Viral vs hype

I may be opening an itty bitty can of worms but that's never stopped me from opening my mouth before so here I go. I tweeted this earlier today:
Sometimes I get tired of seeing the same books over and over again on blogs. Starts to feel like a commercial.

Now, 140 characters isn't quite enough to explain what I meant by that (understatement of the week right there). As someone pointed out, a lot of books appear on book blogs because someone read it and blogged it, so two other people read it and blogged, so six other people read it and blogged it.  There may have even ended up a challenge being taken up because of it. In other words, it went viral. It's got buzz. I've seen it happen with new books. I remember when The Birth House came out it was big on book blogs.  I've also seen it happen with older books - Middlemarch springs to mind.

I love it when that happens. I really do. It's exciting. It means there's a really great book out there making the rounds. Whether I've read the book, want to read the book or even liked the book is immaterial. People are spreading the word about books that touched them. It's organic. I cannot say strong enough how much I love it when this happens.

This is not what I meant in my tweet.

What I was referring to is books that feel like they are being hyped. Books that are making the rounds in such as way that I feel like I'm being targeted for advertising. Often the books have not been, or have just been, released. Sometimes it's just a review. Sometimes it's a review and an author interview. Sometimes it's a review, an author interview and a blog tour. And you know, all that is fine. When I see that on one blog it's great. When I see it on three blogs in a couple of days I still think it's ok. When I see it on ten or twenty blogs (I read a lot of blogs y'all) in a couple of days I get skeptical. Actually after the first two or three reviews in a couple of days I stop reading. I skim. Or I move to the next blog. I am not interested. These books are being Marketed with a capital "m". The book is just The Book Flavour Of The Week. It's candy. It'll pass. And people probably won't remember it.This is not viral. This is not honest-to-goodness book buzz. This is hype.

Of course sometimes I do wonder if I'm missing out on a good book. When I first saw posts about Joshua Henkin's Matrimony I was curious. But as the number of posts grew and grew and I saw giveaway after giveaway I grew very skeptical. Was it good? Or was it just hype? And then there were still more posts. I wasn't skeptical. I went straight to the point where if I saw another post about the book I thought I'd scream. It had passed the point of marketing and was just at the point where I felt like I was walking into a Matrimony advertisement.

I am not advocating that bloggers don't accept ARCs, do author interviews or participate in blog tours. That would just make me a big ole hypocrite. I accept ARCs. The "Currently Reading" section of my sidebar is currently displaying Wendell Steavenson's The Weight of a Mustard Seed, an ARC that was sent to me by the lovely folks at Harper Collins Canada. I've interviewed authors. And while I can't think of a blog tour I've participated in at this moment I'm sure I have at some point or will in the future.

I am not saying that the people who receive these books for free, do author interviews or participate in blog tours are doing anything wrong. I am not saying that when they say they like the book that they don't mean it. That is not what I'm saying at all. I'm a big believer that there a very few "rights" and "wrongs" when it comes to blogging. The "wrongs" are few and far between and involve things like plagiarism, slander and cases of asshattery. I firmly believe that every blog author has to make their own decisions about whether to accept ARCs, interview authors, do blog tours, sell ads, do sponsored posts, etc., etc., etc. based on what is right for them. What is right for you might not be right for me and that does not mean that either of us is doing anything "wrong". I'm not going to stop reading anybody's blog because they've reviewed an ARC, done an interview or are part of a blog tour. Ok, so I might not read those posts if I've seen similar ones on five other blogs but it doesn't mean I'm not going to read your blog.

In fact, what I'm saying really has nothing to do with individual bloggers at all. When a blogger accepts a book they don't know if its being offered to five people or five hundred. They don't know how many people will write about it around the same time they do. They don't how how many people are interviewing the author. Each blogger made the decision to write about a book for their own reason, and as I said above I don't fault anyone for doing what is right for them. It's really about the marketers who are organizing these. I do believe that a good web marketing campaign should not leave me cursing and going in the opposite direction every time I see or hear about the book.

Most of the time it's easy to tell when it's viral versus hype. A big giveaway includes not seeing a bunch of posts about it within ten days on either side of its release.  Obvious exceptions are big releases like Harry Potter, Twilight and John Green novels (the Nerdfighters are a mighty force). Posts following the announcement of short-lists and winners for awards like the Printz, Cybils, Booker, GG, etc are generally exempt as well (of course that is often also hype but a different type of hype).

So to the marketers behind these blog campaigns, I do appreciate the work you do to get good books to bloggers and I'm really happy for the bloggers that you reach out to. But you wanting me to buy your book isn't enough to make me buy your book. I'm tired of the generated hype.