The Marketing 100: 'Angela's Ashes': Frank McCourt

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"You are your own best advertisement" is the maxim that could well apply to Frank McCourt, author of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning biography and wildly successful best-seller "Angela's Ashes."

Rarely if ever in publishing annals has a writer been such an overwhelming factor in the marketing of his own book.

When his gripping autobiographical story of growing up in poverty in Ireland hit the bookstores late in 1996, the media initially had little interest in interviewing the then-66-year-old retired public school teacher.

"We got a fabulous daily review from Michiko Kakutani in the [New York] Times," says Patricia Eisemann, VP-director of publicity at Scribner, publisher of "Angela's Ashes."

That was followed, Ms. Eisemann says, by a feature on Mr. McCourt on "CBS Sunday Morning," which both helped to bump the book from 13th to first on The New York Times best-seller list and to create a demand for appearances by the personally magnetic author.

Audiences began to fall under his spell, Ms. Eisemann says. "He's got a gorgeous Irish brogue; he's humorous and ironic; he still has some of that innocence of childhood; and he's got a terrific presence."

Fortunately, Mr. McCourt also has plenty of energy.

In 1997, he traveled to 13 states and six countries (more this year) and has made more than 220 appearances, everywhere from churches and bars to colleges, Irish-American gatherings and literary festivals. He now has appeared on virtually every major TV talk show.

The original promotion budget for the book was $12,000, Ms. Eisemann says, with an eight-city tour.

That budget has more than doubled, she adds, as cities -- and countries -- have been added.

And the bottom line would seem to more than justify all this: 2.7 million books shipped and more than 90 weeks to date on the Times best-seller list.

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