Thursday, November 19, 2009

Publisher marketing vs. appeal

Last week at The Book Smugglers, Ana blogged about "genre exhaustion." Wicked dukes and duchesses, covers featuring pastels, frilly bodices, and cursive fonts--Romance can be overbranded. In theory, this is supposed to help readers find books they like ("Oh, this looks like that one I just read...must be good, too!"), but I find it confusing and intimidating. First, it nullifies what little ability I have to remember the books I've read without this blog and Goodreads (The two images above are two of the less-than-10 romances I've read), and second, at first glance they all look borrrrring and the same--the sheer number intimidates me, and I have no idea what to pick.

Ana also takes issue with marketing:
The idea is “if you liked this, then you’ll love THIS too because it’s the same.” I see a lot of this, especially in the marketing materials we receive with ARCs and review copies (”This book is X meets X! Fans of X will be pleased!”). It is useful information to have for reviewers but I can’t help but to roll my eyes sometimes.
I've recently heard a similar complaint (though can't remember where) on this "It's Harry Potter with zombies and a dash of Philip Roth" marketing, but this kind of talk is akin to Readers' Advisory language, i.e., it should be a helpful tool for readers. The trick is to separate marketing speak from reviews, a bookstore's shelftalkers, and good book advice from a friend or librarian. How much can we trust the publisher's copy--sure, they're trying to capitalize on recent best sellers, but they're also familiar with the books and trying to put them in the hands of readers who will love them.

Romance is an extreme example, but generally I think this trend is based in good ideas. Publishers just need to start thinking beyond the plot when they're making connections between books.

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