Creating Hype out of Thin Air

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While this blog will review fiction, it will also serve as a place to talk about the world of fiction.  I have already done some of that, but I am about to jump off the diving board and into the pool of the publishing world. Make sure to strap on your floaties.

We all know that hard-copy books are in trouble.  Borders is closing (while simultaneously expanding my personal library), Barnes and Noble is not doing so peachy, and there are countless people turning to Ebooks instead.  So when the following Wall Street Journal article came through on my Twitter feed, I was wondering just how many people are going to lose money on this gamble.  Of course, it may take off, too.

Since Harry Potter broke just about every record in the book (movies as well as books), publishers have been looking for the next phenomenon.  Some people thought they had found it in the Twilight “saga”.  (It truly pains me to call it that, because a saga is a Norse myth of some substance, not at all like these novels.  But they can’t call it a quadrilogy.)  While Twilight has made a bunch of money, it has not found the same universal acceptance.  Most people reject it and its power lies in the hands of fourteen year-old girls and their crazy Twihard moms.  But I will not spend an entire post bashing Twilight, if only because my own mother will bug me about it later.  So publishers continue to look for the next success, and Doubleday think they have found it with a debut author.

Erin Morgenstern’s novel is called Night Circus and focuses on two young magicians who must compete against each other in a night-time circus.  And of course they fall in love.  Because that is what sells novels.  And it’s the forbidden love that Summit Entertainment has been touting to Twihards, since they have purchased the rights to the film already.  The book hasn’t even come out yet, and the film rights are already purchased.

I understand that this book could potentially be huge.  But the WSJ article divulges that some bookstores are planning for the release of this book.  Some are doing huge (surely expensive) release parties with circus themes.  Others have purchased huge volumes of the book, causing the publisher to print 50,000 more on their first run than originally planned.  Morgenstern even went to ComicCon to promote it.

While she is living every author’s dream, I think she’s living the nightmare, too.  With so much expected out of her first book, it not only puts pressure on her to write more explosive novels, but it puts pressure on her first novel.  How can she be assured that the novel will actually sell?  If it were me, I would worry about being the biggest flop in history – you’ve built up all this hype and the only way to go is down.

While I would understand this sort of reaction if it were Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games) writing a new book, or especially if it were J.K. Rowling’s new novel, I have a hard time fathoming it for someone whose work has not yet been tested.  Some books may have all the winning formulas, but never take off.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think Rowling got a huge advance.  She had struggled to publish for years and was immensely grateful for the chance she got.  Harry Potter grew organically, and it was never something that felt shoved down your throat.  Of course, you might disagree if you were a little late to the game on the series, but there was not this kind of pressure or flustering over The Sorcerer’s Stone.

While the book has gotten some good pre-release reviews on Amazon, who’s to say just how magical it will be?  The release date is set for September 13, so it will not be long before we shall see if all this advanced hype will pay off or not.  Of course I will read it simply because I am curious, and maybe Doubleday is smart in that regard.  They have created curiosity, someone like me writes a little blog about it, word spreads, and the curiosity continues to grow.  Maybe the publishers know what they are doing after all.

But what do you think, dear reader?  Is this overkill, or might we all be sitting around in a year or so waiting to see the midnight premiere of Night Circus in cinemas?