Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September: Blurbs, Endorsements, and Quotes

I. Buy This Book

Like any entertainment industry, Publishing uses endorsements as buyer enticements. An endorsement is basically anything inside quotation marks that casts a favorable light on the title. This can range from glowing quotations in print ads and sales copy to cover blurbs and pages of intro buzz. For the sake of this post, we'll call them all endorsements, because basically that's what they are.

As any author can tell you, the right endorsement by the right person at the right time can change a writer's career. Author Tom Clancy owes a big chunk of his success to an infamous endorsement of his first novel, The Hunt for Red October. It was called a perfect yarn and non-put-downable (is that a word?) Rather casual and not very infamous, as endorsements go, until you consider they were made by then-President Ronald Reagan.

An endorsement should grab some attention, and intrigue the reader as much as the status of the person making it. As personally repulsive as I find endorsements issued by fugitive terrorist butchers, they have some weight with certain mentalities.

Endorsements can also mean big bucks for Publishing. In a time when the winners of the National Book Award can barely move 5,000 copies of their books, Oprah and her on-again off-again reading club have rocketed every book they've endorsed into bestsellerdom. Just say the word Oprah around a bunch of literary writers and watch them go moon-eyed and slack-jawed.

Personally I don't care for the games involved with endorsements, as they're polluted with favoritism, cronyism, and big fat honking liars, but it is part of the biz. If you're looking for endorsements, you might as well do it as painlessly as possible.

II. Who Gets or Gives What?

A few lucky souls among you might never have to worry about endorsements, either -- the overnight successes, trend-setters and other A-listers will generate a ton of them, just by writing great books that a lot of people love (see Ward, J.R.) However, if you're a rookie, or you occupy someplace on the B- through Z-list, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for them to fall out of the sky into your lap.

I'm told most editors make an effort to get at least one decent endorsement for each title under their wing. Alas, I didn't get any of those editors myself, but I know they're out there; plenty of them have asked me to endorse other authors. Talk to your editor and see what they're willing to do to help you with your endorsement quest.

Agents are often great about getting endorsements for their authors. Your agent may have the contacts you don't to get your manuscript into the right hands to be read, so it's also a good idea to ask them for assistance.

When it comes to getting endorsements from writer friends, things get a little sticky. Some folks don't mind asking acquaintances and pals in the industry to endorse them; I try diligently not to impose on my friends that way. I guess it depends on you and your friends and how you feel about it. Third-party requests may be a little easier to handle -- a few times I have contacted writers I didn't know personally and asked them to read a friend's manuscript that I thought was marvelous, and no one took offense.

You can always forward reviews from reputable industry publications, bloggers and reader sites to your editor for use as endorsements, although there are some they probably won't use. Figure if an ellipse has to be inserted after every other word, it's not going to fly.

Endorsing yourself by having one pseudonym blurb another is viewed by some folks as cutesy. I think it makes you look a moron whom I will parody in a heartbeat. Your call.

III. How to Ask

I've retired from the endorsement game now, but back when I was being regarded as Oracle of Paranormal Fiction, I was offered bribes, reciprocal endorsements and other very nice things as incentives to give my endorsement. I also had a couple of folks try to strong-arm me into handing over one. The only approach I ever liked was an upfront, straightforward, just-asking request, preferably from another writer.

When requesting an endorsement, I recommend you make your contact brief, honest, and polite:

Dear Ms. Beegshot:

I'm writing to ask if you would consider reading my dark fantasy novel, Evermore, for a cover quotation. I think you'll enjoy seeing what I've done with the vampire mythology, and I would appreciate any recommendation you would care to make for the readers.

May I send you an advance reading copy? Please let me know when you have a chance.

Thank you,
Lynn Viehl


A couple of other points:

1. I don't think it's necessary to assure the prospective endorser that you know how busy they are (and yet I saw this in almost every endorsement quest that landed on my desk.) It's okay. We're all busy people.

2. Be upbeat and positive in your address. Groveling only works with a dominatrix.

3. If you're writing to a dominatrix, disregard #2.

4. Be professional. Don't offer details about your lousy marriage, your dire financial straits, or that sex-change operation you've been meaning to get. Don't use the endorser's first name unless you are on a first-name basis with them already. Be sure to work a thank-you somewhere in the request.

5. Be graceful if the prospective endorser refuses, and follow-up any response except #7 at all with a simple thank-you note. Even if they're rude, you don't have to be.

6. Don't be surprised if you don't get a response. Asking for an endorsement is probably the hardest thing a writer has to do. Refusing to give one is the second-hardest.

7. If the prospective endorser responds with hostility, abusive language, or any other inappropriate reaction, let it go and don't contact them again.

8. Don't criticize any endorsement you're offered, and don't alter it without permission from the source. If it's badly-worded, simply ask if you can change the wording.

9. If you do get an endorsement, don't send all of your friends to the endorser to ask for one for their books.

10. Be patient. The last endorsement I gave out was one I wanted to think about; I really obsess over my wording. Then I had a lot of other things happen and set it aside. In the end I made the recipient wait for quite a long time -- two or three months -- but I never heard a peep out of her. I genuinely appreciated that courtesy (that said, if you're getting close to the deadline you need endorsements by, drop the endorser a very brief reminder note.)

Related Links:

(Why you shouldn't ask Steve Almond for an endorsement)

Gary A. Braunbeck's On Book Blurbs

Joe Konrath's A Fistful of Blurbs

10 comments:

  1. What a timely post. My husband was just suggesting to the me that I should get an endorsement for my books the other day. Okay, sure, sounds great but who and how? Still working out the who but your post gives me some direction on how.
    Thanks.

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  2. Nice said. Thank you. ;)

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  3. Kerry Allen3:59 AM

    Hey, I love ellipses in endorsements. You just know they're getting "The best... book ever written" from "The best use of this book is birdcage liner. It is without a doubt the worst book ever written."

    The last issue of RWR ("The best... $100 I ever spent") contained an article about this, one editor saying he/she handled it and wouldn't dream of bothering the author with the task, the next saying it was entirely the author's responsibility. Gotta love the consistency.

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  4. Excellent post.
    Thank you.

    "...the status of the person making it"
    Guess asking my favourite used book store owner for one won't fly then...

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  5. I hate being asked for quotes. My agent fields most of the requests for me.

    Unless it's somebody I know very well, I seriously dislike it when another author asks me for a quote. I feel like I'm being put on the spot.

    Likewise, I can't imagine emailing somebody in general for a quote. I've only done it once and it was from a friend that I knew would be up front and honest with me if she didn't have time, didn't want or wasn't comfortable~that's the best kind of friend to have, one that isn't afraid to be honest.

    But I do need to comment....

    2. Be upbeat and positive in your address. Groveling only works with a dominatrix.

    3. If you're writing to a dominatrix, disregard #2.


    Exactly how do you if you're writing to a dominatrix? Is it on their website? Book jacket?

    :OP

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  6. I'll try to keep #3 in mind. Just in case. Heh, you just never know.

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  7. I've always wondered about these comments on the covers. Some people seem to give them prolifically and with no real consistency with regards to the quality of the contents. As a result, I actually trust the endorsements of very few writers. One is Anne McCaffrey. So far, I've enjoyed every author/book she endorsed. I've even gone against my own 'book buying policy' on her 'say so'.

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  8. bran fan9:04 AM

    I am struck by how much a letter asking for an endorsement resembles a query letter. Ahhhhh, just when you've got a contract and say "I'll never have to query on that novel again." But you do.

    Yet another reason to master that tricky document called a query letter.

    This was very informative. I like this blog because I always learn new stuff here.

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  9. I wrote to an author who writes in a similar vein (spec fic humour), and I mentioned that we were both published in the same issue of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. (Who was it that said it's not worth writing & publishing short fiction? You're dead wrong!)

    After reading an ARC this author wrote back with a killer blurb, and he was kind enough to do the same with book three. (Book two caught him when he was up against his own deadline.)

    I'm hesitant about sending him book four in the series because it seems like a cheek, but he honestly did seem to enjoy the first three. And no, I don't like asking anyone for favours.

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  10. I didn't see the harm in asking, so I did. Got four lovely quotes on my own, and one from my editor's efforts. When I contacted my 'dream' authors, I made sure I was courteous, low pressure, and left them a convenient out. I said, "I understand if you don't have time, or simply don't want to because you don't know me."

    And even if they say no (which nobody did, and I'm so grateful for their time and willingness to help), I'd respond with a sincere "thanks anyway."

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