June 23, 2017
How my publishing job was made totally super-obsolete with a little help from Leslie Norins, MD, PhD
by Simon Reichley
Folks, the jig is up. After decades of market research, untold hours fiddling with Photoshop, trackless weeks spent optimizing and promoting and cross-marketing and emailing and reading and burning sacrificial meats, we’ve come to the end of the road. A study by Leslie Norins, MD, PhD, author of such classics as The President Has AIDS and chief editor of Analizir.com, has discovered that book ads are all pretty much the same and mostly boring and that we could probably just have robots do them for us.
You see, Leslie Norins, MD, PhD was going to publish a medical thriller. Leslie Norins, MD, PhD is a doctor, and since doctors in the United States make a shitload of money (fingers crossed for that healthcare reform, big money no whammies!), he was willing and able to spend a little extra on the promotion of his book, and place an ad where “the big guys” place theirs: the New York Times Book Review. But Leslie Norins, MD, PhD wanted to make the most of the opportunity, and decided to do a little research into book ads. He looked at 100 (!!!) book ads over the course of six months, hoping to find some indicators of excellence that he could identify and apply to his own ad.
What he found will shock you:
I studied 100 full-page book ads from six months of issues of the New York Times Book Review. Just pick the best one, and imitate it, right?
Problem. There was no best one. Shockingly, all 100 ads from these publishing giants looked similar in most ways, and contained identical categories of items…
The textual elements each ad shared were: the book’s title, its author’s name, several laudatory quotes from reviewers or fellow authors, and the publisher’s name. The common art elements were: an image of the book’s cover and centripetally-arranged laudatory quotes.
The only variable items were the letters of the alphabet in the text items, the font and point size of the type, and the color palette used.
It’s a watershed moment. A true industry outsider—if you will, a maverick—has identified the one weakness that mainstream publishers are either too stupid or too afraid to confront: all of their books have titles, authors, and covers.
So, what’s the practical upshot here? According to a report by Dr. Dr. Leslie Norins on Cision Newswire, it’s the suggestion that publishers hand over the task to robots:
Dr. Norins commented, “This situation is ripe for a robot, as a template for inserting each common feature could be created in advance. The ad technician would only need to load the image of the book cover, and type in the reviewer quotes. Then select from a short list of options the font and point size of type, the color palette, and the layout.”
But even though robotic production of ads seems doable, Dr. Norins questioned whether speeding up “more of the same” ads would help sell more books. He said, “The sameness which has permeated book ads has created boredom.”
Perhaps something in you is crying out, “NO! It cannot be! The noble soulcraft of book advertising is essential! Through it, we discover our own humanity!” Alas, such weak sentimentality is helpless against the brutally clear-eyed wisdom of Dr. Dr. Dr. Leslie “Shockingly” Norins, MD, PhD, originator of the phrase “purposeful variation will disguise robot’s role.” Why manually create a book advertisement when you could simply load an image of the book, type in some quotes, and then select the font, color palette, and layout of a book advertisement? The future is now, people. Wake up.
Simon Reichley is assistant to the publishers and office manager at Melville House.