Monday, March 15, 2010

The thorny matter of endorsements.

I usually talk about medieval history or writing fiction about medieval history, but I have decided to digress for a moment and talk about the matter of endorsing novels.

When you are a writer, you need all the publicity you can get and some warm words of praise about your work from a fellow author are a very useful promotional tool to put on the jacket of your novel. It supposedly makes readers take notice and it's also good for the endorser because their name is given a prominent place on your book cover as well. Two for the price of one - What's not to like?
However, It does become noticeable very quickly in reading communities that certain authors seem to do the rounds of endorsing each other's work and put their names to anything that comes their way. Which might be good for marketing, but not for integrity and not always for the beleagured reader.
I'm an established author now and I get numerous requests to endorse novels. Editors offer me advanced review copies or ARCS. My own editors ask me to endorse other authors in their stable (not a bad thing to do at all, just standard practise), authors write to me, asking if I'll read and endorse their novels.
I LOVE reading. I was a reader before I was a writer, but I want to read things that I choose to pick up myself and at my own pace and then to be able to comment with an uncensored opinion. Being asked to endorse a novel almost immediately puts on me the expectation that I'm going to report back saying I love it (even if I don't). It also means I have to read to deadline, even if I'm not in the mood - so it becomes a chore rather than a pleasure.
So here's the deal. My marketing take on this is that if I endorse a novel, it will be because I have picked it up of my own accord and read it at my own pace. It will be a novel that I absolutely loved and couldn't put down. It will be a novel that I want to share with others and I will mean it from the heart. That's it. Plain and simple. Just wanted to say because it's been on my mind a while. (illustration is one of my endorsements).
Normal service will be resumed as soon as I get another medieval blog post written.


Robinbird said...

I want to read that! Just haven't gotten around to it yet!

Misfit said...

Good for you, I'm at the point where I completely disregard them.

Aarti said...

It is interesting that you chose this topic to write about as I think it's one book bloggers also wrestle with quite often. I am probably going to stop accepting books for review very soon because I am tired, like you, of HAVING to read books. Having reading become a chore. I want to read what I want, when I want. I don't want to get stressed out about it. I am not sure what my policy will be going forward, but it will probably only involve one review copy every few months or so. That way, FINALLY, I can get around to reading The Scarlet Lion :-)

Gabriele said...

I agree that endorsing as a matter of course is meaningless for all, and a great disservice to readers.

Taminator said...

Totally agree with everything you wrote! I seriously suspect some books lately when I see a certain author has endorsed it because I've begun to believe she endorses everything.

Alianore Audley is a gem of a book and deserves a much wider audience!As does Brian's second book, Within the Fetterlock. Outstanding writing in both.

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Thank you for writing about something I've been thinking about for some time. I started to write about it, then nixed that since I was pretty certain I'd tick off a few certain authors and their "followers." And I certainly wouldn't want to target anyone, but just in general, you've summed up the issue nicely here. Kudos to you for writing about it!

Misfit said...

Aarti, I feel your pain and I get very few ARC's - some are just painful to get through. I only request those I have a genuine interest in. As you said, I want to read what I want to read, when I want.

Tammy, Brian's books are excellent. Wish he'd get the next one finished. It's almost as bad as waiting for a new Chadwick. Is. It. May. Yet? :)

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of when I worked in a bookshop at the time when Nicholas Evans' 'Horse Whisperer' and 'The Loop' were very popular. A new book, by author James Long, called 'Ferney' was published with an endorsement by Nicholas Evans. Mr Evans' name appeared in a much larger font than Mr Long's, with the effect that at least one of my customers was convinced that the book was actually by Nicholas Evans and was called 'Ferney James Long'!!


Helen said...

I came across the same thing Arianrhodd - I picked up what was obviously a nautical story by, I assumed, Patrick O'Brian. I didn't have my reading glasses so couldn't see the smaller print too well. I was not at all pleased on getting home to discover the wording was a publisher's heading saying something like "as good as Patrick O'Brian"
It was actually written by a new author, and was, um, (I'll word this tactfully) no where near as good. I read ten chapters then gave up.
The author's name was in small print below that of O'Brian's.
_ _ _

Thanks for the thoughts Elizabeth - I am _very_ grateful for your endorsements - and for Sharon Penman's and Bernard Cornwell's, not least because I know you've read my books and enjoyed them, which in turn gives me the confidence to keep slogging away at my keyboard with the next novel.
It is very difficult to say no though to authors/publishers without coming across as being stuck up. The "oh its alright for her, she's made it as a writer & doesn't care about new writers any more" syndrome; especially when self published friends ask you for an endorsement. I suppose the best thing to say is, "I'd love to, but I'm afraid I'll not have time to read it before you are ready to publish."

Any other suggestions for polite excuses will be welcome!

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Helen, you're welcome re my endorsements. You're one of the handful! :-)
I guess I'm setting my stall out here by way of telling people how I feel. I would hope other writers don't feel I'm stuck up or holier than thou. But while I'm a writer by profession, I am a reader too and I feel I owe it to my readers and to my own integrity, to only endorse books I am passionate about. That's the word. Passionate. The sort you want to run out after you've read it and tell everyone about.
So I have decided to make that my own publicity angle. I won't endorse unless. Ellis Peters used to do that. She said the only book she had ever quoted for in her life was Lindsey Davis' Silver Pigs (good choice) and she didn't expect to ever quote again. I'm not quite that adamant, but I'm keeping this blog url bookmarked as an explaination for anyone who asks.

Michelle Moran said...

I find it incredibly difficult to turn down an author! Having said that, however, I blurb only what I enjoy (of course, I enjoy a great deal of fiction :). Not sure how great it is for publicity though to have one's name appearing here, there and everywhere, especially since - as Taminator pointed out - it makes readers wary. Like you, it's something I've really debated about.

Susie Tudor Daughter said...

Oh I couldn't agree with you more. I do not accept ARCs only those I'm involved with for the HFBRT events. I have a very specific genre in a genre I like to read and review. I don't want the obligation that will cramp my style.
As far as endorsing an author well I would hope you will drop by my blog and see the endorsement I just gave you on The Greatest Knight. I think you will appreciate it.

BTW how is your new puppy? I think I must of missed any updates.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Hi Susie Tudor Daughter and all!
Susie, I'll head to your blog in a minute - and thanks!
The pupster is doing very well and has his own blog. - not sure if I can post it without losing this reply, so I'll answer again in a minute with the url and add it to my sidebar too.
Michelle, yes it is something which is a conumdrum. I've been thinking about it for a while. I do remember years ago Stephen King got a reputation as an 'endorse anything going' author. On the other hand Ellis Peters only ever endorsed Lindsey Davis. In the RNA we had a grand old dame who used to shock many of us with her forthrightness. She told it how she felt it was and if you didn't like it, then tough on you. But she never bore grudges and she was always straight down the line. I once asked her if she would like a copy of The Greatest Knight - not because I wanted an endorsement but I thought she might like to read it. She refused, saying that she only ever read books that she herself had bought. That way she could say what she thought and was beholden to no one. I am not sure I would be as brave as her, but she did make me realise that being beholden to no one was actually part of becoming a reader again. It doesn't mean I will never give anyone a quote again. I probably will, but it will be retrospective rather than prior to publication.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Here's the url for the pup's blog

Susie Tudor Daughter said...

Well gee wiz I went and looked at the soundtracks on your side bar and sure enough there was Holding Out For a Hero:-). The funny thing is that I almost put that very one with Robin Hood on my post and at the last minute chose the one with Braveheart and King Arthur. I also posted my descendancy chart from William Marshall a couple of weeks ago on my blog. You might want to check it out.

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you've said here, Elizabeth! I work in publishing PR so I understand just how necessary (and mutually beneficial) jacket quotes are - but they should never be contrived or insincere. Part of the fun for me in choosing which authors to pitch review copies to is placing books with authors and making the right "fit". I would never want an author to feel pressured to give a great review for something that wasn't their cup of tea, so to speak.

As a blogger, I come across this issue on the other end every now and then as well (which is perhaps why I am so empathetic to this issue in my work life). I think some publicists EXPECT a glowing review in exchange for a review copy/ARC, which can be frustrating. Yes I agreed to review it, but if I don't enjoy it, I'll be honest and will always explain why I feel the way I do.

On another note - I just posted our interview today on Hist-Fic Chick! :)

Jules Frusher said...

Totally right! I like to be able to trust an endorsement from an author and I'm sure most readers would say the same. Also, an author's time is not an infinite resource - somewhere in between the writing, research and publicity they also have to have a life lol!