Getting the Word Out

As a literary promotion, it straddles the line between wretched excess and the epitome of cool. James Patterson published Private Vegas, his latest novel (co-written with Maxine Paetro), on January 26, 2015 and decided that getting the word out via commercials or word-of-mouth just would not do.

One of the sub-plots of Private Vegas involves a series of high end automobile explosions; Patterson accordingly gave away one thousand eBooks of Private Vegastimed to sell-destruct after twenty-four hours. The idea was to read it, but read quickly. The big news, however, was that Patterson was also selling one physical copy of the book that would explode — literally — twenty-four hours after purchase. The cost? $294,038. For that nominal sum, one receives a first class flight to a secret location, two nights in a luxury hotel, dinner with the author (that would be Patterson), gold plated binoculars (the better to watch the explosion from a discreet distance), and, one assumes, a team of professionals to handle the explosion. The event got plenty of  publicity, beginning with a mention in The New York Times and proceeding from there, and maybe even a purchaser. The important thing for purposes of this discussion is that it got the word out that Patterson (with the assistance of Paetro) has a new book out. Will it prompt folks who wouldn’t have otherwise bought or read Private Vegas to do so? That remains to be seen. Let’s give the man A for effort, however. And just for the record…it’s worth your while to read Private Vegas, even if it takes you more than twenty-four hours.

Patterson is well versed in advertising; he worked in the field prior to turning to writing full-time, and is very much hands-on in marketing his own books.  After reading about his efforts with Private Vegas,I thought I would toss our TKZ readers and contributors the keys to the Lexus (imaginary, of course) and see where whimsy takes us. Authors, published and prospective: if you were in charge of marketing for your book, and given a blank check to make it happen, what would you do? Readers: what type of publicity works best, with respect to making you aware of new novels (outside of recommendations from friends)?  My plan for world literary domination would involve a raffle. I would issue a press release asking each reader to send me the original receipt showing that you have purchased my book within thirty days of publication. I would pick at random one receipt  from those received and autograph that reader’s book after lunch at St. Charles Tavern in New Orleans, all expenses paid, including transportation and five nights at one of New Orleans’ haunted hotels (to be selected by the lucky winner from a list). Sound interesting? Let us read your idea. 

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Folding newspapers: An ill omen for book publishing?

I was gobsmacked when I read that the Boston Globe might be shut down by the New York Times. I spent a lot of my growing-up years in Boston, and the idea of the 137-year-old Globe going under seems…unthinkable. (An update about that story here.)

The Globe is the newspaper of record for the entire Boston metropolitan area. Following on the heels of that news was the doom-and-gloom pronouncement by Warren Buffet that he would never invest in any newspaper, ever. The newspaper in my own hometown, the Los Angeles Times, is evidently in financial distress too. Columnists have been writing fretful stories about the economic woes of the paper, and I recently spotted a box-advertisement on the front page, which in my mind is the sort of thing they do only in throw-away weeklies. If major newspapers are going under for the third time, what will be next…major book publishers?

I graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1979 (Yikes. I grow old, I shall wear my trousers rolled). Back then, newspaper reporters were still considered to be the “real” deal. Even though I was enrolled in the broadcasting program, I knew that TV reporters were viewed with disdain (The term “media type” hadn’t even been invented yet).. Inspired by the example of Woodward and Bernstein, members of my class believed that writing, that ideas, that journalists, could make a difference.

Fast forward 30 years, and Oh. My. God. Where are we now? Today’s journalists seem reduced to Twittering, red-and-blue-state cable talking heads. I keep thinking of one particular “news” host on cable who announces every night, “It’s Twitter time!” Newspapers are going away, and the Fourth Estate is going to the twitter heads.

As a fiction author, I have another concern: when I see newspapers collapsing left and right, I worry that the book-publishing business model might be just as fragile as newspapers. Leap forward another five years, and we might be talking about the collapse of major publishing houses.

What do you think? Are newspapers the “canaries in the mine” for publishing? Are they simply the first to bite the dust?

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Coming up on our Kill Zone Guest Sundays, watch for blogs from Sandra Brown, Steve Berry, Robert Liparulo, Paul Kemprecos, Linda Fairstein, Oline Cogdill, James Scott Bell, and more.

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