Sunday, August 19, 2007

Book Marketing Ideas: Amazon Reviews

Forget mailing 150 copies of your book to print editors, praying for a review. My friend Heather Shaw took an innovative path to snaring reviews that'll help sell her new novel, Smallfish Clover. Shaw went right to the heart of Web-2.0-land, and got some citizen reviewers on the job. Lo and behold, it was a stroke of genius: She's received a thoughtful, extensive, rave review from one of's Top 50 reviewers.

Read the review here.

Find out she did it here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Publicists: Lost in (the Time-)Space (Continuum)

I've been writing a regular column for a major metro daily's home section for a year or so now, where I spy dazzling furnishings and decor on TV and in movies.

Take designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohes' classic 1930 Barcelona couch, right, for example—that's the kind of thing I'm writing about. It appears in Daniel's office on Ugly Betty, and in the upcoming Jake Paltrow movie, The Good Night, above, starring sister Gwyneth, Penelope Cruz and Danny DeVito. It's a great gig. I get to scout movies for fine and fun design and talk to production personnel, most of whom are well-schooled in design, about why the item works on set, how it adds to character and dimension and story.

I love it, except for ... the publicists, at least the vast majority of them. It's amazingly difficult for them to come through, by and large. Let me repeat: amazingly difficult. Like, for instance, taking two months to round up a photo. Or doing a run-around for three months, then coming up empty handed -- can't muster a single quote from anyone (even themselves).

Some dreadful cases in point:

Ugly Betty: Calls about the Barcelona couch went unanswered in winter and spring, but since journalism is like watching crops grow, it was July before anything happened, like a response. Weeks later, in August, a quote appeared — about the wrong couch — but sorry, no set shot. Another publicist graciously helped sort everything out quickly, and got me a quote from the (amazing) production designer about the right couch, all in one day. See how quick it can be? Like watering a chia pet.

Colbert Report: After seven weeks of emails and I'm-checking-on-it phone calls over the black Eames chair used for guests on set, she says: "I don't think this is going to work out." Like after seven weeks, we were breaking up. Maybe she's just not that into the press. (Um, nation? Why do you hate your country's fourth estate so much?)

Because I Said So: Two weeks of calls and emails about a lovely silk chaise resulted in the company hired for publicity saying "We’ve exhausted all our contacts for the film, no one is being responsive. I apologize for the inconvenience." So it comes down to this bureaucratic irony: The company hired for publicity cannot locate its publicist.

There are plenty of sweet, responsive, snappy publicists out there too, so here's a shout out to the folks working on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Traveler, The Rachael Ray Show, Top Design, Nanny Diaries and 23. Hollywood kisses to all of you.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Remembering the State of The State

I came across this shout-out to my brother, Tim (above), and it brought back some great memories from a couple summers ago when he and I were on the founding committee of a local film festival. We worked day and night along with a small handful of people to get the thing up and running in a breathtaking nine weeks, an endeavor that included the Herculean renovation, sans cash, of a downtown theater that had been shuttered for a few years and virtually abandoned for nearly a decade.

My brother (an indie filmmaker) and I were the first to walk back into that darkened place, and it was an incredible moment -- seeing it in all its musty despair, quieted, but with us knowing that it was no longer going to be quite so dark; it would be returning to life soon, welcoming back the community that loved it so much. Our gathering places, the places where we connect with others and share time and events, can hold such a powerful place in our lives. They belong to us, collectively, serving as sort of a bookmark in time, much as movies and music do. They're among the pantheon of sets where we live out our lives. We share them. And to bring such a place back to life, honoring its integrity, respecting its place in the landscape of a community, well, what a gift.

That morning, while Tim surveyed the damage, I went down to the basement and found the red plastic marquee letters and began dusting them off, then carted them to the lobby. My brother flipped on the yellow marquee lights and we walked outside on that warm summer morning, and for a moment, we watched silently as people passed by in cars, sometimes honking, sometimes waving, mostly just smiling happily to themselves, like they'd found something they'd lost. It was an electric moment of togetherness and redemption, and it was an honor to be part of it. A town was about to reclaim one of its sacred spaces.

A little later, I hoisted up a red letter "W" for "WELCOME."And then, with the lights flickering Hollywood style, people began stopping by, asking if they could help too.

Tim, here's a shout-out from me too. This whole shebang couldn't have happened without you. (And your whole crew of Jedis deserve colossal props too.) Those of us who were there remember all those nights you stayed up till 4 a.m., heroically painting sky-high theater walls, pouring your heart into something you believed in utterly: The power of story; the magic of movies.

Bravo, brother.

Us, arriving opening night.