OK, gather round, you DAA-ers; time to give you the low-down on publicity for WAF. It seems that Wiley, my publisher, finally came to the realization that in order to make money, you’ve got to spend it. Since Western Europe figured this out around A.D. 1500, I had hoped anxiously from the beginning that they would be onto the fundamentals of capitalism more quickly. No such luck (perhaps a bad case of cultural lag, hard to say). I kept sending them messages on the subject, reviewing the work of Ricardo, Smith, J.S. Mill, and Karl Marx for them, discussing the theory of surplus value, adding in Milton Friedman, Paul Samuelson, and the like, but they seemed to be clinging to the theory of clinging: if we hang on to our money, we’ll be OK. So they kept squeezing quarters till the eagles screamed. But finally—it may have been the winter storms in New Jersey, or the flooding that subsequently occurred there, or maybe a stray lightning bolt—they woke up one morning and said, “Let’s give the poor shmuck (i.e., me) a publicist.” When I heard that they had actually hired someone, and were even going to pay her—i.e., actual money; this was not a barter in New Jersey corn or whatever—I had to lie down for a couple of hours just to recover from the shock. Maybe there is a god, I thought; maybe he likes my books. (I was heavily sedated at the time.)
Anyway, that’s Step 1 in this strange adventure. Step 2: my new publicist says to me: what’s really crucial these days are the social media. Things such as magazines, reviews, bookstore presentations, radio and TV interviews—all of that has shrunk in influence, been marginalized. Americans don’t really read that much anymore (as you’ve documented in your previous books); instead, they Twitter and Facebook, so that’s where you’ve gotta be.
Me: But if they don’t read any more, aren’t they the wrong audience for us? I mean, let’s say you take stuff off my blog and put it on Twit and FB (since I’m not going to Twit or Face myself, because I have no interest in those social media, which I think should really be called anti-social media, and think they were designed for addicted, narcissistic morons whose main interest in life revolves around stuff like the fotos Kim Kardashian posted of her psoriasis, not to mention her rear end). Those folks aren’t going to run out and read WAF; no way! For one thing, it has polysyllabic words in it, not to mention—gasp—concepts. And then these media reduce one’s attention span to that of a gnat. It’s not merely that these people don’t read books anymore; they can’t.
Publicist: Not so fast, shmendrick. For better or worse, most Americans now get their information from the web, and this even includes a few intellectuals. The social media reach millions; there’s no such thing now as book promotion without them. We need the folks who are reading your book to be out there talking about it, and one place we can be sure to find them is online. In short, adapt or die, boychik.
Me: But what about the bookstores? Isn’t anyone going to show up to hear me at bookstores?
Publicist (shaking her ahead, in the sense of ‘What a yokel’): You’ll be lucky if you pull in 5 people in Seattle and 10 in LA. Don’t forget your famous appearance in downtown Philly in 2006: 3 people showed up for your talk, and one of them fell asleep during it. The bookstore also had you billed as “Dean of Optometry at UC Fullerton,” or something like that. It can’t get much worse than that, can it?
Me: Yeah, that was indeed a humbling moment, I have to admit. So your idea is that for the next two months I post various rants and raves on any subject I want, including Twit and FB and Kim’s behind, and then you feed these things into Twit and FB, in the hope that someone who reads it will also want to read WAF? Shit, I’d rather chew on razor blades. As far as I’m concerned, Twit and FB are further examples of the collapse of American culture, of our national decline. As someone recently said, screen people are “pancake people”—all breadth and no depth.
Publicist: Perhaps, but it still makes for good PR. Even anti-PR is good PR.
Me: Were you aware that a Canadian company just released a computer tablet for toddlers, designed for babies as young as one week old? It’s not enough that we are killing our infants with Prozac and Zoloft; now we are also going to do them in with screens and touch pads.
Publicist: That’s good! Write about that! Tell your blogfolks (all 65 of them; what a huge following you’ve managed to accumulate!) that the US and Canada, through meds and hi-tech, are deliberately trying to kill our children. I mean, even if it isn’t an actual conspiracy, it seems like they’re doing a good job of it, no? You remember that essay by Jonathan Swift, right? About how Ireland should start cooking and eating its children? Well, do a new post and call it “Jonathan Swift Revisited.” That’ll get the pancakes all a-Twittering.
Me: (Heavy sigh)
Publicist: Frankly, I’m a believer in Bermanism: any culture that is designing computer screens for one-week old babies, and feeding anti-depressants to toddlers, has no future at all. What could be more obvious? When they grow up, they won’t even know what a book is, fer chrissakes.
Me: Jesus…Well, this seems like a fool’s errand, but you’re the publicist, what can I say.
Publicist: You got that right. Now get busy, shmuck. And don’t forget to give your readers the crucial contact info: