It’s a good time to be a book lover. With 32.8 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 words over someone else’s.
With competition this fierce, high-profile blurbs and endorsements are more important than ever for building 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.
If you are 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 even if you’ve got this kind of support, don’t leave it to your publisher to solicit contributions without your input – by leveraging your direct and even indirect relationships you 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. 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, you’ll want to ask your warmest contacts to agree 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 that much easier to get the goods from them later. You’ll want to send your package out at the earliest possible opportunity. This means that the manuscript must be complete but not necessarily polished when you send it out. A common time to start pulling in endorsements is when the manuscript is with your copyeditor for fine-tuning.
2. Aim high
To trigger actual sales, your blurbs need to come from people your audience knows and respects. They fall into four camps:
- Bestselling authors. Name recognition trumps perfect alignment of subject matter, although it’s best if your contributors are strong in both respects.
- High profile experts. 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.
- Journalists. If a reporter likes your book, they may give you a blurb even if they can’t do a full review. And if you are 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.
- Straight-up celebs. Maybe we shouldn’t care what a movie star thinks, but we do. People are shallow. Send enquiries to their publicists. If you’re writing about a pet interest of theirs, they might just say yes.
3. Work your contacts
Sometimes the greatest rewards can be found closest to home. You’ll want to 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 if you don’t ask.
4. Have your ducks in a row
When you’re asking someone a favour, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to say yes – especially when they are a busy person and their help means a lot to you. Start with an email inquiry or third-party introduction. Include a one-sheet with all the background information about 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-colour cover art too, if it’s ready, and maybe even a short extract 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 favour. 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 afterward.
6. Keep it brief
Blurbs for the book jacket and praise pages inside the book can be short – in fact, they must be as brief and punchy as possible. Two sentences in length is plenty. Be clear about this when you are asking, so your contributors don’t spend time writing lengthy paragraphs that will only have to be cut. Ideally you’ll want to get their blanket approval to edit their blurb for length, since almost all blurbs can be improved with a little tightening. If you do need to trim it (or you want to tweak its focus) be sure to send it back to its contributor for their approval before putting it through to the designer.
Now you are ready to get out there are start gathering high-quality endorsements for your book. This process takes a bit of legwork – ok, maybe a lot – but it is well worth it. If you get a real hum-dinger, be sure to put it right on the front cover. It will make all the difference in credibility, media attention, and book sales. Good luck!
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