For many years, bookstores have gone through different phases of figuring out how to get the people who came into their stores to buy the books on their shelves. Should books be faced out, lined up with the spines out, or a combination of the two — and which books got the face out treatment? Successful strategies were copied — you don’t see too many bookstores that are missing a “staff picks” section for a reason — it moves books. It really caught my eye when I saw the strategy of one Brooklyn native, Andrew Kessler — make an entire bookstore dedicated to his book.

In his bookstore there are all the usual sections including a sale section and staff picks — just that everything leads to the same solitary book. He had so many problems with people thinking that he was a Scientologist that he put up signage at one point to make it clear that he was not. It hits us the extent to which there is no such thing as a coincidence when we read that Mr. Kessler, in addition to being a writer, is a creative director at an advertising agency.

The one book bookstore is ultimately nothing more than a gimmick and I can’t help but feel that such a store would have never come to be had the author not been friends with the landlord of the building, a big supporter of the arts. This doesn’t do much to help the everyday author who doesn’t have wealthy landlords as friends. It feels like the equivalent, to me, of an author writing stories and then taking them out as full page advertisements in The New York Times. Congratulations on having the money — that doesn’t make you a good writer.

Another issue that I have with this book store is that it miserably fails what I have decided to call the “So What?” test. The way that it goes is that if you read about something and ask the question, “So what?” and have absolutely nothing of real substance to respond, the test is failed. A writer is selling his only book in a gimmick book store that has nothing but his store. So what? So he sells some more copies of his books and attracts a little attention to the sad state of the direction in which bookstores are heading — until something else catches the attention of the media. So what? So nothing is ultimately really accomplished.

So a bookstore will have come and gone — little more than a pop up store, really. People will have the experience of having gone or they will not and then time will pass — and book sellers will go back to the regular task of trying to find new ways to both attract new customers and keep the few that they have. It is quite well and good that there are writers with connections that get to do special things in the world of book publishing but for the majority of writers it is a regular struggle just to get through to another day.

10 Comments

  1. I don’t know if it’s such a gimmick. It’s definitely a stunt. But I don’t necessarily condemn stunts. I don’t think (from what little I read about him) that the author thought his book was the greatest novel ever. I think he was just looking for a creative, fun marketing approach.

  2. He does seem like he’s just playing a joke on everyone to get publicity to sell his book. Sort of lame, though, because once you catch on, the joke is on you not him.

  3. This is a disturbing article to me, Gordon. On one hand, I love the self promotion. On the other hand, I am dismayed by the blatant obviousness of it all. It’s a curiosity that has no wonder — making it, I guess, an ineffectual curio. The gag quickly becomes both parody and satire unto itself like a thousand mirror hallway… reflecting nothing.

    I think the “Assassination Art” thing from 2008 was in the same gaudy vein — obnoxious and obvious — but that was much more artistically evidentiary than this, “My Book is the Book” ploy:

    http://urbansemiotic.com/2008/06/05/does-assassination-art-hate-or-heal/

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