Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A letter from my publisher on why my self-help book “Hello, My Name Is” is tanking at retail

Dear Howard,

Listen, it’s occurred to me and the staff here that perhaps this wasn’t the best subject matter for someone like you to take on. After all, you’re not the best at remembering people’s names. Faces, yes. Names, not so much.

I know we’ve talked about your getting flustered during introductions and, despite having had the exact same name for 33 years, you still seem so overly focused on delivering your name clearly that the other person's name slips right past leaving you to ask everyone else “what was his name again?” It’s for that reason I believe your book is taking it on the chin at the few retailers who were kind enough to try to sell it. And frankly, we here at your publisher feel it might have been a mistake to let someone with essentially no expertise in the area of name retention write a book on how to be better at it. You understand.

Certain events have come to light that helped us come to this conclusion. There was the time in New York where during a pretty nasty hangover you ran into that guy Jason from college only to call him “James” no less than like four times. Yes, I know you still feel terrible about bungling it and are terrified of repeating it, but it’s embarrassing when these stories end up on Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room. And Hard Copy. It hurts your credibility.

There are also the times, almost daily, when rather than address people by name you simply sidestep it with a “yo” or a “what’s up?” or “how’s it going?” I know you feel it’s weird to address people you just saw not ten minutes ago by name but the truth is, people like it. It’s endearing.

Then there are the times when you approach a group of people and realize that since you don’t know one of them rather than introduce yourself you simply pretend to know everyone, and throw out a “hey, dudes” in an effort to cover it up. It’s not becoming. And worse, it almost always leads to those awkward conversations three months later where people are forced to say, “I don’t think we’ve officially met.” Yeah, see how this a problem?

I do recall from our conversation Tuesday that you’re trying to be better at it. In fact, you’ve even made it your new resolution that you will begin addressing everyone you come into contact with by name. Even service personnel wearing nametags. That’s a start. But is it enough to stop the nosedive your sales are currently in? Only time will tell.

Truth is, many retailers have already begun placing large yellow stickers on the cover of your book advertising “75% off” and placing it on card tables outside the actual establishment in the hope that some poor soul will accidentally be swayed into purchasing it at a deep, deep dicount. Not exactly what we intended when we ponied up that handsome advance, mind you.

Perhaps soon we can also talk about why you’re follow up self-help book, “Managing Your Career”, might not be where we want to go next for much the same reasons. Let’s do lunch soon.




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