One of my birthday traditions is to buy myself a new book (actually, I’ll use any excuse to buy myself a book, so my birthday is just one of many!) Anyhow, last Friday (which was my birthday, in case you’ve forgotten) I hied myself to Barnes and Noble, fresh coupons in hand (love being a Readers Club Member) and grabbed up the latest offerings from two of my favorites~ Chris Bohjalian’s Double Bind, and Jodi Picoult’s, 19 Minutes.

I haven’t started to read either book yet, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy them. I’ve been reading these authors for as long as they’ve been publishing. Bohjalian’s first mainstream novel was Midwives, which I read long before it became an Oprah Book Club Selection. My introduction to Picoult came with Harvesting the Heart, which was her second novel, published in 1993. Each one of these authors has a unique way of embroiling their characters in an issue that faces all of us in modern society, and creating a fascinating, thought provoking web of actions and consequences that we can all relate to .

There’s something interesting going on with these two novels, something that’s never happened before with an author that I “follow.” Bohjalian and Picoult have become “hot properties” on the bookstore circuit. Barnes and Noble is featuring Bohjalian’s book in their new “on-line” book clubs, complete with a really cool 10 minute pod cast of the author at home, discussing his writing process, giving us a tour of his study, and talking about the book. Picoult seems to belong to Borders, who has it’s own video of Jodi participating in a book group discussion with other readers (just like me and you!)

I have to admit, I feel a little wierd about this. It was fascinating to watch these videos, hear the authors speaking, see their homes, even (oh my god!) their studies, and the actual desks where they write. But I felt a little like the kid who sees their classroom teacher in the grocery store and thinks, “My gosh! Mrs. Smith actually eats food like the rest of us!” Over the many years that I’ve been reading and enjoying their work, I think I’ve put them on a bit of a pedestal. Now I see that they’re just human beings, like me – Bohjalian is quite obsessive compulsive, particularly about his study, which was frighteningly organized and neat. Picoult has the most beautiful, expressive face, yet she is obviously much heavier than the picutres on her book jackets, which leads me to believe they’ve been “altered” to make her appear “more attractive,” when she is gorgeous just as she is.

This new web driven marketing is probably a good thing for authors, at least in terms of sales volume. In some ways, it’s exciting to see writer’s becoming media figures, and I’m all for making reading (and writing!) more popular in today’s society. I guess I’m a little uneasy about some of my favorite literary “heroes” becoming slaves to the media. I don’t want them to give up their individuality, their unique way of expressing themselves, their particular art, just to serve some PR firm’s idea of what will increase sales.

How about you? What’s your take on the mass marketing of author’s?


7 thoughts on “Bookmarked

  1. There’s some part of me that wants to know everything about my favorite authors – and another part that wants to keep the mystery. I haven’t decided which is the stronger need. It’s very satisfying, though, to see where and how writers work. I’ve been listening to podcasts lately. “Writers on Writing” is one of my favorites.

    Sounds like you had a very good birthday. Even with the getting lost thing going on. 🙂

  2. I saw the one for Jodi on Borders’ site but didn’t choose to watch it. I may have to go see the two you’ve mentioned here just because now I’m curious.

    A friend and I attended a lecture about a year and a half ago by an author we both like to read. She was informative in the “lecture” portion, sharing how a typical writing day goes for her and the accountability of having a writing partner. Prior to the lecture portion, those in the audience were given cards to write questions for the author and she answered quite a few after the prepared portion. It was fun to hear who she based certain characters on, the type of research she has to do, etc.

    Like you, it seems the publishers require more and more hoops for writers to jump through. The book signing following the lecture I attended was swamped and orchestrated in such a way that it was very impersonal and not what I would have expected from the author if she had been given more input (her husband even made cookies from one of the recipes in her book to share with us).

  3. I think if I were a popular author I would prefer a podcast & a stint on Oprah to endless book signing junkets (if there was a choice!) JP

  4. I have mixed feelings as well. I like the mystery I weave around them as well as getting the real scoop from them. But, as you mentioned, the real worry is that their writing becomes media driven. I love small independent presses for that reason.

  5. Those are two of my favorite authors too!
    C.B. lived about 30 minutes from me when I lived in VT and J.P lives in the neighboring town to where I taught. Jodi is very receptive and participates in the message boards on her website- if you haven’t checked it out- I think you’ll like poking around there.

  6. I’ve never read either one of those writers, so must check out their books. I think it depends on how the marketing is managed – the writers need to retain some mystery and privacy. Glad you’re enjoying your b-day gifts!

  7. Some authors want both worlds. I was concerned however over Oprah promoting that book that was a lie and it was suppose to be true. How can one woman make a writer a best seller over night? Scary!

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