Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Why not just be honest and call it "Inside My Wallet...."?

This September 12, the world will be treated to the better-living philosophies of one Robin McGraw, as embodied in her new work, Inside My Heart: Choosing to Live with Passion and Purpose. So far as I can tell, the author's chief credential for becoming (is there any doubt?) one of the nation's foremost self-help gurus seems to be that she's married to Dr. Phil McGraw, whose chief credential was that he ran into Oprah during the course of some legal difficulties she had a while back, and the two hit it off, and Winfrey decided to give him a regular slot on her show. This represents the third foray into self-help publishing by a member of the Family McGraw, the other being a series of books for teens by son Jay, whose own chief credential seems to be that he was the product of an intimate act between Phil and Robin. (And could someone please explain to me why the official Amazon listing for Jay's book, Closing the Gap, includes the phrase "Jay McGraw is hot!" as a parenthetical addendum to the book's actual title?)

What cracks me up even more, though, is this line, from Robin's bio on the Dr. Phil web site: "Robin has also been one of the most sought after new authors within the publishing world..." Yes, Robin, and why do you think that is, exactly? For the sheer poesy of your writing? Just how "sought after" do you think you'd be, if you didn't happen to cohabit with Dr. Phil? The language of the formal announcement of Robin's deal with Nelson Books, as well as the description of her forthcoming book in Nelson's 2005 Annual Report, strongly suggests that the publisher was--in effect--licensing the use of the McGraw name merely for the purpose of creating some book, any book, which Nelson figured to be a best-seller. It doesn't sound like there was much of a concept for this project, prior to the signing of the deal. Though I haven't seen the proposal--if there was one--it wouldn't surprise me if the "negotiations" for this singular property went as follows:

Agent: "OK, look, I've got Robin McGraw here. She wants to do a book."

Nelson: "Cool. What's it about?"

Agent: "You ask too many questions. You want Mrs. Dr. Phil's name on the cover of one of your books, or not?"

Nelson: "Sold.... Um, how much...?"

Moving along, here's the "book description" for Inside My Heart as it now appears on Amazon:

"In Inside My Heart, Robin speaks directly to the heart of every woman and challenges her to recognize and develop her unique role to lead her to satisfaction with herself, her profession, her family and anything she strives after."

First of all, that is sloppily--make that horribly--written. "...recognize and develop her unique role to lead her..."? "...strive after"? I'm not even sure it makes sense. (Then again, when was making sense a priority in SHAMland?) More to the point.... Folks, as most of you know, I've been doing this for a while now, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a more naked and flagrant statement of the publishing mentality that goes, "Hey, let's just throw in all the generic promises we can think of--something's bound to resonate with the idiots who buy our books." Whoever wrote the line* even ended the sentence by saying, basically, "...and don't worry, even if we didn't specifically mention it here, if it interests you, it'll be in the book...." Again, I'd have more respect for them if they simply said, "In Inside My Heart, Robin McGraw uses every buzzword and cliche she can think of in a patent attempt to be all things to all women, thereby extracting another $24.99 from you and depositing it (or its royalty percentage, anyway) directly into the bank account of the McGraw family."

(Meanwhile, somewhere in this great land of ours--Minnesota? Florida?--"Dr. Marilyn R. Barry" is warming up to write another glowing review...)

* which appears to have been lifted from, or at least "inspired" by, the verbiage in Robin's bio.

1 comment:

Cosmic Connie said...

Boy, did this one strike a chord. In one short post you have described, by example, just about everything that is wrong with the trade book publishing industry today (and with Amazon too, for that matter). Is it any wonder that so many authors are turning to self-publishing? Of course, a lot of appallingly bad crap gets self-published too, but at least it isn't artificially bolstered by big-bucks marketing campaigns. The free market really does work beautifully in this area.

Great post, Steve.