The OF Blog: I see the book blogging equivalent of herpes has become active again

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I see the book blogging equivalent of herpes has become active again

By that, I mean the interminable cycle of talking about "hype" and "reviews."  Here are two links, one to a post that Mark Newton made, the other to one made on NextRead

Years ago, I might have been caught up in this argument enough to write 1500 words on it.  Perhaps a year ago, I might have written 1000 words.  Six months ago, probably would have been whittled down to 750.  Now?  All I can do is stop and wonder why this keeps coming up, especially since in the grand scheme of things, it matters so little.

I turn on a TV and see commercials that hint that if I use Product X that I could take years from my appearance, be 20% sexier, and be able to be happier and have more vim and vigor in my life. Compared to that, the parroting of book PR is small potatoes.  Publicity is essential for people to become aware of matters.  The underlying question, one that is barely ever addressed in these hand-wringing posts, is the apparent lack of critical evaluation and thinking skills on the part of the readers.  If people want to accept recommendations and publicist blurbs blindly and then bitch about it afterward, it's their own damn fault. Not that of the author who may be in the business of making people aware of her/his works in order to survive or a publicist who is providing catchy descriptions in hopes of doing their job well, but rather that of readers who decide to read things without thinking just what they have acquired; the phrase "trust, but verify" is so applicable here.  So until those benighted, bedazzled readers start taking more responsibility for their role in creating false expectations for a work, all of the questioning as to how "good" or "bad" publicity or "hype" may seem to be a bit misplaced.


Mark said...

Come now, Larry - surely you know how the Internet works by now? :)

Having worked in the booktrade, I think you underestimate the importance of publicity. The majority of readers make buying decisions on in-store (publisher paid) promotions, or recommendation from friends. One's top-down, one's bottom up - and an appreciation of this is important. The good and bad is basically: one is generated by communities, the other by hard cash. I know which I think is better for the booktrade.

Lsrry said...

Nah, I haven't underestimated it, rather I think that instead of just bitching about being sold a bill of goods, readers are best served being more critical of themselves. After all, I wouldn't read the Meyer books expecting great lit, despite the sighs and pleadings of countless teen girls (several former students of mine tried this), because I looked just enough into it to think, "definitely not for me."

If buyers/readers want to make uninformed decisions, they deserve some of the blame, that's all.

Neth said...

Well, you missed Sam Sykes post and the half dozen that will show up tomorrow after the weekend lull is over.

This time around I couldn't even be bothered to actually read the discussions - they all seemed to forget what the actual definition of hype is. This discussion appears to actually be about buzz, marketing, and expectations, yet they seem to think the discussion is on hype. OH well, I'm pretty sure there is soccer replay or at least baseball I can entertain myself with.

Lsrry said...

Don't forget the NBA Finals tonight, Ken! Another thing more important than replaying tired old arguments.

Neth said...

I don't know - I may rather write a 2000 word response than watch the NBA (but that's just me).

Lsrry said...

I grew up watching the Lakers and Celtics most Junes in the 1980s it seemed. It's been up to expectations so far.

Anonymous said...

"There are writers who spend more time promoting themselves than writing. They have to in order to succeed, because the quality of their work just isn't there and they know it in their hearts."

"The work is what it is. You can't change that. When there is talent on the page nothing else matters, and when there isn't nothing else can make up for it."

Dennis Etchison (June, 2000)

Joe said...

Honestly, Larry, at this point I just don't f'ing care.

I'm a crappy blogger the last couple months as it is, but I just can't be arsed to get interested in another one of these pissing matches about hype (or about damn near anything else - internet wise, not specifically in my life).

To the point - hype helps get shit on my radar. At which point I decide if it is shit I want to read, or shit I would rather ignore. I sort appropriately.

If it is shit I want to read and I don't like it, well, I just probably won't read the author again. Or possibly even finish the book. No big loss. Nothing really worth getting worked up about.

Gav ( said...

The point is really shown in the BoneShaker - enough critic of whatever depth failed to taper their hyperbole to represent the work so that verifying it was a fruitless excercise.

I just thought it was something worth exploring - and peope are scared of showing the bad about books they like as they can't seem to get the balance right so only the good gets highlighted and the bad gets brushed under the carpet.

You and Neth don't have to join in - in fact it's probably better if you just carried on regardless.

Lsrry said...

Uh... I think the point was that I was more interested in reading and deciding for myself than worrying about other reviews and what publicists send out. It just seems that the talk about "hype" just crops up like herpes outbreaks, that's all.

Anonymous said...

It's facinating to see this top down bottom down description when in fact good publicists often inject the thought into those communities or talk to gatekeepers or supply books or whatever. Which is to say that communities are suggestible. The authenticity of the initial spark doesn't bother me. What bothers me is the subsequent sheep-like picking up of that spark so that you often see little questioning of a book going on--just a virus of approval. I also think some writers get a pass based on external factors like how likeable their online personas are. In the end, especially longterm, it may come down to quality, or it may not. Some of the very best books don't find their audience or are subsumed in the hubbub of books that are more strongly hyped--have more advertising, etc, behind them. The narsty little secret is that some classics wouldn't have gotten there with an all-out media blitz. Doesn't mean they're bad books, just that others may be more worthy.

From a writer's POV, the books that need more hype are the ones that are either less commercial and thus less likely to find an audience or from the indie press and therefore have less visibility in bookstores.

I engaged in a five-week booktour for Finch last year mostly because it was from an indie and I knew in order for the book to enter into the conversation in a way equal to books from larger publishers it needed to be in the public eye longer. Had it come out from a NY publisher I wouldn't have done it, most probably. And if the book hadn't been good, the tour would've still been of use but not been as successful as it was in generating further interest.

Mostly, though, it's worth noting the book biz is very tough and I don't, as a reviewer and book features writer begrudge any effort by a publisher or writer to bring a book to my attention. The book still has to be good after it has my attention for me to cover it. -- JeffV

Lsrry said...


I pretty much agree, except that you were a bit more polite in noting these factors than I was in mentioning how tired I was of some readers abdicating their responsibilities.

Neth said...

@ Gav

"You and Neth don't have to join in - in fact it's probably better if you just carried on regardless."

Relax - I'm not attacking you and neither is Larry (well, I'm pretty sure he isn't, but I won't speak for him). We are just a couple of crotchety old bloggers bitching about one of those recurring dicussions coming around yet again.

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