Endorsements give your book credibility and can boost sales. They provide third-party validation that your book is worthwhile, and as a result they are so much more powerful than any publicity that comes directly from you.
Yet many writers are bashful about asking for them, or they ask the wrong people. Here’s how to make the most of the opportunity:
1. Think about endorsements at the proposal stage.
As a coach, I like to get the process going at the book proposal stage, even though doing so sometimes strikes fear in the writer’s heart. “How can I ask someone famous to endorse my book when I haven’t even written it yet?” they counter.
No problem. Just ask if they will agree to review your book for a possible endorsement, when it’s ready. That makes it easier to say yes, because they’re not committing to writing a positive blurb from now. And it gives your proposal more weight to have these commitments up front.
While writing my proposal for Will Write for Food I emailed cookbook author Deborah Madison (met her at the Greenbrier), restaurant reviewer Michael Bauer (I had interviewed him for my sample chapter on restaurant reviewing), and literary agent Lisa Ekus (I knew her professionally). I explained that I was writing the book and would be honored to include their names in the proposal as potential endorsers. I explained why I thought they were a good match for the book. All agreed.
Another kind of endorsement is the foreword. This is a larger commitment, where someone writes an essay inside the book, instead of a sentence or paragraph. Often publishers pay the writer a fee. A respected name, mentioned in the proposal, can impress agents and editors.
2. Pick the right names for the job.
I find that people sometimes go down the wrong path. They think of whom they admire, instead of who the reader admires, or people in their town who are not known nationally. They name obscure professors or writers of books that influenced them but are not on target for their own book.
Think about it this way: Who is an admired authority on the broad subject of your book, in the mind of the target reader? Not in your mind. If you’re lucky and you’re a good networker, you might already know these people, or you have a connection. If not, it’s just a matter of asking them.
For example, Craig Priebe, the chef with whom I co-wrote Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas, decided that restaurateur Wolfgang Puck was the ultimate authority on gourmet pizzas and that our target readers revere him. So Craig bugged his assistant (politely) for weeks until he got the endorsement. You can read it in the photo above, on the back of our book.
3. Tracking people down is easier than ever.
These days everyone who’s known (and you want that kind of person) has a website, a Twitter feed, or a Facebook page. They want to be found. Or maybe they’re members of an organization you belong to, which will make them even easier to find. Sometimes you can go through their book publisher or agent. Read their book’s acknowledgements to get the right names.
When you find them,state your case politely. Explain what your book is about and give them a timeline, if possible, so they know what to expect.
4. Make it easy for the endorsers to give you that blurb.
Once you have a book deal, your publisher will ask you to list names of potential endorsers. Make a long, ordered list. Some people won’t have time, some might be away, and some might decline, so you want at least eight or nine names.
When your manuscript gets to the galley stage (that’s when the book is bound but not published yet), the publisher will send it out for review to potential endorsers. Sometimes they send a PDF by email.
Some publishers help you find the contact information, and some don’t. You might have to supply it, and even manage the process. You may have to let people know when the galley or PDF is coming, and follow up to see if they have sent their blurb to the publisher. Keep on top of the process to ensure that you get the blurbs you want — and deserve.
5. Believe you have something to offer.
Savvy big names like to endorse books, because their name appears prominently, often with a title of their book, restaurant or sometimes even a website URL, on the front or back cover. It’s free marketing to their intended audience, if you chose correctly.
So if you’re worried that you have nothing to offer these big names, think again. Your book can be a billboard for their own publicity.
I know, firsthand, that all you have to do is get up the nerve. I emailed Anthony Bourdain to ask him to endorse Will Write for Food, and he did! My editor and publicist said they did a little dance. Aim high. You have nothing to lose.
Got a tip or a story about how you got a terrific blurb? I’d love to know.