Seinfeldia was when I learned what it’s like to be a bestseller. Namely, it’s exhausting, but better than the alternative. Many of the lessons came after the release, in the blessedly endless marketing phase. Here are a few:
- Fight your editor for what you want, but also figure out how to compromise if possible. We went several rounds on the opening of the book, which is obviously the most important part. My first choice was the strange tale of Seinfeld2000, a bizarre Twitter personality who obsesses over why Seinfeld isn’t still on television. It’s way more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea. It was understandably too complicated for my editor, who pushed for a Larry David/Jerry Seinfeld opening. I felt that territory had been so well-covered that it would look like I was contributing nothing new to the Seinfeld discussion—the biggest challenge for this book about a topic that has been quite exhaustively discussed. The Seinfeld fandom material felt, to me, like the most interesting and fresh, and certainly it brought the show into current time. So we split the difference and opened with a simpler fandom scene from the Brooklyn Cyclones’ annual Seinfeld night. Willingness to compromise helped me ultimately achieve my goal—not starting with a story told hundreds of times before—while maintaining my relationship with my editor. Even if Seinfeld2000 is still my favorite story in the book.
- Share your cover ideas. I suggested graphic artist Rinee Shah, who makes a wonderful series of posters called Seinfood, all based on food references from the show. Simon and Schuster hired her to do my cover, and voila! I got one of the best covers ever.
- Write about a topic people love to talk about. I mean, duh. But I could tell the difference from the minute I started telling people I was writing a book about Seinfeld. People lit up. People went crazy. A stranger tweeted at me that my pre-order page on Amazon was up before I knew about it. That’s how excited people were for a book about Seinfeld. I didn’t know for sure that it would be a bestseller, but … I kind-of knew. In early marketing meetings, some people worried that we wouldn’t be able to get coverage because we were heading into a fall presidential election, but I had a feeling that wouldn’t be a problem. I was right: Many hosts specifically said they were excited to have me on as a break from talking about the election.
- Being a bestseller makes a difference. I wish I could tell you it’s no big deal, but it is. After three non-bestsellers, I felt like I unlocked a new level of the video game with this one. I hit the New York Times list the first week, and immediately the marketing and publicity folks at my publisher sprang into action, clearly empowered to put more resources into maintaining the momentum. They also had more leverage with media outlets and others. We made a joint promotion deal with Hulu, which streams Seinfeld reruns. We got even more media requests from outlets that watch the bestseller lists. Book festivals, bookstores, and places like the 92nd Street Y invited me to speak. Basically everything switched from me pitching myself to people pitching their events and publications to me.
- As a result, I learned a bunch about touring, which I wrote about here.