Monday, July 22, 2013

Testimonials and Reviews Are Gold

Hit the motherlode: All authors want to know how to market their books. One of the best things you can do is cheap, effective, and easyat least for some people. And that is: Solicit testimonials and reviews.

Testimonials (or endorsements) are blurbs used for promoting your bookon the back cover of your book, on the inside in the front or back, on your blog, in ads, wherever you can.

Reviews are similar, but they tend to be longer, more substantial, and appear in places that you don't control.

However, even though you don't control the published result, you should solicit reviews. This is part of the traditional publicity process. While it is difficult to get magazines and newspapers to publish reviews about self-published books, today you can solicit friends, colleagues, and supporters to publish their reviews on next to your book. Reviews, especially in quantity, affect how easily it is to find your book and give it the appearance of success, which often translates into genuine success. Amazon reviews, especially if they are well written and specific, convince browsers to buy your book on the spot. Amazon encourages reviewers to be helpful by allowing buyers to tick whether reviews are helpful or not.

You do control where and how testimonials or endorsements are published. You canand shouldbegin acquiring them as soon as you have a publishable draft to share with desirable endorsers. But who makes a good endorser?

In general, you want all the testimonials you can get. The more the merrier. However, endorsements for your back cover have the highest value. In fact, most of the time I prefer three to five endorsements to my own punchy sales copy on a back cover. Here are some rules of thumb for back-cover testimonials.
  • You have room for only three to five testimonials on a back cover. Assume there will be some editing involved. Promise to show endorsers the back cover before publication.
  • You have flexibility in terms of how you identify endorsers, ranging from anonymous to detailed references that include full names, title and position, accomplishment, and locality.
  • Endorsements from identified experts familiar to your potential buyer have the highest value.
  • Endorsements from people in different professions have more value than endorsements from people in the same professions. 
  • Endorsements from experts based in different locations suggest that your own network is equally broad. 
  • Children's books benefit from endorsements from children (who can be anonymous) as well as adults, who can represent buyers or experts.
Of course, these rules can be broken. One of my authors recently requested endorsements from five of her proofreaders. In so doing, she broke a couple of my recommendations. One is that I don't like asking proofreaders for testimonials, on the theory that thinking about testimonials interferes with their job as proofreaders. Another is that endorsements from friends, which was the case for all of her proofreaders, are not usually strong. However, in so doing, the author got five early testimonials. All were sincere, substantive, and strongmaking her book look successful out of the gate. This leads to my last and perhaps most important guideline.
  • Good testimonials should be substantive. On the back cover, it is most helpful if endorsers make different points. 
The Publishing Pro

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