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>For reals?

>I’d like to take a moment to thank HarperCollins for putting a nail into the coffin of a word that’s long outlived its usefulness. Explaining their plans to publish a series that will provide opportunities for product placement, Harper children’s boss Susan Katz explains:

“If you look at Web sites, general media or television, corporate sponsorship or some sort of advertising is totally embedded in the world that tweens live in. It gives us another opportunity for authenticity.”

So that’s what we’re calling it now.

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.



  1. >Hurrah for Rupert Murdoch and
    his high-principled publishing house! It’s taken a while for Harper to own up to their basic instincts – but now we know!

  2. >Shop, tween, shop! What horseshit.

  3. >I’ve been thinking about how to respond to this. But I’m so disgusted, I can’t think straight.

    I mean, even if we begin with the assumption that any work of “literature” peppered with brand names means a shelf life of about 7 years, we understand such an approach is limited. And, then add product placement to the mix and it’s just gross, gross, gross. GROSS.

    See, I can’t even process this. It just makes me sad.

  4. Chris Barton says:

    >Maybe the interview with Susan Katz was a phoner, and the Times reporter simply missed the air quotes.

    That would be better, right?

  5. Editorial Anonymous says:

    >If children are already self-identifing with brands, who are we to encourage them to have an idea of self outside of consumerism?

    I wonder if being an authentic poisonously mercenary boob helps her sleep better?

  6. >Love your tags….

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    >I guess we know where EA doesn’t work. Or do we? 😉

  8. >Will Max have a Coke in his very own room waiting for him and it was still cold in the next edition?

    I’m also waiting for that certain publisher to realease their Oprah Children’s book! It’s coming right after the Jenna and Laura
    Bush one about the boy who didn’t like to read!

  9. She who for the first time is ashamed of her profession... says:

    >Man, it is so darn easy to pile on here. I could almost justify the use of product placement, really, but having the cojones to call it “authenticity?” This from the house that Ursula Nordstrom built? Does anyone know if Ms. Nordstrom was cremated? If not, she’s rolling in her grave.

  10. >”She who for the first time” brings up a good point. Anyone want to defend this “authentic” enterprise?

  11. >Your post almost made me spill my Tetley tea all over my Microsoft keyboard!

    I think I better go have some Dove dark chocolate and CALM DOWN.


  12. Roger Sutton says:

    >I keep tellin’ you, B. There’s no money in mass market.

  13. Kelly Fineman says:

    >The “balls” tag says it all, Roger, when authenticity=commercialism.

  14. >I remember what happnened to Dav Pilkey when Spam (the canned ham stuff) appeared on the cover of the First Dumb Bunny Book. The Hormel Company wasn’t amused and they covered it (Spam) up with those silly Too Dumb To Win An Award Stickers. If you have a first edition you have Spam!

  15. >With a tip of the hat to M.T. Anderson–

  16. earthiegirl says:

    >I remember a few years ago when SpiderMan 2 was coming got, Bud Selig the commissioner of baseball wanted to rent out the base pads. They were going to put spiderwebs on the bases or something like that. Baseballs fans were outraged and spoke out. This idea never came to be thankfully. So maybe HC can learn from baseball. Hopefully if there is enough backlash this won’t happen at all or not for long

  17. >And here I was hoping the word was “tween” or “embedded”.

  18. >More news from the chilit industry: see today’s New York Times art section piece on James Patterson martketing campaign. I particularly liked the bit on flap copy style. No mention of product placement yet, but that will come.

  19. Will Write for Food says:

    >As a starving children’s author, I could find a smidge of justification in it if the funds for having Mr. Jinx eat Friskies and only Friskies before he saves the world in Mr. Jinx Saves the World (and Friskies) would come to me, but I think we can safely say that isn’t going to happen.

  20. >Hey, Roger. I tried my hand at product placement today. I hope it works!

  21. Colleen Ryckert Cook says:

    >There’s a sour taste in my mouth and heart right now.

  22. >And think how DATED a book will seem–and it will happen almost instantly. If they think the tweens of 2008 will be carrying the shoes and wearing the same clothes as the tweens of 2010, they are not paying attention.


  23. >Could she have meant that, by virtue of the author’s using the names of real items as seen in real life, young readers will feel the characters actually exist in the real world? Bright Lights Big City for the younger set (sans cocaine). Ho hum.

  24. >Anon 4:42 AM (!)

    I’m sure that is what she meant, and there is an interesting question in there somewhere about the extent to which our and kids’ lives are genuinely tied up with brands and products. But the obvious problem with HC’s approach is that when you accept money from sponsors as a way of deciding what products your characters will use for purposes of constructing (a shell of) an identity, then you undercut whatever interesting qualities the idea might have held.

  25. Roger Sutton says:

    >In today’s Metro there’s a quote from a Kosovo imam explaining his nascent country’s version of Islam: “Our Islam is ‘lite’–like Coke Lite or Marlboro Light cigarettes.” So, yeah, brands are part of our “authentic” discourse. But I’m with the most recent anon. in thinking that auctioning brand placement to the highest bidder nullifies whatever verisimilitude the author was attempting. And if it doesn’t matter whether the character drinks Coke or Pepsi, than either name is merely a distraction.

  26. Roger Sutton says:

    >if/thEn. Why can’t we edit comments?

  27. >Roger, do you honestly think the authors of the tween series Susan Katz describes are going for “verisimilitude?” What does it really matter if a character has hair “the color of potato chips” or “the color of Lays potato chips?”

    It sounds to me like this is just one more foray into the well-traveled Land of Dreck. You know Harper will milk money out of an idea in any way it can, and other publishers will be watching to see if it works.

    The whole idea could backfire on them completely, though. The tweens who are so brand-name conscious that they care if a character carries a Juicy bag are the same tweens who will mock the character mercilessly for doing so when Juicy goes out of style. They are a cruel and fickle crowd, and the amount of time for a product to go from “What’s Hot” to “What’s Not” is, hmmm, let’s see, about the same amount of time it takes to go from manuscript to reader.

    I will laugh my ass off if the brains at Harper are so misguided they think they keep up with tween trends, and end up being ridiculed as just one more group of clueless adults.

  28. >Of course RS doesn’t really think that. No one does. But it is the line that HC trots out as an excuse, so a critique of it is in order.

  29. Brian Floca says:

    >I’d like to see this brave new series develop along the lines of the old Choose Your Own Adventure titles:

    “That was it, then. If Hendrik and his cousin from the city were going to be at Gerrit’s poetry reading, then Tamara knew what she had to do. She reached deep into the armoire and took a firm grip of her ____ jeans.”

    J.Crew, hip-slung, resin-rinsed washed: Go to page 36.

    father’s unwashed button-fly 501 Original Levi’s: Go to page 12.

    Jordache: Step away from the book.

    Live the brand! Live the adventure!

  30. >LMFAO @ Brian. I’d actually read that series!

  31. >Anybody who buys an American Girl’s book knows that they are paying money for an ad, or anyway, they should. Thanks to the size of the series, they usually aren’t even shelved with other books. They have their own shelf, or stand out in the middle of the floor next to the most recent celeb picture book.

    And anybody who reads the Clique books knows that the product references are part of the atmosphere and expects them.

    Anybody who watches television views it with a certain amount of skepticism.

    But a middle grade book with branding? I don’t want children to have to read books the same way they watch TV, with a little skepticism monitor going all the time. Ask them to do that and it means they will read less, because they will be less involved in the story, because they will HAVE to be less involved, keep a little distance, in order to be wary of being taken in by advertisers.

    I only hope HC will have the decency to differentiate these Advertising-Books from real books. I know, small hope, huh?

  32. Saipan Writer says:

    >I’m wondering if they’ll put out a call for authors to submit stories with xyz brand? You know, the way magazine publishers have monthly themes– so you can write to order. 🙂

    And then they might also want to indicate which books are “high end” and which cater to the cheaper crowd. Audience matters, after all.


    I want to learn how to tag my own blog posts the way you do.

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