Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Great American Grovel

Hello class. Today we're going to discuss groveling for blurbs, and I hope you can give me some advice. (For the uninitiated, the blurbs I'm talking about are those little endorsement quotes you see on the back--and sometimes the front--of your favorite novels. )

When "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA" went into production, my agent asked me to come up with a wishlist of authors I'd like quotes from. "Let's aim high," she had said, "cast a wide net." She explained that she and my editor would split up the list and go after the authors for blurbs.

So I wrote up a list of writers I adored and whose endorsements would be meaningful. I knew most of them were long shots, but it was such a lengthy list I was confident I'd get at least a few thrilling blurbs. After all, I had a top agent and a top editor beating the bushes for me.

While I waited to hear back, I asked Lisa Kudrow for one, and she came through with a killer ("The best time I've had in years. Ellen Meister's characters are so funny, smart, and real, I feel like I've made three new friends!" )

As luck would have it, a friend of mine told me he was buddies with Lolly Winston, one of the writers on the top of my list, and would hook me up. (If you don't already know, Lolly is a bestselling author who writes smart, gorgeous women's fiction with equal doses of humor and pathos. Just the idea of emailing her gave me a buzz.)

Lolly was wonderful and gracious and agreed to read the galleys for a possible blurb. To say I was delighted is putting it mildly. And then she came through with "A funny and wonderfully irreverent look at the dark underbelly of suburbia." Wow.

Lest you think I batted a thousand, understand that I also emailed an author who's one of my heroes and she turned me down. She was gracious as hell about it, and I really do understand. If these big authors blurbed every schmo like me who asked, they'd have no time to write books.

So I moved on. And with two such outstanding blurbs under my belt, I rubbed my hands greedily, waiting to see what my agent and editor would come back with it.

And then I found out. Nothing. They came back with nothing. Not a single blurb. I was crushed. I know they tried, which made it that much more depressing. And to be totally honest, I was terribly frustrated that I wasn't told until it was too late for me try to get more blurbs on my own. Of course, their perspective was that two fantastic blurbs for a debut author was hot stuff, but I had been envisioning a back cover filled with quotes, so I was bummed.

So here are the lessons I've learned:
1) Getting blurbs from big authors (and celebs, of course) is nearly impossible and it was just dumb luck that I had connections to Lisa Kudrow and Lolly Winston, two very generous individuals;
2) Despite their best intentions, I can't assume my agent or publisher can come through for me on this.

Is it any wonder, then, that I'm feeling utterly desperate about getting endorsements for my next book, "The Smart One"? Though I don't even have a production schedule yet, I've been putting out feelers, trying to connect with people who can connect me with the people I'd like blurbs from. So far, I've crapped out at every turn. For instance, I learned that an acquaintance is friendly with a bestselling author who's not only a brilliant writer, but has covered thematic terrain kind of similar to mine. Getting a blurb from him would be a huge boost to my book (and my ego!), and would score me major points with my publisher. So I wrote to the acquaintance who forwarded my request to the superhugebestselling author. The superhugebestselling author was kind enough to write to me directly, but explained that he was too busy. I wrote back to explain that my galleys wouldn't be ready for months and months, and would it be okay with him if I checked back in down the road to see if his schedule was any looser. (Desperation has turned me this relentless and annoying.) He never wrote back.

I have a few other similar stories, and now that I've blown through most of the connections I can think of, I'm going to write directly to authors and hope for some miracles. Problem is, I can't think of the best way to approach these emails. If you were a big author star with a jam-packed schedule and someone approached you for an endorsement blurb, what could they say that would persuade you to take a look at their book?

Maybe I'm wasting my time, but I have to give it my best shot. Thanks for any input!


Myfanwy Collins said...

Hi Ellen, no words of wisdom here, unfortunately. I feel for you. This sounds like such a difficult thing to do. I know you will be gracious and kind, as you always are, in your approach, though.

dennis mahagin said...


Lately I've been querying for book blurbs, so I absolutely know where you're coming from.

My book is still a year away, but I'm trying to get a jump on the process. What totally sucks is when a literary idol completely ignores your well-intentioned, gushing e mail entreaty.

It smarts, I tell ya!

I've been refining my approach--going the networking route, rather than relying on direct solicitations. I'm making better headway, that way.

It's hard, though, I know.

Keep at it. :)
Persistence will pay.



Patry Francis said...

I just went through it, and all I can say is that I'm really glad you wrote this. It makes me feel a lot less lonely in my groveling.

Richard Lewis said...

I think my comment just got cyber-sucked.

Anyhow, to repeat, my first novel had only one blurb--from the the Islam scholar who vetted the manuscript.

My second novel about the tsunami, I spaced out on getting blurb, althoug George the First and Bill Clinton did go through my mind at one point as they were presidential envoys to the disaster areas.

And BTW, I've just started reading CONFESSIONS and it's great fun, little miss shoe shine.

Ellen said...

Myf, thanks! I'll keep you posted.

Dennis, sorry to hear you were snubbed by your literary idol. That sucks! Keep plugging. One day s/he will be begging YOU for a blurb.

Patry ... so glad it worked out for you!!!!

Richard, did your publisher ask you to get blurbs? Is it less imperative with YA fiction? I was at the Scholastic book fair yesterday with my daughter and kept picturing your Tsunami book on display. Glad you're enjoying Applewood!

Richard Lewis said...

No, my publisher didn't ask me to get blurbs and I didn't think to pursue this.

Your daughter will be seeing me next February or so--I'll be in the Scholastic video.