Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, dog walker, bartender, freelance journalist, personal trainer, model, and Russian supper club performer, and today this bestselling author of chilling thrillers is a Guest Blogger !
I thought I’d discuss the dark, inner secrets of blurbs today. Blurbs are those quotes on the front and back cover by a well-known author who was kind enough to say some nice things about your book, thereby inducing people to buy it. At least in theory.
So how do writers get those glowing blurbs? I find that cash is well-received, or blackmail works in a pinch (just kidding). Honestly, I have yet to be turned down for a blurb. As long as you can give someone a decent time frame in which to read the manuscript (ideally a month or two), and they’re not too swamped, everyone I’ve approached has been exceedingly gracious.
But it was definitely a learning process for me. For example: chances are, no one might mention the deadline for blurb submission until oh, say, three weeks before it’s due. That’s what happened with my first novel, when I switched editors midstream. I had prepared a list of people to ask, and we were proceeding nicely through the rounds of edits. Offhand, I asked my new editor one day, “By the way, when should I send the manuscript to people to blurb?”
Then, “You haven’t done that yet?”
Thus ensued one of the most frantic days of my life. I emailed everyone I knew, had met, or had even heard of, who might consider blurbing the book. I overdid it, actually, because I assumed that easily three-quarters of the people would say no when they found out I needed it in a little under three weeks. And you know what? No one did. One blurb came in past the deadline, but I was thrilled to use it on all of my promotional materials. For me, this was the best introduction to how much of a community the crime fiction writing world really is.
The next time, I was ready. I send the manuscript out early, to the two people whose work I thought most closely matched the book’s tone and subject matter. Because that’s another thing I learned about blurbs. If a bestselling author of medical thrillers blurbs your book, there’s a chance her fans might buy it. Imagine their shock and dismay when they discover that your book is actually a paranormal mystery involving shapeshifters, none of whom have even a passing knowledge of medicine. Some might love it regardless, and there are varying opinions on whether the name recognition of the blurber is more important than the similarity of your work. In my opinion, the book should be something a fan of the other author will find familiar.
The question is, do blurbs actually do what they’re supposed to do, inspiring book sales that might not happen otherwise? I suspect yes, since publishers have clearly done more market research on this than I have, and they’re fairly insistent about having something to put on that cover. Does a blurb from a fellow author have more or less impact than an excerpt from a respected periodical? Tough to say (and I’m always reminded of the friend who received a review calling his book, “An excellent example of everything that’s wrong with writing today,” which his publisher promptly shortened to, “Excellent.”)
Rumor has it that author Meg Gardiner couldn’t get a US publishing contract until Stephen King (who rarely blurbs books) picked her one of her books in the UK and raved about it. So obviously, some blurbs are worth more than others. For me, the cover initially attracts my attention, then I’ll probably read the blurb. If I know and like the other author’s work, there’s a good chance I’ll head to the register with my new find.
Have you had the same experience? Has a blurb ever inspired you to buy a book you might not have picked up otherwise?