Requesting a blurb: update

March 14th 2014

A few days ago, I emailed a blurb request to a much admired author (and blogged about it here). Unfortunately, I received an email today from the author and she is unable to do it. Although it’s a disappointment, she did write me a very kind email explaining why she couldn’t commit to a blurb — it’s a matter of time. In general, authors are typically working on multiple projects at once. Some might also be employed full-time. Not to mention they have family obligations. I totally get this, even if I am a little bummed. Of course, I am no worse off than before AND I learned how to write a pretty good blurb request.

I am so appreciative that the author took the time to respond. (One author friend of mine said her blurb request went unanswered.) This author is definitely a class-act.


Requesting a blurb

March 13th 2014

Yesterday I wrote a blurb request email to an admired author. Next to writing a query letter and synopsis (and my novel), it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. For some reason, all my decades-worth of writing experience flew out the window when I had to sit down and articulate why I wanted this particular person to read my novel and offer a brief comment on it. And it’s not like I didn’t have anything to say. But at first it sounded like this….

I loved your debut novel and the ghost and the romance and I felt this connection to my own work which also has this impossible romance between a girl and a ghost, oh and did I mention my book is also set in the past, in the 1990s, and I loved your historical setting and it was so creepy and I just think you’re amazing and I hope to write another novel with the same tone and mood and and and…gibberish.

For me, authors are celebrities, except with their shit together. Whenever I’m at a book signing, I find myself gushing and sounding ridiculous. With this particular blurb request, I needed to make sure I came across as professional and sincere and sane. I wanted the author to truly understand how much her work meant to me and how much I enjoyed reading her novel. Also, I consider our books to have many similarities. Enough to be on the If-you-liked-this-you-might-also-like-this list. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect author to blurb my book. I can only hope she agrees. From what I’ve read, authors are flattered to be asked for a blurb request. After all, they all started out as unknowns. And while the blurb request does nothing for them professionally, authors are happy to help out fledgling writers. We’re good people that way.

I couldn’t find any templates online for writing a blurb request and I stumbled on the order in which to organize my letter. Do I introduce myself in the first paragraph with a ..”I’m Kimberly Giarratano and I’m a YA author..”? Do I just lead right into gushing? Unlike a query letter that has a common structure, the blurb request email seems to have no identifiable protocol. I think if you include all the important elements and they flow nicely, you’ll be okay.

(Check out this guest blog post on requesting blurbs, written by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. It’s on Nathan Bransford’s blog and was written in 2009. I found it incredibly helpful.) The following are some tips for writing a blurb request.

  • Follow proper procedure when submitting a blurb request. In my case, the author’s website specifically said all blurb requests had to be emailed to the author’s agent. Not the author directly. Good to know and easy to do.
  • Make sure you have good reason to request a blurb from this particular author. Are your books in the same genre? Do you have a shared audience? Do you admire the author’s career?
  • In your request, cite specific reasons why you loved their last novel or their collection of work. Was there a specific character that stayed with you? Did you love the setting? What themes resonated? Etc, etc.
  • Don’t forget to briefly summarize your own novel (I almost did).
  • Include your publisher and publication date.
  • And ask them how they would like to receive your book, ie Word Doc, ebook, galley. (I didn’t do this. I decided to wait for a reply first before presuming they’d want the novel right off the bat. Not sure on etiquette for this.)

I emailed my blurb request yesterday and got an ‘out of office’ reply. I’ll just be hanging tight in the meantime. But I’ll keep you all apprised of what happens.

I can’t end this post without a big thank you and shout-out to my dear friend/editor/YA-expert-on-retainer, Jill, who helped me edit my letter. She has a wicked eye for comma misplacement and word choice.

Has anyone ever written a blurb request? What was the outcome?

Do you have any suggestions for authors struggling to write one? Please, feel free to sound off in the comments below.


Why I Write

March 10th 2014

My incorrigible, writer friend Stephen Kozeniewski tagged me in a blog hop. And while I typically bemoan these, I agreed to do it because, hey…it’s free content! and because he’s relentless.
Even though it’s not yet Passover, I will be answering The Four Questions…of Writing.

1. What am I working on?

I’m working on two novels actually. My first work-in-progress is a dual POV YA ghost story/mystery set in present day Key West, Florida. This book is fun to write and I’m loving the cast of characters I’ve created. Plus, Key West is one of the ten most haunted cities in the U.S. so the setting works perfectly. My second WIP is a YA historical mystery set in 1955 in Upstate NY in which an Argentine immigrant stumbles upon the dead body of her soon-to-be stepfather. She quickly learns that the man she loved like a father was not the good man she thought he was and that the detective’s list of suspects are everyone know she knows. I’m particularly proud of the concept and idea, but I worry about execution. It’s in the very early drafting stages, so only time, and a million revisions, will tell how this will all play out.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not sure if it does really. That’s the great thing about writing YA, I feel like rules and strict genre norms are meant to be broken, so we all break them. YA seems to be a buffet of genre mashups and unconventional literary devices. My first novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards, is a bit of a genre mashing. It’s a YA paranormal romance/mystery set in 1996. The time period is what sets it apart. I don’t care what anyone says, the 90s were the best decade ever (because of the music). The important part is that teenage angst and problems were the same in the 90s as they are today and the time period doesn’t make the book unrelatable at all. I’m amazed at how easily it is for me to transport myself back to 17 years old and relive some awful moments. But then I’ll hear a Radiohead song on XM and instantly I’m back to the fun moments of my youth too.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write because I’ve always written. Before staying home with my kids, I was a YA librarian. I live for YA books and I rarely read adult fiction anymore (which is not necessarily a good thing). I write YA because I truly love the books geared for a teenage audience and because I want to contribute to the literature. I also have a bachelor’s degree in history so I’m compelled to insert a historical setting or twist into all my work. Writing fulfills me in a way a traditional job never did.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’m constantly fine-tuning my writing process. Lately, I’ve really gotten into using the Snowflake Method. I’m not a details person. With Snowflake, I focus on the big idea, the big plot point, and then narrow down the finer points as I go through the steps. This works for me on many levels. For one thing, I can’t just wing a story. I’m not a ‘pantser.’ If I have no road map, then I’ll just sit in the driver’s seat staring at the steering wheel. I need direction and scene lists are my road map. Also, I find characters drive plot. So if I truly understand my characters, then somehow they lead me to major plot points without me having to think so hard. Details come after.

I must’ve revised Grunge Gods a bazillion times. I’m trying to save myself the time and inefficiency of doing that for any other novel I write. I have young kids. I need to write smarter if I’m to write another book before they go to college.

I want to thank Mr. Koz for tagging me. Stephen is the author of Braineater Jones, a funny, noir zombie novel set in the 1930s and The Ghoul Archipelago, a horror novel set on the open seas that would freak me out so badly if I actually read it (I have a weak constitution).

Up next is……my critique partner, Leandra! Her blogs posts are always a blast. She’ll post next week.


My cover! My cover!

February 23rd 2014

I am so incredibly excited to reveal the cover of my upcoming YA novel, Grunge Gods and Graveyards (set to release in May!).

Grunge Gods and Graveyards

Publishing with an awesome, small press like RAP means I get to have input in things like cover design. When I was asked about what I wanted to see on the cover, my mind spun with a zillion different ideas. Everything flew out of my mouth. Tree branches that spelled out the titles! A girl leaning up against a gravestone rocking out to music, holding her dead beloved’s hand! Silhouettes because I just love silhouettes! Interesting typography! My cover inspirations were everything from Splintered by A.G. Howard to Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Tucholke to The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett. It amazes me how a graphic artist can take an idea and conceptualize it in such a way as to nail down exactly what you want without you saying what that is. I am truly in love with my cover. And every time I look at it, I see something new. For example, at this resolution and size I just noticed that the silhouette of the girl is wearing headphones and carrying a Discman or Walkman (the book is set in 1996, so that makes perfect sense).

Anyway, I am incredibly excited that this day has arrived. Please consider adding GGG to your Goodreads shelf.

When the book’s release date nears, I plan on doing all sorts of fun giveaways. I hope you’ll check back.




A meeting of the library minds

February 11th 2014

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about an email I had sent to my public library administration in December expressing some frustrations over their poor YA collection development. (They didn’t have Cat Winters’ In the Shadow of Blackbirds which I was dying to read, or any Maureen Johnson novel published past 2006, not to mention they were missing several Printz books…) But then I didn’t hear anything back. Nothing. Radio silence. It wasn’t until after I participated in a phone-in town hall meeting with my state senator, and brought up the issues I had with our library, that I got a response. From my state senator. Still, not the library. Well, long story short, my state senator put me in touch with the new library board president and he invited me to meet with him and two other board members to discuss the library and ideas on improving, not just the YA collection, but teen outreach and customer service.

That meeting happened last night at the new library building in town. I was so excited to attend. You’d think I was going on a wine tour in Napa Valley. But, as a YA librarian, being given a chance to talk about the insufficient YA collection and programming is a tremendous opportunity. And the board did not disappoint. They listened to my ideas with open ears. They deferred to my experience and knowledge. The board president apologized to me for not receiving a reply to my 1.5 page email. He was interested in my ideas on how to get teens into the library and he asked me for a specific list of YA titles the library should order for the collection. At one point, I was referred to as a consultant which practically made my head explode. These trustees seem to be very involved and they value community input.

I left the meeting feeling very hopeful about the future of the library and excited about the changes I believe are coming. Just this morning, I sent another email with a recommended list of YA titles and teen programming ideas and I have faith progress will be made. Perhaps, in baby steps, but still progress. Because in Pennsylvania (unlike New Jersey), library funding does not come from taxes unless a special referendum is passed. But county residents won’t pass a referendum for the library unless the library can show how they are an integral part of the community. And unfortunately, they haven’t been able to do that.

I am incredibly grateful that my state senator facilitated this meeting and I’m grateful that the board of trustees were receptive to my ideas. And hopefully some wicked YA books will be gracing the shelves of our public library very soon.