The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle is a nonfiction book published in 2019 when, coincidentally, director Clint Eastwood was in the midst of filming his new movie, Richard Jewell. Authors of The Suspect engaged Atlanta agency KWI Communications to leverage the release of Eastwood’s major motion picture to gain profile for their newly published book.
The media team collected assets from the authors and the publisher of the book, including photographs of Richard Jewell and his family, diagrams of the Atlanta bombing site, original police investigative documents and even some never-before-seen video footage of the original 1996 FBI interview of Richard Jewell. The team generally shunned entertainment media, leaving that list to Warner Bros. movie publicists, and instead focused on general interest media. The pitch initially gained purchase at relatively conservative media outlets (e.g. Fox & Friends, Wilkow Majority, Inside Edition, Bill Martinez Live). Then the film premiered, and something happened that opened myriad placement possibilities among the far more numerous (liberal) media targets: a #MeToo-fueled controversy.
Not surprisingly, the movie studio yanked all promotional media outreach, fearful of attracting unwelcome questions. The Suspect media team, however, shifted into high gear proffering our authors to editors and producers suddenly hungry for the “real story” of Kathy Scruggs and the Jewell incident. Result: a weeks-long wave of appearances for the book’s authors in The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC Nightline, Newsweek, the Associated Press, NPR and, of all places, Vanity Fair.
Authors of The Suspect, Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen, appeared in numerous articles and programs to which, under “normal” circumstances, they would not even have aspired. A total of 480 media placements included newspaper, radio and TV, resulting in a remarkable 1.1 billion potential media impressions. All this exposure had a very positive impact on book sales. In an age when the average U.S. nonfiction book sells 250 copies per year and less than 3,000 copies over its lifetime, 18,000 units of The Suspect (15,000 hardcover, 3,000 audiobook) were sold in the last two months of 2019, the period corresponding with the most intense media attention. The Suspect is an Amazon best seller in the categories of Olympics and Forensic Science and Law.