With every book, the publisher expects you to go out and hustle some positive reviews from well-known authors (aka "blurbs"). It’s a requirement — and the blurbs really affect how your book is perceived internally at the publishing house and among the sales reps (the blurbs from Janet Evanovich, Meg Cabot, SJ Rozan and Lee Child on my DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels have made a huge impact). I know there are some authors who have editors who will slog for blurbs… or who have agents who will hit up their other clients…but I have found that doesn’t work very well. You have the best luck when you have a personal relationship with the authors you are asking to rave about you.
On MY GUN HAS BULLETS, I didn’t know anybody outside of the TV biz who could give me blurbs (and I hit a few of them up, since it was a novel about TV). But those names didn’t mean a whole lot to St. Martins Press. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
Before the book came out, I attended my first Bouchercon and was star-struck. So many of my favorite authors were there. Even more astonishing, they were nice people, approachable and very friendly. I remember sitting in the bar, talking to an author one night, when I finally worked up the guts to ask him if he’d blurb my book. I was ready for him to be offended, to be upset that I was attempting to trade on our very brief acquaintance… but to my shock, he smiled and said he’d be glad to read it. That emboldened me… and while I was at Bouchercon, I managed to get several authors to agree to read my book. Not all of them ended up giving my a blurb…but quite a few did.
But it still hasn’t gotten any easier for me to ask for blurbs. In some ways, it’s harder, at least for me. I feel uncomfortable hitting up my friends –it puts them in an awkward position. What if they like me… but don’t like my book? Then they are worried about the impact not blurbing the book will have on our friendship. I know… because I’ve been in that position many times myself. I’ve blurbed lots of books… and there are just as many that I haven’t.
Now I’m out there doing it again… with two new books… DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE PAST TENSE and THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE. I’ve been making calls and writing letters… and I usually start by saying I know how busy my friends are, and that I won’t be offended if they decide, for whatever reason, not to blurb the book. I give them an easy out… whether they decide to read the book or not. If they don’t like the book, they can always say they were too busy to get to it… and they know I will understand, that I won’t know whether they read the book or not, and that our friendship will remain intact.
With each book, I also try to contact a few authors I don’t know very well, if at all… authors with whom I might have spoken on a panel or who I met at a signing or, in some cases, who I’ve only read and have never met. One such bestselling author sent me a perfect reply:
Dear Lee: I’d be pleased to read your book. I should warn you, though. I only give blurbs if I really like a book, even if I like the person who wrote it. I also can’t guarantee how long it will take me to get to it…or that I will..I have a book due in a couple months and I’m rushing to complete it. Please send the book to…
If I get a blurb, I will be thrilled. If I don’t, I will understand and no harm will be done. So, all that said, I’m about to head out to the post office to send off some manuscripts to my friends… and a few total strangers.