It’s never too soon to discover what needs to be done to enhance and promote your book once it’s published. That includes thinking about those kind souls who will take the time to read the final manuscript and write testimonials. These will be the blurbs you showcase on the front and back covers, and sometimes also inside the book under “Advance Praise.”
I have my own views on how many of these are desirable. For example, I find it tedious and a tad overdone to wade through five or six pages of glowing testimonials, seemingly from everyone the author knows or has done business with. It always seems to me these folks are trying too hard to impress.
As a result of this enjoyable conversation, I can share the following insights from Marika on why testimonials matter, how many is “enough,” and how a business author might select the right ones to feature*:
(*Bear in mind that finding people to write book blurbs isn’t a service typically provided by book publicists, as their work begins when the book is done and this kind of third-party validation needs to be secured several months beforehand.)
Liz Alexander: Marika, why do testimonials matter?
Marika Flatt: We’re a bandwagon society. Anything that has name recognition and stands out in our minds will help a book sell. For example, if you’ve had successful dealings with an internationally known company like Dell or Microsoft, and someone in the company thinks enough of you to agree to write a cover testimonial, that name recognition of the company will go a long way to enhancing the trust a reader feels when they purchase your book.
If you’ve been on a platform with Stephen Covey and can persuade him to say something about your book, you’d want to feature that on the front cover. It really makes a huge difference to the typical reader.
L.A.: What if you’re not doing business at those lofty heights?
M.F.: If your work is mostly with small and medium sized enterprises, then you still need to try and attract testimonials from companies that your target reader would at least recognize. They’re going to be impressed by Fortune 500 names, for example. Much depends on whether you intend to sell your book in stores like Barnes & Noble, or have mostly back-of-the-room sales during workshops and talks. If you’re looking for more mainstream appeal, then the bigger the name, the better it looks.
L.A.: Does it matter what these folks say – as long as it’s positive, obviously?
M.F.: When somebody is looking at testimonials on the cover of a book, their eyes will automatically gravitate to the person’s name and title rather than the statement. It’s more about the person giving the quote than what they actually say.
L.A.: I’ve read that you need to be careful to select people who are directly relevant to your book’s topic and target audience. So business book readers will be looking to see names of CEOs and entrepreneurs, right? What if I’m chummy with Sandra Bullock but I’m writing a book on leadership?
M.F.: I think these days it’s good to offer a range of people who are blurbing your book. So instead of three CEOs, you might chose one CEO, one sales person and a celebrity. Having Sandra Bullock’s name on the cover of your book is not going to harm you, regardless of the topic.
I would encourage authors to think about who they know or have come across in their lives that could comment on their book in a way that’s relatable to the average consumer; someone who has any kind of name recognition.
L.A.: And that includes other authors, right? I’ve heard they like to be asked to blurb since that gives them an additional way to promote their own books?
M.F.: Yes. It’s always a good idea to connect with authors of books that your target reader would already know, to ask if they will write you a testimonial.
L.A.: Okay, I’ve already revealed that I’m skeptical of authors, especially self-published ones, who have every-man-and-his-dog quoted on or in their books. What do you consider to be the optimal number of testimonials – either for the back cover or inside the book itself?
M.F.: Most books have anywhere from three to five quotes on the back cover. There’s no need for any more than that as the reader will get bored of reading blurbs eventually.
L.A.: Finally, Marika, any tips on how to guide folks to write suitable testimonials?
M.F.: You’re looking for the three Cs: Clever, Concise, Compact. Two powerful lines are better than a paragraph of fluff. The only time I would use more than two to three sentences for a testimonial is if what they wrote was so power-packed, I couldn’t bear to cut anything out.
Testimonials may be written about the book specifically, but often you can use what you already have on sites like LinkedIn or use on your website. If someone has written that you are the most forward-thinking person they’ve come across, then a consumer is going to see that and think you really know your stuff.
Brilliant, Marika – thank you.
aving recently received a copy of The Age of the Platform by Phil Simon to review, I thought I’d see how many testimonials he’d included, and by whom. Here’s the low-down:
Front cover: One sentence from Adrian C. Ott, award-winning author of The 24-Hour Customer.
Back cover blurbs: Two authors, two corporate presidents.
Inside “Additional Praise” page: Five more – two broadcasters/authors; one author/editor; two CEOs.
Enjoy this irreverent article on the history of book blurbs.