Why authors shouldn’t ask me to blurb their books. Sigh.

cool thing for momEvery so often I get requests from authors to blurb their books. Sometimes I can wholeheartedly offer a great blurb, but usually it ends up being a disaster.

Not long ago, a new author asked me for a blurb, and I did what I should have done all along. I dispensed with what Miss Manners would tell me to do and laid my cards on the table.

In an effort to save other authors from this disaster, I’m putting my reply to her on my blog. (I edited out her identity to protect her privacy.)

Dear *****

Congratulations on being a newly minted author. You’re all shiny and optimistic! (I did not add, but perhaps should have: Soon you will be cynical and disillusioned like the rest of us.)

Here’s the thing about me and blurbs. I want to help new authors–and old authors too–I really do. But there are two reasons why you shouldn’t ask me for blurbs. One is that I only read (non-audibook) books on Sunday, and since that’s also when I do any and all good deeds, blurbs, critiques, and judging, I’m really slow. The other reason is that in my zeal to help new authors, I end up critiquing their books instead of blurbing them. Seriously. It makes me look like a real jerk. Authors think they’re done with their book. They think it’s amazing and going to take the world by storm. Their editors have already passed off on the book, and then I come along and tell them they need a better first line, and they need more description in scene two and more internal thought in scene five and their character could be more likable if instead of doing x, she did y instead.

I have to tell authors these things because I really feel their book will have a better chance commercially if they rewrite it, but most of the time they end up hating me and not speaking to me for a long time.

Unless ******* publisher has new editors that do things differently, they don’t offer the level of editing that they should, and so ******* authors especially hate me. You probably hate me already for suggesting your editor didn’t do a good enough job–or you’re really optimistic and you’re thinking, “But she won’t critique my book. It’s perfect.”

Sorry, I’ll end up critiquing your book too, and then we’ll both be in that awkward situation where if you don’t rewrite the stuff I suggested, you’ll think that I think you blew off my advice. (Actually, I will think that.) But if you do take my advice, you’ll have to rewrite stuff which you most likely don’t want to do, and which your editor probably doesn’t want you to do if the book is already copy edited.

One of my author friends had to rewrite her whole ending and a bunch of stuff in the middle because of my critique. (She had been warned though, and wasn’t in the last stage of editing.) ***** and ***** are both victims of asking for me to blurb their books. Neither of them send me Christmas cards.

That said, if you want to risk it, I’ll see if I can get to it. No promises. And while I’m at it, let me tell you how you can improve the cover blurb that you included in your email. See, you thought I was joking, didn’t you? But no. It’s like sickness.
I then went on to suggest three changes to the her book’s cover blurb. (And had to stop myself from making two other suggestions because, you know, maybe some of that description really was in the character’s point of view and not the author’s. I only saw a short section so I can’t be certain whether she meant the book to be in omniscient point of view, or whether she hadn’t mastered third person point of view.)
Seriously guys, I am either an awesome teacher or a complete jerk, and I can’t decide which it is. I keep thinking about my first few books, which had these same sorts of problems. I wish someone had told me back then how I could improve my writing instead of having to learn it after I’d already published a bunch of stuff.
Maybe sometimes politeness isn’t the best answer. Anyway, from now on anytime an author asks me to blurb something, I’m going to refer them to this blog. That way they’ve been warned.
(I just told my teen daughter what I’d done. Β She shook her head at me and said, “Mom, that’s like someone reaching out to shake your hand and you punching them in the face.”)
Yep, that’s pretty much me.


  1. Tiana Smith
    March 22, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Okay, so maybe you aren’t the best blurber (Yep, I made that word up). But it sounds like you’re a rockin’ critiquer! Honestly, I think most new authors would benefit from someone being a little more honest.

    You’re in a position where you’re able to look back. You wish someone had done the same for you, and now you’re giving people that option. They can still say no if that’s not what they’re looking for. You’re just letting them know how you do things, and being true to yourself in the process.

    Personally, I think it’s awesome that you’re willing to put the time in for a critique. A lot of new authors are probably wishing for the guidance, they just don’t know how to ask. (Or at least, you can pretend they are and it will help you feel better πŸ™‚ )

    • Janette Rallison
      March 25, 2014 at 12:40 am

      I pretend a lot . . .it’s part of my job.

  2. Melinda
    March 23, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Are you kidding? What new author wouldn’t be honored to get a critique of their book from you! What an awesome opportunity for them. πŸ™‚

    • Janette Rallison
      March 25, 2014 at 12:40 am

      That’s it . . . I’ll look on the bright side. They should be thrilled.

  3. Kimberley Griffiths Little
    March 24, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Janette, will you pretty please blurb my book?? πŸ™‚

  4. Janette Rallison
    March 25, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Of course!

  5. Marsha Ward
    March 25, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Ha ha ha! Janette, I’d let you “blurb” my books anytime.

    • Janette Rallison
      March 27, 2014 at 11:48 am

      You’ve been a victim of my critiques so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

  6. Rebecca Lamoreaux
    March 26, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Best reply ever! I love, LOVE the honesty here!! Good to know for the future πŸ˜‰ I may ask you to Blurb a book just to see what comes back so I can be as awesome as you are some day!

  7. Tanya Parker Mills
    March 27, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for sticking to your honesty guns! And I quake to think that you ever critiqued any of my work (i.e., those first pages with the dog).

    • Janette Rallison
      March 27, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Those pages were great. See, you know if they weren’t, I would have told you so. I spare no one.

  8. Janette Rallison
    March 27, 2014 at 11:48 am

    The best time to ask me is when you’re still willing to revise it. Then you won’t hate me quite so much.

  9. Marissa
    April 5, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Asking for blurbs seems really awkward to me. “Hey, will you please write a short note to the rest of the world telling everybody that my book is great? I know you haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure you’ll love it because I am the author and of course completely objective in my evaluation.”

    • Janette Rallison
      April 6, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Yeah, sometimes it feels exactly like that.

  10. Wendy Archibald
    April 7, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Hahaha–this is just one of the reasons I love you. πŸ™‚ (Please don’t punch me in the face for that . . .)

    • Janette Rallison
      April 13, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      I would never punch you! Every time I put on your apron, it makes me happy.

  11. Robin Ambrose
    April 7, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    K, so, two years ago, you made me PROMISE to let you blurb my first book. Since I always keep my promises… at what point should I send it to you? I’m guessing I should just send it as soon as I turn it in to my editor, to give you maximum time to critique and me maximum time to make the changes. πŸ˜‰ (This happy event is not scheduled to occur any time soon. I’ll be sure to give you a head’s up as soon as I get an agent… and then a publisher….)

    • Janette Rallison
      April 13, 2014 at 9:57 pm

      Give it to me sometime after you’ve given it to your editor and before it goes to the copy editor. There will be fewer tears that way.

  12. julie wright
    April 13, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I love this. Like with my whole soul love it . . .

    • Janette Rallison
      April 13, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      That’s why you’re awesome.

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