Getting published is a real be-yatch! Hear about my ups, downs and a few random rants in between.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Oops- Marketing's New Poster Children

Remember when you wrote a report and you had to pore over an encyclopedia to glean all the facts?

Wait, remember encyclopedias?

I do. But honestly can't recall the last time I saw one in real life.

What I do recall is handwriting notes from the encyclo - because making copies was usually too costly or just not available while in school - with the teacher's warning to "use your own words, or else" clanging in my ears.

Those words were spoken in a stern, ominous voice and the consequences were never quite clear. I just knew they were bad because it was the same voice used when my parents said to clean my plate, don't lie or - when I got older - be home by curfew.

In other words, it was a warning I was prone to heed.

Well, apparently either teachers and parents are no longer as practiced in the art of threat-making or there's a new marketing technique taking the publishing industry by storm. Okay, maybe not by storm. How about slowly creeping to the surface and is endangered of becoming an all-too regular practice?

It's not really new. It's called controversy. One of the least expensive and yet, riskiest marketing tools ever. It's the old "Oops, we had no idea our product was made by four year old child slaves in an open roof factory...but it's still the greatest thing since sliced bread," theory.

It's when a company purposely does something knowing it will generate additional attention or neglects to double check certain factors figuring they'll take care of any issues when those issues hit the fan - thus, generating additional attention.

Age-old marketing ploy that works well when it comes to getting people to take notice. Sorry, I have no stats on how well it actually does for sales.

So now it's the book world's turn to try this strategy.

First, it was James Frey and his million little memory lapses. Now, it's Kaavya Viswanathan and the issue of unintentional copying, which by the way, was what my teacher was warning against as I struggled across the library under a ton of Encyclopedia Brittanicas.

Apparently unintentional copying is the politically correct term that gives the unintentional copycatter the benefit of the doubt.

Let me just tell you, Mrs. Crowner would have never believed me if I had tried the unintentional copying approach for my report on Timbuktu - Is It Really The End of the Earth?

Teachers know when something has been copied...and umm...maybe publishers do too. But, that's not really where I'm going here.

This is about cutting through the clutter, being heard above the noise. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.

Getting a new author heard is no easy task.

In Viswanathan's case, I believe the original tool intended to draw attention was that big ol' fat half-a-mil check she was given as an advance as a 17 year-old, two years ago. Now there's an attention grabber!

Talk about a buzz-builder. You give someone that kind of, wait, you give a teenager that kind of scratch and trust, streets is watching.

I don't think they were counting on this new controversy. And I don't know what it's doing for her book sales. But in writer's circles, the whole hoopla isn't doing a thing for her credibility.

Writers are funny like that.

We don't get the kind of rock star love that, well, rock stars get. But we work just as hard at our task. Dare I say harder since a rocker is probably slurping from a beer bong at 3 a.m. and a writer is up pecking at the keyboard trying to stay on deadline.

Yeah, I'm generalizing and stereotyping. But you get my point.

We take writing pretty serious. And in a way, whenever a writer takes a hit publicly for something like plagirism or lying we immediately begin to panic about how it will impact the state of the industry.

How will this impact our next book, our next contract?

Will it now become harder to find an agent or a publisher? Will those trying to climb out of the slush pile be subjected to new ridiculous research requirements or be forced to take a series of lie detector tests to prove the words really came from their head?

We're a bit nutsy fagen like that.

Nonetheless, why buck a trend if it's working? So, let me just put it out there now so my publisher can get started on their Oops campaign:

- There was that one wild night of streaking through campus caught by the local news. Let's plan on using the footage during my Today show interview as I talk about what message such acts send to impressionable young readers.

- There is a possibility I plagirized my own writing. Better unlock the vaults, better known as the box in my mom's closet full of my old writing, and double check. I'm a very litigious person and may possibly sue myself if I find out I didn't credit myself. We call this, The Court TV angle.

- My main character may be based slightly on some of my daughter's traits. Be prepared for some crazy girl, claiming to be my daughter, to pop up at every interview claiming credit for any and all antics of the book's MC. I hear her mom is litigious. Better be prepared for another Hyman v. Hyman lawsuit (see point above).

- Due to wide lapses in memory I may have "made up" a lot of what goes on in my book. Oh wait...that's okay. It's fiction. Whew. Dodged that bullet. it turns out, apparently I have no juicy scandals awaiting airing out. However, there's still 10 months before book launch. There's still hope for a hot Oops marketing campaign, yet.


Blogger writeaway said...

Hey Miss P.,

Here's how I picture the situation. High school girl gets a big fat deal (I'm still trying to figure out why and how). Agents/Publishing Co. receive her completed ms. They're not idiots. It's not like it's a memoir and can't validate's a work of fiction. If someone else found the blatant plagiarism, they surely could. Did they care? Nah. Either way, they'll get their $$$ back. I just read that sales are going up for the book PLUS she got to appear on the Today show, piquing people's interest even more. Scandal=sales.

The bottom line is, the Big Wigs knew but I believe they abide by the ol' saying, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Too bad her career as a writer may be ruined but that's not their problem, is it?

9:30 PM

Blogger Miss P AKA Her Royal Cliqueness said...

Too bad her career as a writer may be ruined but that's not their problem, is it?


But hey, that Harvard degree should open doors and the 500K check should help soothe the pain.

Still, your cred is all you've got.

9:34 PM


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