Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Book Reviews Are Rewritten Press Releases

Book reviews are increasingly becoming litle more than regurgitated publishers' press releases. The "review" summarizes the book's high points and then ends with a bland, generic recommendation to buy. It's a barely-disguised ad.


Desperate Writers

Today, I read Jonathan Field's PuffPo post, "Why Book Trailers Don't Go Viral," in which he seems to honestly assess how ineffective book videos are as a promotional tool:

One, those who tell you "you need to make something that's gonna go viral" don't know what the hell they're talking about. There is no magic formula, no button you get to push and nobody you pay to get there. You have control over what you create, but the world has control over how far and how fast your creation travels. And, two, the more you make something with the express purpose of "going viral," the less likely it'll be to happen.

Unfortunately, he then goes on to tell you his secrets to creating book videos that can become viral sensations, with inane bromides like, "I'm going to let you in on the real secret to making yourself instantly viral.

Be insane...

* Insanely creative
* Insanely valuable
* Insanely funny
* Insanely offbeat
* Insanely provocative..."

What hath Steve Jobs wrought? Field's advice is like telling a fledgling painter seeking the secret to success, "Well, that's easy, be Picasso, be Edward Hopper, be Rembrandt, be Dali, be ..."

And then I read the comments to Field's post. Now, let me briefly digress. Yesterday, I read Robert McCrum's column in the Guardian, whose title and subtitle tell you all you need to know: "Stop the bean-counters ruling the fiction roost. How can good new writers be published when the industry is ruled by people who aren't interested in originality?"

Boh Field's and McCrum's pieces share two commonalities. 1. They offer no useful information for writers. Fields' is an insipid exercise in self-promotion. McCrum acts as if he just discovered publishers' bottom-line sensibility. 2. Both articles are bait for desperate writers to pile on with their comments, which helps build circulation for publishers of these articles.

What I found most interesting about the comments to these articles is how they always come from three types of writers.

1. Writers who've been traditionally published who use their comment to promote themselves.

2. Writers who love to recount their stories about how they almost had a book deal until they lost it through various circumstances, usually the fault of the excessively commercial publishers' marketing department's interference. These make up the preponderance of the comments to McCrum's article.

3. Clueless incompetents like the writer at PuffPo who writes, "I started a fiction novel over a year ago, and am about 350 pages into so far."

The burden on writers today is crushing. It's not enough to write an engrossing book. You're also expected to be a promotional genius. No wonder writers are so desperate.

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