All the Little Lies

You know those short quotes on the front of books? They’re called endorsements. Sometimes they are included in the book description at online retailers. And on social media posts, too. They are a very popular marketing tool.

But what does a book endorsement really tell you?

Image of a model of the mind.
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The psychology of book buying

An author can tell you all about their book. But you are far more likely to buy it if someone else tells you it’s good. This is called social proof. It’s a huge concept in the marketing world. 

Social proof is an idea that publishers exploit daily. Because you are more likely to trust the word of a person you don’t actually know, than a person trying to sell you something.

But there’s a problem with this psychology. Because the person trying to sell you something is actually less likely to lie about it. An author is proud of their work. They sell their books because they believe they have value. They know some people love them. And they are looking for more people who will love them, too.

No, they are not impartial. That doesn’t mean they would lie to you. After all, they would like you to consider buying their next book as well.

Endorsers appear to be impartial. Particularly if they are famous, have lots of social media followers, or run a successful business. Most of us tend to trust their recommendation.

But should you?

Who writes endorsements?

Have you ever asked yourself who writes those lovely recommendations? If an endorsement sounds amazing, it was most likely written by the author of the book. That’s right, the one you didn’t trust because they were trying to sell you something. It’s common practice for an author to write a suggested endorsement. Then ask a well-known person to put their name to it.

On the other hand, sometimes the recommendation sounds vague, or could apply to any number of books in the genre. In that case, it was probably written by the endorser themselves. So why isn’t it more specific? Well, they probably didn’t read the book. 

There is no rule that an endorser must read a book before agreeing to recommend it. Endorsements are only meant to be opinions. So even if everyone who does read the book disagrees, it’s still not wrong. It’s just an unpopular opinion.

Sometimes, an endorsement is specific – and inaccurate. Because the endorser just guessed the content of the book. Unlike other products, people aren’t usually paid to provide a quote for a book. So they don’t tend to spend much time on the task. Which can sometimes lead to unfortunate mishaps.

Often, an author is asked to provide an endorsement by their publisher. Or they may be contacted directly by the author of the book to be endorsed. They often don’t even see the book before their endorsement is printed on it.

There are, of course, exceptions. Some endorsements are accurate and well-earned. They are written by people who took the time to read the book. And believe others will find value in it. The trouble is, it’s really hard to identify those particular endorsements.

You may be able to spot patterns or dissimilarities between the reviews and the endorsements. Otherwise, you won’t know how good the endorsement is until you’ve read the book yourself.

What’s a reader to do?

I’ve started to go back and read the endorsements again, after I’ve read a book. And do you know what? I’ve found that in many cases, I don’t agree with them. This has changed my mindset. I now view those little quotes as part of the cover design and nothing more.

The important thing to remember is that endorsements are just another type of marketing. Like book covers and ads. They are stories, designed to evoke a feeling in potential purchasers. There is no guarantee the book will deliver that same feeling.

The book and the marketing are two separate things.

How do you feel about book endorsements? Has this post come as an unwelcome surprise? Or were you always suspicious of those glowing recommendations?

How do you judge whether a book is worth buying?

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