Tuesday, 19 February 2013

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.