Last week’s installment promised a discussion about endorsements, otherwise known as blurbs, which always causes a certain amount of squirming and is a topic that authors like to perpetually push out of their mind as being a task on some distant – hopefully far – horizon. But, as you will increasingly be told, now that you are knee-deep in the process of getting your book published, it is never too early to start scrounging around for these coveted gems.
For the new author, these words strike terror in the heart. Somehow you have to take a grovel-ish situation and turn it into a dignified request, which inherently means that you have to actually assume the title of “author” in the real world. It’s one thing to tell people at parties or to change your email signature to reflect your new status, but quite another to brazenly tell a real author that you’re an author, too.
The temptation is to think that they can obviously see you for the fraud you suspect you are.
But, no, darlings, this is negative thinking in the extreme, and must be stopped immediately.
Remember! You wanted to publish a book, so get out there and do it. Often it helps to actually write down why you wanted to publish a book and hang it by your monitor for easy reference, though this usually backfires anyway because more than likely your original intent has morphed into something else by now. What may have started out as perhaps noble and pure, like “help people in the world” has probably been replaced by something more mercenary, like, “make enough to pay my publicity bill.”
But I digress. According to the flimsy set of guidelines/advice handed down by the publisher and publicist, step one is to start with authors you know. Oh, okay. It had completely slipped my mind that I’m friends with Kate Morton and Gillian Flynn and could easily ask them for an endorsement while we were at the BFF salon.
If, however, you’re not lucky enough to personally know any famous authors, step two would be to appeal to authors in your genre that you admire or whose books are similar to yours. Assuming that you can actually make an intelligent list (I couldn’t – see Step 13), your next task is to figure out how to reach these people.
As I began googling various authors, finding their websites and searching through their contact info for an elusive email address, uncomfortable memories from my past began to surface, despite my concerted efforts to push them away, of writing to join the Rick Springfield fan club using an address found at the back of Tiger Beat. A strikingly similar flavor of cringe was unmistakably present now, but bravely I attempted to focus on the task at hand.
I was encouraged when I found a few direct email links, though it quickly became apparent how “famous” the author was by the level of separation that existed between them, the exulted ones, and me, the lowly. This notwithstanding, I was more than happy to unearth a direct email connection, followed by the not quite as productive “leave a message” form on the website, then the agent’s contact info, and worst of all, a mere listing of their US and/or UK representation. Those, I quickly realized, were hopeless and best passed on to the publicist in hopes of some sort of miracle connection. I can tell you now, however, don’t hold your breath. Your image of them throwing back lunch-time martinis with Donna Tart’s publicist are not only erroneous, but they are clearly dated.
Assuming that you are at least able to find a few email addresses, next comes the hard business of crafting a weasel-like letter in which you have to praise their book (extremely difficult for me, as I didn’t actually read any of their books. Do not balk at this, as, being a writer, isn’t making things up supposed to be your particular talent?). You must then state how similar (but not too similar, obviously) their book is to yours in tempo/period/style/genre/audience (pick one or two) and then ask if they might consider reading your unworthy manuscript (but leave out “unworthy”- you’re supposed to be confident, remember?).
Though this is extremely painful, darlings, take heart. Consider that you at least don’t have to do this face to face. Once you hit “send,” you never have to worry about this pesky email again, as, chances are, you’re not going to run into said author at the grocery store and then have to navigate an awkward silence.
If all else fails, step three is to appeal to an author via Facebook or Twitter. But how? Put up a post on their page requesting an endorsement? To me, this seemed like an all-too-easy opportunity for humiliation, but PMing them with an endorsement request sounded equally ludicrous. I am not ashamed to admit, however, dear readers, that I did stoop to this in the end. It should also be duly noted that absolutely nothing resulted from this desperate endeavor.
I drew the line, however, at Twitter. Somehow I just couldn’t force myself to tweet Lauren Willig and ask for an endorsement; it just seemed so awfully cheap. I did, after all, still have a shred of dignity left.
On that note, one important thing to remember is that all of these authors were once in your tight shoes and know firsthand the discomfort you are feeling. The worst they can say is no, and most are very friendly in their declines and likewise encouraging of your endeavors. And, every once in a while, you’ll get a hit, resulting in a delicious Christmas morning-like effect as you read their response in which they elaborate on where and how to send the manuscript for their perusal!
You can do it, darlings! Don’t be discouraged. You really only need a few blurbs. And here’s a secret reveal just for your eyes only – nobody reads those excessively boring praise pages anyway.