I read a book last week. It was a good book, about a group of women who discover a secret after their friend dies and the drama that this discovery leads to lead the plot. The front cover was in pastels with some baby shoes on it. And a sticker, saying “As Good As Jodi Picoult Or Your Money Back…”
Firstly, who actually is going to do that? Who is going to go back into WHSmith or where ever as be like ‘I have collated this collection of reviews from various sources, plus monitored my brainwaves and measured how much my palms sweated and my heart raced whilst reading this book, and then compared this data with my sweat level during my previous reading of ‘The [Insert Tragic Device] [Insert Tragic Device]’ and, you know what, Jodi was better. Where is my seven ninety nine?
Secondly, you can’t say one book is better or worse than another book based entirely on reader’s perception of it because we don’t all think the same. Thirdly, since when has a sticker decided what’s good?
And it’s not just Tragedy Porn. Have you read an alright-crime book recently? Does the writer have an even slightly “foreign” sounding name? If it isn’t Steig Larsson reincarnated, I hope you’ve demanded to see management. Even though The Millennium Trilogy is first off an exposure of misogyny and corruption within the establishment, and the ‘crime’ aspect of the books is merely one of the many layers of character and theme driven onion-plots, even basic detective drama is being compared with it.
And then there’s Twishite. Wuthering Shites was completely repackaged to appeal to a Twishite audience. There were stickers on the books proclaiming this, this, is Bella’s favourite book, as if somehow a boring two dimensional walk over of a character approving of a literary classic the other half of my year had to study for GCSE makes it a good book. I am actually quite disappointed that they didn’t do “Better Than Twilight, or your money back” stickers on the re-release, as I would have loved to see the look on the fittie from Albion Street Waterstones’ (one day, one day) face as I pointed out that actually, WH is pretty fucking rubbish, comparably speaking.
We’re never going to have books that aren’t compared with other books but this trend for dividing us up into genre that publishing houses are fixated on recently is pissing me off. I read a very wide range of books; I like to think (check out my shelf on goodreads. It’s disappointingly classic and sci-fi free at the moment. Actually looking its not very diverse at all OK DO AS I SAY NOT WHAT I DO, RIGHT?) But I do try to mix up the genres a little; it’s good for the soul.
So this month I’m going to do Opposite Covers Month. If I read a bright pink cover, then next must have a tortured werewolf on it. For every arty swirly beautifulness the next must have some sort of inflammatory heroine standing at the end of a cobbled street in the 30s. Only this way will I be Fighting The System, Ending The Sticker Wars, and going ‘ha! See! I don’t need to have my reading list dictated by your marketing policy!’…
…even though it probably still will.
One thought on “Better than something entirely irrelevent, or your money back”
The whole “better than x or your money back” whilst being a silly marketing gimmick may not be so bad. I've never read Jodi Picoult but I know plenty of people who do and for them I'm sure the sticker is actually quite useful, its basically saying “hey if you like Jodi Picoult you'll probably like this” – useful guidance in the overwhelming shelves of summer reads. OK its a bit silly and no one is really going to go “ah that wasn't as good I want my money back” but what it may do is introduce someone to a new author they may not have found themselves. Is that really a bad thing?
The same goes for Twilight, ok you may not like Twilight and knowing Wuthering Heights is Bella's favourite book is not going to hold sway with you but for a 13 year kid who has never even thought of picking up a Bronte novel is marketing them in such a way really a bad thing? If it opens up the genre to a new young audience that can only ever be good.
Suffice to say the marketing bods know their audience and how best to sell to it. You may not fall into that group and whilst you may not agree with their methods you may, when you look to the result, decide that actually those little stickers may create some good after all.