There are many things I love about writing: creating stories, building worlds, meeting other writers, and talking about craft. There are some things I don’t love: the pay, the moments where I cannot solve a problem I created, and writing novel summaries. And then there are the tasks I loathe. Number one? Asking for blurbs.
Why? I am averse to asking for help, and I hate feeling that I am imposing on people. Hate it. Asking people to take time out of their busy schedule to read my book, often under tight deadlines, makes me break out in (metaphorical) hives. When confronted by this task I suddenly “discover” that the oven needs to be cleaned now, or it’s time to organize my winter hat collection.
But publishers want blurbs, preferably blurbs by Oprah or Lee Child or other people, whom the mere thought of emailing sends me into a sweat-induced day terror. So, what’s a writer to do? Get over it. As my fictional police chief, Thomas Lynch, likes to say, “Needs must.”
So, when the time came to get blurbs I reached out to the five authors I’d promised my publishing house I would ask for blurbs, back when I completed my author questionnaire. Note to others: they read those and hold you accountable to claims you made on them.
With my first book, I asked people I knew who had written books or my publisher asked on my behalf because I was a newbie. With Idyll Fears, I’d been more thoughtful about who I chose as potential blurbers. I sought fellow mystery authors. I asked one author because she also writes a small-town police chief series. Some I asked because they’d just won big mystery awards and I knew that would be considered worthy to people in the industry. And there was one author whom I don’t know well, but he’s done great and was connected to a writing organization I belong to, and I thought, “Why not?”
I started my asks with the person I knew best because I needed to wade into the cold ass water of blurb requests. And you know what? She responded within two hours! Emboldened, I wrote to the other four. They all responded quickly. Some said they would try, but didn’t promise they could do it. And you know what? That was great and somehow 1000% better than I expected. One of them even took time from a terrible family event to write my blurb, though I assured him he needn’t.
Somehow, I had expected them to say, “How dare you? I am a very BUSY person and award-winning author who has no time for you.” Deep down, this is what I thought. Even though I solicited nice, agreeable, charming people who’ve never been anything but kind to me. So, what was my damage? Maybe I didn’t think my work was worth their time? Oh, hell. Maybe.
In the end, I got four amazing blurbs. They delight me. In the end, I realize that asking for blurbs is just another task on my writer’s to do list, and while it may be harder than, say, setting up events or fixing my novel timeline (ha ha, as if anything is worse than that), it is not insurmountable.
In truth, the thing that made me most “get over” the daunting task of asking for blurbs was being asked to blurb another author’s book. I was honored she’d asked me. Delighted to do it! Being on the other side showed me that maybe I had been all wrong about blurbs, by assuming writers don’t like to write them. It’s true, they might be busy and under time constraints, but they’re also readers and fellow travelers on this publication journey. They are the people who best understand what you’re going through.
Next time, when I ask for blurbs, I won’t approach it with such dread or insecurity. And I won’t lie about knowing Oprah*. Nope.
* I never lied about this. I make my lies believable, always.