Monday, August 20, 2007

where photo ops & book tours began

We're reminded this week of two powerhouse communicators who deserve credit for starting two enduring staples of publicity: the photo op and the book tour. Former Reagan White House deputy chief of staff Michael Deaver died over the weekend at age 69, and his obituary credits him with originating the "photo op," short for "photo opportunity," primarily as a way of putting off reporters. His Washington Post obituary notes that these sessions:
....positioned the former actor in visually irresistible locations where troublesome reporters' questions could not intrude: atop the Great Wall of China, on the beach at Normandy for the 40th anniversary of D-Day or in front of a construction site as the president announced the latest government report on housing starts.
And today is the birthday of the late Jacqueline Susann, the popular novelist of the 1960s who is credited with developing the modern book tour. According to today's Writer's Almanac:
Susann developed a system for promoting Valley of the Dolls that helped to revolutionize the way books are marketed. She went on coast-to-coast tours, appeared on local radio and television stations, and made personal appearances in bookstores to read and sign autographs, becoming one of the first modern celebrity authors.
Her Wikipedia entry notes that she had a personal touch:
When her books were coming out, Susann would rise at dawn to take coffee and doughnuts to the truck drivers who were delivering her books. She and Mansfield would also drive around the country to meet sales clerks at the bookstores. She would keep track of everyone's birthdays, their kids' names, and their pets, so she could talk to them more personally. Susann's shrewdness ensured her book would be prominently displayed and enthusiastically recommended by booksellers.
Modern authors, take note.

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