Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Getting a Book Recommendation
Thursday, July 03, 2008
London Bookstores Are Going Up
Each independent has its own survival strategy. Ours has been to stock not just those titles our core customers would expect to find, but to second-guess those customers and offer books to surprise and excite them (what Gabriel Zaid calls "a fortunate encounter"). That in itself is not enough, which is why we set out from the very beginning to establish an involved community, both through participation in events and by opening the London Review Cake Shop, which has become a favourite haunt of writers, journalists, publishers, academics (it helps being in Bloomsbury) and, of course, customers.Of particular note are the activities of the London Review Bookstore, including events, a revamped web site (with soon to be available podcasts of talks), catalogs, and signed first editions. Some of this actually sounds like marketing techniques used in New York's old Book Row (interestingly covered in a volume I've been reading, Book Row: An Anecdotal and Pictorial History of the Antiquarian Book Trade). Sometimes what went around should come back for another tour.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Book Launch 2.0
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
A Real Business Course
According to the complaints filed with the Faculty Senate, Hunter agreed to let the IACC sponsor a course for which students would create a campaign against counterfeiting in which they would create a fake Web site to tell the story of a fictional student experiencing trauma because of fake consumer goods. One goal of the effort was to mislead students not in the course into thinking that they were reading about someone real. So-called “guerrilla marketing” — in which consumers are unaware that they are being marketed — is the subject of some controversy in the marketing and public relations world. But even among advocates for the tactic, there are some who are disturbed about what happened at Hunter.Students in the for-credit class did such things as paper campus with fake fliers from an imaginary student looking for a lost Coach bag and a blog supposedly about her realizations that the bag was a counterfeit. Although being called guerilla marketing, I don't think the term applies. Guerilla marketing generally means using low-cost methods for getting interest in a business, with a premium on unusual methods - but you generally know that you're looking at something sponsored by a company.
The irony here is that this version of deceit and propoganda is trying to trick people to take specific actions much the same way as producers of counterfeit products try to trick consumers. They play on people's associations, deliberately misleading them, to gain their own ends. It's a bad situation when your own words and actions end up supporting that which you claim to oppose.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Faking Interest Online
I have sympathy for the problem. I remember many years ago hosting a radio call-in show and having absolutely no one telephone. Eventually a friend of mine, the technical director, went to another room and called in to try and spark a conversation. So I understand the difficulty and discomfort of waiting for comments that don't come. However, we were young and foolish. Some might perceive faking an audience as a form of marketing, but it's dishonest.
There are situations and times at which you say, "No, I won't do that." The magazine could have disabled commenting for a while on its blog. Or it could have borne the terrible stigma of not having people care for its opinions - if anyone even noticed or cared. Instead, it choose to manipulate its audience, search engines, and anyone else who might pay attention. To me, that is on the same side of the line as peddling snake oil. I've found in my own blogs that I must insist on moderating comments because I've seen examples of interested people with clear agendas attempting to appear as though they were readers happening onto a topic. Too bad there isn't an equivalent function when you are in the audience and not running the forum.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Is It Live or a Movie? National Theatre Uses Video Promotion
As have many other theatres, the National has wanted to reach people outside people who already see live productions. Some months ago, marketing director Sarah Shunt was surfing the web and came across a video trailer for the musical Wicked on Broadway.com. She wondered why the National couldn’t do so as well. Apparently there was no good reason, so it started experimenting.
“One of the first two e-trailers we created was for a new play called Market Boy,” she says. The David Eldridge script reflects on political life in the 1980s and is set in an East London market with “unusual staging” by Rufus Norris that made heavy use of period music. It seemed a good match for 20- and 30-somethings, although the Theatre thought that it might not be appealing to its traditional crowd – hence the online promotion along with an e-mail campaign.
“It was incredible,” Shunt says. “Market Boy became known wider than the theater-going public. “The data showed us that a larger portion of the people were first timers to the National Theatre, and for the fist time more people booked their tickets online than any other method.”
There was no professional video crew. The National had some cameras and a staff graphic designer that had become a good photographer and was willing to try video. To do an e-trailer for something like the current production of Maxim Gorky's Philistines takes only an hour with some cast members – in this case using a rehearsal room.
“This trailer is the best [among the others] at capturing the essence of the stage,” wrote Henrietta Clancy in the Guardian’s theater blog. “Having seen Philistines, I can confirm that the trailer definitely shines a light on Gorky's play. It successfully embraces the real grit of live performance, yet I feel sure that it could be pushed further. The trailer could benefit from some footage of the rehearsal process or a few shots of the audience being shown to their seats and buying programmes.”
According to Shunt, the reviewer was a bit off-base from what the National was trying to achieve, which is an impression of the play, and not a representation. The 2 minute and 8 second video is a montage of images; characters addressing the viewer in close-ups, a sepia-toned black & white treatment; sensitive lighting that adds a dimension of depth to a medium that usually seems visually flat. In other words, this is a commercial of the best kind. Instead of focusing on an artificial brand image, the National is trying to communicate the essence of what it is and what it does. That's real marketing.
Take this an early sign of just how useful modern communications can be to the life of theater. It's difficult to bring new audiences into what can seem like an alien ground if you haven’t been brought up in and around it. But now a company can invite guests, give them a taste of what they will experience, all using media that makes them comfortable Video is intimate, seductive. Advertisers have known that for literal decades. Large commercial producers of musicals have been using television over the years, and now smaller venues can.
The National doesn’t stop with videos. There's a presence on MySpace.com. The company’s own web site has RSS feeds about books, exhibitions, productions, and news. Podcasts carry interviews with directors, writers, and actors. Reaching out to audiences isn't about doing the same things repeatedly, or even about pandering to what a theatre thinks its audience wants. It's about communicating honestly and in a way to convey the emotion of live theater. “We’re in the 21st century,” Shunt says. “This is how people are communicating. It’s a moving poster.”
The National does have significant resources, but this isn’t technology restricted to large organizations. Small groups that depend upon the kindness of volunteers could likely find web designers, practiced photographers and videographers, and the technically-adept who could learn to generate compressed video that could run on a free site like YouTube or MySpace and email an invitation for a taste of the latest production. By taking drama of contemporary times and using modern communications, a company can build a mirrored door to theater and make it relevant to generations that haven’t yet been acquainted.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Book Publishers Say We Give Up - You Decide
Thursday, May 17, 2007
David Sedaris on Author Tours
Anyone wondering about the popularity of humorist David Sedaris need only attend a stop in one of his author tours: he had close to 2,000 people at one New York book store alone last year. And he has looked forward to them all, including this summer's rounds for the paperback version of Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy. "My agent – I don’t know if he thinks I’m lying, or if I don’t realize how horrible it is," he says.
But even with his existing audience from his National Public Radio work, he had one dark night of the sojourn on his first tour. "Everywhere else it had gone well, but I got to Los Angeles and only four people were there," Sedaris remembers, "and two of them were friends of mine. They just thought, 'Oh, he’s a loser.' It was humiliating. Then I think what if my whole book tour was two weeks of that?"
I spoke with him as he was getting ready in Paris to leave on another tour the next day, which meant being up all night. "I always do that before I leave on a trip," he says. "I’m going to get screwed again – screwed out of an hour sleep." Well, maybe more.
He does enjoy doing tours. "My agent – I don’t know if he thinks I’m lying, or if I don’t realize how horrible it is," he says. “If you go and there are 500 people there, then it’s fun. I could be wrong, but when I started my tour last June in New York, I think they had 1800 people at the Barnes and Noble in union square. I could be wrong and maybe it was 1200." Days of almost empty stores are pretty much over. He shows up two-and-a-half to three hours in advance.
Still, there's no doubt that tours are a grind. Sedaris is flying from one city to the next, usually spending only a day. “Then so much of your life is taking place on planes and airports," he says. "So I’m writing the word flight in every story.”
Because his schedule is tight, Sedaris has no time to play tourist, so the fun must come in the stores.
“It’s nice if you have a theme or say I’m working on a story and does anyone have information on this?" he says. "For the paperback tour for Me Talk Pretty One Day, [I noticed that] everyone in America has a tip jar," he says. "I started putting one on my signing table." His best take was $180 in a night. "I said I’m spending it all on myself."
Then he started charging for the more unpleasant requests, like the one or two people an evening, thinking they are original, who ask him to sign someone else's book. "If someone came up with a telephone and said, 'Would you talk to my sister?' I'd say, 'Yes, for ten dollars.'" He's given priority signing for smokers and adults with braces and offered travel packets of pain relievers with each signature, but many people wouldn't take them. "Especially men who’d say I’m OK. I’d say do you think you’ll never get a headache?" He guesses that only 10 percent of the men took the sealed packets while 80 percent of the women did. Maybe the women knew something that the men didn't: there could be a book tour just around the corner, waiting for you.