Browsing through the Financial Times a couple of Saturdays ago I was struck by a full-page colour ad for a couple of books by an author named Nobu Su. One was called “The Gold Man from the East” and the other “Dynasty Escape”. The imagery was very “James Bond” with a hint of infamous artist Banksy’s shredded million pound painting stunt a few months ago. All very sumptuous and eye-catching.
Nobu Su, it turns out, is a flamboyant shipping tycoon from
who believes he was badly ripped off by the banks in the 2008 crash and has
written these books to tell his side of the story.
More interesting still, however, is his claim that he has invented a process whereby readers can “hire” the e-books from his nobu-store for a few weeks for a few dollars, after which they will disappear from their devices; a smart new take on the good old-fashioned library concept. You can even borrow a book for free for the first couple of hours, (if you are a fast enough reader).
Being something of a sucker for eccentric billionaires, and having an unendingly optimistic streak which keeps me searching for new ideas on how to market books, I decided to do some serious journalistic digging on behalf of Authors Electric – you are welcome.
To start with I had a peek at the FT’s rate card, which is extremely complicated and there is no way of knowing what deals might have been struck, but I can confidently guess that the ad cost several tens of thousands of pounds, (impressively detailed research, no?)
My next bit of googling revealed that Mr Su had hired Palamedes, one of the better known publishing PR companies in London, to handle the dissemination of his story. Anthony Harvison of Palamedes graciously returned my call and did his best to answer my questions. The ad in the FT is the full extent of the above-the-line advertising campaign but there has been a fair amount of editorial coverage in the regional press, some of it apparently promotional and emanating from a news agency with links to Palamedes.
There has also been a film made about Mr Su and his banking foes called “The Outsider”, which has received a review in the Guardian.
As an international image-raising campaign for Mr Su, it seems pretty effective, (if expensive), and if the “exploding book” technology takes off that too will be an interesting development for writers and publishers of all sorts. I have a feeling, however, that Mr Su is used to making and losing money on a very different scale to most of us in the publishing world and he may be disappointed with the amount of return he sees from actual book sales or rentals.
As a colourful tale of international business showmanship, however, the whole thing is hard to beat.