“Getting an author booked on ‘The Daily Show’ was often the Holy Grail for book publicists,” says Kate Lloyd, Scribner’s associate director of publicity. Her authors loved Stewart, she says, because “his audience is made up of smart, book-buying readers who respond to the thoughtful treatment and authentic passion he customarily expresses for the books he features.”
Oprah used to tower over the world of publishing, but her Book Club 2.0 hasn’t created the cultural buzz of her old TV book club. Elizabeth Riley, senior director of publicity at W.W. Norton, calls Stewart “the intellectual author’s Oprah.” Riley says being on “The Daily Show” is “the dream interview every serious nonfiction writer mentions during that first strategy meeting.
Indeed, Stewart’s eclectic taste often provided a boost to titles that wouldn’t ordinarily receive a lot of media attention. For instance, after his interview with David Mitchell, who translated Naoki Higashida’s memoir from the Japanese, sales of “The Reason I Jump” exploded.
Paul Bogaards, executive vice president of Knopf Doubleday, notes that Stewart’s influence has been more significant than the raw sales numbers suggest. “Publishers don’t have a lot of substantive broadcast booking options for authors,” he says. “The value of Jon Stewart welcoming writers on his show, giving them a platform and making them a part of the conversational mix was quantifiable in this sense: He elevated the work of authors, made books relevant to a younger demographic.
Kathleen Schmidt, publicity director at Weinstein Books, notes that the timing of Stewart’s departure is particularly bad. “Heading into what will surely be an interesting election season full of political books, publishers are losing a very important piece to the publicity puzzle,” she says. “Books about politics, public policy, biographies, that otherwise would be difficult to promote on a network morning show found their audience through Jon Stewart.”
“We were lucky to have the show with Stewart at its helm as long as we did,” says Peter Miller, director of publicity at Liveright. “When they started to book authors — the wonkier and untelegenic the better — it was an unexpected gift to publishers of serious nonfiction, like a bizarro C-SPAN. This is probably a sad, sad day for university presses.”
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