Are We Getting More Savvy About Hype?

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Changing Attitudes to Hype

I’ve been blogging about books since 2010, so I’ve seen a few hyped books come and go. I still remember the massive campaign for Divergent, and man I fell so hard for it. Luckily I liked the book! But living in Australia means I miss out a bit on the big hyped books at BEA, ALA and other conferences. And lately, I’ve had completely zero interest in reading some of the biggest hyped books of the last 12-18 months.

This got me wondering about hype in the book world. Generally I think it’s safe to say that a majorly hyped book will have either one of two responses: it’s the best thing since sliced bread or it’s way overhyped.

And yet, I think, as a community, we’re starting to get more savvy towards hyped books in general. We’re not falling for the mass marketing tricks. We’re hesitating before diving in. We’re reading fellow reviewers and making our own judgement based on their findings.

When I was thinking about writing this post, I had to ask for help naming some of the biggest hyped books of the last 18 months. Common responses were:

  • Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
  • Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Some of these were obviously hyped more than others. I remember basically everyone but me jazzing in their pants when Illuminae was announced (Sorry, Jay, you know I adore you). I joined in for the fun of Truthwitch because it sounded badass (luckily, I did enjoy that one). I remember dismissing Red Queen until I heard about the ending and then I thought to myself, I want to give this one a shot! But that was more than six months after it had been published.

An older title I want to mention is The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. This was hyped way ahead of publication due to several high-profile bloggers receiving exclusive ARCs at one of the major book conferences. For almost a year no one even knew what the book was about. Then that beautiful cover was released and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. Meanwhile, I found my first truly disappointing hyped book. And I think that was the catalyst that got me thinking more critically about hyped books and what’s actually written in the blurbs and trying to guess ahead of time if I would enjoy the book or not.

I have about zero interest in reading most of the big hyped books nowadays. I think it comes from being burned too many times. When something is hyped so much, the first instinct is to get an ARC, or pre-order, or buy as close to release day as possible. This is before the bad reviews start coming out, so you don’t really have a frame of reference. It’s so easy to get swept up in all the hype.

Now I read the blurbs of hyped books closely and pick out keywords I think I’ll have an issue with. For example ‘slave’ in An Ember in the Ashes.

Of course I’m always disappointed to see really negative reviews of really hyped books. My own co-blogger didn’t find Truthwitch half as magical as I did. But sometimes the big hyped books are the ones with the pretty covers, the big marketing budget, the tours and signings. I’m starting to feel as if we as a community are starting to get a little more savvy towards hype. We’re waiting longer before jumping in. We’re actually deciding based on the blurb if it sounds like something we’d like to read, not just blindly grasping for it because it’s hip. We’re not so disappointed when the book doesn’t rock our world (because of course no one book will please everyone – to prove it I just went and read some 1 star review for Harry Potter and now I want to cry). We’re actually refusing to read hyped books because they don’t sound like something we’d enjoy.

Or maybe it’s just me.

What do you think? Is the YA book community getting more savvy about hype? Does everyone just read the same thing? Do you ever have zero desire to read a book everyone else is screaming about?


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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6 thoughts on “Are We Getting More Savvy About Hype?

  1. Eilonwy

    I find myself frequently avoiding hyped book, for a few reasons.

    First, when everyone else I know has already read and reviewed a book months before it comes out, I tend to feel sick of it by the time it shows up at my library. This is probably not fair to the book or especially its author (because getting all that hype is a dream come true for a writer!), but overexposure really dampens my enthusiasm for actually reading a book.

    Second, I kind of like “discovering” books myself, i.e., just browsing through the library or bookstore shelves and stumbling on a book that grabs me even though I never heard of it. Those books get the fairest reading from me, I think, because

    Third, it’s really hard for a hyped book to live up to the hopes and expectations I develop when I see all those gushing reviews popping up in my GR feed or on the blogs I follow, and I really hate the sense of extra disappointment I feel when a book that got such a huge marketing push turns out to be blah for me.

    But I’m not immune to peer pressure. I did read Uprooted and Truthwitch precisely because everyone I know was gushing about both of those. I loved the former, and was a bit meh on the latter.

    1. Nemo

      I think there’s a fair few people out there who feel that overexposure kills their enthusiasm.

      But I think you’ll find most of the most successful books are the ones with the biggest marketing budget. They turn out to be ‘meh’ because they have some marketable angle but are really just regular books.

      1. Eilonwy

        I’m going to have to remember that the next time I read a super-hyped book: “It’s just a regular book.” That’s exactly right, Nemo! And yet I seem to fall for expecting the hyped books to be magical, somehow. I’m clearly a sucker for marketing even if I like to think I’m smarter than that. 🙂

  2. Josephine

    I guess I am the same as you. I enjoy reading books that a lot of people have mentioned they like. But I am usually a lot more careful when I pick them out. I guess I am rather behind on newly released books, it doesn’t matter much to me, cause I like checking the reviews up on goodreads, carefully looking up what the book is about before I decide.

    Hype can be fun, because you’re enthusiastic about something together with a group of people who is also enthusiastic about the same thing. I was just always pretty slow to the game anyway. Haha

    1. Nemo

      I think your approach is a good one Josephine, taking your time picking out a book. It’s SO easy to get wrapped up in hype and then get upset when you don’t get an ARC of the Next Big Thing and then feel like you’ve missed out – by the time those negative reviews come out, you’re basically over it! But that’s how marketing and hype work.

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