What is an endorsement? Let’s take this fun little quiz:
A writer said something nice about your manuscript in a critique. Is it an endorsement?
No. Writers point out the good as well as the things that need work in critiques. If critiques only spoke to things that needed improvement they could get pretty hard to take after a while. Writers know this. We like to point out the good.
A writer or illustrator said something nice to you in a chat group about your work. Is this an endorsement?
Nope. Again, writers encourage each other. It doesn’t mean they weren’t sincere about the nice thing they said, it is simply not an endorsement of your work.
An illustrator said they loved your portfolio at a show. Is this an endorsement?
Of course not. They are paying you a compliment. How lovely!
An agent (or editor) says something positive about your work in their rejection. Is this an endorsement?
Heck no. This is praise given to you privately to encourage you to keep going. They see you have the spark of something special and want to encourage that. Awesome!
Okay, the quiz is over. How did you do? A+ I hope! But just incase:
By definition an endorsement is, “an act of giving one’s public approval or support to someone or something.”
The key word there is public. To use the praise of any person in a public way, you need their expressed permission. Is a query letter public? Well, yeah, sort of. While agents and editors don’t have your permission to go publishing your letter in some way just because you sent it to them, you’re sending your letter to a person (and potentially group of persons if the agency shares queries) you do not know. It is not exactly a private conversation between friends. And even so, if you are putting an endorsement in your query letter you are basically saying it has the potential to be used for public consumption somewhere down the road. Use an endorsement and it’s highly likely the person you are saying endorsed your work will be asked about it. It’s easy to contact people and double check. And agents and editors do.
So here’s the obvious: don’t make endorsements up. It will be found out and reflect badly on you. Publishing might seem like this great big machine but it really is a small industry and people talk.
Do You Need Endorsements?
The short answer: No. Not at all.
Putting an endorsement in your query might sound like a great idea. If you can just get someone “important” to say something good about your work it is certain that you’ll be given a closer look or you might think it will make it impossible for that person you’re querying to say no. But the truth is, what you need to hook an agent is editor is a great query leading to a great manuscript. (Or great illustrations if you’re an illustrator!) You know that.
Agents and editors like to decide for themselves whether or not a manuscript is something good enough for them to work with, and of course there is also the personal connection. They need to love the work enough to want to spend hours and hours of their time on it. No endorsement is going to make them connect with your work.
Honestly, endorsements don’t really have a place in query letters, and especially not for fiction. You just don’t need them. Filling your query with endorsements could even be seen as a negative. Just get to the story already! Agents and editors want the pitch… the conflict… the voice!
Show the person you are querying how great your work is with your amazing hook… your precise query… your unputdownable story… your unique illustration style. When you sell that book, that’s a better time to go seeking those endorsements if you like; the ones people write for you and give you permission to use on your published book!