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This month's theme: Mysteries
 
Quote Me on That: Book Blurbs

by JJ Hensley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the many misconceptions I had when I first discovered I was going to be a traditionally published novelist was that most of my work would be complete once I had written the book. After all, I was the author, not the publisher and certainly not the publicist. Surely, the publisher would have a team of experts analyze market conditions, write the eye-catching cover copy (the hard hitting teaser inside the book jacket), and collect praise-filled testimonies from world-famous authors who would swear on a stack of Raymond Chandler paperbacks that my debut novel, Resolve, was going to redefine the mystery genre.

Yeah, well… the publisher had a small staff knowledgeable about the publishing business, but there were no teams of hungry marketing professionals itching to help me take the publishing world by storm. Most of the marketing—social media, websites, setting up interviews, scheduling book signings—that was all going to be on me. I was the one asked to write the cover copy. And it turned out the publisher did not see a lot of value in collecting those testimonials from other authors, commonly referred to as blurbs. That too, fell on me. Other than some positive reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and a few other publications, I had nothing for the back cover. It occurred to me that I should contact all my friends in the writing community to see if any of them would be willing to give the manuscript a quick look and provide some words that would promise the reader a good story filled the pages of the book. Then it occurred to me that I was a first-time novelist and that I had no friends in the writing community. That is when I took a leap of faith and the writing community showed me generosity in a business that can be unforgiving.

One of my favorite authors of all time is James Grady of Six Days of the Condor fame. If you have not read the book then you probably saw the movie Three Days of the Condor. I guess six days was too much for Hollywood. Anyway, I nervously drafted several emails to Mr. Grady, deleted them, and then wrote them again. Finally, I decided on a final version that I would send to this man I had never met. Then I deleted that one too. But, I did eventually get up the nerve to write him to request that he allow me to send him my manuscript and that I would be delighted if he would provide a blurb. Much to my surprise, he responded and was willing to take a look at the book. Having developed some confidence, I did the same with internationally bestselling author John Verdon. He too agreed. Within a couple of months, I had two blurbs from two fantastic authors, neither of whom I had ever met.

Since my debut novel, I have been fortunate enough to meet many other writers which has made the blurb process somewhat easier, although I am still always uncomfortable making the requests. However, it is part of the business and if one blurb convinces a reader to buy your book then that is one more reader than you had previously. There are still many people out there who question the value of a blurb. Does it really give your work any more credibility? Will it help you sell copies of your work?

I do not know. But I know that no matter what, some of my heroes have had enough faith in my work that they were willing to attach their names to my stories. So later on when I see that reader review on Amazon that gives my book 1 star because UPS left the package containing the book in the rain or 2 stars because the narrator of the audiobook mispronounced a street name, I can simply shrug it off and tell myself: “Whatever. James Grady didn’t complain.”

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J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. He lives with his family near Pittsburgh, PA. His fourth novel, Bolt Action Remedy, is scheduled for release on October 2nd, 2017.

Preorder Bolt Action Remedy here.

 

 

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