A few days ago I was talking about the futility of a lot of self promotion, and last night I had an idea. I know those middle-of-the-night ideas are usually crap, but sometimes they are genius.

The whole problem with self promotion is that most individual writers can’t reach the masses. We aren’t bringing news about our books into people’s daily lives and into their homes. We’ve tried with the internet. It’s helped, but it still involves a conscious decision to go to a certain website.

Folks, let me introduce THE BOOK CHANNEL. Okay, maybe that’s not the best name. I’m sure we can come up with something better. BOOK ME? BOOK WAREHOUSE? BOOK? I kind of like that.

With TV it’s just click, click, click.

What about a 24-hour home-shopping network for books and only books where one book is featured and sold every 30 minutes. That’s an average of 1500 titles a month. Not this crap of one book chosen by Starbucks, or one book chosen by Oprah.

Readers can call in. Authors can appear as guests. Website info and discussion group info are given on the screen. A website that is updated weekly will serve as a guide for the titles and times for featured books and author appearances and also work as another place to order. I’m imagining something like a cross between early MTV, some of the old live music shows, and QVC. It could be real seat-of-the-pants crazy fun.

The problem I foresee is people might buy a few books, not read them because people aren’t reading, then stop buying.

Another huge problem would be a financial one, so some of the big publishing houses would have to invest in the Book Channel. And they would want to push their A-list titles and nothing else, so rules would have to be put in place giving all featured books equal time, with a high percentage of books being chosen by the Book Channel staff. We would have to have some hot reader/hosts from teens to old farts. Or would we call them beejays?

Or genius?

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getting it going.... yeah, that part is a mystery to me. :D but maybe worthy of investigation.
We have a channel in Canada called Book TV. It includes author interviews, features on special book-related events, like Book Expo, critic discussions (saw a recent one on the current rise of trash reviews - trash reviews are apparently trendy right now) and they do syndicate some shows that were based off books. Homicide, for example.

The main thing I see about a home shopping network is that it cuts out the bookstores. The point of most of those programs is you have to order off the tv, and that means operators, distribution system, etc. But if you don't follow it to that letter and do it more like a combo of our Book TV and MTV it could have some real potential. What I envision is the day that someone breaks through with a book trailer on the level of Michael Jackson's Thriller music video - all of a sudden, a new medium was embraced. You pretty much had to be making music videos. I'm not sure it will come through to the same punch with book trailers, but I do think that good quality trailers shown in bookstores like they show movies in video rental stores would drum up sales. The main problem is, you walk in, there's all these books, where do you start to look unless you already know what you want?

Especially if you're mainly stuck with chains where the staff don't know anything about books.

I lean to genius Anne, with thinking through some of the technicalities. And you wouldn't just go after publishers for financial investment. Go after the organizations, such as MWA and ITW, which can sponsor their own shows.
Well... I won't go all 'communication theory' on you, although I could. In a highly generalized answer I'd say, yes, it's a good thing. Not all of the programs are of interest to me, but thankfully when there are author tours here they actually do some interesting things. Last time Ian Rankin toured Canada they did a special interview with him, in a bar in Toronto, with a live audience, drinking and chatting and broadcast it. This is wonderful for people who can't get to events. Tape it, watch it later. I've also seen Ian, Val McDermid and others interviewed on some of their other programs. In the same way that sometimes you go to a convention, hear someone on a panel and develop an interest in their work, you can hear someone on a program and think, "Hey, I'd like to check their stuff out."

And they talk general issues in the publishing business. The debate on trash reviewing was interesting. Apparently that's what's *sexy* at the moment. One part was so funny, because they were quoting someone who wrote in one of the papers that nobody would dare criticize a certain author in Canada (I don't remember who) because they'd get death threats, and these reviewers were laughing, saying, "Wouldn't it be amazing if anyone felt passionate enough about authors to even care!"

I've seen some good programs. Of course, I've also seen a few that put me to sleep, like any channel. There's no doubt you can reach a wider audience through one TV appearance than the average author can with several book signing events.
Our own Toni McGee Causey has two FABULOUS book trailers she made for BOBBIE FAYE'S VERY (very, very, very) BAD DAY on her website. Check them out!

karen, i agree with john that most trailers make me run from the book, but toni's was entertaining and funny.
john, several people have mentioned that my trailer was too long. i can't remember the actual length, but i think it was somewhere between 4 and 5 minutes. I'm guessing 3 would have been better. thanks about the music. my kids. :)
Ah, those literate Canadians!
Ha! Actually, last report I saw (not this year, though, so it could have changed) has us staying steady with reading. We're not considered to be in decline the way other countries are. Of course, that could change.
sandra, i like the idea of getting organizations involved.

i just don't know about book trailers. maybe i'm way off, but i think the one i made is one of the better trailers i've seen. that isn't saying much, because most are pretty bad. i was going for the music video thing, entertainment rather than an ad, but i just don't think readers care. could be because of the quality of most trailers. after you see 20 bad ones you just don't go there anymore.
I like BookTV (C-SPAN, right?) but I think sometimes the books/subjects/authors are too esoteric for the average viewer. I will stop and pause but more often than not, it resembles Anne Elk. I did see, once upon a time, a really interesting panel... I seem to remember Laura Lippman was on it, or maybe it was a panel of editors. Or maybe that was after Laura's panel. Anyway, it was Book Expo or something, and it was a really lively discussion. More of that is definitely necessary.

So Anne, what would it take to do something like this?
No, our BookTV is different than what you get south of the border. It's its own network, like HBO.

This is ours.
christa, yes, i've watched some of the c-span stuff. thanks for the anne elk link. :D it's also a little like watching a feed, although i have bought some books because of it.

i have no idea what it would take to do something like this. guess i've been thinking about going in a new direction. didn't have TV in mind, but i wonder....


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