A deadline kept me from commenting on the recent kerfluffle of lit-chick writers messing with the chick-lit writers (say it real fast six times without stuttering and I'll give you a cookie.) If you want the details, Monica Jackson presided over it with an excellent post, links and comments here.
As marketing strategies go, this one was not very imaginative. The lit-chick who started the whole thing claimed that chick-lit writers own too much of the market and are ruining things for "America's Best Women Writers" (this would be her and modest her lit-chick pals.) That evolved into a title and marketing angle for her anthology. As industry suck-ups go, you can't do better for critics than to slam a genre they almost universally condemn. It's also a terrific way to get some free if negative advertising via the reactions of every chick-lit writer with a backbone. Which is pretty much, hello, All Of Them.
Climbing up and standing on the backs of better performers has always been a time-honored marketing device. Politicians have been doing it for so long they don't remember what it's like to stand on the ground. In publishing, Dan Brown's been used like a footstool by so many other writers that all of his jackets should have shoeprints on them. On the internet, negativity spreads like flesh-eating bacteria, so slamming someone else to promote your stuff is especially good for online buzz.
Take the chick-lit out of this particular equation, however, and even with Huffy Post backing I seriously doubt this work of great lit-chick genius would have sold two thousand copies. Why? Literary fiction rarely sells these days; ask any NBA nominee. Also, there's not an established Name author among the anthology's contributors.
With anthos, you need a Name author to draw readers. Thing is, unlike genre Names, lit-chick Names seldom jump in on anthos. Had Anita Diamant been the headliner, the book would have been an instant bestseller, but there are no Diamants or Proulxes in this one. Best American writer anthos are also a dime a dozen. God Almighty, everyone is the best, aren't they? The Dead Best, the NYT Best, the NBA Best, the year's Best, the Bestest Best, the Best above the rest of the Best and, least we forget, the New Best. Publish a Worst American Writers antho; now that might actually make some money.
Without a Name, all the besty best lit-chick writers in the world couldn't grab an eyelash flick of attention, hence the chick-lit slam. Now they've tapped into that whole publishing conspiracy to destroy civilization as we know it literary paranoia: Omigod! America's BEST women writers are being overshadowed by LOUSY CHICK-LIT HACKS! Hurry! Buy this book and SAVE THEM!
Bad, bad chick-lit writers. No cookies for you.
Personally I'm very offended for being left out. See, I think it's the vamp writers who are stealing the lit-chick writers' sales. You know how much we've flooded the market lately. We're into all that dark and evil stuff. Or could be the Christian writers -- we have just as many tables as the vamp writers, and we're into all that goodness and light stuff. We might even be in on it together. Who would ever suspect us joining forces, eh? I'd make the perfect ringleader; I write both. I know I've always wanted to conspire with Jan Karon and Doug Clegg to overthrow our literary betters. Or just have lunch somewhere nice with them.
There was a point to this post . . . oh, yeah. Should you use back-climbing as a marketing device? Undignified and mean-spirited as it is, I can't deny that it's effective. Negative PR absolutely attracts more attention than positive PR. If you think nothing of standing on top of someone else's accomplishments to trumpet accolades about your own, then this strategy is right up your alley.
What do you guys think?