Extracting Blurbs from Reviews by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

When Stephanie highlighted the importance of endorsements for writers it occurred to me that I could share a couple excerpts from the third in my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career.Carolyn Howard Johnson This one will help fellow members extract ethically extract blurbs (endorsements) from their reviews. Don’t forget to go back to the first in this series of posts for more about getting permission from the reviewer to reprint as needed (accredited, of course) when you first get a review.

Here is a little more from Chapter Ten:

EXCERPTING FROM REVIEWS

Most of us weren’t taught this excerpting business in school, probably because excerpting seems such a nonissue. Many have no idea how to do it and don’t realize they need to figure it out. They can go miserably astray.

Blurbs may be neglected because there is confusion about what they are. I have heard them called endorsements, testimonials, praise, quotes, blurbs, and even bullets because they are frequently printed on the back cover of books set off by little BB-sized dots.

When my husband solicited blurbs from VIPs in the Asian community for his first book What Foreigners Need to Know about America from A to Z (bit.ly/AmericaAtoZ), he came up with a few other . . . ahem! . . . choice words for getting them. He had been told it is a difficult process.  Difficult, but not impossible. He ended up with endorsements from the ambassador to China from the U.S. and the ambassador from China to the U.S. This illustrates why authors shouldn’t listen to naysayers who think approaching influencers is futile. You can do it and you can do it effectively. Just keep reading.

For purposes of this book, let’s just follow the crowd and use practically the whole glossary including excerpts, blurbs, and endorsements. When we use them, we mean praise or recommendations—even when they aren’t excerpted from reviews.

Authors who misuse or underuse excerpts from their reviews are at a disadvantage. Not only are blurbs or endorsements one of the best tools in your marketing kit, but review excerpts are often your only chance to use the credibility of a prestigious review journal as part of your panoply of credit boosters.

The excerpting process is easy and a lot of fun once you know how to do it. Let’s say you have a review that includes some praise or even a word that made you happy. Perhaps the rest of it wasn’t all you’d like it to be. Perhaps (yikes!) it doesn’t include your name or title! Here’s how to proceed:

  • Put on your marketing bonnet and reread your review thinking “soundbites” or the phrases that remind you of the praise you see in ads for movies. Many of them are excerpts or little clips from advance reviews of that film.
  • Choose the little gems that make you glad you wrote the book. Some will be very short. Even one word. Shorties are used for everything from restaurants to movies because they emphasize the raves that are . . . mmmm, over the top when publishers and authors use them about their own work. Words like awesome and
  • Select some of the praise that points out the benefit a reader might get if he or she reads your book.
  • When you must leave something out of the sentence you choose, let ellipses (three little dots . . . ) take the place of those missing words.
  • Sometimes you need to substitute for purposes of clarity or brevity. If the blurb says, “If there is any justice in the world, this book is destined to be a classic,” and you would rather have the title of your book in that excerpt rather than this book, you can do that. Remove this book and replace those words with the name of the book: “Two Natures by Jendi Reiter.” You need to put the squarish brackets around the part you insert yourself. So it would read “ . . . if there is any justice in the world, [Two Natures by Jendi Reiter] is destined to be a classic.”

Note: You can see that your job is to make the excerpt as true to the original meaning as possible without sacrificing its value.

  • Stow your excerpts in a file you can refer to later. Be sure to include the accreditation for each blurb. That avoids confusion later and makes using one of them a quick copy-and-paste process.
  • Though we should also take care when we quote others, it is legal to quote for certain purposes and in certain amounts without getting permission especially if you write commentary, satire, criticism, academic material, or news reports. Reviews are considered criticism. If you are using your reviews efficiently, you will probably already have permission to reprint according to guidelines we’ve already mentioned. (Use this book’s Index to look up all the references to copyright in this book.)
  • The number of words you can use without permission depends upon the size of the copyrighted work as a whole. Guidelines differ from genre to genre. Find specific guidelines at the Library of Congress Web site (loc.gov/) or let a research librarian help you. The online bookstore division of Amazon protects itself by allowing quotations and blurbs of up to twenty-five words directly from reviews.

Note: Those who want to learn more about copyright law as it applies to authors will find help in Literary Law Guide for Authors: Copyrights, Trademarks and Contracts in Plain Language (bit.ly/LitLawGuide) by Tonya Marie Evans and Susan Borden Evans with a foreword by my deceased friend and book marketing guru Dan Poynter.

So you have asked for reprint rights. Or a review journal like Midwest Book Review notifies you when your review has been posted and the notification includes permission to reuse it—a very nice service that benefits both Midwest and you. In either case, record each permission you are given in a folder reserved for great blurbs and reviews—preferably in a subfolder for each of your book titles. At that point, you are ready to go to work.

Watch for the next blog on ways to use your reviews and the excerpts (blurbs or endorsements) you have gleaned from them.

Author Bio:

Carolyn is a new member of Nonfiction Authors Association. She brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and founder and owner of a retail chain to the advice she gives in her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. Her newest book in the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.

If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit with checklists, worksheets and templates for book marketing. Check it out!

Extracting Blurbs from Reviews by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

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