Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Book Exploitation Absurdities (BEA)

Why do I feel like the only person (aside from GalleyCat) who was horrified by the this little snippet that ran at the end of The New York Times' coverage of BEA this week?

On Friday afternoon, four young publicists from Tor Books were spotted in a corner trying to get one of them, Melissa Broder, into an 8-foot-tall hot-dog costume; it did have an air pump so the wearer could breathe. They were promoting "Invasion of the Road Weenies" (Starscape/Tor Books) by David Lubar. Finally, they zipped Ms. Broder up. Fiona Lee took her hand, or paw, or whatever, and led her across the convention floor. "Would you like your photo taken with a giant weenie?" Ms. Lee asked, over and over again.

Book publishing has literally become a circus. I've been seeing a lot of this stuff lately (much of it from imprints here at Random House). I noticed a few weeks ago that a sister imprint here was having a $200 American Express "Vacation to Italy" contest to support some mystery novel set in Italy. Also I was recently alerted (by the ever-frisky GalleyCat) to a very disturbing gimmick being run (I guess corporately) at Random House to get content from young writers for essentially nothing.

The stunts, gimmicks, and questionable contests really bother me - not simply because they are stupid - but because they make it harder to do legitimate creative marketing as people grow suspicious after seeing so much crap.

A giant inflatable weenie, while curious to ponder, has nothing to do with a book. Doesn't tell you anything about the book, doesn't offer you anything tangible that will improve your connection to the book. It's purely a puerile spectacle - a shameless arms-race of sensationalism designed to steal your attention. I can't believe that a group of smart people thought a walking, inflatable weenie was a good idea.

Say hello, Mr. Weenie.


Anonymous John said...

This truly is a strange way to promote a book, but isn't this better than a publishing house not promoting a book? Granted, if I was the author in question I would likely be a bit put out that this was the way they chose to spread the word, but how many authors have seen their books sneak into stores with no publicity at all, authors who would kill for a wandering weenie pitching their wares? Handselling, word-of-mouth, a great review in the NYTBR... all are preferable, of course, but how realistic are any of those for the non-A list author competing against the other 30K books released in a given year?

10:15 AM  
Blogger LostBoyPN said...

I agree, the weenie guy sucks. I wouldn't want to stoop that low to promote my book. But, I also agree with John that at least they were doing something... and it was somewhat memorable. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Then again, after writing that, I think I'd rather have nothing than have a walking weenie guy.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read about the weenie guy everywhere - that seems like good marketing to me.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it's a children's book. The weenie is the title character of the book (INVASION OF THE ROAD WEENIES) so it seems much like having a giant Babar, Walter the Farting Dog or Curious George for kids to interact with. While there were less kids at BEA than, say, a traditional author booksigning...a lot of the adults seemed to love acting like kids again. And from what I've heard, if a kids/YA book doesn't have a message or any entertainment value for adults, it's probably not worth reading.

12:01 PM  
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6:57 PM  

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