Too Good To Be True!

Posted by on Feb 1, 2012 in Book: Mercy: The Last NE Vampire | 0 comments

Umm…edit out that exclamation mark. It WAS too good to be true.

This is not going to be a post about vampires…not exactly. Just about being a writer today–and a television viewer–and the things that are lurking out there.

Last week I got the kind of e-mail every author dreams about. A producer for a cable TV show had heard of Mercy and thought I might be a good fit for the show. Could he give me a call?

First I thought somebody was joking. The guy’s name (I am not making this up) was Gregory Fake. But I checked out the show–it seemed real. The Balancing Act, on Lifetime. Oh, boy. I’m imagining flying down to Florida for my interview, getting professionally made up, looking suave and sophisticated on air as I chat about Mercy, New England folklore, young adult literature today.  I did have a few minutes of wondering why a show that looked quite chatty and chirpy wanted to interview the author of a dark YA fantasy, but hey–they know their audience best, right? Maybe they wanted to hear about how the vampire romance has run its course. Maybe they were interested in the historical background. I was giddy.

Luckily, I have a canny editor at Islandport Press who checked it out before I committed to anything. Thanks to bloggers Larry Brooks at Storyfix and Kit Brittingham at Writer Beware, I knew before I got back in touch that The Balancing Act does indeed do interview with authors. For which they charge a fee. A hefty fee. $5900, to be exact.

Now, there’s no law that says you can’t charge people to be on your TV program, although it would be classier, Mr. Fake, to mention that upfront. (I’m really not making that name up.) I mean, there’s no  law that says I can’t charge you to walk into my house if I feel like it. But there is an unwritten law that you DON’T charge for publicity. Publicity–by which I mean reviews, interviews, blurbs, endorsements, and recommendations–is supposed to be unbiased. If a journalist is interviewing me about Mercy, readers or viewers should be able to trust that said journalist has chosen to talk to me because he or she thinks the audience will be interested–not because my money is in her or his pocket.

When the author pays to promote the book, that is called advertising. And there is not a thing wrong with advertising, except that it should be labeled as such.

I don’t have cable, so I have never seen The Balancing Act. Perhaps they let all of their viewers  know upfront that the guests on the show have paid to be there. But I have to say, I doubt it. And if they don’t, that’s out of bounds. When you’re watching an ad, you should know it. When you’re watching journalism, you should know that too.

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