Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Marketing Is Stunted

Book marketing has become boring of late.  Sure, here and there someone has a great video that goes viral or someone aggressively claws their way to a best-seller list by strategically gathering pre-orders prior to their launch. But what about a good old fashioned stunt, something to generate real excitement for a book?

So many people do things that get them attention but rarely does it seem to be an author. Even when a book is newsy or controversial, the book may get significant media coverage based on its content, author, and timing of the news cycle, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I want something outrageous to happen.

Some authors get involved in a high-profile lawsuit or court case.  Some authors line up celebrity endorsements to gain instant credibility.  Some authors say some spicy things or make accusations and call for action.

And the list goes on.  All fine.  Not outrageous.

Where are the staged events or the wacky, weird stuff. It seems publicists and marketers play it safe..and boring.  Could it be a matter of funds?  How many authors can afford to pull off something that will get them significant attention?  Could it be a lack of courage:  Who will dare take a risk and do something that can be very rewarding or a colossal failure?  Could it be we lack creativity:  Do we not have the brain power to get beyond the tried and true?  Is it that the overworked, underpaid publicist can’t find the time to create and execute an attention-grabbing stunt? What is the problem here?

It’s ironic that in an era when we can broadcast all kinds of messages to the masses in a split second that we seem to have little to share with them that’s new, unique, amazing, exciting, challenging or different.  Or maybe the problem is that because we can use social media so liberally we choose to use it only in obvious ways – eblast the media about a new book, tweet about a book signing, post a video on YouTube. We may have gotten lazy or stunted by all that the Internet has to offer.  There’s a lot of communicating going on, but how much of it goes beyond expected norms and standard outreach?

So what is my grand idea to pull off a stunt?  First off, if I had a really good one there’s no way I’d share it with others for free.  I’d just do it myself.  Second, there is no guaranteed stunt that will lead to automatic wealth at the cash register. We have to take risks, experiment, and be opportunistic.  I may not know what that holy stunt should be – nor would I reveal it – but I know it’s out there.  And it comes in many sizes and shapes.

Let’s brainstorm for a minute on this.  Ideally, the stunt would not break laws or land you in jail, though the best stunts may involve that – and they’d still have a good ROI.  The better stunts would lead to lots of free media coverage, maybe even generate offers to be a commercial spokesperson.

The stunt cannot harm any living things nor should it be insulting to anyone’s race, religion, sexuality or creed.  But many stunts, if really good, will turn off as many people as it turns on.  One calls you an idiot; others praise you as a genius.

Some stunts are single events or something that happens once. Others can take days or weeks to pull off and could expand beyond one location.

The stunt should be related to the subject matter of your book. Protesting a war and leading a march on Capitol Hill won’t help sell a book on losing weight.  Staging a world record for eating the most donuts in a 24-hour period is of little use to promote a book on personal finance.

Keep thinking about this.  Discuss it with others.  I want to see book promoters and marketers win back the headlines for not only having a great book, but for pulling off a grandiose stunt.

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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