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Selling out for a bestseller

The L.A. Times has a cute op/ed piece by Jane Smiley, pondering the pros and cons of auctioning off a novel cameo to the highest bidder. While she is no stranger to selling a spot among her pages for the forces of good (she wrote a character named “Betty Baldwin” into one of her books after the real-life lady donated ten grand to a charity for “retired racehorses”), she finds a recent lit payola incident a little troubling.

Writer Sean Stewart and his book packager, Jordan Weisman, netted themselves, courtesy of Cover Girl Cosmetics, “advertising and promotion space on a website directed at adolescent girls, and [an] initial print run [increase] from 30,000 to 100,000” for Cathy’s Girl after they changed their main character’s preference for “Clinique #11 ‘Black Violet’ lipstick” to “Lipslicks in ‘Daring'” and switched her “gunmetal grey eyeliner” to “eyecolor in ‘Midnight Metal’.”

It seems that Smiley doesn’t mind the product placement so much if it’s not particularly noticeable (or is completely noticeable, as in the case of her friend Fay Weldon’s Bulgari-sponsored novel), but the glaring awkwardness of lines like these (who says “eyecolor”?!?) outs product placement for what it usually is: tacky.

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Read the L.A. Times piece here