Like it or not, getting book endorsements is vital to your marketing efforts.
There are lots of factors that contribute to the decision to buy or a book or not—the cover, the reviews, the price—but something that’s just as important as any of those are endorsements. Also known as blurbs, these are declarations of praise from people you know, or don’t know but are influential in your subject, about how your book will change lives or save the world (or something equally hyperbolic that’s not really provable but sure sounds good). A good blurb from the right person gives you an air of authority and prestige. And that shit sells books.
Soliciting endorsements—like promoting—can be excruciating for authors who a) are very, very, very shy or b) feel like they’re imposing, which they’re not. Either way, it’s a very necessary piece of the marketing puzzle that can lead directly to a sale, and, if it’s the right endorser, lots of sales! You’ll want to start the process of brainstorming endorsers very early on, preferably as soon as you’ve signed your contract and are still riding high, before the inevitable panic about deadlines sets in. Hopefully you’ll have some authors in mind right off the bat—ones who’ve had some measure of success in the same genre as yours if you’re writing fiction or well-known experts in your book’s subject area if you’re writing nonfiction. But you should also be thinking about genre-adjacent folks that may not be the first people who’d jump to mind. For example, if you’ve written a crime novel that centers around technology, of course you’re going to think first of James Patterson or Dennis Lehane, but consider also someone like Alec Ross, a successful author who also happens to be a technology policy expert.
Dial down your inner critic.
The most important thing to remember when you’re drawing up your endorser wish list is this: THINK BIG. There’s a tendency for most writers to undersell themselves and their talent, like, “Oh, who am I, who cares about my little book anyway, etc.” If you want ANYONE to give a shit about your book, now is the time to stop thinking like that. In the legendary Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott coins an expression for your inner critic that still haunts me–in a good way–to this day: a radio station called KFKD (or K-Fucked).
Out of the left speaker will be the rap songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything one touches turns to shit, that one doesn’t do relationships well, that one is in every way a fraud, incapable of selfless love, that one has no talent or insight, and on and on and on.
You’re gonna need to turn that speaker off—or better yet, just throw the goddamn thing away—in order to reach out to writers whose work you admire.
Once you have that wish list, the investigations begin. Especially if you’re trying to reach a celebrity or a very high-profile author, you’re going to have to wade through websites, social media channels, and, most likely, an agent or a publicist. Admittedly, this can take a huge chunk of time, but it’s worth its weight in gold if you do end up securing a blurb.
Personalize your request—but in the right way.
Keep the letter brief, but also, make sure that it’s personalized. Ask me how much I hate it when someone sends me an email that begins “Dear Connie” or “Dear Corrine” or “Dear Karen.” IT DRIVES ME UP THE FUCKING WALL BECAUSE NONE OF THOSE ARE MY NAME. So I can only imagine how infuriating it problably is for Roxane Gay to get emails that begin “Dear Roxanne.” Yes, I know, it’s one letter off, but it shows a lack of attention to a very simple thing to get right, and could very well cost you an incredibly powerful endorsement.
Also, make sure you draw some personal connection between you and the person you’re asking for the endorsement. Don’t just say “I’m a big fan of your writing,” or “Your book changed my life,” because you can bet they’ve heard that at every book signing they’ve ever been to. Think deeply about why their work matters so much to you; cite a personal experience if you think it’s warranted. The big names get more requests for endorsements than they’d ever have time to answer, but relating on a personal level is an easy way to get yours to stand out from the crowd.
Make it easy for authors to blurb your book.
And finally, do some of the work for them. Send them a synopsis, a summary, a few chapters–even a handful of blurbs you’ve written yourself from which they can choose, or augment in some way. Every little bit of work you do gets you one step closer to an endorsement that could mean a sale.
So, with these tips in mind, go forth and email with reckless abandon! Not every big-time author remembers what it was like to be one of the little people, but you’d be surprised at how many do.