Why book publishers will miss Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart was known for bringing attention to lower-profile, more obscure books.

Brad Barket/AP
Comedy Central announced that Jon Stewart will will leave 'The Daily Show' later this year.

Who will most miss Jon Stewart when he leaves The Daily show later this year? No, not millennials. Not liberals. Not even Bill O'Reilly.

The group that will most miss Mr. Stewart is book publishers.

That's according to The Washington Post and Slate, which reported on the comedy newsman's outsize contribution in bringing attention to underappreciated books.

"Jon Stewart announced plans Tuesday night to leave his perch on 'The Daily Show' later this year," wrote Slate. "The shrieks and cries you heard coming from Manhattan and Brooklyn? That was the sound of publishing and media insiders realizing that their best avenue for jump-starting book sales and making best-sellers is about to shut down."

"In an increasingly fractured market, 'The Daily Show' has been a singular platform for authors to promote their books," the Post reported, adding that book publishers were "crushed" by news of Stewart's departure.

Folks across the industry, including New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul, weighed in on the news.

Others echoed Ms. Paul's sentiments.

"Getting an author booked on 'The Daily Show' was often the Holy Grail for book publicists," Kate Lloyd, Scribner's associate director of publicity, told the Post. "His audience is made up of smart, book-buying readers who respond to the thoughtful treatment and authentic passion he customarily expresses for the books he features."

Elizabeth Riley, senior director of publicity at Norton, called Stewart "the intellectual author's Oprah," adding that being on “The Daily Show” is “the dream interview every serious nonfiction writer mentions during that first strategy meeting."

There's a reason for that. After appearing on the Daily Show, even small title usually experience a jump in sales and interest – a major boon to publisher and author alike. Ms. Riley cited the recent appearance of author Sarah Chayes for her book, ‘Thieves of State." Immediately after her appearance, sales jumped. "What other show could do that for a book on global corruption?” Riley asked.

"Over the years, publishing types have claimed that everyone from microfinance promoter Muhammad Yunus to Sierra Leone child soldier Ishmael Beah benefited enormously from appearances on 'The Daily Show'," Slate reported, adding, "[U]nlike Oprah, who specialized in popular self-help, light spirituality, and easily accessible fiction, Stewart often took on serious societal and scientific nonfiction, issue books that all too frequently came with unhappy endings and no easy answers."

In fact, Stewart was known for bringing attention to lower-profile, more obscure books, as well as exploring the ideas the books espouse intelligently, clearly, and succinctly.

"You don’t need to be a household name to get on the show,” Kathleen Zrelak, director of publicity at Goldberg McDuffie Communications, said. “just someone who has a book that advances an argument, a journalist who exposes corruption, a whistleblower, an academic with a fresh thesis.”

And for a man who has said that interviews were his least favorite part of the show, Stewart, in fact, excelled at weaving current events into discussions about a book, and extracting and communicating a book's central message.

Probably speaking for many publishers, Peter Miller, director of publicity at Liveright, said of Stewart's contribution to the trade, "We were probably lucky to have the show with Stewart at its helm as long as we did. When they started to book authors – the wonkier and untelegenic the better – it was an unexpected gift to publishers of serious nonfiction, like a bizarro C-SPAN. This is probably a sad, sad day for university presses."

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