With this issue of Smugglers’ Ponderings, we would like to take a moment to examine hype.
There are a number of titles that have been touted as OMG THE FANTASY DEBUT OF 2011!1 or THE MOST GRIPPING DYSTOPIAN NOVEL SINCE THE HUNGER GAMES! or THE MOST FANTASTIC WORLD SINCE HARRY POTTER, and so on and so forth.2 Even though we like to think that we are decently well read and generally intelligent individuals, we admit that we are not inured to hype and we do get caught up in online/publisher buzz – and time and time again, we are burned by it. This, doubtless, has something to do with our own inflated expectations…but often times these heavily buzzed-about books end up being not only disappointing, but poorly written, unsatisfying, and not entertaining on any level.
Before we proceed any further though, perhaps it is best to define hype as we perceive of it in publishing, and what exactly are we referring to when we say “hyped books.” First of all, it should be stated that our hyped books may not necessarily be your hyped books; that is, we are avid bloggers and we may have a different perspective of upcoming titles, since we are in contact with publishers and PR companies, we attend industry events such as Book Expo America, book releases, signings, we read industry publications, one of us works in the industry, and we follow a large number of blogs and review sites. In other words – we are a little obsessed. We are very well aware of the fact that we are not indicative of the general reading public.
With that disclaimer made, here is our perception of hype. We consider hyped books those who receive excessive publicity from the industry and/or online outlets (e.g. blogs), and are blatantly promoted as “The New Best Thing” – before the book is actually released. That, to us, is hype in a nutshell: the promise of wonders BEFORE delivery of goods. In the book world, hype appears in a myriad of ways, such as:
– Marketing materials submitted with ARCs
– Extensive blog tours that stop at over 15 blogs within a short period of time
– Extensive (and often weirdly personally subjective) email campaigns
– Overwhelming presence at Industry events
– Significant amounts of paid advertisements online and in various newsletters
Who gets to decide which book is going to be the next hyped book (at the expense of all other books on a publisher’s list)? What are the criteria used? Is publisher-stimulated (or simulated) hype really a necessary – or effective – endeavor?
We do believe in the power of word-of-mouth buzz, and there is nothing we love more than discovering a book that many readers online have discovered, reviewed, and loved. This type of hype stems from readers, that have the ability to turn genuine buzz into an organically-fueled campaign of its own. Of course, the difference is that this hype happens AFTER the book is published, read, and has inspired a response from readers.
The fact of the matter is, when we see a new title being hyped without reviews, or when we start receiving mass emails about the next great book from publisher z, we have become a little jaded. We have admittedly become prejudiced against hype: whenever we hear the words “The New X” or “The Best Since Y,” we now tend to look away.
So, with this in mind, and given the fact that in the past few weeks we have had the privilege of reading some seriously AWESOME but criminally under-represented books, we’d like to take this opportunity to shed like light on some truly incredible books and authors that for some reason or another have not received enough attention. (Note: We are perfectly aware that there are a number of awesome books out there that have received a fair amount of hype – but these are some old and new titles that we think deserve a revival of interest and a WAY larger readership!)
If you like Dystopias and Apocalypses:
- Feed by M.T. Anderson
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden
- Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody
- Pod by Stephen Wallenfells
- Life as We Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer
- Genesis by Bernard Beckett
- The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
If you like (YA) Science Fiction:
- Living Hell by Catherine Jinks
- We by John Dickinson
- The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
- The Inferior by Peadar O’Guilin
If you like Fantasy:
- The City in the Lake and The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier (an author that is criminally under-read)
- The Sevenwaters Series (start with Daughter of the Forest) and any other book by Juliet Marillier
- The Orphan’s Tales (really, anything) by Cat Valente
- The Demon King & The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima
- Eon by Alison Goodman
- The Enchanted Forest books by Patricia C. Wrede
If you like Steampunk:
- Airborn, Skybreaker & Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel
- Girl Genius (webcomics or novelization) by Phil and Kaja Foglio
- Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers
If you like Fairies and/or Fairy Tale Retellings:
- Wildwood Dancing, Heart’s Blood & Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (yes, that’s twice in one list, but she’s AWESOME)
- The Child Thief by Bram
- Bound & Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli
- 13 Treasures, 13 Secrets & 13 Curses by Michelle Harrison
- Blackbringer & anything by Laini Taylor
- A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
If you like Contemporary YA:
- Ghosts of Ashbury High (and other Brookfield/Ashbury books) by Jaclyn Moriarty
This is not by any means a complete list, but we believe it’s a good starter in the most hyped up genres of the moment. Now it’s over to you: let us know which books or authors you think are criminally under-read?