I am typing this on a Dell laptop

July 24th, 2008 • Kate

Another day in the New York office, but I will be very glad to get home tonight. So I’m up early, getting ready for my meetings, checking my blogs, and I see a post from my author Lili Wilkinson that touches on yet another hot-button issue of the day, product placement in books. And I do a little googling, and I find a few other links on the subject. I also find the original New York Times article (yes, again) that set it off. But here’s what I found most amusing: the top story that comes up if you search for the words “product placement” and “new york times” and “young adult books”? Not the most recent article, but one that touches on the exact same themes and was published TWO YEARS AGO.
Now, take of that what you will — a validation of the thesis that product placement in YA books is becoming too widespread, or the recognition, as Lili mentions, that a book that fakes its brand names may not hit the same chord with its teen readership than one that is more authentic to their experience. Now, conversely, an authentic book today may be more dated in a few years, but let’s throw the question open to the floor: how do you feel about using brand names in your books? Do you? If not, how do you get around it?

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6 Responses to “I am typing this on a Dell laptop”

  1. Trish Says:

    I've been grappling with this in MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY ever since I first wrote it. On one hand, I want my character–at least initially–to be the kind of girl who would name drop designers. On the other hand, I don't want to date the book. Right now she name drops only when absolutely necessary. In other instances, I've been trying to replace the brands with the idea of luxury: Italian leather, cashmere hoodie, etc. We'll see how that works…
    (By the way, I'm typing this on a BRAND NEW Dell laptop. Yay!)

  2. Julia Says:

    In my current WIP (ya contemporary) I am using brands (if you can call Alfred Hitchcock a brand – lol) – but only in so far as the brand is classic & a part of our American culture.
    I think fads can date a book – but something that is iconic (think a '64 Mustang convertible) will be recognizable in the future. And, if it isn't, information can easily be found to identify it. Whereas, like Trish said, a current designer may end up being a flash in the pan – but, a cashmere hoodie…hey, I want one! 😉

  3. Doyce Testerman Says:

    I just want to add that the title of this post made me laugh.

  4. Carrie Says:

    I'm struggling with this one in my WIP, only with music. Doesn't music do the same thing as product placements? Name a hit song now, and depending on how well it stands the test of time, you might be dating your work. But what's the alternative? Replace with generics like Trish has so wisely done with fashion? I think that sometimes it depends on the context of the product placement or name drop. In my case, I'm not sure I can avoid it. "The band played a rocking cool pop rock song with an extensive two guitar break and drum intro and outro" just doesn't cut it.
    Am I uncool because I'm typing this on a Dell desktop? I'm drinking Dr. Pepper while I type, maybe that will up my coolness quotient.

  5. Trish Says:

    Carrie, I don't think there's anything wrong with using music real life music references either, if they're bands that will stand/have already stood the test of time. I took out a Pussycat Dolls reference because I think the clock is ticking on their fifteen minutes, but left in a Gwen Stefani reference because she's proved she has staying power.

  6. Amy Says:

    I find that the technology is the dating factor. I was reading Twilight earlier, and the girl was using dial-up. That seemed rather archaic when DSL and Cable internet came into its own before the book came out. Today, DSL is considered slow, and not many people still use dial-up, as new sites demand directX, flash, and other programming processes.
    In my works, I try to use brands that have already become words. Kleenex, for example. As I'm writing a local book, my problem's been that the businesses I wanted to nod to have closed, so would not have the same effect I had hoped for. I think I'll have to stop naming establishments I grew up with and just mention "the dance studio on Division." Street names don't seem to change as often.
    With music, I go with genres. Belly dance, I list the instruments used, I try to describe the beat, and the dance movements slightly described.
    I try to avoid band and brand names.
    Sure, Fall Out Boy's popular now, but in ten years, will the next generation even remember them?
    I believe my first music reference is "my shoulders hitched up and down in rhythm to a popular radio hit." Obviously needs work, that's why it's a WiP. The song I thought of then is over a year old now, and by the time it gets published, the song might be five or more years old, and I doubt people would remember it. I can't even remember what it was now.