Saturday, April 5, 2008

Buy This Book!

by Darlene Ryan

The publishing industry much like television networks and movie studios, uses endorsements as a way to entice you to buy their product. Sometimes that endorsement is a positive comment from a well-known publication like Publisher’s Weekly, Romantic Times or People. Sometimes it’s a recommendation from a respected author who writes in the same genre. For example, Karen E. Olson’s Day of the Dead has an endorsement from Lee Child. Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Goes to Washington is recommended by Charlaine Harris.

The right words from the right person can give a tremendous boost to a writer’s career--just ask any author whose book has been picked for Oprah Winfrey’s book club.

“Brilliant use of paragraphs!”

The first place to start is with your editor. See if she’s planning for ask anyone for a recommendation before you do it.

Next, talk to your agent. He may have the connections to get your book into the hands of the author who inspired you to start writing or the one whose own book is burning up the bestseller lists.

“Outstanding chapter breaks!”

Some writers don't mind asking other writing friends for some good words about their book. But don’t put someone on the spot. Make the request in an email or a letter. And don’t hold a grudge if a friend says no.

If you write under more than one name don’t use one persona to endorse another. All that will do is make you fodder for every snarky blogger out there—including me.

Any kind of enticement from chocolate to cash is a bad idea. So is groveling. So is guilt. So is sucking-up. The best approach is a straightforward, professional request. Keep it short, polite and honest. Don't use the author’s first name if you don’t actually know her. And say thank-you.

“Great Spelling! Nice margins!”

Dear Ms Important Writer,

I'm writing to ask if you will consider reading my mystery novel, The Stalker, for a cover quotation. I would appreciate any recommendation you may decide to make for readers.

May I send you an advance reading copy?

Thank you.


A. Newbie Author

Don’t lurk over the mailbox or your computer waiting for a response. Well-known writers get a ton of mail and they have deadlines, dentist visits, bad hair days and small children that projectile vomit. And remember, it may have been hard for you to ask, but it’s even harder to come up with a nice way to say no. So be gracious if you’re turned down. Follow-up with a thank you even if what you really want to say is, “Stick it in your ear you snotty hack!”

“This is definitely a book!”

And lastly, if the famous author does give you an endorsement don’t give his address to all your writing friends so they can ask for a plug for their books. (Not even if they offer you your body weight in chocolate.)


paul lamb said...

Back when I was editing nonfiction books, it was ridiculously easy to get endorsements and forewords from authors because they were flattered to be asked. Fiction is subjective, and I think many "name" authors can become prima donas, unwilling to step down among the masses to shed a few chosen words. Also, sometimes it just is hard to say something nice about a novel that you've otherwise hated.

Sheila Connolly said...

Love it!

I am reminded of the day (past?) when writers or publishers felt free to tailor quotations to fit their needs.

This (piece of dung) is (not worthy of this) brilliant (reviewer's time).

Sandra Parshall said...

Some writers blurb so many books -- calling every single one the most brilliant thing they've ever read -- that I automatically discount their comments. I'm not sure how much blurbs influence readers (some readers say not at all), but a good blurb from a prominent writer is certainly an ego booster. Then when you get a nasty review, you can remind yourself that Joe Fabulous thinks you're a terrific writer.

Darlene Ryan said...

Sheila, you twigged a memory for me. When I was a beginning copywriter I worked for a guy who could take the most critical comments and edit them into something that sounded flattering. I don't know why we didn't get sued.

Anonymous said...

As a writer are you influenced by endorsements from well-known writers?

Darlene Ryan said...

Yes. Sometimes I am. I mentioned Kitty Goes to Washington in my post. I bought the book because Charlaine Harris gave it a plug on the back cover. I'm a huge fan of her Sookie Stackhouse series and I thought I might like Kitty. Which I did.

Anonymous said...

My most recent novel received a terrific blurb from Sara Paretsky for which I am both pleased and grateful. It also received a very good review from BOOKLIST. I'm very appreciative of this as well.
I think blurbs from prominant writers can be a real plus, but I do find it difficult to ask. As to reviews, I always thought it was pretty standard practice for authors to quote the most flattering parts, or am I wrong about this?

Jacqueline Seewald
Five Star/Gale

Darlene Ryan said...

Jacqueline, while it's true that we always quote the most flattering parts of our reviews that's not quite the same as leave out the negative words so a bad comment sounds like a good one. (My old copywriting boss was a master at that!)

It's one thing to use a quote that reads, "This is a great book." It's not quite the same if you leave out the rest of the sentence which finishes, "If you're looking for a sleep aid."

In your case the plug from a famous author is working because since you told me Sara Paretsky liked your book I'm going to have to look for it because I love her work.

Does this mean I'm easily influenced?