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James Patterson Blows Up Marketing Traditions

| Sunday, January 25, 2015

Patterson_WEBEmily Danaher | The Observer

For $300,000, you could buy a three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in Chicago, about five semesters of Notre Dame tuition/room and board or about 25,000 pizzas. Or, of course, you could buy James Patterson’s newest book.

Advertised as “The Self-Destructing Book: ‘Private Vegas’ by James Patterson” for “only $294,038,” this is the newest marketing scheme cooked up by the man who was the first (and for a long time, the only) author whose book commercials I had seen.

Now, to be fair, the person who chooses to pay the above price will get more than just James Patterson’s newest book.

The “Most Thrilling Reading Experience a Human Being Could Ever Encounter” also includes “a first-class flight to an undisclosed location, two nights stay in a luxurious boutique hotel, a splendid reading space including perfectly chilled champagne, a well-trained bomb squad to handle the self-destructing book, gold binoculars inside a fine-leather case engraved with Patterson’s initials, an unforgettable 5-course dinner with Mr. James Patterson” and the entire “Alex Cross” series signed by Patterson (jamespatterson.com).

This guest will have 24 hours to read the entirety of Patterson’s newest novel and then have the chance to witness the book’s destruction over a dormant volcano. It seems like all of this should have some important ties to the plot of the novel, but according to Patterson, it has very little to do with the actual action of the novel.

Rather, Patterson hopes that this advertising stunt will bring life back into the book industry.

“Publishing, in my opinion, needs to get out there competing with everything else in the world — movies, televisions, etc. etc.,” Patterson said in an interview with Mashable, “It just seems to me I’m in a position to do that. I went to a very good small advertising agency [and said], ‘Let’s do something that’s relevant to what I do, very unusual, that will draw attention to books and this book in particular.”

From my perspective, Patterson has always been better at the marketing end of the publishing business than most authors that I have read. Despite having never read a single one of these books, I am very familiar with his name. It seems that every time I am watching television, at least one James Patterson commercial will come up. Still, this newest stunt seems to be pushing marketing to its limits.

Patterson’s rationale is that he wants to reignite excitement in the book industry, to get people to feel like reading is as thrilling as going to the movies or playing video games. Personally, I do not have any problems with the current reading experience — but there is no doubt that there is lots of worry about the currently “dying” publishing industry.

It is worth mentioning that Patterson’s scheme is not only for the very wealthy. He offered 1,000 secret web codes for fans to get advanced copies of “Private Vegas” and then they had 24-hours to read the (free!) e-book.

Each page would self-destruct as it was finished and readers had the chance to steal time from other readers through the website set up to track those participating. It may not be quite as exciting as witnessing a bomb squad take care of a self-destructing book, but it is far less expensive.

It seems to me that Patterson’s experiment is certainly interesting in its attempt to reignite the book industry, but I have to wonder at the efficacy of it. It is unlikely to attract anyone new to his fan base — the book in question is the ninth installment of the “Private” series and participating requires that you read it in less than 24 hours, which really only appeals to people who are confident speed readers. It is equally unlikely to convince anyone who is not already reading for pleasure to begin; movies and video games do not have to resort to timestamps to get this sort of excitement value.

Still, as always, Patterson sort of interests me with everything he does to market his books. As mentioned before, I have yet to pick one up, but I have always wondered about the amount of advertising he invests in. With his TV commercials, book advertising and now this absurd stunt, Patterson occupies a nearly unique spot in the book industry.

For those of who are not interested in spending $300,000 on a book and missed out on the free web codes, the hardcover of this novel goes on sale Jan. 26 for only $28, free of all advertising gimmicks or self-destructive quirks.

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About Caelin Miltko

I am a senior English and Irish language major, with a minor in Journalism. I spent the last year abroad in Dublin, Ireland and am currently a Walsh RA living in Pangborn.

Contact Caelin