Best-selling books are a key factor in the world of thought leadership. After all, you never know when your CEO is going to pick up a good book in the airport and have what I like to call an “airplane epiphany.”
The success of a book, however, often is highly influenced by who praises it on the back cover. Big name testimonials — from Oprah in fiction or Seth Godin in marketing or Tom Peters (!) on just about anything — matter quite a bit.
So it was interesting to hear Geoffrey Moore, who is most famous in high-tech marketing circles for his book Crossing the Chasm, speak recently about book blurbing in the Wall Street Journal. As he explained:
There are three reasons you’d do a blurb. The first is you know the author and are completely in support of their agenda. Then, there are publishers and agents and others — sometimes they do favors for you, and periodically you should probably do favors back. The third reason is when I don’t know the author, but know they are addressing an issue that is really important.
He says he gets asked to blurb about six to eight books a year and usually blurbs about three to four. I’m not sure he actually reads them though. “I am not a big reader of nonfiction,” he tells the interviewer. “I read a lot of fiction and a lot of science books. Now I’m reading a lot about the biology of the cell.”
I guess we all can understand just how fascinating the biology of the cell can be in your off hours. But why does he read so much fiction? Does he spend time with fiction, he is asked, because it is fun to read or relevant to business?
For both reasons. If you think about how problems get solved at a strategic level in a business, it’s all around some version of scenario planning. And if you ask, “What is scenario planning?” It’s story telling. What you’re trying to do is come up with plausible stories that represent in your mind the best distillation of the economic currents and competitive dynamics you’ve been witnessing.
So there you go. It comes down to story telling. You want to win in the marketplace? You want to cross the chasm? You want a blurb from Geoffrey Moore? Tell a great story.