To Blurb or Not to Blurb? Elaine Neil Orr

23 August, 2013

ELAINE2.1051P_hiresAuthor Elaine Neil Orr (Author of A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa and Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life) offered us this guest post on blurbing, and other thoughts of generosity after your book comes out. Thank you, Elaine!

Subsequent to my first book’s appearance (a memoir), I began to receive requests for blurbs.  I was not flattered but felt rather defensive.  I confess: I felt threatened.  What if this other memoir outshines mine?  It’s more than embarrassing to admit.  It’s shameful.  I was certain that there was a finite amount of attention to be paid to memoirs or books of any sort, only a finite number of awards and sales and applause.  I had my bit and it was only a bit, and if I gave any away, I would lose some of what I had.

In economics, I believe this is “the limited pie” theory.  It’s a zero-sum game.  Any slice of pie I give you I will not have myself.

The error in this calculation is that in the world of writing and selling books holding your bit of the pie clenched in your fist will only make it harder to write.  You will not sell any more books or gain any more reviews or get any better results with prizes.  Far from it.

With my second book, a novel, I have learned better.

There are all kinds of good reasons for blurbing other people’s books.  The first is the most important.  It is good for your heart to do so.  Perhaps you say, my heart isn’t in it.  It pains me to bring more attention to this other writer.  All the better.  Your heart and mine need exercise.  Being pained for the good that comes to another writer means we are bound to a finite view of the good that the world is able to produce.  Believe more in the world.  Start by believing more in yourself.  You and I can be more generous than we were yesterday.

Read that other person’s book.  Learn from it.  Write the very best blurb you possibly can that is honest and real.

By reading her work (or his), you learn something more about your craft.  You are already doing research for your next book!  Good for you.  The world has expanded and so has your mind.

A third reason to blurb another writer is that you are building your own network, expanding your platform.  By writing blurbs you are accepting a place of authority in your craft.  You have actually been promoted.  Step up.  More people see your name.  The same is true when you agree to give an interview to someone for a blog—an interview that may be seen by only ten readers.  But how do you know who those ten people might be?  Each time you connect with another writer (of books, blogs, interviews), your name and the titles of your books show up, often with a direct link to how the books can be purchased.   When you get on GoodReads as an author and review other people’s books, you will find followers and they will also follow you on Facebook and Twitter.  They may not be reviewers at the New York Times.  What they are is fans.  Isn’t this what you wanted?