Bob Sutton is a professor at Stanford University and the author of a best-selling book (caution: you may be offended by its title) called The No Asshole Rule. Prof Sutton has also written other books that haven’t been best-sellers.
The difference between the best-seller and the non-best-sellers: The best-seller had no blurbs, while the non-best-sellers did.
In a recent blog post, Prof Sutton asks, are blurbs worth anything? It takes a lot of time and effort to get people (big names in your domain) to write a blurb for your book. First, you have to get them to agree. Then you have to hope they actually read the book.
Prof Sutton concludes that rather than blurbs, bloggers are far more important: “[M]y perspective at this point is that blurbs don’t help much – but having a lot of bloggers and other websites buzzing about a book does.” (Prof Sutton’s blog post)
Prof Sutton is writing another book (Good Boss, Bad Boss), and he and his publisher “are again going to rely on bloggers for advanced buzz and of course all the usual press outlets.”
When I was writing my book, I didn’t realize that I needed to get the blurb ball rolling very early on in the process – ie, I should’ve started contacting people at least six months before the book was out. But I was so focused on getting the book done that the thought of getting a blurb didn’t enter my mind. I felt that obviously, the manuscript needed to be complete before someone could read it and write about it. And I thought that once the book was done, I could get a blurb in the space of about 3-4 weeks – ha!! So when my book came out, it was minus a blurb.
In any case, after my book was published, I tried contacting some famous people (who shall remain nameless) to get them to review it. The good news was that without exception, I got responses – from their assistants. The ok news was that the responses were all along the same lines: Send a copy, and if s/he reads it, we’ll get back to you. The bad news was that no one got back to me.
Nonetheless, I got many glowing and unsolicited comments from readers (ie customers), that I was able to put up on my website. These “customer testimonials” are supposed to impact sales, though I have no idea if they have for my book. But speaking as a writer, these unsolicited emails give me a warm glow and always make my day!
From some of the blurbs that I’ve seen of famous names, it often seems to be an exercise of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” If you’re not a big name, you can’t enter the back scratching game.
Ultimately, the question of “to blurb or not to blurb” is one of balance between time/effort and reward. It’s obviously very difficult to get hold of big names given how busy and important they are. Hence, it simply may not be worth the time and effort to get hold of them. Since most book buyers now check out websites and blogs before they decide to buy, the lack of a blurb is most definitely not a roadblock to success.
Hence, it makes even more sense to use online technologies that are available for book promotion, BookBuzzr of course being an example.