Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hot pants

Video marketing

Over at the Book Standard, you can see three 30-second videos. These are made by 'hot new filmmakers' and are intended to whet your appetite for three new books from US Random House.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, all three videos look as if they were made on modest budgets -- in two of the cases, very modest -- and they seem to be aimed at, shall we say, the young market.

The first, advertising Richard Doetsch's The Thieves of Heaven, is an example of what I was talking about earlier this week, i.e. an idea which you and I might consider to be completely tapped out by now. In this case, it's two keys found in a small, heavily fortified room, just north of the Sistine Chapel.

The second video attempts to get us interested in a man who is 'a chaotic, knife-wielding alcoholic with a heroin problem who had spent half his life in prison and the other half on the streets.' An uphill task, at least as far as this potential reader is concerned. The book is Stuart -- a Life Backwards, by Alexander Masters.

And the third video, the most professional-looking, is in support of a hard-edged, pretty standard commercial thriller: Shadow Man, by Cody McFadyen. (The thumbnail of the cover, incidentally, makes the author's name very difficult to read, which I do not regard as a smart piece of design.)

Well, thanks, but I think I'll pass on all these. But then I'm probably not in the target audience.

Later: Speaking of videos, I had no sooner posted the above than I was sent a link to a video plugging The Aleijadinho Code (mentioned yesterday) -- or, to give it its proper title, O Codigo Aleijadinho, by Leandro Muller. Now this video I do like. It's another low-budget effort, but it works OK. And my man in Brazil tells me that film rights are being negotiated.

Dante online

Are you, perchance, a reader of Dante? Or are you studying him at school/university? If so, here is a useful link. Dante 2000 is 'an information system on the Complete Works of Dante full of original features. The system is an indispensable work tool for students and teachers. Scholars and academics can use the System as an indispensable work tool, thanks also to the possibility of finding Dante's sources and links to the works of "Coeval Authors". Moreover, in the chapter dedicated to Statistics, scholars will find some surprising results of research, conducted on totally new concepts, that looks at whether "Il Fiore" should be attributed to Dante or not.'

Well, whatever else this may be, it seems to be big and complicated.

New pic of Grumpy

Clive Keeble writes to say that he has a store mascot called Grumpy, who lives in the shop window during the daytime but has to be removed at night because he is valuable (naturally). What is more, he has a pal: Happy.

Indie honoured

Publishing News reports that Wenlock Books has been named Independent Bookshop of the Year in the British Book Awards (link also from Clive Keeble). This is a shop which has been attracting attention for some time: the Guardian had a piece on it last year. It's a bit different from your average W H Smith, and probably a shop which offers a few hints and tips to some others.

Predictions revisited

Predicting the future is a tricky business, and especially so when the internet allows us to look back, several years later, and see how you did. But you might, perhaps, spare a minute or two to consider a 1999 report on the US book trade, prepared by Richard Howorth for the independent bookstore members of the American Booksellers Association. (Link provided by Andy Laties in a comment on Tuesday's post about independents in the UK.)

The main message of the report, says Andy, is that 'in the early 90s when we underwent a similar explosion of illegitimate deals between publishers and big corporate retailers -- with concomitant deep deep discounts offered by these big retailers which helped drive thousands of indie bookshops under -- the longer term upshot over the next 5 years was a decrease in the number of books sold.'

Well, I had a look at Richard Howorth's report myself. I started out thinking that I would just give it a quick skim, but it soon grabs your attention. I would describe it as one of the finest pieces of non-fiction reportage that I have read in a long time: easy to read; to the point; well researched. And it tells a pretty terrible story of an industry that lost its way in the pursuit of the quick dollar.

Of course there is no shame in pursuing the dollar; or even the pound sterling. But, in doing so, it would be wise to give some thought to the longer term. If you only think three weeks ahead, and if you can break the law and get away with it, then all kinds of mischief can arise.

The passage which I liked best is this: 'Title diversity will continue to narrow until a revolution of some now unknown form... initiates a new cycle.' Not bad for 1999.

Waterstone's online

The Financial Times has more on the HMV/Waterstone's decision to build its own online bookselling service (mentioned here on Wednesday).

Apparently HMV are going to locate their online business offshore, for economy's sake. (The world is flat, remember.) The new website will 'embrace employee blogging, a dramatic reversal for the company that emerged last year as the first British company to sack an employee for blogging. Joe Gordon, 37, who worked for Waterstone's in Edinburgh for 11 years, was dismissed for personal commentary regarding his day-to-day life at the bookstore on his blog.'

However, Alan Giles, outgoing CEO of the company, said that HMV's new digital approach would not extend to rehiring Mr Gordon. There are limits, you know.

Peter Winkler's Precious Cargo

Peter Winkler has been a fairly regular commenter on the GOB, but despite that it has somehow escaped my notice that he has a blog. Anyway, there it is, entitled Precious Cargo, and it's been running a couple of years.

Peter's latest post deals with the question of whether media 'reviews' are as independent and objective as you might think. See also his earlier comments on the same topic.


Jane said...

I highly recommend "Stuart -- a Life Backwards", by Alexander Masters. It's a much more appealing book than the subject matter implies, and what is more, a cleverly structured book that manages to keep narrative tension without obvious tricks.

Dr Ian Hocking said...

On the subject of Joe Gordon, he's doing a bang-up job these days as the main blogger for Forbidden Planet International ( He's quite active in promoting books (and has helped me out a bit) and whoever fired him should feel bloody lucky if he returns their phone call.

Joe's blog has more details: Turns out that Waterstone's did try to re-hire him, but he told them to get knotted.

Peter L. Winkler said...

Thanks for mentioning my blog and linking.

Peter W.

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