Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sincerity or Hypocrisy?

Am I missing something here, or maybe reading too much into the motives of these people? This is a press release, not a news article, that I've run across on the web. It claims, on the one hand, that author Howard Bronson is upset that recent events have caused two of his books to suddenly spike in sales, but, on the other hand, it reads like nothing more than the typical publishing industry press release trying to move a few thousand books on the market.
It's been an odd year for author Howard Bronson. Sales of two books he wrote over a decade ago have suddenly gone through the roof but not for the reasons he would prefer. It began as the tainted pet food story grew which sparked the jump in his book Dog Gone - Coping With The Loss of A Pet (Bestsell). At first, Bronson noted a small increase of just a few hundred copies but in the last few weeks, the increase has been in the thousands. "
...
Then came yet another senseless tragedy: the brutal killing of thirty students in Virginia. Immediately, queries and sales of Bronson's classic Early Winter, learning to live Love and Laugh Again After a Painful Loss (Bestsell) have increased
ten-fold. "I never designed the books for situations like these," lamented Bronson...
...
The only problem at present is that there aren't all that many of these two books remaining in stock, probably no more than 10,000 mostly found on line. Bronson suggests that people first check their local libraries and, he is also arranging for the books to be made available as e-books at his direct cost through Amazon.com.
Note that the date of this press release is April 17. Maybe it's just my natural cynicism, but I find it a bit hard to believe that "queries and sales" of Early Winter increased "ten-fold" within hours of the Virginia Tech tragedy. I'm willing to be talked out of my suspicions in this instance but my hypocrisy sniffer is sure twitching.

EDIT of April 19:

Howard Bronson has added two comments concerning this press release and my initial doubts about it. He invites anyone still concerned to contact him by email so that he can respond to their concerns. Please open the comments below to read what Mr. Bronson had to say and to get his email address if you would like to contact him directly.

19 comments:

  1. If you're looking for someone to talk you out of your suspicions, it's not me. I completely agree:

    "The only problem at present is that there aren't all that many of these two books remaining in stock, probably no more than 10,000 mostly found on line."

    This reads as if it should be followed with, "So get your copy now before it's too late!"

    Of course, both of us might be being cynical right now... ; )

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  2. I was really hoping to be wrong on this one because it smells of the worst kind of exploitation that I can imagine.

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  3. Sorry, but there are many books on dealing with the loss of a pet and hundreds and hundreds of books dealing with painful losses - why would this particular, basically unknown book be the one in so much demand?

    I don't buy it either.

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  4. Exactly right, Anne. It's hard to believe that they would do this kind of press release within hours of the Virginia Tech murders...disgusting.

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  5. It does sound hard to believe but what does the author gain from touting two old books? He apparrently makes no money on this, is offering the books for free to the grieving and, shuns publicity. Perhaps Mr. Houston should sniff better before he speaks.

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  6. Howard Bronson is the same cat who wrote How To Heal A Broken Heart In 30 Days. He does sound like is is too often to the rescue and over-promising. I'd like to hear him speak up and explain himself. Anybody know how to contact him?

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  7. I'm not buying it, anonymous #1. In fact, until you identify yourself for the rest of us, my sniffer is finding your sarcasm to be as odorous as the original PRESS RELEASE in question.

    Why a PRESS RELEASE? This was not some kind of interview or news article. Get real.

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  8. Anonymous #2, I'd love to hear directly from the guy, myself. Surely he knows how this looks and how disgusting it is.

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  9. I am Howard Bronson, the author of these two books in question. First and foremost, I am deeply devastated by the loss suffered by these families. I am most saddened because as a society, we have become almost desensitized to these horrors....just another nutcase that slipped through the cracks..I cannot imagine the pain they are going through. Insensitivity seems to be the operative word here but from whom? My dad was killed 25 years ago and it has left a scar in my soul with which I still struggle. In terms of my books and the genre of writing in which I engage, if they offer even the smallest degree of comfort to any suffering individual, I feel that I have achieved something purposeful and I am offended by the perverse insinuation of this blog from a reviewer that I deeply respect. Your premature judgment of me and my work is disappointing, irresponsible and off message. And since this was an attack versus a review, why didn't you have the decency to contact me first to glean a balanced perspective? In countless situations of loss, I've offered my books and services for free. You are more than welcomed to make any judgments that you wish but I write successfully in the bereavement vein, and have helped people to some small degree. If you elect to discredit me and interfere with that process, that's your choice but in all that I do, my intention is to be helpful. I do a lot of interviews and in no way is it ever my intention to exploit or profit from anyone's loss or suffering anymore than a respected therapist or cleric would. My books are simple supportive tools and if they help, the more people who see them, the better. What offends me most and presents itself as the height of irresponsibility is that this is a site to review books and the very first thing you should have done, Mr. Houston, et al, was at least, skim my books. But this bizarre attack on my person was unfair and discriminatory. Please feel free to to email me anytime: fairnessinc@hotmail.com

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  10. Mr. Bronson, if indeed that is who you are, thank you for your reply.

    I said from the beginning that I hoped that I was wrong. The fact that the information was released in the form of a press release, and that it is not a legitimate news item, makes it look very suspicious. I don't see how you can possibly argue that point.

    I am not questioning your credentials as a writer, nor of the type book that you specialize in. However, it would seem that someone, on your behalf, released a the type of press release that was guaranteed to raise suspicion about its motives.

    I honestly don't see my comments as being "bizarre" nor are they an attack on your "person." I simply questioned the timing of a self-serving press release so immediately after the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Appearances are everything in a situation like this one...and someone failed you badly.

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  11. Thank you for your gracious reply as well and for the opportunity to speak to this issue. Yes, it's me and I have indeed been a fan of your site for a long time so your tone felt like a betrayal from an old friend. In their fanaticism, PR people can do some wild things and while the outcome appears ridiculous and embarrassing, the intentions were decent and the books are decent. Please continue to present to the world your perspectives on the contents of fine works. Most of your favs are mine as well. Further, you, or any of your devotees are welcomed to contact me anytime for a continued dialogue. In the interim, on these two issues: the manifold deaths of animals from deliberately-tainted pet-food via Melamine, etc, and far more tragic of course, the truly disgusting massacre of those in the bastion of hope at Virginia Tech, there are thousands of people in real pain and each of your readers needs to find a way to reach out to them. That is the true point here, my erstwhile brilliant friend.

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  12. I'm happy (and relieved) that you took the time to shed some light on the press release. Perhaps I'm too much of a cynic at times. The kind of thing that I suspected in this case happens so much these days that the whole thing just struck me as tainted from the first time that I read the release.

    PR people are paid to get attention and sometimes their good intentions get the best of them. That seems to be the case here.

    As for the two tragedies in question, I am saddened by both, but especially, as you say, by what happened in Virginia. I cannot even begin to imagine what those families must be going through tonight. I applaud you for trying to offer comfort to those who have suffered losses of that magnitude.

    I will add a comment to the body of the post, pointing readers to your comments. Again, thank you for your replies.

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  13. I must say I felt it was grossly insensitive of the various "news" outlets who released the on camera ravings of this lunatic to the entire world. Did they not stop for one second to consider the feelings of the bereaved families?

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  14. I don't think so, Nick, despite what the NBC people are saying to the contrary. It must be horrible for families of the victims to turn on their television or radio only to be faced with the lunatic who killed their relatives. I don't watch television enough to have seen more than about a minute of the video this fellow left behind but I've gotten a sense from others that it has been so "in your face" that a backlash against NBC has developed.

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  15. Didn't think I'd chime in again here but Nick raises an excellent point that reveals several social flaws that fomented this horor: First: The mainstream media has conditioned itself to be akin to a National Enquirer-like sensation machine that is so without moral boundaries, it could not help itself but to run this and Cho knew this. Next problem: Even when we know that someone may be a growing and proven threat and, try to address the problem, we are limited, even with all the markers Cho manifested and, all those who tried to do something. Privacy rights and managed care also prevent the excision of these individuals. Bottom line: If the mainstream media wil play it, the mentally ill will play to it and if they don't get the thorough help they need, the light, non-long-term institutionalized treatments will surely make a monster. And we, the people just have to hope that the next time it happens, we won't be the headline, but will sadly be savoring that headline safe at home, for the moment. The saddest, saddest part of this to me is that while we are all torn to the core by this sickening act that transcends all words, many people are not surprised that this happened and expect it to happen again.

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  16. I feel the same. People everywhere have come to expect this kind of tragedy now and it has largely lost its shock value. That, in itself, is very sad. What is even sadder and more discouraging is the way that the news media play these events up into just another way to increase their ratings and to sell advertising at higher rates per minute.

    Our society has crossed some kind of line or marker and now we will pay the price. Colleges are not even allowed to contact the parents of students whom they suspect of having mental problems. It's all, as you say, in the name of privacy but it is destroying innocent lives and not allowed the disturbed parties to find the treatment that they so desperately need.

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  17. Mr. Sam, what has happened to you? You were always fair and balanced. This blog almost seems to have been planted in vengeance and that's just not your style. What is going on? I've always liked Book Chase and viewed you as a brilliant and balanced evaluator but this trail seems imbalanced and unfair. Did I miss something here or, did you actually not read these books? How does a book-review site review an author or his work without reading the books? The Early Winter book helped me through one of the toughest times of my life and I just think the public has a right to know that. Sorry if that sounds like a promotion. Perhaps if you read even some of his book, you might agree or disagree. It doesn't matter but be fair. Even if you despise this writer's works, at least give him the same treatment as your most panned book. Doesn't he deserve at least that?

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  18. Suzy, did you not see the edit that I added after Howard Bronson contacted me...or the comments that Howard added himself?

    The original post had nothing to do with the actual books. I simply questioned the timing of the PR release so soon after what happened at Virginia Tech.

    I did not mean to question Howard's credentials as a writer, nor the value of the books mentioned in the PR release. I still feel that Howard's PR people did him no favors with this release, however.

    I've had an email conversation with the author and I think that he understands the nature of the original post and is satisfied that he was fairly treated via the addition that I made to the original post and the fact that his comments have been posted here.

    I hope that better explains what this was all about.

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  19. Bless you Suzy, your intentions I am sure, were honorable and thank you for your kind words but Sam has been more than gracious and fair to me and, the people who read my books. He must have the right and full freedom to question the genuineness of any author's intention and his observations about my PR problems are entirely correct and, that is my responsibility. I'm grateful that he brought this oversight to my attention because it afforded me the opportunity to clarify my identity and, not be drawn into a swamp of deceitful promotion. I only want my books to speak for themselves and I am a grateful if they help people in emotional pain. At the same time, I am truly saddened about the victims at Virginia Tech and I also have a very special place in my heart for the thousands of people who have lost pets due to intentionally-contaminated pet-food. Have you noticed how quickly these items have been swept aside in the media to make way for the next ratings-grabbing story? It's never over for the victims or their families! If I weren't genuinely heart-broken, how could I write books in this genre? So it is an arguable paradox but the bottom line is that I only mean to help and Sam has been my advocate and the advocate for reading and learning and social evolution. In the literary realm, Sam is a good writer's hero and if I ever wrote a book that merited a worthy review from Sam, I would consider myself very fortunate.


    Lastly (if there ever really is a last time), I want to thank those who have taken the time to email me both pro and con. They have all been helpful. If anyone wants to continue their dialogue with me, I want to redirect those emails to howard_bronson@yahoo.com. Please do not use any other email address.

    Please take a moment to think about these suffering families and, what you can do as individuals to help prevent these kinds of things from happening again in the future. There is so much work to be done.

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