Publishers and authors have played along by pushing celebrity blurbs—but it’s time to rewrite the rules of promotion.
As an editor at a Christian publisher, I review multiple book proposals each week. Authors pitching a new project will share a table of contents, a sample of their writing, their bio, statistics about their platform, and—always—a list of confirmed or potential endorsers.
It’s a strange detail, since most trade nonfiction books aren’t already written when the author goes under contract with a publisher. This means that endorsers have agreed to endorse something that doesn’t exist.
Authors and agents are simply playing the rules that publishers set, and in Christian publishing—as with all book publishing—it’s about who you know.
Many authors hate seeking endorsements; it feels self-promotional and vulnerable. But endorsements are simply part of the deal, going back to at least 1856, when Walt Whitman had Ralph Waldo Emerson’s letter praising Leaves of Grass published in the New-York Tribune prior to the book’s second edition.
Today, publishing leaders hope authors will receive a “blurb” from someone with name recognition or clout. The reasoning goes that if readers like an endorser, they’re more inclined to buy or read a book they’ve blurbed. An endorsement says, I can vouch for this person and their work. This takes on a spiritual layer in Christian publishing, where endorsers can lend theological cover for someone’s work.
It’s a risky thing to do—especially when an endorser hasn’t read the book.
Last week, The Gospel Coalition published, then unpublished, an excerpt from the forthcoming book Beautiful Union: How God’s Vision for Sex Points Us to the Good, Unlocks the True, and (Sort of) Explains Everything. Readers criticized …