Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

moneyAs I sit here at my Corian breakfast counter drinking my Goose Island Root Beer and munching on my Dole Peeled Mini Carrots, I can’t help but consider the renewed arguments for advertising within books. After all, authors use brand names all the times to convey a certain iconic message. What is a spy without his Aston Martin or a uptown New Yorker without her Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks? So what the author is receiving quid pro quo payment for the mention?

Product placement is nothing new. I blogged about it before when the topic arose at the publication of Cathy’s Book in which the authors collaborated with Proctor & Gamble to include a few specific references to Cover Girl makeup that the protagonist uses. In return for the product placement, P&G promoted the book at its website and through other avenues.

For The Bulgari Connection, Fay Weldon was paid an undisclosed sum for writing a book about Bulgari. In 2000, Bill Fitzhugh made waves when his “satire about American hyper-consumerism”, Cross Dressing, included a product placement for Seagrams in exchange for Seagrams provided publicity.

A serial novel by Mark Haskell Smith will be published in the Lexus quarterly magazine is “potboiler” detective novel which places an emphasis on the Lexus GS Hybrid. For the serial, Smith received a sum of money “more than a modest book advance but less than what he would get for an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.”

Author JA Konrath, whose publicity ideas include creating a blog where people can anonymously trash others in the industry, wants to take isolated product placements to the next level. He argues that the publishing industry is not taking advantage of ad dollars. Why not, he posits, make a character drink only coca cola or drive a Mazda RX7? Why not have ads in the back of the book for Alberto V05? And a coupon for Handi-wipes?

Here’s my voice as a reader. No, no, and a thousand times no. And not just because Alberto V05 reminds me of my grandfather. For one thing, I am sick to death of brand name droppings in books. Rarely does the use mean anything. I.e., in Margaret and Lizz Weiss’ book, Warrior Angel, the fact that the heroine used two different kinds of Annick Goutal and wore Stuart Weitzman shoes added nothing to the character, the motivations or the plot. The constant use of brand name items made me wish that I could climb through the pages with my Home Depot 100% hemp rope and strangle her wearing my Isotoner gloves that my dear husband purchased at last years’ Macy’s Red Dot Sale.

This is not to say that all name brand usages are meaningless. In the opening scene of Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, the female protagonist is drinking Boone’s Farm Hard Lemonade. The choice of the liquor actually tells us something about the character. She purposely eschews the more glamorous in life for the anonymity of a common brand.

Second, product placements do not mean lower book prices. The Bulgari Connection, Cathy’s Book, and Cross Dressing were not sold at discount. In a product placement situation, the winners may be the author, the publisher and the manufacturer of said product. The loser is clearly the reader who has to pay the same money and suffer through an onslaught of Proper Names. I’ll need to read with a Sharpie to mark out all the Products identified so that any re-reads will be mercifully free of ads.

Third, any type of advertising other than product placements are not going to work. Consumers hate ads. Witness the TIVO and the ability to skip ahead 30 seconds that was coded into the software to assist users in avoiding commercials. In fact, we start watching TV shows 15 minutes after they start so we can skip through the commercials while watching on our Samsung Plasma TV. We all install pop up blockers. If the ads are at the back of the page, we’re likely to just ignore them.

Fourth, and what disturbs me the most, is that creativity will give way to commercialism as manufacturers have greater input into the content of the book. After all, if they are going to pair their brand name to your book wagon, they are going to want to make sure that the wagon looks exactly like they want it.

Isn’t that what is happening with Harlequin and Nascar. Nascar, in an effort to maintain a family image, refuses to allow any Nascar branded book to contain any sex, drugs, alcohol, or crashes. In exchange, Nascar helps to promote, distribute and sell the books. It’s a sweet deal for everyone but the reader.

What do you all think? For or against? Would it depend on the price? The number of ads? What about in ebooks?

Note: No animals were harmed in the writing of this article.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

32 Comments

  1. WendyPortia
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 04:58:39

    Oops, must admit that I’ve used an occasional brand name in my books, but not so much nowadays.

    As a reader I don’t mind one or two brand names here and there, but if it became at all obvious that it was a conscious plug for a product, or an author was being lazy ie. using a product name rather than bothering to actually describe something… now that would get my goat!

    And I don’t think I would want to read actual adverts in books. There are far too many on the telly!

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  2. Kerry Allen
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 05:32:23

    I don’t see any difference between dropping a brand name to illustrate purposely eschewing the more glamorous in life for the anonymity of a common brand versus dropping a brand name to illustrate eschewing the anonymity of a common brand for the more glamorous life. If a character is drinking a beer, I want to know if it’s a Bud Light or some fancy import. It’s a detail. It takes a word or two. The reader can infer as much or as little as she wants from it, or skip right over it.

    Why would a book with product placement be sold at a discount? My cable bill and the price of movie tickets and magazines keep going up every year despite the commercials, conspicuous product placement, and ads. Tolls don’t go down because I have to look at a thousand billboards during my commute. I have never associated marketing with consumer discount.

    I don’t think mentioning a character is drinking a Coke equates to a 30-second television commercial in terms of annoyance. I think it’s less annoying, in fact, because not everyone has TIVO and the ability to skip TV ads, but everyone can drop their gaze down a few lines in a book. If a paragraph describing the design features of an Audi makes your eyes glaze over, skip it like others have learned to do with unnecessarily wordy descriptions of no-name items.

    Plenty of Harlequins contain no sex, drugs, alcohol, or car wrecks. Plenty of writers write those stories even without NASCAR references, and readers read them. Why is a sanitized story acceptable, but not a story that is required to be sanitized by the entity marketing it?

    I don’t believe writers/publishers approach businesses for marketing assistance if they’re portraying the product in question in a negative light. That would just be stupid. “We have this book that shows your product is responsible for the downfall of civilization. Can we have some money?” It’s more like, “Let’s make sure we won’t get sued for using their name so prominently, and as long as we’re at it, let’s ask if they’d help promote it.”

    A good story isn’t going to be hurt by a few extra capital letters, and a bad story will have flaws of far greater magnitude than this one, so name drop away, as far as I’m concerned.

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  3. LesleyW
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 06:25:19

    I do think it can become too much.

    In some books it can feel like you’re having to wade through the product names, yes, we get the idea they like to wear designer clothes and drive fast cars – get to the story already!

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  4. Teddy Pig
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 06:26:02

    Ouch! Owww owwww Ouch!

    If it adds something to the character or scene product placement is fine.
    Otherwise just write a catalog if that is what you are going for.

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  5. Tara Marie
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 07:01:33

    …In exchange, Nascar helps to promote, distribute and sell the books. It’s a sweet deal for everyone but the reader.

    This doesn’t bother me in the least, these books aren’t just marketed to adults, there’s also a large teen market intertested and keeping it clean and wholesome isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Readers of these books know what they’re getting, nobody’s getting cheated. Though I have to admit the “no crashes” seems a bit odd, anyone who sits through an entire NASCAR race will be witness to any number of crashes (my 5 year old is a huge Dale Jr. fan since seeing the movie CARS :D ).

    Unless I’m being beaten over the head with it, product placement doesn’t bother me, probably because I ignore it, but I’d be just as happy without these details. As to… If a character is drinking a beer, I want to know if it’s a Bud Light or some fancy import. I personally couldn’t care less whether they’re eschewing the more glamorous in life for the anonymity of a common brand versus dropping a brand name to illustrate eschewing the anonymity of a common brand for the more glamorous life. If the author is doing their job, I don’t need product detail to figure out the difference between a glamorous life and a more average one.

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  6. Phyl
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 07:09:11

    I usually don’t mind product names because when used they are another way to add background about style or economics that fleshes out the story.

    Nascar is another issue, though. I enjoy sports, but all of the hype around Nascar has never appealed to me. Nascar’s restrictions only serve to make me think that we’re left with uni-dimensional stories that are all going to sound the same. Isn’t creativity being squashed? Thus, I’m not likely to put my aversion to Nascar aside and pick up one of these books. I have to add that the restriction against crashes makes me laugh because I know people who tune into the races specifically to SEE the crashes.

    Anyhow, if we start seeing industry tie-ins like the Nascar deal, I’m not so concerned with all of the name dropping as I am the restrictions that could result in some pretty boring books.

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  7. Danielle
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 07:16:27

    [quote comment="25849"]Ouch! Owww owwww Ouch!

    If it adds something to the character or scene product placement is fine.
    Otherwise just write a catalog if that is what you are going for.[/quote]

    I agree with Teddy Pig only if it adds to the character or scene.

    But to me it depends on how they will write the product and/or business into the storyline. In the book Heiress For Hire by Erin McCarthy one of the funniest scenes in the book was when she walked into a Walmart for the very first time.

    In another story, the author mentioned that the hero smoked Punch cigars…I asked my husband about them he gave me his opinion and guess what for Christmas he received Punch cigars.

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  8. Tara Marie
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 07:24:24

    I have to add that the restriction against crashes makes me laugh because I know people who tune into the races specifically to SEE the crashes.

    That would be my hubby–LOL.

    we start seeing industry tie-ins like the Nascar deal, I’m not so concerned with all of the name dropping as I am the restrictions that could result in some pretty boring books.

    I still don’t really see this as a problem. These books aren’t being marketed to the average or fanatical romance reader, they’re being marketed to NASCAR fans and once they get bit by the romance bug, maybe they’ll branch out into more of the genre.

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  9. DS
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 07:44:09

    The last time I read a book that went over the line in product names it wasn’t a romance– it was one of Mercedes Lackey/Rosemary Edgehill’s collaborations– but I felt that it really dated the book as so five years ago and quickly became annoying.

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  10. Bev(BB)
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 07:44:38

    Well, it probably wouldn’t be bad part of the time, but I do occasionally like stories that aren’t set on Earth or anywhere connected to Earth, Earth time, past, present or future. Brand names then become a tad problematical, ya know. Or maybe ridiculous would be a better word? ;)

    And the thing is, if using brand names discouraged those books from being written, then we’d have a problem. A big problem.

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  11. Jane
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 07:47:31

    I”m not advocating for the elimination of brand name usage in books. I am cautioning against product placement for pay because I feel that it trends toward losing artistic control.

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  12. Keishon
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 07:57:24

    [quote comment="25849"]

    If it adds something to the character or scene product placement is fine.
    Otherwise just write a catalog if that is what you are going for.[/quote]

    What he said :-)

    However, I don’t care for name dropping whether it’s products or celebrities. I just realized that Oprah’s show is only 30 minutes long when you take out all the commercials.

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  13. Tara Marie
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 08:01:43

    I am cautioning against product placement for pay because I feel that it trends toward losing artistic control.

    It seems to me if someone’s willing to take payment for ad placement they’re probably not too worried about “losing artistic control.” I also think it depends on the product placement and who they’re ultimately being marketed to. (I’m playing devils advocate here–I lean more towards agreeing with you than not. :) )

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  14. Jordan Summers
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 09:49:42

    *** Nascar, in an effort to maintain a family image, refuses to allow any Nascar branded book to contain any sex, drugs, alcohol, or crashes. In exchange, Nascar helps to promote, distribute and sell the books. It’s a sweet deal for everyone but the reader.***

    This is the problem with product placement. I don’t think overall it’s a bad idea, if the products are limited (ie one or two). But when the product owner starts determining what goes in a book, then you have to wonder who the writer is writing for.

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  15. Vivi Anna
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 11:30:07

    I’m not sure why you think the reader will be losing in this. Because you don’t like brand name dropping??? And why not Nascar and Harlequin? What’s inately wrong with that pairing? I imagine there will still be good stories for those readers that like to read about car racing or have a car racer as a hero.

    I’m not big on name dropping in my books, that’s one thing that bothers me about the BDB.

    But you are right that it could go overboard…and end up with five pages of ads in the back of books…but as a reader I can always skip those pages. Just like I do in magazines.

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  16. Phyl
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 11:47:03

    [quote comment="25854"]

    we start seeing industry tie-ins like the Nascar deal, I’m not so concerned with all of the name dropping as I am the restrictions that could result in some pretty boring books.

    I still don’t really see this as a problem. These books aren’t being marketed to the average or fanatical romance reader, they’re being marketed to NASCAR fans and once they get bit by the romance bug, maybe they’ll branch out into more of the genre.[/quote]

    And that would be a good thing. I don’t disagree with those who’ve pointed out that there’s really nothing wrong with the Nascar/Harl. pairing. And perhaps there’s an age gap at work here. I’m 50 and I find it dismaying that every available surface is being sucked into some sort of machine that spits it back out with a product/logo on it. Even TV shows have little ads that pop up on the bottom of the screen. But maybe those of you who are younger than I am are better able to tune out the incessant advertising that surrounds us. Or maybe I’m ADD. Whatever, it’s everywhere and I’m paying for it whether I want to be or not.

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  17. Robin
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 12:29:32

    When Nora Roberts has Eve Dallas get her Pepsi fix, I think that’s a good product placement, because we all know there are Coke and Pepsi people, and it’s one of those things that becomes part of Eve’s character (even though she’s wrong in her actual choice, lol). When JR Ward drops the name of three designers or so on a page, I start to feel used in a weird way, because while I’m willing to buy that some of these guys are brand conscious about certain things, at some point it feels more about the promotion of a product rather than a character. And that a) distracts me from the book and the characters, and b) draws me into a place where I’m actually wondering if it’s more about the author getting paid than about writing the characters. I feel like an unwilling target of advertising, not a novel reader (cue Nirvana’s “Rape Me” here). And that leads me down a not so great path and diminishes my reading experience overall.

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  18. Jennifer Estep
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 14:45:29

    I use some product names in my books, but I try to have a purpose behind them, like illustrating character quirks or flaws.

    My main character in “Karma Girl” plays with Rubik’s Cubes all the time. I thought the cubes would be something that everybody would know as well as communicate that a) my character likes puzzles and b) she’s pretty smart since she can solve them in a few minutes.

    I make up a lot of my own brands/stores too, like Oodles ‘o Stuff. But that’s just for fun. *grin*

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  19. Keziah Hill
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 15:04:01

    The problem with a lot of brand placement is how they pull the reader out of the story. I’ve just finished Lover Revealed and the level of product placement in it irritated me. Especially since so much of it was culturally specific to the US. I’d never heard of the brands so had no idea what they meant. But in an emotionally charged scene you really don’t need to know that the hero pulled off his blah, blah, blah shirt.

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  20. DS
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 15:55:43

    Who actually thinks that if there is advertizing in books that it will be the last few pages? I remember when cigarette ads got kicked off tv. They went right to the center of paperback books where the bound in stiff color advertizing cards were a dreadful nuisance when trying to read the book.

    I also remember when you couldn’t pick up a sff book without two or three cards offering a membership to the sfbc falling out.

    Then there is the perfume ads in Vanity Fair. I usually don’t mind them until I get one that has an ingredient I am allergic to in it.

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  21. JA Konrath
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 16:39:01

    I believe you missed the main point of my essay.

    In the near future, the book industry is going to mimic the current state of the music industry. Music lovers download and trade songs for free. The artists, and the record companies, are losing money. CD sales are dropping, because consumers are stealing content.

    Books will be stolen in a similar way. All the ebook world needs is the ereader equivilant of an iPod. Once someone creates a cheap, easy to use ebook reader, print books could suffer the same fate that CDs are suffering now.

    When that happens, the midlist will disappear. Authors who once sold 5k-20k books per print run will find their readers downloading books for free. Smaller sales. Smaller royalties.

    So how will authors make money?

    Advertising is what pays for television, and newspapers, and Google.

    It may soon pay for books as well, whether you like it or not.

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  22. Jane
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 19:09:12

    Mr.Konrath – you seem to have a certain disdain for your readership. Do you really believe that simply because books are digitized that will be the downfall for authors? particularly midlist authors>

    Have you done the numbers to determine how many ebooks you would need to sell to make your publisher the same amount of money as you need to sell in a print version? It’s much less.

    Further, while there are pirates and there will always be pirates to assume that readers will only “steal” and not purchase is disproven already by the success of Itunes.

    Simply the existence of digital books or even a movement toward digital books being sold at a comparable rate of paper books will not, in and of itself, lead to the downfall of the midlist.

    If anything, because of the reduced costs of manufacturing ebooks, a larger number of authors can make a living off of writing. In fact, there are several ellora’s cave, samhain authors who are selling well enough to do just that despite the majority of its sales are digital and sold without DRM making piracy more easy.

    I guess I have more belief in my fellow reader than you that mass digitization will simply lead to more stolen books versus purchased books.

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  23. KS Augustin
    Apr 03, 2007 @ 20:44:24

    I have 2 comments on this:
    1) I write mostly SF romance, so what does this mean? I won’t get picked up by a publishing house because an interplanetary shuttle service doesn’t exist yet that I can nonchalantly drop into my prose? Yikes! My stories aren’t even set in this universe! So thank you Bev for the note of support for non-contemporary romances. (I mean, “He unbuckled the clasp on his Lord of the Rings ™ dagger and growled a warning.” Puh-lease!)
    2) Even more insidious…I’m not American. I don’t know what a “batting average” means or what a “quarterback” specifically does. So it’s bad enough trying (and failing!) to understand the cultural references. Product placement adds another layer of unneeded complexity and, if I may use the term, an unwanted layer of societal segregation. I may describe an Indian man scooting around in his Tata…does that mean anything to you? Does it tell you that he’s perhaps young, intelligent, thoughtful and environmentally-sensitive? No? You see, Tata’s latest vehicle prototype is no-emissions and petrol-less, but there is nothing there to infer any of that unless I set it up first. The same goes for Bud Light, the Hard Lemonade, NASCAR and * sigh * Juniors Cheesecake. Means nothing to almost one billion English readers around the world. Just something to bear in mind.

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  24. Kerry Allen
    Apr 04, 2007 @ 02:47:14

    [quote comment="25905"]Even more insidious…I’m not American. I don’t know what a “batting average” means or what a “quarterback” specifically does. So it’s bad enough trying (and failing!) to understand the cultural references. Product placement adds another layer of unneeded complexity and, if I may use the term, an unwanted layer of societal segregation. I may describe an Indian man scooting around in his Tata…does that mean anything to you? Does it tell you that he’s perhaps young, intelligent, thoughtful and environmentally-sensitive? No? You see, Tata’s latest vehicle prototype is no-emissions and petrol-less, but there is nothing there to infer any of that unless I set it up first. The same goes for Bud Light, the Hard Lemonade, NASCAR and * sigh * Juniors Cheesecake. Means nothing to almost one billion English readers around the world. Just something to bear in mind.[/quote]

    We cannot scrub all cultural references from stories without causing them to become anonymous and homogenized. It takes about 5 seconds to Google (sorry, look up in any internet search engine) a term one does not understand if one feels the lack of information is interfering with one’s reading experience. Get those 1 billion people who don’t understand a reference to actually buy the book, and then we’ll discuss writers compromising their artistic integrity to satisfy their fanbase. (Except that practice is also widely viewed with contempt… Oh, hell, just find a writer and beat her with a stick. It’s a lot quicker than itemizing The Writers’ List of Sins.)

    [quote comment="25878"]…draws me into a place where I’m actually wondering if it’s more about the author getting paid than about writing the characters. [/quote]

    I love this recurring notion that writers get a kickback every time they use a brand name. That’s hysterical. That would certainly take some of the sting out of the pennies per copy an author makes on a sale, though, so I’m all for the idea. Sign me up.

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  25. JA Konrath
    Apr 04, 2007 @ 08:33:07

    Simply the existence of digital books or even a movement toward digital books being sold at a comparable rate of paper books will not, in and of itself, lead to the downfall of the midlist.

    Tell that to Sony, who believed they would forever corner the market on portable music players, because CDs would NEVER be replaced.

    And when MP3s came around, and Sony had a chance to invest in the new technology, they ignored it. And a COMPUTER company became the biggest name in music.

    Do you remember LPs? And before that, 78s? Where’s vinyl now?

    Do you remember Beta? How about VHS? What happened to them?

    Media will always be around. But the format media uses can, and often does, change.

    Have you done the numbers to determine how many ebooks you would need to sell to make your publisher the same amount of money as you need to sell in a print version? It’s much less.

    How much do you believe a publisher profits on a mass market paperback? On a hardcover? After printing costs, shipping, distbribution, warehousing, returns, and the standard 40%-55% cut given to bookstores, not to mention paying the author, how much do you think a publisher profits?

    I know how much. I don’t believe that you do, or you wouldn’t have said that.

    Distribution is the key the success in media. Radio airplay and MTV still decide which songs are hits. The more markets a cable TV channel or newspaper appears in, the more they can sell advertising dollars for. NYT bestsellers are such because they sell more through the big box stores than bookstores.

    The more widespread a media, the greater its chance for success.

    When distribution and production costs are free, how will publishers make money?

    Would you pay $10 to watch an episode of LOST when the TV is showing it for free?

    Mr.Konrath – you seem to have a certain disdain for your readership.

    LOL. By looking for answers rather than whining about the reality of the business? That’s disdain?

    Information wants to be free. So does entertainment.

    Have you ever gone to the library and checked out a book? Then you’ve read it for free, and the author didn’t make a royalty from you. Have you ever bought a used book? Have you ever borrowed a book from a friend? Ever rented a movie? Ever lent some CDs to your mom, or burned her a copy? Ever recorded a song off the radio? Tivoed a show and skipped the commercials?

    Billions of people engage in those activities. That doesn’t make me a cynic. It makes me a realist.

    Further, while there are pirates and there will always be pirates to assume that readers will only “steal" and not purchase is disproven already by the success of Itunes.

    ITunes, and ALL online music sales combined, haven’t come CLOSE to making up for the losses the music industry has experienced for several consecutive years. Google is your friend. You can find the numbers.

    I’m very happy you have faith in your fellow man. Ask the RIAA if they share your faith.

    There’s a little phenomenon known as YouTube you might have heard of. Every day, millions of people upload copyrighted material and intellectual property to YouTube.com, sharing it with the world without giving royalties to the creators of the work.

    These aren’t evil people, out to steal from writers. These are just average folks. Folks who use the library. Folks you lend their books to their friends.

    Downloading and uploading aren’t going to stop. I’m trying to figure out how writers might survive this. You’d rather be snarky.

    If you read my blog, you’d know my feelings about ebooks. I believe they should be free. I have two free ebooks on my website, and I’m releasing a backlist series title as a free download.

    I don’t think that sharing media is a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing.

    But it may soon become so widespread that storytellers will have a tougher time making a living. If that happens, how will writers earn a living?

    Advertising is a possibility.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pour myself a Diet Coke, grab a bag of Frito-Lay Brand corn chips, and go for a ride in my Mazda RX8 to go shopping for a new Apple iPod MP3 player with video capability.

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  26. Jane
    Apr 04, 2007 @ 08:52:33

    Simply the existence of digital books or even a movement toward digital books being sold at a comparable rate of paper books will not, in and of itself, lead to the downfall of the midlist.

    Tell that to Sony, who believed they would forever corner the market on portable music players, because CDs would NEVER be replaced.
    Media will always be around. But the format media uses can, and often does, change.///

    This argument doesn’t even address the same thing. The midlist is not a format. It is, as you know, a grouping of authors who have not been designated as “frontlist” by their publishers because of moderate to low sales. Arguing that “format media” will change or become obsolete in no way addresses how ebooks are the downfall of the midlist. It’s like arguing that because CD players are becoming obsolete then midlist bands will cease to exist. Apples – Oranges.

    Have you done the numbers to determine how many ebooks you would need to sell to make your publisher the same amount of money as you need to sell in a print version? It’s much less.

    How much do you believe a publisher profits on a mass market paperback? On a hardcover? I know how much. I don’t believe that you do, or you wouldn’t have said that.//

    Um, that was my entire point. The margin on an ebook is much higher and should the ebook sales be comparable to print sales for a book, then you need to sell less ebooks.

    When distribution and production costs are free, how will publishers make money? ///

    Oh, I don’t know. On the higher margin of the sale of its product?

    Would you pay $10 to watch an episode of LOST when the TV is showing it for free?//

    Obviously some people are willing to pay for an episode at 1.99 on ITunes

    Mr.Konrath – you seem to have a certain disdain for your readership.

    LOL. By looking for answers rather than whining about the reality of the business? That’s disdain?//

    No by suggesting that they are all stealing mongrels. I have checked out books, bought them at used bookstores but I also buy a lot of them new. Even if I could get them for free.

    ITunes, and ALL online music sales combined, haven’t come CLOSE to making up for the losses the music industry has experienced for several consecutive years. Google is your friend. You can find the numbers.///

    Now, who is being snarky. Yes, ITunes isn’t making up for “losses” but there are a whole host of other reasons that inhibits Itunes sales, one of the greatest is DRM. It is said that DRM free music sells at a rate of 10 to 1. I found that on Google the other day.

    I find it interesting that in your long post you conveniently overlook the one argument that disputes your entire thesis that readers are a bunch of no good stealing peeps and that is the success of online epublishers whose content is primarily digital, whose content is probably easily pirated given the lack of DRM, yet people continue to buy them. and they continue to flourish.

    Yes, I guess I do have a greater belief in my fellow reader than you and I am happy to have it. I think my fellow readers are great individuals who support the authors they love, take chances on new ones, and are always quick with a buy recommendation.

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  27. Robin
    Apr 04, 2007 @ 12:42:56

    I love this recurring notion that writers get a kickback every time they use a brand name.

    I don’t think I made such a sweeping inference. When Janet Evanovich mentions that Ranger uses Bulgari shower gel, for example, I don’t assume Bulgari’s paying her to include the product in the book. But in any case, I’m actually not averse, per se, to authors having some quid pro quo relationship with a brand manufacturer. BUT, where it gets distracting for me — and IMO bad for commercial fiction — is where the *commercial* aspect outweighs the *fiction* aspect. And yes, when brand name mentions start to look *first and foremost* like product placement rather than background specificity, I absolutely wonder whether authors are simply fulfilling (or soliciting) a commercial partnership with a brand manufacturer. And that pulls me out of a book more often than it draws me further into the world of the novel.

    ReplyReply

  28. AJ
    Apr 05, 2007 @ 17:02:31

    [quote comment="25933"]
    I don’t think that sharing media is a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing.

    But it may soon become so widespread that storytellers will have a tougher time making a living. If that happens, how will writers earn a living?
    [/quote]

    Probably not by writing books laden with product placement. You failed to address the concern of corporations looking to sell a product taking creative control. At what point does the work become an infomational?

    How have artists ever learned a living? Alienating readers who want their art seperate doesn’t seem to be the way to do that.

    The movie industry it also suffering from illegal downloads. They do put product placements in movies; however, the can of coke or whatever can sit unobtrusivly in the background where it can’t in a book. Consider the spectacular failure of the Cat in Hat if you want to talk about overdoing product placement. Comparing movies to books seems more logical than comparing books to music. An album track is not relient on the entire album whereas the chapter of a book is relient on the entire book.

    Are there a lot of companies hungering for product placements in books? It seems rather foolish to pay for what you already get for free. Looking to your own book, the heroines name is a brand of liquor. Did Jack Daniels pay you for that? If they didn’t, did it stop you from using that name?

    I will not buy a book that I know is being promoted by a company and I’m sure there are others like me. As for ads in the back, I’ll just skip over those. Which means I’ll also skip over the ads for the publisher’s other books.

    Lastly, it might pay to consider that their are authors that make their living entirely on ebooks. They don’t seem to be suffering, and most of them could probably be termed midlist.

    ReplyReply

  29. KS Augustin
    Apr 05, 2007 @ 18:22:17

    It takes about 5 seconds to Google (sorry, look up in any internet search engine) a term one does not understand if one feels the lack of information is interfering with one’s reading experience.

    Oh Kerry, that made me laugh! It reminds me of the “let them eat brioche” comment of M. Antoinette. I only wish everybody who reads a book automatically has internet access, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

    But you’re right. If a writer plugs a term without a set-up (as per my original comment), and readers are comfortable looking up dissertations on baseball just to understand batting averages, then that’s entirely up to them. I’m just not one of them. But viva la difference!

    ReplyReply

  30. ilona
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 13:08:14

    Excellent topic. I’m going to throw my two cents in, take me with a mountain of salt. I think brand names have their use. They are tags that can quickly conjure up just the right image for the readers.

    Example: I was once in a small online critique group and one of the members quit in a huff, finishing her final message to us with “Watch the back of my Via Spigas.” It was an insult. None of the remaining members could afford Via Spigas. Product placement at its best.

    I think the author should consider several things with brand placement:

    Whether or not the character himself/herself would know the brand. For example – since Jane used Kate as an example, I’ll use her too – a woman wearing stilettos walks into Kate’s office. She might be wearing Via Spigas. But Kate wouldn’t know what Via Spiga is if it hit her on the noggin. All she can say is “her shoes made my calves ache.” It’s alright for a car enthusiast to identify a Mercedes as Silver Wraith, but a school teacher interested in gardening wouldn’t know it.

    Whether there is too much brand names. Yes, they do make excellent tags. But there is a way to carry the tags to the extreme: He was short, bald, with hair on his knuckles, bowlegged, overweight, funny, light-skinned… Too much. The portrait of the person becomes more smudged the more adjectives are piled on. Just as well, if a writer names every single detail of the brand, the reader might start to wonder why all this name-dropping is important. And anything that detracts from the reader’s enjoyment of the story is bad. :P

    And finally, I think the most important criteria is, is the brand placement integral to the story. If it can be cut and the narrative doesn’t suffer, then why have it at all?

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  31. ester
    Apr 06, 2007 @ 14:15:41

    Thats why I don’t read anything set in the ‘real world’, I don’t write anything (so far) set in the ‘real world’ either. I don’t care about brand names, I don’t care about brands. I buy clearence stuff at Wal~Mart for criminy’s sake. If I pick up a book that has the character drinking a coke or pepsi I’ll stop reading, interest gone. I want to read about characters not about their trendy shoes or expensive ties. Stop telling me what the brands are if its expensive just say its expensive. Give me a fantasy with hack slash and off with their heads, I find more enjoyment out of those knowing Doc Martins or Tiffany’s will never be mentioned.

    But then again I’m sort of an unusual person, I know :)

    ReplyReply

  32. Friday Midday Links: Leah Hultenschmidt, Don D’Auria Let Go by Dorchester; Only Keeslar Remains | Dear Author
    Aug 20, 2010 @ 11:17:49

    [...] expressed my concerns about ads in books here and my distaste for product placement here. Also, as an update for the product placement piece, [...]

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