Monday, July 23, 2012

Jack Daniel's Sends Nicest Ever Cease-and-Desist Letter to Author Whose Book Looks Like a Bottle

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Is this what they call Southern civility? The folks charged with protecting the brand identity of Jack Daniel's — the famous whiskey distilled in Lynchburg, Tenn. — served up a surprisingly hospitable shot in response to a novel whose cover resembles the iconic label on a bottle of Old No. 7, media critic Jim Romenesko reports.

At issue is the cover of Patrick Wensink’s book, Broken Piano for President. A Jack Daniel's attorney sent the author a remarkably cordial letter asking him to change the design. Wensink posted it on his book's website.

“We are certainly flattered by your affection for the brand,” the letter says, but …

Because you are both a Louisville “neighbor” and a fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is reprinted. If you would be willing to change the design sooner than that (including on the digital version), we would be willing to contribute a reasonable amount toward the costs of doing so.

The lawyer asked for a response by today. Here’s what Romenesko says Wensink told him:

I’ve never received a cease and desist, but I don’t imagine they’re all this friendly. While I’m sad to see Broken Piano for President’s artwork go, my publisher has decided to change the cover art in response to Jack Daniel’s request. Jack also generously offered to help pay for a new cover, which I also bet doesn’t happen often. My publisher, Lazy Fascist Press, will be funding the new artwork themselves, though.

In response to controversy: Broken Piano is currently in the Amazon Top 100, which is unthinkable for a small, independent press book like this. I spent six years working on this novel, so I’m incredibly pleased and flattered by the response. Of course, I plan to celebrate like Hemingway and Fitzgerald before me … I’m going to go change my son’s diaper.

So, while we it's probably fair to call the letter an example of "Nashville nice" — bless their hearts! — it's worth noting the polite letter actually came from the office of Christy Susman, senior attorney for trademarks at Jack Daniel's Properties Inc. in San Rafael, Calif., just outside San Francisco.

Anyway, both sides got good publicity out of the incident, which is generally the dream that marketing pros strive for.

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