April 26th, 2011
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The Wall Street Journal
New York author Harry Hurt III’s upcoming account of his cross-country road trip is populated with an elite cast of characters, including former President George H.W. Bush and Mr. Hurt’s late friend, George Plimpton.
But first, a reader has to elbow past an army of other names: energy-drink company PureSport, Maine cruise line Captain Jack Lobster Boat Tours and Hollywood Stunts NYC, a stunt training center, to name just a few.
As publishers look to incorporate more advertising in books, Mr. Hurt, a journalist and longtime fixture in Manhattan and East End social circles, has beat them to it. His e-book, to be released May 3, is among the first to feature both advertising accompanying each chapter and significant product placement woven throughout its narrative.
Echoing the approach taken by Morgan Spurlock in his new film, “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” Mr. Hurt, who has worked as a reporter or editor with outlets including Newsweek, Texas Monthly and Travel + Leisure Golf, orchestrated a variety of commercial arrangements to finance and market “Harry Hits the Road: Adventures in Love, Labor, and Modern Manhood.”
“Our economy is down and the traditional book publishing industry is down, so it’s either cry in a corner, or do something about it,” said Mr. Hurt, whose self-published book will be available for $7 on his website.
In exchange for display advertisements that appear with each chapter of Mr. Hurt’s book, nearly two dozen businesses, including cigar brand La Gloria Cubana, luggage company Briggs & Riley Travelware and Pennsylvania restaurant Plain & Fancy Farm, have agreed to promote Mr. Hurt’s book with email blasts and Facebook and Twitter postings.
To supply his traveling gear, Mr. Hurt, 59 years old, enlisted the Coleman Co., which provided him with a sleeping bag, tent and nonelectric coffee maker, as well as $2,500. The author describes Coleman in the book as “one of my most supportive sponsors,” and recounts his attempts to set up the tent: “I discover that the Coleman engineers have done a remarkable job of designing magnetic periscopic poles.” (While companies had final approval over display ads, Mr. Hurt said they didn’t have similar authority over the text of his book.)
To offset the cost of his hotel stays, Mr. Hurt accepted $1,000 in monthly credits from Best Western International in exchange for filming videos showcasing the hotels’ amenities.
A hotel spokesman called the deal “standard industry practice” with bloggers and freelancers.
An energy-drink purveyor, PureSport, gave Mr. Hurt a supply of its protein-rich beverage in exchange for the opportunity to wrap his car in an advertisement. Kathryn Ingerly, president of PureSport, said the company is always looking for new ways to promote itself, and “advertising with Harry seemed like it couldn’t hurt.”
“Kudos to him for recognizing that this was going to happen,” said James McQuivey, a media analyst with Forrester Research Inc. “Once you go digital, books become one of the best advertising vehicles because people engage reading in a way they don’t with other media,” Mr. McQuivey said.
“If you have a relevant advertisement to place into that spot stream, you’re in a position to give people a marketing message that’s more relevant and more potentially engaging than anything they’ve ever experienced,” he said. “And [with ebooks], because you’re connected to the Internet, you can interact with it and you can follow through on it.”
Mr. Hurt’s literary agent, Don Fehr, who has had no hand in the publication of the e-book, said he plans to sell print rights to the work provided it achieves strong sales in its first few months.
The publication of Mr. Hurt’s book comes as Amazon is expected to begin shipping Kindle with Special Offers, a new version of its popular reader that features not only a cheaper price tag but also display ads and sponsored screensavers.