And I quote, from front and back covers and preface: “The Ultimate Photographic Guide. This definitive field guide . . . innovative photography . . . A unique fully integrated photographic approach for quick and easy identification of birds in the field . . . No other work offers, for every North American bird species, the same combination of stunning iconography, including beautiful photographs and precise distribution maps; scientifically accurate and readable accounts of salient characteristics . . . Furthermore, no other bird book introduces, in such an up-to-date and lavishly illustrated manner . . . ”
Yikes. Browsing through my new bird book for the western region of North America – the book I intend to leave in a box in someone’s back room here in Phoenix until my next sojourn in the Sonoran Desert – I begin to feel as if I might not be treating this innovative and stunning book with sufficient respect.
Worse, I begin to feel as if I might have missed the boat in selling my own book. I did use “indispensable” on the front cover but in a humorous context, and the back cover explains what the heck it’s about and offers an endorsement, but otherwise I am pretty much relying on its content to sell it.
Starting in marketing, lo, these many years ago now, I was startled if not horrified at the boasting tone of so much of what I read. Over the years my line moved, but I still cringe at a writing style that modifies every noun (definitive field guide, stunning iconography, salient characteristics . . .), especially without providing any, you know, data to support such claims.
I see different words in Proposal Land than in Publishing Land: words like world-class, state-of-the-art, rich, robust, extensive . . . You get the (stunningly depicted) picture. If I can’t persuade the writer or the executive in question to dispense with such content-free modifiers, I try to get quantifiable or at least verifiable data to soften the impact of that tone.
But here’s a book that’s been through Publishing Land and that uses words similar to those I eschew. (Bless you.) (Thank you.) For my book, have I erred?
I don’t know. Tolerance of, and requirement for, a sales tone varies by person as well as by application. Me, I didn’t even read the cover or the preface of my new bird book until I got it home. In the store, I noted its source (a natural history museum of good repute), and then flipped it open to see how it was organized and how the information was presented. I read a few write-ups. Then I did the same with a few other books. How potential buyers of my book will tackle the go/no-go decision remains to be seen.
As for Proposal Land, have I erred in trying to drive out over-modified and under-substantiated claims? Nope. And you can take that as your definitive guide.