe even a short excerpt from the book. The idea is to hook them into wanting to read more without overwhelming them with the whole shebang.
Offer to send them the full manuscript by PDF or mail them a hard copy. But bear in mind that printed copies can be pricey to produce, especially when you factor in express mailing fees, so reserve these for A-list readers, or those who specifically request them.
5. Be polite
Give your blurbers plenty of time to read and respond to your package. Nobody likes to be under pressure for a favor.
And do take no for an answer — graciously! You may only need two sentences, but it can be pretty time consuming to write a short, persuasive message. And, of course, they have to read the whole book first. Anything less than a two-week turnaround would be a rush job, and is likely to be turned down.
Say please and thank you again and again, and offer to send them a copy of the finished book.
6. Keep it brief
Blurbs for your book jacket and praise pages inside the book can be short — in fact, they must be as brief and punchy as possible. Two sentences is plenty.
Be clear about length when you ask for blurbs, so your contributors don’t spend time writing lengthy paragraphs that will only have to be cut.
Ideally you’ll want to get blanket approval to edit blurbs for length, since almost all blurbs can be improved with a little tightening. If you do need to trim (or you want to tweak its focus) be sure to send the text back to its contributor for their approval before putting it through to the designer.
Now you’re ready to get out there and round up some high-quality endorsements for your book. This process takes a bit of legwork — sometimes a lot of legwork — but it’s well worth it. If you get a real humdinger, be sure to put it right on the front cover. It will make all the difference for your credibility, media attention, and book sales.
Already gotten a great blurb? Share it in the comments!