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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Great Learn Me Caper

As many of you know, I had a "brilliant" idea last week, and I enlisted the help of as many friends and fans as were willing to help me implement it.

I am a longtime reader and lover of Entertainment Weekly the magazine, and I've always thought it would be wonderful exposure to have Learn Me Good featured in the Books section of that magazine. I am also well aware that the writers of EW are highly unlikely to suddenly pluck a relatively unheard of novel out of the blue to feature in their pages.

So I hatched a scheme.

First, I sent this email to two of the book editors at EW:
**********
Hello, Ms. X and Mr Y,

I know that you typically review and promote books that are published by the "Big 6," but I have also seen a few non-traditional and independent authors working their way into the pages of EW recently. With the rise of e-books especially, readers are showing a willingness to give a chance to more writers than just those named King, Patterson, or Meyers. It's often a lot harder for those writers to get noticed, though.

I am one of those writers, and I'm also a teacher who is on summer vacation, so I have a little free time on my hands. As such, I thought I'd introduce you to my first novel, Learn Me Good.

I've asked a few friends and fans to write to you about Learn Me Good as well.

Learn Me Good is the story of Jack Woodson, a thermal design engineer who was laid off from his job.

Switching careers to be a teacher, he faces new challenges. Conference calls have been replaced with parent conferences. Product testing has given way to standardized testing. Instead of business cards, Jack now passes out report cards. The only thing that hasn't changed noticeably is the maturity level of the people surrounding him all day.

Learn Me Good is a hilarious first-person account, inspired by real life experiences. Through a series of emails to Fred Bommerson, his buddy who still works at Heat Pumps Unlimited, Jack chronicles a year-in-the-life of a brand new teacher. With subject lines such as "Irritable Vowel Syndrome," "In math class, no one can hear you scream," and "I love the smell of Lysol in the morning," Jack writes each email with a dash of sarcasm and plenty of irreverent wit.

"Jack Woodson (Duke Egr, class of '95) is currently living and working in Dallas, TX. He has forty children, and all of them have different mothers."

"I teach, therefore I am... poor."

Learn Me Good was self-published in paperback in 2006 and has since sold almost 1,500 copies. In 2009, it was published as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle, and it has since sold over 17,000 copies. It has received 185 reviews on Amazon.com, and 126 of those are 5-star reviews.

I would really love to have you check out Learn Me Good (and/or the sequel, Learn Me Gooder) and see if it might be worthy of mention or review in the pages of Entertainment Weekly. I would be more than happy to send you an electronic copy and/or a paperback copy upon request.

Thank you for your time,

John Pearson
***********

Perhaps if that had been the entirety of my plan, the editors would have taken notice and contacted me for an interview. I say perhaps in the sense that it is not an absolute impossibility. In the words of Mr. Spock, though, it seems highly illogical that I would have gotten that outcome from my email alone.

So I asked people to send in their own testimonials to the good folks at EW.

This was the "call to arms" email that I sent out to my willing volunteers (edited to remove email addresses):
************
Thank you again for helping me with this attempt to get noticed by Entertainment Weekly. Here's what I'd like you to do. This Tuesday, July 3, at around noon, I am going to send an email to the 2 reviewers at EW. I will mention in the email that I've asked a few friends and fans of Learn Me Good to email them as well. Please send your email a little AFTER noon CST (if it's later in the day, it's certainly not going to hurt anything).

Please make the subject line: "Learn Me Good by John Pearson"

I've included sort of a "boiler plate" message below the line of stars. Please feel free to cut and paste that into your email. But what will really add impact would be if you would personalize your email by adding a sentence or two (or more, if you are so inclined) including your own thoughts and opinions of the book (and even Learn Me Gooder if you want).

And then keep your fingers crossed that they get in touch with me in a positive light! :)

One more time, thank you so much for your support and help in this endeavor.

John

*************************************************************************************************
I teach, therefore I am... poor.

Learn Me Good is the story of Jack Woodson, a thermal design engineer who was laid off from his job. Switching careers to be a teacher, he faces new challenges. Conference calls have been replaced with parent conferences. Product testing has given way to standardized testing. Instead of business cards, Jack now passes out report cards. The only thing that hasn't changed noticeably is the maturity level of the people surrounding him all day.

Learn Me Good is a hilarious first-person account, inspired by real life experiences. Through a series of emails to Fred Bommerson, his buddy who still works at Heat Pumps Unlimited, Jack chronicles a year-in-the-life of a brand new teacher. With subject lines such as "Irritable Vowel Syndrome," "In math class, no one can hear you scream," and "I love the smell of Lysol in the morning," Jack writes each email with a dash of sarcasm and plenty of irreverent wit.

Since its original publication, Learn Me Good has sold almost 1,500 paperback copies and over 17,000 e-copies. It has received 184 reviews on Amazon.com, and 125 of those are 5-star reviews. These are amazing statistics for a self-published novel with no major backing!

Please look into featuring Learn Me Good and/or its sequel, Learn Me Gooder, in the pages of Entertainment Weekly.
**************

So that was the setup for my experiment. It may seem amateurish to some, but hey, I AM an amateur!

I knew there was a chance that this might be seen as a major annoyance, but I also figured that seeing a lot of individual and differing words of praise would make the EW folks think, "Wow, people really like this book! Maybe we should take a look!"

And now for the results (at least the immediate results):

There were great results and really bad results.

First, the great results. At least, what I consider great results. There was a tremendous outpouring of support and willingness to help from people who have read Learn Me Good. Over 100 people responded to my original request, and around 40 of those emailed me Tuesday to let me know that they had sent EW an email. Many of those 40 actually included their EW email, and I was truly touched and amazed by the words of kindness, praise, and admiration.

It truly made me feel incredible as an author.

As for the bad news? Yeah, one of the EW editors REALLY did not take things well.

She never actually wrote back to ME, but several people forwarded me the note she had written back to them:
********
Please tell your friend Mr. Pearson that getting 5000 emails like this—filling up my inbox—ensures I will NEVER cover this book.
********

Ouch. On the bright side-- 5,000 emails received! HOLY CRAP, that's incredible!!!

On the down side, I'm quite sure she was exaggerating. By a factor of 100.

Also on the downside, plan go backfire. Big time.

Honestly, I never intended this to be an exercise in spamming the good folks at EW. It wasn't just me, sending the same email over and over and over again. It was a whole lot of different people saying different things about the same book.

Nevertheless, it was obviously taken as spam.

After I began writing this post, I received an email from the other EW editor (who coincidentally happens to be a fellow Duke alumnus). It was quite a bit kinder and gentler:
*********
Hi John, It's awesome that your books have so many admirers! But any way you can call them off? We're getting too many e-mails.
**********

I obliged, sending an email to all the people who I had not heard from. I also sent an apologetic email to the two EW editors, trying to explain that my intent was not spamariffic.

And thus endeth the (failed) EW experiment of '12.

Next week, Rolling Stone? Anyone? Anyone?

Just kidding!

5 comments:

pat said...

So, instead of this editor at EW sitting back and saying...hmmm...if I am getting so many emails about a relatively unknown writer, maybe I should give it a look and see what all the "text" is about...she decided to get her hackles up and respond like that?? Well, I think a little boycott of EW might be in order here! Isn't an editor/reviewer supposed to have their finger on the pulse of what is up and coming, new, edgy, etc., and not just the same old...same old??

Mister Teacher said...

Pat, you're awesome, and I appreciate the sentiment. But I truly do love Entertainment Weekly, and I would never ask anyone to boycott the mag just because of one section's editor.

But yeah, I really was hoping she would have had exactly the reaction you mentioned.

Nona said...

Jajajjaja!! I really am SO SORRY for this terrible misunderstanding. I feel for you. It reminds me of those emails that I think are very kind when I send them to my co-workers, and suddenly they feel attacked and respond in unimaginable ways. I don't think the editor read your book. Too bad for her! But things don't always work the way we want them to...and still, you got the best compliment of all that was knowing all the admirers that you have. Keep up the good work, and don't stop trying on your next mag!!

Angel Read said...

AWKWARD! Well, it really was a good idea. I don't see why it would have been so hard to just delete all the emails if they didn't want to read them. Maybe we can try it with a different magazine? Or how about Oprah?

Mister Teacher said...

Yeah, Nona and Angel, but I will survive. :)

Believe me, if Oprah still had her book club going, I would be up for targeting her!