>Blogs and buzz

>Here and elsewhere, there have been some valuable discussions about children’s book reviewing on blogs and an email I just got has me wondering about the distinction between book reviewing and book buzz. The email, of the multiple-recipients variety, was from Penguin: “Have you read FIRE yet? We want to know what you think! Please send me your thoughts, comments, quotes, etc. so we can get buzzing about the biggest young adult book of the year! Looking forward to hearing from you!”

I think those exclamation points will allow me to forgo another cup of coffee this morning. Fire is Kristin Cashore’s sequel to Graceling (published by Harcourt, Awkward.) and will be released in October. The buzz-begging went, I presume, to people who had received ARCs, and I’m guessing that this group includes a fair number of bloggers, given how well Graceling did among that group last year.

I wonder if book-bloggers are going to have to choose between being creators (and subsequently beneficiaries) of buzz and reviewers of books. As I wrote in the comments on my last post, reviewing a book months in advance of its publication is not particularly useful if the audience for your review is the general public. (Advance reviewing of the kind Kirkus does is useful, because it’s going to an audience–librarians–who routinely order books before publication date.) But months-in-advance is perfect for creating buzz, and blogging is a terrific medium for just that kind of publicity. Can a blogger provide buzz in advance and a review later? Does involving oneself in buzzing compromise any subsequent review? How cozy can a blog get with a publisher’s marketing strategy? And if you DO have “thoughts, comments, quotes” on a book, are you going to give ‘em to a publisher or save ‘em for your blog?

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    >This is exactly what is happening in film criticism … read the movie ads in the arts section of your paper (that is, if you still read a paper) and you'll see by and large that it's the fanboys and bloggers who are doing the blurbing now (although good ol' Peter Travers of Rolling Stone hangs in there). Publicists gather these before the reviews are even written.

    Look at Harry Knowles of the movie buzz/criticism site Ain't It Cool News and his relationship with film studios (he provides feedback on the films IN PRODUCTION) if you want to know how cozy it can get.

    I think this is where publishers can take hearty advantage of bloggers with an ego to feed, endless space to fill, and a lack of exposure to the parameters of journalism ethics. (Not all bloggers fit the description, mind you.)

    How long before children's lit bloggers are not only reading the ARCs but also providing editorial feedback? ("Um, can you tell Kate DiCamillo to go a little lighter on the ending? And while you're at it, how 'bout something in the background for Mo Willems? Maybe a tree? Or a chair? Just some grass would be nice …")

    OK, perhaps I'm being overly cynical and melodramatic. Or am I …

  2. working illustrator says:

    >I'm not sure that early reviews aren't useful for the general public. I've preordered loads of books over the last couple of years based on blog reviews.

    This is partly because, being neither a reviewer, a bookseller or a librarian, I'm not immersed in the reviewing/new titles world all the time.

    If I like the sound of something, I've learned to grab it when I encounter it, since my chances of encountering it again are not necessarily that great…

    I don't suppose this sort of pre-order will ever be a huge percentage of sales, but for publishers, it might be a diagnostic one, signaling breakout books in advance.

  3. Roger Sutton says:

    >Anon, that's just the sort of thing Anne Carroll Moore was accused of doing eons ago, and the buyers for the chains right now. So power-mad bloggers would not be the first!

  4. Natasha @ Maw Books says:

    >This is why as a blogger I don't post reviews on books months in advance. I did read Catching Fire and posted a "I loved it but you'll get a review in September" post. So yes, I totally contributed to the buzz but honestly couldn't imagine reviewing it right now. The furthest out I've gone on reviews is 2 weeks to maybe a month. I think bloggers could be both. Buzz creators by sharing their enthusiasm for upcoming books through previews and tweets but I agree reviewing a book months before the book comes out doesn't do me any good. Is it a compromise? I don't know.

  5. Anonymous says:

    >Thanks, Roger! I knew the buyers had input on cover art but didn't realize it extended to editorial.

    As for Anne Carroll Moore — always a step ahead!

  6. Anonymous says:

    >It's not just what the big chains are accused of doing. It's what the big chains do. (At least when it comes to cover designs. Content itself, I don't know about.)

  7. >As a new blogger, most of my books reviewed currently are books that have either been out for awhile or just newly released. I don't have the liberty of reviewing a book ahead of time right now. And, I really hope that my blog continues to look back at books that may not have gotten the buzz and attraction of the really popular books, but that are still worthy of reading. I think some previewing of a book is acceptable, but a full-on review before it's release date is unnecessary and a little annoying

  8. Elizabeth says:

    >Yes, I agree, we do get feedback from the chains on cover art, feedback we always listen to, and sometimes incorporate into our final jackets. But as head of the Books for Young Readers imprint at S+S and now as publisher of Egmont USA, I have never received editorial feedback from the chains. Actually, I do remember feedback on a picture book title a couple of times, though we didn't end up changing the title to suit the buyer.

    The truth is, except for national accounts buyers, everyone else in the universe feels welcome to put in their two cents about editorial, so why should bloggers be any different? I had a production person once ask me to make a Dan Gutman book "funnier," I hear a lot of "My husband thinks that's the best part of the book" when I ask for a scene to be cut as the editor of a novel, and well-meaning executives sometimes say things like "I wish The Higher Power of Lucky started more like Holes."

    When we are lucky enough to get an author to give us an advance quote, they are always kind to give us their time and generous with their praise. In addition, often the author can't help but weigh in with "But I would have changed the hospital scene to include the father" or "I wonder if the pageant should turn out another way?" They are writers, after all, so who can blame them? I remember calling Amulet publisher Susan van Metre once from an airport to tell her how much I loved Bill Sleator's latest, for which she had kindly given me a manuscript. Of course, I still had a comment to make on a chapter ending.

    So bring on the editorial comments, bloggers. We will listen to them with the same open-heartedness we bring to all editorial feedback that doesn't come from ourselves!

  9. Anonymous says:

    >But providing advance quotes isn't just "putting your two cents" in, is it? It's helping you sell the book in a way that's very, very different from indulging some random person's input and then doing nothing with it (which sounds like what happens for the most part).

    In the film world, they call the critics you see shamelessly blurbed in every ad no matter how bad the movie "Quote Whores."

    Frankly, the directive "bring on the editorial comments, bloggers" scares me. Now, not only is everyone a critic, but they're editors, too? Is there not one job in this world that requires some sort of specialized knowledge?

    Writing a children's book is already an incredibly underestimated skill; the last thing we need is more people thinking that "anyone can do it."

    And one more thing .. the less serious the criticism for an art, the less seriously that art is taken. Any legitimate art form deserves legitimate criticism.

    I know, I know, I should calm down. After all, it's "just" a children's book …

  10. Anonymous says:

    >I don't know who you are, Anonymous 5:57, but I love you.

    heducul

  11. Elizabeth says:

    >Anon 5:57, Roger warned me years ago about being facetious in print, because people can misunderstand you. But frankly, I never thought anyone would take my comment "Bring on the editorial comments, bloggers" as a serious directive! I thought they would read my entire post, and understand that I was listing husbands, other authors, production managers, corporate executives and even myself when offering unsolicited feedback as people who all think our comments are valuable when, frankly, editors usually have a clear idea of how they can best support their author and don't really want to be told to "funny something up" or make someone's writing "more like Elaine Konigsburg's." (I don't even think those two particular comments, both of which I have heard, are possible.) The editorial process is not a big tent where all can participate. Often an editorial assistant or assistant editor and the book's main editor collaborate on an editorial letter to give feedback to an author, and those two staff members are where the editorial feedback begins and ends. (I'm not including designers or art directors for picture books, who are part of the process too, of course.) Sometimes, if a book offers particular challenges, an editor might seek additional advice from more of his or her colleagues. But we present one unified front to our authors when we give feedback because we don't want them to feel torn in a lot of directions. And I have no interest in soliciting editorial feedback from bloggers! They play a very interesting, and to me, worthy, role in the ever-changing world of children's book publishing. But that role is not an editorial one. Of course, a lot of bloggers are themselves authors, and a lot belong to critique groups. And if they want to give constructive crticism to alter the course of a manuscript, then a critique group is one of the places where those comments belong.

    I'm sorry you don't see the humor in the situation of everyone thinking they have something to say editorially, but I do. It's a defense learned after years of listening to unsolicited advice.

  12. KATE COOMBS says:

    >Elizabeth–

    I thought it was really funny, actually. I'm an author, and I show my manuscripts to a few people in my family along the way, but sometimes they come up with the most off-the-wall suggestions when all I want to know is "Did you laugh every so often while reading it?" I got a little nervous when my editor brought in a second editor on a project last year–so really, thank heavens for that editorial focus and ownership you mentioned!

    Anyway, for me, blogging is about loving books–passionately, even irrationally.

  13. Anonymous says:

    >Elizabeth, you say:

    "When we are lucky enough to get an author to give us an advance quote, they are always kind to give us their time and generous with their praise."

    The original post is about bloggers giving advance quotes. Are you getting advance quotes from authors or bloggers or both or is that another joke I'm not getting? I guess what's not clear (to perhaps only me?) is how you feel about bloggers and their role.

    OK, they're not going to be helping out editorially (and, come on, 'fess up; there was at least one blogger out there who read that and started putting together a list! Oh, I know you're out there …).

    But when you say "authors" are giving advance quotes and then go on to say that some authors are also bloggers, your stance isn't clear in terms of how S&S regards the role of bloggers in its marketing.

    Well, in any case, thanks for clarifying. And, yes, I read the whole post. Both times. More than once.

    Anon 5:57

  14. Anonymous says:

    >And thanks to my double-posting, you can read my post twice too!

    Anon 5:57

  15. >I get what you're saying Elizabeth!

    It's true as a teacher, too. It's so easy to observe a lesson and have many different ideas about how you would do it in the feedback to the teacher, quite another to be the one in the hot seat making quick decisions. But ultimately, the teacher knows their student best.

    Once again, folks, we've come back to a basic condition of human nature. This is nothing new.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    >Anonymous 5:57, who are you?

    I have never asked a blogger for an advance quote, and I left Simon and Schuster in early 2007, before the YA blogosphere had exploded. I am currently publisher of Egmont USA, and our first books will come out this fall. As for the blogger's role, that's a fascinating question, being hotly debated on this blog on the thread below this one, but one thing I can say is that of course publishers are very, very grateful for people who love their books and want to talk them up on their blogs. I find the proliferation of YA blogs exciting, and it's clear the people who write these blogs are helping to promote books they are passionate about. However, I would not currently consider running a blog quote on a book jacket, because I don't feel these blogs yet have that kind of established credibility with the majority of the book-buying public. Who knows? I might feel differently later as the reliability and name recognition of individual blogs becomes more established.

    I originally commented on Roger's post because I wanted to put an end to the idea that the national chain bookstores were providing editorial feedback on works in progress to publishers. That's not true. And then I was trying to humorously point out that sometimes it seems like everyone EXCEPT the chains thinks we want their editorial feedback.

    We have indeed asked for some advance quotes from published writers at Egmont. And when those authors are kind enough to give us a quote because they like our book, we are grateful for their time, thoughtfulness and help. One two occasions a writer has also, when giving us a quote, added a small comment like "I wonder if lucy's shoes should be orange, though?" My point is that many of us think we have something to say to make a book better, and I'm sure many bloggers do too. But the only editorial advice that this editor likes to take is her own.

    –Elizabeth Law

  17. Anonymous says:

    >Just call me someone who cares. Hi-ho, Silver, away!

    Anon 5:57

  18. >Can you make my writing more like Elaine Konigsburg's? Please?

  19. Gregory K. says:

    >If the New York Times runs an article about, say, an actor and talks about an upcoming movie, can they then review that movie when it comes out? Can they write about the buzz on FIRE if it sweeps the blogosphere, thus feeding the buzz, before reviewing it? Or can we separate out the individual reviewer from the paper itself, giving her credibility because of where she works, but ignoring that where she works has contributed to buzz?

    I realize most blogs/bloggers are single person entities, but I don't think being part of the buzz negates the ability to review. Again, it comes down to who people "trust" as a source – if Blogger A is not a well known, trusted source, it is unlikely much buzz can be created by early enthusiasm. if Blogger A is a trusted source, then their opinion at any stage is of interest.

    I am sure there are ways one could be involved in buzzing that would call into question reviews (you know… taking lavish gifts and cash payments!), but simply saying early on "wow. I thought this book was great" when people read your blog because they care what you think doesn't strike me as problematic.

  20. Anonymous says:

    >It becomes problematic when the writer feels as though they can't say no to advancing the buzz or else get taken off the list. For instance, the Horn Book has the power to write a critical review or say no to buzzing and still receive ARCs. They're legit and hold sway.

    Your average blogger? Not so much. The ARCs are going to go to the bloggers who advance the marketing machine. (ARCs are expensive.) Bloggers also aren't working within set policies; ethically, they're not beholden to anyone (who's going to know if they got a lavish gift?). Many print pubs have policies in place that their writers aren't allowed to go on, say, free junkets of any kind.

    And while it probably isn't the case now with lay-offs, many newspapers try to employ feature writers to write the buzz pieces and critics to write the reviews. In the past, there has been an attempt at separation.

    Because let's face it … after you met Tom Cruise and thought, wow, he was a really nice guy, consciously or not, you just might find yourself liking his film a little bit more.

  21. Anonymous says:

    >Forget Tom Cruise … someone I know (print journalist, not blogger) had the chance to meet a HUGE celebrity children's book author and do an interview and have lunch, all travel paid for, with the tacit understanding that the resulting piece would reflect positively on the "author" and the books.

    Of course, the books sucked. Big time. He said no to the whole thing.

    What would you do?

  22. Colleen says:

    >Anon, taking something in return for a positive review of a craptastic book is a situation that has been covered already in the lit blogosphere – many times in many places, including here. And it all comes down to some bloggers might because some journalists might because some people are just like that. But over time they do get weeded out as folks determine whose opinion they can trust. And there's not much the rest of us can do about it – regardless of what field they are in or what medium they use.

    To your question of buzz vs reviews Roger, I do often excerpt Booklist reviews at my site a couple of months ahead of time or mention when I hear a book is coming out even if it might be a year down the line. I do a regular feature on the next season's catalogs that is not as in depth as Betsy's publisher previews (Fuse Number 8) but similar in nature. These aren't reviews as pretty much 100% of the time they are books I have not seen let alone read but they sound interesting to me and as they might interest my readers as well I like to mention them. (Case in point, I just mentioned that Tracy Chevalier has a new manuscript turned in hopefully for next year on fossil hunter Mary Anning.) This is such tiny buzz and as it is generated purely by my own personal literary interests I think it is just fine. For a hot book like "Catching Fire" I think what Natasha mentioned – saying she loved it and readers won't be disappointed – is an honest thing for a blogger to do. You are telling your readers that it's worth the money which a lot of them will want to know and as long as you feel that way – why not do it?

    After all, in cases like this, the author and publisher deserve the buzz they are getting.

  23. Roger Sutton says:

    >I wish I could take a time machine back to the '20s and see how Bertha Mahony dealt with these questions at the early Horn Book, because it seems to me that the kind of sorting out that we're doing is part of any new media's evolving definition of its parameters and mission.

    Colleen, I do think that your previews and Betsy's reports from publishers' showcases are definitely buzz and it bugs me, although I know that most people have no problem with it. I don't like it because you are passing along an uncritical marketing message, whether it's from the pages of a catalog or the carefully staged presentation of a publisher. It's odd that I would have both more and less respect for this particular aspect of your blogging (and I hasten to add that you and Betsy say much that I find extremely worthwhile) if you said sometimes "this book looks like it's really going to SUCK." I'd admire the fact that you were going off message; I'd hate the fact that you were judging a book by its cover!

    Catching Fire is going to prove instructive, I think. The only thing most bloggers feel they CAN say at this point is that they loved it–if they didn't, they would have to say why, thus doing that "spoiling" thing that publisher and fan base have together conspired to silence. I'm betting the marketing plan for volume three is going to be no ARCs for anybody, don't-open-this-package-before-pub-date stuff. This will work, ironically, because the publisher has already enlisted bloggers in its strategy for Catching Fire.

  24. >Journalism ethics for book coverage? Would that be the ethics the New York Times demonstrated with Edmund Andrews & his book Busted? And the fluff article about his book & economic situation that did no investigative reporting into the truth of that situation? And the NYT public editor dismissing the ethical issues? Is that the ethical standard being held out to us?

  25. >Honestly, this strikes me as another iteration prompted by the unsettled feeling some people seem to get at who has a voice that's listened to within the field. Decentralization scares a lot of people, or at least makes them exceedingly uncomfortable.

    You'll never hear me arguing that litblogs (or book blogs or whatever we call them now) serve the same function as or can replace the traditional critical outlets. Eventually blogs may take on equal weight, but because of the specialty audiences you mention there will always be a need for traditionally aggregated and known sources of reviews and criticism.

    How blogs and traditional criticism/reviewing interface with each other seems like a legitimate issue for discussion to me. I also am concerned when I see children's and YA bloggers essentially having the same arguments about coziness with publishers that litblogs focused on adult lit had several years ago. Just as with those blogs, I suspect we will see more and more cross-over of YA/kidlit bloggers writing for the mainstream press (what still exists of it in terms of book coverage, anyway), which blurs those lines further. I do hope that every blogger thinks about this stuff and develops a policy or philosophy that they're comfortable with. But I don't worry about it becoming a huge problem. Frankly, the thing about the blogosphere is that shills tend to get drowned out pretty quickly. We become imminently attuned to sussing out who is being genuine and has something interesting to say, and is thus worth listening to, and who is full of b.s. When you blog, all it can take is one thoughtless or ill-informed post to erase any credibility that you have. I think print publications have a little more leeway to screw up than that.

    On the buzz thing though (geez, I should have just made a post), I don't see the distinction between advance chatter about books by professionals in the field, which has ALWAYS existed, and advance chatter about books by bloggers. When you mentioned the Horn Book office was passing around Catching Fire the other day and gave a short assessment of it, I didn't feel you'd compromised your integrity by helping create buzz for a book in advance, something the publisher surely is happy to see. Especially since the voices of professionals tend to carry extra weight. ARCs don't just exist for reviews and previews. They have ALWAYS existed to help build early word of mouth–the more palatable term for "buzz," imo–and so the only thing that's changing is that the distribution of them has been enlarged to include independent individuals writing about books on the Web. I actually think the word of mouth network is one of best things children's lit/YA has going for it–lots of books that might be overlooked find their champions and the fact there are so many readers with authority–such as teachers, librarians, booksellers, and now bloggers–helps spread the word.

    As for blurbs by bloggers, I don't see it as a big selling point, but it very well could become one. After all, word of mouth is readers talking to other readers.

  26. Kate Messner says:

    >I predict (and hope) that we'll continue to have different kinds of book bloggers as we do now, and I tend to agree with Gwenda that it's fairly easy for a savvy reader to tell what kind of book blogger he or she has encountered.

    I'd also note that there are genuine differences between book reviews, book recommendations, and book buzz. Book reviewers — and there are terrific ones online — offer true critical reviews, whether they like the book or not. As a teacher, author, parent, and reader, I have great appreciation for these book bloggers, though I don't fall into that category myself.

    I'm in the camp that offers book recommendations – sometimes blogging or tweeting in various ways about books that I've read and liked, or books that I've read and look forward to recommending to certain kinds of kids, even if the book might not have been my personal cup of tea. I've talked about books I like online (and in person) for years, long before anyone started sending me ARCs, and the way I do that hasn't changed since the mailbox started filling up. I read hundreds of books a year, and I talk about the ones I like or think are especially good for certain kinds of readers. Do I love and share the news about everything that I read? Nope – and there are plenty of books that I quietly give away without publicly sharing my thoughts. The fact that you talk about books online and that sometimes people choose to send you galleys doesn't mean you've made any promises.

    Book buzz, I think, is another kind of blogging, and I understand why it's the kind that makes people feel a little squeamish about relationships between publishers & bloggers. But really? It's not so difficult to tell what kind of book blog you're reading, and in truth, I think ALL of this discussion helps raise awareness of books & reading. Let the conversation continue…

  27. Anonymous says:

    >Re. chains having no editorial input: Wrong. After the ARC of my first YA novel came out a few years ago, my editor at Penguin said the B&N buyer was offended by two paragraphs (which really were not especially offensive) and wouldn't stock the book unless they were changed. The book had already been typeset, so I took out the paragraphs and replaced them with two paragraphs of the same length.

  28. >In terms of Catching Fire, I'd like to point out that the early ARCs (with the secret letter) did not go to the "only bloggers" like myself, but to people like Teri Lesesne, Monica Edinger, Cindy Dobrez, Carlie Webber who review for traditional professional journals and blog. So it's hardly a marketing strategy of targeting bloggers — its targeting reviewers.

  29. Roger Sutton says:

    >I dunno, Liz–print reviewers receive assignments and ARCs from their editors, not from publishers. So the publisher has no reason to send the ARC to someone except to generate buzz independent of any review.

  30. >Roger, my point is that the people targeted for the "buzz" are not people who are part of the "book blogger" segment who seem to be the subject of the "omy gosh they don't know about ethics and they are being played" reaction. However, if these people who got the early Catching Fire ARCs ARE being targeted with that concern, then I have even more reason to disagree with the belief that people are so easily used.

  31. Roger Sutton says:

    >You're right, Liz–besides the review editors, ARCs go to anyone the publisher thinks might help sell the book. Cindy Dobrez, Oprah, etc. But bloggers publish their thoughts to audiences that regularly number in the thousands weekly, so I think it is legitimate to discuss how well individual bloggers and the blogosphere as a whole are handling the responsibility.

  32. jimmyprell says:

    >These are all excellent questions, Roger.

    I'll always remember a friend who casually said, long ago, "I learned that question that other day."

    And it hit me so clearly. The right questions are often more important than the answers.

  33. Anonymous says:

    > I do think that your previews and Betsy's reports from publishers' showcases are definitely buzz and it bugs me, although I know that most people have no problem with it. I don't like it because you are passing along an uncritical marketing message, whether it's from the pages of a catalog or the carefully staged presentation of a publisher.

    It bugs me, too. Buzz, in general, bugs and bewilders me (and leads to alliteration, apparently), but what is the crux of the matter? Are publishers' showcases the problem? Or are the uncritical reporting bloggers the problem? Is there a bad guy here? Or is it a matter of every individual blogger considering his or her blogging actions — and the consequences — carefully? Considering whether s/he is being used; deciding whether to go along with it? (Being mindful about one's buzz?)

    Incidentally, Fire is not a sequel to Graceling. It takes place decades earlier in a different land. More of a prequel?

    ~JW

  34. Anonymous says:

    >The longer the gap between the buzz and the book, the less inclined I am to want to read it. It feels, in fact, as if I already have read it, because I've read so much about it.

    Pursuant to your upthread comment, Roger, I would love to see someone disagree with the teeming hordes who seem to adore CATCHING FIRE.

    feurg

  35. Colleen says:

    >You're going to have help me here Roger because I just don't see it. I read about a book in a catalog that interests me and I post a couple of sentences describing it. The other day I mentioned that Tracy Chevalier has turned in the manuscript of a book on fossil hunter Mary Anning – is that creating buzz for a book that is due out sometime next year? (And please – it's Mary Anning.) If I write that I'm looking forward to Paul Collins' upcoming book on William Shakespeare's folios am I creating buzz for the publisher or just acknowledging that, since I have bought and read and enjoyed all of his previous books maybe i just like his work and I'm looking forward to more of it?

    We're getting dangerously close to people who love books not being allowed to ever write about books.

    And as I said before – these are not books I have bought but books I've heard about that interest me. Because I hear about them in a catalog it is wrong to pass the word along that they are coming out in a few months? Or is it wrong when I pass along a Booklist review that makes a book sound appealing? Or is it wrong if I mention a book I've read about on author's website (CHevalier) or in a magazine (like Vanity Fair) or in an interview?

    What is the acceptable source?

    Oh – and as to Catching Fire I have not read the book and likely will not (I did not read the first book) but honestly my take on all this is that it is good. I don't think anyone is faking that they adore that book.

  36. Anonymous says:

    >BTW, Colleen, just to clarify my point, I'm not seriously suggesting that bloggers who blog about books that interest them in a publisher's showcase are "bad guys" or are doing anything wrong. I think I was just trying to get to the point of "mindful blogging" as a practice. Which many, many people, including you, seem to do.

    Also, since there seems to be a wee bit of buzz building in this thread, I will add that I have read Catching Fire, and yes, it really is that good. The publishers get behind buzz and push it and it can become annoying and overwhelming… empty noise… but it doesn't mean the book isn't fantastic.

    ~JW

  37. Roger Sutton says:

    >Colleen–much as I might wish it otherwise, my liking or not liking something has nothing to do with what people are allowed to post (or say, or think)!

    I don't think refs to a Booklist review or a new Mary Anning book (jeez, children's books were crawling with her twenty years ago) are at all amiss; what I don't like is when you go through a single publisher's catalog and enumerate titles from it that you think sound good. The catalog (not Mary Anning, etc.) is the basis for the post, which is why I think of it as uncritically passing along a publisher's message. But obviously you have enough readers who find it interesting or useful, so go for it. I only brought it up because you did.

    You mention an important point about buzz–frequently, it is real and generated by true enthusiasts. It was real about The Hunger Games and Harry Potter (the first one) before that. I would never want to shut that down. I just want it to be real. I once served on a book award committee with a member who nominated every single book that publishers had sent her–she thought she was obliged; it was only polite, etc. It's that kind of thinking I object to.

  38. Colleen says:

    >Oh Roger – you don't have ultimate power? (ha)

    Now we get to the question though – what is "real" (or honest) buzz and what isn't? Someone could say Catching Fire's buzz isn't sincere because the publisher sent out so many ARCs and had them at BEA and all that but when the book is read and everyone loves it and posts that does it shift from pub driven buzz to real buzz at some point? (And I'm just using this book as an example.) As you say, if they didn't like it at the least you would hear the sound of crickets across the lit blogosphere and at most the sound of "Big Disappointment".

    As to the catalog mentions – yep, readers like them. It's about books to watch for and as I generally watch for some pretty offbeat titles, I like to do it. Having said that though, I am happy to say very negative things about books that are retreads of past titles or just sound overwhelming lame. That Candlewick title "Faust" didn't get any favors from me last month. I wrote negatively about the catalog copy and the cover and won't be reviewing it. (Lame retread doesn't even begin to describe how that one sounded.)

  39. Elizabeth says:

    >Well, several people have told me they didn't adore Catching Fire. One critic (not Roger), one agent who got a galley, and one teacher.

    I myself have several criticisms of it, which I have posted on a facebook group I started and that anyone can join called "We've read Catching Fire and We Need to Discuss." Others have weighed in there on both the pros and the cons of the story.

    It is germane to this discussion because I am neither a blogger, librarian or critic, but am considered, by Scholastic at least, to be an "industry big mouth." I got a galley because the Scholastic publicist rightly predicted that I would really like it and want to talk to other people about it.

    And back to another anon's comment about the two paragraphs she changed in her novel so that B+N and would take it. Yeah, I guess you're right, that's editorial feedback. Frankly I'm so inured to swearing, drug and alchohol use, and graphic sex being commented on negatively by Scholastic clubs and fairs,some library buyers, and many others who order books that I hardly think of that as "editorial" feedback. I'm so conscious of those issues that in certain instances I raise them with authors myself. ("Using this word may well cause some accounts not to order this book, how do you feel about that? Should we substitute something else?" or "Do the fairies need to be drunk all the time? Does that really add to your story, because it will probably cost you some sales.") Again, this is only in some cases, and please do not think I am suggesting that we constantly water down books to try to please all of the people all of the time. In these cases we weigh the pros and cons of changing the scene or the language and how it will affect the integrity of the book. And I'm sure there are people reading this blog who don't like hearing that. I don't really like it myself, and for all I know that buyer didn't like saying it about the paragraphs in your novel, but I think it's fair to tell the author what market conditions are.

    What I want to know is, why do the people who disagree with me on this blog never post their names?

  40. Anonymous says:

    >I don't think it has anything to do with you personally, Elizabeth, as the comments started out anonymously before you chimed in. And there have been plenty of dissenting anonymous comments that had nothing to do with yours.

    I don't think anyone really needs to go into why people post anonymously or not. We all know the reasons, the pros and cons, the implications about honor and cowardice, the possibilities of conflict of interest, job security, and all that.

    I was actually hoping that we'd hear the opinions of some anonymous marketing people who might feel free to spill the beans about how they regard blogging but no such luck. (Or at least not yet.)

    Do you read Editorial Anonymous? That is an incredibly helpful children's book blog, largely because the author and many of those who comment do so anonymously and therefore feel the freedom to speak more honestly about their experiences.

    I don't have the time to do it, but it would be interesting to re-cast this conversation minus the anonymous comments. Not sure it would be so diverse or balanced.

    And because it is a choice available to me and I see nothing wrong with it, I will be posting this anonymously.

  41. Anonymous says:

    >And if you look at perhaps the two most interesting pieces of information to come out of this discussion, they're both attached to anonymous comments (and, to you, Elizabeth!):

    1. The anonymous Penguin writer with the B&N anecdote (thank you for posting that!!)
    2. And your response, Elizabeth, to the anonymous person who asked you to clarify your stance on where bloggers stood in the marketing scheme contained some really interesting insights.

    Personally, I'd rather have a string of good, provocative anonymous comments (even if I disagree with them) than a string of "non" comments that seem to serve more as self-promotion for the poster than really adding anything to the conversation. (Not that we had that this time around necessarily but it does happen.)

    KP

  42. >I'm not bugged by Fuse #8. (Full disclosure: "Not bugged" as in "huge fan, read it every day.") I guess I see the blog as a wonderful children's literature gossip column. I've never gotten the sense that Betsy Bird is stepping over the line to push publishers' books; she seems very genuine. The "buzz" posts tell me what's coming down the pipeline, and the review posts tell me what she thinks of the books. She tends to be a bit sunshiney, but she also goes into great detail and reviews many books that journals such as the Horn Book don't find space for. I appreciate that!

  43. Roger Sutton says:

    >I think Fuse is great and my annoyance with her party reports is Old News. I still hate 'em, she still does 'em. I have lots of pet annoyances with blogs I like–who doesn't?

    I don't mind anoymous comments except when a) people use them to attack others by name and b) when someone anymous is engaged in a conversation with other commenters and it becomes impossible to follow who is saying what. The first problem is as old as the internet and unsolvable but if people could remember to tell us when they are posting again, in response to somebody else, I would appreciate it.

  44. Anonymous says:

    >Hmmmm….from a new publisher's perspective? The bookstore needs you to have a wholesaler/distributor, before they'll carry it, Baker and Taylor needs you to have book stores lined up before they'll distribute it-
    where does this leave me? Buzz alley. Unfortunately, just the words "create a buzz" gives me the creeps. I'd much rather ask someone in the business if they'd be willing to take a minute to review a book that isn't on some big hitters list. Alas, I have been forced to blog, but I have actually found that I have really enjoyed many of the conversations, and learned a lot, so I suppose it's a good thing. P.S. I use anonymous because it's just easier to hit that button and be done with it. :o)

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