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This article is probably a little harsh on blurbs and has a tendency to over-generalize.

Done right, a blurb can have value. The value of a blurb can be expressed as a mathematical formula:

Value of the Blurb or Blurb Value = C * P * R or f(CPR)


C = Credibility of the person providing the blurb

P = Passion with which the person provides the blurb (i.e. blurb should summarize book and mention why it is blurb-worthy in a clear way.)

R = Relevance of the person providing the blurb to the target audience

A blurb provider with a seemingly lesser social influence (say with a readership running into hundreds) can potentially be of more value to you if the blurb looks authentic and the person providing the blurb operates in an area similar or identical to yours and enjoys trust from his or her followers.

Bob Sutton

All, this comment is from Harry Beckwith, who is the author of multiple bestsellers including Selling the Invisible and The Invisible Touch. There was technical glitch and he couldn't post for some reasons. So here is Harry's comment on blurbs:

Delighted to make my first post on a favorite blog.

I've studied testimonials.

One related discovery: The enthusiasm of local movie critics often relates inversely the eventual local box office for a movie.

Second one: After a year and a half of speaking all over the world, and receiving unbelievably passionate responses from attendees, I posted the best of them in printed materials and my website, certain that everyone who read them would sign me to speak. Swedes, P&G CEOs, Fortune 20 marketing execs, all with wild praise.

Deaf ears. Lots of gigs, but many who went "in another direction." (A few probably hired you instead.)

Theory: Testimonials have been abused into meaninglessness.

How book testimonials work, true story--as you know. A letter or email arrives. An author would like you to blurb his book. A sentence with some variation of "to make it easier for you, we have written three testimonials. You can just check which one you like."

Also true. "If you'd like, we can send you the manuscript, or just a few chapters." In other words, "Could you rave about my book without reading it?"

That said, a review from an author with the guts to use "that" word in his book title might have some weight. But that's the least of several reasons I recently asked you to look at my manuscript. Thanks for all your good work,


Christine Ellen Goepfert

Well, I just browse blurbs and I actually never read one which was captivating. Lots of blurbs and no summary = no buy. As you say, it is praise, and in this country everybody praises everything, so who would believe it anyway?

kathleen carrico

Book reading takes time, as does movie-watching. A good movie preview affects my decision to watch or not. A referral from a reputable blogger makes me want to preview a chapter or less. If I like what I read (preview) I will buy and read the book.

CV Harquail

Hey Bob-

My bet is that the title of TNAR is what caught initial attention and alerted potential buyers. Then, of course, the content sold them.

Ian Ayres (Yale Law) did an interesting google-based randomized study testing names for his Supercrunchers book and then again for his upcoming book (name unknown to me), and was really surprised by (1) the power of the name and (2) the difference b/w names he liked and names that worked.

But I think the best models out there for thinking about selling books these days are Jonathan Field's Tribal Author concept, and the work-in-progress that is the marketing of The Happiness Project (which, not coincidentally, follows Field's model). You already have 75% of that model underway -- though you may not be aware of it in that way. The pieces of that marketing model that you are potentially set up to do but may not have considered could be what takes this next book to the best seller list 4 weeks earlier.

Cindy O'Keeffe

You can put me in the "no-blurb" column. Seems like a beauty contest with little substance and a reshuffle of the same superlatives.

I'm influenced by intriguing titles that tell me exactly what I'm getting, recommendations from people I respect, and smart reviews from blogs, magazines and sites like amazon.

Look forward to Bosses. Happy to review on my blog if you'd like.


Most blurbs are generic; you could copy paste the same blurb for different books. I do read them but i'm looking for something in them that tells me this person actually read the book before writing it.

Amazon reviews are important and a blog post by someone i'm influenced by would have a definite impact.

But i think the first most important thing that puts any business book on the path to become a bestseller is its name. The name has to stand out and resonate with the majority, perhaps even be controversial like the "No Asshole Rule" was. It would be an interesting test to just print two covers for user testing from say 10 ppl. The first cover can have the name of your latest book on it "Good Boss, Bad Boss: How To Be The Best .... and Learn From The Worst.". And the second can have something like "How not to be called an Asshole-Boss behind your back! ". I'd love to find out which cover the test set of users are more curious about.

John C. Horton

Bloggers vs blurbs? With 2,000+ business related books published each year, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. At a very basic level it seems to be about cutting through the fog and winning the struggle for awareness.

In that context, book titles seem to matter a great deal. Jim Collins once told me that he was “very fortunate” to have great names for his first two books (consider the brevity, number of syllables and rhythm of “Built to Last” and “Good to Great”). Easy to say, easy to remember and easy to repeat. “The No Asshole Rule” may not roll trippingly off the tongue in 3 syllables, but it is a fog cutter!

Awareness may get it going but readable, credible, and usable content keeps it going/growing. Bloggers and word of mouth rule here. I believe blurbs lose what little value they may have very quickly in the word of mouth process. I care most about what MY trusted sources say about a book.

In a previous business (what is now The Leadership Forum at Georgia Tech), I spent a great deal of time reading, reviewing and asking about books (and their authors) in order to provide my senior management audience with great content, speakers, and experience. We discovered that success in the selling process was heavily dependent on how we themed (titled) the series and each session within the series. Relevant translation: book titles sell books; book content creates followers.

Bret Simmons

I don't pay much attention to the blurbs. I pay more attention to the Amazon reviews and to independent blogs. Seth Godin does a great job of promoting his book through blogger reviews. He set up a system where if you gave $30 to charity and agreed to blog about the book, you could get an advance copy free. It was a great deal. Bloggers actually read the book so you get better feedback.

Rod Johnson

Bob, I think you raise an even bigger question. Why are books so steeped in tradition (aka, this is the way its done), vs. the innovation side of the equation which you teach and deliver on a daily basis. Today with ebooks taking off, traditional bookstores sliding, book reading weak, the challenge to promote a book and its ideas are greater than ever.

Personally, as an author myself, endorsements through blogs is more important "and more sticky" than most backcover endorsements. But this raises a question. What can you do with the back cover to sell the ideas within? Just in case they were to pick it up in a bookstore.

Elad Sherf

I know that I always read the blurbs but I they usually don't make or break it for me. On the other hand, I made a few additions to my list based on blogs and services like Readit4me. I saw in the last few months the buzz around Drive and Linchpin and I think a lot of it was because of so much blog exposure... If you can, I will go with both. If you need to choose - blogs are the choice for me...
However, being a devil's advocate here... is this question on the blog here that will be read by blog readers a good sample on its own???


I'm curious, did you actually try to measure the impact of advance blogger copies? Or could it just be chance (or the title!) that led to more sales? And how did you find the right bloggers?


I think blurbs are overrated. If they are from clients of a consultant or something similar than they work as testimonials.

And of course, if you're not famous they sort of help. Still, I think the act of a forward from a better known author than oneself goes a lot further.

(Does this mean I shouldn't hit you up when I need a blurb?)

Chip Overclock

As an avid reader (of pretty much everything), blurbs have a definite impact for me: a blurb by someone I disrespect or actively dislike can be a deal breaker in terms of my buying a book. Other than that, I don't pay any attention to them at all, since they carry no actual information content.

Nathan Stehle

Personally blurbs do not affect my opinion of a book much, if at all.

Consider that books are so easy to order online. So, if a blogger (such as yourself) posts about a book with a link, if it matches my interest, I'll at least pull it up and look it over. If it looks to be worthwhile I'll put it on my Amazon list. Reader reviews can also be helpful on Amazon.

Unless it is a home run blurb from someone who is well-known and influential, it seems like it would have minimal impact. Whether someone I've never heard of likes a book means very little.

It is a small data set, but at first pass it makes sense.

David Maister

You're right on the money, Bob. My experience (with 13 books)is that there is no measurable effect from blurbs, except maybe one or two to introduce and lend a little credibility to a first-time author.

Carol Murchie

I bought "Knowing-Doing Gap" based on the table of contents--the chapter headings resonated so vivdly for me. But then I am a lapsed librarian, and an INTJ in the Meyers-Briggs world so I may be abnormal.

Being interviewed by Bill Moyers is a good bet with me, too.

But stepping out of my weirdo-role, any media exposure including blogs is probably better than blurbs. Unless you use Bruce Springsteen and people think it's an expose on him.

Sorry, couldn't help myself.

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