The Gauntlet of Hyperbole

Kenny Brechner - October 16, 2014

A great deal of work goes into bringing a professionally published book to market, which is why  it is painful to see that work needlessly undercut as it nears the finish line. When Edelweiss first became coin of the realm, the markup notes were written by individual reps and the buying experience was a direct extension of the traditional rep and buyer interplay, built as it was on mutual knowledge, respect, candid information, trust, and good faith. While some reps continue to produce their own markup notes, there is a distressing trend to having it outsourced to markup note writers who produce fatuous streams of hyperbole mixing in dubious comparisons to successful books and authors with long strings of adjectives, all of which results in “a light that illuminates nothing,” as Tolkien put it.
Ask yourself whether the following markup note in Edelweiss could possibly tell a professional buyer anything at all that would justify a buy:
“Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the 21st century that goes into some of the darkest, most ultra-Dickensian places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement – and a great gift for its publisher.”
Is it helpful to be told that
“Russell writes with a force that feels nearly explosive; his prose teems with the hyper-connective, barely controlled genius of early David Foster Wallace or Dave Eggers, paired with the gonzo risk-taking and off-the-grid sense of mission of a young Hunter S. Thompson.”
What can we, as buyers take from the information that a given book features
“a wholly original and unforgettable story about our relationship with an animal that has mesmerized us for centuries.”
Or that readers are represented as being in a position to
“Discover the wonder of water in this refreshingly fun and fascinating exploration of rain, raindrops, and the water cycle.”
Or celebrate
the littlest members of the family in this soothing ode to all the wonderful bits and pieces that make up a cuddly, snuggly baby.”
One wants two things from an Edelweiss markup note: candid information and candid opinion. Factual information by itself comes a little short of the mark, as you can see here.
“While the Moonbear stories deal with the many wonders of nature and the outdoors, the Bear in these books is a bit younger, wears clothes, lives with his mother and father and has adventures that are family, school, neighborhood, and friend-based.”
Still, that is a good deal more helpful than pure hyperbole. As here.
“A paradigm-smashing look at the core happiness problem of our era – the feeling that we are too busy, exhausted, or stressed-out to truly enjoy all life has to offer – as well as a surprising and scientifically-proven equation for turning stress into productive energy and busting out of your rut.”
It’s difficult, however,  to bust out of your rut when reading markup notes like that, one after another. When we are continually conjured to…
Imagine The Secret Garden for grownups – a group of misfits who happen to be related to each other, trying to capture the magic, trying to grow strong, trying to grow together, trying to pass down all that is good, all while weeding out that which is not. A search for family, community, and a better life, all inspired by flora.
And that’s the difficulty. How can we go through a catalog with 900 titles and “pass down [to our inventory systems] all that is good, all while weeding out that which is not,” if the markup notes are meaningless drivel whose function is to hype the book to the skies no matter what? This practice is deadening, counterproductive, and, most of all, unfair to everyone who worked so hard on these books.

1 thought on “The Gauntlet of Hyperbole

  1. Carol Chittenden

    However, we hear from sales reps that they’re penalized for voicing actual opinions, either positive or negative. Candor is unwelcome. And with hundreds of titles on a list, it’s no wonder the writers lapse into repetitive babble at times.


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