Lena Dunham on the Ick of Authorial Self Promotion

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ask anyone who has the distinct un-pleasure of taking about book promotions with me: I have a hard time with the whole affair. I love joining fellow writers in conversation. I like thinking out loud about the stuff of books, how they are made. But launching books is difficult territory for me, and the universe, I'm convinced, senses my ambiguity. Either it storms mightily on my book launch day (so much rain, the roads are flooded). Or there aren't enough books to go around. Or something really unsavory is written the Big Day Of. Or all things happen at once. Book upon book.

I should take that as a sign, should I not? Or should I just grin and bear it and stop writing blog posts like this one, which got me into a little trouble back in June.

Not surprisingly, I have been following Lena Dunham's book tour with great interest. What she says stacked up against what she'll do. Here is the latest, as reported by Alexandra Alter, in The New York Times:

In an era when author tours and splashy book parties have grown increasingly rare, Ms. Dunham has organized a traveling circus of sorts that seems more like a roving Burning Man festival than a sober, meet-the-author literary event. Prominent comedians and writers, such as the “Portlandia” star Carrie Brownstein and the novelist Zadie Smith, have thrown their weight behind Ms. Dunham and will appear on her tour as part of a carefully curated cast of artists, along with live music, poetry readings and, naturally, food trucks.

“I found the idea of a traditional author tour, where you go and stand behind the lectern and talk about yourself, I found it a little bit embarrassing, a little blatantly self-promotional and a little boring,” Ms. Dunham said. “I wanted it to have an arts festival feel, which is why we now have all these remarkable, special weirdos who I found on the Internet.”

... The tour is also a way for Ms. Dunham to shed her TV persona and rebrand herself as an author. By putting her onstage alongside seasoned writers like the memoirist Mary Karr and the novelist Vendela Vida, Random House hopes to cast Ms. Dunham as a major new literary talent, not just a celebrity who leveraged her fame for a big book deal.
The question then is—Does a cast of characters and a performance schedule negate the self promotional aspects of a book launch? Can the nature of any event rebrand a celebrity as an author? I'm thinking (small thought) that what matters most in the end is the book itself. And that Lena Dunham has probably written a very good one—a book that would sell and please, regardless.


Serena said...

While I do like the idea of making author events a little less "normal" to attract the attention of more readers, I confident that no matter the splendor of the event, it is the book itself that will matter most.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Bringing a new book to the world is a wonderful thing, a miraculous thing. It's OK to celebrate. People come, maybe have a little food, hear some interesting talk, are entertained or enlightened, and go home with a good book. Not a bad way to spend an evening or an afternoon!

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