A Few Things To Know About Blurbs

Shortly after I got my book deal in 2016, my original editor, Brian, emailed me asking: “Which authors do you want to ask for a blurb?”

And honestly, it felt like such a life-changing, terrifying, momentous rite of passage. I pictured myself sending piteous requests to respected authors, asking them to bestow their blessings upon me and my untried book and feeling like everything hinged on whether or not they decided to send me praise.

Now, years later, I have been lucky enough to receive and be asked to give blurbs myself, and I’ve learned a little bit more about the process. One of the things I’ve learned is that in most cases, a blurb will not affect how well your book does, unless it’s given by Oprah Winfrey or J.K. Rowling, and then it can give your name a bit of a boost. Otherwise, it’s a nice pat on the back and nod of support from a more established author, and it makes you feel good about yourself.

Thank you to my fellow 2017 debuts Misa Sugiura, Rebecca Christiansen, and Wendy McLeod MacKnight for weighing in on the subject and helping me compile the following list of information and tips about blurbs!

Here is what I gathered, and I hope it helps clarify a bit about this part of the debut experience:

  • A blurb is a short snippet of praise given by another author. This author will often, but not always, write in the same genre and/or for the same audience, and they’ll be asked in hopes of attracting their readers to your name. The blurb will often appear on the back jacket or inside the book, but if it’s a huge author, like a bestseller, those will almost always take precedence over other blurbs and be placed right on the cover.
  • Who asks for the blurb? It depends. Speaking for myself only, my editor Brian reached out to agents and other editors to ask for blurbs for my first book. But I also directly asked authors with whom I was very close and friendly, and I did so again for my second book. And I have been asked to blurb by editors, agents, and authors alike. I think it’s important to check with your team, and I also think it’s safer and more professional to go through the author’s agent, when in doubt. I’ve asked all blurbs to filter through my agent from now on because I like to keep her in the loop, and she can also let people know when I’m not able or don’t choose to blurb – it feels less personal.
  • Subsequent books in a series don’t always get blurbs. If you look at a second or third book in a series, you will often see blurbs for the previous book. I didn’t know this until my second book was going into final edits! I reached out to my team, and they told me that although we weren’t going to request official blurbs, I could go ahead and ask friends if I wanted to, since we could put fresh words of praise on the Amazon page or other retail sites.
  • Be considerate regarding time when requesting a blurb. Many authors, myself included, want to read the whole book from cover to cover before we decide whether to blurb it (though not every author does this). When you ask someone to blurb you, you’re asking them for a favor, so you need to give them the courtesy of time. Also, be clear about the deadline by which you need their blurb. I think 8-12 weeks is common, though 8 might be pushing it a bit close.
  • Try to request from a variety of authors. It’s nice to request blurbs from a good mix of people, and not just the same giant superstars who get asked over and over again. If you loved someone’s book and feel that it could be a great comp for yours, or if you think their audience might mesh with yours, ask them!
  • Be gracious, thankful, and courteous. People are busy, so don’t take it as a personal insult if they aren’t able to blurb for you. And if they are, always, always, ALWAYS say “Thank you.” I’ve gone out of my way to help one or two people from whom I never heard even a single word of gratitude, and honestly, I would rather spend my limited time helping someone who is appreciative in the future.
  • Blurbs will not make or break your book. There are so many other things to stress about; don’t make blurbs one of them! Most authors I’ve talked to (as well as their teams) see blurbs as a nice perk and a potential way to get a reader to at least pick up a book. It’s not a guarantee of a sale . . . nor is the lack of a particular blurb a sign that your book will tank. Take it for what it is: kindness and support from someone else, and a possible way to attract a new reader, and leave it at that.

I’m curious: do blurbs ever affect your decision to pick up a book or not? Have you ever bought a book because of a blurb? Why or why not?

7 Responses to A Few Things To Know About Blurbs

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    Chris Mar 18 2019 at 7:21 am #

    Thanks for the tips! I don’t typically reject a book because it doesn’t have a blurb–but I will give a book more careful consideration if the blurb writer is an author whose work I’ve loved. The assumed links between authors can be helpful.

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    Marc Vun Kannon Mar 18 2019 at 7:49 am #

    I wouldn’t really trust a blurb from someone in the business, just like I don’t really believe all the praise actors heap on each other in interviews. I’d rather read what regular readers had to say. The only thing a professional blurb might do is put me off a book, if the praise came from a writer i didn’t think highly of.

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    Christine M Mar 18 2019 at 1:02 pm #

    I have never bought a book or read a book because of a blurb. Like Marc (above), I don’t trust them. I have put a book down because of one. If I don’t like a certain author’s style of writing or their stories and they say, “Hey, this book is great,” then I know this book is not for me. Sorry, but I won’t even read the summary.

    I do buy books because of recommendations from friends and booksellers. This is where the majority of book come from. The others are from author name recognition and browsing bookshelves.

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    Stacy Alderman Mar 18 2019 at 7:14 pm #

    I don’t look to blurbs to make or break my decision on reading a book, but if I like the book, I’ll research the author who provided the blurb and look them and their books up too.

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    Rachel Mar 19 2019 at 4:35 am #

    Another thing to note when you *do* get blurbs from some of the bigger names: I got one, it went on the cover, and I found out later he did not write it, one of his team did and it was all agent handled – he’d never heard of the book or me!

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    Corina Mar 20 2019 at 1:47 am #

    I don’t recall ever being persuaded to pick up a book because of a blurb, but they do make me more excited for what I’m about to read, if I recognise the names. Blurbs also kind of make me emotional about the book, like this author that I love also loves this book that I love! I nearly cried reading the blurbs on Tamora Pierce’s Tempest and Slaughter, which had all these wonderful words from YA authors talking about how her books had changed their lives and inspired them. That was really special.

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    Marilyn Jones Apr 12 2019 at 3:44 pm #

    Jules, thank you for these helpful highlights. I do notice blurbs for an Author I’ve never read before but, they won’t be the determining factor for me. I’ll choose to read the book if it sounds exciting to me. I don’t read the blurbs for Authors I already love.

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