Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Self-promotion or harmless fun?

My plan for today was to have a review up... but as you can see, there is no review yet ^_^; One would think it shouldn't be too difficult to finish one that I've already started, but alas... I ended up cleaning my room yesterday ^_^; Poor excuse, but then, you haven't seen my room LOL. Then, today was busy, busy, busy! Plus, I blame Ames for stealing my reviewing mojo LOL. So instead, I've decided to bring up a discussion topic :)

The topic today is what do you think of authors mentioning bits and pieces of their other work in their newest books? And I'm not talking about books in a same series or that are loosely connected. For example, I was reading Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep and in it, Gwen mentioned how her mother and her enjoyed BBQ from the Pork Pit which is the restaurant that Gin, the heroine of her Elemental Assassin series, owns. In The Next Always by Nora Roberts, the rooms at the inn are named after popular romance couples such as Titiana and Oberon, Elizabeth and Darcy... and Eve and Roarke. I also remember in Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the heroine was reading a book by Kinley MacGregor which is Ms Kenyon's pseudonym.

My question is: What do you think of those mentions? Is it self-promotion or harmless fun?

And when does it become too much? Once again, we go back to The Next Always by Nora Roberts. In Goodreads, Marg wrote in her thoughts of The Next Always: "Given that NR owns the Inn Boonsboro in real life, I can't quite decide if she is clever to write a story about something that she has personally spent a lot of time and effort on, if it is clever marketing for the town or Boonsboro or if it is one huge example of product placement." I read that comment a while ago and it stayed with me. I admit this is a bit different from what I brought up as it's not from Ms Roberts's previous books, but her real life... but I don't think it's off topic.

Personally, most of the time, I think it's fun that an author would mention something from her previous books in a newer one. Also, you have to be familiar with the books to catch those mentions so I think it's harmless and it's just fun for the authors as well :) I mean, as long as it doesn't overshadow the current story, it's all good and fun :)

When it comes from real life though, things become a bit more iffy. Usually, I don't have any problem either. For example, the Sherrilyn Kenyon and Kinley MacGregor thing - why not? :) Inside joke, right?  But recently, I read a book and it just rubbed me the wrong way. IIRC, it was in The Next Always again. They were looking to buy books for the library at the inn and a couple of romance author names were mentioned. It just seemed to me a bit clique-y. Are those authors friends with NR and that's why she mentioned them or simply just luck of the draw. I know, that's me being picky though and most probably, I'm over-thinking it ^_^;

As for the question Marg brought up...  Well I don't think it's a  huge product placement. Ms Roberts often write about different careers and she always does her research just well. This time she chose the inn to be the focus of this trilogy and it's not that different from her previous trilogies/quartets. Actually, while I knew she owned an inn, I didn't realize it was in Boonsboro. To me, it was simply a case of "you write what you know about." Although now that I am checking it out... the bookstore is indeed called Turn the Page and the Italian restaurant is Vesta, just like in the book. Hmmm, I guess the saying "ignorance is bliss" is true ^_^; Okay, now, perhaps I need to re-think this...

What are your thoughts?


  1. I personally don't have any qualms about it. In fact, it usually brings a smile to my face when I stumble upon things like that.

  2. Roberts owns the inn, the gym and I’m not 100% sure but I think her husband owns the book store, all in Boonsboro (and what you talk about the rooms having romance-related names, I think that’s how it is in the real inn). One of the reasons I’m weary of reading her new series is because it seems to me that there’s a lot of self-promotion going on, but then again, that’s her prerogative, and she can write what she wants just as I can read, or not read, what I want. Is it too much? I think so, yes. But what if that’s what her muse told her? Maybe she is so immerse in this new aspect of her life that she just felt the need to write about her experiences, I don’t think she wrote a series just to promote her business, I more than her business she’s trying to promote the whole town. But I admit that I did find this whole business off-putting and I haven’t read the book yet because I don’t want this to influence my opinion of it.

    In general I don’t like when authors refer to their work in their books, it’s weird but I see it more like Easter eggs than self-promo. If you are familiar enough to catch it then you probably already own the books, so it’s more like a wink to the fans than anything else.

    Great post Nath!

  3. I just think of it as the author having jolly good fun. And since I haven't read Roberts series books for years now - though I still read her single titles and adore her JD Robb books, the chance that I'll read this series is pretty slim - which means that it doesn't bother me :-)

  4. Jessica - Nod nod, Jessica. Like an inside joke, right? :) That's my take as well :)

    Brie - See, I wasn't aware of that fact before I read the book. Now, I don't know how I feel. The thing is she doesn't say anywhere that she owns those establishments and the characters are fiction. I mean, I bet you 75% of the people who will read this series will think it's all fiction...

    Anyway, after doing some checking... the feeling I have is like you said, she was immersed in that new aspect of her life. The inn opened in 2009 and really, while The Next Always was published in 2011, you don't really know when Ms Roberts wrote the book right? :) So perhaps, she just needed to share that new experience with us, her readers? :) I think that's the way I'm going to look at it :)

    Kristie - Kristie!!!! I miss you!!! LOL. Okay, that's out of the way :)

    Yeah, I think it's just fun for her. It's funny how you'll read her single titles and the JD Robb books :) There was a point, I was burn-out with her trilogies as well, but now, I'm back in the mood for them :)

  5. This is a very interesting topic!
    I generally don't mind when they mention things about their previous books when it makes sense, you know?

    I do like it, it makes me smile. But I also get that it can be a bit too much.

    I remember reading Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink and the girl starts reading these romance novels and I was all excited because I recognized the names

    And I loved when in one of the Bridgerton books Penlope was reading Mathilda by S.R. Fielding from Lisa Kleypas's book. I loved that.

  6. I have always just viewed it as sort of an author's tongue-in-cheek sort of reference--after all, a little subtle marketing never hurt, and it's always kind of fun for a reader to get in on the joke. I think it's also kind of fun when I recognize the reference. I kind of feel like an insider.

  7. Hey Nath, great post! Interesting and thought provoking point!

    I agree with the majority here though. I read the book and knew when I read it that NR's family owns all those businesses that she mentions. Turn the Page owned by her husband and Vestra Italian Restaurant by her son, and well the Inn BoonsBoro by the family. But, I never thought of it as marketing, I took it as Nora Roberts using her surroundings and latest interests as the background for her latest romance series. I actually enjoyed that aspect of the book.

  8. Alex - True, true. It has to fit, not come out of nowhere :)

    Oh yeah, that was cute, the Lisa Kleypas reference :) I guess it's not an issue most of the time because you need to be able to recognize it.

    I liked the Pork Pit reference in Touch of Frost... However, I have to admit, I'm not sure the two worlds Ms Estep has created in each of her series will mesh together ^_^; I don't see it meshing ^_^;

    Dr J - Yeah, a little marketing never hurts. And I guess as you say, it makes the reader feel good.

    Hilcia - LOL, it kind of degenerated from my initial intent, but I think it turned out well :) Glad you thought it was interesting :)

    See, I didn't think it was marketing either when I read The Next Always and I still don't think it is. I guess the next question is, is it very different than if she mentioned a restaurant in New York City? I don't think so... but I do admit that now, I'm a bit weird out that all these places are "real." I also wonder if she's only mentioning the business linked to her and her family, because she has permission. I mean, would other business be happy to be mentioned in a romance book?

  9. I generally take it all in fun. It's usually just one or two mentions so the reader isn't overwhelmed with it.

    Until I mapped the Inn Boonsboro and saw all the places mentioned in the book I had assumed they were fictional. But it makes sense to use the real names since she's using the Inn's name. Might as well go all the way with it. I don't see it as product placement, just use of landmarks.

  10. Leslie - Yeah, you're right :)

    Yeah, that's another option, landmarks. I did think of that as well. Since it's a real place she's using... but then, the thing is most of the places she mentioned were tied to her... However, it might be because it is tied to her, she won't get into legal problems mentioning them while other business, she might. Hmmm, I'm overthinking this, ain't I?

  11. I'm usually prepared to go with it, even if it does make me roll my eyes sometimes. I'm not sure if the latest NR will push my buttons or not. Most of the reviews I've read have been to the effect of "too much inn restoration and not enough of the main couple".

  12. Kaetrin - LOL, every time I see your icon, it always takes me a few seconds to figure out what it is. I see the brown and I'm like, hmmm, what it is... and only after that do I realize it's hair and a strap and a shoulder LOL.

    That's what I read in most reviews as well... but you know, NR's writing is just solid for me. Perhaps it's the familiarity that allows her to do so...

  13. I'm actually going to be reviewing The Next Always for AAR (their Speaking of Audiobooks) column so we'll see - the inn stuff may not bother me and it may or may not be more obvious on audio.

    As for my avatar, this is me but trying to be seekrit! :)

    Hey Nath, watch out for my "20 followers" giveaway coming soon on my blog! I've been joking with my husband and Mandi @ Smexy Books that when I reach 20 followers I'd do my first ever giveaway and lo and behold on the weekend I somehow clicked over to 21! I know most people do giveaways when they get to 500 but it's taken me 2 years to get this far so I thought, what the heck! Plus it amuses me no end to have "The Amazing 20 Follower Giveaway". *snort*

  14. Kaetrin - Well among all the reviews I've read, I know that Leslie listened to the audio-book and gave it a B- :) But she still thought the H/H didn't spend much time together. So I guess we'll have to wait and see if it worked for you :)

    LOL. Your icon is working then :)

    I'll definitively watch out for it!! and LOL, I know what you mean :) Ah well, it's okay you know. As long as some people do read our blogs, it's fine :) By the way, I have you on GoogleReader, but I don't follow anyone... Just so you know ^_^;

  15. @Nath - ha, I was paying out one of my online friends the other day about not following my flog and she told me she followed along in Google Reader rather than was a 'follower' with GFC. I had no idea that was even possible so I had to eat crow. Seems like my 20 follower giveaway may have been seriously overdue!!!

    Hey, you know, now that I know about Google Reader, I'm a bit worried. I read a post the other day where the reviewer had a read a negative review at another (unnamed site) and said that it was so terrible she unfollowed the reviewer immediately. She said it bagged the author personally and was full of typos. There was something in there which indicated it was a graded review rather than a DNF. I commented on the post but then I went to my blog where there was a negative review (a DNF actually) of Where Demons Fear To Tread and when I read it over I was horrified to find it contained 3 typos!! (oh noes!). I immediately fixed them of course but I thought, no, it couldn't have been my review the blogger was referring to because a) mine was a DNF rather than a graded review and b) none of my GFC followers had dropped off. But, now that I know about Google Reader following I'm worried - what if it was me! Argh!! I re-read the review and though it was negative I don't think I bagged the author (although there were originaly typos) and I did give reasons for why it didn't float my boat. I also said that it had good ratings on GR so I was possibly an outlier. But, given that I wrote it, what if I'm just not seeing what others see? Argh again!!

  16. Regarding Nora Roberts and her Next Always book/series, I think she's just going with something she's really passionate about--her family businesses and her talent for writing romance. However, I'm also pretty sure she's well aware that this series will get the word out about Boonsboro and possibly increase exposure and tourism to the community. And why not? All of these things are her livelihood--why not do what she can to help herself, her family and her community? I don't think it's unethical. As the consumer, it's ultimately up to us whether or not we choose to support any aspect of her livelihood.

  17. Kaetrin - LOL, Kaetrin, I really think it's not you. I read your review of the Stephanie Chong's book and it wasn't offensive or anything! So no worries!!

    It kind of sucks that you cannot keep track of who's following you in Google Reader :( But you're right, me think your giveaway is overdue! LOL.

    Okay, you gotta tell me, what does GFC stands for?

    Christine - I agree with you, Christine. At least, I hope that's the reason she wrote about Inn Boonsboro! :) And true, if it brings her and the community more business, then who can begrudge her. As long as it wasn't the initial purpose.

  18. @Nath - Google Friend Connect.

    (although Mandi from Smexy Books tweeted today that Google have announced no support for GFC for non Blogger blogs from next year, so probably I'll lose followers - thx Google! :D

  19. Kaetrin - LOL, Google gives it and then takes it away. It's okay though. People will find another way to follow you :)