Friday, August 17, 2007

Oprah And I Are Best Friends

I can make that claim because no one I know watches Oprah Winfrey's talk show. I can tell my friends that I was interviewed by the Queen of Chat and they'd be none the wiser. My novel was selected by her book club, I could say with a straight face, and there'd be congratulations all around. We did lunch, she told me I was brilliant, and I'll get to confession on Saturday I swear to Jesus.

It worked for Bill Schneider -- for a time, at any rate. He told people that his self-published novel was an Oprah Book Club pick, but he told far too many people. Promotion is the key to selling when you're doing it all yourself, and poor Mr. Schneider took it a step too far and now he's an object of intense mockery.

The literary community would, of course, have been mocking him for self-publishing his novel to begin with, since it means that no one thought the manuscript was good enough to consider. And who's going to buy the vanity printed book, beyond the limited number of friends and family? Who will even know that the book exists, unless the author gets the word out?

Mr. Schneider, administrative director of tourism for Provincetown, Massachusetts, set up a website and he needed content to attract browsers and Googlers. What better way to encourage traffic to his site than put up a transcript of his interview on Oprah's show? Anyone googling a key word like "Oprah Book Club" would be directed to his site and surely the orders would flow in like a river.

As there never was an interview or a book club selection, Mr. Schneider's ruse was uncovered and he was exposed. His Romeo and ... well, Romeo, frankly... tragedy was not all that he said it was, and he pulled the phony transcript from his web page. Now he's looking the fool and it can't be easy to face the rest of the office staff or members of the public who would like to visit Provincetown. You're the man who said he was on Oprah, they would say, and then they might collapse into a fit of giggling. Who can deal with that on a daily basis?

The would-be author is getting all kinds of publicity, even though it is highly embarrassing and not what he had in mind when he first practiced to deceive. But it's publicity just the same, and if Bill Schneider is any kind of marketing guru, he'll find a way to capitalize on this new turn of events. Hope his hide is thick enough, however, to handle the book reviews.

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