Ten Amazing Vanity Press Ads from the New York Review of Books

I’ve said it before: the New York Review of Books is my favorite periodical of all time.

The magazine pays for its superb content — critical reviews of nonfiction, fiction, and media,  along with trenchant essays  — with subscription fees that run up to $70/year…

They also run classified ads that are hilariously over-written. Here’s a personal ad that’s fairly representative of what you’ll find in the back pages: “DC-Based Male, Irresolute, Callipygian, has job, ironic friends, hair. ISO qualified female for exchange of the very same sly mockery, ridiculous stories, and heedless musings that got us here in the first place.” (The accompanying email address, which I will not post, sports a reference to a 19th century French writer. Of course it does.)

While the NYRB has not yet found a way to monetize the academic bitch-fights that take place in its letters section every two weeks, they also fund their operations with full-page ads from the likes of Oxford University Press, Getty Publications, Princeton University Press, and the MoMA, to name a few advertisers in a recent edition.

But other than the articles, my favorite part of the NYRB is the ads that vanity press operations run in its pages. These outfits, such as Xlibris, offer “self publishing and print on-demand” services to authors who can’t get their work accepted by the book publishing industry and simply refuse to abandon the idea of seeing their ideas in print. I’m not sure how these companies decide what books to advertise — whether it’s their best-sellers or, more likely, the authors who are willing to fork out a little extra dough for an ad in a fancy periodical. Whatever the background, these advertisements are almost always a treat.

Here are ten amazing examples from recent issues.

I’m going to start calling people “spiritual seducer” in everyday conversation. The person who offers me pizza when I’m trying to abstain and dangles a slice in such a way that I can’t resist? Spiritual seducer! The person who convinces me to stay at the bar just a little bit longer when I have something to do early the next morning? Spiritual seducer! The person who puts Keeping Up With The Kardashians on the television set when I’m trying to get work done? DEFINITELY a spiritual seducer!

I have a feeling R.T. Barnes has alienated a lot of people throughout his life with his “sense of humor.”

Am I wrong here, or has nobody ever proven that a snuff film has actually been made? I picture Madame Woo like Nic Cage in 8MM, prowling through the shady underworld of the Shanghai sex scene, obsessively searching for a real snuff film just so she can thereupon find and execute the guys who made it.

(That movie was kind of awesome, in retrospect. Especially the part when Machine pulls off his mask and it’s Frank Sobotka from The Wire.)

This guy is going to get sued for plagiarism by Fox News. The reason this guy had to self-publish is NOT that this book has any issues with publishability or marketability; it’s that Glenn Beck basically wrote this exact same book five times over. 

One of the more amusing genres of vanity press tome is the totally unnecessary memoir. Peeping this cover, I can’t say I have any desire to learn how these two stooges sharpened one another’s iron or navigated each other’s tangled illusions.

Someday, when Sheryl Hill’s discovery of Merkabah (spirit light vehicles of the soul) is heralded as the turning point of humanity into a new age of enlightenment and spiritual well-being, I’m going to feel like a real dick for making fun of her book on the Internet.

This isn’t just any mountain biking book. It’s a mountain biking book that breaks down the philosophy of LIFE, bro. It opens with an unforgettable anecdote about the time Mark Tracey shredded a few mountains under his hardy tires, sparked a blunt atop a scenic precipice, and peered deep into the Universe’s soul.

The hyperbole of ads like this inspires me. This is not just a book — it’s a mournful piece of identity and a collection of the finest written words…that serves as a battleground between the demons of dark forces and divine celestial energy…and will help the reader understand her ultimate destiny.

Doesn’t Sami Gjoka worry about overselling this book just a little bit?

Was this book penned behind bars? This is terrifying, and I don’t mean as a work of fiction; just the wording of this ad makes me really concerned that somebody is going to die soon. I hesitate to make fun of this any further in fear that the somebody might be me.

This one is not here to be mocked, I am seriously excited about it. Does “The Poetry of Life in Science In Africa and Manzee” have an e-book edition that I can read on my Kindle? YES!

The cover alone is pure magic…

I, for one, eagerly await the day when MANZEE makes us one with our chimpanzee brothers.

About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

7 Responses to Ten Amazing Vanity Press Ads from the New York Review of Books

  1. sami gjoka says:

    We shall try hard to sell my friend very hard—great point though

  2. sami gjoka says:

    sure Alpine good job

  3. sami gjoka says:

    Among the10 books, selected from the “New York Review of Books” by Rumors in the Internet, Sami Gjoka is depicted as overselling his book, a little bit. (I like this, makes me smile to myself); well a little bit.
    If we enter the market, I think, there is a time and decision to make; becoming a salesmen and not remain, every sec of our life, what we really are – poets.
    The silence of modesty, I think, in this rough and not just, competition, not only for those who intent to reach high up at the top, but even for those who like me, try to go with the flow, contains in itself, if not our “deaths” – the inevitable dust in the untouchable shelves.
    What do you think???

  4. 0whole1 says:

    Speaking of “Manzee,” the only thing that sends me into laughing fits faster than my friend’s statue of a monkey reading a book is my girlfriend saying the word “poop”.

    Heh-heh-heh. “Poop”.

  5. Gary Denton says:

    Still have tears in my eyes from laughing so hard. My wife and I never fail to read these ads out loud over breakfast.
    By the way I swear I found this site because I wanted to know what “Callipygian” meant. Sadly I now know. My reward however was this post. Thanks
    Is it just me or do the write ups for these books remind one of the efforts of a teenager uncomfortable with the rules of grammar and syntax? I don’t rate my own writing ability too highly but seriously….just read some of these blurbs. They might sell more if they spruced them up a bit– I suspect the average NYRB reader probably does not want to read the musings of someone whose prose reminds them of the recent C-grade paper they were forced to slog through.
    Thanks for the effort. By the way xlibris has competition from Author solutions for “best” blurbs. If somebody uses the word Callipygian in one I promise to buy the book even if it is about Angels.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad there are kindred spirits out there. Another edition is in the works but let me know if you see anything great. alpinemcgregor (at) gmail (dot) com

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