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Paid Product Placement for Young Reader Book Series

I think this is an interesting concept but have not decided yet why it’s needed (except maybe for greed?). Some authors and publishers will be mimicking what Hollywood has been doing concerning product placement in their television shows and movies. That is getting paid to mention their products in their books.

Enter first time author Tina Wells. She is CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, which advises clients on the intricacies of product placement. She is a guru when it comes to marketing to teens and preteens. She is extremely talented and only 24 years old. She is also the new author for an upcoming series from Harper Collins titled “Mackenzie Blue”. In her book, the central character loves Converse. She said this is central to her character. She has no idea whether Converse wants to sponsor the book though. But when asked if Nike requested product placement she said she would possibly look at another character for the placement.

Tina said she was inspired to write the series because she felt it was important for girls to have positive books to read and to encourage them to make good choices.

So did she write the book first and happen to have the central character use Converse then thought, hey, maybe they would pay me for product placement?

I wonder if she had any conversations or relationships before she wrote the book with any of the manufacturers of the products she places in her story. Is that what she meant by “good choices”?

Should this bother me or do I just have too much time on my hands!
Via New York Times

Ned Litte

is Jane's long suffering husband who enjoys high fantasy novels and the occasional romance that Jane disguises as a fantasy book. He is also the photographer and artist of the multimedia reviews here at Dear Author.

12 Comments

  1. (Jān)
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 17:38:59

    It annoys me. It’s one thing to mention specific brands if it furthers character development, but I’ll be damned if I’ll pay to read advertisements in my fiction.

  2. Flight into Fantasy » Various and sundry
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 20:30:06

    […] other news, I found the idea of a marketing guru writing a book for young girls that might or might not have product pla… rather fascinating. The product placement question is interesting but easily answered for me. […]

  3. Christine
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 22:28:11

    I am definitely opposed to this kind of product placement in a young adult novel. It is unnecessary and quit frankly, a bit disturbing. I am the mother of two young daughters (the oldest on the cusp of becoming a teen), and I can attest that there is already way too much pressure for kids to be wearing name brand or designer clothing. I think it would be rather sad if I now had to worry about my children being targeted with name brand advertising in a book. I believe I would steer my child away from reading such a book out of principle.

  4. Ned
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 22:38:58

    I never dreamed that when Jane asked me to help her with the industry news section of Dear Author that I would be so involved in the news stories. I have been thinking all day about Harper Collins and this issue!

    Is this author published because she is able to monetize her books or is she being published because her prose is better than any other submission they have?

    I don’t have a problem with the author but with the publisher. It seems to me the publisher is more interested in lining their pocketbooks than raising the literary bar.

  5. Jane
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 22:39:38

    I agree, Christine. I hate this idea. When Ned and I were emailing earlier today about this I told him that I felt like there was no safe place for kids to be away from commercialism.

    Also, anytime that advertisers begin to be inserted into the prose, the notion of intellectual integrity goes out the window.

  6. Shiloh Walker
    Feb 20, 2008 @ 23:09:32

    oh geez. this is as bad as the idea of ‘labeling’ eggs.

  7. Tedypig
    Feb 21, 2008 @ 10:02:04

    Tina went on to say some day she hopes to write catalogs for a living.

  8. Sherry Thomas
    Feb 22, 2008 @ 00:12:03

    Dear Sir Ned (may I call you Sir Ned?),

    I’m a little confused at the first paragraph about Tina Wells. I don’t see quotation marks around it. Nor is it set in blockquote. Are you speaking of her out of personal knowledge or paraphrasing from some other source?

  9. Sherry Thomas
    Feb 22, 2008 @ 00:19:22

    I am opposed to it philosophically. But I think its effectiveness would only be so much. Wasn’t there some brouhaha about a Bulgari book some time back? Don’t think the trend quite caught on.

    And besides, people are getting more cynical than ever. I assume every product with a visible brandname in a movie is a paid product placement.

    Which makes me think writers of historical romance/fiction can market the lack of product placement in our novels (The House of Worth, the house of who? Did they have a show in fashion week?) as an advantage over contemporary books. :-)

  10. Ned
    Feb 22, 2008 @ 09:33:10

    Sherry,
    Sorry about the confusion on the first paragraph on Tina Wells. I should have used the quotes instead of the hyperlink that takes you to Investors.com where she was quoted. Too confusing!
    Thanks for catching it.
    Ned

  11. DS
    Feb 22, 2008 @ 11:24:28

    I read one of Mercedes Lackey’s coauthored books (w/Rosemary Edghill?) that had so many product references that I wondered if someone had been paid to stick them into the story– the other down side was by the time I read it– it had come out a couple of years earlier– the products were already dated.

  12. Donna Johns
    Jun 15, 2009 @ 11:06:04

    I recently bought a James Patterson book. I was previously unfamiliar with his work. Note that I am an avid reader, not a writer. I immediately was put off by the name brands that stuck out like a sore thumb and had nothing to add to the story. In fact, they were very distracting. At about Chapter 3, I was thoroughly disgusted and have thrown the book away in the trash. I then let my daughter purchase a set of two vampire genre books. She said that, try as she might, she could not read them and wanted to put them in our garage sale. I picked them up so see what was so bad about them. Yuchh! Product placement all over the place. Capitalized words everywhere. What was the story about? It doesn’t matter! All I could see what the makeup, shoes, hair products (for men and women), etc. Please just go write advertisements and stop disguising them as fiction. Publishers – I will now read the first three chapters of any book before I buy it and if I see a brand name, I will not buy it! Shame!

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