This side of the fence is actually shorter than the other and even if you're not at this stage of your career yet, with talent and luck you will be, so keep reading.
1. Don't Make Promises
If someone asks you to blurb a book, never write back, “I’d love to!” If you do, you’re committing yourself to a promise you may not be able to keep. What if the book truly sucks? Are you still going to lend your name to it? Because, you see, you’ve already promised you will. Or what if your own career intrudes – you know, that thing you make your living it? Or what if life unexpectedly gets in the way? Instead of a knee-jerk promise, the appropriate response should be, “I can’t make any guarantees, but feel free to send me your book and I’d be happy to read it, time and life permitting.”
2. Don't Repeat Yourself
Once you’ve written several blurbs, you realize that it can be hard, particularly if a lot of the books fall in the same genre, to pen blurbs that sound original. How many different ways can you find to say, “Funny, moving, thought-provoking”? But do try. Or, at the very least, don’t recycle distinctive blurbs you’ve already used. For example, Frank McCourt has famously blurbed at least three books with some variant on, “I loved this so much, I was clawing myself with pleasure!” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hear about someone else clawing themselves with pleasure once, never mind three times. You’re a writer. Try to be original.
3. Convince Me You've Read the Book
I once saw a blurb from a Pulitzer Prize winner on the back of another respected novelist’s long-awaited new book that read, “I’ve been waiting for another book from X for 20 years!” Oh, really? says cynical me. And when do you plan on actually reading it? For a blurb to have meaning, it should have some sort of descriptive or evaluative language in it. A mere “I’ve been waiting for another book from X for 20 years!” – however gleeful – doesn’t sell me.
4. Blurb Whores
I’ve heard this odious title attached to more than one author, one of whom is an acquaintance of mine and an enormous bestseller to the tune of some 100 million copies in print. I always scratch my head when I hear that. We talked earlier about how consumers don’t buy books strictly because of blurbs. Well, have you ever bought a book by an author you’ve never read before because you saw their name blurbing someone else? How ludicrous! Right. I read the other day that Dean Koontz currently sells at the rate of 17 million books a year. So I’m sure if you can get him to blurb your book, it’ll real help him out by getting his name on a few thousand of your books. It’s almost as bad as the idea of Oprah Winfrey riding Jonathan Franzen’s coattails to success. “Hey, Stephen King! Over here! I’m going to give you the opportunity to improve your career by letting you blurb one of my books. Really, having your name attached to Lauren Baratz-Logsted is going to be the making of you, so… Hey! Where’d you go?” Authors at the top of the game who are still willing to grant blurbs are simply gracious human beings. Period.
5. If You Don't Want to Blurb...
…then don’t. It’s your life. It’s your time. Maybe you don’t have the time. Or maybe you don’t really care. But keep in mind: you weren’t always where you are now, so be gracious. Tell people, “I’m sorry but my agent won’t allow me to read unpublished work.” Then wish the novice well and leave it at that.
6. A. Privilege
Whether you choose to blurb or not, it’s really up to you. But always remember: publishing is a hard business. It’s a privilege to have succeeded at it so well that people actually think that using your name will help them sell a few books. Everyone who has ever pursued a career in writing with all their heart and all their will should be so lucky.
I'm looking forward to hearing what others think.
Be well. Don't forget to write.