Hyped Out? Does Excessive Blare Hurt a Book in the Long Run?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Yesterday, as my Facebook friends know, I read a young adult novel that emerged from the gates so high on hype, so overloaded with blurb promise, that it seemed it would be a national tragedy if we didn't all stop and read at once. Sure, there were cautions laced into many reviews. Still, there was overwhelming hype.

I rarely bend to hype.

This time I did.

I bought the book. I read.

I wonder how I would have felt about this book had there not been a blazing publicity campaign, and if I had not felt manipulated into reading. Would I have been more forgiving about its thin characterizations, its one-sided plot, its glib sleights of hand? Would I have received the book as I receive most books—as the best a well-meaning author could do?

Would I have found more to like?

Would I have drawn more gentle conclusions?

Would I give another book by this author a chance?

I suspect the answer is yes to all of the above. The narrative flaws would still be there, of course. The thinness, the surface crawl. But I suspect that I wouldn't feel angry (for in this case I felt angry) as I turned the last page. I wouldn't feel somehow stolen from. I wouldn't feel explicitly manipulated.

How complicit are authors in their own marketing campaigns? How do they really feel, behind the labels and the P.R. promise? It's different for everyone, of course, and no one can know how a hyped author actually feels when the book arrives with trumpets blaring.

But I think the book world, and book people, would be better off without shouting quite so loud about a package. Tell us what the book is and who loved it, absolutely. But keep that language real. Keep it realistic, too. Let us feel as if we found a book, and weren't commanded into reading. 


Serena said...

I agree that there is too much hype about books. I think this happens a lot with authors that do well on a first book and the second book is uber-hyped to the point that disappointment seems to be the only result among readers. Without the hype, perhaps second books would face a less steep cliff from which to fall and maybe not fall at all.

I also wonder how many authors are directly involved in the hype! :(

Liviania said...

Hype definitely makes me harsher on a book. At the same time, I'm definitely gentler on books I've heard nothing about that surprise and delight me.

Beth Kephart said...

Serena, so beautifully said. I think you are absolutely right about the second-book-after-a-big-book phenomenon and how the wheels must churn. And Liviana, I'm right there with you on this. How sweet to discover a book that no one is talking about and to be able to shout its praises (unasked for, unlooked for) to the world.

A.S. King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tina Hudak said...


I love your thoughts on this! My reality check is to ask one of my students about a "hyped" book...invariably, he is honest in his appraisal...always a good reality check for me.

A.S. King said...

Dammit. I came back to add a comment but then deleted my last comment. It's full moon soon, right?

Anyway! Great post. Hype is weird. Especially perceived hype vs. real publisher backed hype.

Dammit. I can't believe I thought the trash button was the edit button. Clearly this is the day to not be on the Internet.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

This happens to me. Expectations get raised to the point where they can't possibly be met.

I find that even a book I can agree is well-written doesn't necessarily move me the same way it moves others. So I've become more cautious about expecting too much.

I don't think authors have much control over hype. Most authors will accept, with thanks, whatever support comes their way.

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