PR: What Not to Do: Make Packaging Too Clever

Boliver Eats New York

There are different levels of review and marketing lists, you know. From bottom up, so to speak, there’s the press release only, which means you don’t have enough audience or rank highly enough to actually see the product. They only expect you to reprint their promotional copy as “news”.

In terms of actually being able to have an opinion on something, there are digital copies, which cost nothing and more often these days, are time-limited, so they expire. There are print/ product copies. There are the really nice product copies — the difference between “here’s a copy of the DVD by itself in a paper envelope” and “here’s the limited collector’s edition box set”.

If you really qualify, then the actual products come in specialty and/or themed packaging to catch your attention. For example, let’s look at the sequel to Sean Rubin’s Bolivar, Boliver Eats New York. It’s a puzzle storybook (in which you try to find objects in the various restaurants illustrated) about different unique places to eat in New York City. The book itself is charming and fun. And then, cherry on top, is how it was packed:

Boliver Eats New York pizza box

Yep, it’s a personal pizza box. What else for New York City food?

You opened it up, and there was the book, along with a press release and a combo utensil set to keep (not shown).

Boliver Eats New York pizza box inside

Isn’t that adorable? It certainly kept the book in my mind! (Although I am nine months late reviewing it, anyway. That’s my issue. I’m working on it.)

In contrast, there’s this book, Thornhill, I received from Roaring Brook Press in 2017.


The press release that came with it said it was a “creepy mystery” with alternating prose diary entries and paintings. So not really my thing, from the sound of it.

The barbed wire-looking wrap is some kind of stiff decorative twine. It’s quite eye-catching. So much so that I let it sit around like this, meaning to talk about it, for three years. It didn’t make me want to open the book and check it out, which is the single most important purpose of this kind of effort.

(I also cringe at the thought of some poor intern having to wrap and tie however many books they sent out.)

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fine line between “wow, cool, they must really want to support this project” and “mmmm, that’s trying a bit too hard”. Different people will draw it in different places, and these days, what with the ongoing situation, it’s rare to get a book at all. Please don’t think I’m ungrateful. I just like to think about these things sometimes.

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