July 9, 2015

Author Chad Kultgen revealed to be a terrible, insensitive marketer


As reported in a very thorough article on The Daily Beast, writer Chad Kultgen has been exposed as the man responsible for the website prolifeantiwoman.com.

The original site presented itself as a ransom letter of sorts, calling for the collective donation of ONE MILLION DOLLARS! to save the life of the “author’s” unborn child, which the anonymous author threatened to abort if her demands were not met. All this was framed as a protest against restrictive anti-abortion laws being enacted and contested across the country. This was all covered as early as June 26th by the pro-life/anti-woman website lifenews.com, and later on by Fox News and The Daily Mail. However, on July 7th, the day that the website was to begin accepting donations, Mr. Kultgen deftly removed his 26-year-old-single-mother mask and revealed the whole enterprise to be a “controversial” and “provacative” — read: insensitive and immature — promotion for/excerpt from his new novel, Strange Animals.


The response was not as enthusiastic as Kultgen might have hoped, and, as is almost always the case in scenarios like this, the offender, Kultgen, finding himself in something of a hole, began to dig.

In an e-mail to The Daily Beast, Kultgen maintains that he “wasn’t pretending to be anything” by posing as a pregnant woman on prolifeantiwoman.com.

“I’ve always been curious to know what might happen if a girl actually did this,” he wrote. “That’s why I wrote an entire book about the subject.”…

Kultgen told The Daily Beast that he is “both surprised and pleased with the results” of what he calls an “experiment” in “augmented marketing,” and, essentially, that all press is good press.

“Anyone is obviously free to feel however they like about it, critical or otherwise.”

Double oof. For starters, the notion that all press is good press seems pretty tidily defeated by the results of Kultgen’s little “experiment.” As of this writing Strange Animals has 22 reviews on Amazon, 18 of which are 2-star or below. The other four are five star gems, but two of those reviewers are unlikely to actually buy the book.

Furthermore, pretending is exactly what Kultgen is doing. He is pretending to be something in order to stimulate outrage, presumably in the hopes that this outrage will somehow transmute itself into enthusiasm for a novel, which he hopes people will read. Unfortunately, outrage is short lived, and novels are long.

"I'm probably not going to buy the book."

“I’m probably not going to buy the book.”

Even your biggest fan isn’t going to read your book, because they are more interested in outrage (which is fundamentally selfish) than they are novels (which are ideally empathetic)? Now, I’m not in marketing — because that shit is black magic and my momma taught me better than to mess with bad ju-ju — but it’s probably not good when one of your four supporters isn’t really interested in the book you’re selling (aside from its cover).

Even assuming you’re on Kultgen’s side politically, it’s hard not to read this as sleazy, and ineffective to boot: all press is not good press, especially when you are pretty clearly on the wrong side of public opinion, and — with any luck — history. Which makes Harper’s response — cocking an eyebrow and shrugging their shoulders, as if to say “Well, boys will be boys. What are we supposed to do about it?” — all the more troubling.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, HarperCollins said, “Strange Animals is a book that deals with controversial issues. We knew Chad intended to promote it in a provocative way but HarperCollins did not participate in the creation or promotion of the website.”

Triple oof.


Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.