: views from the Hill

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Blatant, Shameless Self-Promotion

Julian Guthrie, Staff Writer, wrote an article about Rich Shapero for Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.

Venture capitalist rewrites the starving-author story

With deep pockets and an even deeper belief in his inner Hemingway, first-time novelist Rich Shapero is taking vanity publishing to a new level.

The Silicon Valley venture capitalist wrote his novel, founded a company to publish it and then launched one of the biggest and most colorful individual book giveaways ever.

Shapero, 56, is spending nearly a half-million dollars to promote "Wild Animus," due in stores in early October. And he has a 13-city book tour planned.

Thousands of advance copies have been handed out at music festivals, food fairs and art exhibits. Actors dressed as rams -- a key character in Shapero's book -- have stampeded book industry events. Shapero paid for the creation of a directory of book clubs nationwide, and then offered books for free.

He also sent copies to interested members of Bookcrossing.com, the online community of 250,000 bibliophiles. Members have posted reviews ranging from "Weird and different," to "One of the worst books I ever read."

Shapero is part of a self-publishing explosion that has enabled wannabe writers to print books on demand.


We've bumped into this guy and his gang of book floggers at events in Washington Square Park and down by the Bay. There's a copy of his book on my bookshelves, but I haven't cracked the cover yet.

What if all new authors had half a mil to spend on self-promotion? Our weekend art shows and BDSM fairs would be awash with people got up in ram outfits and posing with giant Gumbies.

The article mentioned that Kirkus Reviews -- the cutting bloody edge of book reviewing -- will begin reviewing self-published books -- for a small $350 fee! You can imagine the brouhahah pay-for-review is creating in publishing circles.

Guthrie also mentioned a National Endowment for the Arts survey released earlier this year, which found that the percentage of Americans reading has dropped over the last two decades, but the number of people taking creative writing courses is up by 30%.

Zounds! No wonder POD has taken off. All those creative writers looking for an outlet.

Another stat I came across in the article (and then failed to confirm so I had to drop my numbers by 10K) claimed 165K books published in the U.S. last year -- a 37% increase since 2000. This column mulls over the news.

Double zounds!

... and now if anyone pops Rich Shapero's name into Google, they'll come up with this blog entry.

That's how Blatant, Shameless Self-Promotion works.

(Who cares what they said? Did they spell my name right? Did they get the book title right?)

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