I received a curious e-mail from Wizard World Inc. this week, signed by former Wizard Magazine publisher turned web publisher and con organizer Gareb Shamus. Though my address alone was in the “To:” field, I don’t imagine I was the sole recipient of this message, as it was yet another promotional effort from a man known for his hucksterism. Getting such an e-mail isn’t unusual in and of itself, but the content this time took me aback.
First of all, Shamus’ supposed purpose in sending out this message wasn’t to promote his own business endeavors but rather to shill for a friend. It seems to be some kind of self-help/memoir book from a movie producer. The title of Peter Guber’s book — Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story — would seem to purport that personal and financial success can be found in professional storytelling.
While Shamus is pushing someone else’s product, he nevertheless finds the space in this short message to pat himself on the back. He writes:
“When you have the likes of President Bill Clinton, Deepak Chopra, and even myself (yes, I’m in the book) among many others, revealing how they’ve told to win, you can’t help but soak up the wisdom of their stories. I know I did.”
I wonder if Guber or his publisher is fully aware of Shamus’ recent track record when it comes to “winning.” The magazine upon which Shamus built his reputation was recently cancelled, its staff scattered to the four winds. This comes on the heels of the cancellation of several of his other magazine titles in recent years. His backup plan — an online incarnation of Wizard, which he has suggested will be available for a once-a-week download, a plan that ignores how people use the Internet — is an untested one, and given his company’s history on the web, it doesn’t inspire confidence.
There’s also Shamus’ aggressive push into the comic/pop-culture convention market, with multiple acquisitions of several small regional events around North America. It’s still too early to tell if that business model will prove to be a success, but given the glut of Wizard World conventions all over the continent, one can’t help but wonder if Shamus is in danger of diluting his brand and product in the name of geographical accessibility.
“I whole-heartedly endorse the book and look forward to you succeeding by Telling to Win.”
Considering the source, I think I’ll stick with The Little Engine That Could.
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