March 23, 2017

Tell Me Again How a Hyped Book Is Born

My precious dears,
please allow this seasoned (and middle-aged) blogger to be naive for a while. It won't be a difficult task for me, because after blogging for 4 years and a half, I still have basic questions I can't find the answers to.

Yes, I managed to stumble on a Who-Tennant gif for this, too 😂

In these 53 months, I've reviewed an almost equal share of traditionally published and indie/small press books. Not all the books in the first category were good (you can argue that it's a matter of taste, but that aside, what about books that predate on old, stale ideas/tropes? or reinforce equally old stereotypes? or simply are not that well-written? and so on), while I found a few hidden gems in the second. So I tried to tell the world that said hidden gems needed to be dug and polished and admired and LOVED. And more often than not, I found myself shouting into a void.

Now, I'm a persistent little devil. My followers count hasn't changed one iota since...forever (though I could blame GFC for not being a thing anymore - but other blogs still get new followers that way, so I'm not going to fool myself). And yet, I'm still here, up and running - though I can't even seem to produce your average post per week. Though I pretty much get an average of two/three comments per post, when I'm lucky (and I systematically have the ever friendly and encouraging Karen to thank for one of them). Maybe I just like to hear myself shouting, I don't know.

Anyway, this post is not about whining. This naive old lady has a serious question for you all - or better, two, because they come related:
  1. how do certain books get the hype while other (often better) ones don't? and
  2. how do certain bloggers get a respectable - if not massive - follower count, and thus can work at getting books hyped?

    Let's say that Book X is scheduled for release in a few weeks. It may even be a book by a debut author (though backed by a big press), and a book that I myself will happen to deem worthy after reading (e.g.: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich). Or it may be a book that I wouldn't dare to touch with a totem pole, whatever the reason. Anyway, here goes the big question - is the power of a major press enough to get that particular book hyped? why is everybody talking about that book and putting it on their TBR lists and - after it's been released - keeping the (mostly positive) reviews coming? While Book Y has been around for a while now, and it's probably as good as the hyped one if not better (e.g.: Deadgirl by B.C. Johnson), but notwithstanding a bunch of favourable reviews (by real readers...not Amazon bots) and a few enthusiastic, pushy bloggers (hello...yes, look here 😂), it never seems to land in the hands of thousands of readers?

    I was tempted to use another Who-Tennant gif here, but I spared you 😉

    Which brings me to - do you need to review hyped books in order to become a successful blogger? can a successful blogger convince her/his readers to try a less hyped book and help it rise, in fact, to hype status? does a successful blogger read less hyped books at all? and finally, does a blogger manage to stay successful if she/he falls from the hyped-books bandwagon for a while? is the dog chasing its tail?


    1. Oh man...there are SO many reasons and not enough time to list them all lol

      I do think a simple answer is that bigger pubs put the effort into getting the book in the right hands early and get that hype machine rolling. I mean it's even in major publications now. No smaller author can compete. Between cover reveals, ARC's, and now all those instagram pics - a book can have a pretty good following months before it's even set to come out. I do think it might be backfiring a bit though (especially with problematic books). I know a lot of bloggers don't want to do promo posts anymore (at least the mass, generic ones) and the small batch of early reviews get blasted once the book gets into more hands and the mixed/negative reviews start rolling in. But by then the book probably has a ton of pre-orders.

      Also, years ago when self pub started taking off most bloggers happily accepted the requests. I know I said yes to everything in an attempt to help everyone out. You quickly get overwhelmed though and honestly the quality wasn't always there. This was truer back then than now. The editing has VASTLY improved and I rarely even worry about that now. But after a lot of bad editing, and bad behavior it became riskier to read and review those books.
      I personally have never had a problem and read them often but am very careful before accepting requests after seeing a lot of my friends get in altercations with authors after negative reviews. I would rather buy and read the book on my own and of course - that limits book hype. Especially if most bloggers feel this way. Plus they just don't get the cover love that the hyped ones do. Covers seem to be everything!

      I see hype more with YA. No one wants to be left out. So if everyone is starting to talk about a book you don't want to be the one person who hasn't read it. Anytime I reviewed a YA arc - those were my highest page views. They would plummet with anything else.

      This is just my own experience but readers seem to be way more willing to try out unknown romance titles and rabidly book push their favorites. Even the authors do it.

      From the blogger side I think it's so much harder than it appears. You have to put an enormous amount of work into it, consistently, to get a really solid following. Some blogs are bigger because they get great access to books and authors but most of the bigger ones I see develop a rapport and trust with their followers and that's when you can start reviewing smaller titles and not have everyone zone out. I do think you need to do a mix of bigger and smaller titles to lure people in. Then if they like what they see and trust your opinion they'll be back.

      People only have so much time to read and so much $ to buy books and probably just go for what's being repeated over and over on all their feeds and readers tend to follow publishers and big blogs so... hype.

      So basically *shrug* I don't know lol

      1. LOL, you seem to know enough! The money issue is probably real - I didn't even think of it, but what you said in your second-to-last paragraph makes a lot of sense. Well, everything you said does! Thank you!

      2. Holy crap! I didn't realize my comment was so long lol

        I was just trying to type and hit publish before it all vanished lol (& hahaha)

    2. I have some of these same questions! I think the answer to your first question is exactly as you said: books backed by a major press get all the marketing. They're able to give out tons of ARC's, and they get all the displays in the bookstores. The example that comes to mind right now is Caraval. I saw a lot of blog posts about it before it was even released, so I was thinking it must really be something special. It turns out not to be so great, but its hype lives on.

      I can't begin to answer the second question. I follow a few book blogs on Tumblr who seem to have massive followings, and they do seem well-vered in popular fiction. When it comes down to it though, they're not among my favorite blogs. I rarely interact with or reblog their posts. I read a lot of popular fiction myself, but I review pretty indiscriminately whatever crosses my path. Probably 4/5 of my reviews never get a single like or comment. It's not the kind of content that people share regularly.

      So, I guess the answer to the second part of question two is no. Reviewing popular fiction hasn't made me a more popular blog, which I think is all the more reason to keep doing/reading what you love. I run the kind of blog I want to see, and I love the premise of yours for readers who have been burned too often on popular fiction but don't know where else to look. Hype or not, the work you put into it is important and appreciated. <3

      1. Yes, yes to Caraval. It's not the kind of premise I particularly dig, so I haven't put it on my TBR list, but I see people talk about it left and right...and like you said, it's not necessarily living up to its hype. Still, probably no one wants to be left out, and even when you say, for instance, that a particular book sucks, people want to see for themselves what level of suckiness (?) their fellow reviewers are talking about.
        It's interesting what you say about following blogs but rarely interacting with them (BTW, you know I'm following you, but Tumblr doesn't let me comment or anything :(). I'm beginning to think that success as a blogger is measured by the amount of friends you make (though how you make them is unclear too). They are the ones who will comment, even when they haven't read the book you're talking about and don't even plan to. So maybe your purpose as a blogger - to spread the word about books - isn't necessarily fulfilled just because you have many followers or commenters. Nowadays, it seems easier to get the word out about how problematic a book is, than convincing someone that it is worth reading.
        Thank you for the thoughtful comment and...thank you for validating me :-*

      2. I'm butting into you convo because it brought up a few great points.

        You know I'm all about the interactions and friendships over #'s lol but I really do believe that that's where books truly get promoted and sold. Just because a big blog posts something - it doesn't necessarily *sell* the book.

        It's the bloggers (whether large or small) that are trusted by readers who sell books.

        For example you & I don't read ANY of the same books yet we promote each others posts thereby spreading the word far beyond our own followers to people who might be interested in something new.

        Sure, more followers means more reach but it's the relationships that help build the momentum for a book/author.

        The romance community is FAR more willing to take a gamble on an unknown author - indie or otherwise. That community has their own issues but it's far more supportive to new/different voices. One person tweets that they loved a book and it spreads like wildfire by the end of the week.

        For something like Caraval - that ARC was at ALA back in JUNE of 2016. The author was there signing and the pub was pushing it so that builds an almost automatic following. I met the author and she was SO nice. I have no desire to read the book myself but you can see how that would cultivate automatic fandom. The book was specifically promoted to bloggers and everyone starts hyping it based on the ALA *buzz* before they even read it.

        That happens a lot at BEA too. They pick titles that they push almost non stop.

        Way more bloggers go to these events now so when they get back it's all OMG this book looks so good!

        OK - I'll stop...another long winded comment that I lost track of my train of thought on lol

      3. The hype-before-reading thing is so crazy. I can understand it if we're talking about an author you already know well and who has never disappointed you so far. But a debut author whose book has not even a sneak-peek out yet...Blurbs alone can be so deceptive. I've read my share of oooh-amazing-concept ones that didn't necessarily translate into equal amazingness once I had access to the sneak-peek or read a bunch of early reviews. It may be that I don't care about reading something just because I need to be on the same page with everyone else (literally LOL), but the only hyped books I read are those that stand the test of 1) the first chapters and 2) the specific issues pointed out by early reviews. If the latter aren't things that annoy me for a reason, I go and buy, no matter the general rating (I did that for Ilsa Bick's Dark Passages duology, which many people couldn't seem to get into, and I loved it to bits).

        I need to start reading romance then LOL. I love it how you said the fandom works. Then again, the relationship thing is an interesting concept too. Too bad I don't seem to have cultivated many of those :(. Or the ones I have are more about friendship (albeit virtual) than about promoting each other's favourite books...

        Thank goodness for long-winded comments! ;D

    3. I agree. Making friends seems to be one of the most rewarding part of book blogging. If nothing else, we know we all share a love of reading (and I'm still overjoyed to have met another Pike fan). Tumblr is a lot more lax about following than traditional blogs. I "follow" upwards of six hundred blogs, easily, but what I actually see of them is whatever happens to cross my dash while I'm on it. The content is never-ending, but it can be more difficult to make connections that way. No worries about comments! I post most of my actual content to Goodreads, and the rest is just reblogging fandom stuff. <3

      Karen, I think you're absolutely right about bloggers selling books. Even if I don't necessarily trust a particular blogger's opinion, if I'm seeing a lot of posts come through about a book, I start thinking that's something I need to check out. And it's often spot on (Caraval being a different sort of phenomenon) since legions of fans tend to rally behind things that are pretty good--Six of Crows and The Raven Cycle, for example, which have huge Tumblr fanbases and deserve every bit of their hype. Apparently, that has a downside that's being exploited by book marketers now; I was beginning to wonder.

      That's an awesome facet of the romance community! I had no idea it was so inclusive. I've been tentatively thinking about branching into it a little, so I may have to give that a try.

      1. I'm still on the lookout for Pike fans, so same here! especially if they turn out to be talkative and deliciously friendly :).

        It's a bummer that small presses don't have the power to start the build-up of what could become a huge fanbase. Then again, some of them should probably be more a good way. Reach out more to bloggers. But I suppose it's partly our fault, because maybe we tend to be lazy when it comes to discovering hidden gems. I made it my mission, but I'm well aware that most bloggers are more prone to get excited about stuff they recognize from other bloggers' posts. I can shout over rooftops about a book I loved, but if I'm the only person they know who's doing that, it's unlikely they will even check the book :(. Still...I'm not stopping anytime soon. Masochist ;D.

    4. Good questions -- and Karen sent me over here :)

      I'm usually so cynical, but on this topic I'm surprisingly optimistic.
      If a book is terrible, you can hype the living daylights out of it, but I do think that the readers will expose the fact that the Emperor Has No Clothes. Could give actual examples, but probably better not to do that. Mediocre books do better with hype, though. I did a Goodreads review a few months back on two similar books, one "buzzier" and more popular and the other one a book I thought was much better:

      I try to hype underappreciated books when I can. Not sure how much influence that has, but I can say that I will always try a "sleeper" book that multiple bloggers have loved, and I have seen evidence that word of mouth can make a difference.

      1. Thank you for trusting Karen's advice - it's funny, because she's my best blogging buddy, and we have almost 0 books in common ;D.

        I'm glad there's someone who gives "sleeper" books a chance (nice choice of words!), though as you said, "multiple bloggers" have to mention their love for it. I suppose most people are vary of trying a book that only a handful of readers seem to have reviewed AND loved. I must admit it can be risky (I recently had the chance to read an underhyped series I had great hopes for, also because the few reviews were so good, and it turned out to be a disappointment), but it's often rewarding too.

        Mediocre books and hype - yes, I do believe you're right. But the sad thing is, whether bad or mediocre, there are books that will be read (if not ultimately liked) just because no one wants to be left out when more and more people are talking about them...

    5. I do think the main factor is that people are more interested in books from big publishers. Self/indie pub books have a stigma, and a lot of people just won't read them. A lot of people also don't want to read a book unless everyone else has read it, even if it is from a big publisher.

      Not sure about the blogging thing though. It does seem like you have to review popular, hyped books in order to get a big following, but then maybe some blogs are able to do it without that. I wouldn't know since I don't have a big following, haha. But there are a few popular bloggers out there who do sometimes review indie books, they just seem to be in the minority.

      1. I agree with the stigma. And of course it's easier to find a typo (or real mistake) in indie or self-pubbed books, but sometimes the stories are so good (and the writing as a whole so strong), it's a pity that some people refuse to read them. On the other hand, I sometimes have to cringe at tweets or posts by renowned authors, whose books only look perfect because their publishers can afford more/better editors than the indie or small press ones. AND I did notice that even the bigwigs are getting lazier lately - some errors, if small, are beginning to bleed through.

        There's this infuriating thing - it sounds like you have to review popular books (better if ARCs) to become a popular blogger, but you won't get them if you haven't got a strong follower count already. Looks like a catch-22, so I can't understand how some bloggers manage to develop a fan base this way. I'm wondering if the trick is making friends before you even have followers, because at the end of the day, friends are those who comment on your blog and trust your judgement about a book?

        Thanks for heading my way - I really appreciated your input!

    6. Oooh, this is a great blog post! Interestingly, I generally find that I enjoy hyped *adult* books but have a very low batting average with YA. Recently, I've been reading almost only adult, and all of them have been on the NYT bestseller list or otherwise hyped, and I've enjoyed all of them. I certainly don't think that it's because the quality of adult is better, but I almost wonder if it's because there's no real niche for bloggers in general adult fiction or mystery/thrillers. Consequently, there's little to no push before a novel's release to get everyone all stirred up about it.

      Above, I think Karen brought up a really good point--it helps if an author is super-duper nice or extremely good-looking. Her point about Caraval was spot on--I got the ARC at ALA in June. I met the author, and UGH she is so nice! She really is! Sweet and enthusiastic and just genuinely friendly. So I was more excited to read the book than I normally would have been. But I didn't like it.

      It's almost like YA (and YA blogging) is a repeat of that weird microcosm of high school where somehow all the popular girls somehow manage to be conventionally attractive, thin, athletic, multi-talented, and relatively well-to-do. Argh.

      1. First off - thank you for the compliment!

        You brought an interesting perspective for sure. I read next to zero adult book these days (I wonder what this says about me, but back to the point...), so I wouldn't know if they get hyped or deserve to. But now that you mention it, yes - there is an awful lot of YA-NA (and even MG) blogs, while I can't seem to stumble upon blogs geared to adult books. Also, adults are supposed to be less interested in being part of a community than teens are. I mean, do adults care about reading the same books or watching the same movies or listening to the same music the way their younger counterparts do? OK, I'm sure there are teens who don't care about it either - I've had zero interest in most of "the things everybody like" since I was a kid, and I suppose there are young adults who resemble teen me out there...but they're probably in the sheer minority...So, big presses are probably cashing on that desire to fit in, or to be privy of the things everybody else knows/likes.

        As you said...argh! ;)

    7. Wow, interesting post, Roby!

      Like people said before me - big publishers simply just have more means to promote their authors, and promotion is EVERYTHING these days. I think what makes hype hard to avoid is that, for instance Caraval - to stay with the example used before - was everywhere for nearly a year. Moreover, the blurb sounded fun (to me), the cover was pretty as hell and somewhat unique, and people were writing positive reviews left and right.

      I feel like people cave into the hype, not because they don't want to be left out, but because when you see something everywhere, when you hear amazing things about it, you kind of get interested and would like to know what is it about. Also, it should be kept in mind that big books are promoted by big reviewers/youtubers and bookstagrammers, but also advertised other ways AND authors also shout them out, which can also be a huge thing, in my opinion.

      As for your questions about bloggers: I think a blogger - especially one with a distinct style and bigger following - wouldn't be hurt by reading less-hyped books. BUT if said blogger built up their following by only reading hyped books, they shouldn't be surprised to find their followers turning away if they start to post only about under-hyped books, because in that case, the followers are not getting what they signed up for.

      Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

      1. Authors' shouts out - I had not thought of that. It makes sense that their support helps with the hype, especially if they have a huge fan base.

        Also good point about bloggers - when you have established yourself as a x type of blogger, mixing up a little is acceptable, but should you pull a 180°, it probably wouldn't work (unless you have friends who like to read your posts no matter what, which I still think is the most important step in becoming a successful blogger AND staying that way!).

        Thanks for the input, darling!

    8. 1. I still have no clue how to properly request a book, even though I probably do but don't necessarily have the guts to actually do so.
      2. I'm pretty sure there are things I still fail at even to this day.
      3. My followers occasionally float around,though the real rollercoaster is on Twitter. This is probably because I hardly ever comment back because you know... life. It happens.

      But anyways... HYPE. I think it's because for an author that is successful - say, Veronica Roth - and bestselling will get a lot more hype because they already have a massive following. Publishers do try to get books hyped with ARCs and blog tours and etc. I guess this is why publishers care about numbers and engagement as well when bloggers request books through Netgalley/Edelweiss/email - those who have more numbers and engagement will help the book sell into the hands of readers. So if they get the interest of Big Name Blogger - let me pick on Cuddlebuggery as the guinea pig for this one - and they get a positive review, they'll likely get the book into more hands (AKA Cuddlebuggery's followers). They're one of the influencers of the book community, so publishers want to get their books into the hands of those influencers.

      That's not saying none of the smaller blogs like you and me and most of the book world aren't influencers - we play just as much of an important role as well, because all those little numbers that we have do add up, and if we manage to shove the book down one throat or two but maybe not as much as a blog as Cuddlebuggery or Parajunkee, then more power to us as well. All reviews count in the author's eyes, especially with indie authors.

      And that goes the same with them as well. They have more work to do - unlike traditionally published authors who have not only the support of the publisher, they also have themselves AND the agency their book got sold to. Basically they're getting three avenues of promoting their book whereas a self published author is primarily marketing it all themselves. Of course, some DO go through a literary firm, who helps them through the promoting, but a lot of the promoting is done by themselves. Thus, reviews are more important to them, which helps with spreading the word about their book. And when the reviewer is in love with the book, they'll shout it from the rooftops everywhere... not just online. They'll shove it down the librarian's throats and their friend's throats and basically book nerd around.

      Then again, indie books already have the whole stereotype of not being good against them. There's less people to go through, so there's more chances of something going wrong. An author typically has to go through a multitude of editing and revision stages before their book can be sent to literary agents, and even after that they go through editing and revising. Someone who goes through self-publishing, on the other hand, can publish their book at any time, so a lot of them tend to be blah and blah and the hidden gems get lumped with them. It's like shy kids get lumped with the outcasts of a class.

      On bloggers though, I think it's a good idea to have a mix of everything. Have a mix of hyped books, indie books, under-hyped books that aren't indie, backlist books, etc. If you enjoy blogging regardless of numbers and continue blogging without caring for the numbers, then yay! I think it's good to have a few friends who pop by, even occasionally... like me for instance. I shower with comments occasionally. :D

      Anyhow, sorry for the ever so long comment. This took me approximately an hour to write if you must know, but it did have a few breaks here and there so... I guess thirty minutes? I hope this made sense, XD.

      1. *hands award for longest comment ever received* ;D
        (Which says a lot, since with your college+work schedule you don't have much time to spare!).

        Yes to all that - though hidden gems remain hidden, mostly...of course we matter, if a little, and indie/small pub authors love us, and we forge relationships with them sometimes, which is rewarding for us, but - I hope - for them too...Then again, all the comments I've been getting on this post seem to boil down to - bigwigs know how to press the right buttons in order to have a book read left and right, while small publishers don't stand a chance of pushing their books into the right hands (or the vast majority of hands). And indies...forget it :(. The sad thing is, I'm afraid, most of the small presses don't even try anymore. I think they've given up on blog tours and the likes, and have their authors do nearly all the "dirty" work - contact bloggers, shove the book itself into the hands of booksellers. Then again, small presses don't have money :(.

        I do enjoy blogging regardless of a lot of us do. I'm just frustrated by not being able to have a few awesome books I've read reach the hands of other potential readers. It's more about the books than me, really. But I'm grateful for the friends I made along the way, and maybe when I'm 70 or something I will have a huge trail of followers haha.

    9. I think a lot of the hype is predetermined by the publishers. I feel like they push the industry a lot, and there are several times where I've read a book and been like "I don't get why it's so good."

      While I personally hype books I love, it's not at all the same as a book that gets hype pre-release. Sometimes I think this is good (it brings books to my attention that I may not have heard of) other times it's annoying because they hype is being decided by such a few amount of people (and sometimes I wonder if they even really read the book).

      As far as blogs go, I realized pretty early in to book blogging that you have to work super extra hard to have one of those big book blogs and get publisher contacts and all that jazz and that I am just not interested in doing that. I do this for fun. I also like what Karen said up above, it's about the relationships for me not about the numbers.

      1. Good point about the hype being decided by a few people...who may not even have read the book! It makes sense that the people who are in charge of spreading the word about a book are not the same ones who have read, edited, etc., it. It's likely that they are only given the blurb + a few key points to work with, just like any other publicist whose task is to market a product. While the hype we blogger try to generate is a labour of love. Of course, not all the industry-generated hype is bad. The sad thing is, for every less worthy novel that gets the spotlight, there are probably ten...or ten thousand, who knows! - better ones that don't and thus stay in the shade.

        Like you, I blog for fun, and I'm HONESTLY not bummed about big publishers not sending me books. More freedom, both in scheduling posts and in speaking my mind. The only thing I regret is that I can't convince more people to give a chance to books I've loved and try to hype myself. It's the only reason why I'd like to have more "power". Then again, I made a few great friends along the way, though they may be a little lazy when it comes to reading indie/small pub books that I recommend! ;)

    10. Hey, I'm stopping by for the first time and answering some of your great questions. How do certain books get the hype while other (often better) ones don't?
      In my opinion, it could be due to the amount of money an author has to be put towards marketing. It takes a lot of money to market unless you're someone like John Green who has this fantastic personality and a youtube channel to match.

      How do certain bloggers get a respectable - if not massive - follower count, and thus can work at getting books hyped? Some writers work tremendously hard and never leave even one follower in the dark.

      1. The money issue is real...and you made a good point about YouTube too, because there are probably more people likely to watch a channel/video than to read reviews nowadays...

        Ha. It's not easy to be a blogger either. I suppose you're right - one needs to be consistent in order to reach a certain status. That's why I will never be able to become a successful blogger LOL.

        Thanks for stopping by!


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