Product Placement in Books – Do You Do It?November 21, 2009 at 10:40 AM | Posted in Writing | 7 Comments
As far as I know, we writers don’t get paid any extra money for dropping a brand name into our books. Maynards won’t cough up a quarter for every mention of Fuzzy Peaches. (Which is a shame, because I bet I could work the words ‘Fuzzy Peaches’ into a book a lot if I had a mind to.)
Anyway, my question is: do you do it? Do you put brand names in your books? Do you say your character is eating Fuzzy Peaches? Or do just say they’re munching on candy and leave it at that?
What about songs? Do you say they’re singing along to Cowboy Casanova (Hehe. Guess what I’m listening to right now.) or do you leave it unspecified? Cars? Clothes? Do they drive a 2010 Toyota Camry, wearing a new sweater from Aeropostal? Or a shiny red sports car of no discernible make wearing who-knows-what from who-knows-where?
The obvious problem with product placement is the fact that it stamps a date on your book. Let’s face it. If you’re writing the book right now, and your character is driving a shiny 2009 Ford Escape and rocking out to Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, by the time your book is on the shelves (say, in two years) that Ford Escape won’t be so shiny and a lot of your readers are going to have to YouTube Bad Romance before they remember what song it is – never mind what will happen in five or ten years.
On the other hand, if your character drives a Mercedes Benz with Britney Spears blaring and wears clothes from American Eagle, the reader will have a pretty good idea about your character’s tastes, status, and so on. This character would obviously be a lot different from the character who drives a ’95 Pontiac, blasts My Chemical Romance and wears clothes from Sub Culture.
The products in the above paragraph paint two very distinct pictures very quickly. You’ve probably already got a decent idea about who those characters are. But, of course, those two distinct pictures can be painted with other mediums. The same things can be shown through a character’s actions, reactions, interactions, and, of course, it’s not so hard to say that your character is driving a Fridge On Wheels, listening to country music, and wearing a hemp tunic, all of which paint another distinct picture without once being specific enough to date the book.
As with all things, specifying products, songs, and models has its advantages and disadvantages. Some people love it and some people hate it. Some writers do it occasionally, some not at all, and some on every second page.
So, do you do it? Have you seen it done? What do you/did you think of it?
– Becca Cooper (AKA Elusive)