As I’m preparing for the Permuted Press publication of Blood Red—three months away now—I’ve been engaged in one particular marketing activity that has, overall, been incredibly rewarding and gratifying but has sometimes felt a little bit … weird. I’m talking about the process of securing “cover blurbs” for the book.
When Blood Red was accepted into the Permuted stable, I knew that my work would be cut out for me as far as marketing was concerned. After all, Permuted is a small press and doesn’t necessarily have the worldwide reach and stratospheric marketing budget of Random House! I knew an effort would be put forward in the name of my book (Permuted has a fervent fan base, a supportive author stable, and a new administrative team that has a wide-open eye toward new marketing opportunities), but I also knew that I would need to pursue many of my own marketing efforts. Chief among those efforts, at least in these early stages, is the cover blurb.
You know what I mean, right? Cover blurbs are those brief “peer reviews” that grace a book’s front cover, back cover, and opening pages—blurb-style reviews that can often amount to little poems, espousing the strength and genius of the contents within. As a reader, I think of cover blurbs as one of the most vital ways to pique my interest in a book … okay, behind knowledge of the author, and behind critical acclaim in the market or blogosphere. But when I have that book in my hand, it’s often the selection of cover blurbs that sways my final decision.
And I say this knowing full well that most of the names attached to those blurbs are probably merely providing a favor to the book’s author. Even before I faced the rather daunting task of acquiring my own blurbs, I understood that every author has his own built-in support system, and that support system invariably includes one or two (or a few dozen) well-known figures in his chosen genre—even if their association is only through the veil of a Facebook friendship. This is particularly true if the author has been around for a while. Even most first-timers have, by and large, risen through the ranks thanks to their associations with more established writers. I knew that it was those kinds of back-patting associations that resulted in most cover blurbs. That’s just the way it is.
But it’s a particularly difficult task for the debut author, and even more so when that author is with a small press or is self-publishing. Personally, I wouldn’t think of asking any established authors to blurb a self-published novel (as with my first book, The Naked Dame), but in the case of Blood Red, my first book accepted by an actual publisher, I felt that the effort was warranted. I had several established-author friends (thanks mostly to my past associations with them through Dark Highway Press), and I decided to—yes—ask them the favor of blurbing my book.
Making the decision is one thing, but actually groveling over Facebook or email is quite another. As I said, I felt vaguely weird about it. After all, I was essentially asking these very busy writers to give up a significant chunk of their spare time to read the book and then to come up with some laudatory words just for me. It’s a lot to ask. And what about the very real possibility that the person simply doesn’t like the book? Then, the favor I’ve asked puts that writer in an awkward position.
I ended up asking seven or eight authors for blurbs, and all of them responded enthusiastically. I was careful to give them plenty of time so that they could work the novel into their schedules. I was cautious and humble about reminders. Some of them got me a blurb very quickly, and some of them took months to find the time. Either way, I was thunderstruck by each blurb I got. Call me a newbie, but any time a professional, established author responds positively to my work, I get all giddy. It’s validating. There’s no question about it.
Thankfully, my efforts to acquire my blurbs have proven more fruitful than weird, and above and beyond the blurbs themselves, I’ve received some very warm, genuine notes from these authors. I even approached two of these authors cold, with no prior association, and they not only responded eagerly but ended up providing two of the more enthusiastic blurbs. And—although I love them all!—these are perhaps the most personally gratifying of the blurbs, as they have not come from a place of back-patting professional friendship but rather—a bit more purely?—simply from an established author to a debut author. Still a favor, to be sure, but one free of any sense of prior obligation or tit-for-tat. Just an old pro responding well to a new guy’s book.
Either way, I am over the moon about my selection of cover blurbs, and I look forward to using them on the book and in the book’s marketing. In my next Blood Red post, I’ll share all my cover blurbs and talk about why I approached those particular authors. I’ll also show you how to find their books—all of which have inspired me in my own writing.
Now, on to the next marketing effort!