Thursday, May 03, 2007

Whoring by any other name

From Ron at Galleycat today:

One of the most frequent complaints that book reviewers who work in the print industry have about those online upstarts moving in on their territory is the notion that blogs can be "bought," co-opted by publishers and transformed into marketing tools rather than genuinely critical forums. Of course, the idea that book publishers would view print media as a promotional opportunity never seems to occur to them—at least they occasionally recognize that some bloggers might have cultivated personal integrity without the benefit of a paycheck—but that doesn't mean the threat they perceive isn't real. Media companies are, in fact, looking for ways to get their products into more and more blogs, and they don't always treat the bloggers the way they treat book review editors, so bloggers do need to keep their eyes open.

Yesterday, for example, Dr. Blogstein got all excited about a dust jacket for the new Brad Thor thriller, The First Commandment (coming out this July). But it wasn't just a picture of an American flag flapping in the breeze that put Blogstein in such an ecstatic mood. "Brad Thor has entrusted me with a small quantity of autographed copies of the rare uncorrected advance galley proofs that ordinarily only get sent to the media," he enthused. "If you're a blogger and promise to write up a review of The First Commandment after you've read it (NO SPOILERS ALLOWED!) I'll have one of these autographed galleys sent to you!"

Ed here:

I spend less than an hour a day on line. So I don't keep up on trends and hot websites. The time I do spend is mostly on poltiical sites.

I realized this again today when I logged on to the must-read site Galleycat and found the above. Are most of you aware of this kind of whoring and shilling? This is like all those movie blurbs they run on trailers these days. 'STUPENDOUS!' mike simoleons watersmell magazine and then (change to) `FANTASTIC!' mike simoleons--all but the blurb words in tiny type that we only see for 1.2 seconds.

So wow my theory of the universe is correct. It goes this way: anything that is created for the common good (in this case honest reasonable criticism) will be co-opted within twenty-four hours. Take peniciilin after WW11 (all the deaths--as depicted in The Third Man), landing on the moon (the race for military supremacy in space), the internet (sexual predators).

And banal co-option is just as speedy--autographed galleys for a glowing internet reviews. Infomercials look downright dignified by comparison.


AtriaBooks said...

Nobody asked for a "glowing" review, just a review.

I think you're being unfair to the integrity of those citizen reviewers who take Mr. Thor up on his generous offer by suggesting that they'll blindly shower his book with undeserved praise.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe writers who are paid to write reviews for newspapers also get their books from the publisher free of charge. Right?

Ron Hogan said...

True enough--that said, those paid reviewers usually aren't told, with breathless exclamation points, that they're getting a "rare uncorrected advance galley proof," which goes beyond hyperbole into pure silliness, and they just about never get it signed by the author. (In addition to blogging, I've been a book reviewer for a little over a decade now, and I don't think I've ever gotten a signed galley, now that I think of it.)

As I alluded in my original post, from a purely marketing standpoint, I don't necessarily see anything wrong with reaching out to a fan base or even a potential fan base to create buzz (although I think we could shy away from the notion that a promotional giveaway is "generous," especially when it comes with strings attached in the form of a required review). Yes, your project has the potential to generate negative buzz for Thor's novel, but be honest--do you really expect to get many?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't complaining about reviews on the net. The net is where I get most of my information about the book world, including recommendations about what to read. I was commenting specifically on the idea of getting autographed copies as a way of influencing reviewers. I take Dr. Blogstein's word that he would write an honest review with or without filthy lucre involved. And I agree with Ron that getting an internet fan base is increasingly important for publishers and writers alike. The rules have changed. These days the net is vital to a mid-list book's success. Some day it'll no doubt play a big role in the success of bestsellers, too.--Ed Gorman

David Odeen said...

I guessed it was a clever way to get people talking about a book and getting sales out.. Say between 6 bloggers you might get 5000 readers a day to them. That tranfers into book sales.

Other then that I fail to se whats the problem. Ever tried to sell a book? Very difficult. Plus I think this is a publisher doing it not Brad