Reverse genetics, ok, but reverse shoplifting?

Most of us in the biomedical sciences will be familiar with the term coined “reverse genetics-” namely the use of DNA sequences to understand the function of a gene by testing for phenotypes. But how about “reverse shoplifting?!

I recently attended an author showcase (where my own Lab Lit novels, Matter Over Mind  and Welcome Home, Sir were prominently featured–and it’s never to late to get a copy in tree or e-reader form! Great holiday gift for your favorite post-doc, student or PI!). But aside from my self-promotion here, I also picked up some rather quirky stories. For example, one about an author who promotes books by “reverse shoplifting.” Also known as “shopdropping.”

Well, although familiar with reverse genetics, I had not heard of this new technology–which may or may not be legal. So what is it?

Reverse shoplifting consists of a technique by which an author walks into a bookstore with several of his/her own published books, and comes out of the store without them. Why? Here’s the idea: the author places his/her books facing outwards at eye level in the shelves where the books would be showcased–if the book store carried them. The rationale is that eventually customers will pick up the books and decide to buy them.

Imagine the embarrassment:

-Sorry sir, it’s odd, but we don’t carry that novel! I just scanned it and don’t see it in the system.

-Well, could you just do it manually? It’s here in the store, and I’d like to buy it.

-Uhh, let me call my manager. I’m not sure what to do. Maybe we can call the publisher.

-Ok, but be quick, I want to buy this and go read.

I’ve also recently heard of another dubious marketing practice–placing business cards promoting novels in between the pages of best-sellers in the same genre!

There’s no end to the ingenuity of marketing.

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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4 Responses to Reverse genetics, ok, but reverse shoplifting?

  1. Robin Stratton says:

    Huh! I’ve left bookmarks and promo stuff many times at bookstores, libraries, ATM vestibules and rest rooms, but never a book! Wonder if this really works, or just causes aggravation? Not sure any indie publishers are available via the telephone… so how could store personel get a hold of them? I don’t know, Dr. Steve… this one might be a little too ‘out there” for me!!

  2. Steve Caplan says:

    Restrooms? Might work better if you wrote on the stall-wall: For a good book, call…

  3. I’ve always hated the term “reverse genetics”, because it implies that “forward genetics” involves finding a biochemical phenotype, then reverse-engineering the protein to get clues as to the DNA sequence that codes for it. Which is totally ass-backwards as far as I’m concerned.

    “Positional cloning” – much better term, if a bit loaded (“cloning” being a hot-button word in some circles).

    Back on topic – so which of these book-promoting techniques have you used, hm?

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Truthfully, I also dislike the term reverse genetics–but how else could I link this blog to science?!

      As for which book promoting technique I use? Well, I will refer you to the name of my blog site here at OT, artfully chosen (If I do say so myself): “NO COMMENT!”

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