By Hank Phillippi Ryan

It’s one of the world’s most impossible questions. Even if an author is your friend, it is one of the world’s most impossible questions. And it is: “Will you read my book with an eye to a blurb?”

Even the strongest of heart hesitates, forefinger poised over the send button, before they make that request.

You know what blurbs are, of course. They’re the endorsement quotations on the covers of books, or the inside promotional pages, on Amazon and Goodreads, and BookBub, and throughout social media and emblazoned on graphics. When a famous author says: “It’s unputdownable!” “A fresh new voice in crime fiction!” “Propulsive storytelling!”

The theory, of course, is that if some famous beloved author loves your book, then their readers will love it, too. Because they like them, they will also like the book they recommend.

Everyone knows that book choices are made through word of mouth. And when the mouth is big and famous, that might be persuasive.

Now. Let me ask you. Have you ever purchased a book on the basis of a big-name author blurb? I will confess: I have. I have also ignored the blurbs. It just…depends, and on what, I cannot really explain.

But: Publishing experts have told me that a blurb from a big time author is even more important than a glowing quote from a trade publication.

Sidebar here: I asked a group of savvy and avid readers whether they paid attention to blurbs on the covers of books. And, like all things in this world of Career Authors, the answers were not broadly definitive. Some readers said they were tempted by them, and were drawn to a new book by the blurb. Others laughed and said the blurbs were meaningless, because no one would give anything but a great blurb, and no one would promote anything but a great blurb. Others said that since everybody knows friends just ask friends for blurbs, it’s not really persuasive.

(There are a few holes in those arguments, but let’s go on.)

Do you need to ask authors for blurbs for your books? Let me just put it to you this way: it is better to have a great blurb than not to have one. But it is definitely and demonstrably not make or break.

So you want a blurb. How do you get it?

You can ask your editor to ask big-name author’s editor.

That is standard.

You can write directly to the big-name author.

If you do: be honest about it, and do not write cookie cutter form letters. Those are easy to spot, and do more harm than good. You should be asking for blurbs from authors in your genre you truly  and honestly admire, and you should tell them so! Refer to their last book, or your lifetime of having read them, and why you enjoy and respect them. Also acknowledge that you know they are incredibly busy– because that will be supremely true–and that you will understand if they don’t have time. And yes, you can acknowledge that it is difficult to ask, that’s just being human.

Give them a reasonable deadline.

And I mean, months. Think about what you are actually asking someone to do: to read an entire book, then think about it, then craft a blurb for you. That is an incredible investment of time! So make sure you understand what a huge request you are making.


Do not, if you possibly can avoid it, ask an author you know to ask a big-name author they know whether they will give you a blurb. Do not even ask friend-author to give you big-name author’s personal email. That’s really pushing it, y’all, and remember, it is using up the “currency” of your friend. Don’t do that.

And what will happen?

Real world: some authors will simply not answer you. Leave them alone, and never ask them again. They are sending a message.

Other authors will straightforwardly say no. Thank them for their consideration and generosity and move on. (Do not say–oh, since you’re busy now, how about later? No. They said no.)

Still others will say no, and suggest that you ask them the next book. Hooray, you can do that. For the next book.

If you ask an author for a blurb and they say yes, but then you never hear from them again, do not bug them. There could be many reasons, and may have nothing to do with you, but that’s life.

However: I always ask people to remind me two weeks before the blurb is due, because my know my own limitations and my own memory (or lack of memory). So you might, when the author says yes, say in your thank you email: Okay if I nudge you two weeks before the blurb is due, just in case you’ve forgotten?  That can work. If they say yes, great. If they say no–don’t.

The number of blurb requests an author gets is mind boggling. Remember that.

Word to the wise: this is not a transactional situation. If you promote the big-time author’s books, and tweet about them and Facebook them and Instagram them and write great reviews for them on Amazon or wherever, that’s wonderful! And the author will certainly notice that. But that in no way means that they owe you a blurb. A blurb is an authentic expression of admiration for a book. It is not a payback.  (And how are they going to think about your gushing after that?) It’s a weird thing to say: but be authentic.

Here are some lightning round questions.

If I receive a blurb, can I change it?

You can always cut it. If someone says: “I love this book! Plot plot plot very nice plot description. I could not put it down!” You can certainly leave out the middle. Or use any section of it you like. You do not have to use the whole thing.

BUT. You cannot change the words, or the meaning, or even the punctuation.

If someone says: “I could not put it down.” You cannot change that to “I could not put it down!”

Can an author ask you to change your blurb?

Sure, but that’s awkward. To prevent that, when I am sending a blurb, whether to author or editor, I usually say “This is a draft. Please let me know if you’d like tweaks or changes, or if I have missed the branding in some way. Happy to tweak! And of course you can cut however you like.” Because after all that work, I want the author/editor to be happy. AND I want to give them the option so they don’t have to spend time worrying about it. Or feeling guilty. (If they even do….)

Can you ask an author to change a blurb if they have not offered to tweak?

Weellllllll, that depends. If the author totally got something wrong–like one author called one of my books “a fun romp,” which IN NO WAY it was–I considered asking her to change it, but in the end, I simply didn’t use it. I have certainly had authors and editors ask me to change things, and if what they’re asking is what I really think, I generally say yes. I want them to be happy, of course. And it rarely happens.

And personally, just personally, I have never blurbed a book I haven’t read. And my author pals feel the same way. It’s a major-league request.   (I was terrified to ask B. A. Paris for a blurb for my new HER PERFECT LIFE. But she offered before I could even ask! That, Career Authors, is blurb Nirvana.)

I know there are lots more questions about blurbs. Let’s talk about them on the Career Authors Facebook page!