Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Getting By (Or Blurbs) With A Little Help From Your Friends

I've noticed that the blurbs on book covers that are written by colleagues (are they called "endorsements"?) usually seem to be from writers from the same publisher. That makes a lot of sense, but what if your best friend is a novelist with another publishing house, she loves your book, and really wants to write a blurb for you? Will your publisher allow it? Will hers?

The quick answer: for sure. In fact, I currently have six blurbs for my book, and only one author is published with my house, and she's not even at my imprint. Of course, I got these blurbs on my own: I reached out via email to authors whom I thought might enjoy the book and with whom I might share an audience. I didn't know any of them beforehand, so I simply jotted down a (very kind and humble) introductory note and asked them if they'd be willing to take a peek. Most said yes. I made it clear that there was no expectation of a forthcoming blurb, and if they hated the book, then they should definitely not endorse it. I've been fortunate that most people accepted and that most have indeed had very nice things to say. (Though I'll admit to being heartbroken when Lolly Winston couldn't fit it in her schedule. Wah! I still love her though! And can't wait to read her new book!)

Remember that blurbing is in some ways a two-way street. Trust me, I was so, so, so, so flattered that these wonderful ladies not only took the time to read the ms, but also to write something so wonderful about the book, but they also get their names on the back of the cover, or on my website or on my blog or in the press kit or wherever. So it only serves the author or the publishing house well to open themselves up to outside authors.

My process of gathering blurbs was a bit unusual - most often, it's left up to the editor, the publicist and the agent, which is why you often DO see authors blurbed from the same house or imprint. But I just wanted to be a bit more involved, and I'm glad that I was.

This question of blurbing raises a whole other issue: do blurbs matter? I know that as a reader, I definitely take a look at them and and that they can tilt the scale if I'm debating a purchase. And if I've enjoyed a book, I'll often buy a blurber's book because I assume that we have similar taste.
Diana Peterfreund blogged about this a few weeks ago: whether or not blurbs really have any influence on readers. They most definitely influence booksellers (i.e, if the press kit is brimming with top shelf blurbs, they'll likely be interested in buying more copies) and get your sales and press teams fired up, but to the average reader, do they really do much? I dunno.

Thoughts?

10 comments:

Sara Hantz said...

If a fave author of mine blurbs on a book it will certainly sway me, if I'm undecided.

Bernita said...

The only negative thing to a reader is seeing the same quote by the same author used over and over on different books.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Bernita-
I agree: there are some authors who will clearly blurb anything, just for the promotion. I discount their blurb entirely because I have no idea if they've even read the book to begin with.

Amie Stuart said...

I asked a pub friend and she said yes they matter. I'm still undecided but this is timely as I've done nothing so far about getting blurbs and need to

larramie said...

Blurbs are amusing to read -- as well as to recognize a favorite author's name --, yet they don't sway me at all. Instead, it's the synopsis on the dust jacket flap that "sells" me every time.

Nevertheless, I realize that blurbs are part of the business side of publishing and the fact that you reached out and garnered six on your own is amazing. Your "hands-on" involvement with seemingly every aspect of TDLF offers us terrific motivation.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I agree with Larramie. Very impressive! Your book must be really something.

I also have to second Sara's comment. I always read the blurbs and am generally swayed by them. I used to read the back cover description and decide whether to buy, but lately I find I'm reading them less and less (maybe because it's harder with two sons in tow). The front cover (with it's tagline) and the blurbs either convince me or don't (the bonus--for me--is that the storyline comes as more of a surprise too).

Eileen said...

I went after my own blurbs as well (Jenny Crusie I shall always love you) I was impressed with how kind everyone was- there is no harm in asking.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Congrats on Jennifer Cruisie, Eileen! Wonderful.

thatgirl said...

For better or for worse, as Jane Everyday Reader, blurbs definitely sway me. But that's kind of weird when I think about it ... do people write the books they like to read? I doubt it, no more than musicians write songs they like to listen to. Maybe I should be more discerning. :)

And I wanted to thank you for your generous response to my "where do you come up with your ideas" question. Your tips are resonating, and I've got an idea for a novel -- pure fiction -- based on something very real that happened to me. Best of all, the fictionalizing is working out well. (I like this character way more than me!)

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Hey That Girl-

WONDERFUL! Please keep us posted on your progress!

Allison