This month I’m answering all of the questions you have about publishing! Many people think it’s a straightforward manufacturing process—closer to producing zippers or bubble gum or anything else we use and hold every day. But the truth is, publishing is much more complicated than that. Today’s question came from Jennifer and has to do with endorsements, which can be a fraught subject because no one likes asking for favors. But endorsements are vital in promoting your book, so it’s worth getting out of your comfort zone. Read the post to find out how to make the ask, complete with a template you can use!
At what point in the writing and publishing process do you ask for endorsements, particularly from more well-known endorsers with whom your connection might be more distant?
If you have a question about publishing that you’d like answered, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). If I don’t know the answer, I know someone who does and I’ll find out for you!
Let’s start with the basics.
Endorsements go by many names—blurbs, testimonials, quotes, and quotable quotes are all names I’ve heard for them. My preferred term is “endorsements,” so I’m going to stick with that here. Endorsements are short statements in support of a piece of work that are used to promote that work. They’re usually 1-3 sentences long, and can be found on a book’s online pages, on the back cover of the book, and sometimes even (if you have a lot of them!) in “Praise Pages” at the front of a book. Ideally, these statements come from well known organizations, publications, influencers, and thought leaders whose names will be meaningful to the book’s audience.
Quick note: The ideal number of endorsements is probably somewhere between 5-20.
Here are some examples of endorsements for one of my favorite books, Radium Girls by Kate Moore:
“The story of real women at the mercy of businesses who see them only as a potential risk to the bottom line is haunting precisely because of how little has changed; the glowing ghosts of the radium girls haunt us still.”
“Kate Moore’s gripping narrative about the betrayal of the radium girls—gracefully told and exhaustively researched—makes this a nonfiction classic.”
Rinker Buck, author of The Oregon Trail and Flight of Passage
“The Radium Girls by Kate Moore is powerful, disturbing, important history.”
New York Times bestselling author Karen Abbott
“Kate Moore has dug deep to expose a wrong that still resonates—as it should—in this country. Exceptional!”
San Francisco Book Review
Lovely, right? Every author would love to have these kinds of glowing statements in support of their book from reputable names. But how, exactly, do you get them?
In your book proposal or plan’s promotion section, you should include a list of potential endorsers. Ideally these are people you know personally who also have good name recognition for your audience, and you feel pretty confident that they would be willing to read/endorse your book. Publishers know that these people are possible endorsers, not necessarily a for-sure promise. That said, don’t exaggerate the list with people who are completely out of reach, unless you have a real connection to them. (i.e. Don’t list Oprah as an endorser unless you have a real chance of that happening!) I usually recommend wording this section in your proposal something like, “I have relationships with the following influencers and can reasonably rely on them to provide endorsements:”.
If you do know potential endorsers pretty well, you don’t have to ask them in advance—but if you’re not sure, you should ask them if they’d be willing to review the book later for endorsement. If you plan on cold-emailing bigger influencers that you don’t know personally, you can still include those names in the proposal, but do note for the publisher that you don’t know them personally, so those are less likely to happen.
You’ll want the book to go through at least one round of editing so that you feel pretty confident the content isn’t going to change substantially during subsequent edits. At this point, you can send the draft manuscript to the people who have already agreed to read it. You should always send them the full, edited manuscript, so they can make sure they really do want their name used in support of the book. Sometimes people who know and trust you will provide an endorsement without reading it, but that shouldn’t be expected!
I believe that cold-emailing a potential endorser is worth a shot, as long as it’s a reasonable fit. For example, if there’s a highly respected researcher you trust and whose work has informed much of your work, but you don’t know them personally, I recommend sending them a nice email letting them know and making the ask. If you’re hoping for someone whose work is in no way connected to yours and whose platform is so large that it doesn’t make sense, then save yourself the time and don’t ask them. Again, even if you really love Oprah or the current President or Malcolm Gladwell or someone else huge, don’t ask unless there’s a reasonable connection you can draw on.
For those like our hypothetical researcher, with whom there’s a real connection and you might have a chance of them saying yes, you can try to “warm up” the cold email before you send it. Perhaps have a mutual acquaintance introduce you to them or connect with them on social media first.
It goes without saying that your email should be tactful and respectful, and that you should accept their response (or lack of response) graciously. You’ll also want to make them curious about the book with an interesting hook and tell them a little bit about the premise. This will be very similar to the query letter you sent to publishers or agents, so I recommend taking some of the same language you used for that.
Here’s a template you can use for a cold email:
It was wonderful connecting with you at….
Thanks for responding to my DM on Instagram about…
Your work has influenced me/my book in the following ways…
I’m writing to tell you a little bit about my forthcoming book, [TITLE].
[SHORT Overview, Audience, + Rationale – 3 sentences MAX]
[Author bio – why are YOU the best person to write this book? 1-2 sentences]
[The Ask – tell them how they can help. Everyone loves helping!]
If you’re interested in learning more, I’d love to send you an advance copy of my manuscript to review for endorsement. An endorsement from you would have tremendous significance for my audience and would be a personal highlight for me throughout this process.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Website/Relevant social media]
I know that asking for favors can be hard, but ultimately, you asking them is a compliment, so there’s no reason to be embarrassed or feel awkward about asking!
Do be prepared for them to ask you to write a draft for them to edit and sign off on. This comes as a surprise to many first-time authors, but it’s actually quite common. And if they do ask that, then craft a potential quote for them keeping the following in mind:
What happens once someone has endorsed you? Do NOT forget to follow up personally with all of your endorsers to personally thank them and send them a (preferably signed) copy of the book. This is basic courtesy, and yet I know too many authors who have forgotten. If you’re working with a publisher, it can be tempting to just let an editorial assistant handle this task, especially if you’ve received a lot of endorsements, but I highly recommend that you take the time and responsibility for it. Ultimately, your reputation is on the line, not the publisher’s, and it will mean so much more to the people who endorsed you than if they receive a stock thank you letter with the book.
I hope that this empowers you and encourages you to ask for endorsements for your book! It really is one of your most powerful marketing tools. What questions does this raise for you? Email me to let me know!