I remember the outrage back in 2011 when William Morrow ventured to set guidelines for book bloggers/marketing team. Around this time, the secret handshakes and code words necessary for obtaining ARCs began to disappear, and there was much concern that many were setting up book blogs solely for free books. So I understand why Big 6 marketing departments, then largely unfamiliar with the blogging world, assumed they could co-opt and control this faction of the online readership. Ironically, three years later, a book blog existing solely as a virtual publicist, with content dominated by cover reveals, excerpts, and spaces to host blog tours, is pretty much the norm.
Accordingly, original content–original and genuine book conversation–has mostly dried up as authors and publishers’ commercial demands have risen sharply over the past two years. This has caused many readers–and many fantastic voices in Romland–to retreat and retrench to the books/authors they already know (these days whacking a beehive gets you some buzz easier than a new release). Even more ironic is that this retreat and retrenching has created a direr need for authors and publishers to ramp up their promotion, and it has only increased the rise of “id reading” (id reviewing?) amongst a newer/younger generation of romance readers.
As an author it is increasingly difficult to hold myself aloof from promotion and marketing, hoping that “the cream will rise to the top” (is anyone else nauseated by that phrase?). Especially when blog tours, cover reveals, tweets, Facebook posts, street teams, memes, and the whole shebang seem to work. And when the ways and means of self-pub superstars have traditional publishers and reputable e-publishers alike jumping to organize the same types of promotion and expect you, the author, to bang the drum as loud, as hard, and as long as those who had to be their own cheerleaders (because, er, don’t major publishers boast in their marketing departments and the ability to do the heavy lifting of promo so their authors can write and only pop their heads up during release week? But I digress).
Of course I’ve always known that authors conducted 95% of their own promotion, but the ratcheting decibel of marketing has fragmented and smothered the variety of voices I used to see in Romancelandia. It has also rubbed away any rough edges, silenced quieter books, and altogether put anything without an easily-grasped “hook” into the cold (hmm…parallels to other entertainment industries, like Hollywood, where monster-budget superhero flicks have elbowed out the types of movies that won’t rake in $1b worldwide). The most egregious harm done is–as mentioned above–the lack of desire to try new authors. In the wake of such nonsense like STGRB (Stop the Goodreads Bullies), readers and book bloggers never know when or if they’ll be blindsided by an author and their fans for posting a less than A++ review.
Then there’s the catch-22 of the new world of reviews: authors are pressured to obtain as many as you can on Amazon and other e-tailers in order to move Amazon’s algorithms, which in turn leads to your books being recommended, which in turn leads to more sales from the legions of Kindle, Nook, iPad, or Kobo owners who don’t even know book/review blogs exist. Yet for readers, there’s no guarantee the dozens of positive reviews haven’t been purchased or aren’t organized by the author’s street team.
It’s hard out there for a reader and for an author in this Brave New (Marketing and Promotion) World.
I can’t help but wonder–with a little trepidation–how this will all shake out.