Getting your book blurbed by the right person can have a huge impact on the success of your book launch.
The right blurb can increase your sales and go a long way toward legitimizing a self-published book.
But, first, what is a book blurb? A book blurb is a short quote (usually just one or two sentences) praising the merits of your book. A good blurb should:
- Come from a credible, high-status, relevant source
- Help the potential reader understand why the book is valuable
Blurbs aren’t absolutely necessary to launch your book successfully but they’re really nice to have. You can use them as part of your marketing and launch campaign to increase sales and reach a wider audience.
There are three other main sources to mine for blurbs:
- Quotes from high-status relevant people
- Press mentions/reviews
- Reader testimonials
In this post, I’m going to focus on getting a quote from a specific person.
Who Should You Ask?
Let’s talk about the “credible, high-status, relevant” source part. Don’t ask a relative to blurb your book.
Even in my case, Steve probably isn’t the best person to blurb Structure Your Screenplay. I *might* be able to get away with it since we’ve co-authored other books, but still… he’s my dad. People will just assume it’s nepotism and that won’t help my sales.
The purpose of a blurb from a person is to borrow their credibility. That means the person should either be known to your audience or have a title that clearly conveys their expertise. For example, if you could get JK Rowling to blurb your novel, you’d be an instant best seller. However, even if you can’t 100% bank on name recognition, a blurb from “Katherine Arden, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Winter of the Witch” is almost as good (and a lot more realistic)!
The other thing about asking for blurbs is that it’s MUCH easier to ask someone you have a personal relationship with. That said, it’s completely possible to get people you’ve never met to blurb your book. The secret to success is asking the right person and being polite.
I did some research before reaching out to anyone. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there! Below are the links I found most helpful.
“How to Get Incredible Blurbs for Your Book” did an excellent job describing blurbs and what function they serve. Personally, I did not find his advice for getting blurbs helpful since he recommends writing the blurb for the person you’re reaching out to! “The Secret Formula to YES” says that’s unprofessional and I have to agree.
I found “The Secret Formula to YES” and “How Do You Ask for a Blurb” the most helpful for crafting my emails asking people for blurbs.
- The Secret Formula to YES
- How to Get Incredible Blurbs for Your Book
- The Art Of The Blurb Request
- 6 Steps to Getting an Awesome Endorsement
- How Do You Ask for a Blurb
Getting Blurbs for Structure Your Screenplay
This is a non-fiction book, so I decided to look for experts or industry professionals to blurb my book. I started by thinking about what “types” of people would convey credibility and help convince potential readers my book is worth their time and money.
The first type that leaped to mind were screenwriting professors and (huzzah!) I even have personal relationships with some. This seemed like my best bet and the easiest place to start.
The first person who popped into my head was my favorite professor from Northwestern. We haven’t been in touch since graduation, so I did a quick google search and discovered he’s still there and had gotten a promotion.
Here’s the email I sent asking him for a blurb.
Subject: Thank you for being a great mentor
Happy New Year! I hope this note finds you well. I saw you’re now the _______impressive position here___________. Congratulations! Your classes were the highlight of my film career at Northwestern so it’s definitely well deserved.
I’m now the Chief Operating Officer at Writing Academy, an online school my Dad and I started to teach creative writing extension courses. We mostly focus on fiction, but my film degree is still being put to good use because I teach screenwriting and adaptation courses.
I just completed a textbook, Structure Your Screenplay, based on that experience and the training I received at Northwestern. It’s aimed at beginning writers who may not have the luxury of film school.
I’m planning to launch the book in early 2019. I would like to send you a signed copy as a thank you for your mentorship and ask if you would consider looking at a proof copy and perhaps write a short blurb? Please let me know if you’d like a pdf of the proof.
Warm wishes for a prosperous and productive New Year,
He wrote back a few hours later and congratulated me on the book and said he’d be happy to take a look. I sent him a pdf of the proof version. He let me know he was quite busy because it was the start of a new term so it might take him a while to read the whole thing, but that I was welcome to nudge him if I didn’t hear from him. I told him that was fine and I’d check in with him in about a month if I hadn’t heard from him. I put a reminder on my calendar to give him a (polite!) nudge sometime in February.
For my second blurb, I decided to take a shot in the dark. Since I would love to sell this book to students outside of Writing Academy, I thought a blurb from the author of a bestselling screenwriting textbook would lend me A LOT of credibility.
I went through the books on my shelves and researched the authors. I looked for Amazon author pages, custom author pages, online social accounts, all to see if I could get a feel for what they were working on now and how active they are in the community.
I identified a likely target. She wrote one of the textbook Northwestern (and presumably other film schools) use as the foundation of their screenwriting curriculum. She’s revised it several times (somewhat recently) so she’s still active and has written many other books.
I checked her website carefully to see if she had any information on there about how to ask for a blurb (many authors want you to go through their agent – and if they do FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS). She didn’t but she did provide a direct email to contact her.
Here’s the email I sent her.
Subject: Request from a Former Film Student and Current Screenwriting Instructor
My name is Dani Alcorn. I graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern’s film school (with a double major in pre-med Psychology). I’m now an educator and the Chief Operating Officer at Writing Academy, an online school for aspiring authors.
One of the foundational books Northwestern built its screenwriting curriculum on was _____her awesome book title______ and I remember it quite fondly. In fact, I recommend it as a resource in the screenwriting textbook, Structure Your Screenplay, I’m releasing this spring.
Would you consider reviewing an advance proof and perhaps writing a short blurb?
Honestly, I expected I’d never hear back from her. Amazingly, in less than an hour she’d responded and agreed to take a look, though she said to give her a good four to six weeks.
However, she threw me a curveball that, in hindsight, I should have been expecting. She wanted a physical copy and for me to include a “note ‘re publisher. Whatever I need to know.”
I dearly wish I’d had a stack of proofs ready to go so I could have sent hers that day… but I didn’t.
Fortunately, I did have the manuscript formatted and a fairly finalized cover design. I dropped everything and got the materials loaded into Amazon KDP and ordered a few proof copies shipped to me. I had to wait for them to arrive before I could turn around and send one to her. Fortunately, Amazon is pretty fast. I had the physical copies within 5 days.
And in this case, it actually gave me a chance to ponder what she meant by “
I didn’t know what that meant and didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself or, honestly, display my naivete by asking her for clarification. Instead, I reached out to another college mentor who has been traditionally published to ask if she could shed any light on it.
Here’s what she said:
“It is possible that she will refuse to blurb you if you’re self-publishing (hence asking about the publisher), but hopefully not. My guess is that she just wants a brief paragraph about who you are and one about the book (its goals, how it’s different from similar books). And probably when you need the blurb by.”
I did enclose a letter along with the book I sent following the above advice. I played up the fact that Structure Your Screenplay is being published by Writing Academy’s imprint Themeperks.
She received the book yesterday. Given her communication style, I’m not surprised I haven’t heard from her yet. If I don’t hear anything from her two weeks before the deadline I asked for, I’ll send a nice soft email confirming she received the package and asking if I can provide her with any additional information.
Why didn’t I include any names in this post?
It’s because these are real people and life gets in the way sometimes.
They’ve both agreed to look at my book and I really hope they both write me an awesome blurb, but it is absolutely their right to decline for whatever reason. I’m pretty confident they’ll like the book (but hey, everyone’s a critic), however, they’re both busy people.
If one or both of them end up passing on a blurb it is 100% not my intention to call them out on it. They’re doing me a huge favor! And in return, my job is to respect their time and treat them with professional courtesy. Plus, these are also people I may want to reach out to again to blurb my next book, so I’m not burning any bridges!