On the getting of blurbs

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I'd like to talk about blurbs a bit—the quotes from other authors or magazines that are put onto the cover of your book. I started this post back in December, but it never felt like quite the right time to post it. Why?

Hold that thought… I'll get back to it in a bit.

So when I sold the book last summer, I knew I'd be contacting various authors to see if they'd be interested in reading the book and potentially blurbing it. As some of you know, writing can sometimes feel like a never-ending series of humbling experiences. This is yet one more example. To keep this in perspective, it was also very exciting. I had a book deal, right? I was going to get published by an up-and-coming publishing house known for choosing great work and producing beautiful books. But it also made for a grumbly stomach, because I was asking various authors for a favor. They might say no; they might say yes and then decline to blurb it later (for whatever reason), both of which might create a little bit of awkwardness the next time I saw them in person. But there's no way around it. The publisher tends to help, even your agent might help a little, but the onus is squarely on your shoulders to drum up pre-publication blurbs from the various contacts, friends, and instructors you've met along the way on the long and winding road toward publication.

So I knew I was putting some people in an imposition, or that they might feel like it was an imposition later when they got the book and were then expected to read it and provide a blurb. That said, I'm a big boy, and I'm ok with a flat no or even an eventual refusal to provide a blurb if they agreed to look at it. Incidentally, this did happen. One high-profile author agreed to take a look and ended up liking it quite a bit but declined to provide a blurb because she's deeply entrenched in the sci-fi community and not so much the epic fantasy. For the record, I was completely fine with this answer. I'm quite conscious of my brand as a writer, and I wouldn't want to lead my readers astray, should I some day be given the opportunity to blurb a book that I don't feel would be quite right for my typical readership.

But I digress… So, I had my marching orders. Off I went and created a list of the folks I had met and felt reasonably comfortable sending out feelers to. Many declined right from the get-go. I had a personal connection with everyone that I contacted, so it wasn't like I was contacting them cold (something I would not advise). But people are busy. Some knew they wouldn't have time. Others felt like it wasn't their cup of tea. Others simply don't blurb as a rule.

But I got a lot of acceptances as well, and that was pretty exciting. Oh, who am I kidding? It knocked my socks off. To have people I've looked up to for a long time read my book… It was a really good feeling, let me tell you.

So then the ARCs were finally printed in early December, and they were sent out to the list I'd provided, plus a few more that Night Shade had contacted. And then the waiting began. Ach, this was tough. It was nearly (though not quite) as bad as waiting for responses from editors on your submitted novel. And although it was similar to those waits, it was different in one respect. This book was pretty well baked. We were not going to be able to change much beyond typos, so these opinions—whether they were implied or explicit—felt much more final than a submission to a publishing house.

We had to have these in by early January so that the book could get off to printers. That wasn't much time. At the end of December, the first few trickled in. My editor, Ross, told me not to worry, that most blurbs came in right at the deadline. He was right. We got quite a few more in the days leading up to the deadline, and we even got a great one by pushing out the deadline for a few days. I've posted these on the Reviews page of the website here, but I'll quote them here as well, because I'm proud to have all of them.

"Elegantly crafted, refreshingly creative, The Winds of Khalakovo offers a compelling tale of men and women fighting to protect their world. Politics, faith, betrayal, sacrifice, and of course supernatural mystery—it's all there, seamlessly combined in a tale driven by intelligent and passionate characters whose relationships and goals a reader can really care about. A great read!"
—C.S. Friedman,
Bestselling author of the Coldfire and Magister trilogies

"Winds is a page-turner with twists, turns and palpable danger… Highly recommended."
—Paul Genesse,
Author of The Golden Cord

"Well worth exploring… Beaulieu [depicts] a strange culture [with] a remarkable fantasy/magical reality feel."
—Glen Cook,
Author of The Black Company

"In The Winds of Khalakovo Beaulieu navigates through a web of complex characters . . . dukes, duchesses, lovers, and more, while building a rich and intricate world thick with intrigue. He plots the course of Nikandr Iaroslov Khalakovo, a prince laden with disease and courtly responsibilities, and deftly brings the tale to a satisfying end that leaves the reader hungry for the next installment. Beaulieu is a writer that bears watching. I look forward to his next novel."
—Jean Rabe,
USA Today bestselling fantasy author

"Bradley P. Beaulieu is a welcome addition to the roster of new fantasy novelists. The Winds of Khalakovo is a sharp and original fantasy full of action, intrigue, romance, politics, mystery and magick, tons of magick. The boldly imagined new world and sharply drawn characters will pull you into The Winds of Khalakovo and won't let you go until the last page."
—Michael A. Stackpole,
New York Times bestselling author of I, Jedi and At the Queen's Command

"If Anton Chekhov had thought to stage The Three Sisters onboard a windship, with a mix of Arabian Nights and Minority Report thrown in for good measure, the result would have been Bradley Beaulieu's The Winds of Khalakovo—a startling combination of fantastic elements which seems at once both comfortably familiar and refreshingly new. It's a wild ride well worth taking, and an exceptional debut from an author who takes risks and consistently delivers."
—Gregory A. Wilson,
Author of The Third Sign

"Sailing ships of the sky! Bradley P. Beaulieu's The Winds of Khalakovo is an energetic, swashbuckling novel with a distinctive flavor, a lush setting, and a plot filled with adventure, interesting characters, and intrigue. Exactly the kind of fantasy I like to read."
—Kevin J. Anderson,
New York Times bestselling author of The Saga of Seven Suns

So why, you might ask, did I wait to post about blurbs? Well, primarily it was because, though I'm not under any illusions that anyone on this list reads my blog regularly (with a few exceptions), I didn't want any potential posts from me to put undue pressure on someone reading the book for a potential blurb. I had already asked them for a favor; I wasn't going to add to that burden, however large or small it might be perceived on their end. I also didn't want it to appear like I was trying to alter what they might say, begging, in a way, for a better blurb. And so I waited, but I did want to share because I think this an interesting facet of this business and it might help someone along the way.

My general advice in the getting of blurbs is to reach out to those you're comfortable asking and give them a chance to read your book. Be courteous, be humble, and don't push beyond the initial request. I'd also recommend, because of the potential awkward meetings I mentioned above, to give the list to your publicist and then to step away from the process. They should be the one following up on the blurb requests, not you. There were a few I was in close contact with during the process, but only because the author initiated the contact, not me. At that point, I'm happy to have a dialogue and to exchange thoughts or provide gentle nudges. But others who didn't initiate contact, I left them completely in the hands of my publicist.

I'm thinking I'll get a few more blurbs over the months, and we'll be able to use them for the mass market paperback of The Winds of Khalakovo, as well as for the release of Book 2, The Straits of Galahesh. We'll also be getting magazine reviews over the next several months. I'll post those updates to the Reviews page as I get them. 

4 Comments

  1. Kameron Hurley

    February 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I was wondering how you'd gotten that Glen Cook blurb… (I'd known JV for awhile, and he graciously volunteered to do mine), but I never thought of contacting writers I knew directly. Of course, "writers I know" and "writers I write like" are often different breeds of fish, which would still have made that difficult.

    • Brad

      February 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm

      Yeah, Ross had done some work with Glen and kindly asked him if he’d like to take a look. I’ve been a big fan of Glen’s for two decades now, so that was quite a thrill to have him on the cover!

  2. John Hornor Jacobs

    February 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    The Glen Cook is a SCORE. Plus those other guys. But I'm a big fan of Cook.

    I'm excited about reading this, Brad. Looks and sounds fantastic.

    • Brad

      February 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks, John. I was definitely stoked when I saw that come across. Even after Ross pinged him, even after he agreed to take a look, I thought it was a longshot to get a blurb from him. I’m happy to say I was wrong.