Jay Nussbaum's off the 'Wall' book promotion
Lawyer, martial arts expert, college professor,
author: Jay Nussbaum has many professions on his resume. To promote his new novel, "A Monk Jumped Over a Wall," he added yet another: YouTube video producer.
"This is my second novel. If the first one taught me anything, it's 'Don't ever rely on succeeding as a novelist in the 21st century if you stay in the box,'" says Nussbaum, who grew up in Jericho.
His outside-the-box approach extends to book signings, where Nussbaum, 47, sometimes breaks boards with karate chops, or, as will happen next weekend at two Long Island mall bookstores, hangs around all day to chat with visitors and sign his book. He sells more that way, he says.
"I had this notion of a novelist leading this stoic existence, writing," he says. "I had no idea it would lead to nymphomercials." That's what he calls the eye-catching (satirical rather than vulgar) videos, featuring a bikini-clad young woman, that he's posted on YouTube to promote his book. The spots are essentially four versions of the same work, ranging from a teaser less than 2 minutes long to a piece that runs nearly 9 minutes, an epic by YouTube standards.
He got the idea, he says, when a film-director friend told him that advertising on YouTube is free, compared to the millions it costs to buy time on TV. He hired the friend, Felix Martinez, to direct a high-definition video, using professional actors.
The whole enterprise cost him around $15,000, he says, about $6,000 for the video and the rest to hire a company to promote it online. One version, titled "The Job Interview" (the only one that doesn't start with a blonde in a blue bikini perusing his novel) is popular with college students, he says. So far, the videos have gotten about 19,000 views, and complimentary comments. He hopes for at least 100,000 views.
"This is a brand-new way to promote a book," Nussbaum says. Other authors have made short trailers, but he knows of none as elaborate as his, which his director has submitted to film festivals. (His claim is open to challenge: authors James Patterson and Naomi Klein have made polished, though shorter, commercials, and other authors are using video more, too.)
Nussbaum's video contains themes related to the book, which he says is "about the consequences if you don't find the proper path in life, and how you recognize that and change it." Though the underlying philosophy is heavy, he says, both book and video are "goofy and light on the surface."
The novel centers on a young attorney at a Manhattan law firm whose clients include a company that brutally forecloses on home mortgages (a timely subject). When he tries to help a family keep its home on the Queens-Nassau border, he gets into big trouble and has to decide what path to take. His title, he says, is the name of a Chinese soup. It costs $150 a bowl at restaurants, he says, and he's never tasted it.
The name derives from a legend about a monk who smelled a wonderful soup being made outside his walled monastery. "He scaled the wall and was never seen again," Nussbaum says. The story is metaphorical: "When you're living one life but there's another one calling to you, you're not sure how to get there or what the costs will be. You also have to think, what are the costs of you staying. If you've already smelled the soup, maybe you're not happy in your life."
Nussbaum's story has some parallels to his life. He graduated from Brandeis and from Boston University School of Law, after which he practiced real estate law in Manhattan for a while. (Nussbaum now resides in upstate South Salem, N.Y., with his wife and two sons, and also owns a summer house on Fire Island).
Though he dabbled in martial arts while growing up, he says, he got serious during law school. A teacher steered him to "Tao te Ching," an ancient text supposedly written by Lao-Tzu
"I started referring to myself as a practicing Jewish-Taoist," Nussbaum says. He put his background to use after his wife was accepted at veterinary school at Cornell University in Ithaca: He proposed to Cornell that he teach a course combining martial arts and Eastern philosophy. It became very popular, he says. "It was one of the most satisfying things I've ever done."
He also spent hours writing, as his wife studied. "I gave up my career to help her realize her dreams, and I opened up my dreams for myself," he says. His first published book, "Blue Road to Atlantis," (Warner Books, 2002) is a parable - a fish-eyed sequel to Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" - about finding a more fulfilling life.
He had started "A Monk Jumped Over a Wall" (Toby Press) while he was still a young Manhattan attorney (also teaching karate all over the world, including Okinawa, Hong Kong, Israel, Malaysia and Thailand), he says. Characters in his book also teach and learn karate.
Nussbaum says he loves to speak at colleges, counseling students not to choose a profession because they think it will define them. "I explain the need to find your way first," which is "never what you envisioned when you first begin." He's found his way, he believes - and it includes the never-envisioned nymphomercials.
Jay Nussbaum discusses and signs "A Monk Jumped Over a Wall" Saturday at Waldenbooks, Walt Whitman Mall, Huntington, and Sunday at Waldenbooks, Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove, all day. At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8, he reads, signs and demonstrates martial arts at Barnes & Noble, 396 Avenue of the Americas (at Eighth Street), Manhattan. At 7 p.m. Feb. 28, he'll be at Barnes & Noble, Manhasset, and July 12 at The Open Book, Westhampton Beach.
Paradiddle Records, based in Huntington, is presenting a Holiday Hullabaloo, featuring performances by six local acts (Iridesense, Johnny Cuomo, Jay Scott, Chris Van Cott, the Ghosts of Electricity and Revolver), at 8 p.m. Friday at Katies of Smithtown, 145 W. Main St., next to the train station. Suggested donation is $10. The event, which also includes door prizes and raffles, benefits Charity Begins at Home, a Long Island organization that supports several agencies. Last year, Paradiddle donated proceeds from a holiday CD to the charity. For more information, call 631-680-0544, e-mail billh@paradiddle records.com or visit paradiddlerecords.com.
When the German army invaded Belarus, on the western edge of Russia, in 1941, four brothers from the Bielski family hid in the nearby woods. With companions who also fled, they formed the Bielski Brigade, credited with saving 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust. Next Sunday, the Lake Success Jewish Center, 354 Lakeville Rd., Great Neck, will show a documentary, "The Bielski Brothers: Jerusalem in the Woods," to be followed by a speaker, Zvi Bielski, youngest son of the late Alexander "Zeus" Bielski, one of the brothers who formed the brigade. For $25, a 5 p.m. buffet supper is included; the cost is $15 for the documentary at 6 p.m., followed by discussion, coffee and dessert. For reservations, call 516-466-0569.
Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.
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