Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What's the Deal With Book Endorsements? by Kara Isaac

If you've been reading books for any period of time you'll be familiar with book endorsements. Generally splashed on the front cover, back cover, and in the front of the book they ideally say things like:

"This is the BEST book I've ever read. Funny, deep, with characters that will make you cry and laugh and still be thinking about long after the last page has turned. If you only read one book this year this one should be it!" Jo Smith, New York Times Bestselling Author of Floating Fireflies 

Since I signed my first book contract a year ago, a few people have asked me a few questions about endorsements, namely how do you get them, are they worth anything, and do they mean anything?

How do you get them?

There's three main sources of endorsements:

  1. An author has his/her own network of established authors they can ask
  2. A publisher ask one of their other authors who writes in a similar genre
  3. An author's agent's approaches their other clients who write in a similar genre
In my instance because I had been chasing the crazy writing dream for a loooooooong time (ten years, but who's counting?) along the way I had made friends with people who had ended up ahead of me in the publishing journey and were now well established authors. 

It didn't make asking them any less nerve wracking, but at least we had a pre-existing relationship which made me more hopeful some of them might be able to say yes. Those were four of my endorsements. Two others were authors that were acquaintances but I was too nervous to ask them because they were superstars in my debut author world so my agent was kind enough to act as the middleman for me. The final one was a connection by a mutual friend. 

The chances of asking an author who doesn't know you from a block of cheese to endorse your book and them agreeing to are pretty much non-existent. Not because they're snobs who don't want to support new talent but because between meeting their own deadlines and marketing demands, they're probably already having to say no to endorsing books that they really want to read but just don't have the time available. 

Are they worth anything? 

Well, long story short, yes and no. 

Here's where they can be worth a lot:

You're a debut author, don't star in a reality TV show, have a famous parent, and so have no/very limited name recognition.

If you Google my name there's a few Kara Isaacs out there. I'm not famous for any reason. There is nothing about me that would mean that my name alone on the cover of a book is going to get strangers to buy my book. So having someone who does have name recognition writing something nice may help it stick a little more with readers who are willing to try a new author. 

The authors endorsing you write in a similar genre

When I was thinking about my dream team of authors that I hoped would consider endorsing Close To You they all had one thing in common: our reader demographics had a lot of similarities. They were the names that filled in the blank when it came to "If you like ____________ you might also like Kara Isaac." 

My name might not mean anything to a reader but maybe maybe if they're a die hard Becky Wade fan then an endorsement from her might encourage them to give me a chance.

Here's where they are worth very little

The endorsements written are by people who don't have any name recognition either. My sister could write me a long effusive endorsement but it would be irrelevant because the general reading public don't know who she is so her opinion means nothing to them.

The endorsements are written by people who have name recognition but it's completely unrelated to what you're writing about. There are a few romance authors whose endorsement would encourage me to give a new-to-me author a shot. Martha Stewart, OJ Simpson, and Condalezza Rice all have huge name recognition but they would't be my go-to people for romance novel recommendations.

Do they mean anything? 

I recently saw a post on a reader's Facebook group which said (paraphrased) "Endorsements don't mean anything. All the authors are each other's best friends and would write something nice even if the book was awful. Half the time haven't even read the book they're endorsing." 

I can't speak for anyone else except myself and a few other authors that I've talked to about this but I don't know a single author who flippantly writes an endorsement without having read the book. I also don't know anyone who would write a glowing endorsement but secretly think the story is total rubbish. 

When you're an author your name is an integral part of your brand. It carries meaning. When you write an endorsement it's because a publisher hopes that your name saying nice things will help persuade a reader to part with their hard-earned money. So if a reader buys a book because you promise them it's the unmissable thriller of the century and the writing is bad, the plot has major issues, and you know who did it on page 19, you're tainted by that too. 

I'm not saying those authors don't exist but most authors take endorsing a book very seriously. And reading, as always, is a subjective pursuit. Just because you didn't love a book didn't mean that author didn't genuinely believe it was as wonderful as they said.

What about you? Do book endorsements mean anything to you? If you're looking at an author that you haven't read before could they convince you into purchasing their book?

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. It will release in 49 sleeps from Howard Books (not that she's counting or anything). When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac


  1. Great post, Kara. I do make book buying decisions based on endorsements.

    I think endorsements are important for book proposals, too--especially if you've never been published. I saw your proposal in Chip MacGregor's book about pitches & proposals and was very impressed with the caliber and quantity of authors who'd endorsed your novel before it was ever sold. That must have impressed publishers, too. I was quick to get endorsements added to my proposal. My agent was so tickled by the endorsements I was able to gather that, in addition to including them in the proposal, he asked me to print them out on a separate sheet and put it in front of editors during pitch meetings. All editors requested materials after I did that, and soon after, one decided to publish the novel.

    Thank you for letting Chip put your proposal in his book :)

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Patricia. You're right! I'd never thought of them being important in a book proposal as well.

  2. Kara, great post. Endorsements do help. So anything Frank Peretti, for example, endorses I will read. However, Frank may not have the same effect on other readers. That's why getting a collection like it appears you have is important. That way at least one of the endorsers will appeal to a certain set of readers.

    The other wonderful aspect of endorsers is they often take some "ownership" in helping promote the novel to their followers which gives the newbie author additional recognition.

    How exciting that after 10 years Close to You releases in another 49 (or is it now 48?) sleeps. So happy for you, Kara.

    1. That is very true, Ian! If my endorsers promote my book to their "tribe" I would be so grateful but I'm not taking anything for granted :)

  3. And then there's the people who promise an endorsement that never comes. . . but, oh! How I appreciate the ones that come through!

  4. Kara, excellent post! If I see a bunch of my favourite authors endorsing a debut book in the same sub-genre they write, it will sway me to buy the book. Of course, your book fits this category. I've pre-ordered your book and I can't wait to read it! :)