My friend, whom I've never met, Lesly Pyle is a great copywriter and, maybe, even a better writer writer. Back in January, Lesly wrote a guest post for Ad Aged, which you can read here. She's back today because she's conceived, compiled and written a book.
It's a fund-raiser for Dementia research.
And it's a helluva lot more.
It's also reached #9 on Amazon's list of best-selling humor books.
Because I have a "thing" for Lesly, I'd like to see it get to #1. So do yourself a favor. Do the world a favor. Do Lesly a favor. And buy "Pyle of Memories."
Afterward, you'll probably have a thing for Lesly, too.
P.S. Lesly, I have one tip. It's a universal tip. By way of Curtis Mayfield. Here.
Defining the Never Before
George Tannenbaum is so right.
Defining what a company is — and what makes it different — is one of the most important things a brand can do.
I recently realized just how difficult this is. And this time, I was working on a brand that hits very close to home. One that has my name on it.
Pyle of Memories is a new type of book. What makes it different is the easy part. As far as I know, there is no other title that features 36 kind-hearted co-authors writing personal memories to raise money for dementia research.
But what about the defining part?
That presents a whole other pile of problems.
But before I go deeper into the difficulties of defining a brand that I’m admittedly too close to, here’s a little backstory on how this passion project came to be.
Cut to 2014.
My grandmother asked me to write a memory about her. A few minutes later. Poof. She had forgotten asking for it. She had dementia. And she was losing her memories. Her request opened the floodgates to so many things I never would have written down if she hadn’t given me the spark. She’s the reason I started a social media series of short stories for dementia awareness called “#PyleOfMemories.” It serves as a reminder to write the good stuff down before it’s lost forever.
Cut to 2021.
My friends asked me to turn the social media series into a book. But I realized that aside from the handful of, dare I say, “fans,” the book would have no chance in the mass market if it just came from me. Plus, if I was going to invest the time and effort, it needed a greater purpose than awareness alone. It needed to be a fundraiser. So, I asked the best storytellers I know — mostly big names from the advertising world — to write memories of their own.
I started with someone I know personally. Someone whose heart I respect even more than his writing. And his writing is what got me into advertising in the first place. He wrote two little words that made a big impact on me. Not to mention the rest of the world. Those two words?
When a talent like Jeff Goodby believes enough in an idea to put his name on it, I knew I was onto something. Jeff’s endorsement led to more big ad names signing on: Jamie Barrett, Gerry Graf, Luke Sullivan, and the host of this blog, George Tannenbaum, to name-drop a few.
Cut to 2023.
Our 224-page magnum opus, Pyle of Memories, was finally done.
Now came the hard part.
How in the holy hell do you market it?
When I hit “publish” on Amazon, I knew we had some embedded sales. With big names in advertising came access to big social networks. Ad people would buy the book simply because their heroes wrote a chapter. And, of course, because it was for a good cause.
But what about anyone outside of advertising’s sphere where people undoubtedly know the famous ad campaigns, but may be less familiar with the people who created them? And they sure as heck don’t know me.
We have to speak to these people differently. This is challenging because anyone I’m connected to directly has learned what this project is over the past nine years. They’ve been hit over the head with my voice, my tone and my signature adnerd cue that always begins with “Cut to …”
But if you’re coming in blind, and all you know is that Pyle of Memories is a fundraiser for dementia research, then the book must about dementia, right?
Sure, some of our short stories mention dementia. Exactly seven of the 43 chapters. That’s only 16.279% of the book. And only two chapters go deeply into the respective author’s personal experience with the disease. One such chapter, penned by a best-selling author named Suzanne Finnamore, was originally printed in the New York Times. It contains one of my favorite lines in the whole book. It requires context so I won’t spoil it for you. But if you read her chapter, please breathe in every word slowly. It’s a masterpiece.
So if our book is not about dementia, what exactly is it about?
I suppose Seinfeld had the same uphill battle trying to sell a “show about nothing.” Our book really isn’t about any one thing. Our memories are simply slices of our lives that we never want to forget. And, if we did our job right, they fill a book that readers would never want to put down. As the Comedy and Tragedy-themed cover suggests, some of our stories will make you cry, but most will do the opposite.
Pyle of Memories is a comedy.
In fact, on October 6th, just 2.5 weeks after publication, our book hit #9 on Amazon’s Best Seller list in the Humor/Essays category. We were sitting among Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Nick Offerman’s Paddle Your Own Canoe, and Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods.
I had trouble believing it myself.
Especially since Bill Bryson wrote my favorite book of all time: A Short History of Nearly Everything which is about the history of science. Most people would think that’s a snoozefest. But it’s absolutely hilarious. Bryson proved that a serious subject, if treated just so, has the potential for making you laugh out loud.
Seth Rogen and his wife had the same realization. They started “Hilarity for Charity,” a foundation that donates funds to help current dementia patients — and to help find a cure. They also believe in the healing power of laughter. This is such a close tie to the Pyle of Memories mission. My hope is to partner closely with this organization. (If anyone knows anyone there, please hit me up. This could be huge for both of our fundraising efforts.)
As you can see, the task of defining something that seems to be one thing, but really isn’t, has not been easy. So, I’ve been leaning on my marketing training to figure it out:
A little bit of iteration.
And a lot of medication.
Phase 1: Pop anti-anxiety pill. Then tell advertising people that their favorite advertising people were involved in an ambitious fundraising project that they’ll love to read. (Early feedback says our hypothesis was right. People seem to dig it.)
Phase 2: Pop another pill. Then explain an entirely new concept to the world at large.
I’m still working out phase 2.
George, any tips?
To read the first chapter and pick up a copy for yourself, see PyleOfMemories.com.
For a beta-blocker prescription, see your doctor.