Experimental Results: Liars and Outliers Trust Offer
Last August, I offered to sell Liars and Outliers for $11 in exchange for a book review. This was much less than the $30 list price; less even than the $16 Amazon price. For readers outside the U.S., where books can be very expensive, it was a great price.
I sold 800 books from this offer—much more than the few hundred I originally intended—to people all over the world. It was the end of September before I mailed them all out, and probably a couple of weeks later before everyone received their copy. Now, three months after that, it’s interesting to count up the number of reviews I received from the offer.
That’s not a trivial task. I asked people to e-mail me URLs for their review, but not everyone did. But counting the independent reviews, the Amazon reviews, and the Goodreads reviews from the time period, and making some reasonable assumptions, about 70 people fulfilled their end of the bargain and reviewed my book.
There were some outliers. One person wrote to tell me that he didn’t like the book, and offered not to publish a review despite the agreement. Another two e-mailed me to offer to return the price difference (I declined).
Perhaps people have been busier than they expected—and haven’t gotten around to reading the book and writing a review yet. I know my reading is often delayed by more pressing priorities. And although I didn’t put any deadline on when the review should be completed by, I received a surge of reviews around the end of the year—probably because some people self-imposed a deadline. What is certain is that a great majority of people decided not to uphold their end of the bargain.
The original offer was an exercise in trust. But to use the language of the book, the only thing inducing compliance was the morals of the reader. I suppose I could have collected everyone’s names, checked off those who wrote reviews, and tried shaming the rest—but that seems like a lot of work. Perhaps this public nudge will be enough to convince some more people to write reviews.
EDITED TO ADD (1/11): I never intended to make people feel bad with this post. I know that some people are busy, and that reading an entire book is a large time commitment (especially in our ever-shortened-attention-span era). I can see how this post could be read as an attempt to shame, but—really—that was not my intention.