Mary's Minute: The Hype Machine

One interesting aspect of the bookish community is the way we the readers put so much into promoting the books (and authors) we adore. It's not enough for us to love a book, buy a copy, and be done. We love a book. We rave about it. We draw fanart, we write reviews and fanfic, we create designs and merchandise, we post inspiration boards and fancasts, playlists and top tens. We cosplay. We preorder. We tell our friends, our families, our coworkers, our postmen, our cashiers, our random strangers in the bookstore. We don't tell them once or twice. We tell them once or twice daily until they pick up the book already. We face books at B&N. We show up at events. We join street teams and push even harder. We tell the world in as many ways as possible.

What I want to talk about for a second is... does all this non-stop promotion ever HURT a book (pauses to hum a few bars of "Non Stop")? Let me tell you a story. In April 2015, I received an advance copy of a really cool book at the TLA annual conference. I had been looking forward to this book. The author had become a favorite because of another series and was an auto-read, auto-buy for me. I did not immediately read the book because it was six months before publication, and there were some other great books with closer release dates. Unfortunately for me, just a month later, everyone at BEA got this book and read it immediately. They RAVED about it. They posted pictures of pages. They created dozens of blog posts and my Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram feeds were plastered with updates, posts, and pictures for about three months. The end result was that I didn't want to read the book anymore BECAUSE everyone was talking about it. I was especially incensed by the spoilery pictures of the pages.

And so I waited. I bided (bode? UGH irregular verbs are the worst) my time. The book released with much pomp, but after about three weeks, the promotion had abated, and it was finally "safe" for me to read without expectation. I read the book in two days and LOVED it. I posted a review, recommended it to friends and family, touted it as one of my favorite books of 2015, met the authors on tour (like four times), posted a gif review of the sequel, and posted a review of the audio. For those who clicked the links, bless you. Yes, it was, in fact, Illuminae. Those of you who know me know yeah, I adore this book and its sequel. I love its authors. I think it's fantastic and want everyone to read it... but too much hype killed my initial desire to read the book.

While I think it's amazing that everyone is always so excited by the books they love, I'm always intensely wary of listening to gushy OMG IT'S THE BEST EVAR type recommendations, particularly from people whose reading tastes I am not wholly certain line up with my own. I tend to be a bit skeptical of recommendations, and I completely ignore the ones my Goodreads friends send me. I have many times fallen into the pit of despair disappointment caused by high expectations caused by too much hype.

In recent days, I have been especially annoyed by the street team of a certain sequel. I want to read this book. The author is a delight, and the book is set an intriguing world about which I would like to know more. Last night, someone checked the audiobook of book 1 out at work, and I told them how much I enjoyed it. However, it is IRRITATING AS FUCK because for the last two weeks straight, my timelines on every conceivable platform have been taken over by this book's overeager champions. At this point, I'm so sick of hearing about this book that my desire to read it has dropped from about an 8 on the I Want It scale to about a 2. AND IT STILL HAS SEVERAL WEEKS TO GO BEFORE RELEASE. I'm trying to hold out hope by the release, the frenzy will have lessened somewhat, but that's probably futile.

If any of said champions read this (because some of you are friends of mine), I really do love you guys. You're great, and I think it's great you love this book, this series, this author, but maybe cut the promotion down a smidge. It doesn't have to be non-stop promo 24/7.

For anyone who does any type of promotion (and LBR, all of us do some type of promotion, whether for a book, an author, a merchandise shop, our blogs, whatever), maybe follow authors Beth Revis's & Paula Stokes's advice (the entire post is about promotion, but question 2 is the most applicable part): post once in the morning, once in the afternoon, once later at night, which will ensure social media users who jump on at different times each day will see one of your posts. Or maybe post once a day and figure someone will see it on Wednesday who missed the Tuesday post. Please stop posting every hour on the hour on every platform you're on. It's excessive.

Here's the thing: sometimes an author with no clue how to social media comes on and tweets a link to their book to me with no previous interaction. I immediately check out their feed. If I see they've tweeted the same exact tweet to myself and several other book bloggers, I report them for spam. What you're doing, it's spam too. I won't report friends for spam (that's seriously reserved for "buy my book [link]" or "knoxdiver, win an iphone 8!"), but I will stop listening. I'll start avoiding that book book and the people talking about it. I'll utilize things like the mute button. I'm contrary like that, but hey, there's literally a nursery rhyme about the contrariness of people named Mary.

Street teams can be fantastic. They're a great resource for authors, particularly when the piece of the publisher's publicity pie is that weird randomly skinny slice while the other pieces are all fatter (you know what I'm talking about, but see below because it was fun to google).

But for me, I'd rather talk to people about the book rather than face down a wall of inside jokes, increasingly ridiculous hashtags, and purchase/preorder links.

I think it's also a matter of focus. I'd rather hear WHY a book is great instead of just seeing "OMG I HAVE THIS BOOK IT'S AMAZING THANKS [insert publisher here] [insert all the heart eye emojis here]" a thousand times before the book comes out. If I hear "wow, the writing is so beautiful!" I'll keep an eye out for the writing. If I hear "Henry is SUUUPER swoony, and I ship it so hard!" I'm definitely going to be looking out for Henry and the ship. Expecting general awesomeness is a good way to become disappointed, but if promotion is focused, I know the book has some specific strengths that will definitely push it up my TBR. This is 100% why I still prefer Twitter to Instagram. Book pictures are pretty, but rarely do I ever have a meaningful conversation about a book on Insta.

I don't want people to think I'm just picking on street teams here. Yes, while the intense presence of The Team That Will Not Be Named broke me pushed me to post this now, I've actually been thinking about this topic for several months, although primarily regarding individual recommendations. *scrolls up, sees how long this post already is* Basically, even when a friend I love encourages me to read a book, sometimes I balk 1. if they recommend it every day (it is established that I'm contrary) or 2. if they love it, and I'm afraid I won't.

To conclude, I'll leave you with this: I recently apologized to a friend because I realized I was being wholly obnoxious with my book pushing (I really did yell at her almost every day for several months in our group chat), and it's something I'm going to work on. I always want to be a person who encourages people to pick up a book, someone others seek out for a recommendation instead of bombarding them with suggestions. It absolutely kills me when I get a comment like, "thanks for this. You saved me from reading this garbage." That's not the kind of reader, blogger, and library staffer I want to be. I also want others to be conscientious of the difference between helpful promotion and obnoxious spam.

Please leave a comment whether you agree or disagree. I would love to hear other readers' and bloggers' opinions regarding promotion, recommendations, and expectations and if they're connected for you the way they are for me. Has the hype machine ever ruined a book for you or have you ever pushed a book lower on your TBR to avoid the hype? 


  1. As soon as you’ve mentioned pictures of pages, I knew what book you are talking about. I still haven’t read Illuminae for the same reasons as you. This post resonates with me so much. I find myself putting aside books on the highest point of hype and finally reading them months, even years later.

  2. After watching the horrendous debacle that was the Insurgent Street Team (seriously, it was so ridiculous), I have questioned the efficacy of ST all together. I personally don't think they impact sales in any discernible way and they just seem to make bloggers angry when they aren't chosen, but that's another post. I think once you've gotten some blogging years under your belt, as you and I have, you start to be wary of too much publicity. I always think to myself "why are they pushing this book so hard? They must have paid a lot of money for it" which is so cynical, I know. There are certainly times when the hype is justified, but at least half the time it doesn't live up to the constant hashtags and heart eyes. So yes, the hype machine has ruined books for me which is why I keep a short list of ppl I know won't BS their reviews and I look to them in these situations.

  3. This is exactly why I stepped down from this street team last year. I felt VERY uncomfortable being expected to participate in certain types of posts. They felt spamming and I just couldn't do it. You had to do it or you were out of the team. Too much pressure for me. I also loved the book and was unsure because of the hype and I do look forward to the sequel. I will say though it's not as heavy as it was last year. But it's still there. The author is the best so I'm willing to overlook it but I think it needs some discussion and reevaluating.

  4. This is such a great commentary on the difficulty of promoting. I struggle with this because I don't want to be spamming. Especially when it comes to loving a book.

  5. I'm a reader and I feel it's necessary to promote your book to get it out there. I have been caught up in the hype of many releases, such excessive hype at times has made me want to jump on the band wagon and I have. But at my own pace. If it starts getting overdone I just tend to ignore the posts. Thank you

  6. I tend to gravitate towards book blogs that give me reasons for why they loved/liked/didn't love/like a book. I want to know if the world-building was flawless or unique, if the characters seemed real and were flawed, yet ones to care about. I want to know if the author's writing was powerful, poetic, musical. I want to know if the book hooked you right away and if the ending fit and wasn't rushed in explanations. If a trusted blogger doesn't like a book, I want to know.