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Friday, February 28, 2014

Writing Beyond Your State of Life


When you feel like you are stuck and in a cycle of intellectual poverty, what do you, as a writer, do?

You keep on writing, no matter what.  One strategy is to write your way out of a block, to just forge ahead until you start generating the words that have flow and take you over the wall of boring and mediocrity.

Or, you pause and stop practicing a bad habit.  One strategy is to take a break and step away from the situation.  Get some distance between your thoughts and sever the highway that connects your brain to paper.  We sometimes see more clearly when we remove what is directly in front of us.

Either method, depending on your emotional and mental circumstances, can work well.  Or both can fail.  A third strategy is to gain new input.  Take a vacation of the mind, maybe the body too, and start to add new ideas to your writing life.  Read books, blogs, magazines or newspapers that you normally don’t.  Talk to new people, travel elsewhere.  Change your scenery around you and inwardly you begin to evolve.

Writing is a reflection of one’s state of mind, intelligence, experience, imagination, and our way of reacting to our physical surroundings and physical capabilities.  The writing muscle needs to be worked – and stretched beyond its limits.  Writers can go where the physical world can’t, where time can’t reach, where distance is bridged by your creative thoughts, and where a new dimension dwells that no one else can be in.

Book marketing block, like writer’s block, can hit authors as well.  Sometimes it comes for the same reason as when writers are stumped when writing; other times it comes from fear, lack of encouragement, minimal resources, lack of desire, or some kind of mental conflict.  Sometimes book marketing efforts/time are in direct conflict with a writer’s need for time to write.

Sometimes the best way to get over your writer’s block is to read the works of others.  By escaping in the words and worlds of someone else, you relax and transform your mind into a new state of being.  Then you’ll be ready to become the writer again – and you will create the book that someone else will read to break their writer’s block.



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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Working Your Own Book PR Miracle


I can’t tell you how often I hear authors telling me they tried everything and don’t believe that anything they do will make their book sell. The truth is, they only tried a fraction of what could be done – and they only experimented with these things briefly. That’s not the way to go.

Though it’s true that some books will never really take off, due to any number of factors, including a bad book, bad reviews, lack of distribution channels, high price, ugly cover, terrible title, no marketing, no PR – many books can improve their sales with some smart effort to promote and market them.

No one holds the miracle cure to turn a book into a must-read, but there are many proven methods that take time, money, luck, efforts, and good word-of-mouth to come through.

If your book isn’t selling well, think about the following:

1.      What are you doing, on a daily basis, to push sales?
2.      Have you given out enough free copies to get positive testimonials and good word-of-mouth going?
3.      Are you active – and effective – with your social media? Are you on all platforms – and really doing all that you can to increase your connections and spread the word about your book?
4.      Are you – or someone you hire – pitching the news media?
5.      What are your competitors doing that you are not – and what can you do that they can’t or choose not to do?

I believe that many authors try things and fail; but the answer is not to give up – unless you no longer believe your book is any good. If you don’t believe in your book, no one will.

When selling a book you need to set goals. How many do you hope to sell today? How much of your resources will be required to sell that many? Start to figure out what it really takes to sell books. Hoping and demanding sales happen won’t cut it. 


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

Special! An Interview With Author Judith Fradin



Judy Fradin, author, with her late husband Dennis Fradin,  is the author of such distinguished books as “5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft’s Flight From Slavery,” and the “Witness to Disaster” series, generously agreed to an interview with us.  Some recent Fradin books are TORNADO (National Geographic Children's Books), ZORA! (Clarion), STOLEN INTO SLAVERY (also Geographic), and THE PRICE OF FREEDOM (Walker).     

Have you always wanted to be a writer?  When did you start writing?
Before I became Dennis’s co-author, I was a high school and college English and history teacher.   I loved teaching, and I currently teach college courses in Children's Literature and in Minority Voices in American Literature at National Louis University in Chicago. I especially enjoy visiting schools and speaking with students and teachers.  I have spoken in public and private schools all over the United States, and I’m always happy in front of a classroom of kids. 

What is it about nonfiction that draws you?
I LOVE non-fiction, for nothing is more intriguing than reality.  It is also a bottomless well of great stories. I’m sure you’ve heard that truth is stranger than fiction.  For fun, however, I love reading mysteries, and would like one day to write one myself–for young adults.   I’ve also written the first 40+ pages of a fiction book for teenagers.  

Do you have any input on the design of your finished books—choosing photographs, choosing what should be illustrated, etc?
Thanks for the question about photographs and illustrations.  That is my bailiwick.  I also adore caption writing, for I think a great caption complements the existing text.

Finding the right images for our books is much of what I do.  Generally, we provide our photo editors with a large choice of images from which they choose the ones they feel work best with our text.   They also decide, along with the designer, about picture placement, image size, and how lettering might fit atop certain images.  When Walker chose Eric Velasquez to illustrate THE PRICE OF FREEDOM, I provided him with the photographic material to help him make his imaginative paintings non-fiction as well.

Have you ever gone on trips to do research for your books, or do you do it all at the library?
Dennis and I frequently traveled to gather information and photos.  For our WITNESS TO DISASTER:  DROUGHTS (National Geographic Children’s Books) we drove around Texas and Oklahoma for a week interviewing survivors of the 1930s Dust Bowl, then spent two days at the Oklahoma State Historical Society gathering images. 

We have met dozens of fascinating people in the course of our research.  When Dennis wrote THE PLANET HUNTERS we spent two days with Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto, and his wife Patsy in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  At that time, he was the only living discoverer of a planet.  We also flew to Puerto Rico to visit the radio telescope installation at Arecibo prior to completing that book--only to arrive a week after the first extra-solar planet was discovered there! 
I have also spent countless hours in the Prints and Photos room at the Library of Congress gathering images for our historical books.

How do you and your husband work together?  Is it hard?
People often ask us how we worked together.  We each researched our topics individually.  Since we live and work in the same house, we spent lots of time discussing every aspect of that research.   This was particularly interesting because we were generally working on several books at any given time.   Dennis usually wrote the first draft of a book while I hunted down the most fascinating photos–sometimes from scientists, sometimes at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., sometimes obtaining them from people involved in our projects.  Occasionally I took them myself!   I then tackled the text and Dennis helped me select the photos that we submitted to our editors. 
My short, silly answer is that he worked upstairs and my office is downstairs.

What are your hobbies when you aren’t writing?
When not working, I spend as much time as possible with our children and grandchildren.  I am the grandmother of 5 girls and 2 boys ranging in age from 15 to 3 years, and I always keep them in mind when writing Fradin books.

Many of my happy moments are spent in the small garden where I grow flowers, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach and chard for my family.  I especially enjoy watching our Fradin grandchildren pluck cherry tomatoes off the vines and pop them into their mouths.  I garden year-round; I will be starting my lettuce and spinach seedlings in the house by the end of December so they’ll be ready to plant in the early spring. 

My favorite flower is the dahlia, and I’ve been cultivating dahlias for 40 years.  Our daughter and son-in-law even named their younger daughter Dahlia! 

I hope I’ve answered some of your questions.  Thank you for shining the spotlight on this cheerleader for non-fiction.

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

Sell A Book Like A Car Salesman



I recently had the displeasure of buying a car, having to go through the process of shopping at car dealerships. Next to the banks, casinos, and realtors, there’s no one as untrustworthy as auto dealers. They never prove that assertion wrong. But my most recent buying experience leads me to this blog post topic: What really influences a sale to take place?

They tend to get done with the consumer acts under a mindset of fear and insecurity, with a heaping of ignorance.

Perhaps you expected me to say sales take place based on price, quality of product, filling a certain need, fulfilling a desire, buying on a recommendation, etc. Maybe you thought I’d say sex sells anything or that things get bought because people see a way to turn around and resell them at a profit.

Certainly there are many factors at play, but if I learned any strategies from car dealers about how to sells something, even a book, here they are:

1.      Draw them in with a misleading or an  incomplete offer.

2.      Make someone feel they deserve to buy your book, that they should treat themselves.

3.      If price is an issue, just highlight the perceived benefits of the book or product and then eventually get to the price. Make the consumer feel they have to have your book -- and then they’ll pay anything.

4.      Whatever price you charge, add on fees. Throw in an extra service or something that sounds mandatory or standard, just like when you buy a concert ticket and pay the ticket price, tax, handling, shipping, processing, arena fee, and other BS that adds 20% to your ticket price.

5.      Use neutral chit-chat to disarm the buyer and make him or her feel like you’re a friend. 

6.      Be ready to substitute one book or product for another, in case you see the consumer is undecided on exactly what he wants.

7.      Plant seeds of fear in the head of the consumer. Tell them what they’ll lose if they don’t buy from you.

8.      Pressure them with made-up deadlines and deals that are only good for a short time.

9.      Always smile, be courteous and pleasant. It never hurts to laugh and seem like you’re at ease. Calm begets calm.

10.  Sound knowledgeable. Just keep citing facts and throwing in some convincing stats to sound like the experts declare your book or product as peerless.

The truth is, many sales occur because the buyer didn’t do a real price comparison and shop around extensively. Too often buyers want to trust others and buy on instinct and short-term thinking. They transfer their abilities, skills and desires onto the sales person and desperately want to make a connection and act on the assumption that the salesperson is really trying to help.

But most transactions, especially bigger ones, occur out of blind faith and a level of ignorance. The buyer may not be IQ stupid but he or she is not really fully informed of what to ask or look for. They make assumptions and don’t make the salesperson prove much of anything. A good salesperson sells you back your own words, hopes and concerns. He becomes your therapist.

As a consumer, I try to reverse the process and look at it that I’m the salesperson and I’m selling them a buyer. I think about their ignorance, fears, concerns, needs and challenges in the marketplace and ask questions that plant doubts in their heads. It works most times, but I'd pay a price of burning time, energy and mindshare in order to discipline myself to engage in this process.

When buying a car I usually take 20% off the MSRP or sticker price. Anything less than that means the negotiation wasn’t tough enough. They will tell you about their invoice and how they are losing money selling you a car baloney. They have all kinds of incentives from the government, the parent company, etc. that we don’t know of. They have all kinds of costs and competitive needs that influence their moves. Even if they take a loss on a car, they do so to move a car out and get a better one in. Or they make it up when they give you a loan. You get the picture. Once you see things through the eyes of a salesperson and a business, you can more effectively be a consumer and salesperson.

Good luck in selling your books or marketing your services. Remember, your consumer may not be fully informed and under some type of mental strain. Seize their weakness as a selling opportunity Everyone else does it.

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Can You Write A Book That Never Ends?


Every writer has a good story to tell, but can you write a never-ending story?

General Hospital, one of the last-standing soap operas, is celebrating its 50th anniversary and 13,000th episode.  Imagine a story that has no conclusion, but just keeps going along. Granted, not much if the original story line may exist, but the story, like life, evolved and progressed in a connected way to get it to where it is today. Can a writer create a book that is delivered episodically online, forever? Why not?

I am not talking about a brief experiment, where a new page or chapter is posted daily or weekly over a set period  of time. I am talking about a drip approach, of say 1,000 words a day-- weekends and holidays included. Every two or three months the equivalent of a new book would be released. Forever. Or until the author dies or stops writing. And if the author wants to mentor another to take it over at some point, that is good too.

How would consumers respond to such an opportunity? Would they embrace the novelty or would they feel burdened by it? Would the author be able to create at such a hectic pace?

For those who blog daily you might say it is no big deal to do what I am proposing, though I caution, daily fiction is vastly different than penning daily musings and non-fiction.

Soap operas that run a half hour a day are really 22 minutes long when you factor out commercials. If in each minute, 250-275 words of dialogue are spoken, it would appear 5500 - 6000 words are used each day of the business week ... Or 30,000 words a week. In two or three weeks that would equal a book. Which is more challenging-- to use a lot of words to tell a story-- or a few?

How would an author charge for this? A five-year pass? A two-year deal? A one-year subscription fee?  A daily fee of a few pennies? Get a corporate sponsor?

If you think about it, the author doesn't have to write 1000 words a day. He or she can take three months to write a book and then release it in increments, and while that is going on, he or she is doing the next book. So this allows for authors to take breaks, be sick, travel or do whatever while not altering the delivery schedule to consumers.

There is something radically different from reading something as it unfolds daily than to consume a whole book in a day or week. I don't think one can just chop a book up into 90 mini chapters. One has to write with that format in mind and to use the format strategically in the way characters and ideas are introduced and manipulated.

We do many things daily-- read certain blogs and newspapers, watch a TV show like a late night comedy or the news-- and our addiction to routine and familiarity are satiated. So why not an episodic book to ground us and provide an escape from our life challenges? We know this formula worked for a long time on TV with soaps. Are we ready for it in book form?

We try to capture the soap feel when we submerge ourselves into reality shows but they don't air often enough to fully lose your life into them.

Maybe if there were different themed soap books that could capture the stages of our life, we would have a winner. For instance, what if we had book soaps written for a five year old, a six year old, etc... one for each age and stage... high school, college, grad school, moving out, marriage, kids, etc.? We can have a star of each soap appeal to a specific segment or lifestyle... Gay, Latino, West Coast, Seniors, etc. So no matter your demographic in age, sex, education, income, etc, there is a soap book that you could tap into and get hooked on.

I think I am on to something. Feel free to use my idea... If you can pop out good fiction at a fast pace you should be able to pull it off.

On the other hand, if you can convey a strong message in a story that takes the length of a standard book, do that as well. There is a readership for every topic, every format. With good book marketing, you will find your readers.

Good luck on your 70-year adventure!


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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bookstore Sales Decline At Slowest Rate In Five Years


Bad news can be good news.

Sales, as measured by bookstore sales dollars, declined by 1.6% from a year ago – but this represents the tiniest decline in the past five years. Cumulatively, sales are down 17.2% since 2008, when over $16 billion came through stores. Now it’s at $13.19 billion, as of the end of 2013.

The severest decline came in 2011, when a double-digit loss occurred when Borders folded up.

Bookstore sales peaked in 2007, with $17.17 billion. That was the year before the Great Recession hit, and before Kindles, and before Borders went bankrupt. That may seem like the height of the golden era for books.


GUEST POST BY SAM MOFFIE

 
There is so much to love and so much to hate about the world of book publishing, writing, and the world of books.  In reality, just growing thick skin and shrugging off the rejection letters and bad reviews is all there is to hate about the world of books. You can't sit there and bemoan not becoming instantly rich and famous after you have banged out a novel or two or three. It just doesn't happen that way... never did. Oh, of course there is always the exception to the rule, but that happens anytime, anyplace, anywhere. In our instant good/bad news culture we always hear about it. So, don't obsess that IT hasn't happened to you, because it just might if:
 
You don't give up. You work at your craft. You listen to those who offer constructive critiques. You don't waste your hard earned money on frivolous investments in contests, promotions, and reviews that make YOU ante up AND make YOU do all the work.
 
A few years ago, I took the first chapter to one of all-time favorite novels Vonneguts Breakfast of Champions.  I re titled it The Perfect Martini  and sent it out to a zillion top literary agents and publishing houses. I didn't change one letter from Kurt's original first chapter. All but one rejected it. The one that caught it was a young literary agent who had just read the novel a few months ago and busted me. I wrote a piece about this that was widely circulated by The Onion on-line edition. I called it God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut.
 
Why am I telling you this? Because Kurt's son Mark ( am award winning author and now doctor) himself read the story and contacted me and told me that his father once worked up a nice buzz with fellow author Jerzy Kosinski (The Painted Bird). Kosinski was as buzzed as Kurt and they did the same thing that I had done with Kurt's book to one of Jerzy's novels and that novel was only a few years old! Naturally every publisher house turned it down. I used this tid-bit in my fourth novel The Book of Eli.
 
In other words (pun intended), it takes a lot -- I mean A LOT to make it in this business. That's the beauty and the beast of it. If it was easy, everyone who has a novel in their desk would be doing what we do.
 
And they are not.

Polar Vortex 1, 2 and now 3 had an advantage if you drive a snow plow, like to watch the Weather Channel, live in a very warm climate or write novels. I'm the latter, and I am just in the process of putting the finishing touches on my latest novel  Requiem for a Casanova.  For more on me and my previous award winning and critically acclaimed fiction novels - - please visit my websitehttp://www.tokilltheuke.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, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Three Moves To Cheer On TV


Piers Fired, Bartiromo Re-Hired, Meyers Launches


The fast-paced, cut-throat world of national TV continues to move at a speed beyond comprehension, but three new moves make perfect sense.

Former SNL funnyman Seth Meyers debuts his late, late-night talk show tonight.  Jimmy Fallon, also an SNL alumni, debuted as Jay Leno’s replacement a week ago.

Maria Bartiromo, known as the “Money Honey” for a long time on CNBC, is now with Fox.  It’s nice to have her back on TV.

The best news of all is Piers Morgan is out at CNN.  His failed experiment to replace Larry King took three years to unravel, though it was doomed from the start.

TV changes its on-air talent with greater speed and impact than the other major media.  If you stick around long enough in the industry, you are likely to work for multiple media outlets.  Look at Katie Couric.  I can’t keep track of her.  NBC Today Show.  CBS Evening News.  Daytime syndicated talk show.  Yahoo! 

Yahoo!?

So what do the musical chair movements of TV and the news media mean for you, as an author?

First, as long as one talk show or news program replaces another, nothing changes.  You’ll still have a chance, albeit a long-shot, to be interviewed on major TV.

Second, the person getting replaced may land elsewhere, creating a new opportunity to get on a show that never existed before.

Third, all of these moves show you how often the TV executives guess wrong, sometimes losing big on their bets.  Just as literary agents and book publishers get it wrong on an hourly basis about which talent they’d like to back, TV bosses screw up royally and often.

TV needs shows that are more like Bill Maher – panelist discussing issues.  They also need more hard news programs, the way they used to have 20 years ago.  They need to put an end to the crap that’s on now.  

The low ratings prove that people don’t want to hear one-sided shows or shouting matches.  Most people are entertained by controversy, but at the heart of it, they want substance and new ways to address old problems.

Maybe a new generation of media will develop and there will be a golden era of newscasters that help inform us, using a useful, interesting, and effective manner.  Otherwise, the news will just disappear into a world of clutter and opinion.


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http://bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-glimpse-into-the-future-for-your-book.html

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

Who Has A Monopoly On Ideas?


There seems to be a slew of parodies of children's books that are made for adults.  The best one from a few years ago is “Go The F—k To Sleep”.  These books can be funny and popular, but should their authors have to pay royalties to the original writer of the book it parodies?  Is their book a true parody?

If I wrote a book, I’d be outraged if someone cashed in on my fame and success.  I’d also be flattered, but not enough to not want payment!

But the law allows for the publishing of parodies and for the owner of the work that was parodied to get zero compensation.  Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

On the other hand, maybe if you want to make some easy money, take any popular book and turn it into a parody.  It will benefit from the name recognition of the original.  It will also get a lot of publicity if it’s really outrageous.

But if someone wants to make a sequel to your book, they can’t do it.  Make a funny version of it, yes.  Take a serious attempt to write a book based on another?  Forget it.

My son loves the game, Monopoly, and he created his own version – changing the properties to fit a food theme.  But he can’t just sell it on his own.  He needs permission from Hasbro, the owner of the great game.  But what if he did a parody and made jokes for his game – could he then claim it’s a parody?  Maybe.

What if you have a humor book?  How do you do a parody of that?   And what if you try to do a parody of a parody – or a serious version of a parody? 

Does anyone have a monopoly on the truth or on books?  Just as companies apply to get technology patents – even ones for things they don’t plan to create – writers could copyright a lot of books if they started generating all kinds of parodies.

You can also write books that talk about other books, summarize them, or critically analyze them.  You can create a children’s version of an adult book.  You can do a parody.  You can do a trivia book about a book.   It seems one good idea can go a long way.

If you are struggling to write something that will be a commercial success, just borrow the idea of another and write a book based on it.  No one has a monopoly on a good book.

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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Author Olympics Have Begun


The Winter Olympics have come to pass with new medalists and proud countries. We can all appreciate the idea of nationalist pride and in seeing the best compete against one another. In some ways, we each wish we could be out there, looking to bring home the gold as hundreds of millions watch on TV across the globe. As writers, do we pine for such global competition? Do writers already compete globally for consumers, hoping to rise to the top of their genre’s bestseller list?

Because of the Internet, and because of e-books, words can travel anywhere in an instant. They can be translated and shared in all formats and languages at the press of a button. Is the US not a big enough stage to compete on? Now you can be read and sold in 200 countries, but the books from those places compete with yours as well.

Some writers relish the opportunity to secure new markets for their works. Why only be a star of one country when you can also be popular elsewhere? It is mind-boggling as to how many readers are potentially out there -- and how so few actually become yours.

Authors compete every day -- with themselves, with other authors, and with other forms of information and entertainment. Whether there’s an official Olympics taking place, authors always strive for success. To me, each one is a winner.


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