How To Get Quality Book Endorsements (Part 2)

Always manage the message

When you ask people to endorse your book, they will likely invest time into reading the book and writing a response. Once they have done that, they will not want to write another endorsement if you think their comments are superficial, tangential to the point of your book, or are somehow useless. To avoid or reduce the chances of getting low-value endorsements, you need to manage the process.

The endorsement process begins with you, the publisher or author. It begins by first determining your mission statement as an author, the value proposition and unique selling point of your book, and finally the hoped-for reader experience. Put simply, ask yourself: What do you aim to achieve as an author? What is the value of your book to readers? What makes your book unique or better than other books on the subject? And finally, will readers find your book easy to use and desirable as a book (this is partly a content development and book design issue).

DO NOT ask the endorsers to figure out what value your book has or how it is unique. Point out these facts and ask them to comment on them. Make the process easy for them.

The answers to these questions can form the basis of your endorsement strategy. If the endorsements speak to these qualities, then you will have high-quality endorsements. Ask the people you select to give endorsements that mention these qualities. If they are agreeing to endorse your book, they already understand that the purpose is to help you promote the book. Most readers will not object to receiving guidance. It actually makes the process easier for them.

Start with a general checklist. The checklist is only for your own privately use when you are making endorsement requests. The checklist can include the following:

  1. The book’s main value proposition: How the book is useful, beneficial, or desirable to readers.
  2. The book’s unique selling point: How the book is different from other books—such as, more up to date, only illustrated book on the subject, more comprehensive, more concise, whatever.
  3. The book product qualities: Developmental and design qualities can include organization, readability, helpful illustrations and maps, useful tables and resource lists, etc. Also, print features and qualities if applicable, such as recycled paper, foldout maps, beautiful photographs, etc.
  4. The Book’s value to readers: Value for money is different than expense compared to other books. Your book may have a higher price than other competing books due to a shorter print run or better print quality. Even when this doesn’t happen, it is good to understand any qualities that make your book better value for the reader. Compete on value first.
  5. Literary quality: Ability to transport the reader, or be easily read and answer questions, change and inspire lives, etc. Comments about the literary quality will depend on the genre of the book and intended readership.

When you request an endorsement consider the endorser’s qualifications and then ask that person to speak about those aspects of the book that they are most qualified to consider. If several endorsers have praised how well you have written about the subjects, ask other endorsers to speak about other aspects of the book such as a particular sub-theme, the book’s personal impact on them, or utility for certain types of readers. If the book is creative, an illustrated guide or coffee-table book, ask them to speak about the design and print quality. By managing the process you will be able to collect a range of endorsements that will convince readers of your book’s value.

To learn more about endorsement strategies, read my post How to use endorsements.

How to Get Quality Book Endorsements (Part 1)

The purpose and importance of book endorsements

When you start the process of looking for people to endorse your book, you first need to understand the difference between an endorsement and a book review. A book endorsement is a statement from someone other than the author that recommends the book to readers. Ideally, it is a statement of praise that affirms, supports, and backs your book, even if it doesn’t agree with your message or claims. The purpose of an endorsement is to persuade readers to buy and/or read the book. Endorsements, also called “testimonials,” are the most valuable feature of the back cover copy of your book, because the mere presence of endorsements is instantly perceived as evidence of reader satisfaction, even if the endorsements are never read.

Book endorsements are often confused with book reviews. A book review is different from an endorsement in that a review is an analysis of a book that usually purports to be objective and can include comments about a book’s content, style, or merits that are both positive and negative.

Make your intentions clear

When you set out to get endorsements, let it be known you are not looking for “reviews.” You want positive statements. You also want the selected readers to know you are looking for an endorsement so they understand how their words will be used. If you ask for a review, the reader may assume that his or her words will be used only privately for the purpose of improving the book. When you ask for an endorsement, you should be clear that the reader’s words will be used in the published book and/or in promotions for the book.

If you ask for an endorsement and a person reviews your book instead, you may be able to excerpt just the positive portion for use as a book endorsement.

Getting endorsements is a process that yields the best results if it is managed carefully. Even if you ask someone to “review” your book, make it clear that you are looking for an endorsement, not a review and not a critique. Even if you welcome critical comments and would like to get advice for improving your book, make it clear that your aim is to get a positive endorsement that can be used when promoting the book.

Endorsements are mutually beneficial

People often want to give endorsements. If the endorsers are leaders, experts, or authors they benefit by having their names appear in public, even if only as a credit next to an endorsement for someone else’s work. Whenever their names appear, it is a form of publicity for them and a recognition that they are respected and that their opinions matter. Usually, their credentials and accomplishments, are listed next to their names under the endorsements.

Be sure to ask the endorser to specify how they want to be credited.

To learn about how to manage the endorsement message, read my post How to Get Quality Book Endorsements (Part 2).

How to use endorsements

An endorsement has value even if the endorser has no credentials or fame. Any reader who provides an endorsement has at least one presumed qualification: He or she has read the book and liked it. That has value for buyers. Nevertheless, the goal is to get high-value endorsements and this means some endorsements are temporary placeholders for future endorsements that have more persuasive power.

There will always be a hierarchy of value for endorsements, just as there is a hierarchy for positioning endorsements. To better understand these value ranges, it is helpful to divided endorsements and endorsers into value categories so you can identify priorities and placement strategies.

Three types of endorsements

Book endorsements: These are endorsements about the book’s merits. In most cases, these endorsements require that readers have time to read the book or somehow evaluate the manuscript or publication.

Author endorsements: These are endorsements about the author and refer to the author’s credentials, expertise, accomplishments, speaking or teaching abilities, the effect on the lives of other people, etc. This type of endorsement doesn’t require that people know about the book or have time to read it.

Subject endorsements: These are what I call “Power quotes.” They are technically not endorsements at all, but rather quoted statements from authoritative or recognized sources that are related to the book’s subject matter. Quotes that engage readers are particularly effective if they are predictive statements or statement that underscore the subject matter’s urgency. In some cases, the quote is merely from an authoritative voice, such as a John Muir quote on the back of a book about the Wilderness Adventure. Always be sure that the statement is in the public domain or fits within editorial or “fair use” criteria.

In most cases, book endorsements are more valuable than the others. However, it may be easier or quicker to get author endorsements or to research and find power quotes. Sometimes a combination of two or more types is effective. Your strategy will often be determined by circumstantial considerations, such as whether the endorsers deliver usable endorsements or whether you have sufficient time to get endorsements before publication, etc.

Three types of endorsers

Just as these are different types of endorsements, there are different types of endorsers.

“Opinion-shaper” endorsers: Anyone who is famous, well known, and trusted, such as celebrities, industry or thought leaders, athletes, etc.

Qualified endorsers: Any readers with relevant credentials, such as clients, experts, scholars, business professionals, other authors, etc.

Reader endorsers: Any readers, including friends and acquaintances.

Endorsers with obvious qualifications are more valuable than unknown persons without qualifications. Opinion-shapers, however, tend to be more valuable than even qualified experts. Never use an opinion-shaper, however, that is incompatible with your publisher brand or readership. Because endorsements will have different levels of persuasiveness, you will want to give position preference to the best ones.

Endorsement placement strategy

As you acquire endorsements you can begin to identify where to place them. You may likely want to use endorsements on a variety of resources before the book is published, such as web pages, social media, banner ads, etc. The many places endorsements can be used is one reason why it is good to continually collect as many favorable statements as you can.

Generally speaking, 1–5 endorsements work well on the back cover. Three short endorsements is a good number. Excerpt the strongest statements for the back cover and use complete versions of the same endorsements, along with additional ones, on pages the front-matter pages of the book (before the title page). These front-matter endorsements are optional but highly recommended. Front-matter endorsements can fill as many pages as you want, one or even twenty pages.

If you have the good fortune of getting an opinion-shaper to endorse your book, consider putting that endorsement on the front cover of the book.

For paperbacks, the front cover is the premium position (only for use with opinion-shaper and expert endorsements), followed by the back cover and then inside front-matter pages. For hardcover jackets, place the endorsements on the back cover where they are most visible and not the inside flaps.

To learn more about how to manage an endorsement schedule, read my post Book Endorsement Planning: Creating a Schedule Strategy

Book Endorsement Planning: Creating a Schedule Strategy

Getting quality endorsements quickly is not always possible. The desired readers may be unavailable and the publication schedule may not allow enough time. Nevertheless, endorsements are so valuable and important for selling books that it is a good plan to continue to collect them whenever possible.

Even when you have three or four high-quality endorsements for a book cover, there is value in adding pages of endorsements to the front-matter pages and even replacing endorsements with better endorsements when the book is reprinted.

Never stop getting endorsements. Create an endorsement schedule strategy. The time to get endorsements divides into three stages:

Manuscript stage

Pre-publication design stage

Post-publication stage

Manuscript stage: If you want to get endorsements in the manuscript stage, always consider how the selected readers will react to a manuscript compared to an actual book with a professional design, even if it is a PDF rather than printed copy.

If you have published before and readers can see your name on a quality book, you can start looking for endorsers during the manuscript stage (pre-book design stage). If, however, you are a first-time author, readers may be reluctant to put their names with endorsements on your book if they don’t know how professional the book will be when it is published. For that reason it is beneficial to show them the book after it has been designed, but before it is printed. This is especially true for self-help and how-to books because, if the book is designed and produced well, readers will have less trouble reading and understanding the content.

If the book is highly technical, similar to an academic book, or purely literary, readers will likely be more focused on your evidence or writing ability than on the concerns about professional publishing and design quality. Nevertheless, if a reader sees the book when it has already been professional designed, the endorsement will likely be stronger.

Pre-publication design stage: The most common way to show a book before publication is to create an ePDF for review purposes. This is a PDF of the complete book or a portion that has been enhanced for review purposes. The front cover is inserted at the beginning of the file. At the top, a notice is enclosed with the words “For Review Purposes—Not for Sale or Distribution.” Each page in the book is watermarked in the margin with the same notice. The PDF has “no edit” security added so that the notice cannot be removed. Additional security can also be applied, such as no printing or password to open. Usually, it is better not to require a password to open because this is not a good reader experience and may result in fewer endorsements.

A second way to show a book before publication is to use print-on-demand (POD). This can be done for both review and endorsement purposes. Print only the number of copies needed. Once you have received review suggestions and endorsements, you can both make adjustments to the book as well as add the endorsements to an updated cover file and the front-matter pages. This is a low-risk and low-cost method for testing a book before switching to offset printing (offset usually requires ordering 1500 or more books to make it worthwhile). It is also a low-cost method even if you continue with POD.

(WARNING: Read the POD terms carefully. Never use a POD supplier that automatically connects the POD service to an online retailer page and doesn’t allow you to change suppliers for that retailer. If you are working with a publishing consultant, they should be aware of this hazard.)

Post-publication stage: Whether you use POD or offset printing, you may want to eventually update the cover and front matter pages with newer endorsements. Adding endorsements in the post-publication stage usually happens when a book is selling well and there is a need to reprint more copies. The endorsements are added to the new printing. Bear in mind that a new print run is not a new edition. A new edition is an edition that has significant changes or additions, such a foreword by an important person. Additional or different endorsements do not constitute a new edition.