Getting Author Publicity and the Ups and Downs of Controversy

As an aspiring author, I study the fine art of getting noticed.

It begins with building credibility, then letting people know about you, your book, and your expertise concerning the book’s topic. Author workshops feature marketers and publicists talking about strategies to attract notice.

Writing and speaking in various venues are obvious choices.  Blogs. Twitter. Facebook. Linked In. Your local media. Groups and associations related to your topic.

Or you can pick a fight.

Corporate America is an easy target, especially with a recent economy looking like the 1962 New York Mets.

Joan Rivers went the easy target route earlier this week with a publicity stunt.

She chained herself to a shopping cart at the Costco store in Burbank, California because Costco management refused to sell her latest book. Rivers brought a film crew and a bullhorn with her. Clearly, she staged the event.

Costco refused because of foul language on the book’s back cover.

In turn, Rivers invoked the Nazi label to describe the Costco powers that be.  “People should have the right to have the literature they want. This is the beginning of Nazi Germany.” Rivers told KTLA-TV.

First and foremost, people have the right to buy literature.  Bookstores and web sites carry the Rivers book. Censorship occurs when the state prevents citizens from having access to information. The Rivers book is available. It’s just not available at Costco.

Costco made a business decision based on its perception that customers would be offended by the foul language. Offended customers soon become somebody else’s customers. Marketing 101. Plain and simple. Nothing more, nothing less.

I will not mention the title of the book because it does not deserve more publicity. Ms. Rivers, on the other hand, deserves the spotlight because her analogy is horrific at best and slanderous at worst. Her comments insult the legacy of six million Jews exterminated by the Nazis. And we ought not take those comments lightly.

This moment is, in fact, a teaching moment.

Rivers was a once-iconic comedienne with a put-upon Jewish housewife persona. After her husband’s suicide, she reinvented herself as a home shopping mogul with her own jewelry line and a show business awards show omnipresence with her daughter on the red carpet.

Whether performing on stage or hawking her jewelry products, Rivers was loud, proud, and determined. Her brand reinvention would make excellent fodder for MBA classes.

Unfortunately, so will her publicity stunt. I have had the fortune, or misfortune, as the case may be, to attend author marketing workshops where so-called marketing experts encourage authors to be controversial on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Controversy sells. Or at least attracts attention.

Ms. Rivers is certainly entitled to express herself however incorrectly she wishes. But she ought not be surprised if her Nazi parallel draws more than a wince from those whom she targeted in her marketing plan.

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