View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Tue Aug 28th, 2007 08:57 pm
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Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420

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Booklover raised an interesting question about big-name back-cover book endorsements on a different post about the book 'Manhunt,' so I thought I'd create a thread here to explore what book endorsements really mean and if we should actually believe those endorsements.

I haven't read 'Manhunt,' but noticed that it had endorsements from Doris Kearns Goodwin, James McPherson, John Hope Franklin and Jay Winik. Booklover got me curious when he wrote " you honestly think each of the authors read the book?"

Well, yeah, I do. Call me naive.

I have no clue how book endorsements come about. Are they voluntarily submitted by those making the endorsements; are endorsements from other big-name scholars and authors prompted by the book's publishers or by the book's author to enhance sales? I don't know.

I would have to guess that those endorsing books have actually read them. Goodwin and McPherson are Pulitzer Prize winners, and Franklin is a professor emeritus of history from Duke University. I can't imagine them lending their names and reputations to something they haven't read. Wouldn't that ultimately affect their own credibility? Are they paid for these endorsements? Can this possibly be a cheesy side of book publishing we're not allowed to see? Book-ola?

During the Civil War Institute this summer, our field trip was to Fredericksburg and Frank O'Reilly, author of 'The Fredericksburg Campaign,' was our tour guide. During casual conversation it came out that Meade was one of his favorite generals and someone asked him if he was going to write a biography of Meade. O'Reilly said that he wasn't, but someone else is currently in the process, although he hadn't seen the manuscript yet. That caught my attention. Apparently, some historians share their galley proofs and manuscripts for other historians to read prior to publication. This sounds like a good idea to me, keeps everybody honest and correct, kind of like golfers keeping each other's scores. Throw in proofreaders and editors and a book gets a lot of eyeballs before it hits the streets.

(O'Reilly and George Rable, who wrote 'Fredericksburg! Ferdericksburg!,' actually shared the stage at the CWI this summer. I thought there might be professional jealousy or aloofness between them, since their books were published rather close together, but they were very complimentary of each other and seemed to get along well.)

I ask these questions because sometimes when I buy a book, I read the endorsements on the back to see who's pushing the book. The bigger the name, the more reliable the endorsement, I figure. Then I might read a couple of graphs in the book to see if the author's style captures my interest. Maybe I'll read the book flaps. But if I can't believe the book endorsements from respected scholars, what can I believe in?

What do y'all think, or better, what do y'all know about this?

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