Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writing a Blurb Request

Since I just published my first novel, I am now pursuing my first blurbs. I'll be honest here. I've only written one blurb request, ever. That may not sound like it makes me the most qualified to teach others how to request a blurb, but when a famous person tells you to do something, it's difficult not to comply. Because the response to my request was an enthusiastic, "I think you should write a blog post about how to ask for novel blurbs, because this is far and away the best one I've ever seen. Is your novel as funny as this email? If so, I'm going to love it."

With that kind of endorsement, I figured I ought to follow through. If blurb requests were a game, I would stop right now and revel in my perfect an untarnished record. But that's not how the blurb game works, so I know I'll be writing more requests in the near future.

Backing up, I should clarify something. Novel blurbs are those quotes, usually by someone famous, telling you why the book you're looking at (by someone you may not have heard of) is worth reading. Authors pursue these quotes to give their books a stamp of respectability. Even the best blurb may not sell a book by itself, but it may nudge someone who's on the fence, and it gives us authors something to talk about when we plug the book in social media, beyond just repeating, "You should read my book. Please read my book," over and over.

This is going to be a two-part post. Today I'll talk about the mechanics of writing the request. My next post will include the actual request, to serve as an example (and because it's funny, and I want to share it with people).

Here, in six deceptively difficult points, are things you should consider as you write your blurb request. They're not written in any particular order, but you should cover all of them.

1. Establish a connection
Give the author a way to relate to you. This might include mentioning times when you actually corresponded or met in person, or might be as simple as explaining you read and enjoyed their books. Let them know why you think of them as a good blurbing authority. (And no, never actually refer to them as a "blurbing authority." That just sounds wrong.)

2. Be clear about what you're requesting
Make sure you actually tell them what you want, i.e., a blurb. Believe it or not, I almost forgot this step in my first request. It's easy to get caught up writing to someone who's a bit of a celebrity, trying so hard to make a good impression that you leave out the thing you're asking for. Don't do that.

3. Be nice, considerate, understanding, obliging
This should be obvious. You're asking for a favor, and both of you know it. So it behooves you to show good manners at all times. Don't presume to send a copy of your book with the blurb request, wait for them to agree first, and then be sure to ask what format (print, digital - and which type of digital document) makes things easiest for them. They may also tell you that it's a three-month wait list for blurbs, and you will have to decide whether to accept or decline politely.

4. Offer them something
I'm not talking about a bribe here. Blurbs are supposed to be honest quotes, so you're not buying their endorsement. But there's plenty of room to put into your request something they can appreciate. This might go back to just telling them how much you've enjoyed their work, or how it relates in your life, but it could also mean including humor or a little creativity, for instance. There may be a delicate balance here, but I think if you can present something enjoyable to a busy author, it makes it easier for them to say yes to finding time for your request.

5. Speak to your audience
As a writer, you darn well better already know how to speak to a specific audience. With a book you're writing for a large audience, so the lines may be fuzzy, but with a blurb request you're speaking to one person, and this is an excellent opportunity to fine-tune your message to that person. Don't be bland and generic.

6. Offer your thanks
This should be obvious. It's included here because it's so important you don't want to forget it. Express your gratitude with each correspondence, too, not just the first one. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

'Chicagoland' Excerpt: Trust Issues

Moses seated himself in a papasan chair. The drugs must have been still messing with me, because every time I looked, it seemed like the papasan was slowly melting. Then it suddenly dumped Moses onto the floor, and I realized the chair had actually been broken and sagging all along. I couldn’t stop laughing at the reverse irony.

“Why didn’t you say something?” Moses asked.

“I didn’t think you were really sinking; I thought it was a hallucination,” I tried to explain.

“You know I have trust issues with chairs.”

“Yes, I know how three chairs once collapsed on you in a single day. I was even there for the third one.”

“Right. So you should know what a big deal this is for me.”

A couple of years later, I would turn up the volume on a softly spoken background reading in a Moses Marx song, trying to really catch the words that had so far eluded me. “We start in a womb and end up in a tomb and in between we deny the doom,” it said, before diving into a long list of misfortunes we pretend won’t befall us. I nearly lost it when I heard the words “and every chair you sit down on will be sturdy.” This was something that went all the way to Moses’s core.

Disgruntled, Moses shuffled over and took a seat atop a gigantic piece of stereo equipment. “Allow me to introduce the speaker of the house,” he said.

This was an excerpt from Chicagoland. The complete novel is Kindle format through Amazon.

Friday, December 6, 2013

'Chicagoland' Is a "Hot New Release" on Amazon

Not sure how long it will last, but Chicagoland is listed as a hot new release in Amazon's literary humor section. While it may be more properly filed first under just plain literary fiction or coming of age, humor is a big part of the book.

See here:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

'Chicagoland' Published

Chicagoland is now complete and available for sale in Kindle format through Amazon.