Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Salon: Marketing books

It's hard to sell books.  Well, not to someone like me who buys with gleeful abandon but it can be hard to pique the interest of the general public, those people who can actually practice self-restraint in a bookstore or ::gasp:: walk past one entirely without making a detour inside.  So one of the common defaults in marketing a book is to compare it to other very successful books in the past.  And this can be very effective.  How many times have you picked up a book because the cover promises it to be "the next (your favorite NYTimes best seller here)?"  I certainly have looked at books I might not have picked up otherwise (ok, given my bookstore history I would have picked them up anyway but imagine I'm more normal around books than I am).  By the time I read the book though, I'm likely to have forgotten the comparison that drove the purchase, which is an exceedingly good thing as books billed as "the next" anything rarely possess more than a passing resemblance to the book with which they are being compared.  But it's an easy marketing strategy and one that is often successful so it continues at all levels of publishing.

The other day, however, I found an email in my in box offering me a chance to review a book that was a cross between three different books, one of which is by a huge and wildly successful name in women's fiction.  Unfortunately, this biggest and potentially best comparison made me gag and race to turn down the offer.  You see, I happen to find this particular author saccharine and emotionally manipulative despite the length of time his books remain on the best seller list or how many of them are made into movies.  I just couldn't stomach reading anything that was billed as similar in any way to one of his books.  And I've run from other books similarly marketed.  Driving away an almost guaranteed reader?  Well, that's just not good.  I suspect that marketing departments aren't going to lose a lot of sleep over my own personal head for the hills attitude over this particular author though as the strategy is likely to be at least moderately successful with that harder nut to crack: the general public.  And I know how silly my reaction was given my previous acknowledgment that the book was unlikely to contain much, indeed if any, resemblance to the author who shall not be named's books.  I ran anyway.  Am I alone?  Are there author or book comparisons that make you put a book down as if it's burned your fingers?

My reading week was pretty productive and wide ranging.  I mined the memories of a younger sister looking back on her relationship with the older sister she lost to cancer.  I traveled to India and helped save a small hill town with the help of some wonderful and eccentric inhabitants.  I, as an inveterate gossip, was forced to marry the man who turned out to be my perfect match.  I moved to the bohemian, art and music scene of New York in the late 60's and 70's.  And finally I came back to the US from Africa after 6 unexpected months trapped there only to find everyone thought me dead.  Where did your week's reading take you this past week?


  1. Montana, in an Amish community. Back to the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David,...

  2. It sounds like whoever was marketing that particular book to you didn't know their audience! :-)

    Sounds like you had quite a week of adventure. Mine has been taking me through a murder investigation and inside the minds of several real nut jobs. Whew! ;-)

  3. Have you been reading Patti Smith's Just Kids? :)

    My week is being spent in Japanese countryside post-WWII and in a night train going to Lisbon.

  4. Any comparison to 50 Shades of Grey would have me putting down a book very quickly! :P

  5. I spent the early part of the week, in the 70's growing up with a young girl, living with her Aunt after her mother's death. Then the rest of the week, in Canada and New York with a college age woman as she tried to find out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. All she really wanted to do was "Eat, Write, Travel and Cook".


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