The book blurb. You know them. You’ve seen them. They’re those flowery statements of effusive praise on the back cover of books. They’re usually written by a “best-selling” or “award-winning” author who has written a book related to the book they are blurbing about. I don’t know how blurbs became so prevalent in the publishing industry (though you can read about the history here), but they’re ubiquitous now and it would be a mistake to publish a novel without them. And so getting book blurbs is another task you can add to the list of being an author.
Getting blurbs for a novel can be tricky for several reasons. First all, authors tend to be busy people with a lot of demands on their time and expertise—especially “bestselling” authors. It can be an imposition to reach out to them and many will be forced to say ‘no’ because they can’t fit it into their schedule. The timing of making blurb requests is also challenging. It’s important to get blurb requests early enough to be included in your book design. Also, you want to provide potential blurbers with a sufficient amount of time to read your book. With those things in mind it’s good to make blurb requests as early as possible, but, the problem is, your manuscript might not be complete. Somehow, authors have to find just the right moment to make blurb requests when their manuscript is finalized while the design phase is still to come.
My upcoming novel, Reclaiming Mni Sota, comes out October 10, 2023. Last month, eleven months before its release, I made a list of potential blurbers. That list was forty persons long. I made the list based on those authors and scholars whose endorsement I thought would lend credibility and authority to my novel. They include a handful of Indigenous authors, a long list of Minnesota-born authors, a few historians, and a few historical fiction authors I’ve gotten to know or work with over the years. Before reaching out to these authors, I wrote a template letter that I could copy/paste into my email and change as necessary depending on who I was reaching out to. If you’re interested, you can read that template here: Blurb Request
At the end of last month, I went ahead and made those blurb requests. The response has been good but not great. Of the forty requests I sent, I received a response from twelve of them. Of those twelve, six declined my request for a variety of reasons. Two authors have given me a ‘maybe’ response and four have said ‘yes.’
Making blurb requests is a challenging but necessary task. I’m grateful for those authors who were available and willing to take a look at my manuscript and potentially, if they enjoy the novel, provide me with a blurb that will capture the attention of my target audience. Two authors have already written blurbs and I’m happy to share those with you now.
“With a historian’s eye for detail with a novelist’s empathy for individuals, this wonderful novel suggests an alternative ending to the 1862 war, one that inspires contemplation about what could have happened and what did.”
“What if the Ojibwa and Dakota conquered old rivalries to fight the U.S soldiers during the 1862 U.S-Dakota War? Many believe their combined forces would have pushed the whites out of Minnesota and changed history forever. Colin Mustful’s Reclaiming Mni Sota is an imaginative and intriguing story of what might have happened if this alliance had been made. Reclaiming Mni Sota may give an alternative account of this tragic episode of Minnesota history, but it also leaves the reader pondering race relationships today. It kept me reading to the very last page.”
– Candace Simar, Author of the Spur-Award winning Abercrombie Trail Series
On another note, I was recently asked to provide a blurb for Alina Rubin, author of the novel A Girl With a Knife. As an author, that’s an exciting thing. It shows that your name carries authority in the world of literature. Here is the blurb I provided for Alina…
“A thrilling debut by Alina Rubin, A Girl with a Knife has just the right amount of keen historical and medical detail, alongside a riveting story of a young woman determined to follow her dreams despite the odds stacked against her by a dogmatic, narrow-minded society.”
— Colin Mustful, author, historian, editor, and founder of History Through Fiction
I meant those words and if they lead to even one sale, to even one happy reader, I’ll be grateful for having provided them.
Colin Mustful is an independent author, historian, editor, and publisher. His writing helps readers learn and understand the complicated and tragic history of settler-colonialism and Native displacement in the Upper Midwest. He has a Master of Arts degree in history and a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. He is also the founder of History Through Fiction, an independent press that publishes high-quality fiction that is rooted in historical research. Mustful is an avid runner and soccer player who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He believes that learning history is vital to understanding our world today and finding just, long-lasting solutions for the future.