June 18 – 24: “What’s the advantage of having a blurb from another author?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re taking about blurbs with ITW Members Paul Levine, Paul Sinor, David Simms, J.H. Bográn, T.J. O’Connor and Arthur Kerns. What’s the advantage of having a blurb from another author and how do you choose who to ask? Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along – you won’t want to miss this!

 

T.J. O’Connor is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism and threat analysis. As a former military federal agent and anti-terrorism operative, T.J. has spent over 35 years in counterintelligence, national defense, and homeland security. T.J. has lived and worked around the world—life experiences that drive his novels—where he conducted terrorism investigations, protected some of American’s top leaders, and operated defensive programs to thwart terror attacks on America’s resources and its people. Today, T.J. lives outside Washington D.C. and provides security and anti-terrorism consulting to the private sector and a Washington-based think tank for vital homeland security programs. T.J. uses his life experience and real-world adventures to deliver his stories and raise the question—when will this happen? THE CONSULTANT is T.J.’s debut thriller with previous works of paranormal mysteries including: Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, Dying to Tell, and New Sins for Old Scores.

 

Paul Sinor is a published novelist and a produced screenwriter. He has two mystery series in print. One features a PI who works out of a pool room in Atlanta, GA in the early 1950s and another series set in the Seattle, WA area. SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY is the second book in the Max Maxwell Seattle series. One book in both series have been nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award.

 

The author of 21 novels, Paul Levine won the John D. MacDonald Fiction Award and was nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, International Thriller, Shamus, and James Thurber prizes. He wrote 20 episodes of the CBS military drama JAG and co-created the Supreme Court drama First Monday. “To Speak for the Dead,” a Jake Lassiter legal thriller, was his debut novel. His most recent novel is the newly released “Bum Deal.”

 

David Simms lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife, son, and animals. He works as a teacher, counselor, music therapist, ghost tour guide, book reviewer, and founding guitarist in the Killer Thriller Band/Slushpile band. Fear The Reaper is his second novel.

 

J. H. Bográn, is a bilingual author of novels, short stories, and screenplays. In addition, he contributes columns for several notable publications, including Yale Global, The Big Thrill, and TopShelf Magazine. He works at Habitat for Humanity Honduras, and as a part-time college professor of Writing, Spanish, and English as a foreign language. Follow him on Twitter (@jhbogran).

 

In March 2013 Diversion Books Inc. released the acclaimed espionage thriller, The Riviera Contract followed by the sequel, The African Contract. The Yemen Contract was released in June 2016. Arthur Kerns joined the FBI with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. On retirement, he became a consultant with a number of US agencies, including the Department of State. His lengthy assignments took him to over 65 countries.

 

ITW

International Thriller Writers Inc represents professional authors from around the world. Learn more about them, their work, and the sources from which they draw their inspiration at the Official ITW Organization Website.

Interested in becoming a member of the International Thriller Writers? ITW offers Active and Associate memberships.
12 Comments
  1. Blurbs are favorable sound bite book reviews. Especially for the new author, they are introductions from known writers that a fresh voice deserves to be heard. For an established writer, they are announcements from recognized authors that you’ve been accepted into a fellowship. Blurbs are an advertising tool. I value them and appreciate the writer who takes his precious time to do this favor, this generous gesture.
    Do I read the blurbs other writers have on their books? Yes and some are silly, fatuous, repetitive. To me, that’s not important. I’m interested in who thinks this book should be read, and I learn to what genre the author belongs.

    I’m careful whom I ask. This I learned early in the game, after sending out requests and meeting deadening silence from people who I thought were close associates. Thank goodness for fellow writers who thought enough to take the time and give me one.

  2. Blurbs can be a great help to authors, both new and seasoned, if used for the right reasons.
    When my first novel was released, I had no idea who to ask. Dark Muse is a YA dark fantasy musical thing that publishers had a heck of a time putting into a neat little box.
    I’m lucky enough to know most of my favorite authors (which I think any of us can do) so I had plenty to choose from and hopefully not be shot down from. I found myself wondering WHO would help my book. A big name would be great but I realized I didn’t have any young adult authors on my list that had made a big splash. I wound up with two bestselling authors blurbing it, but it didn’t do much.
    Why?
    Blurbs are, in theory, suggestions from authors to readers saying “hey, I loved this so you will, too.” A great sentiment and if utilized the right way, can help.

    A historical thriller like my new FEAR THE REAPER wouldn’t be helped much from E.L. James – or would it? R.L. Stine? Great author, wonderful guy, but not for this book.
    I sought out the good folks in ITW and those whose books had similarities to mine in scope and overall feel. A thriller with unknown history and conspiracies, etc, etc? I chose a few top names and sent them my requests (okay, I kinda begged – just kidding). All but one said yes. I messagde three more on Facebook Messenger only to find out that they’re inundated by spam and likely never saw them. One did and told me my folly.
    I know I’m digressing here but it’s a tricky endeavor. You want a contemporary who will help get you more readers but don’t want to lead them astray. Know the audience for both. Don’t be shy. I have some friends on my list that I’d never ask because the kind of relationship I have – and wouldn’t want to damage that. If they said no, or didn’t like the book, it’s like being turned down by the best-looking girl/guy in high school. Putting your work out there is hard to do. Reader feedback is crucial; feedback from a writer you admire can scare the hell out of you!

    The bottom line – if you have a good book, a blurb from a writer readers can relate to can do wonders. But do your homework.

  3. Getting a blurb from another author is a great way to show your readers that by choosing your book, they are in good company. In all likelihood, the author who gives you the blurb is one that your readers also read or at least are familiar with. The problem is who to ask and how long to wait for a response.
    I have a new novel coming out in the fall. I asked several of my better-known writer friends to do a blurb, but I had to do it with a caveat. I had to send them the next to final edit and explain to them that there may be minor mistakes in it that will be corrected prior to publication. They had to trust me and my editor that we would follow through and actually correct them. If their name appeared on a novel with a series of mistakes, I’m sure I would be turned down the next time I asked.
    If you are a new writer, who do you ask? Start with authors you read and whose works you know in depth. We all like compliments, so contact your favorite, tell him or her you’ve been a reader for a long time and you like how his characters have developed etc. Let them know you are not just flooding the market with requests. If the author you choose is a full-time writer, you may have to wait in line for a blurb, so give them plenty of time to respond and have a back-up plan (author) in case your first choice does not respond.

  4. Blurbs are a great promotional tool and help zero in a reader to your novel. They are also a personal note of recognition for the author, too. Blurbs terrified me at first. As a relatively new author (only five published novels) I was totally in the dark on the value and impact for my books. I was also completely intimidated to reach out to authors and ask for their support. Yet, afterward, I count myself fortunate that I landed some pretty great authors. For my first novel, Dying To Know, bestselling author Stephen Frey gave me a great blurb. Dying to Know is a light-hearted paranormal mystery and totally out of Stephen’s genre, but he was kind enough to help me out anyway. I received two things from this: first, his willingness to support me with the blurb gave me a little confidence; second, several new fans told me that they gave me a chance read because a bestselling author they recognized had blurbed the book. Then, most recently, I changed my writing course to publish my first thriller, The Consultant. This was important to me since thrillers were where I truly wished to publish, and while the paranormal mysteries were fun and got me started, I hoped to move into the thriller market longer-term. The Consultant was a book that meant a great deal to me for personal reasons—including the passing of my mentor of near twenty-five years. So, I reached out to two bestselling authors for their support—James Grady of Six Days of the Condor fame, and Christopher Reich of The Take. For The Consultant, I think the blurbs were significant as much to me as my readers. James Grady has been one of my author-idols since I was fourteen and one of the reasons I began writing at all. By chance, I met him on-line (a long, but fun story for another time) and he graciously agreed to the blurb. This was a little heady for me to have my idol on my first thriller. Then, never seeing it coming, Christopher Reich also blurbed me—someone I’d been reading for years and never met or had any contact with. Through a mutual friend, he read The Consultant draft and sent me a fantastic blurb. These two gentlemen made my debut thriller truly memorable to me. But the blurbs hit home with readers, too. Several fans from my paranormal mysteries contacted me and while they rarely read thrillers, jumped on board after these author’s blurbs caught their attention. Having had some great authors support my books was both an honor and a lesson. In my case, I wanted to give back to other authors along the way if they sought my support. Since my first novel, I’ve given a couple blurbs and each time felt truly honored the authors thought enough of me to ask. To my readers and the few fans I’m making along the way, I think it’s a mark of inclusion, too—your peers gave it a thumbs-up. If The Consultant rated a blurb by Messer’s Grady and Reich, then it had something going for it! Thank you to them and all the great authors who give a new-guy a chance and throw their name in the ring to help out. It means a lot to authors and fans.

  5. Ticklish question. I hate to bother my friends and acquaintances. It’s like asking your neighbors to mow your lawn and trim your hedges They might say yes, but they’d rather be home watching the Dodgers. After all, you’re begging a pal to spend many unproductive hours doing you a massive favor. My new release, BUM LUCK, has blurbs from Lee Child, Scott Turow, Lee Goldberg, Andrew Gross, and John Schulian. Why? Because I asked them. It helps that I’ve known each of these exceptional writers for a long time and I’m reasonably convinced that they respect my work. How did I choose these particular wordsmiths when I have no incriminating photographs to be used against them? That’s easy. I’m certain that my readers admire Child’s action sequences, Turow’s courtroom savvy, Goldberg’s humor, Gross’s suspense, and Schulian’s sports expertise. In other words, everything I do…or at least try to do. So, I say to Lee, Scott, Lee, Andy, and John: If any of you ask me to do your yard work, I’ll be there first thing in the morning with my Toro Honda and my Weed Wacker.

  6. I used to believe that a blurb (especially from a noted author) was really meaningful but I no longer do. Why? I found out that many times, the blurber in question had not even read the novel, was a pal of the writer, or provided the endorsement at the request of a mutual publisher. As a reader, I am not influenced by blurbs. As a writer I try to solicit them only from people I know will actually read and appreciate my work.

    1. You bring up a good point. I’m sure that must happen some times, although it shouldn’t. Just like reviews, I believe the person must be familiar with the work before commenting on it.

  7. Agree with my fellow authors that a blurb is a great promotional tool. For first time authors, it provides a sort of validation by peers.
    Asking for a blurb could be a topic all in itself. When my first book came out I knew nobody, was afraid to ask people out of the blues, and worst of all, didn´t know how to ask.

    By the time my second book came out, I had done some networking and was unafraid to ask some of the people I’ve met. I’ve worked with Alex Shaw in a short story anthology, I’ve done guest-blog posts on Joe Moore’s collective blog The Dead Zone, and lovely New Zealand author Cat Connor was also signed with my publisher. Asking became easier with practice.

    For my latest novel, Poisoned Tears, I was able to secure blogs from some heavy hitters like Douglas Preston, Paul Kemprecos and Jon Land. Again, networking in associations like the International Thriller Writers paid off.

    When selecting who to ask for a blurb, going for authors in your same genre is a given. Another a rule of thumb I’d suggest to newcomers is to request blurbs from authors they have read and liked their work. It’s not only fair, but I consider it good manners to have bought some of their books.

  8. I understand the feeling that blurbs can be non-authentic but for the case of the newer voices in writing, I don’t believe that to be true.
    Authors with solid fan bases don’t want to compromise themselves by tossing their names on horrible books they know nothing about.
    Does it happen? Sure, but far less than writers think.
    I just had one of my favorite writers blurb FEAR THE REAPER this weekend, a week after it was released, because she wanted to make sure she read it thoroughly.
    That, to me, was both a big honor and affirmation.
    Someone who I truly look up to as a professional took the time to examine my work – and enjoyed it. The only thing better than that is a million readers feeling the same, but honestly, each review is a hit to the heart when the work is a labor of passion.
    I had butterflies in my stomach when she told me she wanted to talk about it. Yet now, that blurb means so much more.

  9. In what is shocking to some of us old-timers, writers now PAY to have their books reviewed by certain publications. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Kirkus doing this? Doesn’t that call into question the objectivity of the reviewer? A bad review perhaps loses a “customer” for the next book. Or is this just something to be accepted in the new world of publishing? Any thoughts?

    1. I was also surprised with this new trend. I don’t like and I’m not paying for it.
      But would send arc and review copies to all willing bloggers and magazines. I guess that’s the old fashioned way.

      On a different arena, when I used to write film reviews for a domestic newspaper I found myself at a crossroads once because the newspaper, who actually paid me for the columns, was also sponsoring a premiere of the film. I wanted to like it, but didn’t. Kudos to the newspaper that didn’t lean on me or asked me to revise the scathing review.

  10. Really good points here, in particular about the validity of the blurb these days. Like every element of writing and publishing you have to stay up on the current process and outcomes and decide where you fit into it. It changes like everything else. I’ve often wondered about Kirkus and other review formats, but rely on my publisher and agent to guide me whenever in doubt. Same with blurbs. Both agent and publisher have insight on who still does the homework and who just writes a couple generic lines. In the end, it’s one of those processes that we have to use and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As for paying, like Paul L brings up, we often indirectly pay anyway, right? I do virtual book tours and receive reviews in that process. I pay for the tour and get a set outcome of stops. Book reviews are always an important part. However, in the book tours I do, I do check out the stop locations and compare the reviews given to see where I might fit in. Over the years, I’ve put a great list together of different review stops and their output. Some are better than others, and some can be painful. But, an authors life is not always the “Anyone can write a book,” glamorous, windfall some believe, right?

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