But I'll be honest - when it comes to the hype machine I'm not overly concerned with those readers I encounter online. Why? Because these folks are R-E-A-D-E-R-S. They constantly read. They finish a book, they immediately pick up a new one. I wouldn't classify anything about their reading habits as "casual."
Where hype does tend to concern me is with "casual" readers. People who aren't active readers in a sense, but pick up a book to read every once in a blue moon. These are the folks who I consider the bread-and-butter of the hype machine when the media gets a hold of something. While active readers sometimes get sucked in, I know just as many who turn up their nose and wade back into their TBR piles. However casual readers are more likely to think, "Well everybody is talking about it and reading it, so it must be good - and golly, I haven't read a book in a while, so I'll try it."
I always worry that we're losing these potential active readers. No really, I do. Because try as I might, the mystery of what gets hyped completely baffles me most of the time - and this is coming from a librarian. Dudes, trust me - I'm really looking for the why and sometimes I come up with a half-baked reason, but it still doesn't explain the mysteriousness of word-of-mouth half the time.
Stieg Larsson. After endless years of hype, I finally listened to the first book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, on audio. I have seen the American movie version and this is one instance were I can honestly say - the movie is better. Even factoring in that the movie changes some key elements (oh, like the ending) - David Fincher and whomever the screenwriter was really made that story better. How? They cut out all the crap. Oh Lord, the excessive amounts of crap in that book! Endless talking! Pacing as slow as mud! I'm no editor but if I had had the print version in front of me I would have likely run out of red ink. Bloated and with a tendency to "tell" - it kept me reasonably engaged enough to try the second book on audio, which I DNF'ed after five or six CDs because it wasn't going anywhere. Also, the characters were starting to defy logic. Oh sure, Lisbeth Salandar, the girl who the authorities think is mentally challenged and unable to care for herself shot that couple gangland execution style. You can stop looking at the owner of the licensed firearm that was used in the murders because you know - he's only an intelligent man (a lawyer) with a history of gun-club membership and a reputation for being an excellent shot. Yeah, it must have been the idiot girl who you all think has a basement level IQ!
(I barely tolerate stupid people in real life, I can't spend my leisure time reading about them.....)
I have no idea why that trilogy was popular. None. It's fat. It's bloated. And good Lord, people give me crap about the suspense novels I love being misogynistic and promoting violence against women? The one thing the Larrson books taught me? Never visit Sweden. Ever. (Kidding Swedes. I'm only kidding!). I'm half convinced this series got popular for the sole reason that the author is dead.
But one thing I will give the Larsson trilogy - as a library, we had just as much demand for the later books in the series as we did for the first one. I can't say the same for the ultimate example of hype, the Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James. Part of this is that a lot of readers I've come into contact with had no idea there were other books after the first one. Then there is the other reason I suspect: they hated the first one, or in some cases didn't even finish it, and had no desire to continue. For the 600+ holds I had on the first book, the next two installments only peaked around 200.
Wendy......why? Why?!?!?!?! Why, why, why, why, why, why, why?!?!?!?!?!?!?
There also was liberal use of the F-bomb. Which honestly made for very funny text messages from her while she was reading. My favorites?
Yeah, almost done now. Sooooo much talking. Ugh. Just f*ck please.
She f*cking cries through the whole damn book!
Lil' Sis (who has enjoyed other erotic romance authors and a smattering of romantic suspense) ultimately chalked up the experience to reading a "poorly written romance." She has a pregnant friend who says her current condition is because of these books and I suspect my sister is planning an intervention as I type this.
So two examples of books/series that got hype that I have a hard time figuring out why. I suspect the Fifty Shades phenomenon tapped into a segment of readers who didn't know erotic writing existed. Or those readers who sniff at romance, but happily will lap up poorly written tripe if you slap monochrome cover art on it.
Which makes me sound snobby and elitist, but it's hard to keep a sense of humor about stuff like this when people either 1) Squee! about Fifty Shades, then look disdainfully at my Harlequin Romance or 2) Use Fifty Shades as an example for all of Romancelandia (See? This book sucks - ergo all romance novels must suck!).
For all the readers erotic romance gained in the Fifty Shades hype, did we end up losing just as many?