Have you ever noticed how successful books always seem to have quotes on the front cover? They’re usually written by someone influential and rave about how great the book is, how knowledgeable the author is, and how everyone and their cat should get a copy.
Wouldn’t you love to have the influencers in your industry saying those types of things about your book?
But how do you ask someone to write a foreword or testimonial, especially if you don’t have an existing relationship with the influencer? And what do you ask for once you’ve made the connection?
Never fear – in this post I’ll be answering all of the common questions I get about asking for forewords and testimonials.
Foreword and testimonial FAQs
What are forewords and testimonials?
As I shared in an earlier post on front and back matter, a testimonial is a quote from a reader or industry influencer endorsing your book. These quotes usually range from one sentence to one paragraph, though if someone has something truly outstanding to say it might be a bit longer.
A foreword is a longer passage written by an industry influencer that also endorses you and your book. Forewords are usually between one and three pages long and go into more depth about your relationship with the influencer and why you are the best person to be writing this book.
How many forewords and testimonials do you need?
You can have several testimonials. Many books will have one on the front cover, between one and three on the back cover, and potentially a couple of pages of testimonials at the beginning and/or end of the book.
You only have one foreword, so it’s best to ask someone who has a lot of clout in your industry or with your audience, as their credibility will rub off on you, making you see more credible as an author.
What goes into a foreword?
A foreword is usually between one and three pages, so anywhere from 300 to 1,000 words (occasionally they might be longer).
The key elements to cover include:
What goes into a testimonial?
As your testimonials will be much shorter than your foreword, there is far less to include. Any positive message about you and your book’s awesomeness is a good starting point, but the most powerful testimonials are those that share a before-and-after story – where your readers were before reading your book, and where they now that they’ve read your book.
To create this story, you can ask the following questions:
If no one has read your book, another approach is simply getting testimonials for your work and including them in your book. While these won’t be as on point, they will demonstrate that you are an expert in your area and your advice is reliable, which is what you want.
How to ask for a foreword or testimonial: 4 steps to get endorsements for your book
Now that we’re all on the same page, how can you actually get some of these magical endorsements for your book?
Just follow these four steps:
- 1Find your ideal endorsers
- 2Make your approach
- 3Make it EASY
- 4Follow up
Step 1: Find your ideal endorsers
When it comes to endorsers, you’re looking for one of two things: credibility and empathy.
By credibility, I mean people who are credible in your industry – they may have been working in the field for several years, they may have worked with hundreds (or thousands) of clients, they may have written a book themselves, they may have a popular blog or website with hundreds of thousands of subscribers, they may have been featured in the media and more. All of these credibility markers tell us that they know their stuff and should be taken seriously.
The great thing about this is that, if they endorse you, all of those credibility markers rub off on you. Suddenly, you are seen as being like that person – you are seen as having the same years of experience, working with the same number of clients, being worthy of media coverage and more. This can be a game changer – whether you are new in business or whether you are trying to reach higher-value clients.
The second element is empathy – endorsements that make your readers empathise with the endorser. These endorsements are more likely to focus on the endorser’s personal journey with your book, and they give your readers insight into the results they might have if they read your book and implement your advice. Rather than being industry leaders, these people are likely to be your target readers.
So now you know what you’re looking for – credibility and empathy – where can you find the right endorsers?
For credibility, you probably already know the big players in your industry. Who are the people in your field who are:
Make a list of 5-10 people who fit these criteria, starting with people you already have a personal connection with, followed by people who are connected to someone you know, followed by people you aren’t connected with.
When it comes to empathy, the best place to start is with your past clients. Of your past clients, which ones are madly in love with you and would love to endorse your book?
Then, if you can’t think of enough clients (or none of them are available to read your book before it goes to print), the next step is to think of people like them.
Using these questions, create a profile of the people you think would get the most benefit from your book. For bonus points, write a list of specific people who meet these criteria.
Step 2: Make your approach
Now that you have your list, the next step is approaching them.
As I wrote in my Ultimate Guide to Funding Your Book with Partnerships, any request is more likely to be accepted if you already have a relationship with the people you’re approaching. It takes time and effort to read a book and provide feedback. And if the people you’re approaching don’t know you, they have little reason to take that time and put in that effort. If there is an existing relationship – one where you’ve already done them some favours and have built up some equity you can draw on – they are more likely to want to do this favour for you.
For this reason I strongly recommend looking at how you can start building a relationship with different influencers before you make your approach (see Step 2 in the guide for some ideas).
If you don’t have an existing relationship with your potential endorsers, you’re still welcome to approach them, but keep in mind that you may have less luck with getting a quote or foreword out of them.
Now that that’s out of the way, how do you ask for a foreword or testimonial?
In any pitch, you want to cover the following elements:
Your pitch will change depending on who you are approaching and whether you are asking them for a foreword or testimonial.
For instance, I approached Andrew Griffiths, Australia’s leading entrepreneurial and small business author, to write the foreword for Book Blueprint last year. Andrew and I have known each other for a few years now and we both work with entrepreneurs who are writing books – Andrew through the Key Person of Influence (KPI) program and his retreats, and my team and I through Entrepreneur to Author and our editing and publishing services.
Andrew is far more established in business than me, so I knew that there was very little I could offer him in terms of exposure. However, I know that he’s deeply committed to helping other entrepreneurs succeed, especially when it comes to publishing. Because of this, my focus in my pitch was how the book would benefit the clients we work with. Given than Andrew has also done a number of forewords, I didn’t feel the need to go into a lot of detail about what he needed to cover.
Here’s the pitch:
How have you been? It looks like you’ve got a lot on your plate right now with the new KPI groups getting started on the publishing process, and the next round of your speaking workshops coming up.
I’m reaching out to ask whether you’d be open to writing the foreword for my book. Because I know you’re busy, I’ll just give you a quick overview here. However, I’m more than happy to send through a longer synopsis or draft for you to review.
Book Blueprint teaches entrepreneurs how to write an awesome business book, even if they don’t consider themselves writers. It covers how to find the right idea, create the right structure, choose the right content and use the right language, and the strategies I recommend are all based on the common issues I’ve encountered in my work with KPIs.
As you know, a lot of KPIs hit a wall during the writing process and just don’t know what to write next. Meanwhile, others push through the fog and submit their book for editing, only to find that we recommend major changes to their structure and their content, and there’s more writing for them to do after the edit. In the worst-case scenario, some of them give up on the publishing process entirely.
My hope is that this book will help these new authors create a book plan that’s so detailed their book will write itself. This then tackles the issue of writer’s block, as they never need to rely on inspiration to figure out what to write next – it’s already in front of them. It also tackles the issues to significant structural editing, as the plan will clearly map out every piece of information they need and exactly where it should go to create great value for their readers.
I hope all of that makes sense – please let me know if you have any questions, or if you’d like me to send you the draft.
In hindsight, this could definitely be improved. I probably didn’t need as much detail regarding the book itself, and today I would have put more thought into what I might have been able to offer Andrew in return. That said, the pitch still worked, which illustrates the power of having an existing relationship (and Andrew’s never-ending awesomeness).
For testimonials, I went to a business Facebook group I’m a part of where a lot of the members want to write a book. Again, I wanted to focus on the benefits, yet this time I was very clear about my deadline as I’d left this to the last minute.
The result? I had 37 people volunteer to read the book (though I stopped taking on volunteers at 20). I sent out the book to the first 20 of them and ended up with 13 testimonials I could use before the one-week deadline was up.
Step 3: Make it EASY
Once you’ve asked someone to write a foreword or testimonial, and they’ve agreed, your job is to make it easy for them.
People are busy with their own lives and businesses and families. And, although your book may be one of the biggest things happening in your life right now, for them it’s just another item on the periphery. Anything that makes the task more difficult than it needs to be makes it less likely that you’ll get feedback.
One way of dealing with this is simply having lots of options, like my testimonials – it didn’t matter than nearly half of my readers didn’t get back to me, because I still had plenty of quotes I could use.
A better way of dealing with this is making it easy for your endorsers to endorse you.
To do this, keep the following in mind:
- 1Be very clear about what you’re looking for. Do you want a one-line quote, or a three-page foreword? What do you want them to say? When is your deadline? Once they’ve agreed to endorse you, follow up with an email with all of these details. You could even list bullet points to guide them, such as those listed under ‘What goes into a foreword?’ and ‘What goes into a testimonial?’
- 2Keep your request to the bare minimum. Do they really need to read your entire book to endorse you? In most cases, the introduction and a synopsis is plenty. However, some people won’t endorse a book without reading the whole thing, so give them some options. Once you know what they want you can send the relevant documents through.
- 3Give examples of what you’re looking for. One of the biggest questions I get from people who have been approached to endorse a book is, “How do I write a foreword?” Your endorsers may not have written a foreword or testimonial before, and this can leave them worried about doing it wrong, and potentially not doing it at all. If the person you’ve approached isn’t sure about how to write a foreword, send them the list of points I shared earlier, and give them some examples of forewords from other books you like. For testimonials, again, give examples – I always send our clients to our author testimonials page when asking for a testimonial.
- 4Consider writing it for them. If you’ve approached someone very busy and important who just doesn’t have the time to write you an endorsement, consider drafting it for them – then they only need to make tweaks and give their okay, rather than writing everything from scratch.
On the last point, if you find yourself struggling to write your own foreword or testimonial, use the points listed earlier and give your endorser a few points for each section to get them started. (E.g. for a foreword, you would suggest a few relevant points about their background, followed by some points about your relationship, and so on).
Step 4: Follow up!
Finally, follow up!
If you don’t get a response to your initial approach, resend your original email with the following message at the beginning:
I just wanted to follow up to make sure you got the email below. [If you were connected by a mutual contact, remind them of this connection and who you are here.]
Let me know if you had any questions.
If they do agree to endorse your book but don’t respond by your deadline, resend your email with a note at the beginning reminding them of the deadline and asking them whether they need any more time. If your deadline is flexible, let them know how much time you have. If it isn’t, warn them that they only have X days or weeks left to be included in your book.
Who’s endorsing your book?
There you have it – just four steps to secure high-profile endorsements for your book.
Now it’s your turn – who would you love to endorse your book? What benefits can you offer if they write you a testimonial or foreword?
Thank you for this article. I am a fiction murder mystery writer and I just finished a book about a political candidate being murdered during a campaign stop. I was a registered lobbyist on the state and federal level for 30 years and feel I added details to the book that are unique. Your article is helpful as I approach 2 former governors to provide testimonials. Thank you.