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Product Placement in Books

When I first heard of Julia Quinn’s 2nd epilogues, my first thought was “oh no, what are publishers going to do next.”

But publishers, who apparently are feeling the bite of falling profits from just publishing books, are constantly looking for new ways to make money because the “uh oh, what’s next” is already here. Cover Girl and Perseus Books Group have partnered to create a cross media ad campaign. Cathy’s Book written by collaborating authors, Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman, feature a young girl trying to discern why her boyfriend broke up with her. In the galley, the story features the heroine using a “Clinique” lipstick. In the final printed version, the product placement is now a Cover Girl “Lipslick.”

Although no money is being exchanged, the barter system is working for both companies. At its, Cover Girl will run a banner ad for the book. The book was been further modified to include more product placement for Cover Girl items. The use of products is not unique. Chick lit books are littered with product placement. (I view these as writing “cheats” because they provide an urban cache to a heroine without actually having to show the reader that the heroine is urban).

But this isn’t the first product placement in a book. The NYTimes, reporting on this deal, mentioned that Bulgari, an Italian jewelry company commissioned Fay Weldon to write a book featuring the company. She did so and published the “The Bulgari Connection.” Ms. Weldon claimed that the book was excellent regardless of how it came about. It gives a new twist on the “idea store” writers are always lamenting.

Commercial Alert sent out an email to over 305 book review editors asking them not to review the book. At Bookburger, a YA review site, the bloggers feel that this Clinique and Cover Girl are two very separate brands and that it does change the message of the book. They don’t like the cross platform branding.

If you are in the publishing business to make money and “not suffer for your art” (TM Laura Lee Gurhke) then maybe authors should be contacting Estee Lauder, Timex, or Ford. Maybe Julie Kenner should have collaborated with Givenchy when writing her Givenchy Code. She could have inserted 12 references to Givenchy and been paid an “undisclosed” sum of money for it.

The next Quinn effort can be On the Way to the David’s Bridal Wedding and Laura Lee Guhrke can write In the Serta Marriage Bed. When author’s run out of ideas, they can contact the advertising supported Idea Store where companies bid for the right to have their book written. I like the Timex Transport featuring Timex watches that have time traveling ability. Or the Coach Contraption where the Coach bags help the heroine nab the villian and the hero in one swipe of the magnetic clasp. Alison Pace could have written If Levis Strauss had a Girlfriend. It wouldn’t have made any difference if the hero, Ian, was a jeans designer, right?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Jayne
    Jun 13, 2006 @ 13:47:29

    Sheesh, remember the number of times Stef Ann Holm mentioned Target stores in LEAVING NORMAL? She either loves that store more than life or got some discounts for her efforts.

  2. Nonny
    Jun 13, 2006 @ 15:08:13

    … that’s just screwed up. *shakes head*

  3. Cece
    Jun 13, 2006 @ 17:01:15

    Sorry–I’m afraid Ford has already been used….a couple years ago by Carole Matthews. Why anyone would want to promote something as ugly as the Ford Aspire I dunno….. I mean why not a Mustang?

    I use brand names all the time–think Miller Lite would pay me to mention their beers in my dancehall books? LOL

    I don’t see it as that big a deal but I wouldn’t promote something I didn’t like either (and I don’t like Clinique or Cover Girl) *ggg*.

  4. Charlene
    Jun 13, 2006 @ 17:05:27

    I use brand names all the time. Most authors do. It’s part of grounding the story in place/time, IMO. This is the first case I’ve heard of it being an actual product placement.

  5. Jane
    Jun 13, 2006 @ 18:03:04

    It’s not product placement that is disconcerting. Chick lit books are littered with them. It’s the idea of content being changed based on product placement agreements. I remember the furor when it was suggested that Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, etc. were dictating content in Susan Grant’s book, Contact?

  6. Nonny
    Jun 13, 2006 @ 19:55:55

    Jane said: It’s not product placement that is disconcerting. Chick lit books are littered with them. It’s the idea of content being changed based on product placement agreements. I remember the furor when it was suggested that Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, etc. were dictating content in Susan Grant’s book, Contact?

    Exactly. I mean, I’ve mentioned brands and such in my contemporary fantasy before, for purposes of characterisation and setting. (Cause if you mention a teen girl wearing Abercombie & Fitch and driving around in a VW Beetle — most people have an idea of personality from that alone. Granted, the downside is that product inclusion will “date” your book, but that’s another matter entirely.)

    I don’t think that’s a problem — but I have serious issues with the idea of products/companies influencing what’s included in the book’s content.

  7. Tara Marie
    Jun 13, 2006 @ 20:46:35

    Too many product placements are annoying, and pulls me out of a book. It’s not really shocking to hear an author is getting paid for a placement.

  8. Cece
    Jun 13, 2006 @ 20:47:36

    Big business like wal-mart (ok anderson the distributor) and bn have a lot of influence on covers and titles ….just go read tess gerritsens blog and what she went through for a title on her next book. sometimes, like for her, this is a good thing, sometimes it’s not (IE cut orders or refusals to carry books with covers they don’t like).

  9. Dominique
    Mar 29, 2007 @ 10:28:29

    can more authors post comments here? because i`m doing a project on product placement in books and cathy`s book is all over the place. I want to hear about other cases.

  10. Jane
    Mar 29, 2007 @ 10:33:16

    Check back next Tuesday. I am writing another article about product placement in books and maybe some authors will join in the conversation.

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    […] placement is nothing new. I blogged about it before when the topic arose at the publication of Cathy’s Book in which the authors […]

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