Today, my dear Readers, we gather here to talk about false advertising. I have a hatred of advertising to begin with but when the advertising falsely promises a product just to get buyers, that makes me angry. We all have come across it (probably) on different occasions in our lives where we have been promised something and received something else. Or, in fact, not received anything at all. But there are products where we do not expect false advertising. Books, for one. I expect books, if not exactly as the synopsis makes it out to be, to not intentionally mislead me into thinking it contains a far different story than it does.
This thought came to mind after I read a post on Gayle Forman’s tumblr about how her latest novel had been advertised as a happy romance when it was anything but (happy). I haven’t read anything by her and so I cannot comment on the books themselves but I do know that authors themselves have very little control about how their books are marketed.
Sometimes we forget that books and writing are a business and the writer/the artist is just one facet of it. The creative part of the whole business is actually very little compared to the business part of it. And I have no problem with that either. What I do have a problem with is being manipulated by others to buy products, in this case, books, that I would not otherwise have an interest in. If you break it down, you will see that there are many ways this manipulation occurs.
First is the cover. Like it or not, agree or not, the YA genre, especially, has evolved a certain type of cover that automatically appeals to its audience because they associate said covers with books they have previously read and enjoyed. So whether the contents inside are similar to the original book or not, the cover proclaims it so just so the audience will be more receptive to it. The white girl looking broody on the cover became the cover of nearly all the books in the Teen section at one point and this is entirely due to the fact that these covers sell books. People respond to these covers regardless of the contents. Another way consumers are manipulated are by the comparisons drawn between the new book and a bestseller. How many times have you seen the words “The next ________” and rolled your eyes? And then the blurbs by famous authors whose words on the covers suggest a similarity between their works even though nothing is said explicitly. Therefore fans of one author will buy the book with the expectation that the new book will echo the loved author’s works.
And sometimes it does but there are many other times when it doesn’t. There are times when the books in question are not at all similar to what the packaging, media, hype promised and when occasions such as those roll around, the readers/consumers are blamed for having the expectations in the same place. Or, in some instances, chided for “not reading properly.” Or, and this is the best one, feeling entitled to something that the cover, the synopsis and the blurbs promised them.
I don’t think there’s anything we can do to change the way things are marketed because as I said, this is a business and mercenary tactics are to be expected for the survival of said business. What we ca do is to be aware that such things happen. Once we are aware, we will think twice about falling for the same tactics and maybe then there will be something different coming our way. It’s worth a try, anyway. Thoughts?