As the author finishes with the writing process and begins the process to create the book for publication, one of the first steps is to begin to get important endorsements for the book, including testimonials that can be used on the back cover.
Testimonials are one, two, or three sentence quotes from important people or representatives of important organizations who rave about your book. Testimonials are important in selling a book; they are personal endorsements from (theoretically) unbiased people who are willing to make a statement about the quality of the author’s book. They allow you to brag about the book in a way the author could not do himself or herself.
It is legitimate for the author to use a copywriter or a PR expert to actually write the Foreword and write testimonials and ask the endorsers to give permission to use the version written by the author.
Determine Who to Ask for an Endorsement of the Book
The author should select one person to write the Foreword (or no one – the process is strictly optional) and many people to potentially give testimonials. Personally ask them whether they would be willing to review the book and give them an approximate time when the book will be ready. The author can and should be doing this in the months before the book is ready as opportunities present themselves.
Start by considering both who you already know and which people or organizations will carry the most weight with the reader. Use the category prompts on page 2 of the “How Tos” to list who you know and would like to know.
The author can ask people he or she already knows right away. Others the author will have to get to know – through people he or she already knows. Let everyone know you are looking to make a connection with these potential endorsers.
In the initial ask, the author should collect the relevant contact material and ask if the potential endorser would prefer a printed or electronic version of the manuscript when it is ready.
“I really admire your work and I have a book coming out that is very compatible with your message. Would you be willing to take a look at it and tell me what you think? I’d love to have your endorsement since I know readers value what you think.” When the manuscript is completed and ready for review (completed for testimonials means edited, typeset and proofread), then it is time to email and let the endorser know that the manuscript is on its way, with an appropriate cover letter or email.
What Makes a Great Testimonial
A great testimonial is one written by a name-recognized person or on behalf of a well-known organization, recommending you as an expert and/or the book. The other characteristic of a great testimonial is that it speaks about something that will be important to the reader in deciding whether or not to buy the book.
When collecting testimonials and deciding which ones to use (especially on the back cover of the book), you are striving for each testimonial to make a slightly different point about what is wonderful about the book: Its practicality, its insight, its ease of use, or how inspiring or fun to read it is, etc.
As much as possible, you would like to give some direction to the person who is providing a testimonial to get the kind of testimonial that will boost book sales.
Busy people who are asked to provide testimonials appreciate pre-written language for them to choose from. Even if they decide to write a new testimonial themselves, it still helps them to get a sense of what you consider important and what you would like for them to write. You are much more likely to get testimonials if you help with the language rather than leaving it up to the testimonial writer to read the manuscript and write something appropriate from scratch.
Write the Testimonial/Foreword Request Letter
The cover letter or email sent with the manuscript should contain the following:
- A sincere thank you for taking the time to review
- The manuscript and a request for a testimonial, IF he or she is comfortable giving one.
- A document with several (3 to 10 is typical) pre-written testimonials.
- A deadline that you need to have the testimonial returned (usually within a week to 10 days) with a reason for that deadline (publisher commitment, publication schedule).
Never promise that a testimonial will appear on the cover of a book or on the author’s sales material or web site. The author will want to be in a position to choose the best testimonials once he or she sees what there is to choose from.
After the author receives the chosen or written testimonial, send a thank-you response with an attached permissions form that includes the selected testimonial.
Keep Track of Testimonial Requests
Create a log or spreadsheet of everyone who has been asked to provide a testimonial (including contact information, date sent and follow ups).
Follow up very gently on or about the day you’ve requested the testimonial be returned and again every week for the following two weeks, then again after a month. If you don’t hear anything, just drop it.
Testimonials you receive months later are still valuable, and can be used on sales material, on the author’s web site or in later printings of the book.
Send the Book as a Thank You
It is customary for the author to send a signed copy of the book with a thank you note for anyone who took the time to give an endorsement.
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