Dr. John Tantillo Does It Again . . . And in the Process Uncovers an Even Larger Issue in the World of Publishing

In the past week we have had the Patrick Kennedy rant in Congress about the press’ proclivity to follow the tickling exploits of Eric Massa versus the “war and peace” issues surrounding the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, the death of yet another young, former child actor Corey Haim, and numerous other stories and events that would certainly have warranted consideration for The Marketing Doctor’s “Brand Winner and Brand Loser” for the week.

I am of course talking about the immutably popular, always insightful Dr. John Tantillo whose latest book “People Buy Brands Not Companies” is bound to become a bestseller.

While Dr. John bestowed the “Winner” moniker on this year’s Oscar’s, it was his selection of Book Publishing as this past week’s “Brand Loser” that got my attention for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is the amount of time we have dedicated to the emergence of the citizen journalist and its impact on traditional journalism.

What stands out in particular is a comment made by The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur who, has a member of our distinguished international guest panel on the November 10th PI Window on Business segment “How Will Journalism Survive The Internet Age?,” stated his opinion that the only difference between the citizen and professional journalist are the fact checkers.

If fact checkers are indeed the only difference as Uygur contends, it is a sentiment that is at least in part shared by Dr. John who asked the question “why buy a commercially published book if you can’t be sure that the content is professional quality?” Bulls Eye Doctor John!

Specifically, the good Doctor made reference to last week’s recall of “all copies of The Last Train From Hiroshima because of what’s thought to be major factual inaccuracies and fraudulent sourcing.”

Adding that one might reasonably expect a mainstream publisher such as Henry Holt & Company to “have fact-checked and made sure that the product carrying its imprint was unassailable,” Tantillo lamented what he referred to as the “dirty little secret of commercial publishing” being that “publishers simply don’t do this kind of fact-checking or quality control anymore.”

If this is the case (which I have seen no evidence to the contrary), then the last vestige of “professional” publishing’s purported superiority has just fallen by the wayside.

With the emergence of self-publishing as a viable alternative for both the seasoned and novice author, coupled with the “low hanging grape” arrogance of traditional publishers who consider the quality of text second to the saleability of the author’s name, there is a definite change on the near horizon.

Perhaps it is this epiphany that also provides a possible answer to Tantillo’s question “How can it be that an industry (publishing) that has existed for hundreds of years as opposed to Hollywood’s one hundred, and that has been so central to culture, doesn’t have the oldest awards ceremony?”  Simply put, publishing does not have an official awards ceremony, because they do not believe that they need one.

Despite Terri Blackstock’s position on the merits of traditional publishing versus the snake oil perils of the self-publishing realms, the line between the two has become blurred by the former’s arrogance and to a certain extent laziness to do the necessary groundwork that is actually needed to sell books.

Terri Blackstock, New York Times Bestseller

As one literary agent told me when I presented her with an excerpt of the manuscript from my first book, your writing style is terrific, and if your name was Rush Limbaugh I would sign you up in the proverbial New York minute.  But it isn’t so good luck to you.

I self-published the first book through Lulu and while sales have been gradually increasing industry reviews have been consistently strong.

My First Book

I also self-published my second book, the only difference being that I was paid up-front by the organization upon whom the book was based with the understanding that; 1) I would tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so they would have to accept even those aspects of the text that may not present them in the best light and, 2) that I retain full rights and ownership meaning that all proceeds of the book’s sale remain with my company.

My Second Book

The fact is that the “filtering sensibilities” of traditional publishing to which Ms. Blackstock refers in which a true writer is required to invest “years in honing their craft and making their book better,” and which may even result in their having to “throw out their first book, or their first five books, before they hit on one that resonates with the gatekeepers” (re publishers), is in reality based more on sizzle over substance, and market share in place of true literary contribution.

The only points upon which I would find accord with Ms. Blackstock is that I too love to write, and would do it for free.  Having written more than 800 articles and papers as well as the previously referenced two books, this would hardly be a surprise to anyone who knows me.

The second point of agreement is that if you view writing a book as a means of generating great wealth and fame, then you are probably doing it for the wrong reasons.  Especially given the fact that this mindset could make you susceptible to the “deceptive lure” of the less than honorable self-publishing firms chided by Blackstock in her January 14th, 2010 comparison.

While I am in no position to dictate or judge the motivational levers of another, as I wrote in the Forward for my second book “I could have been offered all the money in the world and would not have been able to write a word.  Well, maybe a word or even possibly a sentence or two, but certainly not a work that I would feel good about, nor one you would want to read,” writing a book for money or fame is likely to end with a garage full of unsold inventory that will have cost you a small fortune.

As for the Marketing Doctor’s recent observations, it is just another example of how the tarnish on the fading amour of superior elitism that has shrouded the traditional publishing industry’s snobbery is finally coming to light.  Well done Dr. John!

5 Responses to “Dr. John Tantillo Does It Again . . . And in the Process Uncovers an Even Larger Issue in the World of Publishing”
  1. Jim Bouchard says:

    Jon you are spot on…so is Dr. John!

    The landscape is changing and traditional publishers who are not adjusting are suffering from complacency and arrogance. Self-published titles exceeded those from traditional houses for the first time last year.

    While there are still plenty of reputable and innovative traditional publishers out there, the vast majority have become cautious about new titles and authors. Still, the most powerful avenue they still dominate is in distribution to retail booksellers.

    Self-publishing has opened up the universe. Authors that take full advantage of new media marketing and generate sales can attract the attention of the mainstream houses and still land a traditional deal.

    It’s important in this exciting time that self-published authors produce professional quality products on par with those from the mainstream houses. We are establishing the baseline for a new generation of wide open publishing opportunities where the only limitations are personal desire, diligence and drive.

    Best thoughts!

    BTW: Jon’s “Your Show Will Go Live” is an ESSENTIAL addition to your library. If you’re self-publishing, you need to be podcasting as well. Check it out!

    • Thank you for the thoughtful feedback, and for introducing me to self-publishing.

      You exemplify the cooperative and collaborative essentials for succeeding in the new world of social media and social networking.

      By the way, when is your new book being released?

  2. K Cameron says:

    I got a strange look from an author friend last week when I replied to her question: “Who is publishing your book?” with “I’m self-publishing it”.

    So many people need education on what self-publishing is. As long as the book is professionally edited and designed, it really doesn’t matter how it is published. Readers just want information.

    • Jim Bouchard says:

      All books are essentially “self-published” these days. A traditional publisher may hook you up with an editor, cover and interior design specialists but you’re left to build you platform and sell your book. In fact, it’s tough to get a traditional deal without a platform and clear marketing plan.

      There are plenty of resources for professional editing and layout. There’s no reason to delay publishing a good message when you can do it on your own!

      Also, I’d say submit your manuscript to proven authors and other you admire. Their endorsement is often worth more than the brand you’re tagging as the publisher.


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