Estimated reading time: 16 minutes
When I first got started in this book marketing business, I read every book Seth Godin wrote on marketing. He was the number-one guru. Once I finished reading his books, I started reading every marketing book he had endorsed.
When Michael Hyatt wrote his book, Platform, he knew there were a lot of people like me who would buy the book if Seth Godin’s name was on it. So, Hyatt put Seth Godin’s endorsement at the top of the front cover of his book.
Getting solid endorsements can make a huge difference when you’re marketing your book. Good endorsements can boost the conversation rate of your Amazon page and make it more likely that a book buyer will carry your book all the way to the checkout counter rather than putting it back on the shelf.
Endorsements are particularly important for religious books. Religious readers want to know if the author is a heretic. Endorsements are the easiest way to tell if the book is safe.
We all want great endorsements for our book covers or our Amazon sales page. But how do you get credible people to want to endorse your book?
Five steps to getting great endorsements:
- Identify Candidates
Determine the ideal endorsers for your book.
- Build Rapport
The key to endorsements is effective networking. Endorsements are fruit from the tree of friendship.
- Ask for the Endorsement
The more personal the request, the more favorable the response.
- Edit the Endorsement
Trim the endorsement to a usable-sized blurb and ask the endorser if they approve the final version.
Make the endorser feel great about doing you such a big favor.
Endorsements are NOT Reviews
This can be confusing since, on Amazon, endorsements are listed under a section called “Editorial Reviews.” If you scroll down on your book’s Amazon sales page, you’ll see a section labeled “Editorial Reviews.” That’s where you’ll find endorsements and editorial reviews from major newspapers and book review sites such as Kirkus or Publishers Weekly. You may also find editorial reviews from other authors there because endorsements are not the same as reader reviews.
Reader reviews appear in a different place and serve a different function. The number of book reviews on your Amazon sales page is the total of your reader reviews. It does not include your endorsements or reviews by publications.
Amazon frowns upon authors leaving reader reviews for other authors. However, they smile upon authors providing endorsements or editorial reviews for other authors.
You can listen to our episodes about reader reviews, but this article will discuss endorsements.
Step 1: Identify Candidates
Credibility is a Funny Thing
Authors often ask me to write an endorsement for their book. They’ve listened to my podcasts, and they trust my recommendations on books. I am honored to get these requests, but I always turn them down. Why? Because I don’t have credibility with their readers.
Readers of a sweet romance book don’t care what a marketing guru says about a book. Now, if the book was about book marketing, podcasting, or course creation, then my endorsement might be worth something.
Know Your Timothy
It doesn’t matter who you think is credible. It matters who your representative reader thinks is credible. That’s why it’s so important to know your representative reader, or as I call him, your Timothy. To find out who your Timothy is, listen to my episode on How to Find Your Readers.
Here is an extreme example to illustrate my point. Let’s say you write a thriller where terrorists kidnap the president, and somehow you get Donald Trump to endorse it.
Is that a good endorsement? It depends.
A lot of people hate Donald Trump, and if your Timothy is one of those people, a Trump endorsement may hurt your book sales, even though Donald Trump is one of only six living American Presidents.
And before you think I am picking sides, the same would be true if Joe Biden endorsed your thriller. Some readers hate Joe Biden and would never read anything with his name on it.
Ask Your Timothy
Survey your beta readers to see whose endorsements would influence them to buy your book. “Influencer” is a catch-all term for people who have influence with your Timothy. An influencer could be anyone from a YouTuber to a local pastor.
When you survey your beta readers, you want to get answers to the following questions: What podcasts do they listen to?
- What YouTube channels do they subscribe to?
- Who do they follow on social media?
- What other books do they read?
- Who writes those books?
- Who endorses them?
- For nonfiction: Who has credibility on this topic?
Think Outside the Author Box
Fellow author endorsements are some of the best endorsements you can get because they immediately give readers an idea of whether they’ll like your book. Author endorsements help readers know what to expect in the same way book suggestions do. For example, “If you like Narnia, you will like Middle Earth.” And, indeed, most Narnia fans are also Middle Earth fans.
But when you’re seeking endorsements, don’t restrict yourself to authors. Other influencers may have more influence with your Timothy, and they rarely get asked to endorse a book.
However, it’s important to remember that the endorsement has little value if your reader doesn’t know the author or has never heard of that author’s book.
The one exception is if the endorser has a job title or an award that your readers recognize. If your endorser is a Nobel Prize winner, readers don’t need to know who they are. They’ll still be impressed and influenced by the Nobel Prize winner’s endorsement because they recognize the award.
Write a List
Create a list of endorsers in three categories:
I have an endorsement tracking spreadsheet you can download for free. This tracking spreadsheet will help you build a list and track your progress with each potential endorser on your list.
Step 2: Build Rapport
Many authors think that getting endorsements is simply a matter of writing an amazing book and sending out Advanced Reader Copies. If only it were that easy!
I know authors who receive dozens of books in the mail from strangers seeking endorsements. Those authors could spend all day every day reading books to possibly endorse. But if they did, they would go bankrupt because reading other people’s books for free in order to give free endorsements doesn’t pay the bills.
Well-known authors and influencers simply don’t have time to read books by strangers, so they typically ignore ARCs from strangers.
When you ask someone to read and endorse your book, you are asking for a huge favor. Depending on how long your book is, you are asking for a full day’s worth of work. Influential people earn money with their time, so your request is the equivalent of asking them for hundreds of dollars.
Influencers won’t give hundreds of dollars to a stranger. So, the first step to getting an endorsement is to stop being a stranger.
Most influencers decide whether to endorse a book based on who the author is. If they know, like, or trust the author (or the author’s friend), they’ll read the book to figure out what to say or decide not to endorse it. Most influencers won’t read an ARC unless they think they’ll probably endorse it.
Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty
It takes time to build rapport. Start the networking process long before you plan to publish your first book. For traditional authors, the publishing process is so slow that you have time to build rapport. But if you are indie, you will need to make a concerted effort to make friends with influencers while you are still learning to write.
The Dirty Secret of Book Endorsements
Many influencers neither read the book the endorse nor write the endorsement. They may like the author and want to help, but they don’t have a free day to read the book and write the endorsement. Often, they’ll ask the author to write a draft endorsement for them to tweak and approve.
Sometimes drafting the endorsement is part of the copywriting process. If the author knows she has an open endorsement from a certain influencer, she will write the endorsement she needs for the front of the book. Then she’ll ask the influencer if the endorsement will work.
Endorsements are often more about the author than the book itself.
This leads us to an important principle.
Endorsements are the fruit that grows from the tree of friendship.
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were friends for years before Tolkien asked Lewis to endorse his new book, The Fellowship of the Ring. In fact, Tolkien played a key part in Lewis’ conversion to Christianity.
The first endorsement you see on the Amazon page for The Fellowship of the Ring (Affiliate Link) is from C.S. Lewis.
“Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron.”
C. S. Lewis
This endorsement has been on the cover of The Lord of the Rings books for decades. Tolkien didn’t lead Lewis to Christ so that one day he would endorse his book. He invested in the friendship for its own sake, and an endorsement was one of many fruits produced by that tree.
Since kindergarten, we’ve all been told that “To have a good friend, you need to be a good friend.” One way to be a good friend is by being generous. The traditional means of showing generosity is to invite people to parties.
Have you ever wondered why wealthy people have historically had big houses? It is so they can throw big parties and make lots of friends. Everyone wants to be the friend of a generous man.
On the flip side, we all have that friend who only calls when they need something. It’s hard for that person to make and keep friends because they hope to reap before they sow.
I talked about this a few months ago in my episode on reciprocity.
Host a Podcast
One of the major benefits of hosting a podcast on your genre or topic is that it’s a relatively inexpensive way to give out big favors. When you invite a fellow author to talk about her book on your podcast, you have done her a huge favor. Chances are you will chitchat before and after the interview, and you might become friends.
A year later, when you contact that author to see if she will endorse your book, you won’t be a stranger.
You can’t say, “I had you on my podcast, so you owe me.” That would be obnoxious and unnecessary. But people tend to remember a person who has done them a good turn.
A more expensive way to connect with fellow authors is to attend writers conferences and retreats. Events for writers can be worth the investment because relationships formed in person are stronger and healthier.
Many authors go to conferences early in their careers and meet other writers in the early stages of writing. They form a cohort of sorts. They tend to help each other throughout their careers even after they stop attending conferences.
This tactic favors authors who can afford to travel to conferences or live near a major conference’s host city.
Start a Writers Group
You can bless other authors and engender a sense of reciprocity by facilitating a local writers group. Most authors want to be part of a critique group to help them improve their craft, but few are willing to start one. One of the benefits of running a writers group is that it’s easy to get endorsements from your group members.
Be Active on AuthorMedia.social
I created a social network for authors called AuthorMedia.social. You can find it at www.AuthorMedia.social. It’s the perfect place to meet and get to know fellow writers. You can ask questions, celebrate accomplishments, post job listings, share your funny writer memes, and a lot more.
If you want to hang out with authors who listen to this podcast, then AuthorMedia.social may quickly become one of your favorite places on the internet. I have seen authors find endorsers on AuthorMedia.social, especially in the students-only areas attached to the Book Launch Blueprint or Obscure No More courses.
AuthorMedia.social is my gift to the author community. It’s free of much of the drama and noise that you find in Facebook groups.
Step 3: Ask for the Endorsement
At some point, you have to make the ask.
Don’t Be in a Rush
Asking someone to read your book in the next couple of months is one thing. Asking them to drop everything and read your book this week is something else entirely. The more influential a person is, the busier they tend to be. The more you rush people, the less likely they are to endorse your book.
How to Ask a Friend
So how do you ask for an endorsement? I think the most effective way is to ask over the phone or Zoom. Send a message to schedule a Zoom call. After you chitchat, ask for their endorsement.
Depending on your level of friendship, they may already know about your book. If that is the case, you could say something like this:
“My book is pretty much finished, and we are looking for some influencers to write endorsement blurbs for the book. Would you be interested in seeing an Advanced Reader Copy?”
If they don’t already know about your book, you may say something like this:
“Did you hear I’m working on a book? Yeah, it’s….” Then go into your short pitch.
If you need help crafting a killer pitch, listen to How to Pitch Your Novel (for fiction) or How to Craft a Compelling Elevator Pitch for Your Book (for fiction and nonfiction).
Once they agree to endorse, ask if they want a paper copy or a PDF. You are much more likely to get an endorsement back quickly if you send them a paper copy. People generally hate reading PDFs. You can also use StoryOrigin (Affiliate Link) to deliver a Kindle review copy of your book if your endorser has a Kindle.
Asking a Stranger
Let’s say you want a particular influencer to endorse your book, but you don’t have a friendship or personal connection with them. You can still ask for an endorsement, but you must know the secret.
The secret is to connect through their friends.
Don’t pitch the influencer directly. Try to contact them through someone they trust. Traditional authors have an advantage since agents and editors tend to have a lot of connections with potential endorsers.
An author who wouldn’t even consider endorsing your book might be willing to review it if her agent asked her to.
LinkedIn can show you whether you and the endorser have friends in common. But remember, the most powerful means of communication are in the following order:
- Face-to-Face on Zoom
- Direct Messages on Social Media
Just because you have a friend in common on LinkedIn doesn’t mean you should contact them through LinkedIn. Social media connections are your last resort.
Your goal is to get your friend to send an introduction email or contact the influencer on your behalf. Once the influencer responds, send them your elevator pitch and ask if they would be interested in reviewing it. Hopefully, you know by now how important that pitch is. The stronger your pitch, the more likely they are to review your book.
Modern humans don’t do anything without a deadline, so make sure you tell potential endorsers when you need the endorsement. Give them at least a month or two to send you the endorsement.
Feel free to send them a friendly reminder two weeks before the deadline.
Not Everyone Will Get Back to You
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! If you do, a single endorser can potentially hold up your launch.
Not every person you reach out to will have time to read your book. The people who do read your book may not want to give an endorsement. If you need four endorsements, plan on asking 12 people.
Of those 12, you want:
- 4 dream endorsers
- 4 target endorsers
- 4 safety endorsers
When an influencer agrees to write an endorsement, they often ask, “What kind of endorsement are you looking for?” It’s important to plan your answer so that you don’t get a dozen endorsements saying the same thing. They ask because they want to know if you are looking for a specific theme or focus of the review.
You don’t need to give them a theme the moment you ask for their endorsement and don’t force it if they don’t ask. The best endorsements come from the heartfelt feelings of the endorser. If they do ask, consider the following questions before you answer:
- What part of the book would they be uniquely qualified to comment on?
- What quality of the book do you want to be emphasized in the endorsement?
- What quality of the author (you) do you want to be emphasized in the endorsement?
Step 4: Edit the Endorsements
When you have the endorsements in hand, you’ll notice that endorsers typically will write two or three paragraphs about what they liked about the book. They expect you to use the most helpful parts of their endorsement. They’ll often say, “Hope this works. Feel free to edit.”
They know you won’t be able to use all three paragraphs. Even if they permit you to edit, always ask for their final approval on your edited version of their endorsement. Even if the edits are minor, make sure they approve of the final endorsement.
Editing an endorsement without approval is a terrible practice, especially if they don’t approve of the edited endorsement and you don’t find out until the book is printed.
What to Do with Endorsements That Don’t Fit
Sometimes you get an endorsement that you can’t use on the front or back cover. If you simply ran out of space on your cover, include the endorsement on your website.
It is bad form not to use a good endorsement. You asked someone for a big favor, so try your best to use it somewhere.
Some books include several pages of endorsements before the title page. The inside flaps of hardback dust covers are also a good place for endorsements. You can always put the endorsement on your website.
MyBookTable has a special place for featuring endorsements.
Step 5: Thank
The key to reciprocity is to keep the wheel rotating. Each good turn deserves a good turn-in response. You don’t keep score, but you also try not to let the ball land on your side of the court.
Send the endorser a handwritten thank you card along with a signed copy of your book. In your note, tell them where they can find their endorsement.
You might also consider including a gift card or a small gift. As Geno Hilderbrandt once said, “A thank you card without a gift is like a cloud without rain.” Keep the cycle of reciprocity rotating.
Don’t give cash!
Paying for an endorsement cheapens it in the eyes of readers, the author, and the endorser. It’s like offering to pay your mom for making Thanksgiving dinner.
Gifts should be responded to in kind—a gift for a gift. A nice bottle of wine or a gift certificate for a spa day is much better than money in this context.
Follow these five steps, and your circle of author connections and friendships will grow. To help you manage your growing network, be sure to download the free spreadsheet to keep track of all the steps for each potential endorser.
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Episode 300 is Almost Here!
Episode 300 will be a live event hosted by me on September 30 at 4:00 PM Central Time. If you attend live, you will have a chance to come on screen and ask a question. We will also have prizes and hopefully some fun guest appearances.
An edited version of the live event will be aired on the Novel Marketing podcast the following week.