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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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Scribner editor, on the subject of book advertising. He compared advertising a book to a car that's stuck in the mud. He said, “If the car is stuck in the mud, ten people can't move it. But if it's moving just a little bit, one man can push it back on the road. By the same token, if a book is absolutely dead, all the advertising in the world isn't going to help. If it's got a glimmer of life, if it's selling a little bit maybe in only one or two spots, it's moving enough to be given a push.” That's a very good analogy I think. I've used that many times on authors who don't believe one word that I'm saying, but it's true. You can take a full-page ad in the Times for a book that's dead and it won't sell fifty copies. We've proved it--to shut up a particularly aggressive agent who hollers that we haven't done anything with a particular book and whom we consider important enough to pacify. We'll take a big ad although we know it's throwing money away, just to keep the franchise. The ad will come out and we'll all watch the daily sales. Invariably, a full week after this type of ad has appeared, we haven't sold one hundred copies of the book all over the country, meaning that the ad is absolutely worthless.

The people who are reading the advertisements are looking for new books that they haven't yet heard about, or books that they have heard about a little bit and are reminded to buy. But if it's a book that means nothing to them, they just skip over the page. I do it myself and I'm

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