Today’s post is excerpted from From Book to Bestseller: The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Promotion, Smart Branding, and Longterm Success by Penny Sansevieri (@Bookgal).
Authors often tell me their first goal in marketing their book is to go after early endorsements. It’s a worthy goal, because getting high-profile people to blurb or endorse your book can add a lot of value to your book’s marketing.
Securing them, however, can be tricky. In the age of social media and email where we potentially have access to everyone, it’s easy to get carried away in your attempts to target a high-profile influencer. I’ve spoken to some authors who create a hit list of high-profile people, or influencers they want endorsements from, and they will just start hitting them up in every way imaginable. Sometimes it works, but more often than not it doesn’t. If you pitch the wrong person in the wrong way, you’ll just waste valuable book marketing time.
Though it can be challenging to secure book endorsements, especially if you’re self-publishing, it’s definitely possible if you go about it with thoughtfulness and patience. And the higher you go up the celebrity food chain, the more involved the process becomes.
Before we go any further, let’s break down the type of endorsement you might want.
Blurb, endorsement, or review?
The terminology is confusing and frankly all of these things are pretty similar. Let’s start with reviews.
Reviews can come from paid and highly respected professional reviewers working for professional organizations, to equally respected blog reviewers, to book reviews written by readers that appear on Amazon and Goodreads.
One of the advantages of reviews is that you can include excerpts of reviews on your book cover and/or inside your book under the “endorsements” or “reviews” section. So often “endorsement” and “review” are used interchangeably.
But if you’re going after a high-profile person in your market, you should use the term “book endorsement”—because that term automatically implies something that’s done before the book is published.
Inside the book publishing industry, “endorsements” or advance praise for a book will often be referred to as “blurbs.” And blurbs have a long history. (Important: Blurbs in this context are not to be confused with short book description copy.)
Celebrity endorsements can mean virtually anything. It’s not always about trying to get an endorsement from Lady Gaga or Reese Witherspoon. Sometimes it’s a celebrity in your specific market. One complimentary nod from a famous face can launch even the most obscure product. Most advertising agencies pay a high price to have a celebrity take a swig of their soft drink or wear a pair of their running shoes.
The good news is, if you can get an endorsement for your book, it probably won’t cost you a thing—except time, patience, persistence, and did I mention patience? It’s a long road, and you should start down it as soon as you have a reasonably final manuscript.
A book foreword is typically written by a celebrity or expert in your market, mostly used for nonfiction. It could also just be someone you admire, or whose work has inspired the book you wrote. Different from a book endorsement, but still “endorsing” your book in a much broader way, a foreword by an industry expert can help enhance your overall book marketing.
Develop and research your hit list
The more you’ve been networking, the faster and easier this process will go. If people know you, or have at least met you, they may be more inclined to help you out.
1. Create your hit list
Whoever is on your list should have a direct interest in what you’re selling. Not indirect, not through some random thing they were involved in ten years ago, but a direct connection. The more direct the connection, the easier this will be. In book marketing, we call this alignment, and your first and most important job is to find people who are aligned with your book.
While I get that someone like Robin Arzon, a leading fitness personality, has millions of followers, and gee, wouldn’t it be great if she shared your stuff … wouldn’t it make more sense if Robin was actually interested in the subject of your book?
2. Look for potential conflicts
Does the potential endorser have a book or product coming out that they’re currently promoting? Sometimes these things can present a conflict, and other times they present an opportunity. A book marketing synergy, as it were. Before you pitch your target for a book endorsement (or a foreword), research them and make sure there’s not a conflict with your book.
Or, there might be an opportunity to offer to share their work with your crowd. Though it may not be as big as the influencer’s (and likely it isn’t), it’s still a nice gesture, and most people won’t turn down a free mention of their book or whatever it is that they’re knee-deep in marketing.
3. Check for connections
Book marketing is all about relationships. Remember, people who know you are more inclined to give you an endorsement (or write a foreword). So check with your list of professional associates and friends and find out if any of them know your target. This could be the opportunity you’re looking for, and while you’re at it, build relationships, because you’ll need them down the road. You do this by adding value, because book marketing is a two-way street. You can share their stuff, help them out, and show others the value of knowing you. Don’t just show up with your hand out for a book endorsement, because I can almost guarantee you won’t get a positive response.
4. Study their current work
If you have your sights set on someone, study them, know what they’ve written, what they like and don’t like. I’m so flattered when people take the time to get to know my work and even a few times when people have mentioned my dog, Cosmo.
Get to know who they are, maybe reference something they recently shared on social media, a trip they took, whatever. Let them know you’re paying attention, and that you care. When it comes to getting the attention of your intended target, these kinds of thoughtful details tell them that you’re paying attention, and it can make a huge difference.
Create your pitch package
Whether you’re seeking book endorsements or someone to write a foreword, the pitch package is pretty much the same. It includes:
- Your book cover: You should have a final, or near-final cover
- A one-page overview of the book: This can be the back cover copy for your book
- Early reviews or endorsements: If you’re targeting people for book endorsements, you may want to include a list of those you already have. Sometimes, if they’re impressive names, it could encourage even more early endorsements. Remember, people like what other people like, and it’s human nature to favor something others are already viewing as positive.
- Table of Contents: If it’s nonfiction, this is a must. If fiction, skip this.
- Book sample: I recommend three to five chapters of your book.
- Pre-written foreword, blurbs, or endorsements
What? Pre-written endorsements?!
A lot of authors neglect to include pre-written content in their pitch package. Yes, this means writing endorsement examples, or writing an outline for an endorser to use for the foreword.
In almost every case, the person you’re targeting is busy. Providing them with samples for them to consider will save them some time, and I can almost guarantee you that you’ll double the number of endorsements you receive. The same is true for your foreword. I’m always flattered when someone asks me to write a foreword for their book, but it’s much easier for me to do it if they provide some pre-written content. This doesn’t mean I’ll use it verbatim, but it’s a start and a time-saver.
Include a few different sample endorsements with the package that someone can choose from. You can directly tell them you’ve pre-written some endorsements that you hope they find helpful, and they’re welcome to edit them as they wish. Just be sure to vary the blurb choices you’re sending to your prospective folks so there’s no duplication.
Craft your outreach email
As much as we all know how many emails big names and influencers get, I’m still surprised at how often I see pitches that are unfocused and rambling. Consider this: regardless of how you’re pitching, your subject line is crucial, and most of us have a preview on our phone, too. So aside from a solid subject line, consider the first sentence they see before even opening the email. That’s how a lot of us scan email these days when we decide whether to open it, file it, or just dump it. And if you’re lucky enough to get an influencer to open your email, make sure the body of it is a tightly focused pitch that’s ideally no longer than one paragraph.
How to reach your target
I suggest that you start with their website; look for a contact form or email address. (Hunter is a helpful tool.) I discourage you from pitching someone on Facebook Messenger, or via direct message on Instagram or Twitter. Instead, take the time to obtain their contact information, which should be on their website. It’s not only smart, but good book marketing.
If their website is hard to find, they may have an agent you can contact or you can email their publisher and ask for help, if applicable. For bigger names, the publisher may handle the requests.
If the person is a speaker and you’re attending an event where they are speaking or in the audience, this may be a window of opportunity for you as well. Sometimes you can connect with speakers after their talks, and if you plan to do that, be sure to have your pitch package with you and get their contact information (or ask how to follow up).
If your target is an actor, you’ll want to start by contacting the Screen Actors Guild for current agent/publicist information. You can do this by calling (323) 549-6737 if the celeb you’re looking for is LA-based. If not, head on over to the SAG-AFTRA website for the current contact information for the Guild’s New York office.
The bigger the name, the more follow up that’s required
Depending on who you’re targeting for a book endorsement, the follow-up part may entail your biggest chunk of work. Why? Because the bigger the target, the busier they will be. If you’re targeting a celebrity, you may have to go through layers of people to get to them, so be patient and diligent. Then follow up.
I’m a firm believer (and it’s my personal philosophy) that even the most high-profile influencers are reachable if you make the right connections and take the right steps.
Like-minded influencers will often be excited and more than willing to help you out, but the relationship doesn’t have to end there. I find that these situations often morph into very mutually beneficial long-term relationships, which means that you shouldn’t drop this effort once you get your book endorsement. Stay on their radar, because reaching influencers is not something that has to have an expiration date or be a one-time thing. And of course, when you get what you’re looking for, blast it to the four corners of the earth!
What happens next
Does the search for book endorsements have to stop when your book is published? Not at all. In fact, I’ve known authors who continually go after big names to endorse their book. If book endorsements are your goal, then your focus on getting more shouldn’t stop—even when you have a handful.
Sometimes authors start small to go big, meaning they’ll start with smaller book endorsements, and build on them as the book continues to grow in popularity. If you’ve self-published your book, it becomes fairly easy to update your cover with a new book endorsement, though often they’re just added to the author’s Amazon page. Even if you’re with a traditional publisher, you can add it to your Amazon book page and your website, and that’ll be enough to capture your readers’ attention with your impressive endorsement or blurb.
P.S. for traditionally published authors: You might also find this advice helpful, from agent Kate McKean: How to Ask for What You Need
Note from Jane: If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Penny Sansevieri’s book From Book to Bestseller: The Savvy Author’s Guide to Book Promotion, Smart Branding, and Longterm Success.
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, visit Author Marketing Experts (AME).