The Fortune Cookie Chronicles


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    Largehearted Boy: A soundtrack for Fortune Cookie Chronicles

    By Jennifer 8. Lee | April 23, 2008

    I was invited by David Gutowski to participate in his Book Notes series on the music&lit blog, Largehearted Boy (note the cute logo someone designed for him!)

    And amazingly he has compiled the most comprehensive list ever of my reviews and interviews.

    So when he first invited me after hearing about his book, I checked out his blog, and discovered it had been highlighted in a WSJ article as a coveted place for pubishers. The article spoke about how publishers were trying to get people to buy more books (seemingly older and fuddy duddy) by using music (seemingly hip and fresh!)

    This is what it said.

    One byproduct of the book soundtrack trend has been the transformation of a grassroots music blog into a coveted marketing slot for authors like Mr. Ellis and Mr. Klosterman. The blog, called Largehearted Boy, features a running series called “Book Notes.” About once a week, an author of a recent book posts a list of songs that inspired the work or that readers might want to listen to as they turn the pages. The series was begun last year by David Gutowski, a Web-site developer in Decatur, Ala., who runs the blog. Mr. Gutowski started the series as a way to combine his interests in books and music.

    Increasingly, however, Mr. Gutowski says he’s approached by publishers hoping to expose their authors to the discerning young music fans who visit his site.

    Farah Miller, director of new media for Knopf and Pantheon, says she has arranged “Book Notes” submissions by about nine authors, including Mr. Ellis.

    “There’s always a soundtrack to a movie,” Ms. Miller says. The blog “has made it possible to do the same thing for books.”

    Mine is not really a soundtrack for a book (that’s better for fiction, I think). It’s a roundup of songs that are thematically related — some of questionable musical merit. I had to ask my friend Brendan Kredell for his music wisdom.

    Since the WSJ is mean and has most of both their past and current content behind subscription, I posted it here. (I’m not sure if this is considered fair use, probably not).

    PURSUITS

    Entertainment &Culture — Books: Reading, Writing — And Rocking Out — Authors, publishers pair soundtracks with books; James Patterson’s pop appeal

    By John Jurgensen

    1617 words

    19 August 2006

    The Wall Street Journal

    P1

    English

    (Copyright (c) 2006, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

    FANS OF NOVELIST Bret Easton Ellis can do more than read his latest novel: Now, they can listen to the soundtrack.

    On a popular music blog, Mr. Ellis recommends dozens of songs to listen to with his novel, “Lunar Park.” They range from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to Elton John’s “Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” a song that the book’s main character repeatedly imagines hearing. Music, Mr. Ellis says, is a “shorthand for readers to get who that character is.”

    Having seen the power of songs to promote TV shows, movies and even videogames, publishers and authors are increasingly experimenting with soundtracks for books. Writers like James Patterson and Lemony Snicket are giving out CDs with copies of their novels. Others, like Mr. Ellis, are posting music suggestions on Web sites, blogs or MySpace pages. In many cases, the soundtracks are aimed at appealing to younger readers.

    “Publishers are really struggling with the idea of, ‘How are we going to get 16-year-old kids to read, when it’s tough to get them to even watch TV,’” says Chuck Klosterman, who has posted a playlist on the Web for his recent book, “Killing Yourself to Live.” To accompany the book about his pilgrimage to the sites of famous music-related deaths, he chose songs by the Sex Pistols and Nirvana.

    The idea is that as they read, people can listen to music that matches the mood of the books. In some cases, the songs are mentioned in the books themselves; in others, the lyrics mirror themes or plot points. Mr. Ellis’s soundtrack includes songs like “Monster Mash,” which corresponds to a scene at a Halloween party.

    To promote his second young-adult novel, Mr. Patterson, a top thriller writer, recently commissioned a CD designed to appeal to young readers’ tastes. He hired a marketing company to choose songs for the target teen audience. “He trusted our judgment,” says Emily Gottschalk, president of the Garr Group, the marketing company promoting the book, adding that the 59-year-old author of more than 40 books is “not an aficionado on what 14-year-olds want to listen to.” The group worked with three record labels on the project, including Virgin Records and Warner Bros. Records.

    The resulting CD features pop and alternative songs from eight young acts, including Holly Brook, a 20-year-old singer-songwriter often compared with Sarah McLachlan. Mr. Patterson’s consultants say Ms. Brook’s emotional lyrics and singing style match the tone of Mr. Patterson’s novel, called “Maximum Ride: School’s Out Forever,” about a teenage girl named Max, the leader of a flock of winged orphans.

    More than 100,000 copies of the CD were sent to radio stations and given away at concerts, stores and through the book’s Web site. Mr. Patterson spent about $100,000 on the soundtrack — about 20% of his total media budget.

    Reaching younger readers has taken on new importance for publishers trying to tap into the audience that’s turned books like “Gossip Girls” and “The Devil Wears Prada” into blockbuster hits. That can mean anything from using “book packaging” firms, which match writers up with teen-friendly story outlines, to creating pages on social networking sites like MySpace, where readers can link to books as their “friends.”

    At age 41, author Amanda Boyden is considerably older than most MySpace members, many of whom are teens and college students. Until a few months ago, she’d never visited the social networking site, although she’d heard of it. Her publisher, Vintage Books, a division of Random House, however, thought that her new novel, “Pretty Little Dirty,” about two teen girls who get pulled into the seamy side of the punk rock scene, would benefit from a MySpace page and music tie-in. Members of Random House’s marketing department set up a page for Ms. Boyden and update it regularly. When the page loads, visitors hear Ms. Boyden reading an excerpt from the book over a song by the 1980s hardcore punk band Black Flag.

    “I was put off a bit, because I had some creepy people visit initially,” Ms. Boyden says of her MySpace page. But she thinks the page is helping to develop a wider readership for her book. “Music grabs people in a way print doesn’t,” she says.

    INDUSTRY OBSERVERS say the strategy can be something of a gamble. When it comes to soundtracks, says Albert Greco, a publishing-industry analyst at Fordham University, “the rationale makes sense, but whether it ultimately works — I don’t know. Publishers have been trying experiments for a long time.”

    A handful of authors have tried pairing soundtracks with books in the past, without seeing major boosts in sales. When bestselling mystery writer Michael Connelly sold some copies of his 2003 novel “Lost Light” with a CD of jazz music billed as favorite songs of his signature character, detective Harry Bosch, the book went on to sell about 178,500 copies, according to Mr. Connelly’s publisher, Little, Brown &Co. That was about 6,000 copies more than Mr. Connelly’s previous book, but about 70,000 fewer than his next one, “The Narrows,” a 2004 sequel to “The Poet,” one of his most popular titles.

    Mr. Connelly says the CDs, which were mainly given away with the book at signings and promotional events, weren’t aimed at bringing in new readers, but thinks they did help concentrate sales, boosting the early rush of purchases that drove it up bestseller lists. “If you were going to be at the reading anyway, maybe you bought it that day instead of 10 days later,” he says. He’s now in talks to commission a score from jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan that could be packaged with a future book.

    While some writers are simply placing soundtrack suggestions on music blogs, others are reaching into their publicity budgets to pay for music licenses, CD production and shipping. Most authors and publishers choose to give the CDs away free, in part because music rights are more expensive for songs one plans to resell. Mr. Connelly says he bought limited rights to the 10 jazz songs on his CD for less than $6,000; his publisher picked up the additional cost of production. Some publishers save money on licensing by making deals with record labels, as Mr. Patterson did, picking relatively unknown musicians that labels are looking to advance.

    Makers of audiobooks, a lucrative category of the book industry, are also going beyond the standard interstitial music between chapters to experiment with soundtracks. Audiobook retailer Audible recently agreed to bundle Mr. Patterson’s “Maximum Ride” soundtrack with downloads of the audiobook on its Web site.

    Book retailers are also trying soundtrack CDs to enhance displays and draw more people to stores. Next month, Barnes &Noble will be giving away a CD sampler to people who buy a new Lemony Snicket book, “The Beatrice Letters.” The music from the Gothic Archies, a duo that includes the series’ author Daniel Handler, is from a coming collection of songs written for each book in his “A Series of Unfortunate Events” franchise.

    Bridging the divide between the music and book-publishing industries can be complicated, however. When marketers working with St. Martin’s Press wanted to create a music promotion for a new young-adult novel called “Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn,” by Sarah Miller, they originally tapped Teddy Geiger, a teen singer. The deal fell through, however, when Mr. Geiger’s management decided that the book, which revolves around an adolescent boy’s quest to lose his virginity, was too racy for Mr. Geiger’s image, according to someone familiar with the deal.

    Ultimately, St. Martin’s picked Canadian pop singer Fefe Dobson to promote the book, setting up a cross-promotion deal with Universal Music label Island Records, that included giveaways of Ms. Dobson’s single at readings. But this deal too had its pitfalls. Ms. Dobson was recently dropped from her label, and although the book’s Web site still trumpets the release of her album on June 20, Ms. Dobson’s album never actually arrived in stores. She’s now shopping it to other labels. Despite these setbacks, Ms. Miller’s publisher says the promotion was completed and that music tie-ins offer entry points to books for young readers.

    One byproduct of the book soundtrack trend has been the transformation of a grassroots music blog into a coveted marketing slot for authors like Mr. Ellis and Mr. Klosterman. The blog, called Largehearted Boy, features a running series called “Book Notes.” About once a week, an author of a recent book posts a list of songs that inspired the work or that readers might want to listen to as they turn the pages. The series was begun last year by David Gutowski, a Web-site developer in Decatur, Ala., who runs the blog. Mr. Gutowski started the series as a way to combine his interests in books and music.

    Increasingly, however, Mr. Gutowski says he’s approached by publishers hoping to expose their authors to the discerning young music fans who visit his site.

    Farah Miller, director of new media for Knopf and Pantheon, says she has arranged “Book Notes” submissions by about nine authors, including Mr. Ellis.

    “There’s always a soundtrack to a movie,” Ms. Miller says. The blog “has made it possible to do the same thing for books.”

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