January 2011

In Part 1 of this post last week, we started our discussion on finding book endorsements, which included when to go after them and how to pitch the endorsers you’ve chosen. Today, let’s find out the kind of endorsements you should be after for your particular book as well as how to contact the people you need.

While it may be fun to have an endorsement from your favorite sports star or Hollywood celebrity, it’s more important to find someone who is relevant to your book, or in other words, someone whom your audience will care about and know. You don’t necessarily have to focus only on those who are experts in the area you’re writing about, but you do want people who are related to that arena in some way–either authors themselves, especially if they have written books on your subject; speakers or seminar leaders;  executives in relevant companies or organizations; or even professors from large universities.

If you’re writing a business book, for example, find those bigger names who may cut across various areas of business in order to help expand your audience. Just because your book is on marketing doesn’t mean that every endorser has to be from the field of marketing. If you’re able to find a big-name celebrity who can also add relevance to your book–go for it!

Now, how to reach these people….

First, see whom you already know who may know the person you need to reach. Your chances of contacting, and securing endorsers will greatly improve if you can reach them through a mutual source. Think of common organizations, publishers, agents, friends, or work associates–anyone whom you can begin networking with to help you bridge the gap between you and your endorser.

If that approach falls short, and depending on the line of work your endorser is in, you may need to use various methods to reach him. If you’re seeking out an author, often that person has provided some sort of contact information–perhaps a website or blog address–right in their books. If not, you can contact the author’s publisher or agent, letting them know what you are after, and they can provide contact information to you.

If you’re seeking out an executive at a corporation or non-profit organization, the company’s contact information is readily available online or with a simple phone call. You’re sure to end up reaching an assistant or administrator of some sort, but briefly describing what you’re after should enable you to secure an email address for the person you need. At the very least, you can leave your contact information, and if the person doesn’t get in touch with you, follow up with the same administrator after a couple of weeks.

The celebrity names will pose your greatest challenge, and while I have never had to attempt to reach a celebrity, I have heard from others who have that it really wasn’t as tough as they thought. Many simply used Google or another search engine and input the name of the person they were looking for. From there, they tracked down either that person’s agent or an assistant. From there it was hit or miss. Some freely gave out contact information; others were more guarded. But when the author fully explained the purpose of getting in touch with the celebrity and offered to be brief, valuing that person’s time, in nearly every case, an email address was given out. Granted, this was usually not the person’s personal email, but an address that did, in fact, ultimately make its way to the celebrity.

The bigger the name, the more of a Plan B you need to make them. Don’t count on them to have time to read your book, or even if they do, to get back to you with an endorsement in a timely manner. Make sure you have several others as back-ups you can use, just in case.

One more tip is to set reasonable deadlines for when you need your endorsements back. If you don’t, your endorsers will assume there’s no hurry, and it may be months before you hear from them. It’s okay to follow up if it’s after the deadline you’ve given and you still haven’t heard anything. But only follow up once, and be sure to be respectful when you do.

Be honest: How often have you purchased–or not purchased–a book based on endorsements, or lack thereof? How often has a celebrity word of praise or another big name author caused you to give a book a second glance when perhaps you were ready to put it back on the shelf? I know it’s happened with me. Maybe the cover wasn’t so intriguing or the back copy wasn’t very enticing, but then…a name I knew and trusted caught my eye under a very enthusiastic quote. Alas, I opened the book!

Unfortunately, for many of us non-big-name-writers, we don’t often hang out with Hollywood celebrities, NYT bestselling authors, or even medical experts…so how can we go about nabbing these influential names for our books? And, who exactly do we look for? Let’s look at those questions and a few others over the next two posts.

First, keep in mind that timing is everything. Getting an endorsement can be like the chicken-or-egg debate in many ways. Publishers want to see that you have sufficient endorsements lined up, even in the proposal stage, yet most people of any credibility won’t endorse your book until they know it’s going to be published. My recommendation (and I know others may view this differently) is to test the waters with some not-so-big-name, yet still worthy endorsers when you begin shopping your book around to publishers. Let them know you’re still in the proposal stage but you’d like to send them your manuscript thus far to review to see if they’d be willing to sign on as a potential endorser and  be willing to read the final when it’s ready.

If you have any connection with these people at all, or perhaps know of them through a mutual friend or business peer, it’s worth a shot. If you can even get two or three such people that will greatly enhance your proposal. I was able to do this with a current book that is in the proposal process and therefore could approach publishers, saying, “I have contacted so-and-so and they have agreed to an endorsement or at least to be a potential endorser upon reading the final manuscript.” This is better than not having any names at all.

When you’re after the bigger names, you’ll more than likely have to wait until after you have a contract in hand so you’re not wasting their time reading a book that may not make it to the stores. For these people, find out from your publisher when they need to have all your endorsements in, then start very early in searching out your names. Know that sometimes it can take weeks to get to the right person, then a few more weeks for that person to read your book and get an endorsement back to you. And, the last thing you want to do is to pressure your endorser to hurry up because you’re on deadline!

Second, know how to pitch yourself to your potential endorsers. Especially if no one knows who you are, you’re going to have to give them a reason to want to read your book. One of your main jobs will be to prove your credibility, either within your industry (if you are an expert at what you’re writing about) or as a writer. Remember that endorsements are a two-way street. If your book makes it big, not only will the endorser have helped you, but you can help her by having her name associated with a popular book.

When you introduce yourself to endorsers, let them know of any mutual ties you may have–whether it’s with people or companies in common industries. Why are you seeking their endorsement? What do you share with this person that will give them an instant tie to you or your book?

You’ll also have to prove to them why you are the best person to write your book. In many ways, you need to approach your endorsers with the same sales strategy as you would a publisher. Let them know there’s something in it for them, even if that something is simply a reason for them to be personally interested in the book (which you’ll have to demonstrate, of course).  For instance, maybe they had written a book that inspired you to write yours, or perhaps you’ve used some of their quotes in your book.

Finally, make sure the actual pitch is short and to the point. Again, think about how you’ve been approaching publishers. Work on your “elevator pitch,” making sure it is as concise and compelling as possible. In as few words as possible, offer them the premise of your book, demonstrate your credibility, and let them know why their endorsement will be mutually beneficial. Then, don’t forget to ask if you can send them your manuscript!

Next time we’ll look the kinds of endorsements you should go after and how to find them…

The beginning of the year typically turns our thoughts to new beginnings, new challenges, and an opportunity to do things better than the previous year. My husband is a personal trainer, and every year about this time, he listens to his clients share their goals of weight loss, better nutrition, and more dedication to the gym. Sadly, however, many cannot stick to the plan they’ve made for themselves because, without realizing it, they’ve created unreachable goals.

I’m a huge proponent of goal setting, but I’ve learned the hard way that there are right ways and wrong ways to go about creating goals for yourself–whether these goals are health related, financial, relationship oriented, or writing.

So, instead of talking about how to set goals (which varies greatly from writer to writer), I’d like to share with you some things you definitely want to avoid in goal setting. The following are tips I’ve learned along my writing journey that are sure to make reaching your goals nearly impossible:

• Shoot for the stars! Make your goals high and lofty enough to guarantee frustration. There are two ways of going about this: Either try to emulate the goals of someone more advanced in his writing than you, or create unrealistic time frames for your writing. A writer who already has a couple of books under his belt can realistically set a goal of getting a book contract by year end. If you’re a beginning writer with little or no publishing experience, you can’t expect to immediately hit that same goal (but you’d be amazed at how many newbie writers do).

Likewise, an established writer knows how many words or pages she can produce every day, especially if writing is her full-time job. If you’re trying to write in your spare time along with tackling the the demands of running a household, don’t expect to crank out complete chapters every week. You’re just setting yourself up for failure.

• Don’t build in any room for error. In a perfect writing world, you’d be able to spend every waking moment writing, researching, revising, and marketing your work. Writers sometimes forget, however, that no such world exists. The wise, realistic writer knows that life has other demands–sometimes even crises–that slow down or stop their writing progress dead in its tracks. Not building in margin for such times forces you to make up for lost time if you’re adamant about keeping your goals. This is not usually possible, and the result is anxiety and stress.

•  Make sure your goals are vague, general, and immeasurable. I once held a workshop on goal setting, and part of the class was an exercise to create daily, weekly, and monthly writing goals. After a few moments I asked participants to share what they wrote. More than one person had as a goal: “Write more!” While this is a good goal to have, how do you know exactly when you’ve reached it? And what is “more”? More than what? If you’re goals are vague and cannot be measured objectively by time, quantity, or quality, you can be assured you will never reach them–mainly because you won’t know what they are!

• Create goals that push you way out of your comfort zone. It’s good to desire to be stretched in character, professionalism, and writing ability, but a sure way to give up on yourself and your writing is to force yourself to do things you hate for extended periods of time. If you’re an introvert who enjoys writing but hates public speaking and marketing yourself in person or over the phone, the best thing to do to ensure failure is to create goals that have you out in public doing these very things on a regular basis. It’s okay (and probably necessary) to make such things part of your goals so you’ll begin to build confidence in these areas, but if you promise yourself that these activities will go from taking 5% of your current time to over 50% of your current time, you’re going to be very disappointed.

• Don’t allow for accountability. One great thing to do to make sure that you never reach your goals is to keep them a secret and don’t tell anyone, not even your writing mentor, your writing coach, your spouse, or your best friend. I’ve actually had people say to me when I asked them what their goals were for the year, “Oh, I can’t tell anyone, because I might not reach them.” You’re certainly not going to reach them if you keep them to yourself! Why? Because we all need a support group of some form. Either a formal one, like a writers’ group or a coaching relationship, or an informal one made up of friends and family. When the going gets tough (and it will), and you want to quit (and you will), it’s this support that will lift you bakc up and keep your goals infront of you.

So, now you know what to do if you want to be sure not to reach your writing goals this year. And if you do want to bring your goals to pass? Just do the opposite!

Happy goal setting! May 2011 be your most prosperous writing year yet!