I was recently given ten books to read, basically randomly selected, and it’s allowed me to conduct an interesting personal experiment.
I didn’t CHOOSE any of these books. But before reading each, I looked at the cover, read the jacket blurb, scanned the industry reviews, glanced at the user ratings, and then read the book — and then I discovered whether or not I liked it.
After each book, I asked myself: which of the above-mentioned elements — cover, jacket blurb, industry reviews, user ratings — were accurate predictors of my actually liking the book?
The answer? None of them! Reviews and user ratings were especially worthless — there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between books I like and the “reviewer consensus” or the “reader consensus.” (Honestly, I’ve read some books with “starred reviews,” and it seemed like the critic was on crack!)
It’s also true you can’t judge book by its cover. Well, duh!
The interesting wrinkle? The one element that was kinda sorta maybe a little bit of a predictor of my liking a book was…the jacket blurb! For one thing, a good blurb represents what the book is actually about — the genre, degree of plot, etc. Obviously that’s clear, helpful information. They also give a sense of the book’s tone, and give a pretty good indication of the book’s degree of pretentiousness (I have a very low tolerance for self-importance; humility is an author’s friend, in every sense of the word).
Who knew? You can’t judge a book by its cover, industry reviews, or user ratings, but you can — kinda sorta, a little bit anyway — judge a book by its blurb!
Or at least I can.
What about you? What do you find helpful in predicting whether you will like a book?