"If you liked Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, you'll love Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult."
Err, huh? How are these two books related? Is it because they are books written by women in the last couple of years? Or had their books turned into movies? That's like saying, "If you liked The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy, you'll love The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks." These writers have radically different styles. Kinsella writes funny, quirky stories about young single women. Picoult writes emotional, ripped-from-the-headlines stories about families torn apart.
I'm sure this title wasn't handpicked for me by someone with a great love of literature, possibly working in a special department at headquarters wracking their brains trying to find that perfect book for their customers. More likely a computer algorithm designed to sell more bestsellers. Does it work, I wonder?
That is one of the disadvantages of buying books online. I do it, of course, but I don't get the warm and fuzzies while I'm typing in my credit card number. And say what you will about brick and mortar chain stores, at least you get to talk to a real person. If you live in a small town and go there often enough, they would have to get to know you simply by your repeated presence. At least, you can ask, "What do you think...?" when trying to buy a book.
It doesn't surprise me that word of mouth is so important in the publishing industry. Readers are asking other readers for recommendations: their friends, bloggers, buddies on facebook and twitter. Everyone wants to get on Oprah because her opinion means so much to many people and those books go on to be best sellers. You want someone whose opinion you trust to offer you a suggestion, not a computer.
You can, I know, like both Kinsella and Picoult but I wouldn't pick out Vanishing Acts for someone based on the knowledge they bought Twenties Girl. I would at first suggest another Kinsella novel like Confessions of a Shopaholic. Or the quirky The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson. What would you suggest?
What do you think of promoting books in this way, if you get those emails? Do you ever buy the suggested title?