I really enjoyed Sylvia Hewlett’s Creating a Life, but feminists were outraged. (Check out all the 1-star reviews on Amazon).

Normally, I’d expect all this negative publicity to be great for sales. All publicity is good publicity, right? But Hewlett’s sales were disappointing: A year ago, combined hardback plus paperback sales were only 13,000, despite lots of media coverage. What gives?

My best guess: Despite some contrarian views on feminism, Hewlett is a typical liberal intellectual. (She even co-authored a book with Cornel West). The upshot is that she didn’t have the social connections to cash in on the outrage of her feminist critics.

If Hewlett had been part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” she would have had prominent allies to jump to her defense, and help her sell copies. But not only did she lack these social ties; her book included a detailed wish list of leftist labor market regulations, and ended with a dismissive remark about “conservative ideologues.” Say goodbye to a plug from Rush Limbaugh, even if the “feminazis” do hate you.

Hewlett’s problem, in short, was stepping on the toes of people on her side of the fence. When they cried foul, she was on her own.

The lesson: If you want to get all the publicity you deserve, make sure you’re friendly with the enemies of your enemies. Almost all publicity can be transformed into good publicity, but you can’t do it alone.