Blurb Etiquette

Mike DuranGuest Blogger: Mike Duran (@CerebralGrump )

One of the most uncomfortable realities of being a writer is asking for blurbs (a.k.a. endorsements). On the enjoyability meter, it ranks somewhere between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and having bamboo spikes driven under your toenails.

Before my last novel The Telling released, I determined to aim high for endorsers. Nothing but “big names.” I contacted a dozen high-profile authors, most of whom I’d had personal contact with, about blurbing the book. When the publication deadline was reached, I had approximately…

ZERO ENDORSEMENTS.

Needless to say, the process was quite a let-down.

For whatever reason, I am now in the weird position of having authors ask me for blurbs. Which kind of sucks. Don’t get me wrong, it is flattering that one’s name would be considered a positive commodity. Furthermore, it’s good form to throw writerly love around, whether it’s in asking for or giving endorsements. Bottom line: Being asked to endorse another writer’s book is an awesome problem to have.

The sucky part of this deal is being caught between wanting to be a “blurb whore,” endorsing everything, and only wanting to endorse books and authors I can genuinely get behind.

There’s a downside to both these extremes:

  • The author who endorses everything loses credibility, especially when books they endorse turn out to be not-so-good.
  • The author who only endorses books they genuinely like looks like a snobby elitist who lets taste interfere with friendship.

So I had to contact a couple of author friends recently and tell them I couldn’t endorse their books. I felt like a total schmuck. I couldn’t offer an endorsement not because I didn’t like their books, but because I didn’t read them. I was too swamped with my own projects. Perhaps I need to rethink my standards for endorsement. Do I really need to read a book in its entirety and enjoy it before I can attach my name to the title? Why not just endorse the book and stop being a jerk?

Anyway, I felt like a piece of garbage.

When it comes to blurbing etiquette, maybe that’s the first piece of advice I’d give:

When you ask an author for an endorsement, you are potentially putting them in a place to feel like a schmuck.

Respect that. They probably don’t like saying “no” to you. You’re not the only one whose career, reputation, and time is in the balance here.

When seeking endorsements to simply be polite. Use terms like, “Would you consider endorsing my latest novel…” or “If time allows…” Don’t act like a blurb is pending. Or even worse, like your author friend owes it to you. And by all means, do not keep score. By that I mean, “So-and-so never gave me an endorsement so I’m never buying another one of their books.” Dude, don’t take it personally.

When the potential endorser says they’re unable to endorse your book at this time, please — please — don’t pout. This is the time when bridges can be strengthened and industry relationships are built.

Perhaps your response to NOT getting an endorsement may pave the way for future endorsements.

When said author says they can’t blurb you, write them back and thank them for considering. Don’t go sulking into the shadows. Don’t hang up and leave static. Tell them you appreciate their time, you understand how busy everyone is, and wish them luck on their current projects. The worst thing you can do after an author informs you they can’t supply a blurb is to start sniping at them. “Why not? You recently blurbed so-and-so’s book and theirs isn’t half as good as mine.”

Fail. A thousand times over—fail.

Be gracious and thankful for the blurbs you receive, and if you haven’t received any yet, “Keep asking. Keep knocking. And keep seeking.” When an author approaches you for an endorsement, you’ll have a richer appreciation for this ugly affair.

All that to say, those authors who were unable to endorse my last book can be expecting another email for my next book. I am not too shy to keep asking. You shouldn’t be either.

As an author, do you have any experience with endorsements—either asking for them, or being asked? As a reader, how much do you pay attention to the blurbs on books?

* * *

Subterranea Nine Tales of Dread and WonderMike Duran is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and blogs regularly about faith and culture. Mike’s novels include The Telling, The Resurrection, an ebook novella, Winterland, and his newly released short story anthology Subterranea You can visit his website at www.mikeduran.com.

 

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  • Sheena-kay Graham

    Everyone has a right to say no, the only schmuck is the person who thinks otherwise. Good post.

  • Erin MacPherson

    Hi Mike- It’s so hard to be gracious. I’ve had to say no to endorsing a few times lately– not because I didn’t like the books but because of time. It hurt. I felt terrible. Thanks for the great post!

  • Richard Mabry

    Mike, you’ve hit the nail on the head here. When asking for an endorsement, never presume, always be humble, and thank the person who can’t give one just as graciously as the one who does. It’s a tough position to be in, but still better than the yet-to-be-published author who only has to struggle with the first part of the equation–getting one, not giving one.

  • Timothy Fish

    I pay no attention to blurbs. Most of the time, I don’t know the people, so they have no meaning. Even if I do know them, I don’t always agree with what my friends.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I’ve not yet asked for any endorsements. The thought of asking makes me sick. I do have one blurb from another author, but he volunteered to write it. I know it’s part of the standard these days, but like many other things, I think I’m anti-endorsement. Here’s why. When i pick up a book that has several pages of endorsements, I think it’s overkill. I feel like that author is up-sucking, bragging, egotistical, shouting, “look at me, look at me. Everybody loves me. Aren’t I a great writer?” If a writer can’t stand on their own writing and needs pages of blurbs, I question their writing ability.
    .

  • http://forthisisthetime.blogspot.com/ Esther Aspling

    As a reader, I never read them. It’s maybe horrible, but I just don’t care about the opinion’s of people I don’t know. If I go on opinion it will be from my friends and those close to me.

    http://forthisisthetime.blogspot.com/

  • Jeanne Takenaka

    Good post, Mike. I haven’t yet been in a position to ask for or be asked for endorsements. I appreciate your perspective. :)

    I do enjoy reading the Blurbs, but they don’t make or break my decision to read a book–largely because I don’t know most of those who write them. And, as Timothy said, I don’t always have the same taste as those I do know, so they make like different things about stories than I do.

  • http://cherylbarker.blogspot.com/ Cheryl Barker

    As a reader, I do pay attention to the endorsements of authors I know, those whose work I like, or even those with big names who I just haven’t gotten around to reading yet. If the book doesn’t measure up to what they say, I’m disappointed. So like you said, Mike, the endorser can definitely lose credibility if they’re not careful. Best to only say the things you really mean.

  • Lynette Sowell

    Thanks for the “food for thought.” I’m at the point now where I’m going to be looking for endorsements for a book releasing next spring, and I find myself a bit hesitant. Who to ask? How to ask? How many? I’m hoping for three good ones; I already have one. Like another poster, if there’s more than a few, it seems like a bit of overkill, or trying too hard. Save some paper. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Heather-Kopp/1191344953 Heather Kopp

    What a great post. I agree how hard and yucky it is. My biggest lesson learned in seeking endorsements for my book was this: You do not have because you do not ask.

    Often, you and your agent and your editor and maybe your publicist all brainstorm people to ask and then decide who has the best “connection.” I automatically set aside big names who none of has connections to, including Glennon Melton of Momastery. As a recovering alcoholic, her audience seemed like such a good match, but I knew she was swamped by emails and requests and on the verge of even greater fame, so I wrote her off. Finally, my time was running out to get blurbs and one day it occurred to me: What could it hurt to ask? I raced into my office before I could change my mind and sent off an email about my blog and book and acknowledging that she probably couldn’t take time to look. She answered within the hour. Wanted to read it and ended up endorsing and also helping me get another endorsement I really wanted. I write all this ONLY TO SAY: ASK. You just never know.

  • Melissa

    Oh my, I was asked by my publisher to get endorsements…in 2 weeks! I felt terrible asking busy people for that, I assure you. And I try to make it clear in my requests that if they can’t for any reason– time, or they don’t even like it– I’m not going to hold it against them. I think I even might sound like I’m sure they won’t want to. But I know it has to be a terrible position to be in and I recognize that.

    That being said, I don’t and never have read endorsements–it doesn’t affect my purchases a bit. I think that’s another reason why I’m not going to pout if I don’t get them, to me they don’t work.

    But, the three lovely authors that endorsed my book? They made me want to read my own book! I thanked them profusely because it was special for me anyway.

  • http://www.cherigregory.com/ Cheri Gregory

    I hit “send” on my second endorsement earlier this week. I don’t know either author in the face-to-face world, but I’ve enjoyed developing virtual relationships with both of them over the last couple of years. I’d planned to read their books anyhow, so it was a real privilege to get the manuscripts early and then write a few words of support from my particular vantage point.

    As a reader, I start a book by reading the endorsements! They’ve always fascinated me. Some endorsers take up a whole paragraph to say nothing, while others nail a unique insight in a single sentence. I often read endorsements with my Amazon.com window open; it’s a great way to expand my library and repertoire of authors!

    While developing a potential endorsers list for my current book proposal, I thought about authors I interact with on Facebook, Twitter, and collaborator blogs. I ended up with a list of people I’d sure love to invite to a party! Who among them will be interested and/or available if and when the time comes for me to request an endorsement? No clue. I’ll ask and see. The older I get, the more I value no-strings-attached requests and respect each honest “no”. (Said with all the comfort afforded by the hypothetical! ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/ConnieAlmony Connie Almony

    Not published yet so no one is clamoring for my name on their book covers. However, I have wondered about this problem. I can’t imagine every writer likes all their friend’s books. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of taste. As a reader, I’d feel cheated to find out an endorser did not read the whole book they are endorsing, so I don’t find that snobbish in the least–just honest! I hope if I ever I find myself in the position of being courted for endorsements, writers consider my usual tastes before they drum up expectations. I hope I will do the same. We’ll see :o)
    Your advice is sound! Another blog post to save … in case it’s needed in the future

  • Maggie Bruehl

    Thanks for your candor! I only had one person turn me down and what you say is so true — it was agony for her to do it. It was a awkward in the relationship in the moment, but we’re back to where we were. It is important that you don’t let it affect you. As a Christian, I can take a step back and say that she was not the one and look for others. I really respect her and the stand she took. (She’s a CEO of a company)

  • http://en.gravatar.com/annecdotist Annecdotist

    This is way ahead of where I’m at with my writing career, but very interesting to be forewarned. But, as a reader, I’m nearly always sceptical of the endorsements as they’re so overhyped, and I guess I’d worry about the author being disappointed that I didn’t big their book enough (although probably wouldn’t use mine if it was too lukewarm). but what happened to honesty?

  • donnapyle

    Mike, thanks for tackling a much needed topic for authors. You highlight some great points on both sides. Having been on each, it’s such a fine line to walk. It takes maturity on both sides to deal with it successfully or it turns into, as you said, score keeping. I’m keeping this handy for future reference. Very well done, my Friend.

  • Susan Foy

    I do pay attention to endorsements if I have read the endorsing author. I hope that means the books is up to their standards, so an insincere endorsement makes them lose credibility in my opinion.

    This post reminded me of a book with an endorsement that to me seemed so half-hearted it was almost comical. I won’t mention names, but these two people had a particular connection and I had heard there was bad blood between the families, and when I read the endorsement it confirmed the rumor I had heard. It was sounded like he knew he had to ask her for the endorsement and she knew she had to give it, but neither of them really wanted to. So people do pay attention…

  • James Brush

    I was asked to and did blurb a poetry collection once, but I doubted my endorsement would help sell any books. Personally, I couldn’t care less about blurbs. They’ve never caused me to want to read or not read a book. They seem more like filler used by designers rather than any kind of useful info. When I published my own poetry collection, I decided to do what musicians do with their albums and just put artwork on the back along with one of the shorter poems.

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  • Jacqueline Whitmore

    Build your author network BEFORE you need it. Follow authors on Twitter and FB. Agree to write a review for their book on Amazon or better yet, make a donation to their favorite charity. They’re more apt to provide a blurb if you do something nice for them!

  • Martha Ramirez

    This was an excellent post! Thank you, Mike. And Rachelle. Saving this for when the time comes. Nice to meet you!

  • J Keith

    I never pay attention to blurbs on books but then I also don’t pay attention to certain people’s reviews on books or movies or even televisions shows. I tend to just go by my own feelings on whether I like a book or whatever. Doesn’t matter if anyone else liked it or not.

    • http://twitter.com/NikoleHahn Nikole Hahn

      I pay attention to them. It gives me some idea of the inside of the book.

    • http://profiles.google.com/steveweddle Steve Weddle

      Publishers pay attention to them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hannah.little.1804 Hannah Little

    I always read the blurbs to get an idea of what the book is about. Blurbs do tend to weigh heavily on whether I buy the book or not, but I rarely pay attention to who they’re written by.

  • maggie

    great article! loved it.

  • Carolynnwith2Ns

    I read the names but not the endorsements…I like to see how many famous friends and associates the author has. If I don’t see any names I recognize I consider myself a loser because I don’t know famous author names.

    Regarding my work, I’ll use endorsements of my family and friends, they love my stuff. Maybe a few readers will thing they’re famous, I would.

  • http://twitter.com/NikoleHahn Nikole Hahn

    Someone asked me to give a blurb. Very flattering and I did because I believed in the book. But I do agree to be discerning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1005947053 Dianne Gardner

    This is a great post Mike! This is the first time I have ever read anything on this subject. I approached asking for blurbs very cautiously, asking those maybe not so famous but who I knew fairly well for my first book. My question to you is, how do you approach an author for a blurb for the second or third book in a series? Obviously they don’t have time to read the entire series!

  • http://twitter.com/TedtheThird TedtheThird

    Something that my friends and I have started doing when we ask each other for favors is add the caveat “and no is a perfectly acceptable answer.” It is so freeing and takes away pressure from both the asker and the asked.

  • http://www.peterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    I don’t read endorsements. But out of curiosity, I sometimes look at who wrote the first couple. I also count how many they have. One book had four pages of endorsements; it struck me as desperate.

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  • Nicole Wolverton

    I’ve made requests for blurbs (my first novel came out a few months ago), and it’s a terrifying thing to ask your favorite writers (and total strangers) for a favor. I will be forever grateful to the three fantastic people who said yes to me–it’s a big deal to give a new writer a chance like that. It really gave me a lot confidence in the innate goodness and generosity of the larger writing community.

    As a reader, I’ve always taken note of who the blurbs are from on covers. Now that I’m a writer, I pay attention even more.

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