I think most of us agree that nothing sells books better than word of mouth. And nothing creates word of mouth better than a great book. But, how do we get readers to pick up our book in the store long enough to read the, (hopefully), great cover copy and then decide to purchase it, read it and begin talking about it?
If we’ve already made a name for ourselves, no problem. But most of our names don’t hold the same notoriety as Karen Kingsbury, Nicholas Sparks or JK Rowling, so we need a little help.
I’ve picked up books in a store solely because I recognized an endorser’s name on the cover. That in itself isn’t enough to make me buy a book, but a quote from someone I know and trust that tells me the unknown author’s work I’m considering is going to change my life or is a thing of unspeakable beauty, has a good shot of making me take a chance.
Begging endorsements isn’t easy for any of us. I cringe whenever it’s time for me to start shaking my proverbial can, but I’ve had some pretty good success and I think you can too. Here’s how:
Scratch a Few Backs and Then Just Ask!
On the cover of Crossing Oceans, my debut novel about a young mother who must return home to the ghosts of her past and tell the man she left behind that he’s about to inherit a daughter he didn’t know he had, I had this quote on the cover by NYT bestseller, Tess Gerritsen:
“Poignant and unforgettable, CROSSING OCEANS will break your heart — and then put the pieces back together again. This is an uplifting and inspiring tale that reminds us to live every day as if it’s our last.” Tess Gerritsen, NYT Best-selling author
When I asked Tess for the endorsement, I didn’t expect to actually get it. She receives piles of books from prospective authors but picked mine out of the stack. Why? For one, she liked the cover and premise (help your editor write killer back cover copy.) But she also knew me. I’d established a relationship with her years before I asked her help. I’d interviewed her on Novel Rocket (then Novel Journey), and had helped HER promote HER BOOKS. I didn’t just start playing friendly a month or two before my arc (advanced reader copy) released.
I had quite a few other endorsements from some amazing authors too and it worked the same way. Most of the authors who endorsed me, I had helped years earlier, others I’d met at writers conferences and we just connected. Connection makes all the difference.
Cast a Wide Net
No matter how much someone has helped me, or how good a friend they are, I can’t say yes to everyone. I actually have the time to say yes to just a few people a year, but timing is everything. I might tell one of my closest friends no today, since I have less than 5 months to complete a novel I’m not very far into, but come April when my book has released and my next deadline isn’t looming quite so closely, I’m more apt to say yes.
Don’t expect everyone you ask to tell you sure. I normally get more no’s than yes’s and I’ve learned that the people who say absolutely, don’t come through nearly as often as those who say, “I’ll try.” I’d recommend asking twice as many as you actually want.
I’ve got an arc out right now to Dean Koontz who had agreed to at least try to read my upcoming release, Wings of Glass, for possible endorsement. The odds I think are low that he’ll have time to come through, (the more popular an author is the less time they have, and more requests they get), but I’ve learned that once in a while, I am pleasantly surprised. Hey, I didn’t think Tess would have been able to come through for me on Crossing Oceans. At least give it a shot, the worst they can do is egg your car and make fun of your on their website. Most likely they’ll just apologetically say no or ignore you completely. But hey, you’re a writer, rejection is something you’re used to, right?
Build a Reputation for Excellence
If someone asks me for an endorsement, the first thing I think is do I know this person? The second is, has this person helped me in the past, (the law of reciprocity is a strong one), the third is are they a good writer? My time, like yours, is more valuable than money to me so I’m more likely to say yes if I think I’m probably going to like the book. If I don’t know the author’s work, I’ll google their website. If they don’t have one, I’m probably going to say no. If their website is shoddy, unattractive, irrelevant or has lots of broken windows, (ie broken links, typos, etc), I’m going to pass. What I’ve found is that people who write excellent books tend to treat everything they do professionally. They give good interviews, they have a nice website, they have decent author photos, etc.
I didn’t have time to beg endorsements with my sophomore novel, Dry as Rain, but with my upcoming third novel releasing in March, I was surprised that nearly everyone I asked for an endorsement actually came through. Why did I get such a high percentage of yes’s? I think because I had such good word of mouth with Crossing Oceans. Both it and Dry as Rain were Christy finalists. Crossing Oceans won the Carol Award and finaled in about every major Christian book award. In other words, I’m building a good reputation.
If you don’t already have books released, you can still build a reputation for excellence in the articles you write, the interviews you do, the website you keep, etc. You see the circle here? It’s all interwoven.
Endorsements Beget Endorsements
If you can start out by getting one established writer, (or public figure), to endorse your work early on, include that information in your request to other authors. You can do this by saying something like, Stephen King said this about my novel: “I wish I’d written this!” or whatever. Endorsers love to be in good company. Of course the endorser doesn’t have to be someone that famous, but if it’s someone other authors know and respect, it ups your chances.
Include a Small Gift or Something Unique
If you’re not having much luck, consider actually writing a letter to the author via snail mail and include a small token of appreciation for their time that ties into your book. With Crossing Oceans I planned to include sand dollars in letters if my email requests didn’t work. When Ashley Weis sent me her novel, Exposed, she included flower pedals that spilled out when I opened the package. It’s a nice touch that makes me feel bad if I have to say no because I know the author went to a lot of trouble.
Be a Squeaky Wheel
We all know the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow. Just because an author says no to this book, and the next, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask them when the 3rd comes out. Every time I have to tell an author no, usually due to time constraints, I feel bad. If they come to me a second time, I feel worse. There’s a good chance if they meet all my other requirements and I know they write good books, they’re going to wear me down eventually and the time frame is going to work out. Keep trying.
I had asked the lovely Liz Curtis Higgs to endorse Crossing Oceans. She couldn’t get to it. That didn’t stop me from asking again when I needed endorsements for Wings of Glass. Here’s what will go on the back of my cover:
“Gina Holmes pours her heart onto the page in Wings of Glass. . . . If you’ve ever suffered at the hands of someone whose idea of showing love is being abusive, you will find a kindred spirit in Penny Taylor. You’ll also find hope and a gentle but firm call to open your eyes to the truth. Wings of Glass is a powerful, can’t-put-down novel, so real that it reads like a memoir.”
This is a big one. If a writer comes to me and says they know how busy I am and gives me an out saying they totally understand if time won’t allow, I may not be able to say yes this go around, depending on what I’ve got going on, but I’m more likely to say yes the next time or the time after that. Nothing gets a no faster from me then someone who comes at me like they’re entitled to my valuable, and scarce time. Even if someone has helped me in the past, doesn’t mean my tight deadline ceases to exist. Be gracious and humble and by all means, don’t take a no personally. One day you’ll have to do it even to projects you’re salivating to read.
Look Outside of the Fiction Community
Wings of Glass deals with the subject of abuse and lack of boundaries so I approached my favorite self-help author, John Townsend, (of Boundaries fame). He may or may not get to it, but he’s a well known and respected non-fiction writer and speaker on the subject of boundaries. My novel is a self-help type of novel that will minister, (I hope and pray), to the same audience he reaches. If I wrote a political thriller, I might go to a politician, etc. Think outside the box a little. A word of caution though, aim high if you’re hitting up an organization. An endorsement from the head of The American Red Cross is something if it’s related to your novel, but the secretary of a local chapter, not so much.
Well, that ought to get you started. If you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments section below. Here are a few of the other endorsements that have trickled in for Wings of Glass (again, releasing this March). Oh and if you are part of a magazine, or popular website or blog and would like to set up an interview with me to help get the word out about Wings of Glass, please contact me through the Ground Control page in the top page tabs. I appreciate all the help I can get.
Now Available for Pre-Order
A few more endorsements:
“Gina Holmes brings to vibrant life the heart and mind of a young woman trapped in a dangerous relationship.Wings of Glass is a moving novel filled with humor, grit, and grace.” Julie Klassen, award-winning author
“I was swept away by Gina Holmes’s memoir-like story of beauty rising from the ashes. An honest and realistic look at abuse is never easy in fiction, but Holmes weaves the story with grace, ease, and above all, hope.” Rachel Hauck, author of The Wedding Dress
“Gina Holmes is known for crafting intense literary prose and dynamically drawn characters. With Wings of Glass, she’s done it again, creating a painful world of domestic violence and examining the reasons victims sometimes remain loyal to their abusers.” Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free
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