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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Interview With A Leading Business Book Acquisitions Editor

BookMarketingBuzzBlog recently conducted an online interview with Christina M. Parisi, the executive editor for New York-based business book publisher, Amacom Books. She has been in publishing for 14 years and now enjoys her job of acquiring quality books for publication. Here is what she had to reveal:

1.      Christina, what is needed to make the types of books that you work on successful in the marketplace today? As technology becomes more efficient and present, I think we will find that books will have to be very practical and useful, or they will have to be very unique in their ideas in order to compete. So, for example, in the past people may have chosen a basic how-to book on management when they were first promoted as a manager. Now a new manager may not think of a book first. They may consider looking things up on the Internet for free. Or purchasing an app that will walk them through the first few weeks. Or take a course or series of webinars. So that book, in order to be successful, needs to offer the information in a way that is extremely useful and not easily found elsewhere, or it needs to be offered in combination with other products. The information also needs to come from a credible source and have a good marketing team behind it. If the book has unique ideas it probably also needs to get to market quickly in order to succeed.  

2.      How have technological changes/advancements helped or hindered your efforts? I think in a way technology has made publishing both easier and harder. It's easier to write, publish, and self-promote something, but because it is so easy there are too many people out there doing it. And that makes it harder to stand out.

3.      What myths do some authors work under when it comes to marketing their books? I often see authors putting a lot of stock in the types of activities that sold books years ago, but that have less cache now. For example, endorsements. Some authors jump through hoops to get them when their efforts would be better spent elsewhere. While I don't think endorsements will hurt a book, generally speaking they are only worth getting if the person giving it is extremely well-known or because it will lead to a special sale. I've seen many authors insist on having endorsements on the back of the book when sales copy would have probably sold more copies. If you have people who are willing to write endorsements, but are not a household name and will not be purchasing bulk sales, you should encourage them to write a review on a website instead. That would help the ranking of the book online.

4.      If you can advise someone now, before they publish their book, what would you tell them to make it more marketable? To make the book more marketable I would check out the competition. See what readers complain about in regards to the other books. Are there topics that were missing? Was a question not answered? What were they hoping to find in that book as well as what did they love? Then make sure your book meets those needs. Similarly, look at websites where your potential reader would post questions. Do you cover the topics readers are most concerned about? Do you offer them solutions to the problems that keep them up at night? Then, of course, start making yourself more marketable. Build your platform and get involved. 

5.      What do you like the most about having worked the past dozen years with AMACOM? Amacom is a wonderful place to work, which is probably why the turnover is so low. We are like a family, and because we are not that large we work together more closely than at larger companies. We are also owned by The American Management Association (AMA), which makes us unique and gives us advantages that other publishers don't have. Through our seminars, web events, and other media we are a hub of information. If I want to know what's going on in the business world I only need to step into one of our classrooms or listen to one of our webcasts. Unlike watching the news that tries to anticipate how Wall Street or Main Street is going to respond to events, we are where managers and businesspeople go to brainstorm solutions to their problems. And that's an exciting place to be.   

6.      How much time do you spend using social media and what should authors do with it? Well this is a loaded question. We have a very extensive online marketing guide we give exclusively to our authors that tells them what they should do to market their book, so I can't divulge any trade secrets. However, you can see some of what we do by viewing our website (www.amacombooks.org). Amacom is very active in twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/amacombooks), on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AMACOMBooks), and we have an excellent blog (http://amacombooks.wordpress.com/). AMA was named one of the top 25 Twitter accounts by Ragan Communications (number 9 last I looked) (https://twitter.com/#!/AMAnet). Personally, I keep in contact with my authors and with agents through LinkedIn, and I keep up with some key blogs
  
Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com) and blogs daily at http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Best-Selling Author Interview: Meet Joseph Finder

MacMillan Audio recently hired my firm, Planned Television Arts, to conduct a radio tour for Joseph Finder’s new audiobook spy thriller, Buried Secrets. I enjoy representing his work to the news media because the radio stations really embrace him and it makes our lives easier. I had the opportunity to conduct an online interview with him the other day. Enjoy!

1.       Joseph, you have had several New York Times bestsellers. What do you attribute your success to? Persistence, luck, and a real effort to tell stories about characters readers can relate to. My books are thrillers, but they’re based in settings that are as realistic as I can make them. Readers probably aren’t going to find themselves stalked by sociopaths or held hostage at gunpoint, but most of them go to work in an office every day, sit through strategic planning meetings, worry about their next promotion, and do the other things my characters are doing before their worlds turn upside down.

2.      What is your newest book, Buried Secrets, about? BURIED SECRETS is the second novel to feature my new series character, Nick Heller. Nick is an international private security consultant – a “private spy,” if you will – who has set up his own business in Boston after leaving the firm he was with in his debut, VANISHED. Boston is Nick’s hometown, and BURIED SECRETS begins with his taking on a job for an old family friend, the man his mother used to work for. This man, Marshall Marcus, is an internationally prominent hedge fund manager, and his teen-aged daughter has been kidnapped by some very bad people.

3.      What advice do you have for writers struggling to get published? Learn from the masters. Read as much as you can in your chosen genre, and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Everyone learns how to write by imitating, so find good material to imitate, and rewrite your work until your own voice comes through. Ask people you respect for feedback — people you aren’t related to — and listen carefully to what they have to say. Keep asking, and keep revising. Nobody’s first draft is publishable. Nobody’s.  And then be persistent. Rejection is part of this business, and you have to be able to take it and keep asking. I tell people that finding an agent is harder than finding a job, and only slightly less difficult than finding a spouse.

4.      Do you have any marketing tips or social media strategies for today’s author to promote their books? I’m on Twitter and Facebook because I genuinely enjoy those sites. They’re like online break rooms for me, which is great because I don’t work in an office with a lot of people. In fact, I have to ration my time there, because otherwise they’re too much of a distraction.  Their real value in terms of promotion is about building loyalty and name recognition over time. You have to make the connection before you can make the sale. A lot of authors make the mistake of treating social media as advertising before they do the hard work of introducing themselves and building their social networks.  Getting on Twitter and asking people to buy your book is the online equivalent of standing on a street corner and shouting, and about as effective. You have to get to know your potential readers, and let them get to know you. Social media is invaluable for that.

5.      What do you find to be the most challenging aspects in creating your books? The great fun of writing is being able to ask “what if” about almost everything. What if that guy in Starbucks with two Blackberries is a political double agent? What if that nice elderly couple next door are actually part of the witness protection program? What if that stuffed animal on the highway shoulder was stuffed with plastic explosives? So the biggest challenge is probably just having to make those choices – making the decision to tell this story instead of that one, and commit to it for the 90,000 words it takes to write a book. Writing is a great job, but it’s a job. You have to sit in that chair every day and get it done, whether you’d rather be gardening or going to a baseball game or doing one more piece of research.

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com) and blogs daily at http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Days At The Today Show For A Publicist


Yesterday was one of those days most publicists strive to have but don’t often experience.  I spent some time with television icon  Henry Winkler, being part of his entourage at The Today Show and The Late Show with David Letterman. The experience reaffirmed why I promote and market books.

Being around a Hollywood legend is special but Henry makes it go smoothly with his humble, easy-going approach.  The Fonz is now 65 and his leather jacket was traded in for a sports jacket and a tie. He is still making movies (he just wrapped up the filming for one due out in 2012) and he’s still on TV (Royal Pains season premieres this week).  And now he’s a New York Times best-selling non-fiction author for his new book, I’ve Never Met an Idiot on the River.

I saw a man at peace with his celebrity.  He wasn’t barking orders or acting like a spoiled, insulated star.  Not that I expected that from him, but all too often we see such behavior from those we worship.

He was super friendly to everyone, from the camera grips to the hosts.  When waiting around in the green room of both TV shows he would just introduce himself to others in the area, including other show guests.  It turns out he knows everyone.  I mean everyone.

He’s like two degrees of separation – never mind six- from everybody. He even knew the other performers on The Letterman Show.  The musical act, Dawes, actually played for his daughter’s wedding.  Another guest, Transformers movie hunk, Shia LeBouef, played Henry’s son in Heroes.

At The Today Show, the guest that followed him was Kevin James, who is in Henry’s 2012 movie as well.  As Henry walked to or from the set of his interview he seemed to shake hands with familiar faces all around.  And if they were strangers he made them feel warm and welcome.

Even those he criticized respect and adore him.

For the Letterman Show Henry’s book got plugged in exchange for being a guest celebrity judge.  An unknown act was brought on stage, in this case an odd dance interpretation that looked like Blue Man Group if they were aliens.  Henry politely gave them a thumbs down under a segment called:  “Is This Anything?”  When Henry was leaving, he ran into the group in the hall and they asked to take a photo and shook his hands.  He feared they’d be angry in that their one chance for fame they were dismissed.   But they said they loved what he said and shook his hand.  Imagine, even in rejection they love him!

When coming out of the exit of both TV shows he shook hands with fans and strangers in the middle of Manhattan.  He could have ignored them and hurried to his car but he wanted to say thank you to those who support him.  He also must love the attention.  I don’t think it ever gets old to be applauded, to be liked.

As he walked towards his car, the paparazzi flashed off scores of photos. It must be fun to be him.  For part of a day, by association, I felt like I was him, and it is an unbeatable feeling, one you just want o bottle up and sip from when you have days when even a D-rated blogger or small-town radio producer turns your author down.

One of the funniest moments came when, after he did his six-minute segment on The Today Show, he was interviewed briefly by Al Roker for his six am show, Al In the Morning.  Thirty seconds into the taping, Henry’s cell phone rings.  Al answered it on the show!  It was Henry’s wife, calling to congratulate his successful appearance. But these two pros just incorporated what could have been a segment-killing embarrassment into a great bit.

In the time I spent with Henry I asked him a number f questions, but certainly didn’t want to be a pest.  I was so curious about what it’s like to be in his shoes.  But I am there to help him make sure things go smoothly, not for him to entertain me. Plus I was in awe. What do you say to a legend about a guy who has a career for about as long as I have been alive?

It was Henry’s day and nothing could go wrong.  I was so glad to be a part of it.  When you’re with someone who values his own celebrity but also seems to value others it is refreshing and inspiring.

Ann Curry, who was on The Today Show set but wasn’t the one to interview Henry, may have said it best when she told him, “Henry, do you know what you are?  You are amazing.”

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com) and blogs daily at http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Marketing Mistake: Charging For Author Autographs

There is a disturbing movement stirring about, according to a recent New York Times article.  Some independent bookstores are experimenting with charging for customers to attend author readings and book signings.

First off, this will only work, at best, with a handful of best-selling or celebrity authors.  No one is paying to hear an unknown, first-time novelist speak at a bookstore.  That is why you have these events, to give a free introduction to the author.  You want to attract people into the store and then seduce them into making a purchase.  If you charge an admission fee, even one that is applicable to the book purchase, you will alienate people.

Second, how practical is it to pull this off?  How will you segregate people paying to hear an author while five feet away you have non-payers browsing bookshelves and listening in if they choose to?  Will small stores with limited resources be able to staff and police this?

Certainly, author appearances outside of bookstores have been charged for.  That’s fine.  Usually, the author is speaking at length and perhaps is part of a panel of speakers.  You sit in cushy auditorium seats and you experience something special.  But an author doing several signings in local bookstores to drum up business for his or her book, shouldn’t be charging people so they can advertise to them.

Barnes and Noble and Borders don’t have a policy of charging for author appearances.  But independent bookstores are struggling.  They don’t want their stores turned into showcases where people listen to authors, browse the shelves, and then go online to download a half-priced ebook from Amazon.  I feel for the independents and applaud their willingness to try something different but what they should do is not charge for what used to be free but rather provide something extra for free.

Or upsell.  Provide added value.  Sell something in addition to the book being sold.  Maybe you package other books – at a discount – if purchased simultaneously.  Maybe the store sells some kind of premium item, like a T-shirt or mug, that celebrates the author.  Perhaps the store partners with a local business or restaurant and offers a Groupon-type deal for anyone showing they bought that author’s book that day.

We can do better than taxing loyal customers and potential readers. No one wants to be nickel and dimed or be treated this way.  If the bookstore wants to survive, it will depend not on desperate maneuvers but on innovative, supportive, and encouraging actions. 

I get it.  The book publishing industry is under a triple threat – bad economy, major changes in how books are sold, major changes in how books are promoted. But the road to recovery has yet to be paved and charging to attend a book signing is a road best left untraveled.

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com) and blogs daily at http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Book Marketing Lessons From The Mets

As a long-time Mets fan I have seen many more losing seasons than winning ones.  I’m not even talking about winning the World Series or even making the playoffs.  As the Mets play their 50th season of baseball they only had 23 seasons where they won more games than they lost.

But I don’t want to lament on how historically bad this lovable, frustrating sports franchise has been.  I only raise the point about how they turn in mediocre to record-setting seasons of ineptitude to make a different point.  I respect their ability to market a product that is clearly inferior.

They begin each season knowing they are the second best team in their own city (the perennial-winning Yanks steal the spotlight). They often aren’t even serious contenders to make the postseason.  So how does the team market itself?

·         It stresses the sport – the fun of baseball – over the fact the team stinks.

·         It oversells what few stars it actually has.

·         It hypes potential and the future – you can see the young stars of tomorrow playing today.

·         It stresses the “experience” of going to see a ballgame as being fun and exciting, even if your team stands a good chance of losing.

·         It sells history and loyalty and branding and talks about the few championships it has won as if they happened the other day.

Have I been brainwashed to root for a losing franchise?  I choose to love a team that regularly disappoints.  I’m sold on something, but it’s not on winning – so what is it?

The Mets television broadcasters show old highlight reels from years past whenever a game is delayed by rain.  This happened recently.  On one occasion they showed 1963 highlights and on another night they showed the 1975 season’s best moments.  Each of these neatly packaged shows reveals similar content –

-          Interviews with the new and upcoming stars.
-          The GM or manager speaking positively on how the team is improving.
-          The fun fans have when coming out to the park.
-          Footage of a few big hits or plays in the field.

I realize it’s all B.S.  The Mets were awful in both these seasons but the fans were sold then – as they are now – on something other than winning.  It is a sociological phenomena. Why would we spend our time or money championing a losing cause? It’s like going to see a movie you already have seen and it was terrible the first time around. Why would you think it will be better the next time?

I think there’s a lesson from all this that pertains to book marketing. It shows that good PR and marketing can overcome a less than perfect product.  This is true with most books. We market and promote potential – the potential for a book to entertain, inform, inspire, enlighten.  Whether fiction or non-fiction, we must present our books in a positive light. We have to sound convincing to others, regardless of how good the book is.

Most people don’t purchase books because the books are great.  They buy them because they hope or think they will be great.  Or someone told them they are great. 

It doesn’t mean one should lie when promoting or marketing a book or anything for that matter, but we should realize that no matter how good or mediocre a book is won’t matter unless you get people to discover it and buy it.

As long as you are of the frame of mind that people will benefit from reading your book you must market and promote it with the attitude that people need or want this book. Sometimes we have self-doubt about our book or we see so many other, perhaps better books out there and we lose a little courage or energy to promote our book.  Don’t fall victim to insecurity; go out there and push your book just as the Mets promote themselves. 

You don’t have to be a winner, apparently, to be profitable and successful.

***Brian Feinblum can be reached at brianfeinblum@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @thePRexpert. He is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts (www.plannedtvarts.com andfeinblumb@plannedtvarts.com )

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book Marketing Trend: James Patterson’s Dual Book Release

Mega best-selling author James Patterson, a prolific novelist whom my firm, Planned Television Arts, has promoted in the past, launched two new books on the same day this past week.  Most publishing executives can’t recall an author doing this before, although some authors have released trilogies or a series of books simultaneously (often, online).  We’ll see more of this, I am sure.

I don’t see the harm in releasing two books at once.  For a well-known author, people (fans) will likely buy both of them at the same time. For those who don’t know the author but stumble upon the books in the store have two chances to choose whether they’d buy his book.  When approaching the media, reviewers may choose to cover both or only one – or none, but that’s okay.  Coverage for one will help the other.

In this case, Patterson is not competing with himself because the two books released are for different audiences, which is a savvy move. One is for adults, the other for the pre-teen set.  The battle for market share begins early and if Patterson, 64, can already nurture a new generation of fans, why not?

The other interesting thing about the dual Patterson release is that he has collaborators on both books.  You don’t often see co-authors for fiction nor do you see big-time authors clearly stating they alone didn’t write the book.  Will authors now come out with branded series of books the way Donald Trump likes to put his name on a building without being involved in its construction?

Actually, it shouldn’t matter what name is on the cover.  Judge a book by its content.  Either you like it or you don’t and authorship shouldn’t change that.  But I do understand that people have expectations going into a book. If they see a particular name on the cover, they have a certain expectation on the style and quality of writing.  Perhaps that’s why ‘bestselling novelists have so many bestsellers – they write in a certain expected but appreciated formula that gives comfort to their readers.

Publishing has a long history of publishing books in unique ways.

Long after Gone with the Wind was published, a sequel came out, but it wasn’t by the original author.  There are other branded characters and superheroes or murderers villains that have reappeared in books written by authors who didn’t originally create them. A great story line or character may trump who does the writing.

There have been books issued with two different covers simultaneously. There have been books written as if they were true, but turned out to be hoaxes. There were novels written that were really thinly veiled fictionalizations of real people and true events. There have been books with a connection to TV shows in interesting way, such as a recently released book by someone named Hank Moody, the made-up author character in Showtime’s Californication.  There have been anonymously published authors and many authors publishing under a pen name. And there have been anthologies published that featured scores of authors. Maybe one day someone’s split personality or alter ego will write a book. Maybe they have.

Publishers are now experimenting with e-books. Should they release the ebook version at the same time the printed version pubs or delay it the way movie studios delay a DVD sale until after the movie is out of theaters? Some are making the ebook version a free add-on to the consumer who buys the printed version. Others are serializing their book, publishing one chapter at a time for a fee.

Publishers will publish long lost manuscripts that were incomplete but then quilted together by a book doctor hoping to cash in on the notoriety of the original author.  Publishers also repackage previously published works, hoping to give them a new push. In short, publishing will always seek to publish books in new ways – until the public lashes back.

Patterson should hit the best-seller list again with his new book.  He’s had 19 in the past decade.  After Now You See Her hits the list he’ll be working on releasing several more books this year.  I wonder if his co-authorr will outsource to another writer once he gets too busy.

It may not matter.  Readers are buying into the Patterson brand and as long as the books continue to deliver as anticipated, you may see a day where he releases a new book every hour.

And many will be on line to buy them.

***Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts (http://www.plannedtvarts.com/ ) and can be reached at biranfeinblum@gmail.com  or feinblumb@plannedtvarts.com and followed on Twitter @thePRexpert.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Marketing Lottery

I rarely play the lottery.  I know it’s for suckers.  The odds of winning are in the millions. Is my wealth strategy going to be based on winning the jackpot? I think not. But I bought a few tickets this past weekend.  I didn’t play because I felt lucky or deluded; I did it out of desperation.  I didn’t believe I’d win; I merely hoped to do so. I bought into a dream.

I’ll save the drama.  I didn’t win. In fact, out of six games, I only matched one number on one game. Statistically, that was probably a poorer result than most get. 

So much for a windfall.

Still, it goes to show you consumer behavior.  The fact that people will pay anything to participate in such a long shot is amazing.  Yet millions of people do it every day.

Perhaps there is a book marketing lesson in this.  People play the lottery because for such a little investment – a buck – you have potential access to tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.  Never mind the odds.  You’re in it to win it.

Do authors see their book the same way?  They print a book in hopes it will be their lottery ticket?  Indeed, for some, the strategy is the same because they do so little to help position themselves for a pay-off. They just think the book will magically sell itself.

Maybe a lot of book publicity and marketing is founded in lottery-like thinking as well.  When one promotes a book on weight loss or personal finance no one says “You’ll lose weight or “You’ll increase your wealth.”  No, they sell a pipe dream and go all the way.  “Lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks,” “Shed down to your high school prom weight.” Or “Lose all your unwanted weight and still have room for dessert.” That’s what we hear and then we reinterpret this, as a consumer:  “Oh, cool  I’ll lose all of this weight and I’ll look younger, feel better, have more energy, start dating, and get new clothes and…”  We get so excited about the ideal and the potential pay-off that it blinds us and we forget that there’s no miracle cure and that there’s hard work, sacrifice and discipline involved.

California Pizza Kitchen appealed to the lottery mentality recently.  They handed out scratch-off tickets that said you can win big but the only way to redeem your prize was to scratch the ticket in the presence of a CPK manager.  How ingenious? Rather than using a winning ticket to entice you to go to the restaurant it is the possibility of winning that forces you to go back there.

Some stores offer rebates when you buy something. They want you to ignore that you’re spending $300 for a smart phone but emphasize that you’ll get $25 back.  It’s a psychological thing.  Plus, even better for the merchant:  So many people forget to fill out the rebate form or lose it.

Many companies offer rewards programs where you use a credit card to build up points that can be cashed in for something like an airline ticket.  Some places, like Supercuts, offer a frequency-loyalty discount, where you have a card stamped every time you go there and eventually you earn a free haircut.

I’ll have none of that.  Just give me a great product, quality service, and a fair price.

But the world doesn’t work that way – and neither does book marketing. You need to sell the dream as if it’s a certain reality and you’ll have to dangle the unachievable ideal as a reason to buy in.  You don’t have to lie and make false claims – but you will be inviting people to sell themselves with the lure of living a dream.

Maybe you should write a book about how to win the lottery and package it with a lottery ticket. I have no doubt people will buy a book about strategies for winning a totally random, luck-filled, long-shot lottery. 
The next drawing is coming. Did you buy your ticket yet?

***Brian Feinblum can be reached at brianfeinblum@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @thePRexpert.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Not Everyone Wants to Be an Author or Blogger

As hard as it may be to imagine, not everyone wants to have a book published or write a blog.  That’s my wife, Laura, who is building a nutrition practice and recently launched her web site (www.laurafeinblum.com).  I advised her, like any good book marketer, to start blogging and to write bylined articles for various Web sites and publications.  I encouraged her to write a book.

She’ll have nothing to do with it, at least for now.

She is not looking for fame nor does she feel she has to write about everything she knows.  How novel!  Instead, she wants to market herself to get patients and to help people.  Maybe in time she’ll see it’s not an either/or thing, that one can use social media and publishing to attract clients and help spread the word about nutrition while not falling victim to serving one’s ego and need for 15 minutes of fame.

Maybe good nutrition comes down to a simple formula:  eat less junk, exercise regularly, and contain your addictions.  There, no book or blog is needed.  You now know the secrets to better health.  Ok, well, maybe it’s not that simple.  Certainly, one size doesn’t fit everyone.  Nutrition counseling has to be customized to the patient’s needs.  It can be deeply personal.  So many things factor in – disease, age, culture, education, economics, psychology, physiology.

Many people have an idea on how to eat properly, but lack the self-discipline to follow what they know.  Others are confused or not fully informed on how to eat well.  There are so many different diets, many of them presented in the books my firm represents.  Some of these books and diets directly conflict with one another on the best approach to take.  Doctors and scientists know a lot about diet and fitness but we’re still at a stage where experts can disagree and where not everything has been settled completely and irrefutably.  Plus our society has become too selfishly accustomed to eating what it wants, when it wants to.  This attitude runs counter to the part of us that knows better health comes with better nutrition.

While my wife figures out the whole blog and book thing, I’m going to help myself to a healthy portion of chocolate ice cream.  Maybe if she starts blogging about healthy snacks I won’t be able to enjoy my secret pleasures as much.  Ok, maybe she shouldn’t blog after all.

***Brian Feinblum can be reached at brianfeinblum@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @thePRexpert.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Domain Names for Book Marketers

As an author you wonder what you should name your Web site.  Many opt for their name or the title of their book.  Some do both. Others try to use a keyword that is friendly to their subject matter (i.e.: dogbookexpert.com).   Others pick a name that seemingly doesn’t mean anything but sound memorable (i.e.: google.com). Some may try to play on famous phrases and twist it slightly to reflect their subject  (i.e.: anappleadayandmybookkeepsthedoctoraway.com).  Some like putting the letter “i” in front of the URL (i.e.: idogbookexpert.com). Well, the last one may be too long, but you get the idea.  But what if the rules governing web site addresses changes?

Well, it is.

Starting, January 12, 2012, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the group that governs Internet domain names, will begin accepting applications for new domains.  This means we will start to see URLs that go beyond the common .com .org .info, etc.  It also means more variety in the marketplace and more money being spent to win the Web branding real estate sweepstakes.

A number of dot-com millionaires made their money by cyber-squatting.  They would buy up scores of domain addresses – sometimes thousands – and resell them to others for big bucks.  Some names sound so authoritative and memorable that some companies just had to have them.  But in some cases people had their names hijacked.  Imagine having to buy back a web site address with your own name?

One of the new changes offered by ICANN is to allow some corporations to have their own suffix.  We might soon see .apple and .starbucks.  But not every organization, person, or company will get their own dot.  The application costs $185,000 and the form is 360 pages long.  It looks like the Internet will become more commercial as a result. Further, there will be a wider gap between who has access to things like certain domain names.

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, there were some 211 million Web site addresses in use around the world, as of April. Nearly half of these were .com sites. But there could be an explosion of new site suffixes and Web addresses that will transform how information is searched for online.

So what might this mean for the book industry and book marketing?

The online universe keeps expanding, much like our physical universe. There will be more domain names than there are people.  It’s estimated there are a trillion web pages in existence right now The search engines will have plenty of new addresses to input and track soon. GoDaddy must be excited at the prospect of selling more domain names.

The domain name game may not mean too much for book publishing.  The only ones who could afford a suffix with its company name will be the major publishers and retailers, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Random House, Harper Collins, etc.  This will certainly help further their brand recognition, though many publishers still don’t fully use their names to sell as many books as they can.

Many publishers push book sales to go to Amazon, bn.com or to Borders and wherever books are sold. But publishers will one day realize they need to take on more retail functions.  We may see Simon and Schuster open their own store one day.  Or Wiley & Sons may start processing ebook orders directly on their site without referring customers to a retailer. Apple will probably publish books for sale on its ipad.

So we might start seeing a whole bunch of new web site addresses but the strategies used to promote a site still remain the same.  But if you did have $185,000 to spare, what kind of URL would you chose?

Maybe, we’ll see a new trend, such as people using inverted site names.  Instead of book.com we’ll have koob.com.  It’ll be all the rage to do your name in reverse. That alone could double the domain names out there.

Actually, if the suffix .book, .publishing, and the like come to be, you will see a lot of authors and publishers flock to that suffix. Our society will become more segmented. We’ll come to see a certain suffix as the place to look for something on that topic. This could also lead to duplication and confusion, as people won’t abandon their old sites out they will add on a new one.

But before you get caught up in domain names, continue to do the core basics, including writing a really good book and promoting the heck out of it.  Don’t get caught up in the things that seem interesting but don’t really yield sales.  Otherwise you’ll be registering for a name like www.canyouloanmemoney.book.

 ***Brian Feinblum can be reached at brianfeinblum@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @thePRexpert.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Marketing Lessons From Scrabble Players

Millions of people like to play Scrabble.  I love the game because it allows for the combination of two of my passions:  words and strategy.

Scrabble, on the surface, looks like a game only smart people with good vocabularies would be good at.  The fact is, sometimes the brainiacs are at a disadvantage because they place a different value on words than the official scoring calls for.  Sometimes a simple two-letter word, placed in the right spot on the board, can be worth more than some SAT-type word, simply because of how the points are tabulated.

Each of the 100 letter tiles have points assigned to them. When you place them on the board, depending on whether there are bonus spaces for double-word scores and the like, your score is calculated.  Should you use all seven of your letters on one turn you add 50 points to the score of the word you just made.

Many people play the game virtually, either against a computer, or online with players far away.  If that’s what keeps the game alive, that’s fine, but I don’t favor it.  Nothing beats feeling the tiles as you draw them out of a pouch and turn them over to see what you got (as if a kid looking at a Cracker Jack prize).   Plus, I enjoy seeing my opponent, face-to-face, watching them study and manipulate their letters, mentally and physically.  You can hear them moan over the letters they have or see them perk up with confidence, in anticipation of a big word score.

The game of Scrabble is much like the game of book marketing.  In both cases, composing big words doesn’t ensure a winner.  It all depends on how you keep score. In Scrabble, a word like jo or ax can net you 27 or more points depending on the circumstance, whereas a word like paragon may only net you 10 points.  With books, you can write 300 pages of great prose, but without proper distribution, aggressive PR, and savvy marketing, your book may sell far fewer copies than a book about bird droppings.

Scrabble also reminds me that the standard of victory exists based on who your opponent is.  You don’t have to score a set number of points, such as 400, to win.  You just need to finish one point better than those you play against. Book marketing is similar in that there is no predetermined book sale total to become a bestseller.  You just need to sell as many copies as you can and to outsell your competition.

There is some luck in Scrabble – the letters you and your opponent draw – but the game is driven largely on skill.  Book publishing also has room for luck – you never know who will discover your book or why they will embrace it – but the industry is driven largely on how skilled you are at promoting and marketing your book.

The game of Scrabble comes with a timer.  I never play with it but some people use it to ensure the game moves at a certain pace and to add a layer of challenge to the game. The book publishing industry also has a timer, though it is invisible. There is an urgency to push your book out there, especially during the first three to four months upon publication.  Whether you realize it or not, a book can age out of its relevance.

Perhaps the thing I like best about Scrabble is that the game keeps me sharp for the challenges of book marketing.  Every new hand of tiles that fate deals me forces me to go through mental gymnastics to systematically test word and letter combinations.  I scramble to figure out words that score the most points while taking into consideration how the placement of the word on the board could potentially help or hurting my opponent.

There’s something about the game that reinforces my creativity and my answer to the challenge posed before me. I love the idea of converting letters and words into points and wins.

Sometimes I wish book marketing could be as exact and finite and rewarding as a nice neat game of Scrabble.

*** To contact Brian Feinblum email brianfeinblum@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @thePRexpert.

Friday, June 17, 2011

PR Can Stave Off The Recession For Your Book

All economic indicators and financial pundits agree we’re struggling to rebound from a deep recession that could get uglier before it stabilizes.  However that doesn’t mean you can afford to not market or promote your book.  In fact, this may be a better time for you to do so since conventional wisdom says the first thing to cut in slow economic times is advertising, marketing, and PR.  What others fail to do shall provide you with less competition and more opportunity.

If you agree on the fundamental of business that the way to make a sound product or service profitable is to market it, then there’s no reason to shy away from that just because the economy is rocky.  But what you should do is spend wisely and get the most return on your investment.

True, the nation is in an economic war, meaning everyone is battling for the same dollar.  Money is scarce, credit tight.  But in order to make money you need to spend some.  If you still believe there’s a market for your book, then you must market to it.  If you were convinced people won’t be interested in reading it, don’t promote it.   But the economy didn’t change this – only your perception did.  If you have a book that appeals to 60 million dog owners or 160 million women or some other large group or targeted niche, you should market your book.  The only thing that’s changed with the recent economic tumble, is that you’ll need to market smarter and, more often than before.  It’s a numbers game, always has been.

Over the past few years, despite a rocky economy…

·         The words in your book haven’t changed.
·         The ways to market your book haven’t changed.
·         The number of people who’d be interested in your book hasn’t changed.

What’s changed is fear rules reality, guessing trumps facts, uncertainty exceeds certainty.  If marketing a book was good idea six months ago, then it’s still a good idea today.

Okay, so fewer people will buy anything, and they will spend less money than before.  But what will they buy?  They will buy the book that helps them escape (a great novel, humor, photography), they will buy books for their kids, they will buy business books (to find a way to make money), and they will buy any book they would have bought previously unless that book covers a toxic topic.  Toxic books include books whose advice can’t be implemented, ie: how to buy and sell real estate during a boom (don’t make me explain this one).

The rules to promoting a book during a recession are the same when the economy is solid: get out there and speak before groups, do radio and television  interviews, send your book to reviewers, blog and seek out online opportunities; and tie your message to what’s on people’s minds or in the news.

If you let the recession scare off your promotional efforts you might as well not publish your book either. But if you recognize that there is opportunity in the marketplace, rev up your PR efforts and put your best foot forward!

*** Brian Feinblum can be reached at brianfeinblum@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @thePrexpert.