My literary agent Don Sedgwick sent me an interesting article from Newsday about the latest buzz campaigns being employed by book publishers. The intro to the article described a street-team roll-out for a new book titled “The Black Silent” by David Dun.

The idea behind the campaign was to literally give away the first two chapters of the book to sun-bathers in Central Park and in the Hamptons, hoping that the tiny morcel of the book would lead to a greater appetite to read the entire thing. So far, after 150,000 sample chapters were given away for free, the campaign is being touted as a success.Reading

The article goes on to describe another tactic being appropriated by book marketers, namely, the use of so-called “buzz agents” who are unleashed on the population to hype books to friends and strangers alike. The main agency behind this tactic is (no surprise) Boston-based BzzAgent, which touts over 90,000 buzzers on its database roster. These agents go on subways and conspicuously pretend to read the book in front of packed riders, or they continually call up book stores which they know do not yet have the book and request copies. They go on to write glowing reviews, or attend dinner parties where they shamelessly name-drop the book to their friends — often without disclosing that they are buzz agents for it.

Now, here’s a clear example of experiential marketing at its best…and at its worst. Giving away a couple of chapters to a book is a good idea. It allows consumers to make a choice on their own, plus it gives them a bit of engaging entertainment for free. Buzzing the book — without disclosing that the buzz is fabricated and the intentions are concealed — is deceptive marketing. Incredibly, Seth Godin — the author of a book titled “All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World” — has used BzzAgent on numerous occasions to hype his numerous books.

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