Ethical marketing advocate Lynn Serafinn challenges the common practice of pre-fab endorsements in the publishing industry and asks YOU to share your view.
Today, I want your opinion. I’d like to find out what you think about the practice of pre-written endorsements in the publishing industry. Is it a practical necessity or unethical and deceptive. Does it make things easier and more efficient or does it render professional endorsements pointless and cheap?
As some of you reading this might be unfamiliar with this practice, let me explain what I’m talking about.
As a marketing consultant, the majority of my clients over the past 5 years have been non-fiction authors. It is common practice for authors (especially non-fiction) to get endorsements from other authors or professionals in their field. These endorsements become part of their marketing material, appearing on their websites, press kits and even on the books themselves. Typically, they will appear on the first few pages of the printed book, and a few will also appear on the front and/or back cover.
Essentially, book endorsements are like professional testimonials, but often with a bit more ‘hype’.
In business, testimonials are typically written by clients, customers or colleagues who are intimately acquainted with the work of the person/business for whom they are offering the testimonial. So, when it comes to getting endorsements for your book, it would stand to reason that the endorser would have read your book and written their sincere thoughts and feelings about it. Right?
In today’s ‘I’ve-got-way-too-much-on-my-to-do-list’ world, the process of obtaining endorsements has taken many shortcuts. The majority of endorsers these days do not read the entire book they are endorsing. Rather, they scan it just enough to get the gist of it, and then offer a few lines of (often generic) thoughts about it. Only occasionally will an endorser get hooked on the book and read the whole thing (which usually results in their writing deeper, more thoughtful endorsements).
There’s probably no way around the fact that most endorsers worth their salt simply don’t have enough time to read our books in full. And if we authors insisted they do so, we’d probably find it very difficult to get any endorsements at all.
However, authors and endorsers these days are taking yet another shortcut that I think warrants some discussion, as I think it opens up many interesting questions about ethics, deceptive marketing and the ultimate value of endorsements.
This shortcut is the practice of pre-written endorsements.
You might be shocked to learn that many endorsements you read on book covers were not written by the person whose name is ascribed to it, but was provided to them by the author or publisher. The idea is that ‘celebrities’ are very busy – far too busy to read your book or write an endorsement for you – and that the only way they’ll be able to endorse your book is if you provide them with a pre-written blurb.
This practice has now become so common, it’s almost an expectation. In fact, I was even approached by someone earlier this week who wanted to know if I could actually write these blurbs for him. Here’s a copy of the letter he sent me:
hello, I am self publishing a short book of my philosophical and spiritual thoughts. I am looking for 1 or 2 sentence blurbs (around 50 or so) to send to endorsers to make their job easy. Is this something you can do? what are your charges? thanks a lot!
Here was my reply:
Sorry, this is not something I would normally do. I know many endorsers will ask for such pre-fab blurbs, but I find it to be a bit disingenuous so it’s not something I would actively encourage. I would also not reach out to my own network for endorsements on behalf of an author unless I had been working closely with the client for some time.
If there is some other way we might be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us in the future.
Best of luck.
What was doubly ironic about this person’s request is that he was not only asking for pre-fab endorsements, but he was asking someone who didn’t know him or his work to write them for him (hence, I would also be ‘endorsing’ someone I didn’t know at all). What’s more, he obviously didn’t know ME or my work in ethical marketing either.
And I suppose I also find it incongruous that someone writing a book of ‘philosophical and spiritual thoughts’ would not think more deeply about the implications of his request. However, the fact is that pre-fab endorsements are becoming the norm in the non-fiction (especially mind-body-spirit) publishing industry. I myself have been asked for pre-written blurbs in the past, but whenever this happened, I gave some examples of what other people had written instead, rather than feed them the words I wanted them to say.
The fact that pre-written endorsements now seem to be an acceptable industry standard opens up a Pandora’s Box of ethical conundrums for me:
- If we, as authors, write our own endorsements, how meaningful are they to us or our prospective readers?
- As endorsers, what does putting our name to a pre-written endorsement say about our integrity?
- How could putting our name to a pre-written endorsement OR putting one on our book backfire on us?
- To what degree are we deceiving or cheating the public through this practice?
- To what degree are pre-fab endorsements a type of unethical marketing?
- To what degree are we lessening the value of our books through this practice?
- How willing are we to go against the status quo by not accepting this practice?
Am I totally going off the rails here and the practice of writing and using pre-written endorsements is simply a necessary and efficient response to the time demands of the modern world?
What’s YOUR view on this issue?
Let’s get the debate going. FIRST, cast your vote in our readers’ poll:
THEN, share your thoughts in the Facebook, Google+, Disqus or WordPress comments below and let’s tackle this ethical issue together.
Should make for some interesting weekend reading!
7th February 2014
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)