Ad-ding to the World of Publishing ;-)

AdsinBooksNot long ago I got the sort of telephone call that every author loves: Tiffany Lampe from BestBooks Publishing invited me to her office for a meeting about my work. I was very excited about this, as you can imagine, and I got all of my ‘book pitch’ materials together.

When I arrived at BestBooks, a friendly receptionist showed me to a seat and told me Tiffany would be ready for me soon. As I sat down, I couldn’t help looking around the waiting area. It was quite attractive, with plum and grey carpet and comfortable light-grey padded chairs. I also noticed something else: instead of the usual institutional-style prints on the walls, there were ‘photos of different companies’ logos. I thought that was a little unusual, but I didn’t have time to reflect on it. Just then the door between the waiting area and the offices opened and Tiffany walked in. After introducing herself, she thanked me for coming.
‘We’re really excited about your work,’ she said.
‘Thank you,’ I answered. What author doesn’t want to hear that?

As we got to Tiffany’s office, she said, ‘I hope you don’t mind that I’ve invited Justin Tyme to join us. He’s got some great ideas and I think you’ll want to hear what he has to say.’
‘That’s fine.’
We went into the office, where Tiffany introduced me to Justin. As we shook hands, I noticed that the walls in this office had logo prints, too. Then we settled into seats. Tiffany started the conversation.
‘We think your work has real potential. It’ll need some editing of course.’
‘Of course,’ I said. After all, just about any story can be improved.
‘We’ll talk about the content and characters soon. Right now, I’d like you to hear what Justin has to say about your book.’

I turned to Justin. ‘Thanks, Tiffany,’ he smiled. ‘I don’t know if Tiffany told you, Margot,’ he said turning towards me, ‘but I represent Pepsico.’
‘No, she didn’t,’ I answered. This was odd. What was a Pepsico representative doing at a publishing meeting?
‘Yes, and we at Pepsico are committed to supporting great books and talented authors, so I’m happy to work with you and Tiffany on your project.’
Well, I’m always open to hearing good ideas, so I said, ‘I’m sure your input will be helpful.’
‘I’m glad you see it that way, Margot. I think your work’s great – just great. A real thriller with lots of grit and plenty of nasty twists in it. Terrific demented serial killer too.’
‘Erm – that’s not really the way I’d describe my Joel Williams books.’
‘The point is,’ Justin waved his hand, ‘you’ve got some good stuff. We can get your work into millions of homes.’
‘Really?’ Now, that was, as the saying goes, too good to be true. Still, I won’t deny it piqued my interest.
‘Sure! That’s where our brand names come in. Pepsico has one of the largest brand collections in the world. Quaker, Walkers, Lipton, Mirinda, they’re all quality products that millions of people trust.’
‘I’m sorry. I’m not sure I understand.’
‘Let me explain how we’d work things, Margot. We sponsor your work, and we let Tiffany and her team take care of editing, printing, and so on. You get your books distributed all over. Doesn’t that sound great, Margot?’
‘But sponsorship usually means advertisers put in logos and messages, that sort of thing, right?’
‘Exactly. In return for all of that marketing and financial support, we place logos and ads in your books. You know, ‘’This page brought to you by…’ Oh, and there are ‘photos and messages between chapters too. We even have video inserts for e-books.’

Now I saw where this was going, and it wasn’t a place I liked. ‘I’m sorry, but I really don’t think that would work. From my experience, readers don’t want their novels interrupted by commercial messages and logos. They want to get caught up in the story.’
‘And they will be. We don’t cut much of your story out. We just abridge it a bit so there’s room for our messages.’
‘But that would change the story.’
‘Not the core of it,’ Justin patted my shoulder in what he must have thought was a gesture of reassurance. I didn’t see it that way.

Tiffany noticed my facial expression and broke in. ‘You know, Margot, we’ve found Pepsico to be a great partner for publishing. We can work with a lot more authors than we would without their support. And as an author, you get a lot more reach than you do now.’
‘But what would that do to quality?’
‘Quality?’ Justin asked.
‘Yes. If one of your brands takes over the sponsorship, then the publishing decision could be more about advertising revenue than about whether the work is good.’
‘But what does that matter if your books are being sold everywhere?’

I was not happy at the direction this conversation was taking. I looked to Tiffany for support, but she said, ‘We’ve been seeing some great sales numbers since we teamed up with Pepsico. It’s an exciting new way to do publishing. So, what do you say, Margot? Would you like to be a part of it all?’
I thought about it for a moment. I imagined a soft drink ad being placed in one of my books just at the point where the killer is about to be caught. ‘You know, I think I’m going to explore other options…’


You are now invited to collect your disbelief at the door as you go. Thank you.



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30 responses to “Ad-ding to the World of Publishing ;-)

  1. What an odd proposal! You can see a global brand wondering why you would turn them down 🙂 I know in the US you get product placement on TV, but it’s still not really taken off here – but books?!

    • Suzi – Fortunately, it didn’t really happen. But I do wonder sometimes what might happen if global brands could advertise everywhere… And yes, I suppose a brand like that would probably wonder why I would say ‘no.’ 🙂

  2. Surely it won’t be long now…

  3. LOL, as soon as I read “Tiffany Lampe” followed by “Justin Thyme,” I knew it was one of your fun flights of fancy! I thought it was going to be one of those “let’s publish your book on the side of the can” kind of thing…. Thanks for the giggle!


  4. As a weary Margot arrives home the phone starts ringing.

    “Hello, Ms. Kinberg, it’s Johan Hartl from Red Bull calling. I just heard you were in a meeting with Pepsico on branding your book and I wanted to make a pitch for our company.”

    “But, I was just telling them I wanted to look at other options,” Margot said.

    “Exactly!” Johan interjected. “You don’t want to be with one of the companies of the past. We are the new image of power energy drinks in the world. We would never think to insert an ad in your book.”

    “Well that sounds promising” replied Margot tentatively.

    “Yes, we would like to up a life size cardboard photo of yourself around the world and put a copy of the photo on the bottom of our newest helicopter. We want to fly you to Salzburg to see the company collection of aircraft, vehicles and motorcycles. What a sight, Margot Kinberg smiling down from a helicopter! What do you say?”

    Before Margot can answer her phone beeps. She tells Johan, “Just a moment I have another call” and she answers the call waiting.

    “Hi Margot, its Jimmy Joe Johnson from Dr. Pepper. Word is spreading fast in the drinks world that you are in play. We would like to do a new campaign aimed at book readers. We know they sit around drinking a lot. We would like to tweak one of our recent slogans to ‘There’s nothing like a Kinberg and a Dr. Pepper!’ and most exciting we are thinking of bringing back the Dr. Pepper Girl. Do you have any glam shots?”

    Margot says, “I’m stunned” and the phone beeps again. She asks Jimmy Joe to hold so she can answer. Even more tentatively, she says “Hello?”

    “Hey, Margot, it’s Jack Jones at Coca-Cola. I hear some of the smaller players in the industry are calling. You don’t want to sign with them. Coke is the largest soft drink company in the world. We can promote your book better than anyone. I have a cool new idea. We could print your book in the shape of the iconic Coke bottle. What do you think?”

    After a moment Margot says in quick succession to Jack, Jimmy Joe and Johan, “Love your imagination. You need to talk to my attorney, Bill Selnes. He handles all my soft drink negotiations.”

    • Bill – I’m so glad you commented! You and I need to get in touch soon, actually. I had a strange meeting with BestBooks the other day, thinking it was going to be a meeting about my work. Well, it was, but it mostly turned out to be a Pepsico rep wanting to insert their brands all through my books. Didn’t go well, I can tell you. Anyway, no sooner did I get home from that meeting, than my ‘phone started going crazy. I’m now juggling offers from three different soft drink gurus who want to use my image and books. I’m sure hoping you can sit down with me about those lucrative offers and work through the details to pick the best one. I know you always have my interests in mind. I hope you don’t mind I’ve given them your office number. You’ll be hearing – oh, excuse me. There’s my ‘phone again. I think it’s the people from Perrier.

      [Thanks, Bill, for a priceless, hilarious addition to this post. Witty and completely spot on!]

  5. It’s not the idea that’s the problem – just the wrong products! How about a nice ad for a blood-stain remover placed discreetly opposite the murder scene? Or a travel company ad just as the perp tries to flee the country?

    • Now that’s creative and inventive, FictionFan! Perfect product placement if you ask me! Hmmm…I could even see an ad for one of the fine whisky brands just as the prime suspect is having a drink with a mate.

      [Seriously, that’s wonderful!! Love it!]

  6. Kathy D.

    Very good and very right on target. It won’t be long before this is happening in the real publishing world.
    But I was thinking this story could have easily turned into a crime scene!
    Margot Murders Marketer! Kinberg Kills Thyme!

    • Oh, Kathy, I love those titles!! Hilarious and creative! I’ll have to think about those… And I do sometimes wonder if that’s where the publishing world will head…

  7. You got me! Until I read the comments I was convinced this really happened and was about to voice my outrage. You’re sneaky, Margot, and very talented. Gawd, I hope that’s not where publishing is going, though you never know…

  8. Be careful, very careful, what you joke about….

  9. I think you should pay more attention to some of the great symbiotic possibilities here, Margot. For example, if you’re writing one of those inside-the-mind-of-a-serial-killer novels (as at least half of today’s drugstore books appear to be), why not have a national chain of psychiatric hospitals sponsor you? How about a good, vicious poisoning brought to you by your favorite brand of weed (or rat) killer? Murder at the beach sponsored by an international travel agency? Let your imagination run wild!

    • Now that’s a great idea, Les! I can see it now….. Perhaps a Buck Knives ad if my victim dies of stabbing. Or perhaps an off-road auto ad if my killer’s trying to make a run for it. As you say, lots and lots of possibilities!

  10. Very funny, Margot, and it would not surprise me for book publishing could go in this direction.

  11. Margot, this is a great story. Love your character’s names. Your story brought to mind something I recently read in Sara Paretsky’s Writing in an Age of Silence (2007): “In a meeting with Random House executives, Costco stressed that they will replace books with dog food if the dog food is selling better.” Bow-wow! 🙂

  12. Can’t you convince Joel Williams to start guzzling Pepsi? Think of the number of books you can then sell!!!

  13. Col

    I had heard of some product placement stuff in a Nesbo book, fact or fiction? I don’t know

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