Helter Skelter Advertising

So I have a friend who’s kind of a conspiracy theorist. Which is fine, because conspiracy theorists can sometimes help one see the broader picture. Global warming is a scam put on by Ben and Jerry’s to sell more ice cream, which in turn helps the Canadian GDP because – unbeknownst to anyone who isn’t paying attention – that’s where B & J get their milk? Okay. In short, hanging around with a conspiracy theorist is a pretty good substitute for smoking pot.

A few nights ago, said friend was over at my place. We weren’t watching the Olympics, because of course they’re rigged, anyway, so why bother? And he was talking about this book, called The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. It’s written by Vincent Bugliosi, a lawyer-turned-best-selling-author, most famous for Helter Skelter, which chronicles the legal proceedings of the Manson family. In his new book, Bugliosi states that he has a watertight case against Bush on grounds of homicide, and given the chance, could nail our President with a ‘guilty’ verdict.

It came out in May, and received minimal press. Like, actually, no press whatsoever, according to my friend. This was suspicious, because Bugliosi is a world-renowned writer, who has topped the New York Times best-seller list. My friend attributed the lack of coverage to the fact that the government controls the media, including the liberal-seeming Times, and simply wanted to suppress this title.

And he has some corroboration. "The author is receiving the silent treatment from many media outlets," reported Cara McDonough in an article for Finding Dulcinea. "Bugliosi…thought that at least MSNBC and Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’ [where he’d made previous appearances] would show interest in interviewing him about his new book, but neither responded to requests for appearances."

Did someone say Kafkaesque?

Nevertheless, the book became a bestseller. Now The Prosecution is being hailed as a working prototype for how the Internet can sell literature, perhaps more effectively than mainstream media outlets.

"The latest title by former Los Angeles attorney Vincent Bugliosi has become publishing’s favorite example of how the web can move books," writes Mark Flamm in Crain’s New York Business. "A campaign that blanketed blogs with excerpts, podcasts, author videos and advertising has led to sales of more than 60,000 copies of The Prosecution, according to publisher Vanguard Press, part of the Perseus Books Group. A total of 140,000 copies are in print."

Ahh…so it would seem that, in the book world, conventional marketing is losing out to newer forms. This of course is a somewhat predictable progression – it’s easy to see that history is marching blogward. I guess I’m just dumb enough to be surprised that the industry hasn’t yet completely shifted its paradigm. Especially because it’s cheaper to do targeted online ads.

"While a half-page black-and-white ad in USA Today costs $53,000, a two-week online campaign on a network of small Web sites can go for as little as $3,000 to $5,000 and reach 2 million to 3 million people," Flamm reports.

I don’t think it’s too much of a reach to say that this same approach could work for fiction, and maybe even poetry, so long as marketers don’t just tap insulated lit blogs the way they do insulated lit mags.

Back to Bugliosi, I guess I still can’t explain why the media didn’t give him coverage, in terms of reviews and interviews. While the success of The Prosecution is impressive, no one has yet dealt with the book’s actual content. Pundits are surmising that people are just sick of hearing about how much Bush sucks, but still, given Bugliosi’s stature, it is surprising that no one picked him up (and way too post-Modern that EVERYONE, including me, covered his lack of coverage). I guess the conspiracy theorists can keep their suppositions in tact on that count.