From Journo to Big Book Journo to Big Book: With Sebastian Junger, David Margolick, and more. June 28.

Monday, May 22

Dateline BEA: We Are All Marketers Now

In the midst of Hillel Italie's BookExpo coverage for AP, John Updike sounds the old-school call on behalf of all those who believe that "the written word was supposed to speak for itself and sell itself," without the author having to go on a massive media blitz and roadshow as part of an expensive marketing push. As another great American author once said, in a completely different context, "Wouldn't it be lovely to think so?"

Now, obviously Updike's right up to a point. I'm a firm believer in Seth Godin's principle of the "Purple Cow," which boils success down to being remarkable or, for writers, creating remarkable books that will make readers take notice and then talk about to everyone they think might be interested. But I don't need to tell you about the realities of the marketplace, the competition for fragments of the consumer's attention span, that make the idealized form of Updike's argument—that writers can simply be brilliant and wait for history to take its course—unviable from a commercial standpoint.

kim-dower.jpgThat's where people like Kim Dower (right) come in. Dower's the head of Kim-from-L.A. Literary and Media Services, an independent publicity firm that also offers extensive media training, and she came to BookExpo to present a workshop on handling interviews. The hour-long program was a back-and-forth with Success in Media's Jess Todtfeld, who brought along several copies of his audio seminars on subjects like how to get yourself on Oprah, which I thought were samples until his assistant informed me that, no, they were actually on sale for $99 (later in the program, Todtfeld would also plug the 4-hour workshops he was running all weekend at $997 a pop). While Dower admitted that she hadn't brought anything with her to sell to the audience, she gave away a lot of great advice about staying on message no matter what reporters ask you and how often you're allowed to mention your book's title. Now here's the thing: Unfortunately, I lost my Moleskine reporter's notebook somewhere in the convention center on Friday, so I no longer have all the notes I took during the talk, but the core lesson that stuck with me is that a writer needs to be absolutely clear in his or her own mind about the fundamental why behind the media appearance. Not just the "so people will buy my book," but "so my book will be in a position to speak for itself to people who want to hear about its message."


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