22 February, 2012

"Let Me Say This, About That..."

Commentary by Cherie Jung

My cranky nature has bubbled to the surface once again. (To be honest, it's never very far from the surface. But we'll save that for another commentary another time.)

My current annoyance involves three annoying trends in publishing, or more specifically in marketing. At least I hope they are trends — trends that may be replaced in the future, modified, or abandoned all together. In my mind, one leads to the other although I don't think any of it is necessarily intentional or dependent one upon the other.

Several years ago I noticed, as did others, that certain reviewers — who shall remain nameless. You know who you are as do readers — were prolifically writing book reviews that essentially all said the same thing. "This is the best book I've ever read." Hundreds of reviews by a reviewer. Really? Every book you read is that good? The best ever? Um, I don't think so. Readers, myself included, quickly decided that these reviewers were not to be trusted.

Next I noticed the "book blurb whores," as a friend calls them. Again, no names are needed. These are famous authors who claim, essentially, that each book they blurb is... the best book I've ever read. Sound familiar? Now I like to see reviews from omdb! blurbed as well as the next person, but are all those books really that good or is this some kind of variation of the old boys' club?

Which brings me to the latest variation of this trend.

I can't begin to count the number of books being released that claim, either on the book jacket or in the press release information, that this author is the "next Steig Larsson" or that "If you liked THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, you'll like..." — insert the title of the book they're currently promoting. Really? Is that true? Is that even possible?

I'm not saying it's not a viable marketing tool. Authors have been compared to each other for years in the hopes that readers who like a particular author will like another writer who writes in a similar style. That's not the problem really. The problem, as I see it, is false advertising. And I think it cuts both ways.

Here at omdb! our reviewers frequently have author preferences and style preferences. Some like cozies, some like thrillers, some like noir. Most of our reviewers read many different kinds of mysteries, some read fairly limited kinds of mysteries. Some like Scandinavian mysteries, some like WWII settings, some like ancient Egypt or ancient Rome settings.

Recently after I sent several Scandinavian mysteries that claimed to be written in the style of Steig Larsson to a reviewer, he commented that... "These are nothing like Steig Larsson's books. Nothing at all."

It got me to thinking. How is this type of advertising affecting readers? I've read the Larsson books and viewed the Scandinavian film version of the books. I thought both were well done. But they were enough. I'm not looking to necessarily repeat the experience. When a book comes in purporting to be as good as Steig Larsson, I toss it aside. Not interested. It goes into the "give it to someone else to review pile."

I decided to conduct a little experiment. Not scientific by any means, but I was curious. I asked several friends who had read Steig Larsson's books or at least read THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO if they would like to read some of the books claiming to be similar to his. The answer? A resounding "no!" Then, without mentioning the Larsson aspect, I asked them to read a few books. Not only were they willing to read the books, they later admitted they enjoyed the books.

So, what's the point? The point is, by making these not necessarily true or if you prefer, not accurate, claims in the hopes of selling more books are publishers falling into the position that readers will not only not believe the publicity for a particular book but dismiss the publisher as untrustworthy, as do readers when it comes to reviewers or author blurbs that claim everything is the best ever?


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