18 August 08 | Chad W. Post

That publishers would employ BzzAgent to generate sales, but I was surprised to find out that a book was behind the first “Bzz” campaign—and that this campaign actually worked.

From the fascinating and incredible Buying In by Rob Walker:

The first full-fledged Bzz campaign was for a book called The Frog King. It lasted one month and focused on New York City. Balter persuaded Penguin Publishing to let him do it by charging the publisher nothing. The Frog King was a quirky, comic first novel by a young writer named Adam Davies. [. . .]

The guide for the agents, a no-frills seven-page document in those early days, welcomed them as members of “an elite group” of word-of-mouth spreaders [. . .] It summarized some of the novel’s highlights, noting a few passages in particular that might be useful “conversation points,” and suggested tactics like reading the book on mass transit with the cover clearly visible, posting a review on Amazon.com, and calling up bookstores and chatting with the clerk about this great new book about New York publishing with lots of sex and drinking whose title you can’t quite recall. JonO signed the cover letter assuring agents that the folks back at the hive found the book laugh-out-loud funny.

Local events for The Frog King drew larger than expected crowds of 100 or 150 people, according to Pascocello, who said that thanks to the word-of-mouth campaign, the book sold in three months what he had hoped it would sell in a year. [. . .] The fee [BzzAgent] charges varies according to the size and nature of the campaign, but in 2005 a twelve-week campaign involving one thousand agents cost $95,000.

Really not that much different from sending galleys to booksellers or giving away copies through LibraryThing, except for the fact that in those cases you’re not hiring the people to spread the word about the book or call up bookstores and play dumb. (Funny, I can’t remember how many hundreds of calls like that I got while I was working at bookstores. I just figured customers were forgetful . . .)

tags: ,

Comments are disabled for this article.
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

Read More >

Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >