Getting Great Quotes for the Cover (and Other Places Too)
by Donn LeVie, Jr.
There’s no question about it—a great blurb can make your book-promotion work easier and result in additional sales. But before you launch into soliciting quotes, take the time to plan this very important marketing step. For my first book in the field of sacred music (It’s All About HYMN: Essays on Reclaiming Sacred and Traditional Music for Worship), I was able to score great cover blurbs from some of the world’s most respected names in church music.
Based on my experience, here’s what I advise about landing blurbs.
Make a list of potential blurb providers, preferably respected or well-known personalities familiar to your audience, familiar with your subject matter, and empathetic to your perspective or argument. Go for the big names; you can’t know whether they will provide comments unless you ask.
Always build your list with more people than you think you need, because some won’t have the time to comment and others just won’t respond.
Send out ARCs or at least final-edited versions; be sure any footnotes and references are accurate and complete, especially if your reviewers are academicians or scholars.
In your cover letter to any potential blurb provider, make it clear that you know that person’s work and explain why a blurb (or perhaps, in some cases, a foreword or an afterword) would further the goals you share. Talk about the purpose behind the book; don’t say you want a comment so you can sell more copies.
Also in your cover letter, explain who you are, what your project is about, who’s publishing your book (if you’re self-publishing, explain that you have good distribution, just to remove that potential objection up front), when you will be mailing the book, and how it will be sent (FedEx, Express Mail). Some blurb providers may want PDF instead of hard copy, so be sure to determine that in advance. And give people the option of providing comments via email.
Clearly communicate your deadline for receipt of comments, and make it a couple of weeks before the time you really need them. Yes, people will send comments after the deadline. For every 10 people who agree to provide a quote or blurb, two will wait until a few days before your deadline to read the manuscript. Chances are, you will have to gently remind them that the deadline is approaching fast.
For those folks who have waited until the last minute, offer to craft a blurb they can sign off on or customize, but be sure they know that you know the offer applies only if they’ve read the book (you aren’t asking for blind blurbs).
The people who took the time to read your manuscript carefully will generally provide the best blurbs. Some folks will provide great comments based on the book’s overall theme and quality; others will require every i to be dotted and t to be crossed before they will consider providing an endorsement.
When you send a thank-you for a comment, include a sentence that says, in effect, It’s great to have this comment for use in whole or in part on my book’s cover and in promotional materials. You want to be sure that everybody understands how you’re going to use their words, and that nobody has a problem with your plans.
The obvious: Send a signed copy of your book to everyone who sent a comment.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, cover blurbs are like a box of chocolates, because you really never know what you’re going to get. Some folks you were hoping would respond positively to your work won’t like it for various reasons.
I was taken aback by comments from two well-known and respected academics who are authors and sacred-music experts. They said they couldn’t give my book an overall positive endorsement partly because they were uncomfortable with the title. They felt that my use of the homophone hymn was cute, colloquial, and inappropriate for the subject matter, and they couldn’t get over that conceptual hurdle.
Bottom line: You have to be thick-skinned about criticism, but at the same time open-minded to suggestions that improve your project. One of the blurb providers convinced me to sit on the manuscript for a month after reviewing his suggestions, and then make one more pass through the copy. I did, and the result was a more tightly focused book.
Donn LeVie, Jr., publisher-author of Kings Crown Publishing (KCP) in Austin, TX, has written for Hispanic Magazine, Essence, Financial Freedom Report, and many other magazines. To learn more about It’s All About HYMN, the book that got the blurbs, and the companion CD, visit kingscrownpublishing.com.