Lately, I’ve been noticing who has endorsed the books I’m reading. I find it interesting to see what names I recognize and whether I agree with their assessment of the book. However, the endorsements rarely affect my decision to read or not read the book—usually I’ve already decided that, based on the story or other things I’ve heard about the book.
For example, I was excited when Francine Rivers gave a glowing endorsement of Bonnie Grove’s book Talking to the Dead. Rivers is one of my all-time favourite authors and I was quite impressed that she read and recommended Grove’s debut novel. However, Talking to the Dead was already on my must-read list, from what I’d heard about it on Grove’s blog and other blogs.
On the other hand, I just finished reading Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner, and didn’t like it. Yet as I scanned the page of endorsements, three names caught my eye. Ane Mulligan, editor and co-owner of Novel Journey, said, “I was captivated by the appealing characters and the story’s underlying mystery.” I found myself wondering if I was missing something, that she liked the book and I didn’t. Jane Kirkpatrick and Mary E. Demuth both praised Forkner’s other book, Ruby Among Us.
I’ve seen discussions among new writers about trying to get endorsements for their work and whether endorsements really sell books. Randy Ingermanson wrote a column in the May 09 issue of Christian Fiction Online Magazine about how infrequently he endorses books. Big-name authors have lots to do besides reading new novels and writing nice things about them. Which makes it all the more impressive when I do see big-name authors endorsing books like Talking to the Dead or Ruby Among Us.
Yet I still wonder… do endorsements sell books? Do you notice them? Do they influence your decision to buy or not to buy the book?
Steve – good point. There are behind-the-scene factors, like “who you know,” that we don’t know about. I agree with you and Joanna that the “buzz” is more important – that’s why publishers are running book review blogger programs now. 🙂
It can be a tough thing not to endorse if someone endorsed your book and then they want you to endorse their book. Sometimes there might be friendships and other things factored in that we don’t know about.
For me an endorsement needs to be on top of other things, like Joanna said. If the only buzz is the endorsement, something isn’t quite right (though I have bought books because of endorsements). With the social networking now, it is easy to Google a book and see what people are saying on blogs and what the reviews are on Amazon.
It is the “buzz” that sells, and I expect that only comes with great writing.
Brenda – I agree, endorsements often just confirm a choice to read or buy the book, rather than make that choice.
vjc – most of us probably have favourite authors we stick to. 🙂
Faith – “curiosity factor” is a good way of expressing how I view endorsements too. 🙂 I hadn’t thought of questioning a respected author’s taste when they endorse a book I didn’t like. I’d probably chalk it up to differing tastes.
Joanna – I’d also noticed Peterson’s endorsement of The Shack, though again, it was after I’d read it. Word of mouth endorsements or those from friends or family are definately powerful. 🙂
The only time an endorsement made a big difference to me was Eugene Peterson’s endorsement of The Shack. In the midst of all the controversy, I felt sure that if he recommended it the book was solid. It wasn’t enough to make me read it then, but it established it as a trustworthy read.
The endorsements that shape my reading are from people I trust, whether I know them personally or only through reading. But they’re not printed in the book. They come in conversations, blogs, Facebook. If I get around to reading the ones printed in the book, it means I’ve already bought or borrowed it.
I can’t say endorsements typically influence my decision to buy or read a book, unless it’s a brand new author that I was already thinking about trying… that might tip the scales in their favor, but more often than not, I find endorsements to be more of a curiosity factor.
But it’s true… what are we supposed to think when an author we love endorses a book we can’t believe we just wasted several hours of our life on? Do we lose respect for both authors, or do we recognize that everyone has different tastes and move on? Let’s face it, it’s hard to realize an author you love happens to like crap writing. 🙂 heehee
I, too, tend to wonder what I missed when an author I respect endorses a book I didn’t care for, or when there are a LOT of rave reviews and I just didn’t get it.
But I’m still not sure endorsements sell books (at least to me). I tend to stick with authors I already know and love so don’t need the extra push to buy.
From my personal experience, endorsements have their influence.
For me, this relates more to books of authors I haven’t heard of before, but my interest is already piqued somehow. When I see names of people I recognize endorsing the author, I have used it as a confirmation to go ahead and buy the book.
A book publisher at a conference I was at recently said that, on average, a book that someone has actually picked up from the shelf gets 7 seconds attention at best.
So,with my own 7 second browse, once I’m drawn in by the front cover or title, I turn to the back side to see more, and then flip inside to see the contents page. And if there are endorsements I tend to scan those too.
If it’s a book I’ve already decided to read, the endorsements probably aren’t going to affect my decision. Then it’s more a matter of interest to see who else thinks it’s worth reading.