Thursday, June 9, 2016
You're not going to like what I have to say. It's not my job to make you like me (although I wouldn't mind that). It's my job to warn you. That's the whole idea of Guerilla Warfare For Writers. You know the title and what it means. I've been an admirer and student of the gutsy Harlan Ellison since the Ice Age. Face to face, he is/was a slight man, but a vicious attack dog if you tried to play around with his copyright or short-change him. I too fight back and raise hell for the benefit of writers.
Celebrity blurbs can be a real minefield for the new-up-and-coming author who is about to release his/her prized tome. Even some great mid-listers can get caught up in this hunt for star approval. BTW, soliciting for a blurb should take place about three months before release. There are many Big 5 houses that start a marketing campaign six months in advance! Catalogs and free e-copies start raining down on the reading public, with the purpose to entice, tease, dare and suck anyone into anticipating the new wunder child's masterpiece. These promos can also be galleys or ARC copies of the book. Just make sure you leave enough time to get the blurb on the cover or in the front matter before it hits retail. The earlier the better, because this little admiration/vindication blip can be used to boost pre-order sales. Otherwise, if it's post-release time and you haven't done anything, it could cost you or you publisher a small fortune to send out trade or hardback copies in order to catch up. This has happened to me.
So who should be solicited for a gold star blurb? Unless you know them, don't even bother with the current heavy hitters--Charlaine Harris, Stephanie Meyer, Veronica Roth, Susanne Collins--and stay away from King, Rice and Rowling. You aren't spit underneath their shoes (in a figurative sense--no one hates you). But...they don't know you; they haven't got time for you and you're a bother in the middle of their busy lives. Please don't send them copies out cold. You can ask first if you are intent on it. That's the reality of it. While we're at it, you might pass on the self-published heavy weight stars because they are also in demand and loaded down with time constraints. Believe me, I went that route and I knew a few of them personally. At this very minute they might be using my book pages to clean up pet spills.
The self-published crowd definitely has to do the soliciting themselves. They might even be better at it than any trade-published author! In fact, I think they get real good at it and have more success in their contacts within their own ranks. the indie community is huge and tight-knit.
Now who should send out copies for blurbs? Aside from some exceptions, NOT YOU (indies excluded). Successful mid-list and recent breakout novelists just might give you the time. If you personally know a fairly successful author, give it a shot. I can speak from experience and tell you that I've lost a half dozen hardback books that cost $30.00 apiece, countless trade paperbacks and a truckload of ARCs. I knew these high-profile authors from some venue or another. They knew me. I think I've had about 35 non-responders (fairly recently) on two books. Not one single blurb was offered in a span of four years for other books.
My friend, HH, of the W.o.o.L series asked me for a trade paperback copy and promised a blurb. He never got back to me. He just got more famous and more famous. Hardly his fault for the media attention. When that happens, an A-lister just doesn't have the time to squeeze a favor in for that hopeful author.
In 1990, Ralph Nader agreed to do the foreword in my auto repair book. My editor told me the great news. I was delighted with the prospect. Little did I know that my publisher paid $4,000 for a page of comments and then they took that amount out of my royalties. DO NOT PAY-FOR-PLAY BLURBS. Ever. That goes for pre-order reviews, too. Read your publisher's contract and make sure they don't have the right to pull royalties or advance money from you for a celebrity endorsement, or any promotion or marketing efforts.
Why shouldn't you hunt down blurbs? What can go wrong? Those star authors don't have the time to read your book--they're way too busy. Your solicitation could be construed as a sign of desperation.They might think your publisher is beneath them, or that your publisher trademark is really a disguised self-published label. They read it and hated it (very unlikely that they read it). You're a bothersome intrusion into their privacy, even if you're a fan. They can get free copies this way without payment or risk. It happens. You've nudged them too often and pissed them off.
Your publisher should solicit blurbs. Seen from the eyes of the celebrity author (or whoever), it is more respectful. The publisher is not as obviously biased or as desperate as an inquiring author. There is more weight behind a publisher request--more status--more importance and dignity. You might get the email or home address of the author wrong. The publisher marketing team, not you, should know who to send copies or books to in advance. This is their job--they've done it before. If they are worth a grain of salt, they will have a marketing and sales department, and a publicity manager loaded for bear and ready to get you a shot at the lime light.
If you are determined to be proactive, go ahead. If you have landed numerous celebrity blurbs by your own hand without your publisher's assistance, you need to tell the writing world how you did it. If you have a repeat celebrity author giving you grand endorsements, then you are locked in. I doff my worn fedora to you. Never mind if you've bought a truckload of books and tossed them every which way in sundry. There's no reason to go into dept before your book is published? Sure, send some signed paperbacks out, but purchase single copies and not cases of your book.
Red-shifting out of here. Happy blurb trails.