Yesterday the WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg featured HarperCollins‘ efforts to reach the widest possible target audience for Chad Kultgen‘s hot-potato debut novel THE AVERAGE AMERICAN MALE, highlighting the still-unusual (though not for much longer) tactic of marketing a novel almost exclusively online. Originally, the publishing house thought to market the book cheaply with lots of stories in the press but that proved a no-go when the ribald novel purporting to show, in crudest possible fashion, how men really think proved to be too steamy for most newspaper and magazine editors to touch. Even with the more permissive atmosphere we enjoy online, Ron hesitated to embed the following clip without warning readers that while it’s not quite NSFW, it’s not exactly appropriate for work, either…

This and two similar videos were uploaded to YouTube and have since spread elsewhere on the Internet, including MySpace. Now THE AVERAGE AMERICAN MALE has gone back for a third printing and the videos have become a Web sensation, with more than one million verified views in the past two weeks. “We needed to go where the average American male readership would be: online, passing around funny quirky videos,” said David Roth-Ey, editorial director of HarperPerennial, adding that he is talking about men under the age of 40. “If we were going to find them, it wouldn’t be by advertising in the New Yorker.” Still, the limits of the strategy are clear. Only a fraction of the million views has so far turned into sales, likely because the people watching the videos aren’t frequent book buyers. As Kultgen said, “Now we’ll see if the views translate into book sales.”