|photo credit: pam's pics- via photopin cc|
Now…ahem…a few years later, I have once again donned the sash, it would seem—only this one says “Author”—and I find myself knocking on the digital doors of esteemed strangers, begging them to lavish their nonexistent spare time and goodwill upon an untested product, without even the promise of a sugar high in return.
And so began, this past month, the cringe-worthy task of begging for blurbs.
Here are a few things I’ve learned in the process.
1. Aim high.
How high? High enough to draw attention and bring you an audience (you’ll want a blurb worthy of your personal anguish in asking for it), but just below the mega-stars’ “no blurb” policies. Yet it can be a trick identifying authors in that sweet spot. Amazon rankings may offer some clue—in general, a rank of fifteen thousand in books is a heck of a lot better than seven million, for example—but the rankings are fickle, subject as they are to the latest giveaways and promotional trends. The only sure-fire way to know whether an author is “worth approaching” is to ask your publisher to check BookScan.
2. Use any interpersonal means available to you.
The more direct and personal the request, the harder it is to turn down. In order to dampen the influx of such demands, busier authors protect their time by making themselves notoriously difficult to contact. If an e-mail address or website contact form is not an option, many authors do have direct messaging enabled on their Facebook fan pages (although perhaps not after this post).
3. You are not alone.
My editors, my agent, and I divvied up the work according to our connections. But consider other lifelines as well, such as your friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend network; someone may be willing to forward your request to the author’s personal e-mail account. Asking the author’s agent or editor to forward the request may feel like a last resort, yet even these intermediaries may be allies, with their own marketing reasons to suggest that the author say yes.
4. Re-frame “blurb begging” in a way that will allow you to feel better about it.
My inner Girl Scout has been in such turmoil that I finally reframed this goddawful task in a way that made me love it. While asking for the blurb, I decided to use the request as an opportunity to pay homage to the authors who have influenced my life and my writing. Then, if I’m turned down (as happens most of the time), the note was still a major success.
5. Are you pre-book deal? Make connections in your genre now.
I didn’t—and I regret it. As a generalist who enjoys cross-fertilization, I’ve networked with writers in a wide variety of organizations, conferences, forums, and loops (note the diversity of the Blood-Red Pencil contributors), and among them are several with bestselling titles—but almost none of them in the women’s fiction/book club fiction/"accessible literary" market I am targeting. Honestly? I knew one—and thank goodness she agreed to write a blurb! What I'd never stopped to consider is that blurbs must come from the writers who are most like you. This is a matter both of taste and marketing savvy. Not one of my readers will care if a bestselling YA or horror or crime writer likes my work. Even within my genre, not all women’s fiction is created equal—someone writing historicals, for instance, would confuse the heck out of their own readers by endorsing my contemporary work.
So here’s where we are: we’ve sent out our requests, I’ve paid homage, the ARC deadline of April 22 looms, and…we wait.
Ah well. Traditional publishing is one long lesson in “Control what you can and surrender the rest.”
Oh yeah, and waiting.
And second-guessing yourself: Could I have maximized my chances of getting a blurb by sending along a box of Girl Scout cookies?
How about you? Considering the type of story you write, if you could pay homage and obtain a blurb from any writer in the universe—who would be your heart’s desire? And which Girl Scout cookies would you send?
Just catching up? Here are links to the other posts in this series:
Countdown to a Book 1: Joining Hands
Countdown to a Book 2: Pitching
Countdown to a Book 3: Getting My Agent
Countdown to a Book 4: Developmental Editing
Countdown to a Book 5: All About Image
Countdown to a Book 6: From Writer to Author
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her women's fiction and memoir are represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks in January 2014. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.