Getting the right endorsements is an important part of a book’s success. There’s something of a debate about exactly how important: I don’t think a perfect endorsement will rescue a mediocre book, but it can certainly make an already good one a lot more noticeable.
The perfect endorsement is from someone greatly respected by the book’s target readership. It is, of course, positive, but more than that, it ‘positions’ the book in the way you want it to.
In the real world, however, you probably have to compromise. Suppose you have a mediocre quote from a respected source, versus a fab, spot-on quote from someone relatively obscure: which do you go for? For your entrepreneurship book, does “Not bad” (Richard Branson) beat “The best book on Entrepreneurship I have ever read!” (Fred Bloggs, Founder, Fred’s Taxi Service, Much Binding in the Marsh)?
My instinct would be to go for Fred, as it is positive and positions the book. Your PR adviser may well say the opposite, however.
Ideally, you strike a balance, with quotes from more than one person – but we’re all looking for that magic quote to go on the front cover.
You should start looking around for endorsements while you are writing. Consider your list of contacts, and think who might carry some weight with the readership and might say something nice. Approach them – to start with, simply asking if they are up for the idea. Don’t try and get anyone to promise anything, as people will back off at this point. They have to be free to say no, just in case they don’t like the book and need a way out.
When you have a finished text, approach these people again, check it’s still OK to send them a copy, then do so. A PDF is the best way to do this, rather than bulky print in the post – but if one of your potential endorsers wants a print copy, they get one. Chase gently after a couple of weeks – again, leave people room to back out tactfully.
When you approach a publisher, it’s ideal to have some quotes already. If not, a list of people who have promised to look at the book goes a long way. The publisher will have contacts, too, but won’t want to use them all, or even most of them, on your book. A good relationship with your editor is important here.
Where do ghostwriters fit into this? We all have slightly different approaches, but as a general rule, they should be able to advise on the general process of getting endorsements. They cannot guarantee to provide any potential endorsers, however. Personally, if I’m working on a book with someone and think ‘x would love this’ (where x is someone I know whom readers might have heard of), I’m happy to run that idea past my client – but usually I don’t know anyone well enough who would fit into that category. In the end, like much publicity and marketing in the writing world, the job of finding endorsements ends up with the person whose name is going to be on the book cover (or, if they’ve got one, their PR adviser). It is an important one, however: someone has to take responsibility for it.