What Purpose Do Blurbs Serve?
There are more than 500,000 books published each year in the US alone. How is a potential reader supposed to know that yours is actually good? How are they supposed to know that you and your book are worth their time and money?
Once you have those locked in, a way to add credibility to your book is through the use of blurbs.
A “book blurb” is a quote from someone that says something positive about you or your book. Here are some blurbs from Mona Patel’s book, Reframe:
“Why not? What if? If those questions give you pause, it might be because you’ve been carrying around the wrong frame. In this personal book, Mona Patel wants to outfit you with a new way of seeing and working.”
—Seth Godin, marketing guru and multiple time New York Times Bestselling Author
“Part business, part personal development, Reframe is full of practical ways to jumpstart innovation.”
—Adam Grant, Wharton Professor and New York Times Bestselling Author of Give and Take
“This book, like its author, is innovative, clear, and able to open pathways to new ideas.”
—Nir Eyal, Author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
Done properly, a good blurb will:
- Signal that the book is important
- Provide social proof that the author is important
- Help readers see the book is relevant to them
- Most importantly, convince a potential reader to buy the book
Blurbs are a great way to “credential” a book (and more importantly in many cases, an author as well) and help it stand out from the field.
Are Blurbs Necessary?
Blurbs fall into the “nice to have” category, and not the “must have” category.
They do impact the book, but they don’t move the needle anywhere near as much as reviews. Actual reviews on Amazon or Barnes&Noble.com are much more powerful in terms of selling copies.
It is generally better not to have blurbs than to have bad ones or ones from unknown sources.
Do not get obsessed with them. Again, blurbs are not a necessity, and many famous books have launched and succeeded without them.
For example, name your favorite three books. Who blurbed those books?
Where Do Blurbs Go?
Blurbs are multipurpose and can go several places. For example:
1. Front of book cover: Usually only one can go on the cover, and that would generally be from someone very high status to your audience.
2. Back of book cover: You can usually put up to three of them here without crowding the back.
3. Inside flap cover: This is for hardcovers usually, and they can go on the inside front or back, depending on various decisions.
4. Before the title page: If you have a lot of blurbs, you can put them on their own pages, usually right at the beginning of the book. This is usually called the “Advance Praise” section.
5. On the Amazon/B&N book page: Putting blurbs in the book description or the About the Book section can add a lot of social proof to the book.
6. On your website: Another place to put them, though only one or possibly two tend to work here.
7. In your press materials: This is definitely a place to put them as well, as they will help land you press.
What Is a Good Blurb?
A good blurb generally has these attributes:
1. Comes from a relevant, high status, or credible person
This is key. You want your source to be one that sends the right signals to the audience of the book, and conveys the authority you want to achieve with your book. There are a lot of subtleties to this that we will explain later in this section.
2. Helps the reader understand why the book matters to them
It’s not easy to frame or explain your book to a reader, and a blurb can help them understand why they need to buy and read your book.
3. Is not pitchy or over the top
The worst thing you can do is get a great person to leave a gushing blurb that sounds paid for or ridiculous. Realistic is better than explosively optimistic. People tend to discount things that seem too good to be true.
Where Can Blurbs Come From?
There are three basic types of blurbs, and we’ll walk through each one in detail.
- Quotes from Credible or High Status People
- Press Mentions
- Reader and Customer Testimonials
Quotes from Credible or High Status People
Most people do not pay much attention to what blurbs actually say, since almost all blurbs are uniformly positive. Instead, people pay attention to who gave the blurb, and judge your book based on the person endorsing it.
The more credibility and social status the endorser holds, the more powerful the blurb. You are using some of the credibility and status of the person giving the blurb, and reflecting it back on your book.
An excellent example is Give And Take. When it was published, Adam Grant was a fairly obscure professor, not well known outside of academic circles. But his work had been influential on many famous authors, and he asked them to provide blurbs for his book. Look at the list of people who blurbed him:
- Susan Cain
- Dan Pink
- Tony Hsieh
- Seth Godin
- Dan Ariely
- Gretchen Rubin
- David Allen
- Dan Gilbert
- Robert Cialdini
Those people are all famous authors (at least to the type of reader to whom Adam wanted to sell). That list forces his audience to not only give it a chance, but made the media take it seriously as well.
You’re trying to borrow the credibility and authority of a person, and sometimes that can be conveyed by their position, even if they aren’t famous themselves.
Not all people know famous authors, and not all blurbs should come from famous authors. You can also get blurbs from people who have high status positions.
For example, look at the blurbs for Chasing Excellence (a book about fitness and athletic training). Do you know who any of these people are?
- Javier Vazquez
- Chris Hinshaw
- Bethany Hart-Gerry
Probably not. They’re not widely famous by name. Now, let’s look at how they are listed on the Chasing Excellence Amazon Page:
- Javier Vazquez, Major League Baseball All-Star
- Chris Hinshaw, Professional Triathlete, winner of Ironman Brazil
- Bethany Hart-Gerry, US Olympic Bobsled Team
You don’t know the names, but given their titles and accomplishments, you now take their comments on a book about fitness and training very seriously.
Most of your blurbs will come from people that you ask. However, another good place to find blurbs is in press or media attention you may have gotten from a media source. For example:
“Hilariously entertaining and thoroughly reprehensible.”
—New York Times
The above example was a quote about my first book I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. The article itself was not resoundingly positive, but this was a positive mention, so I took it and put it on my book. Having the New York Times even mention my book was significant social proof to a potential reader.
Press from anywhere can make a difference—even from a relatively unknown media source. Any third party press adds credibility to you and your book, regardless of whether the praise was directly for your book or not.
Reader and Customer Testimonials
You can also use customer reviews as testimonials. If you’ve written a book before, your old reviews may be a good place to search for an extra blurb or two. Early reviews can be moved up on the Amazon page, to round out the blurbs.
The book Predictable Revenue does this. The authors received feedback from people who read the book and used them as blurbs (and made sure to list their job titles to gain more social proof):
“I couldn’t put it down. It’s saved me so much time, and now revenue is ramping up. After reading the book, we closed major deals immediately with the strategies.”
—KURT DARADICS CEO, Freedom Speaks / CitySourced.com
“I just finished reading your book. Unbelievable! I now know what’s wrong with our sales process…”
—PAT SHAH, CEO, SurchSquad
“I have read Predictable Revenue and it’s Entrepreneurial Crack!”
—DAMIEN STEVENS, CEO, Servosity
You can even solicit testimonials from actual clients (depending on what you do and how it relates to your book). The authors of Predictable Revenue did this as well:
“Working with Aaron Ross has been nothing short of amazing! His methods applied to our sales organization helped us produce a profitable and scalable new stream of predictable revenue. We saw at least 40+% new business growth. The best part is, we had a blast while doing it!”
—MICHAEL STONE, VP Sales and Strategy, WPromote (#1 ranked Search Marketing Firm on the Inc. 500)
This works because the Predictable Revenue audience is entrepreneurs and CEOs, and that is who is giving the blurbs.
Who Should You Ask for Blurbs?
Blurbs are ideal to request from people in your network who are well known, important, or have important jobs.
The key consideration here is to focus on asking people who fit two criteria:
- They are known to the audience you’re trying to reach (or have jobs or titles that sound credible to that audience).
- You already know them.
To decide who to reach out to, start with a big list—the more names, the more likely you are to get a yes.
These should be specific people, not a list of famous people you’ve never met.
If you do not have some connection to them in your network, do not put them on your list. If you don’t know the person, or have a credible connection that is already established, then you aren’t getting a blurb.
Ask someone who has a strong connection with both your audience and the material. It’s much better to get a quote from a person that your audience knows well but is anonymous outside that niche than someone who is very famous, but has nothing to do with your book.
For example, if you write a book about pop-up retail, and you happen to be friends with a famous politician who has nothing to do with retail or any connection, a blurb from her won’t resonate with your audience.
Whereas if you can get the VP of Macy’s to blurb your book—even though no one outside of retail has any idea who she is—that quote will be a powerful signal to the audience for your book (people who care about retail).
How Should You Ask Someone for a Blurb?
The process of asking for blurbs can be a bit uncomfortable for most authors. The best thing you can do when asking for a blurb is make it as easy as possible for people to give you one.
In that vein, we’re going to let you in on a dirty little secret: most people who give blurbs don’t actually read the book.
In fact, most of them don’t even write the blurb…they just approve it.
Here is the email template we recommend using when asking someone for a blurb. Of course, you need to modify this with details relevant to the person you’re asking:
Hey [NAME], I’m writing to ask if you’d provide a blurb for my upcoming book, [INSERT TITLE].
It would mean a great deal to me if you gave an endorsement. [INSERT SPECIFIC REASON WHY BASED ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP].
I’ve attached a PDF to this email with the manuscript, so you can read it if you’d like.
Obviously I’d love it if you read the full book, but I value your time highly, so I am providing 2-3 example blurbs for you. Feel free to approve any of these, or edit them in any way you’d like that reflect your feelings:
[INSERT EXAMPLE BLURB #1]
[INSERT EXAMPLE BLURB #2]
[INSERT EXAMPLE BLURB #3]
Key to Blurbs: Blurb the Person, Not the Book
Most people don’t have the time to read your book and carefully consider a blurb, but they don’t feel comfortable blurbing something they haven’t read. That’s okay.
There is a very simple solution: have them blurb you as a person.
This is more than acceptable and a very easy give for most people.
For example, I helped Kamal Ravikant do this for his second book, Live Your Truth. He is friends with Tim Ferriss, but Tim was too busy to read the book (at the time, he has since read and loved the book), so I got Tim to give Kamal this blurb:
“Kamal is one of those people whose words are as powerful as his presence. When Kamal speaks, I listen.”
—Tim Ferriss, author of #1 New York Times Bestseller, The 4-Hour Work Week
That quote is now on his Amazon page and the book, and is a powerful piece of social proof for Kamal and his book.
Another Blurb Trick
Speaking of Tim, he uses a great trick to get blurbs, and I helped him do this on two books.
While the book is still in process, he would print the most relevant chapter to the person he was asking for the blurb, personally highlight relevant sections and passages (with a highlighter and pen) and mail that to the person, with the offer of sending the whole book if they want.
That’s a smart, strategic, and generous move, and it worked almost every time.
How to Write Blurbs for Approval
There is not a formula to write blurbs, but there are a few rules:
They cannot be too long, or no one will read them.
They cannot be too pitchy or over the top, or they will lose credibility.
The most important thing is that the blurb focuses on the benefit for the reader—why should the reader care about the book?
For this, the best advice is for you to go find the 5-10 books on Amazon that you think are good comparisons to your book (or in similar niches), read the blurbs for them, and imitate their style. Different niches have different blurb styles, and the best thing you can do with a blurb is not violate any norms the readers are expecting.
Example of a Great, Directed Blurb List
Remember, the more focused the blurb list is on your audience, the better it will be for you. Here is an excellent example of the appropriate use of blurbs, from the book Common Financial Sense, by Harris Nydick and Greg Makowski:
“This guide delivers the most practical and straightforward tutorial I have ever read.”
—Hazel O’Leary, Former United States Secretary of Energy
“I wish I had access to this book earlier in my career! I promise to pay it forward by sending a copy of Common Financial Sense to each of my three twenty-something kids.”
—Skip Schweiss, President, TD Ameritrade Trust Company
“Common Financial Sense is an insightful new guide that simplifies and demystifies retirement plan investing. Read this book! It will help you make smart decisions to successfully pursue your financial goals.”
—Joshua Pace, President and CEO, E*TRADE
“Common Financial Sense is a breath of fresh air and should be required reading for everyone entering or in the workforce.”
—Dean Durling, President and CEO, QuickChek Corporation
Unless you’re in the financial industry, few of these names mean anything to you.
But it’s still a great list, because the people have high status job titles, and they are extremely important to the audience to whom this book is trying to appeal.
This list of blurbs signals exactly who this book is for and converts those specific people, at a very high rate, from browsers into readers.