Friday, April 9, 2010

Asking for Blurbs Never Gets Easier

I'm at the point in the publishing schedule for my March, 2011 Midnight Ink release, Deadly Currents, where I'm asking for blurbs from other mystery authors. This was terribly hard for me to do for my first published book, A Real Basket Case, and it hasn't gotten any easier. At least this time, my editor and I are sharing the workload. We brainstormed a dream wish list of Western and/or outdoorsy-oriented mystery authors and divvied up the list between us according to who had the best contacts with each author.

One wonderful author came through with a stellar blurb, shown below, just this afternoon. (PS. I love her books!) Two other authors have agreed to take a look at the manuscript, so please keep your fingers crossed for me that at least one more likes it!

"If you’ve wondered what white water river rafting is all about, get ready for a wild plunge into Colorado’s Arkansas River with Mandy Tanner, river ranger extraordinaire and dauntless sleuth. Beth Groundwater gets the mountain town of Salida and its cast of river denizens just right. Hurray for Deadly Currents, a heart-racing debut to a new series with as many twists and turns and unexpected upsets as a ride through the rapids itself."
---Margaret Coel, author of The Silent Spirit.

Asking established authors for blurbs is an imposition on them, a request for a huge chunk of their time to read your manuscript. There's no way I would ask such a large favor of an author that I have had no contact with and done nothing for on my part. The best way to help this process along is to start doing favors for the authors you may want to approach for blurbs in the future. Show up at their signings and buy their books. Post complimentary reviews of their books on bookseller websites and mystery discussion groups. Recommend their books to friends. Do other favors for them, such as putting them in touch with experts they need for their current research project, volunteering to help on their latest MWA or SinC project, etc. That way, you've established a professional networking relationship with them, and asking for a return favor is not such an imposition.

Also, don't assume or imply that once they read the work, they should think it worthy of a blurb. When I ask established author contacts to blurb my book, I ask them if they would be willing to read the manuscript and IF they like it, to consider giving me a blurb. I ask them at least 6-8 weeks before the blurb is required by my publisher and state the deadline clearly, so they can determine if they have time in their busy schedules to read my manuscript. And timing the request is important, too. If the author is working toward a looming manuscript deadline or is out on the road promoting a new release, it may be best to wait a few weeks before asking. That may mean the blurb doesn't make it into the catalog, but it may make it onto the review galleys/ARCs and the back cover of the published book.

Thankfully, for A Real Basket Case, four fellow Colorado mystery authors graciously read my manuscript and crafted glowing blurbs: Kathy Brandt, Margaret Coel, Christine Goff, and Maggie Sefton. I think their words of praise definitely helped my sales. I thanked them--in writing--for their efforts and gave them each a small gift basket, put together with advice from my gift basket designer protagonist, Claire Hanover. Many authors give their blurbers an autographed copy of their book once it's published, and that's a fine gift, too.

I've got my thinking cap on for thank you gifts for my Deadly Currents blurbers. Anyone got any ideas? A miniature whitewater raft full of chocolates? A gift certificate for a whitewater rafting ride near where they live? Smoked salmon and bagels?


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said... for the blurbers? I must have missed that memo!! Shoot. Well, I'll make! :)

I've tweeted this one...

Mystery Writing is Murder

Jess Lourey said...

You're a class act, Beth. Your advice for forging supportive relationships with authors deserves many positive karmic returns.

And, um, I've got a book due out March 2011, too. I better finish writing it...

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Elizabeth, you and I missed the same memo. But it is a great idea besides a nice thank you.

Asking for blurbs does NOT get any easier as books go along. And as a busy author, I've had to turn down a lot of requests because of my schedule. You always feel bad about it, but there are only so many hours in a day, so I understand with other authors turn me down.

Alan Orloff said...

For me, soliciting blurbs is tense--I know how much time I'm asking a writer to spend reading my book. Maybe gifts before they read the book would work better.

Darrell James said...

Beth- Asking for blurbs is kind of like asking your father for money... sweaty palms, foot shuffling... Maybe it's worth remembering that there is also an ego boost and marketing value for the author being asked. (At least that's my pitch when I come to you). Thanks for the insight.

Deborah Sharp said...

you mean I'm supposed to be asking for blurbs, too????? :-)
Seriously, I did this for my first book (Thanks to my dream blurbers, Nancy Martin, Elaine Viets, Bob Morris, Hoda Kotb, and our own Sue Ann). But I hated it so much, I haven't done if for any others.
You've hit on a very nice way to do it though, Beth. And chocolate is always a great incentive.

Keith Raffel said...

I met the late, great Stuart Kaminsky at Sleuthfest. He came through with a blurb on my first book. I am still so grateful to that wonderful man.

Alice Loweecey said...

Great post. I've already offered my first blurber a beer, when we eventually connect IRL.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks, Elizabeth, for tweeting my post. I'm not on Twitter, so whenever someone else tweets something of mine, I'm really appreciative.

And Sue Ann, I understand, too, when someone turns me down. One of my "dream blurbers" is promoting a new release right now. I know how busy a time that is, so I will understand if she doesn't have time to read my manuscript.

Beth Groundwater said...

Carola Dunn had problems posting a comment, so she emailed it to me and asked me to post it for her. I'm always happy to do this for folks. Here's what Carola said:

"I've never asked for a blurb, and I have to admit, when an author I admire offered me one unsolicited for my next book, I forgot to do anything about it.

I don't mind being asked for blurbs by people with whom I have some sort of prior relationship, and who write books in some way similar to mine. I ALWAYS warn that I can't promise to give one. No way am I going to have my name on a book I don't particularly like. I have even had to turn down a request from my editor after reading a book he sent me (luckily the second one he offered, Irene Fleming's The Edge of Ruin, I really enjoyed). Most writers accept a refusal graciously with thanks for reading the ms or ARC, as the case may be, but one, who shall remain nameless (partly because I've forgotten her name), never responded when I told her I thought her book needed work and offered a couple of suggestions."

Ouch, Carola!

Kathleen Ernst said...

This has been really hard for me, as well. Your points are spot-on, Beth. I have a wonderful blurb from Sandi Ault for Old World Murder, but I would never have had the courage to approach her if I hadn't already met her through a writer's organization. I was on the Board of Women Writing the West; she was a WILLA award finalist the year I coordinated the competition. Still, I'm enormously grateful that she was able to squeeze the read into her busy schedule.

A couple other authors I admire agreed to take a look, but haven't gotten back to me. Are they too busy? (Which I would completely understand!) Did they hate it? Should I ask if they emailed me something that got lost in the ether? Ack.

Sheila Deeth said...

I'd often wondered how the blurbs came to be. Thank you for opening a window on it, and what a lovely blurb you've got!

Shannon said...

I couldn't bring myself to ask anyone for a blurb. I had no confidence my book was any good. Now that it's out and getting good reviews, I might try to build up the courage to ask someone to review the next one--if it gets contracted. As you say, it's an imposition and a risk. Rejection from publishers is one thing, from a published writer friend is another.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Beth. You walk the walk with networking, and are always supportive of your fellow authors and pre-pubs. Congrats on the outstanding blurbs. A pubbed author once told me that, in addition to a little something related to your novel, you also send a complimentary copy of the book they blurbed, so I make sure to do that, also. Wishing you great sales with your new release!