Benefits of Writing a Blurb For a Book

Author: Carolyn Parkhurst

When you published your first book, The Dogs of Babel, how did you feel about soliciting blurbs from other writers?  Has that feeling changed over time?

I was new to the business and naively hopeful: “I know all these writers are busy, but–golly!–if they just take a minute to look at my book, I’m sure that they’ll like it!”  It wasn’t until I was on the other side of the equation, getting piles of books in the mail from hopeful authors looking for a blurb, that I understood why it’s such a tricky business to secure a few complimentary quotes for your book jacket.

How would you suggest a writer, who has just finished a manuscript find someone to write a blurb? What types of people should this person ask for a blurb? What is your stance on asking someone you do not know at all?

Look for writers you admire, whose work shares some similarity with your own, and whose stamp of approval you’d love to have.  There’s no harm in asking writers you’ve never met, as long as you send along a nice note, explaining why you’d love to have a blurb from them, in particular.  As with so many aspects of writing and publishing, my main piece of advice is to try not to get discouraged.  Don’t take it personally if a writer decides not to blurb your book; it’s not personal.  A lot of writers get so many requests that they can’t possibly accept them all.  A “no” doesn’t mean they didn’t like your book; most likely, it means that they didn’t have time to look at it at all.

Why is the process of soliciting blurbs important for a writer?  How are writing blurbs an important part of being a writer?

Blurbs are usually only important for an author’s first couple of books; eventually, publishers start using review quotes instead.  But when you’re just starting out, and you don’t have any previous work that’s been reviewed, it can be really helpful to have a couple of blurbs from authors who potential readers might recognize.

From the point-of-view of *writing* blurbs, I tend to see it as a sort of reverse-karma kind of thing: I remember how grateful I was to receive my first blurbs for The Dogs of Babel, and I like to help out new writers in the same way, when I can.  It’s similar to the way that if you’ve ever worked as a waiter or a waitress, you remain a good tipper for life.

What are the characteristics of a book that you would have a hard time writing a blurb for?

I suppose that the only kind of book I’d really have a hard time writing a blurb for would be a book that I didn’t like (in which case I’d just politely decline).  But even with a book that I’ve loved, it’s a challenge to figure out what to say: how many different ways can you say, “This is good.  You should read it”?

What is the next project on your horizon?

I’m at work on my fourth novel.  I’m in the middle part of the process, which always seems endless.    Honestly, I imagined that by the time I’d reached this point in my career, writing a book would be easier, somehow.  But it always involves starting from scratch, all over again.  It always requires a huge leap of faith.