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February 06, 2010
One of the strange things that happens when you write a book is that other authors begin to ask you if you would endorse their own book. There is a strange little economy whereby people in a particular genre all endorse one another’s books. This is true in the Christian world as it’s true for books about history, politics, and the like. A relatively small group of people pass their books around with requests for endorsements.
I’ve written quite a few of these little blurbs lately. It is something I’m generally quite eager to do and even honored to do. There is a certain sense in which it is humbling to have someone ask if you’d put your name on their book, offering it a stamp of approval. Yet there is also a certain danger to it, knowing that if you do not read the book carefully, you may later be accused of endorsing a book with a potentially serious theological error in it. Stranger things have happened. What is more nerve-racking still is that you may well be endorsing a manuscript that will be edited after you’ve submitted your endorsement, meaning that the content going to print may be quite different from the content you’ve put your name to.
Different authors have different standards when it comes to writing endorsements. Some go sight-unseen, endorsing a friend’s book without even really reading the content. He knows his friend, he knows his theological position, and on that basis he will write an endorsement even without looking through the manuscript. Other authors are exacting, reading very carefully to ensure that every statement is as precise as it ought to be and even pushing back a little bit, asking the author to make necessary changes before they will put their name to an endorsement. Still other authors may just skim through the manuscript, looking for potential problem areas and reading those quickly even while racing through the rest.
When I began to write endorsements, I was very much in the middle camp—I would read every word of every sentence and would do so carefully. This is what I was most comfortable with, both for sake of conscience and credibility. I wanted to endorse only really good books and ones that were free of any theological error or weakness. As time has gone on, though, I’ve found myself spanning the middle camp and the final one. I have found that not every book easily lends itself to a thorough reading (such as a book of written prayers) and not every book depends upon theological precision (such as a biography). And so my early idealism has been undone just a little bit. And yet strangely this occasionally nags at my conscience. Somehow I feel that I cannot rightly write a convicting endorsement without having read every word. And yet if I were to read every word, I could not write more than the very, very occasional endorsement due to the time it would take to read the manuscripts so carefully. I have no desire to be the guy whose name is on every book; at the same time, I do like to say “yes” to these requests when I feel it would be helpful to the author.
At this point I want to ask you, when you read an endorsement, do you suppose that the author has pored over every word? Do you read these blurbs as blanket endorsements of the content, or do you see them as something less significant than that. Realistically, if you were to write endorsements, what camp would you be in?