Testimonials are among the most powerful yet inexpensive marketing tools around. Good ones grab attention and encourage potential buyers to pick up the book. Great ones take possible buyers even deeper by making them say to themselves, Yes, this is the kind of book I’ve been looking for.
Think back to a time when you were book browsing. Didn’t those back-cover blurbs sway you just a bit? Didn’t reading a testimonial by a well-known author make you think, Well, if so-and-so liked it, then it must be good?
But your book testimonials won’t just sway readers. They can also influence book reviewers, bookstore owners, distributors, agents, foreign rights contacts, and columnists. With high stakes like these, you’ll want to spend significant time obtaining the most attention-getting testimonials for your book. Here, then, are some suggestions.
The best book testimonials I see stay focused on one central idea. Because book browsers are skimming, each testimonial should hammer home one specific aspect of the book. That way, the skimmer can absorb several different aspects of your book after only a quick read of its back cover. Keep each testimonial laser-like in its focus.
Any testimonial is good, but some of the more effective ones follow one or more of these six tried-and-true guidelines:
Quantify a benefit.
If yours is a nonfiction title, see if you can get testimonials that quantify the rewards of reading your book. For example, someone recently e-mailed me with this testimonial for my book, The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses:
The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses, I followed your advice. After sending only two emails, I got 4 calls back immediately, have scheduled 2 meetings to discuss new business and set up a new speaking engagement. Your method really works.”
Here’s one from another marketing book:
“These strategies will triple your income and double your time off.”
When you use this style, readers know exactly how your book will improve their lives.
Make an emotional appeal.
This style is more commonly used for fiction, but it can also work for nonfiction. Here, the testimonial works to paint a picture, at a visceral level, of the emotions a reader will experience while reading the book:
“An edge-of-the-seat tale.”
“At once romantic, erotic, suspenseful–and completely unforgettable.”
Create an association. Connecting the author–or the book–to another person or work helps conjure up positive associations in a reader’s mind, like these:
“Bob Bly is to direct marketing as Mozart is to music.”
“Alistair Cooke interprets America better than any foreign correspondent since Tocqueville.”
Use a common phrase. How about incorporating a phrase that’s already part of popular culture? For example:
“Fasten your seatbelt . . . a stimulating, fast-paced novel brimming with action and high drama.”
Give the reader a leg up. Any time you can show that your book gives the reader an edge, you have a powerful tool. Here’s an example from a book on how to hold a successful meeting:
“Every producer should read this before their clients do . . . ”
Cite a credible source. Years ago I worked in marketing for a consumer goods company, and we featured a testimonial from a clergyman. Talk about a credible source! In fact, so many people phoned him directly to get his opinion on our product that we finally had to pull his testimonial. Seek out the cream of the crop in your industry for testimonials, including well-known authors or opinion molders.
Find the right people. Before I self-published The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses, I was fortunate enough to get 10 great testimonials. How? I asked for them.
The truth is, if you want attention-grabbing testimonials, you’ll have to ask for some–usually from strangers. But I found that most of the people I approached were extremely helpful because I had chosen them carefully, and they were already interested in my subject (only one in 20 declined to participate).
To start, go to the library and take note of who has written testimonials for books in your area. Next, visit Amazon.com for similar books and see who has posted reviews. Then generate a “hit list” from these two sources.
Finding addresses for these hit-list people involves a bit more work, but if you Google a person’s name and search around, you’ll eventually wind up with an address (either snail or e-mail) you can use for your approach.
How and what to ask. What’s the best approach? One of the most valuable things I learned from Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual was his method of approaching people for testimonials. He recommended sending a galley, a cover letter, and a form that contains these sections:
I like this one:
“This book has more secrets for success than the Bible. Read this book and maybe you can walk on water.”
“This book is as refreshing as a cold glass of lemonade on a hot summer day.”
I can do better than that:
As you see, you write two testimonials suitable for the person you’re corresponding with, positioning a checkbox next to each, and list them under a heading something like “I like this one best.” Then, in the next section, called something like “I can do better than that,” you provide a blank space for an original comment in case the person wants to take the time to write one.
A blurb candidate who likes one of the testimonials you’ve written can simply check the box next to it, sign the form, and return it to you. One who feels moved to write something different can do so in the space you’ve provided. I’ll tell you this: every time someone has written a testimonial, it’s been much better than those I wrote.
Remember . . . testimonials are a workhorse tool for your book-marketing effort. Use them liberally to create awareness, establish credibility, and generate word-of-mouth for your book.
Jay B. Lipe is the CEO of Emerge Marketing, a small-business marketing firm celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The Marketing Toolkit for Growing Businesses (Chammerson Press, $19.95) is his first book. Distributed by Biblio, it’s also available through Amazon.com, at www.chammersonpress.com, or by calling 612/824-2198. To get a free tip sheet, “The Top 10 Marketing Tools for Small Businesses,” email firstname.lastname@example.org.