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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Book Publicity Hunger Games

I went to the movies one recent night looking to escape.  The AMC 25 in Times Square gave me 25 options.  For some, the times didn’t jive with the time I got to the theater.  Late for some, way too early for others.  I had already seen a few of the movies available to me and the rest just held no interest for me.  I was left with the movie that seems to have captivated audiences for a month but one I’d been reluctant to see.  I assumed the story would be predictable and gratuitously violent.  Surprisingly, I found it entertaining and redeeming.  But most of all, I found lessons for the PR world. 

Call it the Book Publicity Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, based upon a bestselling book that I’d never read, tells a story that combines elements of Lord of the Flies, Gladiators, and The Truman Show.  It’s a tale of survival and the triumph of life over death, of good in a world of bad, of courage, and of inner strength. 

But it’s also a savage tale of haves and have nots, where peasants killing one another is a televised sport, where reality TV morphs into real death to entertain the masses.  It’s a debased world, one held together by fear rather than hope, of a post apocalyptic survivalist mentality that leads even good people to do bad things. 

The blood sport of book publicity parallels some of The Hunger Games.  What else do you call it when millions compete for a scarce prize, when participants are willing to kill the competition?

On a large scale we now have the kingdom of Amazon competing with Barnes & Noble and little neighborhood stores for sales.  It also competes with publishers and authors.

On a different playing field are the authors.  With 59,000 new titles up for sale each week, writing gladiators do battle in the marketplace, trying to win over the media and consumers.  Most of the competition does not confront one another.  They face-off behind the scenes, as they tweet, build up FB followers, get traffic to their sites, blog all over the place and fight for valuable media coverage, speaking opportunities, and bulk corporate buys.

Right now there are thousands of authors and their paid advocates of marketers, publicists, and ad agencies waging war with one another, as well as with others seeking media ink and consumer mindshare—musical artists, movie studios, magazines, newspapers, plays, television, and all things free, downloadable or subscribable online.  The PR Hunger Games are on fire.

In the move it is demonstrated there is a strategic advantage to working with others, turning your competition into cooperation.  Of course, there can only be one winner, so eventually you’d have to bite the hand that feeds you and stab your ally in the back.  It doesn’t hurt any less if you say “sorry” as you do it.

But we can see that just because one competes with you, on some level, doesn’t mean you can’t help one another or team up in some way.  How can you do this?

1.      Be nice to other authors.  Befriend them.
2.      Share, trade, and communicate information with one another.
3.      Cooperate outwardly with others but compete behind closed doors.
4.      Respect one another—we all practice the art of making words dance, to tell a story, to move
         our minds, if not our hearts.
5.      Don’t always believe for you to be on top someone has to be destroyed or made to feel less than
         whole.

In the movie it is demonstrated that how you live life and approach your greatest challenge is more important than the end result of your life.  The same may hold true in publishing.  Write a script for your book marketing that covets success but does so in a manner you can be proud of. 

Any may the odds forever be in your favor.    

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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