Sunday, April 24, 2022

Book 'em, Danno!

If you are reading on a smartphone, use landscape / hold phone sideways. 

If you are not at least 50 years old or watch old reruns of Hawaii Five-O, the phrase "Book 'em, Danno" might not mean very much to you. This was the catch phrase of McGarrett, the leader of a fictional state police force in Hawaii, in a television show called "Hawaii Five-O." 

Generally at the end of most shows, McGarrett would instruct his sidekick, Danny Williams, to take the bad guy into custody by telling him to "Book 'em, Danno."

Ah, but - did you know - that "Hookem and Bookem" means handcuffing someone and booking them? In police slang, the term "hookem and bookem" means handcuffing someone and booking them into the system. 

The book 'em derives from the image of a judge sentencing a criminal to every penalty found in the books of law. To charge them with a particular offense; to inflict a severe punishment on them. The "book" is an imaginary book of rules or offenses and their prescribed penalties. The expression dates from the 1930s and is of American origin. 

I went down this rabbit hole today, about "Books" because I have been interviewing lots of authors lately. For many years, if you were a published author, that was a big deal. It was a big deal because it was expensive and very difficult to publish, sell and market a new book. If one of the "Big Five" like Penguin/Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, or Macmillan published your book, that was a very big deal indeed. And you would be right to brag on it. 

Today, to achieve "bestseller status" within a single Amazon category rather than overall of Amazon, all you have to do is hit the top of any subcategory for a brief moment in time, and chances are that you'll be awarded the prized orange button with the word "Bestseller", giving you legit bragging rights. 

The reason people aspire to call themselves "bestselling author" is because it dramatically increases credibility and personal brand. It can establish someone as a thought leader. But surprise - there is no certain number of sales that it takes to become a best seller. One author I interviewed became a New York Times best-selling author selling just under 3,000 books. 

Another author that I interviewed sold 20,000+ in the first week - and didn't make that same list. 

The job of an author is a weird one. There is a lot of pressure to do all kinds of things that have nothing to do with writing, or with delivering value to the readers you want to reach. Book launches can do weird things to people. They can cloud judgment. The title "best selling author" does NOT necessarily mean higher speaker fees, more consulting gigs, or more publicity around your brand, as many think it does. You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to become a NYT best-seller. The ROI (most of the time) is simply not there. 

My wife and I just watched Julia on HBO Max. All about Julia Child's extraordinary life and her long-running television series, "The French Chef," which pioneered the modern cooking show. The HBO series explores a pivotal time in American history - the emergence of public television as a new social institution, feminism and the women's movement, the nature of celebrity and America's cultural evolution. 

How many copies of 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' have sold? 

1.5 million copies of the book when it was published in 1961. And now, in 2022, thanks to HBO Max, the sales are growing (again) and the book is (once again) back on the best sellers list. And - the same thing happened once before -  in 2009 - when the movie "Julie and Julia" was a hit, with Meryl Streep playing Julia Child. 

It all started with the PBS TV interview on "books" and authors being interviewed about their books. That was it - that was the TV show. And so, strong Julia Child book sales in the 60s gave birth to the Julia Child PBS TV show, which of course grew Julia Child books sales, which then gave birth to a Julia Child movie, which once again grew Julia Child books sales, which gave birth to (another) Julia Child movie, which.....

Wow. I just heard in my mind - in her high Julia Child voice..... 

"Book 'em Danno!" 

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