I am thinking that there should be some ethical guidelines regarding the praise that goes on book jackets.
The Pirate’s Dilemma by Matt Mason (which is excellent) features a giant quote from Seth Godin on the front. Coincidentally, Seth is quoted pretty liberally throughout the book as an expert. Or even more egregious, in Know How by Ram Charan, there is praise from the CEOs who just happen to all be subjects in the book lauded for their leadership skills. Do you think Steven Covey’s opinion that it was “brilliant and immensely practical” had anything to do with the Ram making an example of his “know how?” Which brings us to “Advance Praise” which has the balls to ignore even the pretension of propriety. Someone mailed me a book to review last week and the back cover has 13 different quotes on the back and it hasn’t even been released yet.
As books become cheaper and faster to publish and blogs become increasingly reputable as alternatives, destroying the credibility that comes along with the jacket praise is probably not the best idea. I quit Know How when I realized that Ram wasn’t going to be drawing any ethical lines between author and salesman, reporter and friend.
So where do you draw the line? I don’t think the subjects of the books should praise it on the cover, just like a newspaper wouldn’t let them write a review about it. And even more generally, it’s probably inappropriate for Google CEO Eric Schmidt to be lavishing compliments on books that “coincidentally” happen to validate the business model of his company like Wikinomics and The Long Tail. Is it just me or are these textbook conflict of interest cases?