Friday, July 8, 2011

Authors Can Take A Bite Out Of Hot Dog Contest

Every July 4th Nathan’s, the famous Coney Island hot dog stand (created in 1916), sponsors a hot dog eating contest.  This year was no different but there was one noted exception:  a former champion was banned from participation because he wouldn’t sign away certain rights.  So the former “Mustard Belt” holder decided to compete head-on with the contest, in hopes of stealing some thunder from Nathan’s.  It worked.

Authors should take note of a few things here.  But holding your own hot dog eating contest is not one of them.  Nathan’s champ Joey Chestnut (what a name!) gulped 62 hot dogs (exactly, what’s in a hot dog?) in 10 minutes – that’s one hot dog every 10 seconds.  Bun too.  Takeru Kobayashi sucked down 10% more – 69 doggies – in his competing display of food-swallowing machismo.

What was interesting is Kobayashi made a contest out of him vs. Nathan’s.  He was paid to go to a Manhattan restaurant and to eat his hot dogs simultaneously alongside a video screen showing Chestnut’s 19,000-calorie feast.  What a smart move.  Authors should think of how they can stage an event or press conference that coincides with a larger event that is otherwise guaranteed to have media coverage that you hope to feed off of.

The other book analogy here is the issue over signing away one’s rights.  Authors should give great thought as to what they give away to publishers and for how long their contract should be for. In today’s free-agent author mindset we may see more authors – even established ones – retain their rights and publish their own material.

Nathan’s can withstand some competition and controversy but I wonder what would happen if there were more defections, what then?  What if five-time champ Chestnut hooks up with his old nemesis and they create their own competition?  It could happen.  It happens in the book publishing world.  And it’s likely to happen more often.

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts ( and blogs daily at You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

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