Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Blogs-an open letter to Peter Sacks

Dear Peter:
A mutual fan asked me to comment on your remarkably insightful essay published on The Huffington Post. It was honest, to the point, and illuminates many of the problems with the industry as a whole, and our country of illiterates as well. (Also, I'd like to note that I was impressed you apologized for "the bitch" remark. Afraid of the Imus effect?) Regardless, take heart. There are avid non-fiction readers out there and you do have an important subject to educate us on.
However, what I found fascinating was that you never once mentioned the title of your book in that essay: Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education.
So, I'd like to give you a bit of advice.
1) Always mention your book! When you're being interviewed or writing something call back to your book with the simple phrase "As I say in my book...". I noticed one of the commenter's was wondering what the title of your book was. You got them interested, which is great. But how many readers left without asking what the title was or taking the time to read your bio?
2) You're a writer and writers write, not to publish bestselling novels. If it happens, great, but if not, you at least got published and paid for something you obviously love to do. While there are very few authors that make it to the elusive New York Times best seller list, there are thousands of would-be authors receiving rejection letters every month. The majority of authors I work with have a day job, and write because they love to or they have something to say. Remember why you're writing. Remember your message. If you keep these up front, and express them, everything else will come in time.
3) Sadly, you're with a University Press. While I'm not familiar with the University of California Press, and I've seen some University Presses get some great ink for their authors, books, and have a nice reputation for their lists, they don't have the gravitas of a major house. Publicists are only as good as their contacts, and if major media isn't beating down their door on one book, which opens it and gives them a chance to pitch their other authors and books, it's tough to get the attention of Oprah, or a morning show, or the other press you've lamented missing.
4) Shelf Life. Your book was published in May '07. Really, there's only a solid month of publicity that can be done around publication time that ties into your book while it is timely. However, your subject matter is something that is timeless (at least until we find ourselves in a Utopian society). Troll the news, the blogs, find anything that relates to your book and contact them. Tell them you're an expert on the subject and would be happy to comment.
5) 3 Letters: NPR. Ask your publicist to work with you to craft a great pitch letter to send to National and Local NPR producers. NPR listeners are great literate folk and the backbone of book sales. Your subject is perfect for many of their shows like Conversations from Wisconsin Public Radio or Talk of the Nation.
Well, I hope this helps. Currently your Sales Rank is: #47,067. Lets see if we can get that into the 4 digits together. If we do, you owe me a bottle of scotch.
Best of luck to you, Peter.

BTW, in your essay you said "We are all bloggers who produce "content," and content is now a commodity." What you should know is that I write for this blog because I love to write, and I think I have something to say about the industry after all my years in it. This is my voice. I don't get paid for expressing my opinion. I do so simply because I can, I want to, I need to, and best of all, because you're listening even if you don't agree.


ladytron said...

right on, p. glad to know I'm not the only one that the editor is stiffing on the compensation front. I'm pretty sure I was promised booze or something for contributing. bastard.

April Morrison said...

Publitron! I think you are being far too kind to poor Mr Sacks! All of your advice to him is well-considered, helpful, and overall, actually useful, unlike his blog post.

As a publicist, doesn't the entitled tone Mr Sacks strikes immediately rub you the wrong way? The open insulting of his publicist, who is most likely doing the best she can with limited resources (I sincerely doubt that most university authors get any publicity support, let alone a radio satellite tour), seems insensitive at best, belittling at worst. And lines like "giving a pound of my flesh," "clueless goobers," and "Paris Hilton" clearly smack of a better-than-thou attitude that, while playing well on the Huffington-freakin'-Post are not exactly going to do a hell of a lot in the arena of popular opinion.

It sucks to publish books. After four years in the industry, I would absolutely never recommend that any of my loved ones write books, simply because the market is so hard to crack and publishing houses unforgiving. Truly deserving books get ignored every day--Mr Sacks' book may fall into this category, but honestly, I don't know and I'll never know, because his superior attitude and disregard for the intelligence of the hoi polloi has really turned me off. Can you picture Jonathan Kozol writing something like this? Joe Miller, whose 2006 book CROSS-X was a vastly underrated piece of educational criticism, has remained calm, cool, and collected under a lack of scrutiny.

I hope this doesn't read as an attack on you, Publitron! I adore your posts and find your obvious skill at PR refreshing. I wish I could be as calm and collected in the face of Peter Sacks. Entitlement like that really burns my biscuit.


Dear April,

I was a bit melancholy and introspective yesterday, sadly not up to my best snarkitude. You've made some good points, and yes, the author is whining incessantly. I've got another post in mind where i'll have to use Mr Sacks as an example ;)

On another note, I guess Slunch sells books. His amazon ranking shot up from 47k to #21,887. Probably just one buy, but still... awesome.

May butter balm soothe your burnt biscuit.

Bella Stander said...

Terrific advice, Publitron, whether Sacks deserves it or not.

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