Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Take On Endorsements

I’ve never really gotten this endorsement thing.

I’m not convinced how useful they are. My first book with Zondervan, Eyes of Elisha, had two endorsements by suspense authors who had “gone before me.” James Scott Bell and Terri Blackstock. After that, we’ve never bothered with endorsements again. Am I hurting sales because of this lack? Don’t think so.

Here’s why.

1. The CBA novelist world isn’t all that big. Especially when you’re talking about novelists who’ve been around long enough to be “recognized.” So I notice that the same endorsement names keep popping up again and again. I think this is not good. I think an endorser loses credibility by over-endorsing.

Now, I don’t mean credibility in terms of not being believed as honest. I mean simply that the endorser’s name loses that “oomph” power. How much weight can an author’s name carry if he/she endorses three, four, five, or more novels a year?

2. Authors evidently don’t think it’s important that endorsers stick to their own genres. I disagree. I can’t understand why new authors of historicals, cozy mysteries, romance and the like ask me to endorse their books. Why should my name have any weight in genres in which I do not work and have not built a reputation? By the same token, I can’t understand why, for example, a known historical author would agree to put her/his name on a suspense.

Bottom line, I think our industry treats endorsements too lightly. The result is that they’ve become less than meaningful.

No doubt I’m coming at this issue from my eyes-always-on-marketing viewpoint. And believe me, I’ve come to my opinions through learning from my mistakes. But to my way of thinking, my name as an author is all I have. My name stands for my brand, my reputation. I have to protect my name with my readers at all costs. After all, I've worked years to build what name I have. So I am not going to put my name on another’s book lightly. To me, my name on someone’s book means, “Readers who know my name and what I write—if you like my kind of story, I suggest you read this book also, because I believe you will like it as well.”

I am asked to endorse books a lot. Truth is, I can rarely endorse any these days due to my own writing schedule. This reality in itself keeps my name from being overused. And if I do make that rare exception, it is only for books in my genre.

For my own novels, the only endorsements I’d seek would be from suspense novelists with readerships much larger than mine, and who rarely endorse. Again, this is the kind of name that pulls weight with me. I’d be crazy not to be giddy over an endorsement from Koontz or King or Patterson or Clark.

So how about you, BGs? Am I the only one of these opinions? When you see those long lists of endorsers in the front of a book, does that prompt you to buy the novel? When you see a name used again and again, does that name lose the oomph factor with you?


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Read Part 2

23 comments:

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I tried to express something similiar at Charis Connection the other day in relation to reviews. But since I'm still new, unpublished, and really unknowledgable, I don't think it came out quite the right way.

I do agree that "over" endorse-ers leave their oomph behind. Just like people who only give rave reviews (to me) leave their discernment behind.

I don't look at the endorsements and I truly don't like it when the endorsement is on the front cover. It says to me that the company (and/or the author) is trying to sell a book written by NoName based on the Big Author's name. And I typically won't buy it.

Stuart said...

So that means you aren't going to endorse my sweet prairie romance about mutant space monkies caught up in international intrigue in the old west...

*sigh*

I've never really looked at endorsements as a primary way of judging a book to read. If I'm hanging on the fence I might look at them as a sort of "flash review", but I tend to be a bit skeptical even then since only positive things would make it on the cover.

However I can see both sides. Like you said, a name can have oomph. And having your name endorsing a new suspense could help get an avid fan of yours to try out that new author... But if your name is on every new suspense, western, chick lit and space monkey book that comes out, it would come across as "she sure is doing a lot of favors for people" and "could she have really read all these books while doing her own work, she's already awefully busy...".

So I think it can go both ways, but only if glowing endorsements truly carry weight.

Though as an unpublished author I'd probably welcom any little bit of help that I could get.

Question I have is "when would endorsements hurt sales?" :)

Cheryl Russell said...

Endorsements lost any meaning for me when I read the exact same endorsement-word for word-on two different books by two different authors. It screamed "rubber stamp" and I assumed the author giving his approval hadn't read either book.

I caught it when I scanned the endorsements for the second book and thought "this sounds familiar". If it had been a word for word endorsement for a second book by the same author, OK, sorta, but word for word for a different author?

I don't even bother looking at endorsements anymore, because I have doubts the endorser even read the book.

Cynical me. :-)

Cindy Thomson said...

I agree. I don't think endorsements sell books and I'm not influenced by them. However, what about publishers who insist you must get them--and you don't know anyone?

My publisher really pushed for them. Finally, my agent came up with one and I had one. But the publisher in the end decided not to go with them because they weren't recognizable enough names. But the way I understand it, authors are being asked to provide endorsements at the proposal stage! I wish publishers would back off of this idea.

r. k. mortenson said...

"This blog is simply nputdownable!"
- Arthur Writealot

And then there are books that carry five pages of reviews for the author's previous books. "Praise for..." or "Advance praise for (this title)."

It's kind of like getting a review from Harriet Klausner, Amazon's #1 reviewer, who always seems to give glowing reviews and who apparently "reads" about 200 books a week.

In other words: meaningless. No oomph.

Okay, that wasn't fair. I'm just jealous because she hasn't reviewed one of my books yet. :-)

I'm with Cindy regarding publishers asking (especially newbie) authors to garner endorsements for themselves. I was asked to do this, also, and I totally freaked out. I must say, in retrospect, it was kind of fun trying to track down Frank Peretti, however (I was not successful). So, yeah, as a writer, if Mr. or Ms. Big Name wanted to endorse my book, I'd be giddy. But honestly, as a reader, I see that stuff as clutter.

Kristy Dykes said...

Love your questions to us, BC. Prompts responses, which is, in itself, a form of promo for your blog. Gives one Come-back-itis.

BC: Why should my name have any weight in genres in which I do not work and have not built a reputation?

K: I know you're speaking generally, but as you said, you've worked hard to build up your name. So it's RECOGNIZABLE. That's the reason an author would seek your endorsement.

BC: I can’t understand why...a known historical author would agree to put her/his name on a suspense.

K: Same reason as above. To my way of thinking, it's all about promo. It's sort of like trading blog links.

BC: I think our industry treats endorsements too lightly. The result is that they’ve become less than meaningful.

K: I trust your opinion because I consider you an expert. So this is true, I'd think.

BC: I’m coming at this issue from my eyes-always-on-marketing viewpoint.

K: Me too. I also look at the endorsement issue from two standpoints: The Average Reader and The Wannabewriter who is on author loops and therefore familiar with lots of authors' names. Which leads to the next question...

BC: When you see those long lists of endorsers in the front of a book, does that prompt you to buy the novel?

K: To me, it seems like a win-win situation. Seeing these names does two things for me: it brings the endorser's name in front of my eyes and immediately makes me think of his/her titles; it makes me think the endorser has found at least some good in this book or otherwise s/he wouldn't have endorsed it, so therefore maybe I'll like the book.

BC: When you see a name used again and again, does that name lose the oomph factor with you?

K: Now that I see it from your perspective, perhaps it will. :)

Thanks for a provocative discussion.

Kristy Dykes said...

One more thing in relation to The Average Reader's opinion of endorsers. A friend of mine self published her young adult novel. She spoke for our women's group at our church. On the cover, above the title, is an endorsement by the actress who played Corrie Ten Boom in the movie The Hiding Place. How she managed to get it is remarkable.

But as I promoted her novel to our women, I read the endorsement, and the women oohed and ahed AND BOUGHT HER BOOK!

My point is, to The Average Reader, a famous name generates intrigue which can lead to book sales.

Domino said...

I remember seeing Robert Liparulo's Comes A Horseman in the bookstore and, not having read it, sold my friend on the idea of getting it for her husband based on its genre and the endorsements page. There were a lot of endorsements. I suppose he won't need any endorsements after that.

You said you only had endorsements the first time. My guess is that it is effective for a first novel, but after that not necessary.

I also think that endorsements don't do as much for a new release as timing the release for when people are in a buying frenzy.

Do you think books that come out in November get picked up by more new readers who need to buy a Christmas gift(rather than if it came out in September). Also don't people buy books (to read over the summer) at the beginning of summer?

I put endorsements way down the list in importance, but they're probably a helpful tool for first-timers.

Lace said...

Stuart cracks me up, but his comment about his warped prairie romance reminded me of Kim Vogle Sawyer's book, Waiting for Summer's Return. Janette Oke's endorsement on the cover impressed me, but only because of the genre. If Brandilyn had endorsed the same book, I would have not bought it, thinking it wasn't an authentic opinion by Brandilyn. Also, isn't it presumptuous to ask for endorsements? I would be terrified to ask!

r. k. mortenson said...

Kristy made some good points. I like the trading blog links analogy. They say (and I mostly agree with "them" on this point) that any publicity is good publicity (for name recognition and sales). Might some authors endorse a book, having it read it or not, simply to get their own name out there more? Win-win. (So, Kristy, let's endorse each other's books!)

And yes, I'd say celebrity endorsements trump authors', depending on the celebrity. (Shoot, I'd pay my entire advance to have a quote from Johnny Depp on the cover, and he wouldn't even have to like the book. "I don't like this book, but I own it." - Johnny Depp. :-) )

Nicole said...

To be truthful, if Frank Peretti gives an endorsement to a book, I'm in. The reason a BC endorsement would be valuable in a book outside your area (IMHO) is because it would indicate you thought it worthy enough of your time to read and squeeze into your hectic schedule.
It takes something extra to get to FP, so it's no small deal, and I would feel the same about an endorsement from you.
However, the only endorsements which feel "real" are when another author or source declares a genuine love for the story, characters, etc. Otherwise, it feels "canned" and is unimpressive.
With a new author if I'm vacillating on whether or not to buy the book, if the above criteria is met by the endorsement(s), it will make the difference to purchase the book.
Your books no longer need them, I would agree. I buy them because I like your subject matter and your writing style.
Now, if you ever want to take a vacation into contemporary/literary/romance, let me know, alright? Just kidding. (Sort of.) :-)

Nicole said...

Amen to Johnny Depp's endorsement! But he'd have to like it! (I know he'd like my second novel.) (Uh-huh.)

LaShaunda said...

Nope!

As I learned some the tricks of the trade, I found many authors endorse books they haven't read. To me that's not being honest to the reader.

I've been asked to endorse books, and those I've endorsed are because I believe in the books.

Having a big name on the back doesn't impress me, the story does.

Kristy Dykes said...

R.K., you are a scream (about paying your entire advance...).

D. Gudger said...

Honesly, I choose a book based on the synopsis on the back cover, or based on word-of-mouth recomendations by my bookaholic compadres. Celebrity means little to me. Good plots and characters are everything!

Vennessa said...

Interesting thoughts, Brandilyn.

I don't generally buy a book simply because an author I like has endorsed it. I've learnt that lesson.

An author I particularly like has endorsed three books I have subsequently read (thankfully I didn't buy them). I wasn't overly impressed by any of these books and would now be reluctant to pick up another book endorsed by this author.

So, in a way, yes, endorsements could hurt sales rather than help them.

CHickey said...

I don't choose a book by the endorsement. What I like, may not be liked by someone else. I go by the blurb on the back, or the author's name.

Nicole said...

Speaking of blurbs, does anyone else think too much is being revealed on the back covers? I don't want to know anything but the basic storyline. It seems like recently the whole plot is being revealed ruining it for me. I glance at the first two sentences or so and wish that was all there was. I want to be intrigued.
It would be good to know BC's thoughts on this subject, too.
In my submissions, I try not to reveal much in the blurbs.
Anyone else feel this way?

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Nicole, great thought. I'll blog about this soon. (I agree with you completely.)

SueB said...

I accept the challenge to respond from an AE's POV:

1) I don't require endorsements in the proposal.
2) I think the only good endorsement is one from an author who one of the top five in the sub-genre you are publishing in.
3) I do want to know if you have any contacts with said top five authors.
4) Endorsements are highly overrated. Author name, Cover, copy, and "friend and family" recommendation come up more often as motivators for purchasing a new book.

Food for thought: Why would an editor want an endorsement from someone BEFORE the book has been edited?

Margo Carmichael said...

Johnny Depp? Is he here? : )

I'd buy a book based on an endorsement by someone I admired in the genre, definitely.

Well, depending on what they said. James Michener once endorsed a book, "Hurrah for ___ for writing about ___." Is that being condemned by faint praise? I'm not sure. I did enjoy the book, though.

And yes, I've read blurbs so long, I've said, "Thanks a lot. Why should I read this, now?" : P

Rebecca said...

(Stuart: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!)

I can see the point here, for fiction. My husband writes academic books and for him, endorsements are vital. On his recent book the endorsements will prove to the world that his work is worthy, that his Ph.D. is worthy, that he is, in essence, worthy. And the success of his book will be measured not in royalties but in how many other academics reference his work in footnotes. Amazing that these two worlds exist side by side.

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