July 29, 2011

"Anonymous" writes yet another book


Apparently, when Simon and Schuster didn’t do so well with the last book by “Anonymous,” Little, Brown decided that the problem wasn’t so much that withholding information about the author was a flawed marketing strategy, but that that S&S wasn’t vague enough.

According to this article by Julie Bosman in the New York Times, Little, Brown sent out an email to retailers this week about a late addition to their fall list of a new book by Anonymous…which withheld the title altogether. The email called the book “Untitled,” and the only information given about it was its price, page count, and the fact that it’s a nonfiction hardcover. It also included the sell line, “the inside story of life with one of the most controversial figures of our time.” To insure that accounts will purchase plenty of copies of this vaguely presented book, they’re dangling the old standby marketing/publicity bullet points such as “major media rollout” and “confirmed 60 Minutes appearance.” Oh boy.

So who could this book be by and what could it be about? Bosman was able to find out from someone at Hachette Book Group (parent company of Little, Brown and, full disclosure, former employer of this blogger) that Catherine Hooper and Laurie Sandell were listed as coauthors of “Untitled” in their database. Hooper, as it turns out, is the fiancée of Andrew Madoff, son of the infamous ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff.

So we’re looking at a book by someone in the family (or betrothed to the family) about Madoff. I’m just wondering, what took so long? Also, granted, the Madoffs are one of the most despised families in America, but does a book by a family member really merit the kind of secrecy that we grant to people who might actually be putting their lives at risk to publish a tell-all?

One thing that makes this project at least a little interesting is the fact that Laurie Sandell is mentioned as the other coauthor. Sandel wrote and illustrated the graphic memoir The Impostor’s Daughter, which was a comedic take on growing up with a con artist and swindler for a father. So spinning a graphic yarn about Madoff won’t be too much of a stretch for her.

Still, the less is more marketing strategy is starting to take its toll on booksellers who are already hard pressed when it comes to buying decisions given the exponential growth of the eBook market. ”The note I sent back to my sales reps was, ‘I hate these books,’ “Gayle Shanks, owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ told Bosman. “Generally we don’t know what they are, so we have no sense of how large it’s going to be. But you cannot not buy it.”