For those who might not know, one of the more sensitive (and dreaded) tasks required during the process of readying one’s book for publication is the procurement of book blurbs. Considered a time-honored tool in promoting an upcoming book, the assignment requires that you reach out to authors you know and whose work you respect; authors you don’t know whose work you respect; those who might be notable in the arena your book encompasses, or, and most coveted, well-known authors whose status might lend yours a bump of credibility. You offer to send your book—or select chapters—in hopes of inspiring a few lines of endorsement that can then be affixed to your cover or review pages. It does feel like daunting duty, all that asking, and, frankly, I know a few authors who’d rather walk on Legos.
Because getting anyone, even someone you know much less a well-known author, to read your work and write a sentence or two of appreciation feels to be herculean. Everyone’s busy with their own projects, deadlines may make it problematic, and even those who initially agree can later back out for one reason or another. Since it requires a significant focus of someone’s time, the “ask” is approached, always, with some trepidation and a big dollop of sensitivity. You don’t want to appear presumptuous, you don’t want to come off as gushing or obsequious, and certainly you don’t want to risk the pang of brusque and/or unspoken dismissal (though if you’ve ever queried agents you already know what that feels like!). So you proceed with as much elegance and decorum as you can muster, and if you do reach out to a “famous writer,” you do so graciously and with the full expectation of never hearing back.
I heard back from Rebecca Wells.
As the author of one of my favorite books, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Ms. Wells captured my admiration years ago when I first read that book and her many subsequent and attendant titles. And while my upcoming novel, The Alchemy of Noise, is not necessarily a “comp title,” a bit darker and more urban than her own work, the connecting point—beyond my creative respect—is our shared category of “contemporary literary fiction.” It seemed worth a shot.
My letter opened with:
“I was sitting in a natural mineral pool in Desert Hot Springs, CA, when I read Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I was with a group of women friends, none of whom had had my particular Catholic upbringing, some of whom shared the legacy of a loving, crazy, narcissistic mother, and as I emerged from the steaming water with teary eyes, the goose bumps on my arms were not from the cold: I had been transported. I looked at them and said, ‘I don’t know why I’d ever think of writing after reading this book…it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read.’
“Despite that earnest disclaimer, I transmuted my awe into inspiration and did proceed to write my first novel…”
From there I told her a bit about my own journey as an author; I kept it brief, I asked if I could send my new book, or just a few chapters, with hopes of a short endorsement, and concluded (as prescribed above) graciously and with the full expectation of never hearing back.
And yet I did.
Not even two weeks later I received a sweet handwritten letter on a piece of lined notepaper: “It makes me smile to think of your meeting the Ya-Yas in a hot tub!”
She went on to explain that she was knee-deep in her own soon-to-be-published project, and though she would be unable to carve out time to read and endorse my book, she concluded with:
“Many congratulations on your writing! What guts it takes to sit on our butts and do this… I do send you all the best wishes as this new one goes forth into the world. Thank you for asking me… 84,000 Blessings, Rebecca Wells.”
In an industry (a world!) where far too many make too little effort to respond and relate to those who reach out to them, I’m always astonished when someone does, particularly someone whose high-profile comes with commensurate demands on their time and attention.
Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to contact famous authors you admire. Even if they don’t have time to read and endorse your book (most won’t), you will have made a connection with someone whose work touched you, and who knows where that may lead? And if you’re lucky, you may walk away with not only their best wishes, but their blessings… 84,000 of them, and that is something that—in this crazy world—is always, always, appreciated.
Next up: What I Learned When I Heard Back From Jodi Picoult
Lorraine’s third novel, The Alchemy of Noise, has an April 2019 pub date, with pre-orders currently available at Amazon. Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to her other books, music, photography, and articles.