Advertisements in Books

Compared to TV shows, movies, and radio programming, books seem relatively advertisement-free. But the ads are there; they’re just more sneaky, subtle, and insidious*.

Look at any book you happen to have on hand. Do you see the ads? You see the blurbs, right? See how the blurbs include not only the names of those who penned them, but the names of other books that they’ve authored. Of course, these insertions of other people’s books function as a way of vouching for their credibility in praising this one. However, it’s just as likely that these mentions are part of the give for the blurbers to commit to providing their flattering statements. “I think your book is good, and I’ll be happy to blurb for it. You’ll mention my book under the blurb, of course?”**

Now open the book. See the author’s bio? What does it say? Does it mention other places in which you can find the author’s writing?*** This reference to (presumably) prestigious places that have published the author too serves the dual purpose of persuading a potential consumer to buy the book in hand and to alert the convinced reader to other things he can consume by the same author.

Nowhere does the advertisement stand naked and pronounce its presence more than on the “Also by the same author” page, however. This page usually occupies the verso of the half-title page, and for the prolific author, can be an advertisement for quite a number of things indeed. For the first-time authors, other things — other books in this series, forthcoming projects, even publicity for other people — can take this place****.

Frankly, I like these ads. They’re informative, and sometimes, they pique my interest enough to make me look for the things that are mentioned in them. In inducing me to buy these other things, however, money speaks louder than most. Give me a discount (“use this code and get other books in the series for 50% off”), and your advertisement just jumped in effectiveness.

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*: In a quaint “but don’t you want to read more?” kind of way.

**: e.g. “Now and then, ingenious insight yields an authentic work of genius.” Sean Wilentz, Professor of History, Princeton University, and author of The Rise of American Democracy — as described in his blurb to David Post’s In Search of Jefferson’s Moose.

***: e.g. “His articles have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker. He is a frequent contributor to National Public Radio and lives in Washington, D.C.”. I’m a bit befuddled as to why so many authors’ bios mention their city residence. Is it to convey proximity for speaking engagements, do you think?

****: e.g. “LAW AND CURRENT EVENTS MASTERS David Kairys, Series Editor”

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