Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Indie Tuesday—Do Indie Books Need Endorsements?

by @AuthorKeller

Endorsements. The word sends shivers down even the most seasoned author’s back. No one likes feeing like a door-to-door salesman, asking their friends or other authors that they don’t know all that well if they’ll please read your book, write something eloquent you can use with their name for promo, and help hawk your book on social media.

This might sound revolutionary to anyone who has spent time in the publishing industry, but if you’re going to self publish you can take a deep sigh of relief right now. An indie never has to seek out endorsements. Not unless you want them for some personal reason.

It comes down to the way the separate markets work. The trade market is considered a push market meaning they choose books to publish (therefore deciding what books they want readers to buy) and then push them into the market and must do certain things to convince (hence the “push”) readers to purchase those books. They have a small window of shelf time when the book in question must be successful and because of that, clout from other better known authors is sometimes thought to help make a sale.

On the other hand, the indie market is considered a pull market meaning readers search and find the books they want based on what they’ve already decided they like reading. Readers discover indie books through key word searches, recommendations based on what others bought, and by word of mouth. An indie author doesn’t have to sell a certain volume by a set date in order to secure the next contract and therefore endorsements are often a waste of energy for an indie author to pursue. They’re simply not needed because our readers aren’t influenced by a flashy name saying, “This book is good, buy it right now.”

Honestly, in all my years of reading (no matter the market) I’ve never once purchased a book because of an endorsement. I breeze right past all the “sound clips” from industry experts (other authors) that are on the book cover, within the front pages, or on the sale site and go straight to the reader reviews.

Know what does sell a book? Well written reviews and more importantly—word of mouth. If a friend tells me about a book or raves about a book they read on social media—as long as the book is in one of the genres I like—it’s pretty much a done deal that I’ll go purchase it because I trust my friends’ opinions.  

Write the best book you can and then spend your energy getting that book into the hands of voracious readers instead of industry experts. For example: the biggest spike in my sales happened after a teen vlogger reviewed my book on her YouTube channel.

And when it comes to other authors, the best policy is to let them decide to read your book on their own. Don’t try to shove it into their hands and don’t hold out hopes that if only they’d review it then you’d become a NYT Bestseller. The greatest experience is when an author you really respect picks up your book on their own and starts telling readers about the book or sharing how much they loved it.

If you follow me on any of my social media outlets you already know that I talk a lot about books that I enjoyed. Not once was I doing that because an author asked me to talk up their book. Not once. See, as an author I want my readers to trust when I recommend books so I read books and decide on my own what I will promote and what I won’t.

Lastly, it’s not wrong to seek endorsements as an indie. If you want them, then by all means, seek some out. Just remember a few etiquette rules as you go forth.
The Rules of Asking

1) Find someone who is selling well in the same genre you are. A five star endorsement from your friend who writes inspirational romance won’t hold much weight for your dystopian crime novel

2) You should have read their stuff, liked their books, and—in most cases—helped promote their books along the way. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me for an endorsement who I know have never picked up one of my books. Do I need them to love my stuff and praise me? Absolutely not. But if they haven’t read my book and don’t like my writing why exactly do they want my endorsement? It comes off as rude when someone has never cared about your work and yet want you to invest hours/days into reading and talking up their work. Be polite. If it’s someone you’ve never read and/or never shared love about their books, don’t ask them.

3) Don’t use up all your good favor on the first book. You have ten amazing author friends who are all good fits for endorsements. Resist the urge to contact all of them and seek endorsements on book one. Ask about a half to a third of them for the first book—don’t use all your favors at once because you can’t expect all of them to endorse every single one of your books.
Have you ever bought a book based off of an endorsement found on the cover or in an advertisement for the book? What makes you purchase a book by an author you don't know/have never heard of? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. 
Jessica Keller holds degrees in both Communications and Biblical Studies. She is multi-published in both Young Adult Fiction and Inspirational Romance and has 100+ magazine and newspaper articles to her name. Her latest Indie release is a Young Adult Fantasy - Saving Yesterday. You can find her at www.JessicaKellerBooks.com, on Twitter @AuthorKeller, or on her Facebook Author Page. She lives in the Midwest with her amazing husband, giggly daughter, and two annoyingly outgoing cats who happen to be named after superheroes.


  1. This is a great article. I wonder what if you would agree with me that I might need some endorsements. I wrote a "radical" book, The Christian Prenuptial Agreement." I believe it raises the bar for marriage, and that most seminaries/Christian colleges would want it carried in their bookstores. However, to get it there, I believe I need endorsements from theologians to assure this market that it's solidly biblical. What would you suggest?

    1. That's a great question Patricia. It sounds like your book might be non-fiction. Marketing and launching a non-fiction book is a very, very different animal than a fiction book. Times that by ten when it comes to releasing an indie non-fiction book.

      It comes down to how readers approach the two types of books and when/how writer-reader trust is gained.

      For a non-fiction book a reader needs to trust the author before deciding to purchase the book. Non-fiction books openly present information as fact, offering advice, or giving counsel. To gain the right to speak into readers' lives like that an author has to prove that they are, indeed an expert, and should be listened to/taken seriously. In order to do that well a non-fiction author (no matter the market, and in most cases, even more so for an indie author) needs to show that they know what they're talking about (have a platform) and that others put weight in their words (have endorsements from other experts). I'm afraid to say endorsements are very needed in indie non-fiction.

      While fiction books also (usually) present counsel and advice, its not so openly advertised as such since those things show up in character growth and themes woven into the story. A fiction author doesn't need endorsements because a reader doesn't require the same trust level when buying a fiction book. Most people aren't picking up a fiction book with the thought that it will transform their life. The writer-reader trust is gained (or lost) as the story progresses, instead of needed up front like with non-fiction.

      Does that make sense? If not, feel free to ask more questions.

  2. That makes a lot of sense to me. How does one prove they are an expert in a given field? Thanks for your comments, especially since I'm writing non-fiction.

    1. Edie would probably be the better one to answer the question of: How does one prove they are an expert in a given field? (as she has done an AMAZING job doing that). The answer varies depending on what works best for you, but I have friends who have published parenting books who have been blogging about their family and raising children faithfully for 3-5 years before publishing the book. They have a platform from blogging and a good amount of people following them who trust what they have to say.

      Another friend of mine is not a big blogger but wanted to create a platform for his upcoming devotional series. I encouraged him simply to tweet daily spiritual encouragement and find ways to uplift people on Twitter (the only social media he's engaged in). In two months of faithfully tweeting and encouraging people he's hit 7,000 followers and is well on his way to signing a publishing deal.

      It starts with what you're comfortable with, and then putting yourself out there. I haven't written a non-fiction book, but have written 100+ magazine/newspaper articles all in relation to youth ministry, encouraging teens, and things along that line. Because of that I could write a non-fiction book in a number of teen related fields and be considered to have a platform.

      Does that help?

  3. Effective blurbs don;t have to come from famous people. http://www.bookmakingblog.com/2014/02/an-easy-effective-alternative-to.html