Judging a Book by Its Cover

A product category that doesn’t get a lot of attention for its marketing is books.

Think about the last time you saw/heard an ad for a novel or anything non-fiction outside of self-help literature. You may be able to come up with an example, but they’re scarce. How do you find out about books to add to your must-read list? Bestseller lists, recommendations via online retailers like Amazon, author interviews/book tours, word of mouth and recommendations from friends and readers who share your interests – these are some pretty typical avenues through which people are made aware of books.

Outside of interviews or brief mentions in newscasts, television is not where one expects to find suggestions for their next literary pursuit.

A while back, an unorthodox television commercial nearly broke my stride as I was running on the treadmill. Bestselling novelist James Patterson made an unexpected appearance in an advertisement for one of his books. Glaring at the camera, he threatened to do away with one of his main characters, Alex Cross, if viewers didn’t buy his latest book. It’s short, playful and makes a statement.

 

After my initial impression – that this was strange and more than a little off-putting – all I kept thinking is “wow, this guy must be so desperate if he’s resorted to hawking his books via commercials.” 

My subsequent thought was this – “is he, in fact, desperate? Or is this choice of advertising medium and commercial style unexpectedly brilliant?”

What do you think?

- Contributed by Anne Norris. Follow her @anne_norris.