Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Bad Publicity Myth

I lean heavily towards the view that no publicity is bad publicity.  And I accept it both ways: To have zero publicity can be like having bad publicity when you are trying to break through and be heard.  It’s worth risking the negative to get the word out.  Further, when you get “bad” publicity such as a critical review, it’s not the end of the world.  When you build name recognition from something bad, it can still yield positive results.

Just look at New York City politics, for example.

Christine Quinn, the powerful head of City Council in New York City, had been the front-runner in the mayor’s race until recently.  She has an interesting story to tell as one of the nation’s most powerful lesbians, but when her William Morrow memoir, With Patience and Fortitude, debuted a month ago, it flopped. It ranked 406,000 on Amazon a few weeks after its release. 

By contrast, Protecting Capitalism, Cases by Case¸ a book due out shortly by disgraced ex-N.Y. Governor Eliot Spitzer, will likely soar on the sales charts.  Why? Because his fall from grace as the top Wall Street cop to a lying, cheating patron of illegal prostitutes gets attention.

Even though the disgraced politician left office some four or five years ago, he’s back, running for City Comptroller.  If he gets into office, as well as Anthony (the penis-tweeting) Weiner as mayor, New York Vice Squad will be very busy.

Spitzer suddenly threw his hat into the political race this past week.  The shocking news is generating a lot of headlines in New York.  Such PR is sure to give a boost to his book, even though the book reveals nothing about his transgressions.

Why does our world operate this way?

Is it a testament to society’s good side that it likes to read about people and things it can never experience, such as murder, sex scandals, and political corruption?  Or is it a sign of moral decay, that we’d rather buy books by or about criminals and ethically-challenged individuals than to support positive stories about people of good character?

There should be a study done about this.  Of, say, the year’s top-selling 100 or 500 books, how many would be considered books about a positive event, person, thing or place vs. a look at society’s debasing moments and scoundrels?  Perhaps we can’t even label a book as one or the other.  Many books of confession and redemption can be seen as positive and uplifting.  Or, they can be viewed as tell-all-tomes on the tawdry side of life, appealing to the voyeurs of all things lustful, criminal, and morally objectionable. 

Will the public’s appetite ever be fully satiated?  Is it running out of things to shock it?  The bar is being raised (or lowered, in some ways) by the disgraced leaders, fallen celebrities, criminal athletes, and sleazebags out there.  It’ll take something big to get our attention.

Could we see these stories next?
-          Politician kills to cover up wife’s lesbian affair with a nun.
-          Cloned dog is implanted with micro robotics and is trained to assassinate the president.
-          Terrorist attack fells Empire State Building in bid to cover up evidence linking a celebrity’s role in aiding Iran.
-          A billionaire finances the poisoning of his political enemies – then kills his wife to make it seem like he’s a victim too.

Or will the usual stories do, ones about escorts and affairs, embezzlement, athletes on steroids, newscasters smacking their spouses, a serial murderer, a gun-filled mass murder… and a disgraced politician making a comeback?

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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