Cannabis Culture’s newset release, the Pot Puzzle Fun Book, has been receiving some good reviews in the Canadian press.
For a young guy, Dana Larsen sure knows a lot about publishing, says Denise Ryan. Marketing too.
Dozens of books are sent in to The Vancouver Sun’s newsroom every week, and savvy marketers know that often a little something extra is needed to help the editor, as we say in B.C., “separate the seeds from the bud.” Last year Michael Turner’s book The Pornographer’s Poem was heralded by a preview CD that featured, among other things, a cheesy dialogue segment of fans, supposedly in a bar, talking about the author against ambient background noises like ice cubes clinking in glasses. It was a better attention getter than the bedraggled roll of toilet paper a trivia book came stuffed in that same year or the dying red rose taped to the press package for a forthcoming picture book on Trudeau. But nothing could possibly surpass this week’s rather odiferous arrival of the Pot Puzzle Fun Book (Quick American Archives, 60 pp., $20). It came via regular mail with a polite letter from the publisher and, folded between the pages, a big fat joint sealed in a Ziploc baggie.
Editor and tireless pot activist Dana Larsen thought “there should be something nice” included with each review copy, to ensure, perhaps, proper appreciation of his educational funbook. Larsen, who also publishes Cannabis Culture magazine, poked around in his personal stash for the stuff: “Mighty Mighty crossed with Kush.” Our volunteer tester described it as “full-bodied with a creamy, lingering aftertaste,” offering “wonderful smokeablilty, a cool but not overwhelming body stone.”
Whether or not such graft promotes appreciation of the book is arguable, as our tester had to go back to work shortly after trying the product. And, not every reviewer received the special treat package; Larsen sent joints to only a select group including Rolling Stone, Playboy and Maxim magazines, and, inexplicably, the Ottawa Citizen. “I threw the thing out without even opening it and probably wasted the first decent joint I’d had in 20 years,” groaned Citizen books editor Jenny Jackson when I called to ask if she’d received her press package. Lorena Gibbs, books editor at Maxim in New York giggled knowingly when I called, but declined to comment, other than to say she’d have to “clear it with PR first.” PR also had no comment.
Larsen is no stranger to publicity stunts — 10 years ago as an English and Psychology undergraduate at SFU he started a campus club to organize pot smokers, went on to help form the League for Ethical Action on Drugs and was a key organizer of the infamous inaugural “smoke-in” rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1993 (now an annual event). Larsen also worked closely with Marc Emery, the founder of Hemp B.C. and the Cannabis Cafe, editing a newsletter that eventually grew into Cannabis Canada, a glossy bi-monthly news, service and lifestyle magazine. The publication began with a modest circulation of 2,000. Sales increased steadily in Canada, but, probably due to the geographic moniker, it didn’t sell well in the U.S. Larsen re-named it Cannabis Culture, and in five years circulation has grown to 70,000, with distribution in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Cannabis Culture is available at 7-Eleven alongside People and Vanity Fair, and Larsen has never had any trouble sending either the magazine — or the occasional joint — over the border. As a tribute to his success, the noted San Francisco-based marijuana advice guru, Ed Rosenthal, who for 20 years was a columnist at High Times, has moved over to Cannabis Culture.
As editor of one of the few general-interest Canadian magazines that isn’t subsidized by the government, Larsen has turned notoriety into success. His parents, non-smokers who once disapproved of his pot smoking, now grudgingly show pride in his accomplishments — mom even appeared last week on pot.tv.net for an interview on Larsen’s Web TV show, the Weedy Wednesday Smokefest.
Larsen’s Pot Puzzle Fun Book includes 60 pages of cannabis quizzes, search-and-find puzzles, crosswords, fun facts and Q&A’s. Although it’s perfect for those long car trips with mom and dad, the book is aimed at pot lovers of all ages. Available on Amazon.com, in Canada at Chapters, and in the U.S. at Borders and Barnes and Noble, the book is selling well, and a second printing is already in the works for the Christmas rush. Our tester wishes to inform the young publisher that, first run or 20th, you just can’t have too much publicity.
As Mix books editor, Denise Ryan separates the seeds from the buds.
From Vancouver comes a more blatant attempt to make book-surrounded editors feel better: The Pot Puzzle Fun Book: Marijuana Entertainment Presented by Cannabis Culture contains a rather flattened joint of “excellent B.C. Bud.” It is meant, apparently, “to increase your enjoyment” of this compendium of games relating to the surprisingly extensive arcana of growing, buying and smoking pot. Is bast “a. the outer fiber of stalk, b. coarse grade fiber, or c. from Basteria region, U.S.S.R.”? Or, 8 down: “Weed oil so thick you could put it on pancakes.” Ten per cent of profits will go to the fight to legalize marijuana. The Vancouverite responsible did not return phone calls, so we’ll just guess about the other 90%.
POT PUZZLE FUN BOOK: MARIJUANA ENTERTAINMENT presented by Cannabis Culture (Quick American Archives, $20).
You don’t get review copies like this every day.
Sandwiched between the pages of the locally compiled Pot Puzzle Fun Book was a zip-lock bag containing what looked and smelled like an expertly rolled sample of the titular substance. I guess that’s one way to try to smoke out a favourable — even delirious — review.
Certainly, herbheads will have fun with this little compendium of puzzles, crosswords, mazes and quizzes — perhaps more fun than it deserves.
They may enjoy the “Name the Strain” picture quiz, in which you must identify strains of Burmese, Nagano Gold and whatever.
Thanks to a word power test, I now know that “nematodes” are parasitic worms that attack marijuana plants but I had no idea how to help Dealer Dave distinguish between his mixed- up stash of Afghani and Skunk #1 in one of the book’s brain teasers.
Then again, given the book’s target audience, just turning the pages for some could amount to a rather daunting brain teaser.
The POT PUZZLE FUN BOOK is available online at: www.cannabisculture.com/puzzlebook