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Looking for a Unique Selling Point

21 April 2003

'Here is how it works. The lodestar of publishing a successful book is publicity - that is, ideally, coverage that spills over from the books and arts sections of newspapers into the news and features pages. Unless a new author has what marketing people call a Unique Selling Point - class, age, looks, celebrity, some kind of heart-warming disability - almost the only way to gain public awareness is by publicising the amount of money that has been paid for the book.

This ties in neatly with the interests of the press. The tale of a rags-to-riches writer is a favourite among journalists, perhaps because many of them share the fantasy themselves. The process which follows is not exactly a lie but, more precisely, involves publishers remaining silent while a promotionally useful myth becomes established as the truth.

The result is that the newspapers get an appropriately upbeat story and the publishers get their pre-publication publicity...'

Terence Blacker in the Independent on Sunday, on book publicity