I was at a writing event a while ago, and the keynote speaker, a published author, said that the way he gets blurbs is he writes out what he wants the other author to say, and then the other author signs it. He said that’s how everybody gets blurbs.

I waved away the flies forming around my dropped-open mouth. What?

Well, I suppose that would be a heck of a lot easier than how everybody I know does it.

Blurbs are those quotes from other authors or public figures on your book. The ones that say, “I couldn’t sleep for a week until I finished it,” etcetera. The ones that hopefully nudge the reader into whipping out the wallet.

This is how it works.

You write to an author you admire, asking him or her if he’d please read your book and give it a blurb if he likes it well enough. Then you wait for a response.

Your agent and editor may also contact the representatives of the author to ask on your behalf.

Then you wait.

Sometimes the answer is no, because the author is too busy, or the work is too similar, or too far away from their own work.

If you have some personal connection to the author, it’s more likely that you’ll get a positive response. By personal, I don’t mean you’ve been Facebook friends for two days, and on the third day you post on that author’s wall, “BLURB MY BOOK!” No. Don’t do that. You’d be using the author, and nobody likes feeling used.

No, maybe you met at a writer’s conference, or took a class from the author at some point. Maybe you can’t make it to any classes or hope to meet in person, but you made Facebook friends with the author a while ago, and you have e-mailed the author (in a non-stalking manner) to express admiration for work, perhaps re-posted event or book info for the author, exchanged jovial Facebook comments. And you’ve done it all because you honestly feel like a fan, not because you’re planning on using him or her for a blurb down the road a little. (People can tell).

You know, you’ve networked. Like you do for regular jobs.

In my case, I moved to Hawaii for my husband’s job (no, not military, he lost his old job, I think the full story’s someplace on this site). Hawaii has authors everywhere! Not really, but it seemed that way to me. Anyway, I had the great fortune of getting to know Patricia Wood, author of the Orange Prize-finalist LOTTERY, because we had the same editor. Pat is one of those people who always knows everybody, and knows how to do anything from sail a ship to write a novel. So every time I saw or talked to Pat, I’d break out my special Pat legal pad so I could jot down a)where good schools were b)where the best spearfishing spots were c)how to manage taxes d)which streets to take to avoid traffic and e)how to get blurbs. Lucky for me, Pat liked HOUSEWIFE and asked many of her author friends if they would read it. I also met some of them personally, at a local writer’s conference where they taught seminars. Most of the authors said sure, love to. This was amazing to me, that all these ultra-busy best-selling authors would help out, but that’s what happened. Because authors are generally nice people, I’ve found. Also, authors like to read.

So then, these authors all read my book and enjoyed it and wrote wonderful gracious words which made me tear up. Because these authors, after your agent and editor (and everyone at the publisher), are often among the first to read the words you’ve been slaving over solo, and to hear that other actual human beings liked it is amazing. I wrote them thank-yous. The author of BEACHES (whom my agent asked for me), wrote back to the effect that way back when, Pat Conroy had given her a blurb, and she’d never forgotten it and was paying it forward.

And if someone didn’t like the novel, my editor didn’t tell me. Usually you just never hear anything again.

There you have it. In my admittedly limited experience, you do not write them yourself. Blurbs are not paid for, except with kind words of appreciation. And then doing the same thing for other new authors, when you can.