Persuading Magic

Consider a persuasion case study of a book about magic. Begin with Alex Stone and his book, Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind. Published on June 12, 2012 it is doing well on Amazon as of June 26, 2012. It ranks in the top 500 of all Amazon titles and at the top of various special categories. The reviews are extremely positive. And Amazon has designated it as a Best Book of June 2012. Pretty tall cotton. Stone has the credential and the expertise.

Alex Stone has written for Harper’s, Discover, Science, and the Wall Street Journal. He graduated from Harvard University and has a master’s degree in physics from Columbia University. He grew up in Wisconsin, Texas, and Spain. He currently lives in New York City.

Past the professionalism, consider the personal.

When Alex Stone was five years old, his father bought him a magic kit—a gift that would spark a lifelong love. Years later, while living in New York City, he discovered a vibrant underground magic scene exploding with creativity and innovation and populated by a fascinating cast of characters: from his gruff mentor, who holds court in the back of a rundown pizza shop, to one of the world’s greatest card cheats, who also happens to be blind. Captivated, he plunged headlong into this mysterious world, eventually competing at the Magic Olympics and training with great magicians around the globe to perfect his craft.

A master of the art reveals the magic behind the magic with his mastery of the science. Ta-da!

So. Now consider a public expert’s evaluation of Stone’s magic.

“Fooling Houdini” is an ostensibly self-effacing memoir by an inept amateur conjurer. Alex Stone’s quest to become a master magician, however, does not bring him nearly as close to that goal as he imagines. Instead, he skirts the borders of popular genres of memoir, producing a tale that, had it verisimilitude, might appeal in the universal tradition of triumph over formidable odds. Instead it shares genetic material with narratives in which that triumph is markedly exaggerated.

This from Ricky Jay, a proven and recognized master of public magic with a long career behind him. Jay knows Jack Kennedy and magic.

So a Master of Amazon Magic is revealed as a Man Behind The Curtain by a Master of Magic. Jay breaks Stone on the rock of reality even though the reality here is magic. Yet Stone is winning the Amazon wars with fabulous reviews and great sales. Ricky Jay claims that Alex Stone doesn’t know Jack, yet many people are on Stone’s bandwagon.

You don’t need to be a magician to sell a book on magic. You just need persuasion!