The Language of Promotion

When we pick up a book, aside from the cover itself, what can attract us is the ‘elevator pitch’ for said book. Most times this is a sentence written by another author (usually famous and a big name in the same genre of the book) or from the publisher themselves. It can even be a line from a review (usually by Kirkus Reviews or someone similar). This sentence tries to entice you in as little words as possible to buy it (or not, in some cases).

The thing is, I believe a lot of time this elevator pitch is code. Sort of like how real estate agents use their codes to sell houses. “A fixer-upper” or “renovator’s delight” is code for something run down and unliveable next to a swamp or built on a graveyard. While, “Close to all amenities” means you’re going to be living in a crowded urban jungle with neighbours banging against the walls when they copulate or argue…or both at the same time.

So what are some examples of “book promo code” then?

  1. Densely written masterpiece” is code for the writing is so stodgy and laden with metaphors and descriptions, that you’ll need a respirator to get through the first 50 pages. If you last that long.
  2. My new favourite author” is basically saying the reviewer probably had a beer at the pub with the author and thought they were okay. Probably has nothing to do with the contents of the book–unless a packet of crisps was also included with the beers. Then it may reflect the work. It’s a guess really as to what this actually means.
  3. A stunning story full of wonder” is definitely code for the person who really hated this book and could only think of a cliché to describe it because no doubt they were paid to do so and had to come up with something. Anything.
  4. And finally, one of my favourites: “A ground-breaking, genre busting marvel” or words to that effect. This is basically code for “I have no idea what the fuck I read but maybe you’ll have better luck than me making sense of it.”

You get the idea. There are so many, many more. Then again, like all marketing – publishing included – the publisher is trying to sell the sizzle not the steak. I get that. Which is why I don’t take much stock in elevator pitches. I actually find books without any ‘expectation’ imprinted onto me more enjoyable than those that do. But that’s me.

I hope you enjoyed my little tongue-in-cheek post today.

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