Getting testimonials for your self-published book is an essential part of book publishing. Testimonials, like book reviews, help potential readers get an idea of what your book is about and help them determine if it is a good fit for their personal reading preferences. They are a way to help ensure customer satisfaction before someone actually purchases your book.
What is a Testimonial?
A testimonial could also be called an endorsement, which is defined as “an act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something.” In this case it is an endorsement for your book or for you as the subject matter expert.
Testimonials are a step above customer reviews because typically these are reviews that you as the author have to ask for – sometimes in advance of publication. While a customer review can be written by anyone who has or hasn’t read your book and you have no control over those reviews, testimonials are more curated reviews–usually only a line or two–that encapsulate why a person should read the book. And, testimonials are usually valuable because the person giving the testimonial has some sort of name recognition.
Where to Use Testimonials
Testimonials can live in a variety of places including on the back cover, inside the interior, on your author website, and even on your Amazon book page. Unlike customer reviews, you can add testimonials to your book page through your Amazon Author Central Account as an editorial review.
Now, testimonials are not a requirement for publishing your book, but if you want testimonials either on the back cover or inside the book you have to start collecting those early in the process so they are ready when your manuscript moves into production.
So how do you get testimonials?
Where to Look for Testimonials
Asking for testimonials is a process that requires a lot of lead time. It’s not the kind of thing you can think about after your book is ready to publish. Instead you should be thinking about who you want to review and write a testimony while you’re still writing the book.
These are not your friends and family members, either. You can use your friends and family network to write customer reviews after the book launches, but testimonials should come from other experts and influencers in your field. Some of these people may already be in your personal network, depending on your book genre, and that makes the ask for a testimonial much easier! Others, however, might be outside your circle and require you to make a cold call.
A cold call for a testimonial can be challenging, which is again why you need to start the process early. Here is how to do that:
- Determine your dream list of testimonials that you want inside and on the cover of your book.
- Then, find a way to get in front of those people before you ask for their testimonial.
This could include following their social media channels and commenting on their posts, subscribing to their newsletters and sending responses. If they are speaking at a conference near you, go make a face-to-face connection if you can. If they’ve written books, read their books and leave a customer review. You want them to start recognizing your name so that you aren’t coming in totally cold when you make a request for a testimonial.
How to Ask for Testimonials
After you’ve identified your dream team for book endorsements and made some initial contact, it’s time to make your request. Likely, this will come in the form of an email. Remind the person how they know you, and what your credentials are for writing this book. Explain why their name and expertise is valuable to you and your audience and would help lend credibility to your book. It never hurts to stroke their ego a bit.
If your book is complete you can offer to send them an Advanced Reader Copy, which is a fully formatted version of your book for them to review. This might not be the final version of your book, but it’s generally considered final enough to ask for testimonials.
While experts who get requests for testimonials often will know this, it’s worth mentioning that they don’t need to read the entire book. You might even include a summary of what your book is about within your email.
Some authors go so far as to write the testimonials in advance, then request to put the person’s name on it. This approach can work well for folks who are busy and hard to get a hold of (just remember not to send the same endorsement to more than one person).
How Many Testimonials do You Need?
Thanks to Amazon Author Central and other places like your author websites, you can always be gathering testimonials for your book and finding ways to use them. The more exposure you can get for your book the better.
If your plan is to use them inside your book and/or on your book cover then you should aim to send out at least 20-30 queries for testimonials. Even getting back five or six will give your book a boost, and you should expect that some of your requests will go unanswered.
What About Paid Reviews?
There are services out there that you can pay to review your book, but be careful because some of them can be pretty scammy. We wouldn’t recommend paying for a service for customer reviews, but if it’s an editorial review that you’re after we have had many authors use Kirkus Review, San Francisco Book Review, and Book Life Review (the self publishing arm of Publishers Weekly).
Just expect to shell out a few hundred dollars per paid review, so make sure it is worth it for you. And, reviews are not guaranteed to be positive. We’ve had authors pay for a Kirkus Review and have it be so bad they can’t use it anywhere in their marketing efforts.
Ideally you will have people in your field that you can ask directly before you start going after paid endorsements, though in the right context they can have value.
Choosing Which Testimonials to Use on the Cover
After you’ve gathered your list of 10-20 testimonials it’s time to determine where and how to use them. Generally speaking, especially for self-published and indie authors, you only want three and at the most five on the back cover.
While you may see books that have nothing but testimonials on the back, those authors are typically household names and they can get away with selling their book without giving any sort of book description. Self-published authors typically still need to tell the reader something about their book, so keeping the testimonials to a minimum is key, while also making sure they bring value to the reader’s experience.
Feel free to edit and shorten them as well, and then use the full testimonial on the inside. Of course anytime you are editing a testimonial it’s a good idea to get the edited version approved by the person who wrote it beforehand.
If your book lends itself to having a testimonial on the front cover, be sure to go with the most recognizable name on your list. You are giving up precious front-cover real estate to get this person’s endorsement so it needs to be worth it. And, the quote needs to be short and to the point.
It’s possible when you’re going after your list of testimonials that you have someone in mind for the front cover and it’s perfectly fine to let them know that in advance. In fact, it might encourage them to write and send a review.