On Bad Book Titles And Good Content

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On Overstated Book Titles by David Merkel, CFA of the Aleph Blog

I have a problem with book titles.  They are often inflated far beyond what the book actually states or proves.   I have a few in my hands now, and it burns me, because the books in and of themselves are good, but they don’t reflect the title.  The title makes grandiose claims, and then there is not enough in the book to back them up.

I will review in the next few days, The Secret Club That Runs The World.  Great book with a lousy title.  Sensationalistic, and I bet the marketers at the publisher created the title.  Why do I think this?

I have a lot of respect for Larry Swedroe, but I trashed what was a good book in my review of Think, Act, and Invest Like Warren Buffett.  Honestly, I wish I had approached Larry first, before posting my review, because the title was not his idea, but that of the publisher.  The original title “Playing the Winner’s Game” would have gotten a five-star review from me.

And yet, I am coming to realize that publishers, manipulate people through titles.  Make them sensational.  Make them offer a solution to an impossible problem through a title, and the book does not deliver.  Really it stinks.

But here’s my specific problem: when I write a negative review (usually 3-star) of a good book that overstates in its title, I tend to get a large number of negative votes at Amazon.

To use a term from Cramer, book publishers are in the OPUD game [Over-promise, Under-deliver].  That works for a while, but eventually it dulls people from buying books.  Far better to borrow it from the library, even via Inter-library loan, than pay up for a book where title promises aren’t delivered.

To publishers: honesty is a basic objective of publishing; do not destroy your franchise by creating deceptive book titles.

To the public: look at the books before you buy them, and do not buy books that overstate what they actually deliver.

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