One often sees these on the back cover or the front pages of a book. One tends to see this more on books by new authors, usually in the form of praise from more well known sources, or sometimes from reviews in newspapers or journals. All of these effuse praise for the book or author, maybe summarizing a key aspect of the book that might be attractive to the reader.
I sat down this morning with a book this morning that I had requested for review because the idea of the book looked interesting to me. I hadn’t seen these comments before obtaining the book. I discovered that there were six pages of these endorsements, half of which were from people I didn’t know, nineteen in all! This was followed by a four page foreward that really was a more extensive endorsement.
I found myself thinking, “is all this really necessary?” I actually found myself becoming more suspicious that this really wasn’t such a good book after all if the publisher felt it necessary to find so many people to tell me that it was. I also wondered, did all these people really read the book? And it occurred to me that this wasted ten pages of paper (maybe recycled).
I get that all of this is the publisher’s attempt to give me sufficient reason to buy this book, particularly if it means trusting an unknown author. And I would say that a few of the endorsements were by people who had “street cred” with me. But I found myself wondering (and I would genuinely love to know what others, including those involved with publishing think), do people really use these “blurbs” as the primary criteria in deciding to buy a book?
That made me reflect, what influences my decisions to buy a book? Here are some thoughts:
- I’ve read a review that brought it to my attention as having something distinctive to say about the subject or that it offered a narrative that promised to be a good read.
- The back cover description, the table of contents, and a scan of the early chapters suggest that the book will be interesting and/or helpful.
- A friend’s recommendation, usually from a friend whose past recommendations were helpful. Often I follow up by looking at what is written online at Amazon and Goodreads as well as other reviews to see if this gets at something I care about and does it well.
- Sometimes, I will buy a book if it keeps coming up in conversation, or is referenced by other things I’m reading. That tells me that it has some influence.
What I realize as I reflect in this, and maybe I’m peculiar, is that all those “blurbs” have nearly zero influence on my book-buying. Most of the time, I only notice them after acquiring the book, and then usually in a negative way–all these pages before I get to the actual book!
Some things I wonder:
- If publishers do this, would one page with three to four endorsements by people likely known by the book’s target audience make sense and squander less paper? More than that feels like overkill to me. It also seems that putting these on the back cover is critical for those instances where people are browsing a book in a physical bookstore, or online where they can look at the cover.
- I do think authors and publishers have to think about the online strategy of marketing the book. I suspect this involves more than publicizing your book on Facebook or some other social media source. I see a lot of this and just ignore it. Instead, I wonder if some of this starts with establishing a platform of people who really like one’s writing, and then moves from there to getting the book read by those who give it visibility beyond your own network. (I discussed this in a recent post on “the bookternet”).
- I wonder if it could be a great resource to writers breaking in to develop better indexes of communities of interest around different kinds of writing, both physical and virtual. These seem both invaluable, and also seem to take a great deal of effort to find.
How influential are these “blurbs” or “endorsements” in your book buying decisions?