Authors: Seeking Approval

Depending on my current situation or environment, I might see something entirely different than another time when I read a passage of Scripture. The Bible is a like a diamond, with light of different colors shining through various facets depending on how you turn it and look through.

I am turning one Scriptural “diamond” today to see something in a little different light.

When Jesus walked to the Jordan River to begin his earthly ministry, John the Baptist immediately recognized him for who he really was, the Messiah. After Jesus was baptized, a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

The greatest endorsement and recommendation ever. Take that, LinkedIn.

The scripture does not say otherwise, so I assume it was an audible voice heard by everyone who was there.

Notice how Jesus didn’t come up from the water and say, “I am the Son of God and my Father is well pleased with me.”  Certainly Jesus had the authority to say that and it would have been entirely accurate, but God chose to break into real life and audibly express his approval and pleasure with his son for all to hear. Talk about a memorable moment.

At various times, we all come across a company or person that endorse themselves.

“Our products and service are unmatched.”

“Our food is like home cooking.”

“My book is the best ever.”

Even outside endorsements that are too easy can be less-than-effective.

“The products and service are unmatched.” (TV commercial with note mentioning endorser as “Actor portrayal”)

“The food is exquisite. I come here every day.” (TV commercial of customer obviously reading from cue cards. Who uses words like “exquisite” anyway?)

“This is the best book ever.” (from your aunt Judy)

Every author needs endorsements of their work from someone who is trusted, credentialed…and objective.

Some have tried to game the system on Amazon and other online retailers by providing friends and colleagues with endorsements they can post online so it gives the appearance of wide approval of their work. The various online retailers are pretty savvy about catching uses of similar phrases from endorsers and so now that type of activity has been greatly curtailed, but it still happens.

I know this entire issue is a major problem for the introverted author who “just wants to write a book,” but good, solid endorsements are important to agents, publishers and readers.

I recently declined a proposal from an author asking me to be their agent because they had no author platform and no endorsements. The author replied, “I am seeking the approval of God, not man.”

How do you respond to that?

Sure, I could have responded with some stupid comment like, “Even Jesus needed an outside endorsement.” But I didn’t. Because I didn’t reply.  There are times when being speechless is best, since my words would not have calmed hurt feelings.

So, knowing that endorsements are an important part of publishing, if you were me, how would you have responded to the hurt, prospective author?



27 Responses to Authors: Seeking Approval

  1. Avatar
    Jackie Layton July 28, 2015 at 4:33 am #

    It seems like not replying was the best response. That’s usually what I do when I can’t come up with something kind worth saying.

    • Avatar
      Paul Mick August 2, 2015 at 9:57 am #

      As a paradigm the only known ocassion via documented that Jesus chose no response to inquiry had been at the hands of Pilate.

      This in order to ensure charges of sedition & subsequently his own physical demise.

      The pay back if you will for forcing the fall of humanity as Adam in one of many reincarnations.

      In other words my question would be had you acted out of fear or faith when choosing silence?

      There is only one sin in the entire world, “self”.

      Putting a sense of self above the Creator and our fellow brothers & sisters.

      All the best of everything in soul development, always!



  2. Avatar
    Mermaid Scribbler July 28, 2015 at 6:03 am #

    What kind of endorsements would agents like to see from an unpublished writer?

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow July 28, 2015 at 6:25 am #

      Depends on the book. A recognized expert on the topic of the book is a general guideline for non-fiction. For fiction, someone known for quality writing is good.

      The greatest challenge for new authors is that high-profile people are being asked to endorse and recommend something on a regular basis and many of them develop a policy of only endorsing people they know personally or they never endorse anything.

      In short, you need to know someone prominent and trusted. If you don’t, it can very difficult, especially for non-fiction.

  3. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 28, 2015 at 6:07 am #

    Silence was probably best; the author’s response spoke volumes about his attitude, and I suspect he would not have been a fun client.

    Two thoughts about what one might say, given a more reasonable author…

    1) Explain that publishers (particularly in print) work to fairly narrow profit margins, and that each book they take on (especially from a new author) is a risk. A failure can materially damage a smaller publisher. As an example of how close things can be, Wm. Kimber never really recovered from the cost of having to call back a memoir which was shown to be false, in the late 1980s, and they didn’t long survive that event.

    2) If the book was otherwise one you would have considered for representation, say so; and invite its resubmission after the author has done more of the foundational platform-building work that is now so needed.

    I would also encourage aspiring writers to build an online presence that has some weight and substance; the medium is secondary, but it should be thematically connected with their work. Writing Southern Gothic and being famous for cute cat pictures on Pinterest probably doesn’t cut it.

    Or maybe it does…

  4. Avatar
    Robin Bayne July 28, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    I agree that silence is best in this case, because if the writer had done her homework she would already realize the (excellent) points Andrew made.

  5. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka July 28, 2015 at 8:16 am #

    I agree, silence sometimes is the best response. As Jackie mentioned above, if I can’t say something with kindness, I usually stay quiet. At that moment in time, that particular writer probably wouldn’t have been receptive to any suggestions you had anyway.

    Thanks for the reminder that having endorsements is part of the process for publication. As an unpublished writer, I am thinking about the relationships I’ve had the opportunity to develop with authors who are much further along the journey than I am.

    Question: For an unpublished writer, when is it appropriate to secure an endorsement and pass those on? If I get an endorsement from a well-known author, would that be something to share when I’m querying an agent? When I send a proposal? At some other time?

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow July 28, 2015 at 8:30 am #

      Using our agency as an example, our non-fiction proposal form asks for a list of 6-8 well-known, respected leaders who may be willing to endorse your book. We ask that an author highlight those you know personally and give some indication of the likelihood that they will provide an endorsement.

      There are also “personal” endorsements that have nothing to do with the book specifically, but attest to the author’s reputation or training…much like a character witness in court.

      A variety is best.

      You can see how an author who has no prominent connections is at a disadvantage.

  6. Avatar
    dorothy de kok July 28, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    You did the right thing.
    It would be a different matter entirely if God were the one buying our books.
    But He’s not, so we still need man’s endorsements.

  7. Avatar
    Emme Gannon July 28, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    I think you missed an opportunity to help someone grow in their craft. Words have life and your experience in the importance of platform could have changed the course of this author’s journey to publication. No reply is still a message – and often not a good one.

  8. Avatar
    Jenelle. M July 28, 2015 at 9:39 am #

    Ooo, this is interesting.

    We writers know how busy agents are. We’re reminded how many hundreds of queries you get a week. How high the slush pile is.

    Starting out in this industry, most aspiring authors want to know why they’re being rejected. Then as more is learned, it’s revealed that in most cases no reply is a rejection. Or the agency may state on their submission page that if you haven’t heard by then by X time, they aren’t interested. Sure, it’s a business, one that has rules, but there are some people who may not like that rule/policy. But, hey, it is what it is.

    I do know of a few agencies that have a standard rejection for each reason why a manuscript is being rejected, and they or their assistant paste that reason into their response. Takes time, absolutely!

    Stick to your gut. If you’re feeling lead to expand on your reason of rejecting then go for it. But if not, a generic response or silence works if that’s your policy. If sought out and willing, the Spirit soothes a ruffled heart best.

  9. Avatar
    m. rochellino July 28, 2015 at 9:44 am #

    Dan, I read your post twice to be sure I didn’t miss something. Terrific post by the way. If I were in your position I would not have remained silent. I would have completely and thoroughly evaluated their work based on its merits or lack thereof.

    If the work was truly substandard I would tactfully tell them its not ready yet and why I thought so.

    If the work was indeed excellent AND they were a truly sincere, spirit filled person of the Kingdom I would tell them how much I liked their work. I would also inform them of the additional components besides excellent work that I needed to be able to represent their work (platform, endorsements, etc.) if that indeed was the case.

    If I felt strongly enough about the person and their work I would consider providing leadership and I WOULD ASSIST THEM TO SEEK THEIR ENDORSEMENT by using my vast contacts among other authors, professionals and notables. There are qualified individuals and organizations out there generous enough to consider helping a new, bright, gifted writer. I would express my enthusiasm for this writer to all, including publishers.

    This mentoring does expose the leader to risk. It is much safer to simply keep quiet. You certainly don’t “owe” anyone this extended professional courtesy. This is the essence of going “above and beyond” which in any given situation is a chance to differentiate “the mundane from the magnificent”.

    God Bless!

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow July 28, 2015 at 10:03 am #

      I agree completely and I have taken on some clients who are long-term developmental relationships, but they are the exception. An agent has limited time and must manage it well.

      What you describe is what happens at writers’ conferences and critique groups. The agent can enter in at any point along the way, but usually not until things are more defined.

      Often when I decline to offer representation, I mention that maybe another agent would see things differently and that I might be wrong in my assessment.

      • Avatar
        m. rochellino July 28, 2015 at 11:10 am #

        Dan, I can’t tell you how much I think a magnanimous course of action in particular situations adds to a persons greatness. Of course you can’t possibly be this generous to everyone but you can, and are, to at least SOMEONE, from time to time as you are moved.

        Blessings upon you my friend!

  10. Avatar
    Carol Ashby July 28, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    I’ve had a worse dilemma on what to say. A colleague came in one morning before anyone else arrived and sat in the chair beside my desk. He then asked me why everyone disliked him so much. A gentle explanation of how everyone thought he was arrogant and obnoxious with a few examples and suggestions of what to do differently really helped. As hard as it was to tell him the truth, it would have been unkind not to answer his question.

    I’ve had to explain to people why their research proposals didn’t get funded and what might have made the difference. The next proposal submitted was almost always better. With the author, I would have taken Andrew’s approach of explaining the financial realities and then made suggestions of how to develop what was needed.

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow July 28, 2015 at 10:10 am #

      Without a doubt, the level of personal connection between someone would dictate appropriate response. I respond different to someone I know than to someone I don’t.

      Strong advice given to someone where I have no relationship could be taken as insulting or condescending.

      For sure, if I know you from a conference or some other place, you get different responses.

  11. Avatar
    Teresa Pesce July 28, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    “In that case, you will only sell one copy.” 😉

    Seriously – your non-response was wise.

  12. Avatar
    Nick Kording July 28, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    I hate to disagree… especially given all the valid comments to being silent. However, I feel like silence is the worse response a writer can ever get. I think the author’s comment was way out of line yet completely reasonable. Out of line because the publishing industry requires endorsements (mental note to do that) and platform. But reasonable as we are all seeking God’s approval first.

    I’m not saying I have the magic words to respond or whether the author was just hurt, but, if that were me (and I hope I would never do that), I would take the silence as evidence I was an idiot, made a fool of myself, etc. etc. And it would probably feed into every insecurity I have as a writer.

    With that said. I don’t know what you could say. I’m sorry. I understand. I wish it wasn’t that way. I guess those are the thoughts I have for the author. I wish it wasn’t that way but Christian publishing is a business as well as a ministry. I understand you’ve poured your heart and soul into this book but platform is important to publishers. I’m sorry I can’t help you.

    I don’t know. I could be wrong. This is such a hard business in so many ways. I would happily write the I’m sorry’s for any agent who had too many to do because I’d want one when I receive a rejection.

  13. Avatar
    Beverly Brooks July 28, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

    Wow – endorsements – another hurdle. But thanks for telling us.

    The response … It is only a teachable moment if a student is at hand. So all the bits of wisdom here have merit depending on the classroom setting.

    It sounds like your take on the author’s comment was that possibly the student chair was empty?

    Perhaps a future post would help us be better students? Thanks Dan for all you do.

  14. Avatar
    Linda Riggs Mayfield July 28, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    If I were YOU, I would have done what you did: no second-guessing, once it’s done. Sometimes we have to trust that if we’re seeking to love God and love others, as you most apparently do, then the Spirit Who dwells within us will help us with the words we say and don’t say. If I had been hit with that somewhat haughty-sounding disclaimer like you were, I’m pretty sure my immediate reaction would have been (perhaps inappropriately) to be amused (Is there such a thing as an over-active sense of humor?), and I might have given him a full grin and blurted out, “Then you don’t need an agent, do you?” 🙂

  15. Avatar
    dorothy de kok July 28, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

    Dan, authors have plenty of access to info on author platforms etc. There’s no shortage of websites and courses and books and writing coaches on the topic. The writer had to have been aware that that it is an important part of publishing, or they didn’t do any homework yet.
    YOUR job is to REPRESENT us in the throne room of the almighty publisher, not to take us by the hand and teach us the ropes. Stick to your job.
    A person with a teachable spirit is going to learn, whether through a kind agent who does more than his job title requires or any other of the freely available resources.

  16. Avatar
    Carla Jo July 30, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    Thank you for the Post and Comments. I will google to learn about endorsements and check your site for any other Posts on this requirement. I wrongly thought that endorsements could only happen when a book was in Contract. Continually I get what I need to know to be closer to Great and hopefully Excellent. With advice from the site I have an Editor I am now working with. I appreciate your information.

    • Avatar
      Carla Jo July 31, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

      I did my initial research and learned more. Now…my thoughts of contribution to the discussion.

      Back 5 years ago I asked people from my focus groups who actually knew me to write a paragraph on myself as an Author and Presenter. Amazing. It works for me. Even if it is not publishable it is such an encouraging memory to review once in a while.

      I’m always looking in books for someone who knows the Author to say something. That is rare. Sometimes a Classical Forward says something personal about the Author.

      As a Reader I am/was tired of Authors who “fall/fell”, whose character is/was way below anything they could say that I would be interested in investing time, money and energy on. It was about being important and not about a reasoned holy message from a real genuine vulnerable person.

      Maybe others think the same. My value is being so average ordinary. Maybe this is a new endorsement idea along with the important public people comments of the content.

      Charisma Magazine that came today, has a major spread on the 40 most important Christian people in the last 40 years. Seemed to go along with this theme.

  17. Avatar
    Shadia Hrichi July 31, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    Excellent post and comments. I especially appreciate Dorothy’s comment, “A person with a teachable spirit is going to learn…” When I first started submitting proposals, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I spent the next 6 years learning 🙂 Still, there is a flip side. EVEN if an author has powerful endorsements (my book is personally recommended by Pastor Chip Ingram on his website, endorsed by his wife, along with several other high profile ministry leaders. Still, I cannot find an agent. I am told there are other factors that publishers deem too risky: it’s a Bible study (strike one – unless you name is already in lights), it’s on a risky topic (abortion – strike two), and I’m still building my platform (see strike one). So, even with powerful endorsements, credentials (seminary graduate), quality product, etc – it still may be that publishers and by extensions, agents, are unwilling to take a risk. But alas, our God is bigger and He will do what He desires to do. Our job as authors is to write as He leads us, humbly hone our craft, and respect His servants whom He has placed in the publishing industry. God is over all and can do whatever He chooses to do. Therefore, let us each surrender the results and open doors, if any, into His capable hands. For His glory, Shadia Hrichi

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