What are your thoughts about book endorsements?
Question from a reader:
I’ve heard that some people write endorsements without carefully reading the books they endorse. What are your thoughts about this?
Answer from Randy Alcorn:
I have a moral responsibility to readers not to endorse a book when I haven't read it all. I still do some endorsements, but less than I used to. A few times I've had to skim the last few chapters of a book to turn around the endorsement in time, and it's a lousy feeling. Because people kindly endorsed my books when I was a young writer, I felt I should do the same for others, but it became a time trap. With the golden rule in mind, I seldom request endorsements for my books any more, even when the publisher really wants me to.
Frequently the required endorsement turnaround time is less than a month, sometimes two weeks. I'm often asked to endorse an entire book based on one chapter, and several times I have been sent an already-written endorsement and asked if I would agree to have my name attached to it. Such practices are unethical. I've also been told by several Christian leaders they would be glad to endorse my book, when actually they were having a staff person read it while giving me the endorsement under the leader's name. I've had to explain I don't believe in ghost-written endorsements, so there’s no need to send me one because I can’t use it. Awkward. (I sometimes ask a staff member to read a book I’ve been asked to endorse and then recommend whether or not I should endorse it. Usually they say yes, then I read it myself. It helps to hear what they think, but I still need to read the book or I can’t endorse it.)
As for ghostwriting, years ago I wrote a critique of the practice in Christian publishing (addressed in the subsection called "The Ethics of Ghostwriting" of this article) which put me in multiple difficult discussions with publishers and ghostwriters alike. I also joined a few dozen other Christian writers in expressing our ethical objections to our publishers. I'm happy to say that there is less ghostwriting being done today and more books that say "as told to" and credit the non-celebrity as the co-author. So if the thoughts are those of the "name" and the other person puts those thoughts in writing, it qualifies as co-authorship. Rationalizations abound. But bottom line, if the main writer of the book doesn't have his name on the cover, or if someone's name is on the cover and they didn't provide a substantial amount of the material found in the book, it's ghostwriting. And that's deception, which dishonors Jesus. I'm glad this practice is changing, but it's disturbing that it got a foothold in Christian publishing in the first place.