Skip to main content

Puff, puff

Would you take note of an endorsement
by this man?
An almost inevitable feature of a new book is some gushing comment on the cover - known in the trade as a 'puff'. Publishers love these - but do they make any difference?

We're all familiar with the kind of thing that is put on comedy books, where someone goes entirely over the top:
Before I read this book I was in a deep depression and thought my life was pointless. Now, thanks to this book, I realize life is worth living. It is quite literally the best thing since sliced bread, and I would pay £1,000 for a copy. Or give up a lesser organ.
This reflects an underlying concern - does the person giving the 'puff' really mean it? Have they even read the book? Were they paid to say nice things? And do you care what they think?

There certainly needs to be careful selection of anyone endorsing a book. Some publishers seem to think 'if they're famous, that's good enough' - but it certainly isn't the right approach for me as a reader. An enthusiastic comment from an Only Way is Essex 'star' is not going to get me heading excitedly for the tills. In fact the matching can be quite subtle. I have seen popular maths books endorsed by Carol Vorderman, and I can imagine the publishers rubbing their hands in glee. Who could be more mathsy than our Carol? Sorry guys, that just doesn't work for me, or I suspect, most of the audience for popular maths books. I think I do take a little notice if the person making the comment is someone relevant who I respect - but that's about all.

The good news is that people don't get paid for making these comments (well, I never have) - and personally I would certainly never endorse a book without reading it first. Nor would I say something I didn't mean. However, it's also fair to say that a one-liner comment can't really capture an overall view. If you take a look at my review of the book I'm quoted on in the photo here, I liked it, definitely - but there are a few balancing remarks too. A puff inevitably provides only one side of the balance.

Overall, then, I don't think such cover endorsements are a bad thing, nor would I totally ignore them. But I only give them a pretty small weighting in my buying decision - and I suspect you do too.


  1. That's it Brian. Your science book needs omg on the front cover by a TOWIE star. Now, why hadn't I thought of that? :-)

  2. My SF novel The Sigil is weighed down by celebrity puffs from SF writers. I have no idea if they help sales, but they sure as hell make ME feel good.

  3. I would always welcome a "puff" or "blurb" from a recognized writer. It is a time-tested markleting technique that has borne fruit for many authors for some time. My only concern would be that the writer (as you indicate...) be in a closely connected genre or field of study.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope