Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Filed under: Thinks that keep me up at night

There was a discussion on Adbooks earlier today (or I guess by now it'd be yesterday...I think the last time I went to bed before midnight was sometime in 1989, and I had mono) about the publication history of the Twilight series.

I paraphrase from a post to the listserv: ARCs weren't printed of book 3 because someone with early access to book 2 posted spoilers and the author got upset.

If that's the case, will someone explain the following to me:

1. Where is the line drawn between "spoiler" and "review?" Sure, it's possible to post a simple list that says things like, "Snape kills Dumbledore. Harry starts dating Ginny," etc. But it's also possible to say these same things in an in-depth review, talking about Harry's growing sexuality and the way his whole view of trust gets turned around. And does it matter? Does context make a "spoiler" okay?

2. At least hundreds, but I'm betting it was closer to thousands, of ARCs of New Moon were printed and distributed in June at Book Expo America and ALA Annual that year. Did the author, if she knew she'd be upset about "spoilers" (if anyone can figure out how to write a review without at least some kind of spoiler, please tell me how to do it), put a note in the thousands of ARCs that said, "Hey, don't write about this, even though there are thousands of ARCs out there and the whole spoiler thing will just be a giant elephant in the living room during the five months that mark the beginning of the ARC release and the actual book release?" If not (and I'm guessing not, because there wasn't a note in any of the three ARCs of New Moon I got), then did anyone really think that thousands of people would keep silent about a highly anticipated book? I saw plenty of fans in line to get ARCs at BEA the year of New Moon's release. Would it have been okay if any of them posted these "spoilers," and not a librarian (as Meyer reported to an Arizona paper just prior to the release of Eclipse)? Are fans more entitled to information than industry professionals?

3. If thousands of copies of an ARC go out, and the author and the publisher know they go out, does anyone have a right to be upset when details of the book...to which thousands of people have access...are published online?

Now, answer that question and substitute any other author's name but J.K. Rowling's for Stephenie Meyer's. It doesn't work when you substitute James Patterson, or Holly Black, or Meg Cabot, or any other wildly successful YA author. All of those authors have ARCs printed of their books, and with all of them, details about the books come out prior to the publication date. What makes the Twilight books such a special case? Remember, this was in 2006, before the movie. What am I missing?

This is a detail about the publication history of this particular series that has always bugged the hell out of me. The whole point of an ARC's existence is to generate prepub buzz and encourage libraries and bookstores to make informed buying decisions. That is exactly what the "spoiler" posters did. If someone had posted details of Eclipse prior to its release, I would totally get it, because there were no ARCs of that book so someone would have had to have devious intentions in order to get it reviewed prior to release. But what good would an ARC of New Moon have been if no one wanted any spoilers to get out? It would be awfully strange for people who did get ARCs to say, "Oh, yes, I have this book and I've read it...but I'm not going to talk about it." I suppose thousands of people can keep a secret under the right circumstances, but I hardly think an advance of a YA novel is that sort of circumstance.

Tomorrow (or later today?) I'll be making a spoilerific post about Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. But somehow I think the main character of that book would appreciate it.

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