All I Want for Christmas is a Strong Endorsement

I often tell developing writers that it is never too early to get a strong endorsement for your book project. In fact, I have included endorsements in book proposals—both my own and clients’ proposals.  Every little bit helps, don’t you know.

Invariably, when I start talking about endorsements, a flurry of questions comes. In fact, a writer friend (of long and wide experience in publishing) emailed me recently to ask a few questions about endorsements, so I thought I’d add a few others and do my best to answer them in this post.

What is an endorsement?
In book publishing terms, an endorsement is a short recommendation of you or your book (more on that in a moment) from someone who is famous or expert enough to persuade people to buy and read your book.

There are three common types of endorsements:
1. An endorsement of your book (or manuscript). This, of course, suggests that the person has read it, or at least enough of it, to place his or her reputation alongside yours.
2. An endorsement of you. An endorsement such as “Bob Hostetler is the best writer in his field today” doesn’t refer to the book but to the author (or his or her oeuvre) as worthy of attention.
3. An endorsement of your subject matter. Sometimes you’ll see an endorsement on a book cover along the lines of, “Bob Hostetler’s new book tackles a timely and crucial topic for everyone in the ukulele industry.” That doesn’t necessarily mean the endorser has read your book, only that the topic is near and dear to their heart (and really, who doesn’t love ukuleles?).

Who should I ask for an endorsement?
Remember that the purpose of an endorsement is persuading buyers and readers. So, an endorser should be recognizable, perhaps because he is famous or because she occupies a position or would be considered an expert by a potential reader. Fellow authors may not be persuasive endorsers, unless they or their books are well known among your potential readers (so, for example, while Stephen King is certainly famous, you probably wouldn’t ask him to endorse your Amish romance).

How do I get endorsements?
Every which way you can. Perhaps you know someone who knows a potential endorser. I’ve asked colleagues for introductions. I’ve messaged someone on Facebook. I’ve also taken a shot in the dark, so to speak, and written a letter (on actual paper!) to an endorser c/o his publisher.

Is it kosher to ask people whose books I’ve quoted within my manuscript to endorse my book?
I think so. A few years ago, while writing my book, How to Survive the End of the World, I realized that I quoted one of my favorite authors several times. So, I wrote to him c/o his publisher (as I mentioned above), mentioning that his book was not only a favorite of mine but was also excerpted (fairly and favorably, of course) in my manuscript. A couple of weeks later, that famous author called me, introduced himself, and said he’d “love” to read my manuscript. He did, and replied with a glowing endorsement that now graces the cover of that book—above the title.

Can I use the same endorsers in a new book that I used in a previous one?
Yes and no, in my opinion. You shouldn’t “recycle” endorsements; that is putting someone else’s words to use in a way they may not have intended. However, I did once get an endorsement from another famous author that included the words, “Bob Hostetler is one of my favorite writers; I read everything he writes!” It went on to praise that specific book. A book or two later, I contacted that endorser and asked if I could use just that part of his previous endorsement for an upcoming proposal and book. He agreed.

Is it okay to ask someone I mention in the Acknowledgments or someone who writes my foreword as an endorser?
I don’t see why not, though a foreword is usually just a lengthy endorsement, so a foreword would make an endorsement redundant. However, sometimes a publisher will pull a quote from the foreword to feature on the cover.

How many endorsements are too many? Too few?
There are no hard and fast rules, but when a writer says, “I think I could get an endorsement from so-and-so,” I urge him to do it now, as even one strong endorsement in a book proposal can induce an editor to read further. And some books include several pages of endorsements in the front matter (my book, The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional, includes eight—and a few more on the website).

Are there other “rules” or conventions we should know about?
I would add this: Don’t say “no” for anyone. Inviting endorsements is a great time to dream. As I was writing The Red Letter Prayer Life (17 Words from Jesus to Inspire Practical, Purposeful, Powerful Prayer), I thought it would be a dream come true to have an endorsement from Phyllis Tickle, who had influenced my own prayer life through her books and speaking. I had heard that her health was declining, but I contacted her anyway, and she not only surprised me by reading my manuscript but also by issuing a beautiful endorsement (which I treasure even more since she went to heaven in 2015). Not everyone says yes, of course (or even answers), but I have been impressed often by the accessibility and kindness of famous people I admire (which makes me admire them even more).

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