Once your memoir is finished, the all-important marketing phase begins. In fact, before your book is even published, you always want sample copies of it sent out to experts in your field who can provide testimonial quotes for the back of the book jacket.
Having a glowing endorsement written by someone with authority, knowledge, and a high public profile provides instant credibility for your work. Most commercial publishers send out a “galley,” the copyedited, typeset manuscript bound into what looks like a paperback. It’s not the final hardcover, but it’s the advance version of the book, a teaser sent out for reviews and testimonial quotes. This galley can also autographed and distributed at BookExpo America, where all the upcoming books are exhibited.
How do you get these testimonial quotes? In my case, having worked as a journalist for more than three decades, I’ve built up a rolodex of contacts. And I’m sure you have a professional network as well. Before the publication of my memoir about my dog, I made a list of every celebrity dog lover I could think of, including Betty White, Judge Judy, Calvin Klein, Mary Tyler Moore, Joan Rivers, Mariah Carey, and Mary Tyler Moore, all of whom I’d interviewed for magazines.
I was touched by what some of them wrote, comments seen scrolling in the right column of this page. Also, as my book has a light-hearted component to it, to make my overture an appealing one, I proceeded to send out 18 festive gift bags, into which were put edible dark chocolate dog bones, First Aid Kit for dogs, hand-painted Christmas ornaments in the shape of dog bones, cuddly stuffed cocker spaniel toys, treats for dogs from Pedigree, plus a hand-written note from me.
NEVER SEND OUT AN E MAIL OR A TYPED LETTER. A personal note hand-written by you on good quality stationery (I had Katie cards printed) will capture the interest of the recipient far more effectively than anything else. (Do your research and customize this note, making reference to the person’s past achievements and current activities, etc.)
Also, I always use either FedEx or a messenger service to deliver the gift bag, as doing it this way telegraphs that this package is an important one, something appealing they want to open.
Of course, if you’ve written a book about economics or politics, a fun gift bag such as the one I used is obviously not appropriate. You have to find what’s right for your subject. In fact, a gift bag isn’t even necessary. Just the bound manuscript and personal note are often enough, though if you’ve written a cookbook, brownies go a long way!
In any case, what you’re asking for is just a few sentences of praise that capture the tone or flavor of your book. Some of those approached will simply not have the time to read your book; others may not want to provide a quote. But you’ll find that many people are receptive to your work.
So begin mapping out a list of people you can contact.
Be practical. If you don’t know celebrities, don’t worry about it. Start with people in your community—leaders in your field who can relate to your story. Ask your friends and family and colleagues whom they know. Also make a dream list of people have attained greatness in their field. (Finding out the addresses of those you want to contact isn’t very hard nowadays, and you’d be surprised how delighted some people are to receive such a request.)
The goal is about 10 quotes, if possible, but just a few good ones from the right people are worth their weight in gold. It’s a great feeling turning over your book and seeing those quotes appear.
Ultimately, when a customer picks up your book, or browses online for it, they’re going to read those testimonial quotes, which can make all the difference between buying the book and moving on to another one.
So dig in and enjoy the process of sharing your work with those you most admire.
In closing, I can tell you that my most treasured testimonial of all time was from former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, an esteemed book editor at Doubleday with whom I conferred on projects. One day I asked her if she would write a short quote for my then agent who was supporting my TV interviews. It arrived in the mail a few days later and I was incredibly touched by it.
Your hero or heroine just might be interested in your work too. Just reach out to them with confidence. You never know what can happen. That’s for sure!