How Not To Ask For Blurbs

Asking for blurbs is, for me anyway, a very uncomfortable thing. You’re often asking peers or even your own authorial heroes to carve out precious time to write you what amounts to marketing copy. I have to blacken my Shame Sensors with the heel of a heavy boot just to get up the gumption to ask another author for a blurb. (Further, I’ll be asking for blurbs very very soon on my YA book, which is already making me itchy because I always feel like such an ass.)

I am now in the weird position of having authors ask me for blurbs.

This is totally fine and further, a totally awesome problem to have.

I have blurbed books gleefully and will continue to do so because YAY BOOKS.

Just the same, here are a few tips. Ready? Here we go.

When you email someone, be polite.

Use words like, “please,” and “thank you.”

Do not write an email that sounds like it assumes the blurb is forthcoming.

Or, worse, like they owe it to you.

That’s not to say you have to slather up the potential blurber’s nether-anatomy.

Just be polite.

Understand it is a favor of time and effort and act accordingly.

Do not be a human spam-bot. Be a fountain, not a drain.

Mass mails are not a good way to ask. Neither are public social media channels.

Finally, when the potential blurber gets back to you and says, I can’t or won’t do that, sorry, good luck, your response shouldn’t be a two-word:

“Why not?”

Because when you ask that, you’re going to get a less-than-pleasant response.

I don’t mean to put anyone off of asking me or asking any author.

But a modicum of politeness and grace goes a long, long way in this industry.


*runs off to psyche self up to send out mails that ask for blurbs aaaauuugh*

25 responses to “How Not To Ask For Blurbs”

  1. While we’re (vaguely) on the subject, I was wondering how you send books to authors/publishing people *gratis*?

    I have this little fantasy that when I get my book published I’ll send a copy to some people I feel like made my journey easier. Like you, for example. Blurbs would be nice, but I don’t know how to send it without it seeming like I’m trying to be sneaky or passive aggressive, or doing anything but sending them my book because I feel like they’ve helped me.

    Maybe I’m over thinking this. I tend to have lots of anxiety that people are going to mis-interept my intentions over the Internet for lack of facial expression/tone of voice. ‘

    Good luck with those blurbs. I am so not looking forward to that aspect.

    • Elizabeth, I completely understand this. I did it recently to someone who I wanted to give a copy of my book as a thank you, but who is also a reviewer. I just spelled it out. I said I would like to give her a copy and why and that it came with absolutely no expectation for review or response, or that if she did decide to review it, to be positive; it was just a gift. She said that would be lovely, I sent it with a note, end of story. We go on as before, interacting on social media and so on perfectly fine. Of course, the paranoid part of me says that because she hasn’t reviewed it, it means she hated it and is being polite, but since I gave it as a gift, even if that’s true (and the sane part of me knows it probably isn’t) it doesn’t matter. I made a gesture, she appreciated the gesture. Deed done, everyone happy.

  2. I would never think to ask any writer for blurbs, for 2 reasons: #1, they’re mostly a bunch of self-absorbed sociopaths who would try to hawk their books at their grandmother’s closed casket wakes (This is especially true of the ones who’d made it) and #2, that’s the publisher’s job, not ours. This is why they make ARCs. At most, I’ll poach something from a review, with the author’s consent.

  3. Yay for blurb emails (that sounded convincing, right?). I’m totally doing this today too, and working really hard to not grovel about in the emails and sound pathetic while asking for a monstrous favor of the one thing writers don’t have enough of: time.

  4. I recently had to ask for blurbs to help promote my poetry chapbook. I’m already the kind of person who hates asking for favors. This upped the ante of discomfort. But I did it, I was polite, and then I was subsequently humbled by people having such nice things to say about my work.

    So thumbs up! Yay for good manners! Those will take you far!

  5. On an almost but not quite entirely unrelated point, if someone were to write a something that was, at least in part, by an off hand comment you made, would you want to know about it?

  6. See I would have thought this was simply something everyone does (something in the way my parents raised me?), yet just last night I saw another example of this, which, while not blurb related, is about submitting to a publisher. If you’re interested, here’s the post on the publisher’s site about how they asked for no submissions during April and one author’s response to that:

    • Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt. It just boggles the brain that such behaviour exists in people who claim to want to have a professional relationship with others. Or indeed in anyone not drunk or stoned. That writer really needs to put down the uppers and get some fresh air. And perspective. And a clue.

      • I could have almost understood maybe a ‘full-of-myself’ kind of response like “Oh you don’t want my genius, oh well, your loss”, but such flat out rudeness. I was checking the date to see if it was April fools ;p

  7. Chuck: AMEN. Speaking as someone who just got past the “OMG I must now approach strangers I respect and admire and ask for favors” stage for the first time (but not the last, oh no…not the last), I totally agree with everything you’ve said here. Not only would I never hold it against an author who said no, I’d hope they wouldn’t feel badly about saying no if I asked. It’s a favor, not a right, and certainly not something I’d expect anyone to do unless they really wanted to do it.

    All of which said, I’m sure there are many dark regions of the Internet where gratitude and lack of entitlement are rare commodities, indeed.

  8. Relevant Anecdote Time! A couple of years ago, an acquaintance of mine used a fabulous blurb from a distinguished writer without his permission on the back of her debut collection: “A talent for razor-sharp satirical observation…” which was actually an out-of-context line from his comments on an assignment she’d given him in her Creative Writing Program, and which was helpfully cut off before the “BUT…”

    When Distiguished Writer found out, he weren’t happy.

  9. Thank you Chuck, I have been down this road before on both sides and i agree with you here are my tips in the matter.

    1) As you said Chuck be nice these are people if your a ass then no deal

    2) No more than 5 sentences period because busy people which is a lot of people just dont have time to read a book size email.

    3) KISS (Keep it simple stupid) be nice ask then be nice and end the email, see two if a person has to hunt for what you want then most likely they will stop reading.

    4) Do your home work, explain in one sentence how you know them, use that too segway into whatever you are doing

    5) ALWAYS ALWAYS, tell the person your emailing what time/day your going to contact them again IF you need to, it goes back to 2 again.

  10. I should point out that research should take at lest a day, my checking out blogs etc then using that as reference for the meeting

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