How important are endorsements? (Those “blurbs” on the back of a book that exclaim, “A real masterpiece!”)
Let me answer with a question. When browsing a book title, do you look at the endorsements or notice who wrote the foreword or the introduction? I suspect you do without realizing it. And if you are unfamiliar with the author but you know the endorser, then you are more likely to give this new writer a try.
When The Shack by William Young was originally self-published (2007), it gained tremendous benefit from a glowing endorsement by Eugene Peterson, author of The Message. When I saw that accolade, it made me pause and think, If Eugene Peterson makes such a claim, then maybe I should pay attention. So, as a fan of Eugene Peterson, I paid attention. I believe that endorsement is still on the cover of the book.
Is One Endorsement Enough?
How many endorsements should you get? One or two meaningful ones are best. Get them from the folks you know. The more recognizable the name, the better. It can be awkward to ask your agent for access to their “famous” clients since many restrict access. Your publisher may be able to help, too, but don’t feel entitled to access.
Will an Endorsement Help Sell My Proposal?
The earlier in the creative process, the better. Years ago, while an editor for Bethany House, I presented a proposal at a pub board meeting. Unfortunately, I did not get a good initial reception from the team. Then I asked the group members to look at the endorsement page in the proposal. This writer had secured endorsements from James Montgomery Boice, R.C. Sproul, and John MacArthur, each a highly recognized author and speaker respected within the evangelical community. The pub board members exclaimed, “Who is this guy?” They had never heard of the writer of the proposed book, but they knew the endorsers. Those endorsements turned the tide in favor of offering a contract to the author!
Recently, I talked to a well-known author who gets about four or five unsolicited requests for forewords or endorsements weekly. I read somewhere about a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who receives nearly 40 requests for endorsements each week, most of them for books by writers she does not know.
Claiming an Endorsement Before You Get One
Whatever you do, don’t (please don’t) claim in your proposal that you can get endorsements from Rick Warren, Max Lucado, Beth Moore, or Frances Chan unless you already have them in hand. Many visible leaders have tough restrictions from their board of directors regarding their endorsements (especially those who are part of a Christian ministry). They don’t want their name associated with a book that could ultimately negatively affect the author or their organization.
And if you are frustrated by that policy, let’s make it more personal. Imagine you had endorsed a book by Bernie Madoff (later sentenced to 150 years in jail for fraud). What would your endorsement of his book say about you?
We frequently see book proposals with a veritable laundry list of famous people the writers claim they will approach. This is fine if the writer is well-connected to that community; otherwise, it doesn’t present well in the proposal.
What Is the Value of an Endorsement?
Endorsements imply a promise that what is in the book is worth your time. Thus, endorsements that only use initials (“A.E. from St. Louis”) are all but useless. So are endorsements from your dentist unless your book is about dentistry. An endorsement from your minister is fine but doesn’t really “sell the book” unless yours happens to be a well-known author. (What if your minister doesn’t like your book and refuses to endorse it? Will you still want to attend services?)
Can you sell your proposal without endorsements? Of course. But in today’s market, every little bit helps. This is an uphill challenge for the new writer. If you can’t get endorsements, don’t worry about it. It doesn’t mean the death of your proposal.
I recently bought a book with no endorsements because the title was interesting and the promise of the content was compelling. In addition, I read a couple of pages, and the writer was quite good.