Endorsements: Lend Me Your Name

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

To endorse or not to endorse–that is the trickiest question of all. Many authors think of themselves as being between the proverbial rock and a hard place when a writing colleague asks for a book endorsement.

To the not-yet-published writer, that might seem an odd way to view the request. But well-known authors receive so many such requests that they can’t possibly say yes to all of them–nor should they.

Why endorse?

Because of the flood of endorsement requests, an author needs to establish criteria in how to respond. I  think every author realizes being asked to lend his or her name to help to sell or promote someone else’s book is a compliment. Newly published authors almost invariably will agree to the first few requests without regard as to whether the request made sense in the first place.breaking piggy bank

You should think about saying yes if:

  • It makes sense with your brand. When you write historical romance and your best friend writes sci-fi, your two reading bases are about as far apart as first base is from third. Your name is unlikely to strike a chord with your friend’s potential readers. But if your friend also writes historical romance, your fans are huddled around the same base. Should they already enjoy your books, they’re likely to enjoy your friend’s.
  • You truly want to connect your reputation with the writing. This is where things can get awkward. Let’s say you met someone at a writers conference, and he’s the nicest person ever. You enjoyed talking about all things writing with him. But now he’s asked if you’ll endorse his book, and in your opinion, the writing is sub-par. You can hardly attach your reading sensibility to the book. But if his writing is compelling, and the story powerful…well, that’s a different story entirely. You’d be proud to introduce his book to your fans.
  • You haven’t exceeded your endorsement quota for the year. You do have a quota, don’t you? If your name appears on 10, 12, 15 back covers in a given year, pretty soon readers will think you’ll endorse a grocery bag. Make sure your endorsement holds its value by limiting the number of times you connect your name to other authors’ books. Think of it as having a set amount of money in a piggy bank; you can break the bank…
  • For newer authors, this is a way to establish yourself as an authority regarding a certain topic, or as a writer whose opinion is important. No, you aren’t offering your endorsement solely to build your reputation, but it is a hidden benefit to doing endorsements.

When should you refrain from endorsing?

In addition to the reasons listed above, do NOT offer an endorsement solely because:

  • The person is a friend. Awkward as it might be, if the book is in a different category from the one you write in; if the writing isn’t all that good; or you’ve committed to the maximum number of endorsements for the year, you must say no to your friend. Really. You aren’t doing your friend a favor–or yourself–by offering an endorsement based on friendship alone.
  • You feel obligated to. Let’s say you asked a colleague to endorse your last release, and now that person is asking for your endorsement. Of course you want to say yes. But if it doesn’t make sense to do so, by all means, say no.
  • You feel guilty saying no. After all, other people have helped to promote your books, isn’t it your turn to help others? Yes, but not if it isn’t a heartfelt endorsement. Your name has value because you’re protecting its use. Don’t let guilt dictate your decisions.

How do you say no?

Some of my clients who receive multiple requests for endorsements each year let me say no for them. We always discuss whether to agree to an endorsement, but ultimately it’s my job to deliver the answer. This helps my clients to remain objective and thoughtful about each decision. And when I turn down a request on their behalf, I suspect it doesn’t hurt quite as much, plus I’m playing the bad guy, which is part of my job sometimes.

Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • If you choose to read the manuscript as a first step in considering the use of your endorsement, always stipulate that you won’t be able to make a final decision until you’ve completed the book. Should you ascertain that the manuscript is disappointing, you’ll need to go back to the writer and communicate that you had hoped to enjoy it more than you did, but that you won’t be able to endorse it. That kind of honesty hurts, but you do need to be honest. I would cushion it with, “this is just my opinion,” “my thoughts are subjective, and someone else might see the book completely differently,” etc. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a critique of the work. Keep coming back to that being your opinion, and that the writer should seek further evaluation from a writing coach, editor, etc.
  • Keep a list of how many of your endorsements will appear on the jackets of books in a given year. Do not let yourself exceed the limit you have set (and keep that limit to 5 or less). When someone asks, don’t re-evaluate your limit; stick to it.
  • Check your schedule carefully and critically: Do you really have time to read a manuscript and write a lucid endorsement? Yes, you should read every manuscript you endorse. To skip that step is to blindly lend your name to a work “you’re sure” is wonderful. Don’t sacrifice needed time to write your own manuscript to read and endorse someone else’s. That’s not what your publisher is paying you an advance to do.

What’s the hardest part about asking for an endorsement? What tips have you learned about asking for endorsements? About responding to requests?

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