Who’s the Genius Behind ...


The marketing behind novels tends to follow the same blueprint.

If the author is famous, she or he goes on a book tour to read passages, sign books and kiss babies. If the author isn’t famous, the publisher does its best to set up a book tour to read passages and sign books. Minus the fame, the public loses interest in the baby kissing.

Years ago I came across a publisher who deviated from the status quo in promoting a book. Doubleday created a clever video by Doubleday to promote the John Grisham novel, “The Litigators.” It shows the storytelling possibilities that can come from combining owned media and social media.

John Pitts, VP, Marketing Director at Doubleday at the time and the person behind the Finley & Figg TV ad, was good enough take us behind the curtain on this project (thank you @doubledaypub and Joe Gallagher for pointing the way).


Lou: I’m a John Grisham fan and just finished “The Litigators.” How did the idea of doing a phantom TV ad for the book come to you?

John: The idea behind the video was to highlight the humorous nature of the novel, which is unusual for Grisham, and to do something different to potentially reach a new reader. There are plenty of cheesy legal ads out there, so the opportunity for satire was hard to resist.

Lou: Did John Grisham need to approve the direction or get involved in the brainstorming? Did he share any feedback on the finalized video?

John: Grisham did not get involved, but his agent, David Gernert, did.

Lou: It had to be fun creating this video … kind of reversing the typical creative process to magnify the schlock factor. True?

John: It was fun. I used a video crowd-sourcing firm called PopTent, got a number of treatments from different high-end production companies via them, settled on a company in LA called “Mischievious Studios” and went through a number of script revisions. They shot it in one day, and then we had some back and forth about edits.

Lou: Great casting. Did you actually conduct a casting call or just know the perfect Chicagoan?

John: They cast a real SAG actor named Richard Gleason who has significant film, TV and theatre credits. I think he took the gig because he liked the novelty of doing this sort of humor.

Lou: Rationalizing the cost of video is something communicators are constantly grappling with. Can you share roughly what the video cost to produce and how you measure or will measure the ROI?

John: While I can’t share the specific cost, I can say that it would have been high for a book trailer but not all that much for such a quality production and access to a number of treatments.

Lou: What about ROI?

John: The question on ROI is tough. Grisham is a brand that we are always working on, in which we have a lot invested, so this carried some risk but I felt it was worth the chance.

Lou: Because you were in control of the final product?

John: Right. If we didn’t like the outcome, it didn’t have to see the light of day. And it was a small part of a fairly big marketing push for “The Litigators.”

Lou: Can you see the day when this type of content is actually integrated into a novel’s e-book version?

John: Yes, we talk about video in e-books often. The typical book trailer may not be all that exciting, but something more sophisticated, like this, could work for the right book. The book would almost have to be written with the enhancements in mind.

Lou: Any other insights on the video or social media front?

John: Finley & Figg also have a Facebook page and you’ll see that I had some fun posting as Finley & Figg on various pages. For example, I posted “Tattoo misspelled? We’ll fight for you!” on a Facebook page for tattoos, etc.

finley and figg

Good stuff. I like the cross-pollination with the Tattoo Facebook page which happens to have more than half a million likes.

Thanks for dropping by.




  • Phyllis Smith

    I bought the book Sooley and while I was reading it the pages came apart love grishmns books but disappointed cause I keep all my books it is a hard back got it at Walmart


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