“What Are Book Blurbs and How Do You Get Them?“
by Joe Walters
The term “book blurb” is used to describe a few different things in book marketing.
But it shouldn’t.
I get it. Language changes as the industry changes, so I’m not harking on this or anything.
All I’m saying is—we shouldn’t confuse the term in publishing anymore.
What are book blurbs?
I’ll tell you.
Blurbs are short book reviews written by authors or experts in the book’s field. They are used by authors & publishers on their marketing material.
It is not a “book description.”
A book description is written by a publisher, book marketer, or author, and it describes the contents of the book. For reference, on an Amazon product page, this description is placed beside the book cover on Desktop or below the book cover on Mobile. This book description doesn’t (usually) express opinions on how well the book is written.
That’s what blurbs are for.
If a browser comes to your Amazon product page, they may scroll down to the section that says “Editorial Reviews” (see below). There, they’ll read what authors or experts in the book’s niche have said complimentary about the book. As an author & publisher, you can get blurbs or editorial reviews to increase validity in your product.
Here’s what it looks like on Amazon:
You can also find book blurbs on the front or back cover of a book, like this:
Okay, so now that this is out of the way…
How do you get book blurbs or editorial reviews?
I am a book marketer for Sunbury Press. I used to be a book marketer for Paper Raven Books & Inkwater Press. I’ve been chatting with indie authors for a long time now about making sure readers & browsers discover their books as salable products for years.
This is what I tell indie authors when they ask what’s most important in selling books.
- Your cover should be incredible. The best it can be. So so so so good. Book covers are EVERYTHING.
- Your book description should be crisp and catchy and leave readers wanting to find out more.
- A strong subtitle (especially for nonfiction) can sell so many books all by itself.
- You should have at least three book blurbs. The bigger the name the better. If you can slap “#1 New York Times Bestselling Author” onto the accreditation of your blurber, you’re going to get yourself some extra attention from book reviewers and booksellers.
- You should get book reviews on Amazon as soon as you can, as many as you can, and make sure they keep growing.
It would be best to have blurbs before publication, but you can keep working on it after publication too. It’s obviously important to get consumer reviews to show that people are buying it and saying nice things about it, but there’s a different layer to blurbs or editorial reviews.
These reviews communicate that not only are consumers enjoying this book, but professionals in the book’s niche are too. Think of it almost in terms of Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer” and “Audience Score.” You want to make sure browsers see your book as good for the regular everyday reader as well as “certified fresh” by the people who read and write for a living.
Here are some ways authors & publishers use book blurbs to market their books:
- Use the quote on promotional material such as social media graphics, posters, bookmarks, book trailers, press releases, websites, and more.
- Add the quote to their book’s front or back cover.
- With your Amazon Author Central account, add it to the “editorial reviews” section on your book’s product page.
- Design or purchase a graphic that highlights the review and place it on your book’s product page using Amazon A+ Content (or the “From the Publisher” section).
- Include the quote in your pitches to booksellers, libraries, conferences, other reviewers, and more.
Get the gist yet?
Book blurbs are doing work every single time a potential buyer goes to your product page. All you have to do as a marketer is get readers to visit the page, and the reviews, cover, and description do the rest.
So how do you get book blurbs or editorial reviews?
Well…you’ve got some options!
First, make sure your book is ready. It doesn’t have to be copy-edited yet—just make sure the story and structure is in its final shape and you’re proud of the characters and sentences. You can tell your hopeful blurber that the book hasn’t been copy-edited yet in the pitch letter. (Don’t worry–I’ll get to that!)
What kind of authors or experts should you add to your list?
It depends on your genre, but here are some options:
- Authors in your genre
- Professional reviewers (Independent Book Review, Foreword Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, etc.)
- Professors & academics in your niche (usually for nonfiction)
- Industry leaders (like non-profit and organization directors in your niche)
- Museum curators (for nonfiction)
Okay, now write down all of the ones you can think of that might apply.
Feel free to dream big with your blurber list. The bigger the name, the better the blurb. (But be aware of your good ol’ writerly friend Rejection.)
After you list their names in a spreadsheet, find their available contact information and input it. Email info is best, but if you’ve interacted with these people on social media before, you may be able to contact them via direct message. (But please please please don’t be weird or pushy).
In your list, be sure to include authors below that “dream-big” stature too. These people are probably awesome and their books are probably awesome too, but you usually know when an author isn’t so popular that they have trouble keeping up with emails. Just like with college applications, it’s usually good to have some backups.
But don’t send anything yet!
Look at your list. Read each one of them and realize that each one of them is a human, and you are about to request that they do work for you.
Yes, your book rules, I agree, but it’s important to recognize that reading takes literal hours to do and then writing a book blurb takes time too. You’re going to want to be patient and understanding going in. Don’t come at this coldly; be a friend, a good literary citizen.
How do you ask someone to blurb your book?
This is such an anxiety-riddled thing. Asking people you admire to do work for you is not easy and quite humbling. But if you’re pitching someone, this is exactly what you (or your publicist) would do–ask.
In an email, text, or direct message (if appropriate), make sure you keep your pitch personal. Call them by their name. Tell them how you know them. If they mean a lot to you as an author, let them know why (briefly).
After this, ask them if they’d be interested in writing a blurb for your book in [x amount of time]. I usually like 4-5 weeks, with a buffer of when you really need it at like 8.
Then I’d recommend adding a very short description of your book with genre denominations after your request; they’ll want to be interested in the book if they’re going to read and vouch for it.
Also, if they have a book that just came out or is forthcoming, you can offer to blurb theirs back, but know your audience. If you’re telling Stephen King that you’ll blurb his book for him, I don’t know if he’ll care that much.
If you want to promise one or two actual book cover space, you can definitely do that. That may actually help convert them into saying yes. But don’t promise it to everybody right off the bat or your book cover is going to be a smorgasbord of too many cheeses.
I’d recommend only sending about three pitches at a time, top of the list to the bottom.
But what if you don’t have contacts? What if everyone says no?
Don’t worry, old sport. (Sorry)
But again, you’ve got options.
Take a look at book review companies.
You can request a review for free from companies like Independent Book Review, Kirkus, Reader’s Favorite, and Foreword Reviews. (If you’d like to submit to IBR, you can learn more about what’s expected here.) You (or your publicist) would request a review by following their submission guidelines, and then you’d cross your fingers and hope for the best.
In some instances, you can guarantee a book review company to review your book.
These companies pay their writers to cover a range of popular books on their own dime to make sure those platforms remain important to readers.
And remember–reading takes literal time, so if you want an honest review, an opportunity to receive a blurb, and the chance to be featured in their outlet, you can pay for a review.
Do you have to? No! Definitely not. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable at all times. But also, just know this is an option.
Some people are all gung-ho about never paying for reviews, which I agree with when it comes to customer reviews on Amazon & Goodreads, but editorial reviews and blurbs are a different animal.
If you have it in your marketing budget, you may find it helpful to guarantee a book review from a professional book review company. This way, you don’t have to pitch and hope for your book to be reviewed. You’ll save time in researching and pitching outlets, and you can guarantee that a reader from that company’s team will read, assess, and provide an honest review of your work. Not only might you get a blurb or two for your marketing material, but you could even learn a thing or two about how your book is being received by readers.
If you want to give it a shot, I take pride in how we run our editorial review service here at IBR. Not only are our readers the best ones we can find, but they care deeply about the genres they get paid to read.
What do you do when you get your blurbs?
But also, where you are in your publication process? You may want to keep the blurbs under wraps so that you can share them a little closer to your launch date, or you may want to share them with your newsletter following right away. You also may want to start using them to pitch other platforms or blurbers, or you may want to wait. If you’re publishing with an indie press, make sure you share it with them.
Just definitely make sure you add them to the editorial reviews section on Amazon when you can.
And when you do, format it professionally. Here’s a good format I like:
- “This is not just a story of prohibition in America, it’s a story of womanhood and strength. The feeling one is left with when closing Gathering Storm is one of steely determination and hope.” – Independent Book Review
- “This is not just a story of prohibition in America, it’s a story of womanhood and strength. The feeling one is left with when closing Gathering Storm is one of steely determination and hope.” – Steph Huddleston, Independent Book Review
Best of luck to you, friend! If you have any questions about book blurbs, let me know in the comments!
About the Author
Joe Walters is the founder and editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review. He is a book marketer for Sunbury Press, and formerly, he was a marketing specialist at Paper Raven Books & the marketing director at Inkwater Press. When he’s not doing editorial, promoting, or reviewing work, he’s working on his novel and trusting the process.
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