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The Ugly Truth about Author Endorsements

I recently spent twelve bucks on a book that I discarded about 50 pages in. In my opinion, I felt the book was poorly written. Frankly, I suspected this going in. So why did I spend twelve dollars on a book I knew was probably poorly written? CONFESSION: Because it was enthusiastically endorsed by a well-known author. Yes, the premise sounded interesting. Yes, it’s in the genre I write in. But the primary reason I bought this poorly-written book was because it was endorsed by someone I respect.

I hate when that happens.

Unless you can get Stephen King or J.K. Rowling to blurb your book, chances are most endorsements matter little to sales. Call me a sucker, but in my case, this endorsement mattered. Which is probably why gathering endorsements remains par for the publishing course.

I’m in the final leg of publishing my next novel and because it is

  • My first full-length self-published novel (my previous self-pubbed projects were a novella and an anthology)
  • A change of genre (from dark fantasy, horror, and supernatural suspense to urban fantasy)
  • A change of audience (from religious to general market)

Thus I have felt the need to enlist other writers to assist me with the crossover. So I held my breath and contacted about a dozen authors, asking if they would be interested in considering writing an endorsement for my forthcoming novel. Aside from one individual who didn’t respond to my request, everyone was quite polite and gracious. Of course, some declined for various reasons — deadlines, mainly. At this stage I’ve received about a half-dozen genuinely positive blurbs. The rest are still pending. As my publication deadline approaches, I will debate whether or not to contact these authors to gently remind them about a possible endorsement. However, typically, I avoid such follow-up because I hate bugging busy people.

Asking for blurbs is one of the most uncomfortable realities of being a writer. It ranks somewhere between watching The View and having your fingernails pulled out with rusty pliers.

Before The Telling released, I determined to aim high for endorsers. Nothing but “big names.” I contacted a dozen high-profile authors, most of whom I’d had personal contact with, about blurbing the book. When the publication deadline was reached, I had approximately…

ZERO ENDORSEMENTS.

In all fairness, I haven’t met an author yet who isn’t REALLY BUSY. Between deadlines, marketing, social media, family, writing, and other authors bugging them for blurbs, the average author is seriously pressed for time. Which is why asking for endorsements feels like a serious intrusion and inconvenience upon another writer. Especially if that writer is more established than you. Either way, seeking endorsements for The Telling was quite a let-down for me. The publishers slapped on the endorsement from my previous novel — authors to which I’m incredibly grateful — and that was that. All that to say, gathering endorsements is a nasty affair.

The truth is, until authors are banging down your door to endorse you, getting blurbs for our books remains a necessary evil.

The longer you survive in the writing biz, the more chances you will asked to give an endorsement. I occasionaly have authors ask me for blurbs. In one sense, being asked endorse another author’s book kind of sucks. Don’t get me wrong, it is quite flattering that ones name would be considered a positive commodity. Furthermore, it’s good form to throw writerly love around, whether it’s in asking for or giving endorsements.

Bottom line: Being asked to endorse another writer’s book is a totally awesome problem to have.

The ugly part of this deal is being caught between wanting to be a “blurb whore,” endorse EVERYTHING, and only wanting to endorse books and authors I can GENUINELY get behind. (Here’s a dirty little secret: Sometimes authors endorse books out of friendship or career profitability, not because the book is really that great.)

There’s a downside to both these extremes:

  • The author who endorses EVERYTHING loses credibility, especially when books they endorse turn out to be not so good (like the anonymous author I mentioned above who coaxed me into buying a lousy book).
  • The author who only endorses books they GENUINELY like looks like a chap ass, a snobby elitist who lets taste interfere with friendship. (Note: Some authors completely avoid this quandary by making it their policy to never agree to endorse ANY books.)

So I had to contact a couple author friends recently and tell them I could not endorse their book. I felt like a total schmuck. I couldn’t offer an endorsement not because I didn’t like their books, but because I didn’t read them. I was just too swamped with my own projects. Perhaps I need to rethink my standards for endorsement. Do I really need to read a book in its entirety and enjoy it before I can attach my name to the title? Why not just endorse the book and stop being a jerk?

Anyway, I felt like a piece of garbage.

And when it comes to blurb etiquette, maybe that’s the first piece of advice I’d give to an author: When you ask an author for an endorsement, you are potentially putting them in a place to feel like a schmuck.

Respect that. Do you think they like saying “no” to you? Do you think you’re the only one whose career, reputation, and time is in the balance here?

Which is why it’s good policy when seeking endorsements to simply be polite. Use terms like, “Would you CONSIDER endorsing my latest novel…” or “IF time allows…” In other words, don’t act like a blurb is pending. Or, even worse, don’t act like your author friend owes it to you. And by all means, do not keep score. By that I mean, “So-and-so never gave me an endorsement so I’m never buying another one of their books.” Listen, don’t take it so personal.

Finally, when the potential endorser gets back to you and says they’re unable to endorse your book at this time, please — please — don’t pout. In fact, this is the time when bridges are strengthened and industry relationships are built.

Perhaps your response to NOT getting an endorsement may pave the way for future endorsements.

When said author says they can’t blurb you, write them back and thank them for considering. Don’t go sulking into the shadows. Don’t hang up and leave static. And don’t throw a pity party. Tell them you appreciate their time, you understand how busy everyone is, wish them luck on their current projects… and log the relationship. The worst thing you can do after an author informs you they can’t supply a blurb is to start sniping with them.

Instead, be gracious and thankful for the blurbs you do receive. If you haven’t received any yet, “Keep asking. Keep knocking. And keep seeking.” And when another author approaches YOU for an endorsement, you’ll have a richer appreciation for this ugly affair. And, trust me, endorsements are an ugly affair.

Either way, until authors come banging down my door begging to endorse me, I won’t be too shy about asking them. You shouldn’t be either.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • WordVixen September 30, 2014, 12:08 PM

    As a reader, I find it difficult to understand the point of blurbs. I’ve never, ever used them as a point when considering buying a book, and never even glanced at them until I became interested in the business end of a book (that sounds so wrong). I know that they’re a big deal, I just can’t figure out *why*. I realize that everyone is different, and maybe a lot of readers do use them as an influence on their purchasing decisions, but it always feels like yet another dead marketing trick. Something you do because it’s always been done, and is only conspicuous when it’s missing.

  • Mir September 30, 2014, 1:13 PM

    All an endorsement blurb will do–if it’s from an author I respect who isn’t a blurb ‘ho (ie, you see them blurbing everyone and their pets)–is bait me into looking at the sample of a book. It makes me “pick it up” to inspect it. That’s all. If I don’t like the premise or the genre, I wouldn’t pick it up. If the sample turns me off, I won’t buy it.

    I pre-ordered a fantasy-horror novel once due to it being recommended by a Christian director on FB, and I did enjoy it a lot. But it was the total enthusiasm of the review and that the author had written the screenplay for a creepy movie I’d enjoyed. I figured he could at least actually plot and write dialogue. 🙂

    Asking for blurbs IS a huge intrusion. It is asking a busy person to take a day (or several evenings) our of their life to read your long work (unless it’s a short story or brief poetry collection). Very few people I would do that for. VERY few.

    But when someone asks me–and I haven’t blurbed anyone, just reviewed–my question would be: Why? I’m nobody. 🙂 I have no following or platform or anything that would let my blurb serve as bait.

    It would be a waste of both our times for me to say yes. Total waste.

    Now, as an Amazon top reviewer–and who knows with the Eleusinian level of mystery surrounding the algorithm there, there may be some bump in rankings if a top reviewer or Vine Voice gives a review; could be–I can get why folks ask. I’m likely to give a more comprehensive review if I agree to it. BUT…I turn down 99.9% of requests. I’m a slow reader and if I say yes to a review for someone, I basically have just signed over two days of my life. That’s not nothing. So, really, you owe me. 😀

    Just know that if you ask and I say yes, YOU OWE ME. 😀

    • Mir September 30, 2014, 1:14 PM

      I should clarify that I haven’t blurbed for anyone–but have been asked. Hence the “why?”

      • Mir September 30, 2014, 1:21 PM

        And I’m gonna be keeping notes about who did not review me when I reviewed them or crit me after I crit them or promote me if I promoted them, etc. Yes, some folks may be off my “do favors and reviews” list in future. This is business. In business, you return favors.

  • Teddi Deppner September 30, 2014, 2:32 PM

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Mike. It’s definitely helpful to hear what things look like from where you stand actually doing it.

    Although I am not always influenced by the endorsements on a book, it DOES go a long way when considering something by a new (to me) author. If I’ve never heard of the author, but Tosca Lee endorses the book, that might be a tipping point.

    It’s hard to avoid feeling like a schmuck at some point, if you deal with authors in any way at all. Beta reading, critiques, writing reviews — it’s all touchy stuff and I wish there was more respect for just saying, “I’m sorry, it just isn’t my cup of tea” and having an understanding that the comment isn’t (necessarily) saying the writing was bad…. just that it didn’t suit me, particularly.

  • Kat Heckenbach September 30, 2014, 7:44 PM

    I agree wholeheartedly with this–all your points, so I won’t itemize :).

    Except…I found out the hard way that even a blurb from JK Rowling can be meaningless–I picked up a MG book awhile back specifically because she’d endorsed it, and it was awful :P.

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