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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brand Names in a Novel--Yes or No?

Guess where I went? Guess what I ate? Those are easy questions.

Everything in our society is labeled. I am typing on a Mac computer. I am wearing Riders' jeans. I drive a Jeep. I have a Maytag oven.

Advertising is big business and companies dump tons of money into making their products a part of everyone's consciousness.

But I had to take all the brand names out of my book. My hero no longer has an iPhone. (Sniff.) It's not a big deal and I do understand. My publisher does not want to be sued.

Then I picked up Meg Cabot's Size 12 Is Not Fat. I love Meg Cabot's book. I haven't finished it yet, but so far she's mentioned several brand names such as Banana Republic, Fritos, and Jolly Ranchers. The use of those brand names makes the book seem all the more real. Her heroine is living in my society, where unique labels are plastered liberally on every item.

What's the difference between Meg Cabot's publisher and mine? Her book is published by Avon, which is an imprint of Harper Collins. I suspect that publisher has excellent lawyers and knows all the ins and outs of copyright law, because an author must be prudent.

Check out this post Can I Mention Brand Name Products in My Fiction?

Or even better (for romance writers) check out this post A Rose by ANY Other Name.

Not everything in Ms. Cabot's book bears a brand name. Her heroine works at a college in New York City that doesn't exist in real life--a wise choice considering the plot.

Even Meg Cabot has to be careful about some brand names. :-)


Unknown said...

I bounce between using and not using brand names. I think if it is used correctly the companies don't mind the advertising.
Character A, "Would you like a soda?"
Character B, "Diet Coke, please."

Penelope Marzec said...


As long as you're saying something nice about their product I don't see why they would complain. I would be delighted if an author wrote into a book that her character was reading a Penelope Marzec novel. :-)

MarkD60 said...

A Burger King Queen!

carving sslaus

Penelope Marzec said...


LOL! Any dinner that I don't have to cook makes me feel like a queen. :-)

Stephanie Pflug said...

When I read a book, and I read a ton of them, it gives me a sense of what the time was that the book was written in. It sort of dates the book to me. If the book was written in the 80's for instance you're going to have Calvin Klein Jeans maybe as the brand name the kids are wearing. Instead of the story flowing, I pause and think, "Oh yeah, I remember that time of my life, when that was in style" or if it was before my time I think "I wonder what it was like to wear that stuff, or eat or have those things." Then the story goes on for me. (I'm a speed reader so I rarely stop and pause at anything)

So I think it really depends on what you want your audience to do with the specific area you want to put the brand name. Do you want to emphasize something specific, getting the audience to stop and pause, to think about something you've written around that area a little more?

I've read books that I think use brand names way too much in them. They just toss them in for no purpose it seems. I think things need a purpose.

Penelope Marzec said...


I agree with you that things need a purpose. Specific references to brand names do date stories, but that could be a good thing in some instances. Brand names are often like shorthand when it comes to the type of car the protagonist drives.