Promotional praise – how does it work?

What do we think about the promotional praising that occurs in and on books? You know, the quotes from authors, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses etc, praising the shit out of the novel you’re about to read. Are these genuine?

I’ve always wondered because, if they are for real, then they offer a real insight not just into the book you are about to read but also into the person who wrote the comment. Reading a writer’s work can only tell you so much about them, but knowing what they like to read or what they consider good writing gives us a much deeper look into what they are like as people. This really appeals to my fangirl side – yep, I am that much of a book nerd. Markus Zuzak is to me what Zac Effron is to normal girls (although, Effron is that to me also…). So, if I see some Zuzak praise plastered all over a book, I want to know it’s for real in case I hate the book and I have to forget what Markus and I had.

I recently read a book that I absolutely hated. I thought it was utter shite – not just the story, but the writing as well. Just as I was abandoning it to the Lifeline pile (hey, one person’s trash could be another person’s treasure) I noticed that Peter Carey had written a big old juicy compliment about it, saying something about how much he loved the book. WTF? How could my literary hero have gotten it so wrong? Is he friends with the author and just wrote that as a favour? Did his publisher make him write it, because this book was published by the same mob? Or did he not have anything to do with it? Maybe, once you are published by a company, they own the rights to your public opinion. (I’m really hoping it’s the last one.)

Tell me, people in the know, how do these things work?

9 replies »

  1. They’re brilliant marketing ploys, aren’t they? I know if I see a book being endorsed/blurbed by Melina Marchetta, I’ll move heaven and earth to buy that book. Not even kidding. And I’ve been burned before, sure. The good thing is, Ms. Marchetta doesn’t endorse too many books.

    Great points!


  2. I actually don’t like it. I notice that lots of books don’t have a synopsis of the book on the cover but instead have lots of quotes of praise. Like you, I’m not sure how legitimate they are or how taken out of context, perhaps, like a movie quote that says “Great movie!” when the quote might actually have said “I had great fun actually ignoring the movie!” Sometimes if you parse them very carefully, you can tell the writer is trying to find something positive to say. Anyway, I would much rather know what the book was about than read how 30 different writers think it is wonderful. Shelleyrae’s comment is really interesting, and I have noticed that often the quotes are about the previous book, which doesn’t really tell you anything about the present one.


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