Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cover blurbs - where do they come from?

With a baby-addled brain these days it's sometimes hard to come up with blog ideas, so once again I'm cribbing an idea from agent Kristin Nelson's Pubrants. This week she's posted about blurbs - those words of praise from other writers that you see on the cover of a novel.

This can certainly be a tricky area, with successful authors wanting to help new authors while at the same time not wanting to be inundated with requests they can't handle. I have no insights there but my advice to new writers is to have faith in your work and bite the bullet - just go ahead and ask. 

Firstly, ask your agent or publisher for contacts. They can approach their own clients and authors who may enjoy your book and will agree to blurb it. Kristin asked her client, successful SFR author Linnea Sinclair, on my behalf to read Song of Scarabaeus. Fortunately for me, Linnea was not only hugely gracious and agreed to read the book, but she gave me a fantastic cover blurb as well. Eos put it on the front of the book.

As my release date approached, the publicist at HarperCollins set me up with Borders' sci-fi blog Babel Clash. As luck would have it, Eos's bestselling fantasy author Robin Hobb had the same release date as me, so we were paired up for a discussion on the blog. HarperCollins sent us each other's books (hers was Dragon Haven, the sequel to the evocative Dragon Keeper - love those dragons!) and she emailed my editor with some thoughts on the book. We asked her if we could turn her email into a blurb, and she agreed. This came too late for the cover, of course, but was used in publicity material for the book.

I wrote to a couple of authors myself, completely out of the blue - they had no idea who this debut SF writer was asking them to read her book! As Kristin recommends, make the request personal - these should obviously be authors whose work you're familiar with, and who write a similar genre. In addition, think carefully about your wording: I didn't ask the authors to "please blurb my book." I asked them if they possibly had time to read it, and if they enjoyed it to consider blurbing it.

These authors could not, in the end, blurb the book due to their own deadlines. I told them I understood and that was that.

I did have one other contact of my own, but it was never planned that way. Years ago I joined the online critique group A call went out on behalf of a published author who had just converted her classic novel to ebook format, and she wanted proofreaders. With no idea who the author was, I volunteered my services - I was, after all, a book editor, and thought my skills would be useful. 

The author turned out to be Vonda N. McIntyre and the book was the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Dreamsnake.This was one of those serendipitous moments that life sometimes throws your way. Dreamsnake, along with Vonda's other novels and short stories, had had a huge influence on me in the 80s. This was the author who made me realize that science fiction didn't have to be space battles and high-tech widgets and talking heads (I'd been reading 50s and 60s short story collections and really didn't know that anything else existed). Her books had talented female protagonists and quieter stories, and I loved them.

I (and several others, to my knowledge) did the proofreading work for Vonda and she thanked me, and that was that.

But a year or so later, I wrote to Vonda, reminded her who I was, and asked her if she would read the book I'd just sold to Eos. And, if she liked it, to please consider blurbing it. I have no idea whether or not she'd have done so anyway without the prior connection, but I don't think it hurt. She did agree to read it and gave me a lovely blurb that Eos used on the back cover of Song and the front cover of Children of Scarabaeus.


twelvedaysold said...

That's pretty interesting, thanks for the insight!

Sam_Wiser said...

Fantastic that Vonda McIntyre agreed to blurb your book. I read her Starfarers series, very good stuff. I should check out her earlier works.

You never know where a good deed might come back to you!

Jace said...

Hi Sara,

I'm a huge fan of Linnea Sinclair. :) I love her work and I've got all of her published books in my library. She is, indeed, one of the most gracious and friendly authors whom I know - and I can truly say this because I'd communicated with her numerous times while reviewing a couple of her books.

I first heard about Song Of Scarabaeus when Linnea told us at her Intergalactic Bar & Grille (her Yahoo Group) about this great book that she'd read and written a blurb for. I knew I must read this book, and I did. I'd truly enjoyed it.

I've ordered Children Of Scarabaeus and I can't wait to find out what happens to Edie and Finn next.

Best regards,
Jace Yong
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sara Creasy said...

Jace, I hope you enjoy the second book!

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