Programs about books have rarely made exciting television. They typically feature interviews with the author, perhaps interlaced with some visual material drawn from the book or the author’s research (e.g. Book TV on CSPAN-2). The pace is usually plodding, the atmosphere sort of like being in the library. Oprah sells lots of books and her interview and recommendations are a bit more entertaining, but how many authors will ever be featured on her program? Not the kind of format to create generate high ratings and viewership. Does it have to be that way?
So here’s a thought. Why not try out some show formats that have become proven successful elsewhere? What about a show similar to the popular program Sell this House! where a team of experts helps a hapless homeowner stage their house to help attract buyers? Except in this case, the homeowner is replaced by an author with a book he or she is trying to bring to market. Consumers and book buyers give candid (and not always pleassant to hear) feedback. The experts are pros from the world of book marketing, promotion and distribution. They help “stage” the book (cover design, pricing, format) and then help launch the marketing program using innovative (and not so expensive) techniques. And of course, viewers could buy the book by calling an 800 number or going to a website.
Or – for genres like poetry that have a performance component – how about a motif like American Idol, except poets vie in televised slams that audiences can vote on? This could bring a whole new audience to the participating poets. As the ancient Greeks knew well, poetry read aloud has always been good entertainment.
Or newbie authors could compete in a format like The Apprentice. The goal could be to flip their book to a major publishing house or a Hollywood movie studio.
Could such programs ever find an audience? If the number of people self publishing is any indication, any one of these show could be a hit. Will books be diminished by this type of marketing? I don’t think so. Books have been an extremely durable medium. The reasons we like to read them may remain the same over the ages. But the promotion and sale of books can only benefits by playing to the strengths of the media used to market them.