The Forer Effect on Books

You’re the kind of person who really tries, more so than most people even realize. You’re diligent, intelligent, and when you need to focus you can be incredibly effective at doing so.  Sure, you like to take time to decompress, and the way you choose to do so may not always be the most healthy option for you, but you never go too far and always pull yourself back where you need to be.

Does this describe you? 

It probably does.

Maybe not all of you, but most of you can relate to this. In psychology it’s called the Forer Effect, which suggests that our brains process vague personality descriptions (especially if flattering) that could apply to anyone, but we think that they exclusively apply to us and are written for us.

This is why we can read a horoscope and be amazed at how accurate it is. That’s me! This is why we believe psychics and mentalists when they tell us things about ourselves. You’re sensitive and care about others, but you have your limits!

I’m not saying there are no such thing as psychics ( that’s a conversation we can have later), but I am saying that if somebody wanted to deceive you in believing they know you, the descriptions they use can be nothing more than general statements that apply to pretty much everybody.

I think the Forer Effect could equally apply to book reviews, especially lately. If you’re a published writer, then you are aware that you can have a service wherein someone will write 50 book reviews, for a price, so you can post them all over social media and the web, and it seems like the book is getting a lot of attention.

It makes sense that it’s available today in publishing.

Your book comes out at the same time as thousands of other books, the same day, and the next day there are thousands of other books released into the world. Unless your book is published by one of the big New York companies, it will most likely struggle to get attention among the other books.

Writers post everything that they can that mentions their book, because they have to promote their own work if they want someone to read it, and that’s what mostly every writer wants, for people to read their work.

I imagine in the future, as literary publishing continues to transform to a model that fits the times and technology, the book-review-for-hire industry is only going to become more profitable. Literary writers will have a veritable smogsboarq of companies to hire, and they will pay good money.

If somebody is willing to self publish, they are paying for that service, so it seems the investment in reviews would help sell books.

But beware of the Forer Effect. Some of the services you hire may be run by the literary equivalent of false psychics and mentalists in that they can use vague descriptions that you hope describes your work. The language twists and swirls like magic throughout the pages.

It may seem difficult to write 50 book reviews, but it could be pretty easy, and the reviewer wouldn’t even have to read the book except to scan the pages for the characters name and a general plot line.

Let’s say you just published a novel, and you’re eager to get people to read it, so you hire a company to write reviews, and this is the first one they send you.

A tour de force! (Enter you name here) new novel (enter title) is excellent story about a determined (man, woman, detective, etc) named (insert character’s name here) with a lot of surprises and beautiful detail. At times (he/she/they) seems to be unwilling to make what they know are the right choices but there is definitely a conflict between what (character’s name) wants and what they need. All is rendered effortlessly in (enter name of writer)’s newest book, with a compelling story and elegant prose, which, although, at times may draw too much attention to itself, is an authentic narrative voice.

This could be a useful review for writer, and you could even quote it, so-and-so says Daniel Chacón is “an authentic narrative voice.”

Instead of calling it the Forer Effect, for book-review mountebanks, who can simply scan the pages of your book, not even read it in its entirety and write a review that you will love and that you will believe was written exclusively to describe your work, we can use a different term.

Maybe The Tour-de-Force Effect?

Throughout the years I’ve received some reviews about my books, but nobody has ever called what I have written a tour de force.

I’d pay for that shit!

I wonder how much that would cost. . .