Sunday, June 17, 2007

Just Another Example of Roger Sutton Kicking Some Ass

And another reason you need to read The Horn Book cover-to-cover.

Here he talks about the American Girl catalog as "toy porn":

Don't miss the very interesting comments on this post.


Qual said...

You could write about and debate this subject in perpetuity.

What do you do? Retail prices aside, I don't think this is any worse than Bratz or Harry Potter. For all of these brands (and brand is the word here), books are just one of the channels. IP owners of these brands are mega rich. So who is next? Philip Pullman. His first movie 'The Golden Compass' is released in December. Merchandise will be everywhere and it won't be cheap.

The one thing that unites them all is sleek marketing that puts enormous pressure on parents.

I'll stop here. But I will say it is not black and white. Should a writer exploit their IP's value to the last dime it can pull in? Or should writers be content with publishing good books?

You will see more convergence of medias over the next five years. What I means is, many adapted films will be developed for multi-platforms. For example, the recent movie '300' was filmed almost exclusively on blank lime-green backgrounds. The whole setting/background was digitally inserted, which is also used for the computer game and the basis of merchandising. The point being, it will become increasingly difficult to sell movie and other rights separately. The upcoming Harry Potter book looks awfully expensive for a children's title doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

I get RS's point; voyeurism plus unattainable equals porn. But that makes lots of things porn: that diamond jewelry in a shop window, that showroom full of Cadillacs, those McMansions on your local tour of homes.

Let's talk about unattainable. Go look in your local toy department. Toys are expensive! How hard is it to find some throwaway piece of plastic that costs, $30, $40, $50, more? Buy two of them, and you've already afforded an AG doll. The parents and grandparents who buy AGs are thinking these dolls are potential heirlooms rather than splintered pieces of junk with lost parts that they're going to throw out in a few years. They figure they can buy some accessories over time. They figure it's no more expensive or commercial than the latest game system and video games, and they are right.

Multimedia, over-the-top marketing, and kids who beg for it all, barring the Great Depression II, are here to stay. Ancillary products rake in money for book publishers, and income potential is what they want in order to publish us, right? Why blame American Girl, particularly?

Well, enough. Maybe this belongs on Roger's blog more than it does here. But very interesting discussion.

Qual said...

Say you come up with a really commercial idea. Then you get an attack of conscience and tell your agent not to negotiate ancillary rights - they'd drop you like an anvil. Everyone out there wants to line their pockets.

If your concept has the potential to snowball in the marketplace, I think it is incredibly difficult for authors in this situation to strike a moral balance.

Anonymous said...

Same anon from comment #2. About ten years ago, pre-Harry, I "sold" a series concept to a publisher who had already published me. I use the quotes because we never reached the contract stage. To my complete surprise, the publisher wanted to do dolls, gifts, the whole schmear, and of course this was exciting. Then came the monkey wrench -- for some reason they decided that the gifts/products division of their company wasn't able to do justice to the accessories at this time, therefore they didn't want books either! I'd have been perfectly happy with books alone, never dreamt of anything more, but once the company seized on the merchandise idea, it was all or nothing. So we got nothing.

Roger Sutton may as well accuse the entire industry.

Anonymous said...

"Roger Sutton may as well accuse the entire industry."

I don't understand the singling out, either.
The Marketing Departments of all the big publishers, in my experience, have the biggest say in what gets published, and how.
Welcome to America!

J.D. Hart said...

It has also bothered me, though more when my daughter was young, that there are no Jewish American Girls. I queried the author once about this at a signing and she said she didn't feel qualified to write as she was not Jewish. I asked about the Kaya books she wrote, but got no clear answer.

Anonymous said...

The AG books are written by different authors; each author has a character. A writer I know auditioned for one of the characters but was not chosen. None of the authors on their own would be able to create a new character, or write about one other than the one they've been assigned.

Anonymous said...

Sorry ANON 5:26, the authors do not necessarily work on just one of the series. As they were published, our libraries tried putting them alphabetically by author in the J fiction section, only to discover that the girl's books were being separated. (Book 1 and 2 by one author, book 3 by another, books 4 and 5 by another, etc.) The first four books had several authors working on them. Gradually Valerie Tripp took over writing most of them, but that left many of the earlier books spread throughout the J fiction collection.

We finally gave up and put the AG in a separate section and grouped them by the name of the girl.

-librarian, writer, mom

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