Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pre-pub Author Blurbs

Recently, you made a comment about receiving queries with blurbs in them, and how it was a good thing if you knew the author in question. I thought you were only supposed to ask for blurbs post-sale of the book? How does the etiquette go for asking an author to blurb your novel if you don't have an agent yet? Isn't this the kind of thing they immediately reject because of, well, the chance of the author being a lunatic and accusing you of idea theft down the road, for one thing. And also, if they aren't agented yet, there's probably the assumption that the manuscript isn't very good. How would one go about asking an author they held in esteem for a blurb before getting an agent? (Especially if you really want to submit to their agent?)

I don’t remember ever suggesting that authors seek blurbs prior to having a publishing contract in hand, and if I did, I apologize. In my opinion, you should never ask another author for a blurb or a quote until the book has sold. Networking is tough and yet it’s something all authors need to learn to do. Asking for a blurb means reaching into your network and asking a huge favor of those you know well and those who you might have met only once or twice. Don’t blow your chances of getting a great quote by going out too early. Published authors are busy, busy folks and giving up time to give a quote means time away from writing the next book. It’s unlikely that once they’ve read a rough draft (because no matter what, prior to publication your book is rough) they will want to read the book again to give the “real” quote, the one that will actually appear on a cover.

For the most part your concerns are right: in a nutshell, an author is not going to take your request seriously until you’re agented and editored (for lack of a better word). So if you are still in the beginning stages of your career, still seeking representation or waiting to hear the good news from your agent, don’t worry about the actual quotes. Network, write, and work on your craft. That’s what you should be doing now.



Lydia Sharp said...

If "editored" isn't a real word, it should be.

Good post. :)

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

This is interesting. I thought you should request blurbs after you have an agent. I didn't realize you're supposed to wait for the book to sell. Does it help you, as an agent, sell a book (i.e., does it make a difference to prospective publishers) if you've got a blurb or two from best-selling authors ready to go?

Mira said...

Interesting - thanks!

AliceAnderson said...

Sounds like good advice. But what if you're friends with an author who offers to give you a quote? What can I say, I know some really sweet authors.

Kate Douglas said...

FWIW, I actually have a contract with one publisher that prohibits me from reading unsold work. It's for the author's protection more than anything else, but I always refer to that when an "aspiring" author asks me to read their ms. I don't have the time, for one thing, but I also don't want to be accused of stealing ideas somewhere down the line. It's not worth the risk.

Anonymous said...

What if a very famous and well paid author read your work (for the hell of it) and gave you a blurb because he/she liked it so much?

I'm in that current situation and have recently signed with an agent (and I think the blurb helped). Is it still a bad idea to have such a blurb attached to the manuscript?

Anonymous said...

I wish someone would come out and say blurbs aren't important (other than me). I never care about them when I buy a book, and I don't know anyone who does. Most are trite, expected, and cheesy. And yet everyone's hocking everyone else for a blurb these days.

If I'm wrong about this, please do a blog post that proves there is something valuable about blurbs. I like to know I'm not wasting my time completely.

I'm posting as an anon because I'm in the middle of writing a cheesy blurb for someone else right now :)

Allison Brennan said...

Thank you thank you thank you for this post.

I never read uncontracted manuscripts (unless anonymously for a contest, and that's usually 3 chapters or less) and I never offer a blurb for a book that isn't under contract. I was shocked by how many times I've been asked. But the real shocker was when I heard from one of these people that their agent told them to seek pre-contract blurbs.

I highly doubt that any editor is going to buy a book because a writer has a blurb from a published author. Maybe it'll get the editor to take a look--I don't know--but it has to be about the writing because while a blurb MIGHT get someone to buy a book, it won't get someone to try an author twice if they hate the book.