bibliophilic monologue · Opinion

Bibliophilic Monologues: False Advertising

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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?

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8 thoughts on “Bibliophilic Monologues: False Advertising

  1. Yup yup yup. Whenever possible I prefer to read what other bloggers/reviewers thought about a book instead of relying on the blurb to hopefully get an idea of what the book is really about. I like seeing what genre reviewers classify it as and get impressions from bloggers with similar tastes to me. However, that’s not always an option when dealing with eARCs especially. I do, however, completely ignore “the next” comparisons and author endorsements because they are pretty much never accurate in my experience. I’ve mostly been developing my ability to “read between the bullshit” and watch for warning words like “thrilling love triangle” and “heart-wrenching romance” etc, since if those are being advertised, the book is likely not for me. I love my leading couples, but they a generally characters who are dealing with important adventures and just happen to fall for each other as well. ;-)

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    1. Well said. I’m not into mushy romance either so when I get a book promising me adventure spending two thirds talking about whether boy A is better than boy B, I tend to get angry.

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  2. True Story. But, then I have a habit of making over-analyzed decisions. I go around the web first with a list of genres or authors or additional reading references of previous books I’ve liked. Then after crunching a few reviews on Good-reads, blogs and Amazon, I decide on the books I am interested in, list them. Then I….well, seek digital copies for free as samples, to skim (some call it piracy…). If I find the book worthy of being read and possessed, I buy the one with the best cover available (if it is available in multiple covers or in multiple prints) on the e-commerce sites. So, in a way, my book selection is a inside-out approach. This (false marketing) is one of the reasons I stick to classics and aged books.

    I’m more concerned with the constant barrage of advertisements and useless information/facts which I call “noise”.that is constantly emanated by any and all sources of information from TV, Internet,Radio and what not. Books, on the contrary being a passive form of information are, thankfully, devoid of adverts (Unless they are magazine). This accumulation of noise makes it difficult and distracting for better usage of my mind.

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  3. I can’t remember which book it is right now, but I recall reading one book recently and being VERY surprised at how it actually turned out because the synopsis was so different. I mean, I understand that sometimes they want to keep the element of surprise and not give everything away in the description, but I also don’t appreciate picking up a book because I think it’s going to be THIS type of story, only to realize that it’s NOT.

    Those cover blurbs, oh my gosh, I really don’t like them. Is it just me, or are they becoming more rampant these days? Remember when you could pick up a book and read the actual DESCRIPTION OF IT on the back? No. Now all you get is a bunch of sentence fragments describing the book in a positive light. Honestly, I don’t care what other authors liked this book. I want to know what the book is ABOUT! Grr.

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  4. Perfect image is perfect. RAISINS IN COOKIES. WHYYYY.

    Ha, it’s funny to me that Gayle Forman inspired this. My issue with JOY was that it WAS a romance, happy or otherwise. Sigh.

    It’s the comparisons to other pop culture which really bug me. The Hunger Games and Graceling are particularly sorely misused. I mean, I really liked Cruel Beauty, but Graceling? Any connections they have could be better represented by a comparison to something more similar. Plus, though I get that marketing strategy, if you compare to something amazing, you’re setting unhelpful expectations and standards. I’m hoping to see that lessen. In some cases, like Being Sloane Jacobs, the comparison marketing is on point, so I’m fine with it, but that’s rare.

    Like you, I typically avoid blurbs, because they can be spoilery and misleading. if I’m on the fence about a book, I will read the blurb and will look for warning signs (mention of a mysterious hero/focus on romance over plot in a genre novel or stupid names).

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