What’s the difference between a blurb and a review?

Blurbs are short, pithy statements about your book; reviews are more comprehensive, and are typically done by established reviewing entities. Reviews, including the consumer reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, can be excerpted and used as blurbs.

You can publish blurbs and short reviews on your book’s front or back cover, at the very beginning of the inside of your book, on your website, in social media, and in press releases. Publishing them before the book is released is a good way to build buzz.

Obviously, if you want to publish blurbs before your book comes out, or include them on the cover or in your book, you’ll need advance review copies.

  • Blurbs are often written by high-profile people in your field, and provide reassurance to potential buyers, letting them know someone else — someone important! — likes your book.
  • The fact that a high-profile person (do you know any celebrities?) has blurbed your book can be a good reason for a press release or other publicity.
  • People who have blurbed your book are more likely to tell others about it.

Inspire yourself

Here’s a fun exercise: Write a blurb for your book while you’re still writing the book. Make it the best blurb you can imagine. Now write a book that lives up to the blurb. (Simple, right?)

I’ll bet that’s exactly what Dave Eggers did while he was writing (the novel titled) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius … and he loved the blurb so much that he used it for the title  of his book. (Which went on to become a #1 national bestseller.)

How to get good blurbs

It’s lovely to get blurbs that include words like heartbreaking, astonishing, staggering, or genius, but the best blurbs state specifically why the (blurb) writer liked the book. In order to encourage specificity, you might provide prompts like these when you request a blurb:

  • What did you find surprising about the book?
  • What was your favorite chapter/section/scene?
  • What did you learn from the book?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What part is most memorable?
  • What is the most important thing people should know about the book?
  • Would you recommend the book to your friends, family or co-workers? Why?

The more you can tailor these prompts to your book, the better blurbs you’ll get.

Write your own blurbs — Really?

One fact that surprised me is that it’s fairly standard practice to write one or several sample blurbs and send them to a potential blurber (especially if that person is prominent and/or extremely busy). You can then suggest that the person uses one of the blurbs you have provided, either as-is or edited, to save them the time of writing one.

What? You can do that? Yes, you can.

Of course, you’re requesting a lot when you ask anyone to take the time to read your entire book, think about it, and write a blurb or review. And if you’re “pre-writing” one, it’s an especially delicate request; you may want to get some help from a PR professional (they’ll have sample requests to help you get started).

Just in case it isn’t self-evident, please don’t send the same sample blurbs to several people. If two people chose the same sample, and didn’t rewrite it, you’d be in trouble. Also,

Do not steal other people’s blurbs

I’ll admit it: I’ve been tempted. Once I learned that it’s acceptable to write a “suggested” blurb to save your potential blurber some time and effort, I began to consider saving myself some time and effort by re-using blurbs appearing on other books.

After all, “a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind …. an extraordinary work of fiction” could apply to my book, right?

Actually, no. First of all, my book is not a novel. Second, let’s get real. Third, that’s exactly what Stephen King wrote about Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Goldfinch, in The New York Times Book Review, and it would be oh-so wrong to appropriate for my book. But I enjoyed thinking about it.

Track your blurbs

Some (many?) of the people you ask for blurbs will not have the time to do you the favor of writing one, so you’ll need to ask a lot of people. My theory was: The more the merrier. For my first book, I asked 40 people and got 23 blurbs, all of which went into my book. (If you have more than you can fit on the front and back covers, use some inside pages at the very beginning of the book.) In order to keep track of all those requests, I created a spreadsheet, which you’re welcome to use. (It’s in Excel, so you’ll need to have that software in order to use it.)

OK — Reviews and blurbs in place? Think about initiating some long-lead PR projects.

Back to Get your audience engaged.