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How not to get me to try something. - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
How not to get me to try something.
A tip for advertisers. These strategies=not effective.

  • "You like X? Y is just like it, only so much better." Did we not establish that I like X? Is there something about mutual acknowledgment of this fact that leads straight to, "But surely, you realize it's an inferior product." B'bye.

  • "It's the new X!" Sort of like the first, except without the implied insult to my judgment. Just... if I already have X, why do I want a new X? And if you're just saying, "It's jumping on the X bandwagon!" then, um, it's not entirely a recommendation, is it?

  • "It's certainly better than [whatever thing is much more popular at the moment]." I won't mention any chats I may have read recently involving a secondary series that I read and enjoy, certainly not one about cats, in which which fans continually talked about how much better it was than a mega-series of books about wizards with which many readers of my blog may be familiar, but sheesh. First of all... no. Not so much. And I say that as someone who adores both series. Second, why? It smacks of an inferiority complex. Not a great advertisement. If your book is good, tell me why your book is good. Don't tell me how it compares to something else, except in the neutral sort of, "I guess it's in this or that genre" way.

  • For self-publishers: "I'm trying to cash in on the Potter machine." Yeah. That tells me that you've written a truly compelling book that even you can't put down. I'll just be rushing to put it on my must-read list. Yawn.

  • "All the critics love it!"/"Everyone's reading it!" Okay... why is everyone reading it? What do the critics like about it? Everyone was reading Hannibal, too, but most of the people I talked to finished it and went, "Huh?" And as far as critics go, well... why? Is it because it's an awesome story with lots of good character work, or is it because all of the other critics love it and they want to be in the professional in-group? Tell me. Neither of these things is a mark against the books, but if they're the only thing an advertiser can come up with, then it's not a good sign. (I see this more on movie posters than on books, but it qualifies.)
26 comments or Leave a comment
victorialupin From: victorialupin Date: July 12th, 2007 04:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Marketing seems more and more like politics everyday. That's something I'd expect to see in a political campaign: "Vote for Jones, because Smith is no good," instead of actually giving a reason for why Jones is good.
myf From: myf Date: July 12th, 2007 04:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Please reassure me that nobody actually comes out and admits they're trying to cash in on the Potter machine. *sigh* How sad.
threnody From: threnody Date: July 12th, 2007 04:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I love that icon. XD
myf From: myf Date: July 12th, 2007 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Yours is a wonder as well!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2007 04:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I'll grant that it only happened once, but it made me :eyeroll: so hard that I still have a headache from it. But yes... someone pulled that.
myf From: myf Date: July 12th, 2007 06:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Honestly. It's as though they preface what they have to say with 'I believe you are a credulous fool who will faithfully jump on anything blazoned with the latest buzz word, so now let me proceed with my pitch.' I mean, sure some people will definitely be thinking that, but to come out and say it? Oh dear.
(Deleted comment)
prelud From: prelud Date: July 13th, 2007 11:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Mostly" was removed to save space.

I love that icon.
ashtur From: ashtur Date: July 12th, 2007 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree, I'd rather read a book that defines itself by what it is than by something else.

Sure, if a reviewer wants to say, "fans of this may enjoy that..." that's fine. But the author/publisher themselves? Pass.
mistralcat From: mistralcat Date: July 12th, 2007 12:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
And most of those are also free advertising for X. I mean, if one of the things in the ad is a highly popular, well-known something, and the other isn't known at all, when the person who saw the ad is trying to decide what to {read, buy, join}, which one is she going to remember? Maybe geeks might remember Y, because we're strange and perverse (as in, we like to do things not everyone does) like that, but most people will remember X.

When I still owned a Curves, there were these ads for another gym saying, "It's better than Curves!" which helped that other gym not at all. Why should it? It's hard enough to get the target demographic to workout; when they finally do decide to do it, they're going to remember the word "Curves" from the ad, and not much else.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, use a cool image, use a tag-line, use a picture of a pretty actor. ID4 did a great job with its pithy little slogans, which were barely more than fragments. Titanic used iconic imagery. There are lots of ways to do it if you have an actual product to sell. If your product is good, surely you can come up with a better way to sell it than, "Lots of people read this." Campbell's soup--Mm-mm good! It takes even less space than "80% of critics like it better than Lipton's!"

You can use it, IMHO, to sell upgrades, not to trash a competitor.

I'll grant that for upgrades, though in the context of books, which is what the post was largely about, it's very rare for Erin Hunter to release an upgrade of J.K. Rowling, and the response to "It's Harry Potter for grown-ups" is Stephen King's, "Harry Potter is Harry Potter for grown-ups." (Though that was inspired by a suggestion that I should read more mature talking kitty-cat books than Warriors.)
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: July 12th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree that comparison ads that tout their product as superior to what they're comparing it to is a turn-off. But broad comparisons in genre have their place. My husband bought me Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe because the back cover read: "Hogwarts goes to sea..." Sure, it was sort of a joke, we're in the Navy, I like Harry Potter, let's get a book combining the two -- and I haven't read it yet to issue an opinion on whether it is very good (I doubt it approaches the Harry Potter series, but I'm going to keep an open mind when I find which box I packed it in) -- but comparing it to Harry Potter definitely got it bought in this household.

My husband keeps joking that my opportunity to fill the upcoming Harry Potter void is coming and I just have to think of the next big story...like it's that easy -- especially when every new YA fantasy genre book out there is claiming that status.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2007 11:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yeah, there's definitely a place for "If you liked X, you might like Y as well." That's the essence of book lists! :)

It's one thing to say, "Well, if you liked Warriors, you might like some other animal fables... have you ever tried Watership Down?" It's another to say, "Oh, yeah, you like Warriors NOW, but once you read Watership Down, you'll see how well the idea can be done, and how far short Erin Hunter falls..." Yeah, whatever. I like WD, too. The prose is certainly better. But if I hadn't already read it, that would turn me off from reading it entirely. (In fact, I read WD purely on the strength of the only kind of recommendation that almost always works--someone I trust going nuts over it. In that case, it was Stephen King, via Stu Redman, talking about how absorbing the story was.)
krpalmer From: krpalmer Date: July 12th, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
In a way, I'd almost welcome seeing more "It's just like X, but better" sales pitches. Much of what I run across seems to be attempts by fans to promote things, and they seem to begin with the assumption that I also detested X, and Y is a way to revenge myself on it... I don't know about you, but I guess having my tastes criticised isn't a good way to get me interested in the promotion that follows.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 12th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that's another one, though it's almost a given that that's not going to be a sell. That was the Matrix strategy: "Since Star Wars is such a completely lousy thing, you should watch the KEWL SF series like me!" That earns a wet raspberry, and if I'm feeling particularly piqued, a refusal to ever see the thing in question, just because its fandom is obnoxious.
prelud From: prelud Date: July 13th, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
The Matrix series was advertised like that? I didn`t know.
I`m not sure if those two are really comparable.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 13th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not so much advertised as pushed by fans.
prelud From: prelud Date: July 14th, 2007 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I see that not only HP fandom has its share of stupid fans.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 14th, 2007 01:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yeah. I steered clear of HP for ages based on people gushing about how it was so much better than that boring Lord of the Rings thing, but finally decided that, as a librarian, I'd do well to at least have a clue on the subject of Quidditch. Luckily, JKR got me. :)
prelud From: prelud Date: July 14th, 2007 03:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Same here! Same here! I loved Tolkien since I was 14 (hey, that`s half of my life!).
I read PS, because I was bored one summer, and my Mom was given this book by one of her students. I was not hooked, but some six months later I was looking for something to do instead of studying for an exam, and a friend gave me a CD with lots of SF&F ebooks. I zipped through CS, POA, GoF and OOTP in three weeks.

BTW I always strictly avoided Tolkien fandom. I spent some pleasant time at one messageboard long before the movies were out, but that was only theoretical discussion. After came to HP fandom and learned what fan-fiction was (ironically, the first fanfic I read was in the Matrix fandom, where I was briefly when it was just one movie, and I didn`t know it was called fan fiction). I think I looked at some LOTR fics once, but I felt that I just don`t need them. I don`t know why. I know there are some lovely LOTR fics out there for sure (including yours), but I am content with reading LOTR again and again, on my own. Perhaps if I could find some quiet comm where one can discuss the Glorfindel Problem (was there one or two?) with adults, without any squeeing Orlando Bloom fangirls around, I`d like it there, but OB fangirls are everywhere.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 14th, 2007 04:33 am (UTC) (Link)
I hung around Tolkien fandom for a little while at rec.arts.books.tolkien, but when I started to realize what was going to happen when the threatened movies came out, I skedaddled. At roughly the speed of light. ;p
alkari From: alkari Date: July 13th, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
"All the critics love it!"/"Everyone's reading it!" That always has me muttering under my breath: Yeah - but who PAYS the critics to read this stuff? Or who pays the publisher for which the critic works?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 14th, 2007 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm even simpler. I've been paid to work as a book critic. There honestly was no pressure, nor was there much expertise involved. You just... have to be able to read. I can read. Ergo, I can judge. "Critics" are just a subset of "everyone," and if I don't trust "everyone"'s opinion, why would I pay more attention to critics?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 14th, 2007 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)
(Of course, it's cosmic justice that, as a librarian, the sheer volume of books I have to make decisions on means that I have to look at brief opinions rather frequently. But I have to admit to paying more attention to what the critic says the book is about that to how the critic felt about it, unless it's blatant stuff like, "This book is littered with misspellings" and so on.)
prelud From: prelud Date: July 13th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Everyone's reading it!"
So what. Everyone read Da Vinci Code, which is rubbish. It was the worst writing I have read during the past 5 years, maybe except fics seen at deleterius and such, and my own written English.
(Every time I mention that I have read DVC, I have strong need to explain that I didn`t buy it or borrow it, it a Christmas gift from my uncle, and I read it because of my trainwreck syndrome etc...)
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