I which I hype some hype that wasn’t actually about hype (even though it thought it was)

Evidence arises, if such were needed, to suggest that a review should be about the book, and nothing more.

To make myself perfectly clear, I think both Pat and Simon Spanton have some good points to make in that exchange (though I side more with Spanton’s definition of hype, because it is the one that most closely matches my experience).

However, the echo-chamber chorus in the comments who seem unable to actually detect the nuances of the argument beyond “hey, that editor guy just disagreed with a blogger we like, booo” is enough to make me want to headbutt a desk. So, for clarification:

Sending out advance review copies of a book and then reporting on the positive ones is not hype. It is marketing of the old school, merely done at a more rapid rate.

Hype is hard for people to spot because it’s a part of their daily diet; anyone who buys a tabloid newspaper or magazine, or who watches commercial television, invites hype into their lives on a four-times-hourly basis. This is a wood-for-the-trees issue.

As someone who sees it from both sides, at least as far as the music industry is concerned (and no one does hype like the music industry), let me tell you what hype is: hype is tabloid stories about the artist falling out of a nightclub drunk with white dust under their nose; hype is endless puff pieces in the mainstream media where the artist is portrayed as godlike yet still accessible; hype is, in other words, promotional material for an item THAT HAS NO CONNECTION TO THE ITEM ITSELF AND EXISTS ONLY TO REPEAT THE ARTISTS NAME AD NAUSEUM.

The irony of people piping up with comments along the lines of “yeah, well, by getting this email exchange posted, Spanton’s just extending the book’s time in the spotlight” is palpable. Right on, guys – if he was doing that, the last thing you’d want to do was, oh, I don’t know, chime in on the debate yourself? Wouldn’t want to fuel that corporate hype machine any, would you? Now, what time does Big Brother start?

[ Full disclosure – Richard Morgan is a client, and I haven’t yet read The Steel Remains. My opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent the opinions of any of my clients, past present or future. ]

7 thoughts on “I which I hype some hype that wasn’t actually about hype (even though it thought it was)”

  1. As I said over at Larry’s blog, I think it’s funny that Pat has decided to rail against hype when he’s arguably one of the more hype-friendly bloggers out there.

    Having said that, I think that moaning about hype is missing the point with The Steel Remains. I don’t think that the problem is that TSR has been hyped, rather it’s the manner in which it has been hyped.

    Gollancz have been very careful as to whom they have allowed to see copies. The book has clearly been finished for ages but a lot of the more high-end review sites and blogs seem to have been cut out of the loop despite people who don’t normally write reviews getting copies.

    The circle has widened again with a more muted reaction becoming apparent but it is clear that there has been an attempt to “manage” the online reaction to the book prior to its release, effectively pre-empting wider critical opinion. An attempt that seems to be backfiring and leading to a backlash.

    I’m not sure that Pat is really complaining about the fact that the book is hyped, I think it’s more a sense that Gollancz are trying to manage perceptions in a way that is quite unusual.

  2. Jonathan,
    Eh? STEEL REMAINS proofs were sent to pretty much everyone. Genrefiles got a copy before anyone else did. Niall Harrison got a copy yonks ago as did Jonathan Strahan. SFX, Deathray, Interzone all got copies some long time ago. Key retailers got their copies as soon as proofs were in.If there’s anyone out there who has yet to get one (you perhaps? :-))please let me know. I’m flattered that you feel this has been a carefully managed campaign. In fact its been me stuffing books in jiffy bags and scribbling notes on accompanying postcards whenever I’ve had a minute. Now I DID send out tasters from TSR a LONG time ago, and well before proofs went to the usual reviewers, to bloggers and various interested parties. This was done with with the express purpose of building up a buzz (or to begin my sinister hype campaign depending on your POV). I didn’t send those snippets to the more usual reviewers because I felt they would be irritated to get a partial of a book they couldn’t yet read in its entireity whiel they were dealing with reviews that had to meet a much more pressing deadline.

    In the meantime thanks to you both for a level headed take on the whole thing.

    All the best


  3. Oh and before I forget SFRevu got a copy pretty soon after genrefiles did also. Sending out electronic copies before the proofs is a dangerous game when if the files get in the wrong hands they can be uploaded on the internet (or whatever it is that happens) before you can say ‘boo’ so I was very cautious about who got what. The proofs came in (if I remember correctly) around about February.

    My bag stuffing was in addition to, not in place of, our publicity managers normal efforts to get the book reviewed in the normal channels.

    With the exception of the tasters being sent out what we’ve done for TSR with both bloggers and more established review forums is not so different from any other book we’ve had bound proofs for in the last year or so.


  4. Niall Harrison got a copy yonks ago

    Entirely true. I’ve written a review, too, I’m just sitting on it until a bit closer to publication. (Spoiler! I liked it.) And Strange Horizons has had a copy, which has gone to Graham.

  5. Hi Simon 🙂

    You have to admit that sending out tasters was a more subtle approach than relying upon ARCs and the standard review process. It’s not something that happens with every book and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the online buzz for TSR has been “managed” more carefully than it has been for many books.

    There’s nothing wrong with that but it may well have contributed to the belief that the book is being overly “hyped”, which was my point 🙂

    I don’t think it matters one way or another and if it shifts a few more copies of the book, good luck to all concerned.

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