Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Trans-actional Query

A Two-Parter:
1. Those of you urbanites (readers, writers, riders, writers who read, riders who read, etc) who travel by mass transit (subway, bus, light-rail, barrel-rolling-down-hill, etc):

A. Do you pay attention to the adverts that one sees in subways, on the sides of buses, etc. --1-800-LAWSUIT ("You, too, may want to sue the producers of VIOXX"), e.g.?
B. Have you ever seen BOOK ads in such places?
C. If yes, has an ad ever (even just once) caused you to say (to yourself), Oh, I didn't know that was out--that is, did it register in a favorable fashion?
D. Have you ever, even just once, bought a book because of such an ad?

2. Those of you publishers (editors, editorial assistants, marketeers, publicists, persons working in the mailroom, actual publishers, etc) who've ever been involved with a book that included mass trans adverts in its marketing bundle:

A. Have you ever had the experience of someone saying (aloud), Hey, I saw your book ad on the M1 bus uptown, on Madison? [That's just an example; answers need not be limited to viewings on Madison Avenue.]
B. Did you feel that the ads played a role in increasing the book's visibility?
C. Would you do it again? If so, what did you like about it? If not, why not?

As always, feel free to respond to me directly (via email: and/or anonymously.


Anonymous said...

There are book ads on the New York subway all the time. No, they have not once made me want to check out the book because they're always for blockbuster spy/romance/Da Vinci Code stuff that I have no interest in.

Amy said...

I agree with Anon - except to give a nod to the Poetry in Motion project on the subway. Once I actually wrote down the name of a poet from one of those - though didn't end up making the purchase later...

Anonymous said...

A. Yes, as a frequent subway captive, I'll read the ads, the graffiti, and the old man's Chinese newspaper upsidedown.

B. Yes, I've noticed ads for John Le Carre and John Grisham million-sellers

C. Yes, I'm reminded these people have umpteen books in print I haven't read. I wonder how many.

D. No, but the books advertised are all wrong for the subway. People buy blockbusters to read on airplanes. On subways people are reading used literature in paperback, new fiction in paperback, or comics. Subway ads could be effective if there was a little more effort put into marketing. If B&N picked a dozen titles a month for a "Subway Series," displayed somewhere between the front door and the checkout, maybe a 10% discount for Metrocard holders...reinforced by subway ads using all the books and underlining the riders' condition in transit... well then maybe you'd have something. Or I'll just be stuck reading that Hispanic AIDS awareness comic series in subways for all eternity.

Anonymous said...

1 yes
2 yes
3 yes, the Harvard University Press advertises on the subway in Boston/Cambridge.
4 no, I'm a poor college student. But maybe someday I'll scrape the dough together.

Anonymous said...

1. A: Yes. can't help it, it's words.
B: Warner books advertises their thrillers and blockbusters.
C: Perhaps.. it's unclear.
D: Despite C, absolutely not. the ad has never made me want to buy a book.

Anonymous said...

I live in the Florida Keys. We don't have mass transit. Heck, we only have one main highway to get down the entire 120 mile chain of islands. If people figured out how to attach banner advertising to pelicans, I'd probably notice.

However, back when I lived in New Jersey, I occasionally saw books advertised on buses. Only ads that promoted/announced the new release of an author I already liked and read regularly made an impact.

Mac said...

A. Yep--I read every word I see, for the most part.
B. Yep, I've seen those ads
C. Nope
D. 'Fraid not. I just don't buy books that way. The place to catch me to get me to buy a book is in the actual store.

In fact, there was recently a Seattle-area tv ad for Patterson's new release--and I'm not rushing out to buy that one, either. If I happen to see a catchy display for it, the next time I'm in my favorite bookstore, I'll likely pick it up, though.

Anonymous said...

Blindingly obvious: they should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we get book ads next to the Tarrytown MTA station. I've never bought a book because of it, simply because the ones advertised weren't what I read. however, I think it's the perfect place to put them.... Have you ever rode the commuter trains in the evening? EVERYONE is reading.

Anonymous said...

I’ve enjoyed your writing, and was intrigued to see your query about subway ads from yesterday, because I’ve often wondered about them myself. I’m an editor who often stared with envious eyes at the book ads I used to see on my train (always from A Competitive Publisher) and hunger for such ads for my own little books…but I never wanted to read any of the books they were advertising. That is, until I saw an ad for BRIMSTONE, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Of course, I can’t remember the compelling copy now, except that it involved a deal with the devil and the suggestion of spontaneous combustion. How could I resist? However, being in publishing, I was too cheap to shell out the money for the book, and instead called a friend at Said Competitive Publisher and begged a copy in exchange for the finest fiction I had to offer.
That’s the first and, to date, only time a transit ad has worked on me, and alas, I’ve never had the opportunity with one of my books for the shoe to be on the other foot.

Anonymous said...

I live in Montana, light years from urbia, but when I've been in NY, I've loved the Poetry in Motion placards on the buses and subways, and I'm sure I would notice and be intrigued by ads for books -- if they weren't for ubiquitous books but really introduced me to something new. Sticking to the mystery world I know best, if they were SJ Rozan, Laura Lippman, Steven Booth, Earl Emerson, Dana Stabenow -- not Dan Brown, James Patterson, or Sue Grafton. Not that I'm knocking the big names, just saying those ads wouldn't tell me as a reader anything new I wanted to know.

I think one of the missing pieces in discussing the role of ads is that while many people like to claim they aren't influenced by advertising ('I never buy a book based on an ad' -- or a postcard), what ads really do is get us familiar with the item being advertised. So maybe it isn't the subway placard or the postcard in the mail that triggered the purchase -- the wallet came out at the suggestion of a sibling or a bookstore clerk -- the author or cover or title were familiar *because* of the ad. Most of us don't buy a book the first time we hear of it, so ads are important in creating familiarity and name recognition.

Anonymous said...

I've bought books by both David Sedaris and Ann Brashares because I learned they were out thanks to telephone booth ads (In NYC). But they are not the kinds of authors who usually receive this treatment.

Arethusa said...

I've never bought a a novel because of an ad anywhere. I don't mind mainstream fare (I gobble J.D. Robb) but most of my book purchases are made because of recommendations or prominent placement in bookstores.

In Canada we have the equivalent to "Poetry in Motion" and that has worked on me (I've purchased one or two books).

Christopher Willard said...

Never, not once. Note even half a once. (although I did meet a girl on the subway once -- she was a little bit slutty and a little bit nutty.)

Anonymous said...

I'm in NYC. Do I see book ads in the subway? Yes. Do I buy books based on them? No.

Why not? Because the books advertised are the latest bestsellers which I have no interest in, and the ads exist to let the legions of faithful fans of that bestselling author know that a new one is out.

I read genre titles (SF, Fantasy, and Mystery), various non-fiction, and the occasional literary title, that that *never* gets subway ads.

It's the irony of publishing: the folks who could *use* the push -- new authors and mid-list titles -- are exactly the ones who don't get it.

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A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."

PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."

PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."