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Cathy’s Books Sells Out?

Monday’s New York Times featured an article on Cathy’s Book, the new blend between novel and alternate reality game created by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart. Apparently Cover Girl has arranged for product placement in the book in exchange for promoting it on BeingGirl.com, a website for adolescent girls.

According to ICv2.com, Commercial Alert—an organization which “protect communities from commercialism”—sent an e-mail out to newspaper and magazine editors, asking them to not review the book. They object not to the book’s content but the paid (or bartered) placement of products within it.

While I understand Commercial Alert’s point, I think they’re off-base here. The fact that I known Jordan and Sean probably colors my opinion, but it’s naïve to think that the book isn’t meant as a commercial venture in the first place. To alter inconsequential bits of the book to increase its marketing exposure seems like a brilliant move on the authors’ part. As long as they’re above board about it—which they’ve been—I don’t see much harm.

Comments 8

  1. Interesting; I’m not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, they are, as you point out, being completely up-front about it. On the other, I can’t help seeing it as a bit sleazy. Still, TV shows and movies get product placement cash all the time; it’s perhaps less obvious in a medium as visual as television.

    The fact that Cathy’s Book is selling well (or so I understand) clearly means there will be more….

    Bill Bodden

  2. Interesting; I’m not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, they are, as you point out, being completely up-front about it. On the other, I can’t help seeing it as a bit sleazy. Still, TV shows and movies get product placement cash all the time; it’s perhaps less obvious in a medium as visual as television.

    The fact that Cathy’s Book is selling well (or so I understand) clearly means there will be more….

    Bill Bodden

  3. Actually, the book’s not due out until September, but the NY Times piece mentions a print run of 100,000, which is fantastic. I hope there will be more books like these. However, they’re more expensive to produce and require creators with a broad range of talents (or access to people with such talents). I think that will keep them rare a while longer.

    I, for one, would love to take a crack at such a book. It sounds like a blast.

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    Author

    Actually, the book’s not due out until September, but the NY Times piece mentions a print run of 100,000, which is fantastic. I hope there will be more books like these. However, they’re more expensive to produce and require creators with a broad range of talents (or access to people with such talents). I think that will keep them rare a while longer.

    I, for one, would love to take a crack at such a book. It sounds like a blast.

  5. As a Schlessinger “Vital Center” style Democrat, I am less concerned about commercialism than those more to the Left of me. Sure I am opposed to advertising cigarettes to minors, and liquor, and other harmful things. And as a Catholic, I am concerned about our overly consumer obsessed culture, on moral grounds etc. I whole heartedly agree with your above-board sentiment.

    But I see this in three ways.

    First, I like a lot of commercialism. I go to the movies, I play video games, I watch TV, I read books and magazines. Sometimes I even visit the Gawker and Tabloid Whore websites to feed my guilty pleasures. My love of particular consumer products results in your employment making other products I enjoy. I have met you, read your website and like you. So I want you to succeed. But let’s face it. Media Tie In writing is exactly that, media tie in writing. You, and many others, make a good career writing books/games/video games that support and promote other products. Many times the products you and your friends create are superior to the base product, but more often than not you expand my enjoyment.

    Take your Knights series. One of the purposes behind the series is for Hasbro to make money selling books to a YA audience (or tween, I can’t remember which 😉 ). Another purpose is to get those YA’s interested in D&D and gaming in general, that is a commercial venture.

    Second, since a part of Cathy’s Book is based on the existance of a “fictional” girl’s magazine, why not take the opportunity to be able to use a real existing magazine. A) it adds to the verisimilitude of the ARG and thus improves the gaming experience and B) any advocacy of commercialism is inherent in the inclusion of a girl’s magazine/website whether real or fictional. Though acknowledgement of might be a better word than advocacy.

    Third, let’s face it entertainment jobs (and working at non-profits trying to get young people to vote) are jobs created by a kind of labor inequality. I get paid to promote voting, you get paid to entertain. Neither of us is farming, building houses, hunting or doing any of thing things that are baseline required for subsistence. Rousseau understood this in his “Origins of Inequality.” It was the communities willingness to support the storyteller that is the origin of financial inequality. You can insert “smart manager” or “technological innovator” for entertainer (or any other “mental” occupation that immediately assists the laborer). The fact is that when we have a story teller, or other occupation, the workers have to work more than they need to for survival, even comfortable survival, for the creative person to eat and be a part of the community. After all, the story teller tells better stories when he or she has time to work on them, and those stories sure help me relax after a hard day of labor.

    I don’t want a treatise here, but so long as there is no predatory element (like those title loan companies) I don’t see anything wrong with commercialism save that we can become obsessed with it and forget about the needs of our fellow man. Sure that’s bad, but that is addressable and has little to do with whether Cathy’s Book is a public good or ill.

  6. As a Schlessinger “Vital Center” style Democrat, I am less concerned about commercialism than those more to the Left of me. Sure I am opposed to advertising cigarettes to minors, and liquor, and other harmful things. And as a Catholic, I am concerned about our overly consumer obsessed culture, on moral grounds etc. I whole heartedly agree with your above-board sentiment.

    But I see this in three ways.

    First, I like a lot of commercialism. I go to the movies, I play video games, I watch TV, I read books and magazines. Sometimes I even visit the Gawker and Tabloid Whore websites to feed my guilty pleasures. My love of particular consumer products results in your employment making other products I enjoy. I have met you, read your website and like you. So I want you to succeed. But let’s face it. Media Tie In writing is exactly that, media tie in writing. You, and many others, make a good career writing books/games/video games that support and promote other products. Many times the products you and your friends create are superior to the base product, but more often than not you expand my enjoyment.

    Take your Knights series. One of the purposes behind the series is for Hasbro to make money selling books to a YA audience (or tween, I can’t remember which 😉 ). Another purpose is to get those YA’s interested in D&D and gaming in general, that is a commercial venture.

    Second, since a part of Cathy’s Book is based on the existance of a “fictional” girl’s magazine, why not take the opportunity to be able to use a real existing magazine. A) it adds to the verisimilitude of the ARG and thus improves the gaming experience and B) any advocacy of commercialism is inherent in the inclusion of a girl’s magazine/website whether real or fictional. Though acknowledgement of might be a better word than advocacy.

    Third, let’s face it entertainment jobs (and working at non-profits trying to get young people to vote) are jobs created by a kind of labor inequality. I get paid to promote voting, you get paid to entertain. Neither of us is farming, building houses, hunting or doing any of thing things that are baseline required for subsistence. Rousseau understood this in his “Origins of Inequality.” It was the communities willingness to support the storyteller that is the origin of financial inequality. You can insert “smart manager” or “technological innovator” for entertainer (or any other “mental” occupation that immediately assists the laborer). The fact is that when we have a story teller, or other occupation, the workers have to work more than they need to for survival, even comfortable survival, for the creative person to eat and be a part of the community. After all, the story teller tells better stories when he or she has time to work on them, and those stories sure help me relax after a hard day of labor.

    I don’t want a treatise here, but so long as there is no predatory element (like those title loan companies) I don’t see anything wrong with commercialism save that we can become obsessed with it and forget about the needs of our fellow man. Sure that’s bad, but that is addressable and has little to do with whether Cathy’s Book is a public good or ill.

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    Author

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