Most writers today know that they will be heavily responsible for marketing their books. The tactics are endless for those who think outside the box. In fact, many books have been written on the subject. I was thinking about this yesterday when I opened my mailbox and found a postcard from author Starbuck O'Dwyer. Our paths have crossed a few times in the past six years, largely because he continues to market his books to me. Quite effectively, I might add, since I plan to go buy his newest books as a result of the postcard I got in the mail.
I first heard of Starbuck O'Dwyer in 2005. I was driving to work and he was doing a radio interview to promote his satirical novel Red Meat Cures Cancer. At the time, I was a book reviewer for Cox Newspapers and decided that this was a book I wanted to review. So I read it, wrote my article, and mailed O'Dwyer a clipping. He wrote back, thanking me for the review and then kept my name and address on file.
I received an email from him a few years later, keeping his name forefront in my mind. And then I received this postcard yesterday, hand-addressed to me, promoting his latest books How To Raise A Good Kid and Goliath Gets Up. I plan to read both. O'Dwyer knew what he was doing by collecting data on his target readers, of which I am one. This was an effective marketing ploy and one I'll remember once I publish my book(s).
Here's the review I wrote of Red Meat Cures Cancer:
In Red Meat Cures Cancer, we meet protagonist Sky Thorne, Chief Operating Officer of Tailburger, a bottom of the barrel burger franchise that subsists on the tastes of jail inmates, wrestling fans, and junk food junkies. In a society now dominated with low-fat, no-fat, lean and green menu options, Tailburger serves instead a “four-battered dipped, deep-fried” burger with “five generous dollops of Cajun-style mayonnaise," Enormasize fries, and their signature drink-- the Tailfrap, a beef-flavored concoction with more fat grams than several days’ recommended allowance.
Beef intake is flagging and sales are down, so Sky‘s boss Frank Fanoflincoln orders Sky to beef up market shares by 5% or lose his job. With only months to go before he is eligible for his pension, Sky is frantic.
Other fast food giants are adding healthy options to their menus, but Sky feels this route won’t gain him the 5% increase he needs. Instead, he rolls out his new “Torture Me” marketing campaign, building on the destructive tendencies of Tailburger consumers rather than trying to convert new customers.
The “Torture Me” campaign includes advertising spots on a cynical, downtrodden movie about a clown’s descent toward suicide. A basketball icon who puts away a dozen Tailburgers at a sitting endorses the product despite his heart condition. And the marketing gurus have developed tag lines to appeal to segments of their demographic market, including,
For those who’d given up on attracting a mate:
“Why Just Abuse Your Body when you can Torture it?”
Sky is pinning all his hopes on the successful outcome of the “Torture Me” campaign, but he’s facing tough opposition from an anti-red meat lobbying organization called S.E.R.M.O.N. (Stop Eating Red Meat Now) who want to make burger establishments responsible for health care costs associated with eating red meat. S.E.R.M.O.N. will eventually go after the big boys - McDonald’s and Burger King, but they’re starting small, going after Tailburger, whose political allies are small potatoes in the beef industry.
As the “Torture Me” campaign starts to fall apart and Sky’s chances for his pension and early retirement start to fade, Sky contemplates partnering Tailburger with adult entertainment, a sure-fire way to increase the market shares so he can finally get out of the business once and for all.
Meanwhile, Sky’s daughter, Sophia, demands thousands of dollars from her guilt-ridden father with each phone call home. Her requests for business school tuition and breast augmentation sink Sky deeper into debt. His son, Ethan, continually asks him to finance his fledgling dot.com enterprise, sure that at any moment he’ll be an instant millionaire, capable of retiring before the age of 30.
And Sky’s ex-wife’s widower wants his piece of the pie, too. He is suing Sky for 50% of his pension.
With characters named Plot Thickens, Muffet Meaney, and Biff Dilworth, O’Dwyer forgoes good taste in order to take a stab at our reigning pop culture. This funny, biting commentary gives us a look at the materialism clogging our arteries in pursuit of the American dream. This rich novel sizzles with wicked portrayals of family, friends, politics and free enterprise. Even as Sky engages in unethical and illegal steps to raise market shares, he moves closer and closer to career success. Which raises the question-- “Enormasize it?”