Matt Manochio on Blurbs (and THE DARK SERVANT)

My guest tonight is Mr. Matt Manochio, whose debut novel THE DARK SERVANT is about to be published by Samhain Horror. His topic is “blurbs,” which is an area that pains me more than any other. Asking for blurbs, I mean. So maybe I’ll learn as much as you will from this post. Here we go…

Every author has to do it at some point. It’s painful and annoying, and we all know it cannot be avoided: giving blood for money to pay the power bill.

I’m kidding, sort of. But what most authors typically must do after signing a book deal is get blurbs. Ugh. This invariably means you pester an established author (in my case, New York Times bestselling and/or Bram Stoker Award-nominated -winning writers) to read a book the established author might not otherwise read. And most established authors have a bunch of projects going on leaving them little free reading time.

But we newbies must ask. And that’s what I did after inking the deal for The Dark Servant. And I had a 6% success rate in getting blurbs.

That’s right: 6%.

But let’s explore that number.

I queried 157 authors, including names you’d recognize and names you wouldn’t. But they’re all successful writers. I had a large gap of time between signing the deal and my publication date, so I cast a wide net.

Of those 157 authors, 29 expressed interest or suggested I try later. That’s an 18.4% success rate.

Of those 29 authors, 23 asked for the manuscript! That’s a whopping 79% success rate. See where I’m going?

Finally, of those 23 authors, 10 provided endorsements, and that’s a 43.5% success rate. That means almost half of the authors who had the manuscript came through. And that’s about what I expected because of varying time commitments and the author’s interest in the project (it might not be to an author’s liking—and that’s fine).

So where did that 6% come from? If my math is right—and might not be because I’m a writer—10 out of 157 means 6% of the authors queried provided a blurb.

That 6% matters! And I got those 10 blurbs by asking, knowing I would get many more nos than yeses, but those yeses were crucial.

DarkServant_The_v4

My advice to any author going through this blurb-gathering process for the first time:

  1. Ask as many authors as you can, and this is easier than you think. Almost every established author has a website, and some famous authors post their email addresses on them. How famous? One of the first authors I queried was Anne Rice. Yup, her. Her email address was right there on her site. I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask, and I live by that: Ask. Ask. Ask. You might get what you want. It’s like dating. Guys, if you want to get a girlfriend, you’ve got to ask out women, sometimes hundreds of them. Thousands even. Not every woman’s gonna mace you and call 911. If you’ve got something good to offer and are nice about it, you might just end up eating Burger King and seeing the new Hunger Games movie. So anywho, I wrote Anne, never expecting to hear back. She replied the next day, very politely declining and giving her reason (time constraints). That blew me away. The woman who wrote Interview with a Vampire emailed me! Even though she passed, I thanked her nonetheless, explaining how surprised I was to have heard from her, and she replied nicely in kind. That motivated me. Keep asking.
  2. Be professional. Send a query—that’s the way I look at them: query letters (but by now you’re used to sending them to agents and publishers). If there’s a specific reason why you think the author would like the book, say so. Compare your work to something the author has written. Does this mean every letter must be unique? Look, your time is valuable too. It’s OK to have a somewhat generic query letter that has specifics related to you, your book’s subject, editor, and publisher. But make sure you tailor that letter to each individual author when you can. (Don’t overly ass-kiss, either. Keep your dignity!
  3. Should the author agree to look at the manuscript, don’t be a pest. State when your editor will need the blurb (there’s usually a little wiggle room) and provide the editor’s contact information. Say you’ll touch base with the author about a month before the deadline just to see where things stand. And stick to it. No update inquiries every two weeks or every month. Leave the author be.
  4. Always be polite in rejection. Never take it personally. You will get way more nos than yeses. Live with it. Send a quick note thanking the author for considering. Why bother? Perhaps the author will express interest in your next project.
  5. Although I’m sure there are writers who’ve successfully done this, I wouldn’t go to an author’s book signing and ambush him/her with a blurb request. That’s just me. Think about it, do you like it when someone asks you out of nowhere to take them to the airport or help move a body? I don’t. It puts you on the spot and you feel rushed to answer “yes” for the former and “I’ll do it for $1,000” for the latter. I want an author focusing his/her attention on my project, and that can’t happen at a busy book signing. However, if you’ve already provided your manuscript to the author, and learn the author’s doing a nearby signing, then touch base and let them know you’re gonna swing by to introduce yourself. I did this twice. One of the authors provided a blurb, the other wasn’t able to. But in each case I bought a book, got it signed, made connections and am on good terms with both. Both remain exceedingly friendly and supportive, and I can’t wait to run into them at conventions.

So there you go. That’s how I achieved a 6% success rate. And I’m damned proud of it.

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And there you have it, friends! Some very thought-provoking ideas from a really cool author. I haven’t read THE DARK SERVANT yet, but I plan to. And I’ve really enjoyed interacting with Matt over the past few months.

Have a great night, friends. Some blurb news of my own on the way…

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3 thoughts on “Matt Manochio on Blurbs (and THE DARK SERVANT)

  1. Reblogged this on YOURS IN STORYTELLING… and commented:
    Okay – so first of all I am impressed that Matt actually KNOWS what a blurb actually is. I hear way too many people referring to the back cover copy as a “blurb” nowadays I had begun to believe that no one remembered what a blurb was ACTUALLY supposed to be.

    My best blurb would have to be from Edward Lee – a horror author of some of the darkest, squishiest, nastiest, most tasteless and FUN horror novels out there who had this to say about my writing.

    “It’s a rare thrill these days when the genre unleashes an utterly exclusive voice.
    Steve Vernon is indeed such a voice, a writer who knows how to manipulate the
    building blocks of the horror genre with the confidence of a veteran, while
    unveiling a style, a craft, and a creative perception that is excitingly original.
    The genre needs new blood and Steve Vernon is quite a transfusion.”
    –Edward Lee, author of FLESH GOTHIC and CITY INFERNAL
    Another goodie would be from author Adrienne Jones who had this to say about my weird west novella LONG HORN, BIG SHAGGY.

    “I knew that Steve Vernon was a good writer when I found myself cheering for a decapitated head. Anyone that can put such personality into a dislodged appendage, simply by internal dialogue, deserves kudos in my book. ”

    You gotta love it!
    🙂

    Anyways, enough of my own blathering. Why don’t you folks have a look at what horror writer Matt Manochio has to say on the fine art of getting yourself a good blurb.

    yours in storytelling,
    Steve Vernon

    Like

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