Tightening Vise

mole book

More on the the uncomfortably hot seat a journalist finds himself in when he losses control of spin.

  • Paul Freund says The New York Times is out to humiliate David Vise, erstwhile Nashvillian and bestselling author, with its Monday story about his book bulk purchases.
  • Vise just wanted to “create community,” he tells Publishers Weekly.
  • Today, the New York Times’ editorial page lets Vise off the hook, yet smirks while doing so.

    Here’s my lame opinion (based completly on wild guesses) of what happened: Vise is a good reporter and an excellent promoter who really, really wanted a best seller. He probably thought his previous book was not well promoted. And so, with The Bureau and the Mole: The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen, he chooses a publisher world famous for his promotional skills. But even then, Vise thinks he personally can out-market the profoundly-bad marketers who sell most books. So, like thousands of misguided souls before him, he has a 1999 flash-back and comes up with a plan to sell books on the Internet. He’s embarassed to tell his publisher what he wants to do, so he orders some copies from bn.com. And from then, well, I think it probably went something like Vise’s explanation.

    In my opinion, I believe Vise is still probably uncomfortable admitting that his only scheme was simply to make as much money as possible and had nothing to do with “creating community.” I think now he’s embarassed that he looks foolish for not buying the books from his publisher (or from wholesaler Ingram Book Co., for that matter, which has a warehouse within an easy drive of where he lives.) I’m willing to believe he is not guilty of trying to manipulate a placement on the NYT Best Sellers list (although the multiple orders of 999 books seem a bit fishy).

    As Vise said to a luncheon I attended Monday, the most calls he’s receiving is from other authors asking him how he did it. That “how to” manual should be his next book.

    (Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews is doing a great job following this story.)

  • 2 thoughts on “Tightening Vise

    1. Here’s the most important question: what is all the fuss doing for the book’s sales? It sounded like an intriguing book before….will this raise its profile in audiences that never would have picked it up before, or make people think, “I would be embarrassed to be seen reading that book.”
      My bet: in the long run, no such thing as bad publicity, uh, unless you’re Enron or Arthur Andersen.

    2. Reply to Laura:

      >what is all the fuss doing for the books sales

      I agree with you: as long as they spell your name right and keep saying the title of the book, chances are it’s very positive. I know of at least one example from the past nine months in which media controversy took a book from obscurity to the New York Times list.

      I am sure that Vise, the reporter, is extremely uncomfortable with having his ethics challenged. However, Vise, the Wharton MBA in marketing, is laughing all the way to the bank.

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