Yesterday Gawker, Galley Cat and other sites reported that Ryan Holiday, the marketing strategist, got a major book deal for a tell-all about his clients, including American Apparel founder Dov Charney and writer and professional bigot Tucker Max. Called Confessions of a Media Hit Man, the book sold to Penguin’s business imprint, Portfolio. “Major” usually implies it sold for at least $500,000. Well, we will save Mr. Holiday from confessing one aspect of his strategy. A book editor sent us a copy of Mr. Holiday’s proposal, which contains the following tactical outline:
The Press Release
The press release announcing the sale of this book is the perfect opportunity to create a compelling yet fake spectacle about the book. Relying on the fact that blogs and media outlets simply take for granted whatever is stated in a release, we will state in the press release that the advance given for this book was a spectacular sum. Blogs covering publishing and media will instantly pick up on the fact that a first time author was paid such an exorbitant amount. Combined with Ryan’s experience working with bestselling authors, this will immediately put the book on the radar of the media elites. That the information is all fake and part of a social experiment will be revealed later in the book itself—as evidence of the gullibility of the web and proof of concept.
You got them Mr. Holiday! Here’s more about his plans:
Fake Leaked Chapters
Once the market is seeded with the “newsworthiness” of the project, we will begin a whisper campaign that Confessions of a Media Hit Man is actually a tell-all about tabloid targets Dov Charney and Tucker Max. This can be accomplished through a combination of anonymous and unnamed tips to gossip blogs with which Ryan already has relationships. Having created the impression that this book is both high profile—Implied by the dazzling advance—and full of insider secrets, we will leak entirely fabricated excerpts and chapters to various blogs claiming they were “too controversial” for the publisher to allow for publication. Again, this will be revealed later as proof of concept to the media outlet of our choice. The revelation will be a bombshell and cement Confessions of a Media Hit Man as a media sensation.
Zing! The headline at Gawker: “Tucker Max and Dov Charney, Together in a Single Book”. And just in case the book comes out and Nick Denton and Business Insider get mentions in its pages, that is intentional too:
Court Attention At All Costs
In a nod to the hip hop tradition of up-and-coming rappers attacking bigger acts in mix tapes and seeing their profile raised by the inevitable response, Confessions of a Media Hit Man will use the sensitive egos of bloggers against themselves. Previous books in this category have leveled only vague and condescending criticism of blogs. Why would blogs bother to respond to that? How could they? This book levels direct charges and serious accusations of wrong doing. It names names. Those names make up some of the biggest and highly trafficked sites on the web: Politico, Jeff Jarvis, TechCrunch, Michael Arrington, Ariana Huffington, Mashable, Gawker, Business Insider, Nick Denton and others. Each one of these names will be surreptitiously notified of these embarrassing revelations in advance and baited into responding. So will their competitors. We can expect their angry reactions and protests to drive serious attention and awareness of the book. As PT Barnum would court negative reviews and manufacture his own scandals—any press was good press as long as it spelled his name right and gave the time and date of his show—this book launch will deliberately generate denunciations from the blogging elite.
Portfolio did not immediately reply to our request for comment, but one hazard of reporting book advances is that publishers and agents will almost never confirm the sum. Mr. Holiday’s agent, Stephen Hanselman, seems to specialize in unabashed self-promoters: his biggest client is self-help guru Timothy Ferriss.