Friday, March 28, 2008

Book Marketing: Asking for Blurbs

One of the great things about getting an agent or selling your book to an editor is that you're finally through with having to write those aggravating query letters. Wrong!

You still have to write them, but now it's to other writers or experts in your book's field. You need blurbs.

Sometimes your agent or editor can get you humdinger blurbs from other writers in his/her stable. There's a good chance, though, that you'll be expected to solicit endorsements.

The first people to turn to for endorsements are the authors you know on a personal basis. Those are easy. There's a good chance you can ask them in person or via the phone or email. They're friends, and you can, therefore, probably count on a positive, enthusiastic quote. (Or they’ll politely tell you “no.”)

But what if all you know are local or beginning authors like yourself? Not to say there's anything wrong with getting blurbs from less-well-known authors, but it's always nice to have a quote from some big name. Readers who pay attention to blurbs can be swayed by a positive quote from Mr. or Ms. Big Name.

If you don't have best-selling authors in your circle of friends, then move to the next circle. That's people you have an acquaintance or some tie with. Maybe you attended a workshop with, or took a class by, or ate lunch at the convention with, or are good friends with the first cousin of ... some name author.

Now you're in the area where you need to write a query letter asking if they would review your book with an eye toward offering a blurb. Don't send the book unannounced. Query first. Make sure you mention that "tie" you have with them, however tenuous.

Consider querying authors who write in the same genre or on a similar subject, even if you have no tie with them. It's still just a query letter. And you've done tons of those, right?

You can also solicit blurbs from non-writers. Maybe they're an expert on your subject matter; they have a name that readers will recognize.

Of course, now you're moving even farther away from your inner circle of friends. That probably makes it a little more intimidating and perhaps less likely that you'll be able to get an endorsement, but if you never query, you'll never know.

Why query first instead of just taking your chances and sending the book unrequested? First of all, that could get expensive. Books and postage add up. Secondly, a query letter is more professional. And thirdly, you're not making a good impression on that author or expert if your book is one of ten that lands in his or her mailbox that week. That author is liable to feel "spammed" and toss your book in the trash.

Now, you might be wondering how many people you should try to get quotes from. You think, hey, I only need one or two for the cover, so I'll query two at a time. If you do that, by the time you gather two suitable quotes, your book could be dead on the shelves. I'd say, send out five or seven at a time.

From that batch, you might get three who'll agree to read the ARC. Send it to them. In the meantime, query another batch. The original three may not all come through. One may decide it's not a book he could enthusiastically endorse. One or both of the other two could give you a review, but nothing you could really pull from for a cover blurb.

Ah, but you say, what if they all love it and wax poetically about the merits and voice and melodious writing? What then? How would I decide which to put on the cover and which to disappoint by leaving out?

Your publisher can always insert a page(s) that lists all the blurbs and put the biggest endorsements on the cover.

Not every browser in the bookstore pays attention to blurbs. But having an endorsement by another author or expert that the reader recognizes does sway some people. And even if they don't know the person who wrote your blurb, having an endorsement tells them that someone other than you and your family liked the book.

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