It is the author’s responsibility to seek endorsements for their books and publishers expect you to get them. Blurbs – often only a few words from an endorsement from a high profile author, celebrity or expert – appear on a book’s cover or dust jacket flaps. Blurbs are used in letters to solicit book reviews, on tip sheets to booksellers, in marketing materials and press releases.
Does the prospect of asking for blurbs make you cringe because it requires a level of narcissism you can’t quite muster into self-promotion? Remember, Narcissus is a gorgeous yellow spring blossom I hope to see soon in New York. The perennial flower takes its name from the Greek myth of the hunter renowned for his beauty who fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water and dies there unable to leave his own reflection. The moral of the story is it’s not about you, it’s about the book and asking for blurbs should be as easy as growing daffodils. Set the bulbs in the fall for spring blooms. If the book is your blossom, its up to you to plant, fertilize, weed, water, tend, and harvest the bounty of book blurbs.
Endorsements add credibility to your work in the eyes of readers. If someone picks up your book and sees a blurb from an expert or author whom they already know, respect and trust, they are more likely to purchase it. Blurbs can be extremely beneficial to a debut author, a writer who wants to break out of the midlist and move into mass market trade, or an established author switching genres. Blurbs can help your book break out in a big way.
Create a list of people you would like to ask for endorsements early on in your project, as you write your marketing strategy for your book proposal. So who should you ask? The answer depends on who your readers are. Who do they consider an expert or authority? You want someone with strong name recognition and high integrity. Who do you know that your audience considers influential?
If you don’t already have a professional relationship or personal connection to those whom you plan to seek endorsements, you need lead time to cultivate an alliance or affiliation before you ask for an endorsement. Key players in professional circles, opinion leaders in organizations, celebrities and public figures can lend the weight of their approval to your book, but before they provide a blurb you need to participate in their community of readers and writers. Make friends before you ask for favors.
So how do you get an endorsement? You have to ask. Write a one page letter that starts with why you write and your common connection, provide a succinct premise of the book, make your request clear and your interest in receiving their written review. If they agree to read your manuscript, send the full final draft after you submit it to your publisher (usually 6 months or more before the release date).
How many endorsements do you need? Lots. While less than half a dozen will appear on the cover or dust jacket of the book, the more the better. Four months before publication, begin to solicit reviews and continue to seek endorsements by sending out Advance Review Copies (ARCs). Be sure to ask them to publish the review and suggest where they might submit it, at the very least on GoodReads and Amazon.
Making your list of people you plan to seek endorsements from is part of the early planning stages in writing for publication. Don’t list Oprah, Charlie Rose, Ellen DeGeneres, Malcolm Gladwell, or Terry Gross in your marketing strategy unless the editor of Oprah’s Book Club Leigh Newman is your neighbor, the booker for Charlie’s shows is your brother, Ellen’s mom and your mom were college roommates, Malcolm and you went to high school together or Terry Gross gave you her business card at an art opening and told you to contact her about your book. But you do want to include those influential people you know who have an audience platform in place.
What do you want the blurbs to say about your book? Jot down your ideas about what the reviews will say about your book. Then consider who would be the most authoritative source for that statement.
Make a list and keep adding to it. Between the time you write your manuscript and the publication release date new opportunities arise to garner endorsements from rising stars. When Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl became a breakaway bestselling novel, her timely endorsement of bestselling British novelist Kate Atkinson’s compelling new work appeared on the front cover of the first hardcover edition. Blurbs are the heartbeat to book buzz.
Your community of early readers is your advance sales team. If someone endorses your book, they have a stake in its success. Their name is on the book, too. And you should ask them to spread the word. Provide them with a personal copy of the book when it is published. Sign the book or advance review copy to the person using their name (and you won’t see it resold on Amazon but reviewed there instead).
Even after your book is out, continue to collect endorsements. You can issue a news release, use them in feature articles, interviews and marketing materials. A second edition could include endorsements or blurbs in the front matter.
Getting blurbs for your book is about executing your marketing strategy and that work begins long before your book hits the shelves with your book proposal and doesn’t end once the book appears in print.
So who do you know that your readers trust to offer them a good book recommendation, i.e. YOURS? That’s who you need to get to know before you query an acquisition editor and get an early endorsement.