Confession Tuesday on Wednesday: The Art & Anxiety of Asking for a Blurb

Dear Reader, 

I am a day late.  This happens.

I have been filled with projects, from teaching a class where we wrote new poems to editing an incredible manuscript about Alzheimer's.

I confess I also had to ask for blurbs this week.

No wait, let me be honest, I knew a long time ago I had to ask other poets to blurb my book, but I waited until I got the email from my publisher saying, "We need blurbs in hand by mid-July."    

Blurbs, a terrible name for "a promotional description, as found on the jackets of books" or "a brief advertisement or notice, as on a book jacket, esp. one full of praise."  

Knowing I had to ask for blurbs, my stomach became a knot.

When I ask a poet to write a blurb for my book it's because I love that poet and want his or her name on my book.  Maybe if I asked poets I didn't care about so much it would be easier, but I don't.  I ask my heroes.  I ask my favorite poets who are writing today, whose books fill my shelves.

Here's something you may not know about me--

I *hate* asking for anything.  
I'd rather take care of it myself or go without.  

I hate having to bother others with my needs, I don't want to impose or be too forward.

The only things I do not have problems asking for are below:

1)  Are you going to eat that last piece of cake?  (or eclair, brownie, cookie, keylime pie, etc.)

2)  Can I borrow a dollar to buy chocolate/gum/candy/something to eat or drink?

3)  Can you buy me a large black drip coffee?

(As you can see, I'm very taste motivated. )

But everything else in life, I do not ask for.  I either decide it's not worth it and go without or find a way to get what I need without bothering others.

I don't even participate in Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day because it feels to forward to me.

So on hearing I needed to ask for blurbs I went into my metaphorical corner and tried to find strength. Actually, I may have been hitting my head against the wall and looking for my blankie.

Basically, I wrote a status about my blurb dilemma on Facebook and walked around in circles in my mind.

Because I hate being uncomfortable (something else that motivates me like nothing else), I decided to ask my favorite poets for blurbs that night and get it over with.

I will be honest, the email I sent were probably not your standard "How To Ask for a Blurb" emails.

Here's a taste of what I wrote (and note, this is not a recommendation of how to ask for blurbs):

Anyway, all of this makes me hugely uncomfortable and if you're busy, no worries,


None of this is coming out well,

and this jewel:

I hate to bother you, but my 3rd collection, Hourglass Museum is coming out next year with White Pine Press and I was wondering if you'd be open to blurbing it.

I'm sorry, I hate asking.  I know blurbing is a pain in the butt,

And then there's this:

And if you're busy, I completely understand and don't feel bad if you have to say no.  

As you can see, I am not the best at asking for things. I gave the blurbers numerous outs, acknowledged that blurbing wasn't fun, and even managed to use the poetic word "butt" in my request.  (Good one.)

I sent my emails off and then imagined the worst.

But it seems, even with my crazy attempts at asking, all three poets I asked (my top choices for blurbers) all said yes (and did so within hours of me asking so I didn't need to feel anxious for their reply.)

I already have one blurb back (and I LOVE it!) and two in the works by two other favorite poets of mine.

I realize I need to get better at asking in general.

I'm happy to ask the universe or God or baristas for things, but I'm not good at asking friends, people I admire, poets, and humans in general.

But what I learned from this experience:

1)  People are mostly kind and good.  And if they can help you, they will.

2)  Even asking in the most awkward way possible, still can bring good things.

3)  When you're feeling uncomfortable, do the thing that's you should be doing and you'll feel better.

4)  Realize what you are not good at and try to be better at it.

5)  There are certain things we need to do as poets, writers, and authors and they will make you feel uncomfortable, but they are part of the job--do them anyway, even if they take you out of your comfort zone.

6)  I can waste a lot of time and energy worrying about things. In fact, I make a much bigger deal of things that really much easier than I think.

I confess I am SO glad this blurb-asking is over though I will acknowledge, it was easier, kinder, gentler, than I thought.

Yes, I received Beauty for the Asking.  And it was worth it.

~ Kells

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  1. I just did this for my book coming out soon....SCARY, nerve-wracking process. I think that we poets are the twistiest/anxiousest of all writers, don't you? I was just saying to a friend.

    I always cover my bases of giving people an easy out, too. I am learning that people will say "no" if they don't want to help or if they can't (timewise/energywise/interestwise).

    I always give gratitude in the form of baked goods :).

    I also figure, since two poets that I love did me the favor of reading my work and giving me lovely blurbs, I am signing up to do the same for others in the future.

  2. I had to do that for my chapbook and it was so nerve-wracking! Even though those who blurbed were happy to do it and those who did not turned me down politely.

    I am saving this post to my Evernote app so that the next time I have to ask for blurbs, I can read it and remember that other poets feel this way!

  3. Found your lovely blog while putting off asking for blurbs...

    My publisher's advice was to ask writing teachers and mentors as well as poets I know. Which is when my chosen hermit lifestyle bites back, because I don't have a MFA or go to workshops or know a single published poet. I find asking for anything to be as excruciating as you, so I may tell my publisher that my poetry collection will be blurb-free. But I have to ask. When you say you approach the poets who most inspire you, do you mean asking strangers? (Yes, "strangers" isn't the right word because we come to know poets through their work.)


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