Friday, March 12, 2010

The Great Lost Art of Excerpt Booklets--a Preview of Saturdays are for Funerals

Ah, the lost art of excerpt bookets. In the old days, we'd get piles of them to hand out at the front desk, at vestibules. Many of them would get straight from receiving into the dumpster; few were particularly interesting, and in most cases, they seemed to be overruns for a promotion at a chain bookstore. Rarely did they pique my interest, let alone my booksellers or customers.

But most excerpt booklets have been consigned to the idea heap. It's all website promotions and keyword searches and for some reason at one publisher, promotions by Shecky's Girls Night Out (Really. While I was still buying I think I saw this listed 3-4 times in a season. I've really never heard of it in any other context. And what kind of name is Shecky's for a promotion like this? I'm obviously fascinated, in some strange way.)

That said, everything old is new again. So when I see an excerpt booklet, and I'm fascinated, and I read every word, it stops being pre-recycled waste material and starts becoming a real marketing tool.

That's the way I feel about Harvard's Saturday is for Funerals, a new book by Unity Dow and Max Essex that puts a human face on the problem of AIDS in Africa. The story in the booklet is about a divorce in Botswana between Daisy and Kopano. Divorces are almost always instituted by women in Africa (figure it out for yourself or find out why by reading the booklet) but Kopano actually brought their plight to court. In just a few pages, I was emotionally connected to this couple. As we all know, for a good book to resonate, we need a good stories.

Unity Dow is a novelist and judge in Botswana; Max Essex is a professor of health sciences at Harvard, and has been involved in AIDS research since the early 80's. Each chapter covers some topic, with each author taking a turn. One chapter might be on parent-to-child transmission, while another might focus on having TB and AIDS, taken from either her personal or professional life. In the second half, Essex will interpret the story in terms of historical basis and current trends, offering up-to-date info on statistics and practices. The info-heavy second part is balanced by the anecdotal stories.

So I'll put my booklets out, and I've already got a list of several recipients in mind. And we increased our buy a bit as well (OK, not that much, but still). If everyone does them again (not likely), they'll just become clutter. But if we get a booklet on a really great book a few times per year, I think there's a market for it. Hey, the booklet for Saturday is for Funerals got at least one person to read the book--me.

The book is available around April 10th. Please contact us if you'd like us to hold one for you.

No comments: