I am learning a lot about blurbs this year.

Blurbs are those quotes of praise from other authors. Reviews come after a book is published, so to get praise to print on book covers, other authors are sought for compliments.

When I have read discussions about blurbs, participants have often said that they don’t pay attention to such things, but more to the story description. Also, there are always accusations of authors blurbing their friends, supposedly regardless of actual quality. I let these thoughts affect my pursuit of blurbs my first time around. Now I know better.

First of all, many readers *are* swayed by a favorite author’s name on the cover, even if as the author of a blurb instead of of the book itself. It can get people to pick up the book. That done, of course the story has to stand on its own merit. But getting someone to pick up the book in the first place is no small thing.

Secondly, blurbs aren’t just for the sell-to-reader stage. Reviewers receive far more books than they can possibly read. They need a way to sort through which ones they will look at. Significant blurbs can make a difference in getting a reviewer to open your book. (Which then, of course, must stand on its own.) The subsequent reviews, then, reach readers, even those who don’t care about blurbs. (Or even those who aren’t swayed by reviews, simply from the exposure.)

Blurbs are also a great tool for getting reviewers/readers into an accurate and sympathetic frame of mind. Anyone expecting a bite of cake and getting a mouthful of quiche is going to be unhappy, even if they like quiche. Setting accurate expectations is important. Specific, vivid comments pre-read can help with that. Also, praise from valued sources can make someone more inclined to trust an author who may be doing something tricky or unusual. Watching a professional acrobat is a thrill. Watching a random person do something risky is nervewracking. Blurbs can reassure that the author is in the “professional acrobat” category.

As to accusation that published authors are a clique of friends trading blurbs without regard to actual quality, in some cases that may be true. In the cases of my personal experience, I can say that it works the other way: authors become friends often *because* they admire and relate to one another’s work. So, yes, the blurber and blurbee are friends, but that friendship came after the admiration.

I didn’t realise how important blurbs are with my first book, and I feel amazingly lucky to be getting good blurbs for my second.

With my first book, I didn’t do much to solicit blurbs. I didn’t know many writers and figured requests for blurbs coming from my well-known editor would be much more powerful than any request from unknown me. Turns out, authors receive so many requests for blurbs that getting someone to actually read the book is as difficult as getting a reviewer’s attention.

This time, I do know other authors, and I’m finding that makes a huge difference to someone’s willingness to direct hours, maybe days, toward reading with a possibility of writing a blurb. That’s a lot to ask of someone who is likely in the midst of their own writing/edits and has lots of reading for their own selves that they haven’t gotten to yet. Knowing someone doesn’t guarantee that they will compliment; only good work should prompt that. But getting them to read the work in the first place is a bigger hurdle than I realised with my debut.

In sum: No, blurbs don’t sell a book all by themselves. But they DO for sure contribute to a book getting picked up off a shelf or out of a pile. I had previously underestimated that.

Many thanks to:

Sophie Hannah
“Emily Winslow’s writing is uniquely perceptive and penetrating, inhabiting the minds of her characters with great subtlety. She is a precise and expert analyst of the darkest parts of the human psyche.”

Kate Rhodes
“Winslow has managed to get under the skin of Cambridge, her adopted city, to create a story of wonderful psychological complexity. The Start of Everything is an excellent literary novel, as well as a compelling mystery.”

Lisa Gardner
“A masterful whodunnit! Winslow effortlessly weaves together separate lives with intertwined lies, creating a powerful web of small deceits and horrifying misdeeds. A must read!”

I’m honored and happy that you took the time to read.

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