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Sunday, November 23, 2014

How Does The Media Know Your Book Is Great?


Let’s say your book is great, I mean really excellent and head and shoulders above your genre competitors.  You give it to 50 people to read and 49 love it.  Someone will always disagree.  So how do you convince the media your book is fantastic?

Saying it’s great won’t convince anyone it is so.  Although to not say it’s great raises an eyebrow of suspicion.

You need to show its greatness, but how?

You may send them 30 testimonials from readers.  Big deal.  Maybe you had to approach 300 readers to get one in ten to say they liked it.  What of the other 90%?  No one ever sends a bad testimonial or negative review to the media, so it’s hard to weigh or put into perspective the positive reviews, of which could be gamed by going to friends, family, colleagues to pen such platitudes.  Again, 30 endorsements prove nothing, but if you don’t have them, it’s a red flag.

How about looking at who gives the testimonials as being proof of the book’s importance?  If you have well-known people and important organizations endorsing your book, isn’t that better than Uncle Mike gushing words of praise?  Again, nice to have but not an indicator of anything.  There are a zillion experts, celebrities, major groups, and famous people who`, by connection or fee, will write anything in one’s favor.

How about what is said in these testimonials?  Could the use of language, manipulated to its limits, bend a media outlet into thinking such a book must be too good to be ignored?  Please, every testimonial is written with such artistry that it’s hard to distinguish substance from fluff.  The media tunes out this stuff – unless you don’t provide it.  Then they have an excuse to ignore you.

Maybe a splashy design of well-crafted press kit materials on quality paper in colorful packaging will make the media see there is something special attached to your book?  Unfortunately, the more you try to dress something up, the more critical and suspicious the media becomes.  Are you trying to hide something behind all of the razzle-dazzle?

How about sending a gift with the book?  Let’s say your book is about wine.  Why not send a bottle of wine with your book?  Or if your book’s about dogs, why not send dog product samples with it?  No matter how relevant or nice the swag is, it still doesn’t speak to the book’s greatness, the author’s credentials, or the timing, need or demand for such a book.  They’ll pocket the gift and toss the book.

How about judging your book by its catchy title and beautiful cover?  That gets people’s attention, but by themselves, doesn’t signify greatness.

Perhaps having a huge publisher behind the book will be the stamp of approval needed for the media to recognize its greatness.  Not likely.  Hundreds of thousands of books are published by major publishers each year and even if you give a book a little more credence for being published by someone over a self-published one, how do you know which book amongst all of the traditionally published ones are truly great?

Could you judge a book by the name of the person who wrote its foreword or introduction?  Nope, like testimonials – and assholes – everyone has one.  You can pay anything to get someone to agree to put their name on a foreword. 

What if the book’s gotten some great reviews from well-respected media outlets?  That may help get the media to at least look at your book, but not stamp it as great just because others said so.

How about if it’s a bestseller?  The media knows many things that sell can be manipulated and that what’s popular is not a reflection of greatness but of subjective tastes and desires of an untrained public.

What if a publicist whispers in the ear of a media personality that this book is the greatest ever?  The jaded media pro knows publicists are paid to say bullshit and that publicists aren’t even in a position to judge such things.  Further, few publicists can go out on a limb for few books because it puts their credibility at stake.  If they say a book is great – and it’s not – the media won’t trust the publicist.  If a publicist says one book is great and is silent on the other ten he or she sent that journalist, what is the journalist to think of those books?

Okay, so by now you are really wondering how to convince the media that your book is truly the real deal, a great experience that awaits them if only they’d open themselves up to discovering it?

First, your book has to be great in order to be considered great.  No exceptions.

Second, you need as many of the above-stated things to go in your favor as possible, even if each one can be dismissed by the media.

Third, you need them to be told by those they trust and respect that the book is great.  Find Matt Lauer’s wife and have her say the book is great.  Send a copy to the priest of a book reviewer and have him tell the reviewer it’s great.  You know Oprah’s gardener or Jon Stewart’s neighbor of the nanny for Bill O’Reilly’s grandkids?  Make sure they have and love the book.  They’ll sell it to the media better than anyone.

You need to lobby on behalf of your book as if you discovered a cure for cancer or were thwarting a terrorist attack.  Go the extra mile to impress upon the media that you have this great book that needs to be discovered and shared.  When you speak with conviction and determination – and not desperation or fear – you’ll come across as forceful and believable.

Lastly, consider what could happen if enough people read and enjoy your book.  Act as if – as if millions of people’s lives were transformed by your book, as if real-world changes were underwent as a result, as if people suddenly were better off for having experienced it.  What would happen in a world that’s already embraced your book?  Take that feeling or those anticipated results and convert others into believing what you already believe and know could be true if only they’d give it a chance.

Be animated, persistent, colorful, and lively.  Be there to demonstrate all of the possible benefits that could come from reading your book.  Challenge them.  Needle them.  Say and do what’s needed to shake things up.  Your book could be great and everyone needs to know it!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Can We Really Trust Our Books?


Not too long ago when the vast majority of books were published by what was the Big Six, and self-published books were delegated to a handful of vanity printing presses, people gave more credence to what was published.  One didn’t assume everything they read was true, but people tended to not question the books out there.  They assumed if a book got published it passed a litmus test.  They further assumed a published book was fact-checked and edited.  Lastly, the American public – lacking the Internet of today – was not in a position to independently check on a book’s veracity.

Now we have more books being published by individuals than publishers.  We also have books being written by more authors than ever before.  One might say the market has a lot of choice and diverse voices. Others will say we have diluted books, written and edited by unqualified individuals.

Whether in the old days of gatekeeper publishing or in today’s bold world of click-it publishing, I’m not so sure we have a better representation of the truth in either scenario.  Do our books represent, more comprehensively – and more accurately – what our world is all about, or do they obstruct our understanding of it?

Books seem to offer a sense of authority, the product of researching, writing, contemplating, and editing, delivered in the context of a world filled with information and ideas.  Books are not a spur of the moment blog post or a newspaper story that gets filed under the limitations of deadlines and space.  But, books can tell their stories as they see fit, whether in 120 pages or 1,200.

Books are only as good as the authors who write them and the editors that edit them.  But its up to the readers to discern if a book is accurate, complete, unbiased, and helpful.  Books, at face value, can no longer be seen as the sole recorders of our world.  Books may seem complete and permanent, but they are really just an attempt to capture moments, people, and ideas.  They can flood us with data – opinions, facts, analysis – as well as fantasies, visions, and ideas.  I’d like to believe that books are like bricks of a building, each an important part in the collective foundation of our society’s knowledge.  But I also know we need to be careful in how books are treated and too easily accepted as truth or as a full and honest examination of a subject.

I do know that as we seek to record and capture more information – with books, blogs, and social media -- the less complete our understanding of things becomes.  How could this be, a world of more information leading to a less than smart understanding of the world?

First, no one has time to consume all of what’s out there.
Second, no one has a way to verify each claim put forward.
Third, because we are overwhelmed by info – accurate or otherwise – we are challenged to prioritize which source to listen to over another.

We need a librarian-type force to help us navigate through the piles of information available to us.  We want unlimited access to as many sources and resources as possible, but this must be tempered with the help of trained editors, truth evaluators, and people who can scale down a book into a paragraph and a life’s work into a few sentences.  To catalog and verify all that is out there is what’s needed, otherwise Google is tasked with telling us what to read or view – and doing so without double-checking any facts or figures.

This can’t be left to the government, though funding will be needed for such a project.  It can’t be in the hands of a few self-serving corporations.  It can’t be left to just a handful of unpaid do-gooders at some non-profits.  It can’t be like Wikipedia, where info is crowd-sourced but really not validated.

Until we come up with a comprehensive, fair, and productive system to summarize, verify, and rate the books that are produced, our world may grow dumber even as it reads more books than ever before.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

20 Useful Websites For Authors


It’s a tool that reveals if there are any tweetable sentences in  a story or article.

Find, collect, and share what people are saying all over the web.

See what you or anyone tweets about and find more tweets in the same category.

You can segment your followers, in bulk, according to a number of factors, such as location, last tweet, follower count, language, whether they follow you, etc.

It visualizes social footprints to help you discover new people, understand their impact and find better ways to connect and increase your network.  Go to twtrland.com/tags and you’ll see lots of influencers to follow and connect with, based on expertise categories such as author, blogging, publishers, books, etc.

You can type in a keyword and see which voices get the most Twitter shares.  You will find influencers, see ideas for headlines and what works on Twitter – and who is running things.

You can learn what’s trending amongst the people you follow – and those they follow.

Easily share your photos on Twitter.

Share audio files easily.

Find cheap subscriptions to local and national papers.

Find and follow those with similar interests.

Put a Retweet button embedded in your blog posts.

A news aggregator social networking site

www.Delicious.com and www.StumbleUpon.com
Focused on people finding interesting websites and voting on them in a way that shares them.

Learn the best keywords to use.


Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

125+ Writer Awards & Contests


Below are over 125 writer awards  and contests available to writers. Listed is the name of the organization and the website where information can be found about their offerings. An additional list of other awards/contests/grants will be shared -- with more details on each award -- next month.

Academy of Poets

Alice James Books

American Academy in Berlin

American Antiquarian Society

American Literary Review

American Poetry Review

American Scandinavian Foundation

Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship

Arrowhead Regional Arts Council

Artist Trust

Asheville Poetry Review

Autumn House Press

Balcones Center for Creative Writing

Baton Rouge Area Foundation

Bellingham Review

Binghamton University

Black Balloon Publishing       

Booktrust       

Boston Review          

Briar Cliff Review     

Brick Road Poetry Press

Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival       

California State University    

Carlow University      

Center for Book Arts 

Center for Fiction      

Chautauqua Institution          

Coffee-House Poetry 

Colorado Review       

Comstock Review      

Crazyhorse     

Creative Nonfiction   

Cutthroat        

Dana Awards 

Dogwood       

Ellen Meloy Fund      

Elixir Press     

Fence Books  

Fiction Collective Two          

Fine Arts Work Center          

Fish Publishing           

Flipped Eye Publishing          

Fordham University at Lincoln Center          

Fourteen Hills Press   

Gemini Magazine       

Gival Press     

Glimmer Train Press   

Griffin Trust   

GrubStreet     

Gulf Coast     

Hackney Literary Awards     

Harvard University    

Hurston/Wright Foundation  

IMPAC          

Indiana Review

Iowa Review  

Lambda Literary Foundation 

Lascaux Review         

The Ledge Press         

Les Figues Press

Literal Latte   

Loft Literary Center  

Los Angeles Review c/o Red Hen Press       

Los Angeles Times     

Lotus Press     

Measure Press            

Mid-American Review          

Missouri Review        

Narrative        

National Federation of State Poetry Societies           

National Poetry Review Press           

New Criterion

New Issues Poetry & Prose   

New Ohio Review -   

New Rivers Press       

New South     

New York Public Library      

Nightboat Books c/o Kazim Ali Creative Writing Program

North American Review

Northern Colorado Writers    

Oberon Foundation    

Ohio State University Press   

Ohio University Press

Omnidawn Publishing           

Passaic County Community College 

PEN New England    

Persea Books  

Perugia Press  

Pleiades Press

Poetry Foundation     

Poetry Society of the United Kingdom         

Press 53          

Publishing Triangle    

Pulitzer Prizes            

Real Simple    

Red Hen Press           

Reed Magazine          

River Teeth    

Robert Frost Foundation       

Rubery Book Award 

Ruminate        

San Jose State University      

San Miguel Writers Conference         

Schaffner Press          

Silverfish Review Press         

Sixfold           

Southeast Missouri State University Press    

Southewest Review - Southern Methodist University          

Sow's Ear Poetry Review      

Sozopol Fiction Seminars      

Spark  

Tampa Review           

Three Percent

Tony Quagliano International Poetry Fund   

Truman State University Press           

Tucson Festival of Books      

Tupelo Press   

University of Iowa Press

University of Louisville - English Department          

University of Massachusetts Press     

University of Notre Dame     

University of North Texas Press        

University of Pittsburgh Press           

University of Texas at Austin

University of Wisconsin Press - English Department

Walker Percy Center for Writing & Publishing         

Washington College   

Washington Writers' Publishing House         

Whitefish Review      

White Leaf Press        

Winning Writers         

Yale University Press 

Zocalo Public Square 

Zoetrope All Story     


Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and emailhim at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How Authors Should Pen Press Releases


As a writer of books, a blog, and marketing material, you no doubt want your writing to be strong.  Avoiding errors of spelling or syntax is a given, but can you deliver inviting content that captivates one’s attention and then inspires an action step, such as purchasing a book?  More to the point, are you capable of crafting a press release that will interest the media enough to cover your story?

Here are seven things to avoid when concocting your release:

1.      Make sure it’s not too long.  How long is long?  When it gets boring and seems filled with too many details or secondary points, that’s too long.

2.      Don’t use redundant phrases or terms, even though your goal is to emphasize certain concepts or words.  For instance, there’s no such thing as an “advance preview” or a “free gift” or an “unexpected surprise.”  Every breakthrough is major, so please no “major breakthroughs.”  So what’s the “end result”?  Let’s be “completely unanimous” and declare war on repetition.

3.      Don’t inject an opinion into your release unless you are quoting yourself or someone else.
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4.      Avoid jargon and buzzwords – they are overused and lack punch.

5.      Don’t forget to sprinkle visuals, statistics, lists or bullet points and quotes to break up the release.

6.      Never include quotes that don’t sound strong.  Say something that’s controversial, critical, eye-opening, demanding, or outrageous.  Being polite or neutral gets you nowhere.

7.      Forget the passive voice (“John’s head was smacked by the train”) and only use the active voice (“The train smacked the boy’s head”)

A quick checklist of things you should do when putting together your release includes the following:

·         Have someone else edit it.  Let sometime pass and reflect on what you wrote.  Read it aloud to see how it sounds.  Re-evaluate if there’s anything else that can be cut or tightened and make sure nothing is ambiguous or contradictory.

·         Make sure you included accurate and complete contact information and all necessary links and websites -- and make sure they all work.

·         Put your release through a litmus test, as if you were the media receiving it.  Ask yourself: Is it really newsworthy?  If not, try again.

·         Make sure your release doesn’t sound like a commercial.

·         Keep it absent sensationalism, gimmicks or bloated language.  Make sure whatever you claim, predict, demand, or criticize or lobby for can be documented, proven, substantiated and verified.

·         Don’t offend anyone or violate libel and defamation laws – and don’t put out something you know is a lie, not factual or a distortion of the facts.

·         Do you use short, compact paragraphs and deliver the release in a journalistic style and format?

·         Stay focused on a singular topic or subject, and avoid bringing in irrelevant details.

·         Look at models of press releases online at places like prnewswire.com – learn what to do and not do by seeing how the rest of the world feeds the media.

·         The key to getting your release read is a great headline, followed by an explanatory sub-header, and a fantastic opening paragraph.

·         Make sure you use the third-person (he/she/it/they) and not I, we, us, our – unless quoting yourself.

·         The release needs to tell a story, not  necessarily in chronological order. Rather, tell it in the order of most important facts to least important.

Remember, the press release needs to be written with the media in mind.  You are not talking directly to consumers and citizens.  The release is like a love letter – you seek to win over one entity, in this case, the media.

A press release must set a tone.  Is it written to announce something (new book launch)?  Is it to criticize a policy, praise an individual, or demand an investigation?  Are you issuing real news or merely your reaction to it?  Who should care – and why?  Once you know that, aim all of your bullets in that direction.

A great press release should either inspire the media to contact you for more details and an interview, or it should be complete to the point the media feels it could quote the release as a story by itself.  Good luck.


Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014