Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Self-Published Publicity (NSFW?)

… or “Boobs, Books, and Buzz.” Or "Marketing 101 in the Internet Age.”


Have you heard the names “Hayley Williams” and “Paramore”? Until Saturday, I hadn’t, although Daughter Dearest insists that I’ve heard some of their music on the radio. Anyway, this self-snapped shot (look at the angle of her left arm) appeared in her TwitPic stream on Thursday night — OK, I’ve slightly doctored it to keep this post PG-rated:

Hayley Williams topless pic (censored)

The pic was pulled down, but not soon enough for it to get copied (obviously, see above) and the old Whoops, I got hacked excuse popped up in her tweetstream. 'Course, some folks checked the pic’s EXIF data and found the shot was snapped about eight minutes before it got posted… making the possibility of a hack, shall we say, extremely remote. A much more believable explanation would have been “it was supposed to be for my boyfriend and I messed up when I emailed it.”

For those of you who have to see the original, I found out about the whole kerfuffle in an [!!!!!NSFW!!!!!] article from TheRegister [!!!!!NSFW!!!!!]; it includes the picture in all its nude-tastic glory as I type (and ElReg tends to give the meaty middle finger to take-down notices).

So… this all happens on Thursday. I read about it on Saturday. And by Monday, I’m off to Amazon’s MP3 store to check out Paramore’s music selection… which turns out to be pleasant to listen to as well. There has been a ton of press about it, and “Hayley Williams” is a trending topic on Twitter at the moment — you just can’t buy publicity that good. Hey, if I thought I’d get a huge traffic bump by posting (and taking down) a nudie of myself, I’d go for it too… but my bits just aren’t as interesting to look at. IMHO.

Clothing choices aside, I like her face better in the above shot than the one in a more “turned-out” publicity pic (in which she looks like a Jennifer Aniston clone, not that I think Jen is unpleasant looking). Hayley, lose the makeup and the hair stylist, you look better and more like yourself without them.


Now that I’ve got your attention…

Last week, I mentioned, among other things, J.A. Konrath being the subject of a Publisher’s Weekly hit-piece and his response. This week, he embarks on a fascinating experiment he calls Steal This eBook: he makes available a zip file containing Jack Daniels Stories (one of his own books) in various ebook formats (and a direct link if the first one doesn’t work). The really audacious part is where he asks people to share the file far and wide via the usual “piracy” channels.

Konrath sums up his experiment thus: “I've said repeatedly that there is no proof piracy hurts sales. So I'm manning up and putting my money where my mouth is.” Indeed. This experiment has just sailed, so it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. But I can already say, Konrath has put one of his books in my reading pile where there were none before. I’ve never been one to shy away from making predictions, so I’ll throw one out here: I think he’ll see a negligible effect on sales for this particular book, and a noticeable uptick in sales of his other books.

Of course, it can be debated (and is being debated in the comments on Konrath’s blog) whether this is actually “piracy” or not — after all, the author himself is encouraging spreading the file far and wide. Perhaps this should be better considered a “loss leader,” an old sales tactic where a store sells one product at a loss in hopes that people will buy other (more profitably marked-up) stuff while they’re grabbing the Great Deal. But successful buzz generation means you have to get people to notice what you’re saying — and is “A free ebook” or “Hey, pirate my ebook!” going to get more notice? Or, in the case of Hayley Williams, did “hey, music” or “BOOBZIEZ!!!!” turn more heads? (Big hint: of the thousands of bands out there, who’s getting the attention right now?)

Publicity is not for the faint of heart, and DIY publicity doubly so. I think there are some lessons to be learned here, though, to make things a little less scary…

1) You can only do this thing once. Williams’s stunt definitely lands in the category of “tough act to follow.” Konrath took a more modest approach, but even if he offers another freebie later on, a lot of people will go “yeah, yeah.”

2) Know what results you’re looking for. I’m guessing that both Konrath and Williams did, and got them.

3) Seize the opportunity when something goes wrong. Sometimes, you might get free publicity in a way you neither expected nor particularly wanted. Once the genie is out of the bottle, no amount of whining nor DMCA take-down notices will get it back in… and you’ll just end up looking clueless and petty. Make it work for you instead. Get out in front of the story so you’ll have at least some control — and for your own sake, don’t come up with a lame explanation that can be easily debunked (e.g. “I got hacked”). On the other hand, if you can extend the controversy (which is an unpleasant way of saying “extend the free publicity”) with a silly comment, it might be worth it.

Consider the sad case of Stephanie Meyer throwing a hissy-fit when an early draft of Midnight Sun* got leaked onto the net — she decided that she’d “been violated” and walked away from the work. To her credit, she soon acquired a partial clue and posted a copy herself (although with the usual “Any retranscription or reproduction is illegal” stuff), but still has no plans to finish it. She would have been far better off, publicity-wise, had she said something like “I’ve been rewriting this and what hits the shelves will be different and far better, it’ll be out on [some date]. Hang in there.”

*Thanks go to Daughter Dearest, a Stephanie Meyer fan, for supplying both the book title and the author name when my memory couldn’t produce either one.


Cheap electronics and public networks have changed creative media forever. It was once said, “freedom of the press applies only to those who can afford a printing press.” Now the electronic equivalent can be purchased for a few hundred bucks new, or sometimes fished out of a dumpster for free. Of course, the old “talent” issue still applies — Sturgeon’s Law says “Ninety percent of everything is crap,” and many would say Sturgeon was an optimist — and so publishers and the recording/movie industry can claim to be a filter for that ninety percent. Still, people like J.A. Konrath are making a comfortable living without having the mass-market appeal that the gatekeepers/filters demand, simply by using the tools available today and finding a way to get noticed.

6 comments:

  1. Interesting post Far. (I'll need an eboob reader if this keeps up.) I suspect that we will see many more such stunts. Little cost with a large impact. Too bad I haven't been able to promote my paintings on line to a similar level. Perhaps I need to do some nudes. ;-)

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  2. (BTW, love the "eboob reader" comment…)

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  3. Agreed, she should lose the makeup. It's so much better for the skin anyway. I don't think I've worn the stuff more than 3x since the company Christmas party.

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  4. I'd expect nothing less from you, Nudge! ;-)

    Seriously though, I'd take a ready smile and an inquisitive mind over a good paint job any day…

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  5. Now if only you can get your brethren to go along with that sentiment .. sigh.

    I have come to think of the non-makeup idea as a war that's won by them who sell the image of beauty as a set of products that one must purchase and use, without which beauty is as unattainable as, say, trying to travel to the moon by bicycle instead of by rocket. No doubt teenagers will snicker that I'm not abusing my skin like they are.

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