We've noted here before how sad it is that book publishers rarely put ads in the NYT Book Review anymore. They should. The NYT sells books by the thousands each year, and it's ridiculous that it promotes the book business with so little advertising support from the industry itself.
Maybe that's why the NYT has quietly posted a mesmerizing gallery/slide show of old book ads from the late 1960s and early 1970s. A quick scan and you'll realize how an ad (there's great ones here for Cormac McCarthy, Calvin Trillin, Hunter S. Thompson, Alice Walker, etc.) can create excitement for a book in a way even a review sometimes can't.
In a provocative essay called "This Is Your Wake-Up Call" in Publisher's Weekly in late April, prominent book editor Jonathan Karp took his own industry to task for not advertising its product in print.
Karp demanded that publishers put more money behind books, and argued -- as we have -- that it's unfair to expect the media to cover publishing, without supporting it with advertising dollars:
More than one maven has said that advertising doesn't sell books, but to deny the impact of a good ad campaign verges on intellectual dishonesty. Yes, advertising expenditures must be smartly controlled. But many bestsellers, such as Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code and Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, were made with significant ad campaigns.
There may occasionally be free lunch for publishers, but there is no such thing as free media. We can't expect news organizations to operate without advertising revenue to cover their costs. Those expenses are necessary to our fundamental purpose of advocating authors. We should proclaim the arrival of everything we believe in, and we should believe in everything we do.
Publishers, take a spin through the slide show. Then take out an ad, for chrissakes. It's payback time.