Hello, lovely reader. It’s time for another discussion here at Of Dragons and Hearts, and this topic is important to me. I’m participating in the Discussion Challenge, so if you want more posts from bookish people chatting about bookish stuff, that’s the place to find them.
So. We’re talking about HYPE today. You know it – it’s the enormous amount of media attention a very anticipated book gets AHEAD of its publication date. Usually, this doesn’t mean a book by Stephen King or George R. R. Martin – they are established writers that will sell a bazillion books regardless of what their publishers do with the publicity (seriously, if Winds of Winter was only sold at the top of Mount Everest, people would hike up there to get it).
What I’m talking about are books by relatively new authors that need a push to help with their visibility. In the current publishing industry, hundreds of books get published every month (and that’s only in the US market, I’m sure the worldwide count would be in the high thousands), so it’s very, very unlikely that a book will “make it” unless it has a very good marketing campaign.
So publishers start creating the hype. They make the cover as aesthetically pleasing as possible. They let the author loose on social media, make book banners, announce the publication date, make bookmarks and book trailers – all this before readers (any readers, that is) even get their hands on the story. And then they send out the advanced reader’s copies (ARCs). And the bookish world explodes, because book bloggers are amazing people who are happy to shout their love for the book from the rooftops for free. There are plans for blog tours, hashtags on social media, and before long, every reader who is the slightest bit plugged into the bookish community has heard of the book before it even hits the shelves. This is what a good marketing campaign looks like.
And then the publication date comes and the book becomes available to you and you get your hands on it and … you don’t like it as much as you thought you would. And you start questioning yourself – did you miss something that others saw in this book? Then, if you trust your own opinion at all, you question the reviews you read – were they honest in reviewing the book? Were they critical enough?
I think the answer to these questions is that there was simply too much hype. I’ve written about high expectations before – about expecting too much from your favourite authors. This is a similar case. You build yourself an idealized version of the book, based on what you can glean about the story from the blurb, and there is simply no way a book can hit all your expectations (or everyone’s expectations, for that matter).
I’m not saying that book bloggers who rate the book very highly are in any way biased by the fact that they got a free ARC! It’s just that publicists are clever. They won’t send a sci-fi YA thriller to a blogger who mainly reviews historical romances. They target their audience carefully for maximum effect (as they should, it’s their job!).
This is why I’m always wary of over-hyped books. I don’t want to have unreasonable expectations but if I see only 5-star reviews throughout the blogosphere, I am very suspicious. I will usually wait a month or so, wait for the more nuanced reviews to come through so I can hear both sides of the story. Of course I often fall for the hype, too. I do. And I am, sadly, disappointed all too often. There have been gems, naturally, absolutely perfect books that are very popular, but they seem to be the exception to the rule.
I’ve thought of simply refusing to read new books. That’s one way of avoiding over-hyped books – you wait and see what happens. But I LIKE new shinies, I often can’t resist buying them. And there’s one other factor to consider: the first couple of weeks (a month or so) after the publication of a book are extremely important for the author’s future. If the book doesn’t take off in that first month, it probably won’t become a huge bestseller later on, because new books will take its place. So if I want to support the author, it’s best to buy the book immediately or even pre-order it. Do you see my problem? :)
I have no good answer to it, though. I have learned to trust several bloggers who often get highly coveted ARCs, they have similar tastes and I can usually count on liking a book they recommended. This is why I love reading other blogs! They save me from (most of) the pain of reading disappointing books.
So. What about you? Do you worry about the hype?
Do you buy all the new books or do you wait for the reviews of your trusted friends?
I’d love to hear from you! :)