This is a guest post by Caleb J Ross as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. To be a groupie and follow this tour, subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: @calebjross.com. Friend him on Facebook: Facebook.com/rosscaleb
What more is book selling than playing the role of the television pitchman? We all invent problems that don’t exist and then offer solutions to those problems on the promise that your life will be more fulfilling having purchased our products. If you aren’t scaring people into buying something, then really you aren’t selling; you’re warehousing.
I understand that nobody has a pre-existing affinity to novels about human remains removal, so any mistaking me for a warehouse foreman is moot. So I’m left as the greasy-handed, plaid-blazer wearing, slick-haired dirty salesman trying to game you out of your child’s college fund/G.E.D night class vending machine dinners/6th grade graduation crack party celebration. That books have historically been held in such high cultural esteem helps me sleep easier, yes. But in a time that almost 200,000 new books are published each year in America alone, authors and book sellers cannot rely on historic significance to support future significance.
So how do we scare you? Like this:
Making you the social outcast
Examples: Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Some books are promoted so heavily and become so entrenched in our cultural consciousness that readers who pass by these books become inadvertent extroverts, lacking the basic verbal landmarks for small talk at parties. But all is not lost; you will still maintain the moral aptitude to know that these particular types of parties are probably not worth attending anyway. And therefore, you are free to get drunk and do regrettable things. Aren’t books wonderful?
Leveraging scare tactics traditionally reserved for politics
Examples: Glen Beck books, Rush Limbaugh books, political memoirs
These books are often more about the personas behind the books than about the books themselves (hence the lack of specific titles in the examples). They capitalize on a warring political climate to make sure you, the reader, take sides in a battle that actually has very little to do with you. In this scenario, you are basically a twitter follower; you are just a number to the @username (except in my case; I love each and every follower of @calebjross).
Blinded by pyramids
Examples: varies by season.
This tactic is an offshoot of #1 above. Basically, on the bookshop level, the idea is to blindside the casually perusing consumer with enough copies of one particular book to plant a seed of fear that the consumer is missing out on a particularly relevant cultural staple. Often this stack of books takes the form of a pyramid. Egyptians would be wise to not be proud.
Examples: The Bible, Dianetics
Admittedly, examples of the Religion Building tactic are rare enough to exclude them completely from this post. However, for the sake for full inclusion it is important to at least mention this method. Lifting a bound stack of paper from book to icon is not an easy task, and may take the support, coordination, and careful editing of a ruling empire (The Bible) or TV commercials and celebrities (Dianetics). Religion is arguably the most effect scare tactic ever created, and any product that can leverage that established power effectively will do well itself as an icon of fear.
Book readers must be aware of these tactics in order to more effectively avoid their allure. It is understandable that one would be susceptible, whether consciously or un, to buy into fear. Fear controls us. Fear keeps us believing in an enemy; it keeps us believing in the righteousness of ourselves. Fear allows us to believe that our generation is contributing to the welfare of future generations. Those who sell fear remind me a bit of Mrs. Rose, the antagonist in my novel, Stranger Will. In fact, Stranger Will contains many lessons that would help readers cope with fear. Truthfully, I fear for those who don’t buy Stranger Will.