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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Modest Proposal For The Book Publishing Industry



I recall in high school or college reading an essay called “A Modest Proposal,” penned by Jonathan Swift.  It was a sarcastic and satirical attempt – a spoof – to show how the starving class needed help from the wealthy, ruling class.  It suggested that the children of poor people in Ireland stop being a burden to their parents and country.  His solution was cannibalism, which would solve a number of problems.  Well, in that spirit, I have a proposal of how books should be priced and sold.

1.      All books should be sold at a price the patron determines after reading the book. If the reader didn’t care for it, the book should be free.  The customer doesn’t even have to be inconvenienced by returning a physical book or even have to delete an e-book file. The customer would merely act as if he or she never purchased the book in the first place.

2.      Writers should have to pay for people to buy their books, especially if  it’s their first book.  How else can they build up readership unless they place books in readers’ hands? But a free book is no longer an inducement when so many free books exist.  After all, a reader doesn’t dare invest his or her time into something unless they are incentivized.  Writers will need to pay people to read their free books, and should the book not be to the reader’s liking, well, doubling the compensation would be the least that could be done.

3.      No book should be published until Amazon gives its clearance.  We despise government censorship, but everyone loves and trusts Amazon, the all-benevolent corporation that merely seeks to take over the world but will do so in such a friendly and helpful way that how could anyone dare protest whatever it demands?

4.      The news media can’t be burdened by reviewing a million new books each year and consumers need reliable sources to give them recommendations.  Let’s just allow one website to rate everything, based on things like cover design, book title, and page length.  We have to filter based on some kind of criteria and since it’s too subjective to talk about plot, writing style, character development, and setting, it’s best that all book-buying decisions are dictated to us by a computer’s algorithm.  It’s better to just trust a Yelp-like site to dictate what we read than to try to think for ourselves.

5.      Writers have it too hard right now, trying to get people to buy a book based on the merits of the content.  Instead, let’s first create a training and licensing procedure for any aspiring writer.  Why let just anyone publish a book?  We should demand writers go through required schooling, pay for a license, and pass a test in order to be considered eligible to write a book.  Such a procedure will allow for only those deemed qualified to actually pen and publish a book.

6.      Let’s set a quota for certain genres and book subject matter.  This way we’ll limit consumer choice and make it easier to buy a book they’re sure to love.  Do we really need more YA and erotica?  Let’s assign writers to cover areas that are not covered enough and allow them to produce books we’re sure to yearn for.

7.      Too many books raise too many ideas and issues.  In order for the reading public to dismiss the burden of choice, let’s just get rid of books that don’t meet a certain sales threshold by a prescribed time.  Just like the cable news stations limit how many candidates, based on pools, can participate in a presidential debate, book retailers must simply determine that after a book ahs been out for as long as two weeks, if sales are not in the top 8%, it must be removed from its store or digital offerings.  This allows for Americans to read the same books as one another and not tax people with trying to think for themselves.

Finally, what would be most appropriate and decent would be for citizens to gather up all of their paper books and put them to real use.  They should bring them to get recycled so that our nation has enough toilet paper.  There’s no reason to have a library in one’s home.  Besides, you already read these books, perhaps numerous times.  You need to let go of ideas of the past and make way for new books.  Classics are overrated.  Readers want vampire erotica, YA dystopia thrillers, and Dexter-like thrill-kill books.  It’s time to retire books that once seemed relevant but now have little to teach us.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

8 Reasons People Don’t Read Books



Why do people read books?  Maybe a better question is “Why do people not read books?”

Many adults do not read books.  It’s hard to imagine.  They miss out on so much.  One would assume there are specific reasons why they don’t read. I can guess at a few:

1.      Literacy
2.      ESL
3.      Economics
4.      Time restraints
5.      ADHD/Leaning disorder
6.      Visual difficulties
7.      Migraines/medical condition
8.      Mental condition

But each of these reasons can be overcome.  Let’s examine them:

1.      Vision – Many people fail to get their eyes checked out by a doctor.  If they did, they’d be given the proper reading glasses, if needed.  If one’s vision is truly insufficient for reading, he or she can read braille or listen to an audiobook.

2.      Medical Condition – Some people can’t focus on a book because they are in pain.  Some might read to distract themselves from pain.  Obviously the sooner a medical condition can be diagnosed and treated, especially migraines, the more likely the patient can resume life’s normal activities.

3.      Psychological Condition – Similar to the medical condition, if a person allows a book to distract or calm himself, it’s a beautiful thing.  But therapy, medication, or other treatments may be needed to first kick in.  Our nation needs to better address the mental health question, and once it does, not only will we have a safer and saner society, but one that turns to books.

4.      Learning Disorder – Dyslexia, ADHD, and other learning disorders obviously impact one’s ability to sit still and read.  The sooner one can be diagnosed and treated for things that detract from reading, the better.

5.      Time Constraints – We all have busy schedules and demands relating to money, family, work, health, etc.  But we should find the time to read a book.  We can do it anywhere, anytime.

6.      Economics – Books have dropped in price, at least online, and many e-books are made available for free. You always can borrow from the library.  Money should not interfere with reading books.

7.      ESL – I encourage every American to learn English, but while you are learning the language, read books in your native tongue.  Don’t ever stop reading!

8.      Literacy – This is the trickiest of all and takes years to correct, but there are effective programs to address this. We just need to find such programs or volunteer to help, and we’ll make a big dent in the literacy crisis.

I didn’t include IQ on this list, simply because people at most IQ levels can still read, even if it's children’s board books, photography books, or educational materials.

For those of us who love, treasure, and understand the value of books, we can’t imagine living without books.  If we can even convert 10% of all the people currently not reading and consuming books, we’d increase book sales by tens of millions of copies annually.  Not only is that good for the book industry, it’s great for society.  

Encourage others to read a book, and if you learn of their reason for not reading, see if you can encourage them to get the proper help.  Their fulfillment of life depends on 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. 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 © 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

To Promote, Or Not Promote: The Hamlet Complex



In the course of working with well over a thousand authors – and having spoken to many more that I ended up not working with – I have noticed the Hamlet Complex can have a powerful grip over many writers.  But they needn’t suffer anxiety over the decision of “To do PR, or not.”

Of course, as a professional marketer and book publicist I will tell you that book marketing and PR are necessary in order for authors to achieve success.  But I say it because it is in fact true.  There are variables at play.  Authors don’t have to spend the same amount of money or time as one another, but they each have to do something if they want to generate sales, build a media brand, advance their writing career, impact others with a powerful message, and influence society.

I have many writers tell me they can’t afford to hire a publicist, and in such cases I would agree that they shouldn’t invest in anything if they don’t have it. But if one can allocate some funds to support their book, they should do so.  It still needs to be spent wisely and efficiently, but there’s no question that a lot can be – and needs to be done – to promote a book properly.

It pains me to speak with those who act like Hamlet, where they weigh all of life on this decision to do PR – or not.  One minute the person is convinced he or she must do this, the next minute insecurities, fears, and doubts creep in to sabotage their efforts.  I could have several long conversations over a matter of days or weeks, and just as I believe they are going to sign on and allow me to promote the heck out of their book, they pull back.  They eventually say no.

In such situations I don’t feel like I lost out.  I first feel bad for the writer.  I know what they’re missing and understand the mind games that took over their brains.  It’s as if they suffered from a flu.  In the end, they may still go over in their head whether they made the right choice even after making a decision.

Sometimes writers shouldn’t invest in PR.  Here’s why:

1.      They may be choosing the wrong publicist or campaign and thus will waste their money.

2.      Their book simply is not good enough or worth promoting.

3.      They won’t supplement the efforts of the publicist to do things with social media, speaking engagements, or other marketing efforts, thus mitigating the efforts of the publicist.

4.      The book’s been out for a year or more and they just decided to promote it now.  It’s too little, too late.

That said, most writers, if they believe they wrote a good book, should be promoting it.  A professional publicist can help in many ways and should be utilized for the heavy lifting.

So what could  I say to those suffering the Hamlet Complex?  I would tell them to decide sooner, whichever way they go. Don’t torture yourself.  Weigh the pros and cons – after collecting relevant and accurate information – and then make a decision.  There’s no reason to burden yourself with a lingering cloud over your head.  The extra time never gets you any closer to making a decision.

To determine whether you will hire someone to promote your book, simply answer these questions honestly:

1.      How much am I willing to spend? Set a budget. Be willing to stretch it, but settle on your comfort number.

2.      Do you believe the publicist is reputable and competent?

3.      Is this publicist setting realistic expectations and will these coincide with your goals?

4.      Do you think your book is worth promoting?

5.      What do you hope the PR will accomplish for your book, both in the short- and long-term?

6.      Do you want to do all of the PR by yourself?  Do you have the contacts, knowledge, time, and desire to do it?  If not, do you recognize the alternative is to pay someone to do it?

7.      Do you have a grasp on what the possible services and campaigns out there can do for you?  Have you called a few competitors to get a handle on pricing options?

8.      Do you understand what a promoter is offering you, or is it all jargon, hype, promises, bait and switch, and baloney?

The Hamlet Complex can grip any of us, but I urge you not to torment yourself.  Do your due diligence, assess your options, and make the best possible choice.  You will be taking a risk and you will be spending thousands of dollars.  But you also will be positioning yourself to achieve more than what 90% of other authors can possibly do, since they won’t hire professional assistance.

To promote, or not to promote, shouldn’t be the question, but rather, how much should I spend and with whom do  I want to work should be. Set a time limit for the process and then make a decision.  Don’t look back, and don’t regret anything.  Choose wisely, but above all, just make a choice!

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Celebrate: Oyster’s Netflix eBook Formula Is Dumped



It is with great joy that we discuss the demise of Oyster’s subscription eBook service, one akin to Netflix but for books.  Though I am saddened that their departure means one less competitor in the book market – I hold no tears for the defeat of a buffet book service.  The book industry cannot be sustained if consumers heavily buy into such a program.

Many consumers did not buy into it, through that doesn’t mean they gave up on the idea.  Scribd, Amazon Kindle Unlimited, and a few others offer the price-fixed monthly all-you-can-read deal.  Here’s the question: why did Oyster fail?

·         Did not enough people know about it?
·         Was their selection of books weak?
·         Do people favor a competitor?

Or do consumers simply not care for such a service? Or, maybe Oyster had a lot of customers and realized it can’t afford to pay royalties to cover all of these book rentals?

Oyster charged $9.95 per month and made over one million e-books available to be read anytime, anywhere.  Was $9.95 too much?  Has the market completely collapsed that people won’t even part with 10 bucks to read a ton of books?

I’ve written this many times over but I will say it again:

·         Books have value – they aren’t commodities.
·         Books should be sold individually and not limped into a monthly fee.
·         Book prices for e-books should be similar to hat of print.
·         All book prices must rise over time.
·         Book giveaways help brand specific authors but hurt the industry overall.

Oyster tried something new and presented competition for Amazon, the beast of the industry.  It failed and now we need to celebrate and hope that consumers continue to reject the all-you-can-eat steals.  We need to go back to seeing books as being important treasures that should be paid for, so the publishing industry – publishers, authors, retailers, editors – can make a decent living and afford to publish quality books.

A recent study showed writer income is down and that the average writer would live below the Federal Poverty Level if he or she depended solely on book income.

Oyster reportedly failed due to not having the best book selection.  Even though it had so many titles available, it didn’t have the big best sellers or all of the new titles. It thought it could package a bunch of titles and bowl people over with quantity.  However, quality counts.

It remains to be seen where the Oyster model heads in the publishing industry but score a victory for the authors and publishers with the end of one retailer’s attempt to diminish and devalue the craft of producing books.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015




Saturday, September 26, 2015

Can You Be The USA Today Of Books?



USA Today celebrated its 33rd year of existence in September.  When it entered the newspaper business it was given very little chance to succeed.  It aimed to become the nation’s very first general interest newspaper.  But it did several unconventional things, including publishing only five times a week and not on holidays.  It didn’t cover a specific city or region.  It published in color.

Authors and publishers should learn from what USA Today did when it launched its newly styled publication.  It is important to find a niche or an underserved market – and to go where little competition exists.  The NY Times acted as a national paper but it couldn’t really cover the nation the way USA Today approached it.  Plus The Times was viewed as “too smart” or “too New York” by some parts of the country.  USA Today shared things in a simple way, highlighting more features and lifestyle pieces, rather than hard news.

As an author, where can you make your mark?  Is there a genre that’s underserved?  Is there a writing style that can be introduced – or a unique way of packaging a book that will draw attention to itself?

USA Today took a chance – and won.  It essentially had to compete with every local paper in the country.  It was like a daily magazine.  But people came to see it not as a competitor to their local paper, but as a complement to it.

USA Today also made deals early on to get it out to hotels and the travel community.  It has made itself a strong following by being available everywhere – newsstands, hotels, vending machines, and supermarkets.

Authors and publishers can discover their own USA Today.  They can put out a new product that hasn’t been done before or that hasn’t yet received wide distribution.  It just takes some creative thought to figure out what the next new thing is.

Over the years publishing has tried many things, including:

·         Annual editions of books
·         Connecting adult books into children’s versions
·         Creating sequels, prequels, trilogies, series, aerials, novellas
·         Publishing “best of” books of essays, poems, etc.
·         Releasing books with CDs, DVDs, CD-ROMs, and supplements
·         Issuing a book with multiple cover variations
·         Reissuing an old, out-of-print book
·         Publishing incomplete manuscripts from dead authors
·         Printing oversized books, large-print books, books with shiny and glossy paper, and special collector editions
·         Releasing spoofs and satires of famous books

So what’s the next trick?

·         How about revising classics that take place in another time period?
·         Issuing an “opposites” version of a book, where the opposite takes place in the story?  Imagine if the woman does the spanking of a man in 50 Shades?
·         Writing books about professions, cities, or lifestyles that haven’t received much coverage in books, such as the job of someone who inspects the quality control for producing garbage bags or the sex lives of octogenarian epileptics or life in the town of a place that hasn’t seen a new birth in 15 years?

What’s new, unique or better is what will sell well.  Find out what people could want but just haven’t seen yet. Be the one to produce it first.  Be the USA Today of books.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015

Writer’s Sweet 16 Is Imperfect



Millions of books are written each year.  The majority of them don’t get published.  Of those that see the light of day, they may have been written by presumably older, wiser, more experienced people.  But what happens when it’s a 16-year-old who pens and publishes a book?

My newest client at the public relations firm that I work for is all of 16, an intelligent young woman who seems to be driven and focused.  It’s impressive to see her go about expressing her creative talents.  Who better to write YA than someone who is YA?

Claire Fraise’s book, Imperfect, resembles the strong–heroine-battles-the-dark-dystopian-state model fostered by The Hunger Games and Divergent, but differs enough to carve out its own voice in a suddenly crowded genre.

Her strength and weakness is her age.  The selling appeal of her age gets people curious.  The book holds well under scrutiny.  But there’s not a lot to say about her past, as it is developing as we speak.  Whereas my typical author-client has 10, 20, or 50 years of experience as a writer or in a given profession, my client has just two years of high school home-schooling under her belt.  It’s refreshing to work with a clean canvass, but I’m so used to trying to shape a career that already is hardened clay.

What advice should I part to a minor about the world of book publishing?  Maybe she has advice for me, as she is seeing the industry as it is today with fresh eyes.  I’m clouded by observing 26 years of changes for writers, publishers, literary agents, and booksellers.

Should a 16-year-old publish a book, or wait until she receives further training, life experience, and a better understanding about the world?  Or does time just jade youth?  Maybe she needs to rescue her innocent voice now, before the adults try to teach her something.

By the time I was 17 and entering college, I began to write a book.  Now, 31 years later, I have 2,000 typed pages.  It’s non-fiction.  In some ways, I’m glad I’ve waited, because life has informed and shaped me and my writings deserve the benefit from such experiences.  On the other hand, I wish I had the courage and conviction to just put it out there and to then see how my book would shape others.  I applaud Claire for what she’s done this far. 

I’m sure her parents are proud of her.  With writing, it doesn’t matter how you begin, but where you end.  This is true with a book or a career.  As promising as it is to see her start at 16, there are people many decades older than her who first put a book out.

There’s no ideal age to be a writer.  Some may say that the youth lack perspective but the older population lacks optimism.  Some believe the 45-50 year old is in the right spot – old enough to know better but young enough not to be jaded.  Who knows?

Claire has a bright future ahead of her no matter what she does.  Is she the Doogie Houser of writers?  Her fans will determine that. 

But if you want to witness a young, budding author and go along for an entertaining thrill ride, take a look at Imperfect.  As the title suggest, writing at any age is imperfect – or perfect, depending on your vantage point.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Which Narrative Do Writers Live?



What narrative do we tell ourselves as we live the story of our life?

As writers, our books tell a story or cover a subject in a very defined and concrete way. When we promote ourselves and the books we’ve published, we use another narrative to lure the media and consumers in.  We paint a picture of the world and who we are, and push such a narrative in hopes of getting a desired response.  All of that is planned and designed.  But what is our narrative for life itself?

What do we tell ourselves to get us through the day? What story do we buy into that motivates us to act one way over another?  What value or issue or experience or circumstance do we allow to define who we are and to dictate our actions? It’s one thing to use your imagination to create a world, it’s another to live in reality, in a world with true choices and substantial consequences.

I wonder if writers live a life different from most, simply because they see the world differently, and immerse themselves in questions over answers, fantasy over facts, and speculation over what actually is or was.

I warn you, I don’t have an answer to my own headline.  I’m not even sure what my narrative is. 

Writers are compelled to write.  Perhaps we’re born this way, gifted and cursed at age one.  Maybe to be a writer is a choice, but it seems to be chosen when one reacts to their circumstances.

Writers always see how things could be better, or at least different, the way a home decorator can envision 20 different floor and wall pattern combinations that would each be perfect for a specific space.  I find I’m always wondering: “What if things were different?”

I look at something that’s flawed, weak, or lacking and imagine if one thing were changed, added, or removed, how it would then be better and wonderful.  I also look at the strong, the powerful, the perfect, and often wonder if their weak points were exposed or attacked, how that would relegate them to a much lower, less invincible status.  

I think of opposites and I think of possibilities probabilities, and the unknowns.  The puzzle of life is manipulated in my head and I suddenly see different realities, each alternative competing for attention.  How can I dictate terms and circumstances to bend to my will?  How can I blend in to what’s not movable or changeable?  It’s as if when I talk to someone or see something, I see them or it in all of its stages and phases – where it is, where it’s been, where it could be.

My narrative skews this way:

·         To be optimistic but cautious.
·         To be ever curious about people and things.
·         To take human nature into consideration of any decision.
·         To seek answers but know that some questions can’t yet be answered.
·         To live in the moment but to have a bigger perspective on life.
·         That common sense, truth, and love should win out over ignorance, politics, greed or insanity.

I write because I search for truth as much as I hope to share what that truth is, should I uncover it.  I write, not to dictate how things should be, but to explore how they could be. I write to question what is, but not to destroy it, just to affirm it. 

What’s your narrative, as a writer and human being?

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015