Friday, August 18, 2006

Endorsements--Part 2 (In which I tell it like it is)

Good discussion yesterday. Thanks, commenters. It was interesting to see the different viewpoints.

There’s a big issue with endorsing that I saved for part 2, because it deserves a post all its own. Cindy T. brought it up yesterday, echoed by Randy M. This is the subject of publishers (and sometimes agents) requiring authors to submit names of potential endorsers with their proposals. Yes, proposals.

To use my favorite mixed metaphor, this is putting the cart before the egg.

I don’t know how this got started. Any editor/agent out there want to enlighten me? I do know that according to the word on the street, leaving this section blank on the submission form is a big mark against the author. Supposedly it’s a major help to get your book published if you can list a bunch of recognized potential endorsers. Agents who require this refer the issue to the publishers—“they’re insisting on endorsements right up front, so before I take on an author/book to try to sell, I need to get those endorsements in place!”

This policy drives me crazy. And I know for a fact I’m in good company with other pubbed authors.

Publishers—it’s up to you to stop this madness!

Let me put this in perspective for anyone who might not fully get the picture. Authors with recognized names are being asked to endorse not just by other authors whose books have been contracted by a publishing house. We’re being asked to endorse by every new author who is requested to submit a proposal to a publishing house or agency who passes on this policy.

Do you see why I get a lot of endorsement requests?

If I may state my case here—I don’t see this system working very well.

1. The sheer volume of requests for endorsements is forcing authors with recognizable names to put “just say no” policies in place.

2. The poor new authors who are turning in these proposals do not want to ask pubbed authors for these endorsements. I feel very sorry for them to be put in such a position. The emails I receive are always apologetic, realizing I’m busy, etc., etc., but the person must fill out this form that requires endorsers, so would I be willing to read the book for possible endorsement if it’s bought? I can hear the fear and trembling in their voices as they ask. They really feel put in a bind. I think this is unfair. I have to ask . . .

3. Between a new author and a publishing house, who has more ties to published authors with recognizable names? So why has the task of landing endorsers been placed on the newbie’s shoulders? It’s far better placed on the shoulders of the house’s marketing department.

Yesterday I mentioned that when Zondervan bought Eyes of Elisha, we had two endorsers. Z bought my novel because they liked it, not because I furnished any would-be endorsers’ names. Once Z bought it, the house set about finding endorsers. The two that endorsed it were in Z’s own stable of authors, and in my genre. James Scott Bell and Terri Blackstock were respected suspense names, and therefore were right for the marketing of Eyes of Elisha. Which leads me to my next point . . .

4. When a new author is forced to come up with names, he/she doesn’t always think in terms of what names would be best for the genre of story. Said “freaked out” author (as Randy put it yesterday) turns to whatever pubbed author he/she has the most ties to and is the least likely to bite his/her head off for asking. Therefore (to answer my own question from yesterday) you end up with new authors asking for endorsements from just about anybody, regardless of the potential endorser’s genre. In addition . . .

5. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a recognized author is going to say no to such a request. Even if I had all the time in the world to endorse and would do so for any genre, I’d still say no to these requests. Reason—I don’t know the author’s work. I have nothing to go on to tell me I’m going to like the book so well that I’ll be willing to put my name on it. And, given my encouraging nature, if I said “yes” to reading the book for “possible” endorsement, I’d be committed to endorse. Because there’s no way I’m going to read a book and then tell that author the story’s not good enough. That’s a devastating thing for a new author to hear. I know all new novelists are in for some hard knocks (watch out for those reviews!), but danged if I’m going to add to ’em. I know I’m not alone in this. There are just a lot of tender hearts in our industry. (Which is why we don’t see many hard reviews, either, but that’s a topic for another day.) Also, let’s not forget . . .

6. A manuscript will gain a lot of credibility after it’s bought by a publishing house. Scores of new authors, thanks to meeting editors and agents at writers conferences, etc., are asked to submit proposals. But few of those are actually contracted by a house. So doesn’t it make sense that a manuscript is more likely to hear a “yes” to endorsing after the manuscript is bought?

As a result of all this mess . . .

7. The new author is going to hear “no” from the authors whose names might really make a difference on the book, and will hear “yes” from those pubbed authors who are new themselves. Who may have one or two books published and may not have established a large readership yet, and may think (wrongly, in my opinion) that endorsing someone else’s book is a good way of marketing his/her own name.

So, where does this leave us? (A) New author submits proposal with less than stellar names for possible endorsers. (B) Which the publishing house may or may not use. (C) Meanwhile those authors whose names are more recognized are enervated by the whole state of affairs and are vowing to stop endorsing all together just to keep their sanity. (D) Nobody wins.

No doubt there are exceptions. X author just happens to come up with a magnificent endorser name who’s ready to sign on the dotted line—before the book’s even sold. But I do think this is the anomaly, and meanwhile the industry in general is being hurt by this whole backwards process.

Here’s what suggest, publishers, as I do believe the buck stops with you. On your forms, instead of saying “List possible endorsers . . .” how about saying something along these lines: “If your novel is bought, our marketing department will use its resources to find the best endorsers for your book. However, if you happen to know someone who’s already agreed to endorse your work, please include that name here.” And then, publishers, belly up to the bar and find the endorsers for your contracted novels.

Okay, I’ve had my rant. I'm now putting up my shield to duck the publishers’ tomatoes. As for you authors, pubbed and unpubbed, if you agree with me (and I know you’re out there), here’s your chance to add your voice to the fray.

Read Part 3


Anonymous said...

Right on. Perfect logic. Excellent at every point. This isn't a "kiss-up" either.
Who, as a new author, hoping to be published, wants to be associated with/remembered for a dreaded request for endorsements?

~michelle pendergrass said...

As an unpublished author in a sketchy genre...I'd be hard pressed to find a list of potential endorsers--and for a proposal? Sure. And I'm Dorothy from Kansas. Did you meet my dog?

Granted, I'm making connections, but I'd rather people understand I care more about them as a person than as a blurb. I didn't start coming to your blog because I wanted you to do something for me, I came because you had interesting things to say. You offered someone without publishing credits an audition and I gave it a shot.

I'm forever grateful for the opportunity. I've made some great friends that I believe are going to be part of my life for a long time. I know this is a business, but this is also life. And what's more important?

I'm sappy sometimes, but I don't want published authors thinking I'm running around behind them, stalking them for their influence.

Tina Helmuth said...

I agree with you, BC. You made excellent points. Fortunately, in my quest to be published, no one has yet required endorsements, only thrown them in as a possibility to add in my proposal. But even seeing it as a suggestion made me break out in a cold sweat.

Since I only appear here as a first name, I need no shield to join you in saying to those who have the power...

Yes, please stop the madness!

Kristy Dykes said...

Here, here. Well said. (I'm in agreement.)

Wandering Writer said...

Wow, I go out of the country for a few days and you all take up a crusade!I've heard this topic discussed before and the opinions/feelings are always the same. Will it stop?

Interestingly enough on vacation, I found an early book by a popular Christian author, probably one of her first, and out of curiosity looked for the endorsements (something I don't normally do). I didn't recognize anyone who had endorsed it nor the titles of their books.

I think what everyone here is saying is true. Maybe some of you with more influence can stop the madness. We book newbies would appreciate it.

Unknown said...

I like the policy of those who say they cannot endorse a book unless it's contracted. Chances are the book won't be and that's a lot of wasted time.

I have a question. Under "list possible endorsers", is it okay to say, "I have a relationship with these authors and will approach them for possible endorsments once the work is contracted."?

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Gina, I think that's a smart way to handle the current problem. Don't know if it's enough for the publishers or not, but it should be. You're right, it leaves the endorsement issue where it should be--at point of contract. And it stills uses the strength of all your contacts through your own blog. Nice solution.

Marjorie Vawter said...

I agree, wholeheartedly! I've never been one to push myself forward just to gain attention for my work. I want it to speak for itself. And I've been bothered by those publishers who ask for endorsers up front. Can't do it, so I pass of the possibility of them publishing something I've written. Thanks, Brandilyn for being open and honest about this issue.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for blogging about this Brandilyn. As a first time author I am glad my publisher did not ask for endorsements up front. It bothers me that a publisher would assume that first time authors have such notable contacts. We have enough pressure already! :)

T. Forkner

Anonymous said...

To clarify one point about my comments yesterday, my publisher only asked for potential endorsers after the book was contracted. It was not a demand or a requirement, but for a new guy like me it felt that way. My initial response (to the publisher) was much like what you have eloquently laid out here, Brandilyn. I was frustrated, unnerved, stunned, surprised, and taken aback. (Not to be too redundant. :-) )

To ask a writer for a list of endorsers at THE PROPOSAL STAGE is even more incredulous. Take my response above and multiply it by 5. That's just head-shakingly wrong.

Aside from that glitch early in my initial contracted experience, I've enjoyed a great working relationship with Barbour. My impression of the endorsement episode (in retrospect) is that it is "just something they do", without understanding the traumatic effect it may have on a new author. I let them know about my frustration at the time, and I was GREATLY relieved when they decided not to worry about getting any endorsements for my second book.

(And having said all THAT, if Frank Peretti or Johnny Depp are reading this, please contact me.)

Stuart said...

Everyone has pretty much stated it all. I'm in agreement!

Julie Carobini said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Julie Carobini said...

Like Tina, I was not asked for endorsements up front. Whew! (I am, however, looking for some now...:-)

Gina Conroy said...

Great discussion on endorsements. I can see how it can be really uncomfortable for both the published and unpublished author!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I didn't get in on the discussion yesterday, so I'll make some comments spanning the entire topic.

First, I see how wacked this system has become, how it waters down the whole system.

Second, I do look at endorsements. Used to be, though, that I didn't recognize any names. Now I do and that matters. But, as you say, if only the new authors are giving endorsements, then there will remain mostly unrecognizable supporters and that doesn't influence the same way.

However, I think it does influence--in the same way I could stand next to a stranger in our church library and say, "I just finished that book last night and it is so good." (She proceeded to check it out). Hearing that someone else likes the book is a nudge, a bigger nudge if I've heard of the endorser before.

That being said, I add my voice of agreement to your suggestion, Brandilyn. Offering a list of potential endorsers seems like a reasonable addition to a proposal, as opposed to the actual endorsements.

(I'm thinking, first agents took on the role of sifting through proposals to find publishable material. Now it would seem pubbed authors are being asked to take up that first line. Hmmmm)


D. Gudger said...

I agree with your recommendations. I hope publishers read this blog and take it to heart.

Unknown said...

Amen, BC!

I will add that this is also a problem in the ABA. I went to a mainstream conference last year where a well published author said that NOW is the time to call in your favors. Publishers will ask for endorsements.

It's so unfair when you are a newbie. And you are so right! It's the publisher who has these contacts. Why won't they use them for contracted books?

Yikes! Am I inline for the tomatoes now?

Illuminating Fiction said...

I agree with you, Brandilyn.

Dineen A. Miller said...

Amen, BC! Awesome post. Can we send a notice to all publishers to come read it now?

Does Z still handle their new author endorsements as they did yours?

Pamela S. Meyers said...

I'm coming in late here. Feed Blitz is great but by the time I get the blog in my email a day has gone by. Anyway, Brandilyn, thank you for taking on this topic. I'm typing my comment without reading the others but want to put in my two cents.

I'm published in magazines and an upcoming compilation book. Being in ACFW, I've come to know a lot of successful published authors, but just because I know them doesn't mean I'd feel comfortable going to most of them and asking for an endorsement. First of all the published is only interested in my story. We all know interest doesn't always translate into a contract. Been there done that. Meanwhile if I'd gotten several pubbed authors to read my manuscript I've infringed upon their valuable time and placed a burden on them to come up with an endorsement. Maybe they didn't even like the story all that much!

Sometimes I offer to be an influencer for a book just coming out. When I do that I feel obligated to say something nice about the book even if I didn't care for it. That's hard to do. It doesn't happen often, but it has. I also feel obligated to put the book at the top of my mounting TBR pile and get it read quick so I can get the review up on Amazon, CBD, etc. But, I get a free book out of it. :-).

Thanks again, Brandilyn, for talking about this.

Pamela S. Meyers said...

Egad, I need another cup of coffee. I meant to say that the publisher (not the published) is only interested in my story, they haven't bought it yet.

Back to slugging down the java!

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Dineen, to answer your question, please see Sue Brower's response (sueb)in the comments from yesterday's post. Sue is acquiring editor for fiction at Zondervan.

Unknown said...

Thanks for answering my question. I appreciate that.

Everyone, isn't Gina Conroy's picture cool? (The picture frame. I love that! Now if she would just change her first name. :)

Grady Houger said...

Endorsements? I don't want a bunch of text mucking up my beautiful cover art!
But seriously, I wouldn't want to use an endorsement unless a famous somebody contacted me with a "Your book made me happy for a while! Good job!"

The one question I didn't see answered: Is the endorser paid for doing so?


Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

I agree BC!

Kristin Billerbeck said...

Bless you, bless you, bless you Brandilyn!! Do you KNOW how many chick lit books are coming out soon? I don't even have time to write my own these days!! And then there's the guilt, you want to help new authors, but really, who has that kind of time with a full time job, four kids, two books a year, edits, homework, soccer, dinner on the table, cleaning the house. ACK, I'm making myself nervous! You did a good service here today Brandilyn.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Grady, endorsers are not paid for their work. Volunteer only.