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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gutenberg: How One Man Remade The World With Words



The invention of writing was amazing.  Developing an alphabet and a uniform set of rules to govern a language is also amazing.  But when mass printing with movable type became available some 550 years ago it was nothing short of revolutionary, much the way the Internet these past 20-25 years has forever altered how the world communicates and conducts life. I came across a 2002 book by John Man, Gutenberg:  How One Man Remade The World with Words, and it manages to rekindle the significance of what took place when Germany’s Johann Gutenberg, invented movable type printing presses.

He singlehandedly ignited an explosion of art, literature, and scientific research. The book’s back cover sums up the book perfectly:  “In Gutenberg, you’ll meet the genius who fostered this revolution, discover the surprising ambitions that drove him, and learn how a single obscure artisan changed the course of history.”

Just before he printed his first book, The Gutenberg Bible, in 1454 or so, Europe’s books were hand-copied and all existing copies of books probably didn’t equal what a modern public library holds.  But by the debut of the 16th century, the number of printed copies of books exceeded millions of units.  This single artisan changed the course of history.

Man notes that “Printing changed things so utterly that it is hard to imagine a world without it…The result, of course, was a new world of communication.  Suddenly, in a historical eye blink scribes were redundant.  One year, it took a month or two to produce a single copy of a book; the next, you could have 500 copies in a week (500 was an average print run in the early days).”

Books hold great thoughts, most borrowed and some original.  They are perfectly suited to provide an examination of all of life, or more aptly, a tiny sliver of life in a snapshot of time.  Who knows what Gutenberg envisioned when he created his printing press but he launched something spectacular that reverberates today.

He unleashed an explosion of information sharing, which expedited the advancement of all things, from science and medicine to politics and philosophy.  Think about it.  Literacy rates were very low 550 years ago but even amongst the literate, information flowed slowly, with bias and limitation.   Once books became accessible to those who were not part of the wealthy or elite class, a democracy of ideas was able to develop.  Information would beget more information.  Debates and dialogues would ensue.  From books, came great discoveries and movements and a reformation in the way all aspects of life were carried out.

Man writes glowingly of the lasting significance of the invention:  “Gutenberg’s invention had created the possibility of an intellectual genome, a basis of knowledge which could be passed on from generation to generation, finding expression in individual books, as the human genome is expressed in you and me, itself remaining untouched, a river of knowledge into which every new generation could tap and to which it would add, even after the last press ceases, and paper is no more, and all the vast store of accumulated knowledge is gathered in hyberspace.”

However one thing that didn’t change with the advent of mass printing was the habit of censorship and banning.  Man writes how the Church, all powerful five-six centuries ago, spent considerable effort to make sure certain books went unread, though such efforts also backfired and created heroes of those it scorned:

“If some works needed to be published, others certainly didn’t – a view that inspired the response that has won the Church its most scathing condemnation from non-Catholics: its attempt to control the press by banning those works of which it disapproved.

“The Church had always claimed the right to approve or disapprove of books, and there had been occasional bannings, easy to impose by the Inquisition when monks produced the books for other monks.  But the advent of printing raised the stakes, and the coming of Reformation raised them higher still.  In 1542, Pope Paul III set up a local branch of the Inquisition, as opposed to its fearsome Spanish counterpart, to counteract the Reformation, which it did by initiating a reign of terror that Spanish inquisitors must have envied.  One of its functions was to condemn heretical books, a task paralleled in France by the Sorbonne, which published its own list of banned books. The Council of Trent (1545-63), called to retrench after the Protestant defection, established a centralized list of books that existed thanks to that accursed invention, printing – a list that, thanks to that accursed invention, printing, could be distributed across the world of the faithful.  Published first in 1559, the list grew year by year, and so did its malign reputation.

“Actually, it was not all malign, because the Index Librorum Prohibitorum proclaimed what was new and interesting, and acted as good advertising for Protestant publishers.  Banning never really worked:  in France the official bookseller Jean Andre printed both the Index and the work of the banned heretic poet Clement Marot.  Being banned was a sort of recommendation.  Those on the Index in the early days included Peter Abelard, Lefevre d’Etaples (the first translator of the Bible into French), Boccaccio, Calvin, Dante, Erasmus, Rabelais and, of course, Luther.  Eventually, there would be 4,000 books one the Index by the time it was disbanded in 1966.”

What would Gutenberg think about the Internet?


To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013


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, August 23, 2016

Interview with author Pauline Robertson


Can you overcome divorce with positivity?

1.      What inspired me to write your book?  Friends and family were my advocate's in pushing me to write my story. They all said it was time to share my experience of divorce and how I chose to handle it with grace and patience. 

2.      What is it about? It is a memoir about a period of my life. The devastation of divorce and how I chose to handle it. Live my long-time dream of moving to Southern California. Being on my own for the first time at the age of thirty-eight. How I healed, grew and the great experience's I had on my journey. Crossing the line to find out the answers to my most sought out question. Why do people make the choice to have affairs? 

3.      What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book?  Even thru the most difficult times of your life, whether divorce, a move, a career change. Fear will step in, sadness or hurt. But they will learn that life can go on, and can be even a better, more fulfilling  journey into a new adventure. A person will learn that it is ok to be alone and rediscover themselves. Learn to do what they like and don't like. Be happy again. 

4.      What advice do you have for writers? Take the time to focus and write your story. It may change many lives for the better. Being vulnerable is a good thing. It shows others that you are just as real and may have experienced similar things as another person. 

5.      Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? It seems that the book publishing industry is heading more into independent publishing. With access to the internet and being able to publish an online book is so much easier now than looking for a publisher to pick your manuscript and publish it. As a writer you don't have to wait years anymore to have your book published. 

6.      What challenges did you have in writing your book? First making the time to finally actually write it. It was in my head for at least seven years. I kept telling myself I was going to write it, and never sat down to do it. One year I moved and never connected my cable television. So it was either write or stare at the walls. The hardest part was reliving allot of the times that I was writing my book. There were times as I was writing I just cried thru the whole chapter. In a way it was healing to get it all out of my head. Chapter seven was the toughest. The relationship I was in was very controlling and a bit scary for me. When I started that chapter, I closed my computer for weeks. I just did not want to relive it. One day I decided, why am I going to let someone have power over me, who isn't even a part of my life anymore. Once I had the manuscript done, it was realizing for the first time that I put everything out there, and showed how vulnerable I was. That is a first for me and was very scary. 

7.      If people can buy one book this month, why should it be yours? There are many people who have and or, are experiencing divorce. If my book can help anyone to know that they are not alone and that they will heal and life can be even greater than it was before. They do not have to fear new beginnings. It is uncomfortable, they will know as they move forward on their journey to heal that they will learn so much about themselves and be happier for it.  It will give answers to those whose marriages have ended in affairs. They may have a better understanding of it all and be able to heal quicker and move forward in their life. 

Pauline Robertson is the author of I Have Worn Both Pairs of Shoes. Her website is www.paulinerobertson.com

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013


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 ©.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Is It Time To Throw Your Book In The Garbage?



What To Do With An Unpublished Manuscript

The unpublished book.  There must be millions of manuscripts that sit in a desk drawer, on a bookcase, or inside a computer.  There are millions more ideas that never got turned into the books conceived in wannabe writers’ minds.  Where do these books and outlines for books go? What happens to them?

It may be a strange thing for a book promoter to contemplate, for after all I get paid to promote books that exist and not the could-have-beens.  But maybe there’s a connection between the two.  Could there be a use for the unpublished materials and fantasies that swirl around a writer’s head?

My first suggestion is that if you have a shelved project, dust it off and take another look at.  Perhaps now is the time to publish it, even self-publish if necessary.  Why let a creation go wasted and unread?

My next suggestion is that you destroy it.  Toss it to the wind and act as if it never happened.  Yes, burn it.  Crush the hard drive. Hell, toss the computer out.  Why? Because this act of aggression will unburden you.  Stop letting it eat away at you and laugh at you.  It taunts and torments because it reminds you of unfinished business, even failure.  Sometimes, like a bad relationship, you need to dump what’s weighing you down in order to feel free to pursue new people -- and new books.  Do you feel fearful -- or liberated -- at the thought?

A third idea for the material you crafted, depending on what it is, that it can be repurposed.  Maybe you publish some or all of it on your social media platforms -- blog it out, Facebook it, even Tweet it.  But do something so you get some currency from what you invested countless hours and brainpower on.

A fourth idea is to give it a hard look and see if another writer or editor can help you salvage it.  Or you may, with fresh eyes and time passed since you last wrote this book, will be in a position to give it a makeover and turn it into something better or different, something good enough to publish.

A fifth idea is to lock it away -- out of sight, out of mind -- and leave it for when you become famous.  Then you’ll be ready to publish it or have it published posthumously by a relative or friend who would think that was what you  would have wanted.

Maybe before you are in a position to do something about this aging, neglected manuscript you first have to confront why this glob of creation remains unpublished and unborn.  Is it just not good enough? Is it too revealing about your life that it can’t be made public?  Does the book need a lot of editing or cleaning up—and you’re just too lazy to do it?  What happened that you let your dream just rot away?

Many authors have an unpublished book because:

·         They couldn’t find a literary agent or a publisher -- and didn’t want to self-publish.
·         The book said things that could compromise a relationship or career or be the subject of a lawsuit.
·         The writer decided to write books in another genre and now it’s too late to write in both genres.
·         Competing titles were just too good to go against.
·         Some personal crisis arose and the book got pushed back.

I know all writers want to be published, received well, given critical honors and awards, to see their words impact others, and to create a legacy beyond their life.  The unpublished book is revolting, painful, and crushing to the writer.  It sits there in a way nothing else left over from years past can evoke such emotional torment and unrest.

Do something about it.

It doesn’t matter anymore that the book was never published -- unless it does matter, and if so, make one final effort to give it a home.  Otherwise, exorcise your demons and free your soul of this anchor.  No longer let it have any hold over you.  Meditate on it.  Consult your close friends and family.  Speak to a therapist.  But finally do something about it.  It will feel as if the prison door has opened.

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013


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 ©.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Short History of the Printed Word


The history of printing pre-dates Johann Gutenberg but few know the details of how printing came to be. I came upon a 1999 book that gives insight about how printing came to be, A Short history of the Printed Word, 2nd Edition by Warren Chappel and Robert Bringhurst. It makes clear the evolution, development, and significance of the printed word.

"The lucid and lively narrative is interspersed with more than 200 illustrations of calligraphy, typefaces, and pages from the greatest books ever printed, as well as presses and workshops," asserts the back cover copy. "The authors take the reader through the evolution of the printing press.  They explore the contributions of the great printers and typographers, from Gutenberg to Goudy, and investigate the complex interaction between the creation of moveable type and the societies it reflected and influenced."

I leave you with selected excerpts that are of particular interest to me:

A Millennium Of Printing
For nearly ten centuries, typographic printing has been a force of immense importance.  By typographic printing I mean impressions from master sets of characters accurately composed into words, lines and pages.  Such printing has been the tool of learning, the preserver of knowledge and the medium of literature.  Until the electronic age, it was the great means of communication over distances in space.  It remains the greatest means of communication across time.  The press has also become and remained a symbol of freedom, defended in Milton’s Areopagitica and protected in the U.S. Bill of Rights. Despite the press’s role in the spread of commercial propaganda and other forms of information pollution, and its widespread use for the manufacture of mass opinion in place of individual thought, freedom of the press remains a vital fact or aspiration in most societies of the world.

Apart from its importance as a means of communication, printing has had, and continues to have, an impressive life as an art and craft. On the lowest level there is a childlike pleasure to be derived from stamping and duplicating, not greatly removed from the delight of making mud pies. On the highest level – that of the best composition and presswork – printing affords the artist the many and varied satisfactions of meaningful texture and form.

Printing Prior to Gutenberg
      Everyone, it seems, has heard of Johann Gutenberg, even if not everyone knows that he was born in Mainz circa 1394 and died in 1468.  Many people know that Gutenberg printed a Bible, and many people know, or think they know, that he invented the process of printing from movable type. In fact, there are many books still in existence that were printed from movable type in China and Korea before Gutenberg was born.

The Benchmarks Of Printing
      What are the benchmarks that can serve as references and guides in tracing the history of printing?  I would put first an understanding of the alphabet, and an appreciation of its practical as well as its aesthetic aspects. Second, a regard for the sculptural nature of type as it was produced first in eleventh-century China and then by European punchcutters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. As the third and fourth benchmarks I would suggest awareness of the arrangement of type and the actual impression from it.  These four together determine the form and texture of a piece of printing, and are outside the time flow of people, places, events, developments and dates. It is possible to put the best piece of contemporary printing beside a page of the Gutenberg Bible, and to compare the two without asking the slightest concession for the older piece, on either aesthetic or technical grounds, though it was made 550 years ago. The best of the old books, like the best of the old paintings, are that good.

Digital Vs. Print
      It is possible that printed books as repositories of human experience and creativity may in time be overshadowed or even replaced by digital replicas.  Once made, such replicas are very quickly copied and easily stored in a small space – but they cannot be read without a prosthesis. They are invisible and useless without the intervention of an exceedingly complex, electrically powered machine.  Such a scheme may look good to accountants and to marketers.  But for authors and for readers, there can be no substitute for a well-designed, well-printed, well-bound book that one can see and feel as well as read.  A tangible, stable, well-made page is just as desirable, and just as useful, now as it was in the fifteenth century.

Handmade Books
      Most readers nowadays, alas, have never touched nor even seen a book made by hand from handmade materials.  That means most readers have never encountered a book made to be read with the whole sensorium.  The books of trade and academic publishers are as a rule now designed for the eye alone – and often for an inattentive eye that looks no further than the jacket. Trade books that are designed with care and imagination are prone to overdo the visual element, because when books are manufactured by an automated process from machine-made paper, chopped into pages and bound with a strip of glue, the visual is the only element left.  This accounts for a curious paradox:  some of the best-designed trade and academic books of recent years are also some of the worst designed.

The Cultural Importance Of Small Publishers
      In recent years, software engineering has placed typesetting capability – and even typefounding capability – into the hands of any author who desires it. Freedom to publish is also now, in many countries, almost absolute.  Yet in the English-speaking world, the printing, publishing and marketing of books is largely in the hands of a few gigantic firms.  Oddly, these are not firms for whom books and publishing as such are primary interests.  The companies most prominent in publishing are owned by other companies and managed as a consequence by persons whose profession is not publishing but managing. A publisher’s goals are, as a rule, to contribute to the culture by publishing good books, to enjoy the many pleasures of a literary life, and to make a little money in the process.  A manager’s goals, as a rule, are maximum market penetration, maximum market share, and maximum profit. These aims are not quite diametrically opposed, but they are different enough that, through their interaction, the face of publishing has changed.

To publish has traditionally meant – and to most publishers still means – to make public, on the simple understanding that what is openly known and valued has its own life and its own chance for a future.  That is all the immortality culture can provide.  To publish is not to preach, nor even to publicize, though both those things may also be involved.  But when its public spirit is withdrawn, publishing becomes another enterprise and needs another name.


Great books still come from the largest houses, but there is ample proof that publishing, like writing, is done best by those for whom a book is something more than just a marketable product, and by those for whom the beating of the heart and the singing of ideas are sweeter than the sweetest purr of money. As larger publishers have lost their independence, smaller publishers have grown substantially in cultural importance.  Many of the finest trade books issued in North America in the past quarter century have come from very modest operations.

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013


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, August 19, 2016

Q&A With Award-Winning Writer Ian Brown


Pens Significant Book On Aging That Was Featured in The New York Times Yesterday

A new book by award-winning journalist Ian Brown shows us what life at age 60 is like – and how one should view this point in his life, Sixty: A Diary of My Sixty-First Year (The Experiment, 9781615193509; Hardcover; $24.95; August 23, 2016).

Ian Brown is an author and a feature writer for the Globe and Mail whose work has won many national magazine and national newspaper awards. His most recent book, The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Search for His Disabled Son, was named one of The New York Times 10 best books of the year and reviewed in and featured on the front cover of The Times Book Review, and Ian Brown was the subject of a feature interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. The book was also the winner of the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction, the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and the Trillium Book Award. His previous books include Freewheeling, which won the National Business Book Award, and the provocative examination of modern masculinity, Man Overboard. He lives in Toronto.

An interview follows below:

11.       Ian, what inspired you to write a book about turning 60?

I began to  notice changes in my body, which, like most people, I had relied on to make most of my decisions since the age of 15.  Before that you are dependent on others.  Then, at around 60, which is the National Institute of Health's official age marking the onset of aging, your body becomes less reliable.  For me it started with my hearing.  I was at a story meeting, having just read a book about Cape Horn, when another writer said he wanted to write about gay porn.  I, naturally, said, "Oh, I love Cape Horn."  The other writer looked at me and said, "I didn't think you were the type."  And these small letdowns extended to my mind as well.  Because I was slowly balding, I started to use hair gel.  One morning, after rubbing some gel on my hands to rub through what is left of my hair, I applied it to my face, thinking it was sunscreen.  Because of course, now that I am sixtyish, I have to wear SPF 10,000 sunblock as well.  Sixty is the Age of the Unguents.In any event, these occurrences got me thinking about how we age, physically, and why it seems to come as a such a shock to most of us, psychologically and emotionally, when in fact we all age from the day we are born.  But something makes us want to live in denial of that fact.


2.       What is it about that age that made you question where your life was heading?

RegretsThe popular wisdom is that one should not have any, but I have never encountered any real human beings for whom that was true.  If you don't have regrets, then you have never known failure, and if you haven't known failure, then you are either an imbecile or living an unexamined life of denial. And you know what they say about the unexamined life:  it's not worth examining. But at the same time, my regrets—and while I have lived a fairly successful life, by some standards, I still feel I missed lots of opportunities, to write, to make money, to have a different life path—felt toxic, and painful,.  So I was keen to understand them, to see if they were excusable, droppable.  And this led me to realize that most of us approach aging—and this is partly our own doing, and partly the pressure of the youth-oriented culture we live in—as a form of failure.  Which is ridiculous, but widespread. 


3.       You are now 62. So, is life good in your seventh decade?

I never thought I would say this, but yes.  Increasingly, as I look back at my twenties, I remember them as an agonizing time:  money problems, trying to find my voice as a writer, disastrous love affairs.  My thirties were an improvement, but also difficult; in my forties I had kids, which was great, but also hard.  The in my fifties I began to worry that I had missed the boat.  It's only now that I can be more radical, and define my life in less conventional terms.


4.       Is your bucket list expanding or shrinking? Do tell.

It's shrinking, but getting deeper.  I am intentionally doing less—and I have a very wide range of interests—but doing what I do more intensively.  It's a way of mining detail, rather than skipping over it, as many of us tend to do when we begin to panic that we don't have that many years left.  You start conducting an actuarial analysis on everything you do:  I'm sixty, how many of these books can I actually read?  Is this the last Le Creuset sautee pan I will ever purchase—because those things last a dog's age.  Is this my last car, may last pair of hiking boots?


5.       What do you believe changes the most in your sixties: career, family, health, sex?

Sex changes, but in unexpected ways.  You do not have the same slobbering Labrador-like eagerness to endlessly fetch the stick, often to the boredom of the stick thrower; but you learn to fetch other things, too.  My sexual proclivities and interests became more catholic, if anything:  whereas I once tended to be attracted only to slim brunettes like my wife, nowadays, at 62, my head turns almost as readily nowadays at the sight of someone on a skateboard wearing a propeller beanie.  I guess it's not just sex that attracts me anymore; it's character as well.  This seems like a good thing, as I am even less apt to act on my desires than I was before.  I still notice striking women, for instance (I try not to, but can't help it), but they never notice me any more, which adds a kind of philosophical gravitas even to the despised male gaze—you look, but you come instantly face to face with your own unrequitable longing, which in turn can, with any luck, make you more human, less insistent, I think.  One's health becomes more of a lottery, despite what the self-help books say:  it's harder to buy insurance after 60 for a reason, as the amorality of chance and statistics come into play.  I have grown closer to my family, but they are around less:  my kids are more independent, my wife is busier and more social.  Maybe career is the real surprise:  whereas I once imagined retiring, now I cannot possibly imagine the day I will want to stop writing, and I write more, and with more discipline (though less endurance) than I did before.  And I'm more critical of my work, because I know more.

6.       In your book, SIXTY, you present a journal of your 61st year. How did you determine what should be included, and what should be left out?

That's an interesting question.  I'm a journalist; I have been trained to notice what is supposed to be true and important, what other people tell me is true and important, what's on the official, sanctioned agenda.  (That's why so much journalism is so boring.)  But when you keep a diary, you are forced back on what you, yourself, actually find true, as opposed to what you are supposed to find true.  Nicholson Baker, one of my favourite writers, once told me that when he woke up in the morning and found he had nothing to write about, he often jump-started his mental machine by writing about the best thing that had happened the day before. It was never what he expected it to be.  And so a diary becomes an exercise in discovering what actually matters to you.  It's rarely predictable, the way the official journalistic agenda is.  For instance, I spent a fair bit of time wandering the internet, trying to find out who else was 60:  a disgraceful habit, but there you are.  Oprah, is turned out, was 60, and so was Christie Brinkley.  The latter is a supermodel, and the former is super rich, and I am neither.  But they were both as close to the end as I was, and that, mark my craven words, was a huge and surprising comfort. And to my surprise, that is something readers respond to.  So the short answer is, you think about including everything, but in the end, what actually matters to you stands out, because it secretly matters to others as well, and somehow, mysteriously, you can feel that.

7.       Are many people in denial of their aging?

You are kidding, right?  Eveyone denies it. We all deny the fact that we are aging from the moment we are born.  Simone de Beauvoire said everyone lives a double life where aging is concerned:  the outer person denies getting older, while inside them is a double who ages constantly.  Eventually they can't ignore the aging double inside them anymore, whereupon their double life blows apart, and they have a mid-life or late-life crisis.  (That' why Goethe said "Age comes as a surprise to everyone.") Your brain stops expanding, and begins it's slow decline, at the age of 28; the elastin in your skin starts to disintegrate at 30, which is why your nose seems to get larger (your nose droops while your head shrinks); your bones are already turning to ash at 40.  And no one gets out of it alive.  The only question is, what does one do with that knowledge?   

8.       What does the aging process mean to you at your age?

It means that I can no longer deny my oncoming fragility; I have to face the possibility, however long I can hold it off.  So far I have been lucky.  But getting older also means recognizing that it's not my fault.  My father said to me, as he approached his own death—and he was a very graceful man, who hated being dependent on others--"don't get old."  I couldn't figure out what he meant for the longest time, until I realized that he was asking for my forgiveness.  He was trying to say, "can you forgive me for getting old?  Because if you can, then the odds are, someone will forgive you in turn, when you get old. And you will want that."  We seem to hold each other responsible for our respective declines:  that is neither humane nor smart.  And the aging process is a way for us to come to terms with that intractable fact, in the company of others.  I mean, look:  everyone I know has or recently had or is about to have aging, decaying parents.  They all describe the process as a massive (if sometimes hilarious or touching) pain in the ass.  But in fact—and I'm not trying to be sappy about this—it's a huge, huge gift.  Because it gives us a chance to return the favour they did us, and it gives us a chance to get to know them.  So I would say the aging process is an education in tolerance and compassion, and possibly grace. 

9.       What advice would you have for someone half your age?

Do everything you want to do that you are afraid to undertake for fear of failing at it.  Because failure doesn't exist, at least at that level.  You simply try, study what happened, and move on.

10.   How does turning 60 compare to other milestone years – 18, 21, 30, 40, 50?

Exponentially and existentially more traumatic.  Before you turn 40, you're simply too frightened and panicked to notice anything, with any degree of distance or composure.  

11.   You are a highly-acclaimed journalist and writer. Did turning 60 spark you to set your sights on a significant career accomplishment?

Yes.  It made me resolve to write more, write more books, write a novel, write more fearlessly.  Novelists like Martin Amis have made a career saying that if you haven't made it by 40, you will never make it.  I admire Martin a lot, but he is completely full of shite in that regard.  His own best work came after 40, as does the best work of (I would say) a majority of artists, many of whom are or were still producing their most lasting work after 60:  Picasso, Cassals, Hoagland, Hockney, Calvin Trillin, Matisse, Julian Barnes, Georgia O'Keefe, Scorcese, Tom Wolfe, Hayden.  The list is endless. 

12.   Who are some good models for turning 60 that we should look to as we approach this special age?

See my last answer.  But they don't have to be artists.  Jackrabbit Johannsen, the skier, was still skiing 100 mile trips at 90.  The Duc de Richelieu got married at 85 or so, then impregnated his girlfriend and had a child at 90.  He died in flagrant delicto at about 93.  Marinoni, the famous bicycle maker, is in his 80s, and still peels off 100 kms a day.  Hillary Clinton is in her 70s.  This illusion that we're all washed up at 50 and certainly by 60 is a creation of marketers, pure and simple—a way for capitalism to renew its customer base, and discard the one that has cottoned to its lies.


13.   You pose the question is sixty “the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning?” Which do you personally see it as and why?
Both.  But especially the later.  And thank God!  Because turning 60 takes the frightening edge off existence, and lets you see it more clearly.

14.   Now that you’ve passed your 61st year, what you are you most excited and/or concerned about for your next milestone: 70?

Frankly, to my immense surprise, I look forward to each day more than I ever did before:  I like to see if I can make it mean something, and if I can't, I like to figure out why.  It's a useful little exercise.  I would like to write a sequel at 70, but I am in no rush to get there, as they say.  Because I also know, as Phillip Larkin, the great British poet (ands the laureate of aging) pointed out, that each day brings me one step closer to the day when I will have no days left--whenever that day occurs.  Not soon, I hope.  But it will come, terrifying me all the way.   And while, like Larkin, I have a hard time conceiving of a world without me in it, it is not beyond the ken of my imagination.  Which, it turns out, is a good thing too—because it is the finite nature of our existence that makes the world seem so beautiful and exalted.  But it's very hard to understand that finitude before you turn 60.  I know Keats did it at 24, but he was Keats. 

15.   The book starts with you looking at a photograph of yourself in your forties.  Two decades later, what was the most unexpected advantage of aging that you’ve discovered?

To my immense surprise, that many of the personal and intimate details I noted in my diaries are known and understood by other people.  It's the most personal details that seem to resonate most with others, if only we are brave enough to share them.  Which in turn suggests that we are all, at our most intimate, the same.  And if we are the same, then war are also equal.  That's a radical observation, and, to me, a comforting and exhilarating one.  I think of it as the first gift of getting older.  

Ian’s publisher, The Experiment, is a client of the company I market and promote books for.

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013


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, August 18, 2016

Interview With NYT Best-Selling Author Andra Watkins



1. What inspired you to write your book?
I’m fascinated by people who died mysteriously. What really happened? How might they have changed the world if they were given more time? Theodosia Burr Alston (Dear Theodosia from the smash musical Hamilton) was one of those people. I visited her South Carolina plantation, now Brookgreen Gardens, when I was five. I walk by her Charleston home when I pop into the cheese shop. I’ve always wondered what happened when she disappeared at twenty-nine.

2. What is it about?
Hard to Die addresses the various rumors surrounding Theodosia's death by giving her a new adventure. She reappears 150 years later in Cold War New York City. Stuck in an in-between, timeless place called “Nowhere” – where people whose deaths are unresolved find themselves resurrected under the guidance of a “Nowhere” steward – Theodosia is presented with an assignment: she must help a living soul navigate a life-changing crossroad. If she fails, she is to be doomed to a fate worse than death – erased from history’s timeline, forgotten forever. Meanwhile, a young man named Richard Cox thought he could walk away from life as a spy in post-WWII Germany and begin again as a West Point cadet. He was wrong. His  former commander, George, finds him, and presents him with an impossible ultimatum: remain a spy… or die. In a darkened train station, Theodosia and Richard collide and become immersed in a world where no one is as they appear. As they fight their attraction to each other, they must learn to trust each other – or become pawns for a bigger foe determined to see them fail.
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book?
We’ve made reading a chore where everyone is writing a book, pining for purchases, begging for reviews, and bombarding friends on social media. Wasn’t reading supposed to give us time to unplug, find a quiet nook, and get lost in breathless adventure? t wrote Hard to Die to give readers an escape. I hope they’ll prop up their feet and lose themselves, AND I hope they’ll remember I made them feel that way.

4. What advice do you have for writers?
1. No never means no. 2. If you don’t wake up every morning thinking about how to sell another book, your books will die. 3. Marketing is an essential part of any business. Overcome fear and figure it out. 4. Consider what everyone else is doing but find ways to innovate.

5. Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
If I could predict the future, I’d already be a millionaire living in Europe. But I hope we reach a time when writers who work hard and create good stories will live above the poverty line. I hope we’ll see uniqueness and creativity on the page. And I hope readers reach a saturation point with free and realize they get what they pay for.

6. What challenges did you have in writing your book?
I always begin a book thinking I understand it. Very early, the characters take over and make a shambles of my plans. Because I don’t outline, I cull and rewrite more than many writers do. My books take longer to produce, meaning my author game is long. With Hard to Die, it didn’t help that I went blind in one eye while on final deadline!

7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
Because we all seek deserving ways to escape our lives. I wrote Hard to Die for harried readers looking to vanish into a story. It’s the gift of adventure. It makes readers laugh and cry, seethe and celebrate, but whatever they take from it, I want them to feel. Plus, Hard to Die is nominated for the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction.

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013


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 ©.

10 Sure-Fire Ways To Get Media For Your Book



In a world of millions of books, where authors, publicists, and marketers compete by the minute for media attention, how is one to gain notice?

Having been involved in promoting well over a thousand books, I can tell you what really works when seeking to capture the mindshare of the news media—and you may be surprised by what you hear from me.

First, you need to think like the people you are contacting.  How can you fill their needs and do so in a quick, painless, and convenient way? It’s not about you -- it’s about what a specific individual wants, likes, or needs.  Everything you say must be filtered in a way that clearly and directly appeals to what you believe they are looking for.

Second, timing is important. Know when that person is super busy or on deadline and be aware of when competing promoters and opportunists are contacting them.  Give them advance notice on timely topics or upcoming events – and then remind them as you get closer to a targeted date.  Send emails on the weekends -- most don’t – or early evening. Make calls when the media is not on the air or up against a deadline.  Don’t bother leaving messages -- page them or find out when they’re available to talk.

Third, don’t just offer yourself up as an expert on a general topic, such as dieting or relationships, but rather take a targeted issue and spice it up with a claim, question, or tip-filled email.  For example, your subject line could be this:  How women can shave 10 pounds in a week!  Or, it can be:  How safe is it to lose a ton of weight fast?  Or, it can be: 7 steps to losing fat safely and quickly.  Who knows, maybe you need to be more provocative or more specific.  Let’s try these:

“Does weight loss guarantee sex gain?”
“Oral fixation on food can be transferred to the bedroom.”
“6 tips for losing weight, gaining sex satisfaction.”

Four, be aware of what the media outlet or journalist typically covers and present your story the way they’d see it or report on it.

Five, know more about the reporter’s personal life.  Check out his or her social media and biography and keep that in mind when touching upon things the reporter may personally relate to, from marital status to hometown to race, religion, charities, schools, etc.

Six, keep your emails relatively short and don’t attach anything to them.  Avoid spam filters by avoiding certain words in the subject line, like “free” or anything too sexually graphic.

Seven, be clear in what you can talk about and be specific about things you would say.  For instance, if you have a book about pets, you can say you’ll discuss how a family should go about finding the pet that’s right for them or you can declare something like: "Why some people should never get a dog" or, :These are the 5 dog breeds young families must avoid."

Eight, every communication or contact with the media should be done politely but assertively – and always with confidence.  Don’t ask them if they’d like to interview you.  Instead, say, “I’m scheduling interviews on September 1, from 7 am EST to Noon EST.  Which time works for you?”

Nine, always look to relate your message to what’s in the news, on the calendar, or an honorary day/anniversary.  Remember, your pitch is not book-centric, but rather story-centric or expert-centric.  The key difference is about what you lead with and how you come off to the media.

Lastly, be available and ready to go.  If the media returns your call or email, respond ASAP and make your schedule flexible to fill their needs.  Sometimes the first source available wins.

Though the media is burdened with solicitations and competition is fierce, they are always looking to hear from someone new or with a new way of saying something old and standard.  Why not you?!

To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit

Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013


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 ©.