My Self-Publishing Journey: Battle of the Blurb
Asking other writers to read and blurb my book left me contemplating less painful careers.I’ve never thought of my decision to self-publish as particularly brave. It felt more like a last resort after so many years trudging forward and finding myself no closer to publication. For me, it was go indie or give up.
On my journey so far, there have been moments when I’ve been derailed. I’ve battled against daily dread born from the ups and downs of the revision process and the fear that I’m the only person in this industry who is faking it to make it. Courage has felt far off, and anxiety (with a fair share of doubt) clings to me like double-sided tape -- and that was before I remembered about blurbs.
Most writers aren’t fond of setting themselves up for the rejection by asking for blurbs, which is ironic because rejection is the one thing we can depend on in our careers. As hybrid author M. Leighton said of the process, "Expect to feel one minute like you can conquer the world and the next like you're buried beneath it. But never fear. You're not alone. Or crazy. You're just a writer."
It’s an overwhelming prospect to show your work to readers, let alone to other authors. Asking other writers to read and blurb my book left me contemplating less painful careers -- like becoming a stun gun tester or Scooby Doo villain. Instead I devised a plan: Procrastinate.
I Googled and read articles on how best to ask an author for a blurb, wrote out a few sample queries, and deleted my words over and over again. Since self-publishing means you can’t focus on just one part of the process, I also finished my final revision, watched a reshoot of what will eventually be my book cover, and researched formatting.But the blurb dilemma wouldn’t fade, no matter how creatively I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. "Asking a seasoned author for a blurb, when you are just getting your feet wet in the industry, is a lot like job hunting...you bring your resume, you sweat profusely, and you ask for the job hoping the person doesn't laugh in your face," said hybrid author Rachel Van Dyken. "You never know until you try. I still get nervous asking other authors to blurb me, but at the end of the day, you're never going to be successful unless you're willing to take a chance on yourself first. If you're afraid for someone else to invest in your work, then you have to ask yourself do you really believe in it in the first place?"
The key here is, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
I went back to the blank page and started fresh. Wrote polite pitch letters -- each one tailored to the author I was approaching, and added my request for a blurb. The authors I chose weren’t random. A few were heroes -- because if I’m going to step this far out of my comfort zone, I might as well dream big. A few were friends or people I’d met, and all achieve something in their writing I hope to accomplish with my own. I made sure to let each person know why I approached him or her, while doing my best to remove pressure.
I know it's a huge favor to ask authors to consider my novel (and I don’t doubt it’s more than a little awkward to be on their end if they have to tell me no). Rejection sucks. It can hurt and feed doubt, but it’s also important. Because it’s not going away anytime soon, and if I’ve learned anything in my career so far, it’s that rejection often leads to opportunity.
Bearing that in mind, I channeled my bravery and did what I feared most: I asked. It was a daunting task, and though I may have been a pile of twitching goo once the last email was sent, it was worth it. My nerves abated once the requests were out, and I prepared to wait.
Within a few days, I heard back from all but one of the authors.
The very last thing I expected to happen, did. Out of the seven authors I contacted, five said yes, one said maybe, and the seventh has yet to reply. The vote of confidence left me shaky but fortified. It also served as a reminder that authors, and the writing community, are full of supportive and amazing people. Fear, that pesky curmudgeon, was the real battle of the blurb. I learned (once again), in the immortal words of J.K. Rowling, that "anything's possible if you've got enough nerve."