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The Difference Between Buzz and Hype

I have a superpower, the tales of which have achieved legendary status amongst my family and friends: I can always stop the gas pump on a round dollar amount. Never a fraction of a cent over.

They've all tried it, with varying degrees of success. But some years back, they noticed that I never missed. It was like Babe Ruth calling the homer over the wall - I could pick an amount and nail it, every time.

I never made a big deal about it - I just did it. But it got to be a ritual when traveling that my brother or one of my apprentices would gesture at the pump and whisper knowingly to our traveling companions, "Watch this."

I never elaborate. I never discuss it. I just hit my mark, smile while putting the cap back on, and we drive away.

Of course there's a trick to it - it's basically gas-station magic. An illusion. But it's a cool thing to do, and it's cool that other people think it's cool when I do it. But part of what makes it cool is that I'm not the one saying "watch this". Other people are. That's buzz. Writing posts about it, like I'm doing now, is hype.

In publishing, there are places where both are necessary, but the difference is this: hype is about creating awareness, and can be generated by the author, the publisher, and a network of intimates that varies in size depending on the project. But buzz is what happens after - or in some cases, in spite of - the hype. Buzz is what happens among the booksellers, and librarians, and most importantly, the readers.

Anything can be hyped, but buzz happens on its own. Buzz cannot be manufactured - but the circumstances condusive to it can. Lousy work doesn't get much buzz. Buzz can't make something cool if there's no cool there to begin with - and there's no amount of hype that can change that.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:36 pm (UTC)
Boy howdy, is that ever the truth.

I think a lot could be said about doing hype right vs. doing hype wrong.

Feb. 26th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
There are a LOT of people doing hype wrong - and I'm referring mostly to new authors who shove their work into every possible forum, conversation, post, and privy.

Good Hype is about creating awareness; Bad Hype is about beating people over the head with something, then expecting them to be happy about it.
Feb. 26th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. Yeah, I've probably been doing it wrong...
Feb. 26th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
No. I keep an eye on you. You're doing fine.
Feb. 26th, 2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I always thought of buzz as low level hype.
Feb. 26th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
It's nice when the buzz gets going spontaneously. But finding ways to nurture it without becoming obnoxious isn't easy.

Everyone loves my book. That's nice. But they seem content to sit and mull it over. They don't "buzz". *sigh* *sniff* Self-marketing is hard work.

On the other hand, I'm quite happy to buzz a lot about the excellent work of friends - like you! :D (I'll even make them Guests of Honor at conferences! Heh.)
Feb. 26th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
There's always buzz about good books - but there's got to be some sort of tipping point where the circles of buzz start to intersect, and then it becomes a viral thing.

I remember Stephenie Meyer just as that point was happening - bestseller already, but it hadn't 'happened' yet. When it did, it took on a life of its own.
Feb. 26th, 2009 08:52 pm (UTC)
are you gettin' my emailzorz busy man?! (i don't think i've ever gotten an email reply from you.)

Feb. 26th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)
LOL! Just because I haven't replied yet doesn't mean I don't still love you.

Got the Worldcon idea list, btw (your most recent email, I think?) and working them in.
Feb. 26th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)
This conversation hits a raw nerve for me. I have to disagree that you cannot manufacture buzz but I'm living in Hollywood where I see hype translate into buzz all the time and I can't STAND it. I think it should work the way you have laid it out.

Unfortunately, it doesn't.
Feb. 27th, 2009 12:11 am (UTC)
I want to see you do it in Oregon - where you can't pump your own gas.
Feb. 27th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC)
Okay. Next time I'm up there, we'll go get gas and I'll demonstrate.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )