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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Amazon’s Most Well-Read City Survey Is Broken



Amazon recently issued a press release that said it was revealing “the most well-read cities in America.”  The only problem is the list was not accurate.

First, it doesn’t reveal the key determination of who makes the list.  It did not clearly state the list is based on sales of its products only.  Think about it, if you bought a book from an independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Target, or from KOBO, it didn’t register in this study.

Second, it only registered sales of newspapers, magazines, and books, and not free downloads of books or of books borrowed at libraries. It didn't measure reading consumption, only Amazon sales.

Something is obviously wrong when the survey’s results list the supposed Top 20 most well-read cities and absent are No. 1 market, New York City, No. 2 market, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and not a single city in the third-most populated state, Florida.

Amazon listed the top cities and surprise, surprise, it’s headquarter-home of Seattle topped the list. That’s probably just a coincidence, right?

Their big 10 includes:

1.      Seattle. Washington
2.      Portland, Oregon 
3.      Washington, D.C.
4.      San Francisco, California
5.      Austin, Texas
6.      Las Vegas, Nevada
7.      Tucson, Arizona
8.      Denver, Colorado
9.      Albuquerque, New Mexico
10.  San Diego, California

Not to beat this horse to death, but the release issued no details or data as to how the list was compiled.  Was it based on total units sold (does a newspaper equal a book?)?  Was it based on total dollar sales of materials (or was it based on total number of unique individuals purchasing materials?)  What if things were purchased but sent elsewhere as gifts – does that count towards the city that received the book or purchased it?

I know, I know, so many questions for a silly fluff piece, but the bigger question is why do we even pay attention to a survey that’s obviously flawed or biased?  My concern is that the weight of the Amazon name sways others to buying into the list without giving it any further thought.

Let’s face it, Amazon doesn’t care which cities are named or what criteria was used, it just wants to get its name out there in a positive way, so it can position itself as the book central, as the authority of all content.

But it’s not so. Plenty of books, magazines and newspapers are bought or shared through non-Amazon  sources.  We need to keep the marketplace diverse and to have content sold via many sources and from many physical and virtual locations.  

Amazon, though a significant player in the book market is not The Book Market, and thus, its press releases and surveys need to be clearer when making bold statements about all readers and content consumers.

Interestingly, Amazon seems to contradict its own list.  Just three years ago they issued the list and it looked a lot different.  Seattle was No. 13.  How did they leapfrog so many spaces so quickly?  In fact, not one of the top 10 from 2013 made the top 10 in 2016.  How’s that?

The more respected list that’s been issued for a while is the non-commercial one put out by Central Connecticut State University.  It ranks cities by how literate they are. It doesn’t judge test scores nor tally sales of content. Instead, it looks at cities (77) with 250,000+ people, and examines their access to six areas: library systems, bookstores, digital readership, educational attainment, and newspapers and other publications, including books.

Only four cities in the top 10 most-literate study can be found an Amazon’s top 10.  For the record, the most recent study showed Minneapolis, DC, Seattle, St. Paul, and Atlanta as being the best five cities for literacy.

Whatever these surveys show it’s clear there’s no singular way to approach this.  We also know that regardless of these surveys, we need to increase book sales, improve literacy, and make the written word a vailuable thing to all.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. 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 © 2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016

What Will the Book Market Look Like In 2041?



Twenty-five years ago the book market looked a lot different than it does today – or even five years ago. Not counting the independent bookstores or big box places that may carry books like Target or Costco’s, there were 3,293 chain bookstore outlets in 1991.  There are less than half of that today.

The big difference then and now is Amazon. Another big difference is the advent of e-books.  The Great Recession also greatly altered the book retail landscape.

In 1991, Barnes & Noble had 1,343 stores.  They now have around 640 stores.  Back then, Waldenbooks had 1,268 stores.  None exist today.

Where will the book market be in 2041 – 25 years from now?

Will we be more of a book mobile pushcart society or will we go back to the big mall bookstore environment?  Perhaps we will just be a print-on-demand world.

The future of the book marketplace will depend on technology, convenience, cost, competition and the preferences of the masses.  Who knows how much people will pay for content or how much time they’ll have available to read books in a society that’s constantly distracted by many competing mediums.

Check This Oddball New York-Centric Site Out
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. 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 © 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

How Should Authors Be Coached?



My two children allowed me the pleasure of coaching their athletic teams this spring.  My eight-year-old daughter played softball and my 11 year-old son played baseball.  Neither are the stars nor weak-links of their teams and both most assuredly won’t play sports professionally.  But they have fun playing a game, learning some skills, and competing on a field. But I noticed that so many parents and coaches say things to the child-players that really don’t help them. They are too simple, yet quite hard to actually do.  Maybe this holds true for experts who advise authors on getting published, promoted, and marketed.

For instance, we tell the kids who are pitching to “just throw strikes” or “it’s okay to let them hit it ,just get it over the plate.”  Obviously if they could, they would, but kids’ arms don’t always move in the same direction as that of their brains.

“Wait for your pitch,” we tell the batter. “If it’s good, swing.”  These kids are still figuring out what they can physically hit and then have the added layer of processing a lot of information quickly.  What coaches need to do is show the hitter how to actually hit, not just encourage them to swing at pitches they should know are hittable.

I realize now that the advice I give in this blog and to my paying clients at work may make perfect sense to me, but perhaps others hear me the way these kids hear adults telling them what to do on the ball field without really showing them how to do something.

On the other hand, some of this advice really does seem to make sense.  If only others could fully understand it and act upon it!  But it’s easier said than done.  Still, sometimes we try to simplify the hardest things in hopes that it will allow others to execute and not get overwhelmed with overthinking or excessive preparation or strategizing.

The simple advice to authors is usually this:

·         Authors must build a platform.  Start early and use social media to launch your brand.
·         Promote often and keep at it.
·         Examine the marketplace and fill in the voids.
·         Build a network and then ask for favors.
·         Give things away in hopes of earning book sales.
·         Keep writing and if you’re really good, you’ll get discovered.

All of these things are potentially true but what makes them so depends in large part on you and your abilities, connections, luck, and ability to execute upon these simple mantras.

Coaches advise the child-ballplayer on how to play the game, knowing that some of them are just not capable – physically or mentally – to live out the advice they are receiving.  Professional publish experts – like me – need to realize that some writers just lack the capability – incentive – mindset to actually carry out the things we tell them to do.

This may be true of the advice industry.  Self-help books, diet books, addiction recovery books, and all the books that tell us to fix our money, relationships, or parenting may just not be for everyone.  Either we acknowledge that some people can’t do what they are coached on or we take a closer look at the coaches and demand they show us rather than tell us what to do.

Advice is a tricky thing.  The information is out there – whether it be how to play baseball, market a book, or lose weight – and yet the majority of people fail at such things.  Perhaps it’s not anyone’s fault, but I know now that to coach others requires more than just encouragement or stating the obvious.  The experts need to get advice on how to share their expertise in a way that it gets utilized by those seeking to learn how to be someone they may never fully be.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. 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 © 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Do Writers Offer A Dialogue Or A Rant?



Writing a book allows for a one-sided conversation to take place.  The author tells the reader what to think, how to feel, and what to do, based on the words that are chosen or omitted on the topic selected for discussion. A real conversation only takes place after the book is read – with reviews, social media, author appearances, news media interviews, book club discussions, or classroom debates.

The good author, however, tries to think like the reader and understands the assumptions, standards, and knowledge that such readers operate under. If an author truly has no idea about the values, tastes, perceptions or lifestyles of his readers, how can he write for them?

He must think along with the reader and set the pace for what unfolds next. The author is in total control of the situation, but only if he properly reads the tea leaves on the mood and mindset of the public.

How does one push the envelope if he has no idea of a baseline from which to sprout from?  How can one shock or humor or educate unless he knows what his readers know?

Writing allows for arguments to be shaped, views to be molded, and for facts to fit into a neat construct.  The world could make sense when it’s only looked at from a certain perspective, when certain ideas, events, or theories are ignored, downplayed or refuted. The world, from the vantage point of a novelist, only works best when he or she holds one view above all others, when one truth is higher than other truths.

Books provide a narrative, however accurate, fair, or factual it may or may not be, and the only other view that matters is that of the reader, who will either agree with the author or whole heartedly disagree.  The book’s legitimacy or greatness will depend mainly on how the reader sees the world and how it either clashes with or supports the view outlined by the author.

If readers, in the end, determine a book’s greatness, shouldn’t authors query their readers more often?  Shouldn’t writers make bigger strides to know who their readers are?  If the writing process is one-sided, so is the reading process.  Readers react to what’s written.  They either will play along and be led to something familiar and yet refreshing or they will be challenged to choose whether or not they buy into what’s being proposed to them.  The writer-reader connection is one that needs to be looked at more closely if we are to come to see books as not only sparking a dialogue, but actually providing one.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. 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 © 2016

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Roll Of The Dice Leaves You Laughing Hard




A potty-mouth, brash New Yorker who makes mysogenistic statements, had several failed marriages, lost a ton of money in casinos, was banned by a T.V. network, turns towards and not away from confrontation and controversy and seems like an explosion waiting to happen.  No, that is not a description of Donald Trump, but rather of comedian Andrew “Dice” Clay.

He’s back and on another meteoric rise that could take him to the top again.  I could even see him getting a Broadway gig, ala Jackie Mason, as a one-man show. Why not?

Not too long ago the one-time star was down in the dumps.  His hit career of the late 80’s and early 90’s was filled with a lot of negative press, accusing him of being a lousy role model, anti-gay, and a woman-hater.  But he also was loved by fans who filled sold-out arenas across America.  He was the first comic to perform at Madison Square Garden with back-to-back sell-outs. He even had a starring role in a movie and a network television show.  Then came lawsuits, divorce, big gambling losses and suddenly he virtually disappeared for a few decades.

A few years ago, his career was resurrected with a chance opportunity to do a season on HBO’s Entourage.  Then came a movie with Woody Allen, a Showtime show with Martin Scorcese, (Vinyl), a published memoir, and now his critically acclaimed comedy show on Showtime. He’s back touring the country – and it’s not little dumpy comedy clubs.  He’s a force that is rejuvenating middle-aged America like few comics can.

“We need each other,” said the Brooklyn-born comedian at a recent show in New Jersey’s Wellington Theater.  He was talking candidly to the audience.  He still needs the approval and respect of the fans – and their money – and we need to hear his un-PC take on life, relationships, manhood, and any stupid things that occur to the genius 58-year-old.

Some people don’t know what to do with him.  They secretly find him funny and admire the persona he’s created and sustained, or rather, resurrected.  Others buy into his act and take him too seriously and think that what he says is not acceptable even if it’s expressed in the form of a joke. But that’s the beauty of comedy – it’s a license to say what you want and let the audience decide what’s acceptable to laugh at.  Comics are merely mirrors to the mood and fears and biases of their audience.  They say what others think. They legitimize those feelings but keep them contained to the stage.

I don’t believe he’s all an act.  To do what he does and do it so well for so long, a part of him really is Dice, just like Howard Stern, on or off the air is one person.  But we can’t take Dice, Stern, and the like too seriously.  Let yourself laugh and not feel guilty for it.

We love comedy because it gives us insights into our lives and the society we live in.  It combines intelligence with wit, marrying truth with philosophy. It takes us from the ivory tower to the gutter and back.  Comedy’s only boundaries rest in the comic’s  imagination, his courage to express controversial thoughts, and the audience’s ability to understand, appreciate, or even tolerate such ideas.

Dice comes off as a regular guy, borderline victim to a world gone crazy with political correctness.  He also projects a near superhero-like character who can take on the world one put-down joke at a time. He wears his sleeveless leather jacket like a uniform.  The chain smoking and quirky, if not noisy, gyrations are all back, like a packaged time capsule that’s been unearthed just in time to save the world.

He’s an enigma to some, a piece of crap to many, but a true poet to millions of loyal fans who grew up with his x-rated nursery rhymes and advice on dating, marriage, and sex.  But when he comes to the stage, he takes command of it.  He’s in control and perfectly synergized with his understanding audience. They’re ready to laugh and he’s more than willing to spray them with his infectious venom.

When he concluded his show with the always-expected nursery rhymes, he seemed taken aback by how the audience mouthed the words along with him, as if they were at a rock concert and singing along to a classic hit.

“What did yuze do, rehearse?” he asks out loud, in that tough-guy posturing way of drawling his words out so that he emphasizes ev-er-y syll-a-ble with a certain cadence that forces you to hang on to every utterance.

Dice owns the stage. He no longer just tells crude jokes.  He tells a story. He narrates, impersonates, and puts things into perspective.  It’s his truth, his take on things – and people are buying in.  We’re on the verge of having the first woman president but he still gets laughs for sharing his desire to bang a young woman, dismiss the institution of marriage, and to discuss the details of a woman’s anatomy so graphically that it feels like he sees the world with x-ray vision.

Sure he can go too far.  That’s his job. He pushes boundaries.  He is refreshing yet familiar. He’s a comedic brawler, building up his character while embracing an imaginary opponent. The world’s his prop, and he’s ready to let loose. You think he’s been wild before but I think this time around he’s a smarter, more humbled caveman.  He’s hungry to get back to where he’s been, wanting to unleash his barrage of nasty thoughts into a wind that swirls at hurricane forces.

When you watch him on stage you feel liberated.  It’s your Rumspringa, your chance to live outside the normal box that you exist in.  Seeing him is like watching The Purge, the movie that allows for anarchy one day a year.  He lets you wander where you may have wanted to go but were never invited to enter.

Dice is a little bit like a magician, pulling off a great illusion that you know is not real but you scratch your head trying to figure out how it was done.  He spews all kinds of crazy garbage and you wish the world could be the way he sees it.  True, no one would be married and women would not like such a world, but Dice lets us climax to his fantasies.

I first saw Dice about 25 years ago, at the height of his career.  He really was on top of the world.  I had moved from our mutual home turf in Brooklyn to Florida the year before I saw him perform.  He’d come a long way from playing Pipps, a Sheapshead Bay comedy joint that gave him an early forum for his act.  

To now see him so many years later and find his energy and raw humor as good as ever was reassuring.  The world may be a bit unsettling, but we still have Dice to tell us how things should be.  He may not be running for president like Trump, but he can still lead us in ways he probably never expected.

Check This Oddball New York-Centric Site Out


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. 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 © 2016


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Q & A With Humor Author Don Ake

  
                                           Author of Just Make Me A Sammich



1.      What inspired you to write this book? Even though I eventually wanted to write a book, I never intended to write this one.  I started Ake’s Pains blog in 2011. It gained a following and became very popular, so I decided late in 2013 to compile and organize the posts into a book.  It’s strange that I was writing a book, an essay at a time, for over two years without even realizing it.  If you would have told me five years ago, I would now be an author, I would have never believed it.

2.      Where did the catchy title come from? I write a lot about the relationships between men and women from a humorous, non-judgmental, perspective.  How different couples handle things in their relationships varies widely, but people find it amusing.  Some men think it’s a women’s duty to make them sandwiches and some women believe that’s demeaning, and that’s okay. All couples decide this for themselves, and it is personal and private.  It’s very similar to sex, except people don’t discuss sex, nearly as much.   It’s been a running joke in my blog and so it became the title.  I show, in the first essay in the book, that who makes the sandwiches in the home is actually more important to women, than it is to men.

3.      Where do you get the ideas for your stories? The book’s subtitle is Absurd observations from a wild mind.  I literally have a wild mind.  I inherited a fabulous sense of humor from both sides of my family.  Combine that with a genius level I.Q. and a knack for people watching, and I have more ideas that I can ever write about.  I can find the humor in almost any subject.  I have written hilarious 800-word essays on such things as eating rice cakes.  It doesn’t take much to spark an idea.  I wondered what it would be like to date Taylor Swift since she dates so much. This inspired the post “I Dated Taylor Swift and She Wrote a Song About It”

4.      What got you started in writing humor? I was working on my high school newspaper, cracking jokes as I always do, when the faculty advisor said, “Why don’t you write some of those down and we will print them in the paper?”  I and the rest of the staff thought she was joking. The editor was totally against running my first column titled “Giving The Bird” (our mascot was the Cardinal).  That led to writing a hugely popular humor column in college called Ake’s Pains, which led many years later led to Ake’s Pains blog, which led to Just Make Me A Sammich. And when I was on the college newspaper staff I met my future wife.  It’s incredible how one comment by an observant teacher by can influence your life.

5.      What are you trying to accomplish with your writing? I write to make people laugh out loud.  We take this world way too seriously.  We have too much stress.  It is important for your health to laugh at something every single day. That’s what I provide.  That’s my talent and I’m using it. To have a talent, to know what it is, and then to use it to help others.  If you can accomplish this in life, then you are special.  Very early in the life of my blog, I started getting emails that said “I came home from a terrible day at work.  Then I read your blog, laughed, and now I feel so much better. Thank you.  That’s why I do what I do.

6.      Who are your humor writing influences? What is your book similar to? From a writing style my main influence is Dave Barry, and numerous people have seen the similarity.  I take interesting subjects and point out how strange they really are.  From a humor perspective, I think maybe Benny Hill.  There was a clever element to his humor and yet it wasn’t always subtle, it could be bawdy.  And then Jerry Seinfeld, in that you can be very funny, without being too crude. People have compared the book to the television show Seinfeld – because it is about nothing, yet about everything, but very entertaining and funny. Just Make Me A Sammich is also similar to stuff by David Sedaris – I would consider myself, maybe a more conventional, Midwest, middle-class, version of David Sedaris.

7.      How is your writing style unique? My perspective on life is so bizarre and humorous, people can’t help but laugh at it.  I am just naturally funny. I can be funny without trying to be funny, all this comes out it my writing.   It can be clever, I can form word patterns and ideas that lead the reader to very funny thoughts, which make them laugh.  I take you to funny places that you find amusing.  Sometimes you create the joke in your head.  This is much more entertaining than me just telling you a joke. The great thing about the book is that it is so diverse in subject matter.  You will not laugh at every essay.  You may read one and not enjoy it and then be laughing hysterically and the next one.  But you laugh.   

8.      Your day job is so different from the book, how do you explain this?  I work as an economist and analyst in the trucking industry.  My expertise in this job is sales forecasting.  I am a respected industry expert because I see things and trends that other people do not see.  I can fit the pieces of an economic puzzle together, when others just see noise. As a humorist, I am able to see humor where you wouldn’t normally find it.  I am able to compare seemingly unrelated subjects and blend them together in very funny ways. My brain just works different than other brains. That’s not always a good thing by the way, just ask my wife.  However, it does allow me to excel in both of my careers.

9.      What is your favorite story from the book? There is an essay titled: “A Christmas Letter To Brag About”. It is a takeoff on the humble Christmas brag letters you get from people telling you all about the great things their family members did that year.  In this one, the things my relative is bragging about are really not so great.  For example, my cousin Maude is bragging about the size of her husband’s prostate. This is my favorite one, because I would write a paragraph and then have to stop because I was laughing out loud.  I was literally cracking myself up with my own writing.  This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I know I have something special.  And this happened numerous times when writing this piece.

10.  What is the biggest challenge in writing humor? My biggest challenge is to write somewhat politically-incorrect humor to a very diverse audience. My audience is diverse in so many different aspects, yet I can make anybody laugh.  In 2011 I started writing the blog with the attitude that I would write whatever I found funny, the way that I wanted to, and didn’t care who read it or what that about it.  Of course, that was before I had an audience. If you would have told me back then, this is the audience your writing for, I would have said that is impossible. It can’t be done, except now I’m doing it. I don’t make fun of people for who they are.  It doesn’t touch partisan politics. It approaches religion very carefully.  The writing is naughty, but not vulgar.  The language is tolerable.  I consider the writing PG-13.  I take all this into account and still write very funny stuff.

11.  How do you find humor in everyday life? I watch people carefully. I look at their motivations; I contemplate their words.  People are naturally funny; they do funny stuff. But the other thing is, really weird stuff tends to happen to me and it makes great stories. For example, I find myself seated in the middle of a group of swingers at a comedy club.  I end up in front of a blind guy in the line at the voting booth.  I get stuck in a hot pizza parlor on a 95-degree day.  My life is bizarre and I write about it.

12.  You poke fun at being a middle aged, white guy in your book, why is that? I write from a realistic, honest, perspective.  I do not present myself as superior to anyone.  I make fun of myself in the book a lot.  Sometimes I look like a total idiot, it’s funny, and people can relate to my struggles.  Yes, I’m have biases, we all do.  I don’t try to hide it.   I think now the number of female readers exceed the number of men. And it’s because I’m honest.  I think women value honesty above anything else in men.  They don’t expect men to be perfect, but they want men to be honest.  People won’t like everything I write, but I think most people respect me as a writer, so it works.

13.  How do you take boring subjects—like economics—and make them funny? I taught college level economics classes to adult students who were coming to college at night to get their first two-year degree.  They came into the 4-hour, night class, tremendously nervous about learning economics.  I learned very quickly to inject as much humor into the class as possible as a learning tool.  I incorporated my experience as a stand-up comedian to communicate difficult principles in an interesting manner. Some students labeled it “Stand-up Economics” – and it worked. There are two chapters on economics in the book – from my economic blog.  They are very, very, funny and are enjoyable to anyone – regardless of your economic knowledge.

14.  Who will enjoy this book? It is written to be enjoyed by a wide variety of people. Men love it and women love it.  If you like to laugh and have a good sense of humor, you will like this book.  It’s designed to make you laugh out loud and it will.   The people who will enjoy it most are baby-boomers in the Midwest, because they will relate to it the most.  But other people will thoroughly laugh at it.  The blog has an international audience, so the humor does translate.  The only group who doesn’t really get into my writing are feminists – and that’s okay I totally understand that.  Humor is subjective but my book is very funny.

15.  Do you think you would ever take up writing full-time? I’m having too much fun in my day job to quit that.  On the other hand, writing and marketing this book at the same time is like working two full-time jobs.  It is much more difficult than I thought it would be, but it’s still a blast. My second book is over two-thirds completed and of course I have ideas for a few more.  The plan now would seem to be to retire from the main job in a few years and then write full time.  

Note: Don Ake is a client of the book publicity firm that I work for. If you want more information, please consult: http://akespains.blogspot.com/

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. 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 © 2016