This Fake 'Mad Men' Memoir Is Just the Latest in the Genre

Sterling's Gold by Roger Sterling
Sterling's Gold by Roger Sterling

One of the key subplots of the fourth season of Mad Men, which wrapped up airing on AMC earlier this month, centered around top adman Roger Sterling (played by John Slattery) and his attempt to publish his memoir-cum-business book, Sterling's Gold. On the show, the book was released by a vanity press, but in real life, it'll be published by a bona fide publishing company.

On Nov. 16, Grove/Atlantic will bring outSterling's Gold: The Wit and Wisdom of an Ad Man. In a recent press release, tongue firmly in cheek, the publisher touted the tome as a recently unearthed relic that "gave readers a unique look at the burgeoning advertising world of the 1960s when it was first published in 1965, and was noted for its unconventional approach to the memoir."

Bringing Fictional Books to Real Bookshelves

In reality, as publisher Morgan Entrekin told New York magazine, the idea came about because of his friendship with Keith Addis, manager of Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. Bringing the project to fruition, however, required some contractual finessing because of the many different parties that were involved in the book deal, including the publisher, the studio, the production company and the person who actually wrote the book (whose identity remains unknown).

However odd it sounds, that a fictionalized book mentioned on a TV show would become a real book is nothing new for the publishing industry. In fact, tie-ins like Sterling's Gold have proven quite popular. In 2005, The Killing Club, a novel "written" by a character on the soap opera One Life to Live (really penned by onetime head writer and acclaimed novelist Michael Malone), sold more than 100,000 copies and was a New York Times bestseller for publisher Hyperion (DIS).

Bad Twin, ostensibly written by ABC show Lost character Gary Troup (really veteran mystery writer Laurence Shames) sold similarly well in 2006. More recently, ABC has reaped the benefits from two novels "written" by Richard Castle, the mystery-writing hero played by Nathan Fillion on the hit TV show Castle. The pair has sold more than 220,000 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks approximately 75% of total book sales.

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My own favorite tie-in stunt stemmed from the Showtime drama Californication, which stars David Duchovny as Hank Moody, a dissolute writer in Hollywood. Duchovny's character "wrote" a bestseller, God Hates Us All, which was then turned into a terrible movie. While the fictional Moody stalled on a sequel, his fake book became a real one, published in 2009 as a trade paperback by Simon & Schuster (CBS). Hank Moody's name was on the cover, but the book was written by Jonathan Grotenstein, as he explained in a recent Q&A with Forth magazine.

The rationale for such tie-ins is simple: The shows have a built-in fan base that often numbers in the millions. Even if only a fraction of a show's loyal followers seek out a book tie-in, that's still a very healthy sales figure for publishers looking for every little drop to squeeze out of revenue. Which brings to mind one of those pithy observations from the mind of Roger Sterling: "You want to be on some people's minds. Some people's you don't."

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