If you’re an author, getting a decent review of your book is exciting. Asking for one, however, is one of the most daunting experiences I ever had, particularly because the book was yet-to-be-published at the time. But I have been lucky to get some line reviews and blurbs from eminent authors and critics for The Heaving Pavement. Some people have asked me how I got them and I only have one answer: Simply ask, but ask nicely. And that’s what I did. And then it was weeks and months of feeling like I’d just swallowed the biggest light bulb in the world.
The first review came about as part of a response to my failed entry in a writing competition held by a writers’ festival. When I received the rejection letter, I realised how helpful and encouraging the feedback was from the festival director and immediately asked if I could use it instead as a blurb for my upcoming book. The swift response? A resounding, ‘yes’! This gave me the confidence to draft ‘nice-sounding’ and professional-looking letters to other authors—some I’ve known as professional mentors, the others I didn’t know at all—and farmed them out with a view to eliciting some line reviews. The end result ended up on the back cover and internals of The Heaving Pavement. It feels great to know that there are writers and critics out there who would do the simple (but very important and selfless) act of supporting an unknown literary kin. Just recently, a famous and brilliant poet/editor/critic offered a blurb to my soon-to-be-published book. And I am extremely grateful and honoured for their support.
Now I’m not going to tell you the proper way of getting book reviews and blurbs because I simply don’t know the answer to it. What I know is that you have to ask nicely and professionally, particularly those who know the art and craft of writing. It also helps if the authors you’re asking the reviews from are writers in the same genre or form. The worst or least that could happen is that you don’t get a response. And then you just move on. Don’t be smug and arrogant. Don’t be demanding or annoying. Keep in mind that there’s no obligation on their part to provide you with a blurb or review, even if your book is great (or so you think) or a potential bestseller (or so you think). So to receive them in good faith should be cause for an outpouring of gratitude and humility on your part as an author.
As for the light bulb inside me, it’s still glowing like a star.