Quick Question: What constitutes “hype”?

See the subject line. I ask because I’m genuinely curious: what’s hype? What’s “too much hype”? At what point is there so much hype that you’ll refuse to read something (“overhype”)?

When The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms first came out, I remember that the third review I saw complained about how much hype the book had received. I know this is a matter of perception and relativism. It’s entirely possible that the reviewer had been running in circles where everyone was talking about the book… but in my circles, no one was (at that time). And where did this hype come from? Like I said, it was only the third review. I’ve never been lucky enough to get the kind of ad campaign that I think of as hype — subway posters, Comic Con banners, TV commercials, full-page ads in schmancy magazines. But clearly my definition of hype does not match others’.

So what’s your definition of hype?

ETA: A great discussion popped up on Twitter (my feed) as a result of me posting this there, between myself, Cheryl Morgan, Niall Harrison, and several other bloggers, readers, reviewers, etc. Look at the Tweets of 11/8, from approximately 11 am EST.

16 Responses »

  1. I once read someone who made the point that Final Fantasy VII wasn’t overrated, but it was overhyped; this made sense to me at the time, but it’s hard to describe what I thought the difference was.

    I guess hype is a type of promotion and/or genuine fan enthusiasm that at some point stops being about the original work and becomes more about the hype itself; it’s like a self-sustaining fusion reaction through which people get excited because other people are excited, even when they wouldn’t necessarily have been excited by the work on its own. Overrated work is about people’s perception of its quality, while overhyped work is more about people’s level of excitement and emotional response to it. I think. Obviously this is all incredibly subjective.

    I’ve heard (well-deserved!) praise for 100K, but nothing like what I would call hype. Maybe that reviewer was just being cranky because they didn’t get as excited about it as one or two other people did (usually one or two people is all it takes for us to assume a pattern where none exists).

  2. I guess I would say hype is when it seems like everyone everywhere is talking about something. I wouldn’t say 100K had a lot of hype behind it. Of course, I DID hear a lot of good things about it before I read it (which I did in a day!).

    The Twilight and Hunger Games series have both had lots of hype behind them. I refuse to go near one of them, but have devoured the other one greedily. Guess which is which… :D

  3. Hype has to do with expectations. Something that is overhyped is often sold as “OMGWTFBBQ BEST THING EVAR!!!” to the point that no matter how good the book is, it can’t possibly live up to the reader’s hype-inflated expectations. As a result, that reader often feels disappointed with the work for reason that are not entirely clear. As a reviewer it’s something I frequently struggle with and one of the reasons I try to avoid reading reviews until after I’ve posted mine.

    There is also an aspect of overcoverage that is general lumped with “overhyped.” The key difference, at least in my mind, is that hype comes from the product consumers whereas overselling/overpublicizing (think Transformers 3) comes from the product producer.

  4. I will use fantasy genre examples. Paolini is overhyped and overrated, Martin is just overhyped, though I think that is partly a reflection of the time between his books more than anything else. Whether one comes to believe something is overhyped does depend on what circles they follow for sure.

  5. I think YetiStomper nailed it fairly well. Seeing subways posters or whatever isn’t hype, it’s just brand-awareness stuff. Hype is when you keep hearing from other people about how awesome it is. Movies frequently get overhyped for me because I haven’t seen most of the classics, so I’ve had a lifetime of people telling me how great the classics are and then inevitably they’re good but not THEMOSTAWESOMETHINGEVAR

  6. To me, “hype” suggests that the discussion around a topic is manufactured rather than occurring naturally. As if there’s a street team out there pushing a book (or movie or song or brand of beer or whatever), not a bunch of fans who can’t wait to talk about it. In that sense, I didn’t get the feeling that your books were hyped at all, let alone over-hyped. But I’m not a reviewer, and I don’t know what press releases full of excited blurbs your third reviewer got, or what phone calls saying “we’d really, really like it if you would review this book; have you written the review yet; when is it coming out; yadda, yadda.” (I live with an occasional reviewer of music, and this stuff really does happen. Maybe it happened with your book, with this reviewer.) IF that happened, the reviewer can be forgiven for complaining about hype. Of course, if it happened, it means that your publisher is on the job, so good for you.

  7. I’m with Quinn, actually. Other people’s enthusiasm does seem to feed on the enthusiasm, not the original work, and makes me distrust its expression. ‘Is this real or is it a bandwagon?’ (or worse, trendoid.) Thus, yanno, K’s refusal to read Lord of the Rings.

    Agreed, it must be weird to find that people were burbling about your work and you weren’t hearing about it…

  8. Hype is encouragement to pick up the material. Overhype is being PUSHED. I picked up Harry Potter as Book 3 came out and the hype started shifting into overhype, because I knew that once it became overhype, I’d turn into a mule. I’m a bit less stubborn these days, but I still don’t like being pushed.

  9. I tend to consider it hype when an unknown book gets “the next Harry Potter!!!” and similar. I wouldn’t consider a positive review to be hype. But personally, it doesn’t impact if I buy a book or not. If I like the sample and the story sounds interesting, I’ll buy it. If not, I don’t. I don’t blame the author for the marketing department or the actions of their fans.

  10. I tend to define hype as manufactured publicity, and buzz as people talking about something that excites them. But those are just my definitions.

  11. I don’t know how ‘hype’ translates to books, but I sure know when a movie is overhyped. When McDonalds or Burger King is selling toys or glasses, when there are special trailers shown during a specific television program, when the characters show up on a show (Smurfs on America’s Got Talent, I think.. or Despicable Me. Possibly both), when it’s EVERYWHERE and you CAN’T ESCAPE IT.

    Also, Avatar was the epitome of overhyped the minute Bones devoted an entire episode to it. :P

  12. To me, an example of overhyped would the The Help. It was overhyped in that there were banners on goodreads, on various non-reading related blogs, there were interviews about it, television commercials. I hated the movie before it was released in theaters, and I haven’t even bothered to read the book. I don’t see how your book could be called overhyped. I had never heard of it or seen anything about it anywhere. If I recall correctly, I was looking for multicultural/multiracial fantasy and someone in a forum recommended A Thousand Kingdoms. The offending blogger was just hating.

  13. I just want to note that this morning I received an e-mail from Amazon (which is not where I’ve bought any of your books) telling me I ought to buy your books. So someone somewhere is doing something that has tickled an algorithm….

  14. And further, my sense was that 100K had buzz (by the way I’m defining it).

    However, I think that there are some people who, if they don’t like what is getting buzz, will define it as unearned hype.

  15. I’ve grown to really distrust agency and publisher blogs as a touchstone. They have to sell their product, right? They’re not going to give negative or noncommittal reviews.

    While publicity hype annoys me, I tend to discount it. True, much of the over-hyped work is a crushing letdown once I read it: Eragon, Twilight, and Hunger Games are great examples of books I didn’t even finish. But I’ve also been rewarded when I finally read several ‘hyped’ books. Ben Aaronovitch’s ‘Rivers of London’ series comes to mind, as do the 100K books. I haven’t read THE NIGHT CIRCUS yest, but I plan to.

    When I see a new book ad splashed across the web, I’m not the first to buy the book. I read a few dozen reviews first. I see who blurbed it, and who genuinely loves it. Based on that, I might buy it, or look up a library copy.

  16. For me too much hype happens when I hear so much how awesome something is to the point that I know it will never live up to the unreal expectations I’ve been given. Brokeback Mountain and Momento are two movies I’ve never seen for that very reason.

    Fortunately, however, I received your third book on release day (yay Kindle!) so heard no overhyping at all.