March 2012

Admit it: How many times have you grabbed a book off the store shelf, read the front and back covers, opened the book, read the endorsements, then made your decision as to whether or not you wanted to buy the book? Probably most of the time! Endorsements, cover quotes, and forewords carry a lot of weight in a purchaser’s decision.

So how does an author score those juicy endorsements, especially if no one really knows the author yet? There are a few ways of reaching the right people, but first you need to hone in on who will make good endorsers for your book. In general, your endorsers…

  • Need to be well known with your target audience
  • Need to be experts in the field of your topic (for nonfiction) or have written in your genre or in another way have a tie to your book (for fiction)
  • Need to be people of influence among your target audience

Once you have identified prospective endorsers, try one or more of the following avenues to reach them:

  • Go where they may appear: speaking events, book signings, conventions, etc.
  • Contact them via publicists, agents, publishers (if they’ve written a book), or through their industry organizations
  • If they are a company executive, try to reach their administrative assistants via email or phone
  • Network, network, network! Start getting the word out about who you need to reach, asking people how you might get to them. If the six degrees of separation theory holds, someone just may know someone who knows someone who…

Once you’ve found a way to reach your target, what then? How do you approach that person about providing you with an endorsement? First, tell why you think they are the perfect person to endorse your book and why having them lend their name to your book would be a positive thing for them. They are going to want to know what’s in it for them, so you need to have something prepared! If they’ve written their own book on a similar subject, one benefit would be free promotion for that book. If they are a company executive, their company will also gain some good PR. Be aware that many potential endorsers will require a fee for putting their name to your book. Be sure to get all the details of what they will require up front so you’re not unpleasantly surprised.

Of course, they are going to want to know exactly what they are putting their name to, but does that mean you have to have your book completely written so they can read your manuscript first? No, because they probably don’t have the time to read your complete manuscript.

You should however, have completed your book proposal before asking for their endorsement. This way, they can browse your proposal as well as your sample chapters to learn about your book, its quality, and who you are as an author. Some people may, however, request your entire manuscript, which, as we’ll discuss in a later post, is another reason to finish it before writing your proposal.

I highly suggest getting some endorsements lined up (even if they hasn’t written it yet, having their commitment will go a long way in helping your proposal) before you send your proposal to an agent or publisher. Doing so lets the agent know you have respectable people in your field who are willing to stand behind your book. Strong endorsements can push your proposal over the top!

Be sure to check out my updated list of writers’ conferences for 2012 if you’ve been thinking about trying to attend one this year. More will be added as definite dates are announced.

We’re finally at the part of the proposal where you get to talk about YOU. The place where you get to give yourself a “pat on the back,” “put yourself on a pedestal,” “toot your own horn,” and any other cliche you can think of that works here. But all the while, keep in mind the main point of a bio: to let the publisher know why you are the right person to write this book. You may have a great idea for a book, but if the publisher doubts that you have the necessary expertise and/or writing experience, you won’t get an opportunity to prove yourself.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when writing your bio:

1. This part of your proposal is typically referred to as the “About the Author” section. You could also call it “Author’s Biography.”

2. Most bios are only a few paragraphs in length, and should be written in paragraph form, not bullet points, and not like a resume. Keep the tone casual, yet professional.

3. Bios are almost always written in third person, to avoid the over-usage of “I’s.” There may be occasions, however, particularly if you refer to a lot of personal stories, as opposed to just writing experiences, where you may write your bio in first person.

4. List whatever publishing experience you have had in the beginning of your bio. Your first job is to establish yourself as a professional writer. If your book (or other published work) has had reviews, quote some of these here (not all of them if you have a lot, and only the good ones!).

5. If you do not yet have any books published, still mention any writing you have done, especially if it’s relevant to the topic of your book. If you have magazine articles published, mention some of the magazines along with the number of titles you’ve had published.

6. Aside from your writing experience, let the publisher know of any personal experiences you may’ve had that qualify you to write your book. Have you started a business on your subject? Have you studied your topic intensely while at college? Is your subject also a lifelong hobby of yours? If you’re writing fiction, maybe you’ve spent the past five years at the setting for your story, or your book is actually based on characters from your past. Whatever the case, offer the publisher a compelling reason why you are qualified to tell this story.

7. Other elements you can add to a bio include professional organizations you are a member of or officer in (definitely list writing organizations but also any others that may be relevant); writing contests you’ve won; writing conferences you’ve attended (if this is a long list, choose the most prestigious or those you frequent most) or better yet, taught at; other awards you’ve won; your education; your hobbies or interests, especially if relevant.

8. Mention your family and where you live, along with an interesting fact about yourself or just something you’re interested in–this shows the personal side of you that editors are interested in as well as your writing side.

In your bio, it’s important to maintain a balance between showcasing everything about you that  helps qualify you to write your book and staying out of the minutia, which causes your bio to be three pages long! Say what you need to say, but say it briefly.

One final tip: If you are co-authoring a book, title it “About the Authors,” list the authors in last-name alphabetical order, then write a complete bio for each author. If relevant, you may also mention why the authors came together for this joint project, and how their combined backgrounds make them the perfect writers for this book.

This is your chance to shine! Don’t hold back on your accomplishments; just be sure this section doesn’t become longer than the rest of the proposal!