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Friday, July 20, 2018

Should We Have Summer Writing Camps For Kids?



My kids are summer camp veterans.  My oldest, Ben, is 13 and is enjoying a six-week STEM camp called Explo at Wellesley, in Boston.  My daughter, Olivia, is 10, and is at French Woods Festival, in upstate New York, a camp dedicated to theater, dance, and the performing arts. After visiting both of them recently, I wondered why there aren’t writing camps for kids.

Maybe there are but I haven’t heard of them.  But imagine if such a thing existed?

You may think of summer camp as time to play sports, swim in a lake, and dance by campfires in the woods. Some traditional camps offer just that.  Many others are specialized, such as tennis camp, boating camp, dance camp, or as in the case of my kids, a STEM or theater camp.  Many camps touch nature and nurture the curious child on his or her way to making friends and learning to live in a new community environment.

I didn’t go to camp as a kid.  My camp was the streets of Brooklyn, New York circa late 1970’s, early 1980’s, where I entertained myself by going to the beach, biking, watching every Mets game on TV and seeing a few in person, throwing a ball against a brick wall, playing stickball and paddleball, tossing water balloons out of my sixth-floor apartment, building my coin collection up, hitting the air-conditioned movies (sometimes seeing 2 or 3 in a day), going to Kings Plaza (a dumpy mall), and walking the animated streets of the city’s most populated borough.

So, imagine a camp for kids that balanced outdoor play time with swimming, sports, hiking, etc. and classroom time to write and explore the wonderful world of creativity.  Kids who gravitate towards writing can experience a deeper exploration of books and the various forms of writing, from poetry, essays, news articles, blog posts, and short stories to the many genres of fiction and non-fiction.

It wouldn’t merely be like school.  No grades.  Just fun.  Let these kids dream and nurture their writing souls.  I’d go to a camp that only demanded I write, read books, and play ball while making friends.

All kids need to get out of the house and away from their devices, TV, and what I call intellectual junk food.  No distractions, no parental interference – just unbridled pursuits of fantasy, curiosity, and passion for each camper.

Maybe, I should start a book marketing summer camp. That would be funny – but very useful.   I would start with adult attendees first.  I’d make it a three-week intensive boot camp.

I knew at an early age that writing was my thing.  By age 10 I wrote regularly in a diary and was doing a zillion extra-credit reports at school.  I was prolific – and I haven’t put the pen down since then.  I may have written well over 1,000 press kits for books and nearly 3,000 blog posts.

But would a writing summer camp be ideal for young minds?  I think so, provided the instructors afforded greater flexibility in what they ask of the children.  They don’t want to just imprint one style of writing or way of doing things onto kids.  No, what they want is to bring out the unique voices and ways of expressing themselves.

Writers can be lonely people, no matter how many friends they have.  The best writers are very emotional and sensitive to what others say, do, or think.  They will sacrifice doing things for writing about others.  They will dig deep to feel-even if it’s pain and not joy – if it can help them write.  So having a camp where like-minded kids can gather to support each other and see that they are not alone would be tremendous.

These kids would be great at writing letters home, too!


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute conference.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Where Do You Find Book Reviewers?




Book reviewers are everywhere – in print and online.  But it can be tough to get a review in the elite publications like the New York Times Book Review, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist or Kirkus Reviews.  So where should one seek out book reviewers?

1.      Get a paid database, such as Cision.  But assuming you can’t afford that, or knowing you must supplement it, search online for more options.

2.      Amazon – they recently removed contact information for their reviewers but you can find a list of these reviewers and what they review here: http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers
      You will just need to research their contact information.

3.      Go onto Book Blogger Directory.

4.      Try Blog Nation.

5.      Search www.TheIndieView.com.

6.      Get onto Goodreads.

7.      List your book on NetGalley.

8.      See BookRix.

9.      See giveaway sites like Shelfari, BookLikes, and Library Thing.

10.  Check out www.FromLefttoWrite.com.


12.  Another one to look at is www.BookBloggerList.com.

13. Try www.bookrevieweryellowpages.com.

Of course, there are many paid options.  Here are some of the publications and websites where you can purchase a review (no guarantees on what is said):

·         Publishers Weekly Select

·         Foreword Reviews

·         Kirkus Reviews

·         Indie Reader

·         Blue Ink Review

·         The U.S. Review of Books

·         Reader Views

·         Dog Eared Reviews

·         Your First Review

·         Independent Book Review

·         Self Publishing Review

·         City Book Review

Once you get some good reviews and you want to highlight your book, you can purchase attention from the following:

·         Twitter or Facebook ads

·         AuthorBuzz

·         BookBub

·         BargainBooksy

The book marketing world is quite large and diverse.  Book reviews, paid email promotions, book giveaways, ads, and media exposure are just some of the many ways to provide exposure for you and your book.  Experiment and persist ahead!


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” Brian recently presented a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and spoke at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute PR Panel.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

American Library Association Sparks Fear of Censorship


Renaming A Children’s Book Award Seems Is A Big Mistake


The American Library Association recently announced it would rename The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.  Many people may just ignore this change while others fully embrace it.  But a strong voicing against this decision, one that seems straight out of George Orwell’s 1984, should be made.

Has political correctness gone too far, to the point the prestigious body that represents America’s libraries, feels compelled to scrub clean the woman who wrote an amazing series of books that were turned into an award winning TV series?

Keep in mind, nothing’s changed about the author or her books, which were initially published in the 1930s and 40s, covering the western frontier, circa 1870’s.  Nothing new was unearthed, such as secret journals of Wilder or a long lost manuscript filled with hatred.  No, the only thing that’s changed is the spine of the ALA.

Wilder, the first winner of her award, in 1954, died 61 years ago.

Jim Neal, ALA president, and Nina Lindsay, head of their children’s division, said in a joint statement, “Updating the award’s name should not be construed as censorship, as we are not demanding that anyone stop reading Wilder’s books, talking about them, or making them available to children.”

Bullshit.

Of all people, the ALA should be sensitive to book bans, censorship, author boycotts and revisionist history.  If books are to reflect and preserve the times they were written in, and if an author’s work was celebrated at the time she lived – and for generations to come – who has the right to now demonize her work, and strip her of the award-name prestige?

Let’s be clear.  Times change and some books may eventually fall out of favor with readers, but that should be up to the readers to determine. When the ALA demotes Wilder’s work, it’s not being subtle or neutral.  It is unendorsing her work.

Who’s next?  Shakespeare?  Some researchers say that his work, The Merchant of Venice, was anti-Semitic and expressed homophobia.

Maybe we look at T.S. Eliot, as some critics detect anti-Semitism in some of his poems.  

Roald Dahl admits to being an anti-Semite.  

Dr. Seuss drew savage depictions of the Japanese.  

Novelist V.S. Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, has been an outspoken critic of Islam and argues the Muslim culture had a “calamitous effect” similar to colonialism.

Edith Wharton proclaimed on her deathbed that she hated the Jews because of their role in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Ezra Pound used to make anti-Semitic claims during World War II radio broadcasts.

Ernest Hemingway was seen as a chauvinist.  

Rudyard Kipling was viewed as a racist.

It’s gotten silly.  Recently Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn fell under scrutiny for using the N word.  Folks, it’s part of the story and reflective of the times.  The South back then thought Twain’s story was too favorable to blacks; in later years the North questioned it for being racist.

Look, Albert Einstein, a science genius, World War II hero, and author, was recently accused of expressing anti-Chinese sentiment in his private journals.  We need to cut people some slack.

First, judge people on their actions.  Einstein was a civil rights supporter.  Second, his private words, which were never published, could reflect fleeting thoughts.  He’s not here to defend himself.  Honestly, even if he was a racist in some ways, he did such great things that you have to weigh his life in its totality, and not disproportionately. This does not mean we should accept racism, but we can't just throw out the baby with the bath water -- or the good with the bad.

And who amongst the accusers is so pious and pure themselves?  “Everyone’s a little bit racist,” says a line in the hit Broadway play, Avenue Q. Don’t tell me you’ve never said, thought, or did something that one can perceive as homophobic, sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, or some other ism.

Popes used to condemn the Jews.  Whites used to enslave blacks.  Women used to not vote, work, or run for office.  We’ve come a long way and the world will become a more balanced and fair place.  But we can’t go back and re-write history or condemn people now for what they said or wrote back then.

Is Curious George, the fun-loving, inquisitive monkey, a wonderful children’s book series – or does it depict a white man of taking a black being against his will?  I chose to celebrate what the books stand for when it comes to George’s antics, but the backstory of how he came to be is quite disturbing.  I don’t want to see some well-intentioned PC-driven group suddenly wipe out the Curious George series.  But it could happen.  It took little for the ALA to act on Wilder.

So why did the ALA take such extreme action against the beloved Wilder?

She allegedly has culturally insensitive portrayals in her books.  Wilder showed what life was like for the 1800s settler.  Indigenous people were not celebrated – they were hunted or to be avoided.  Of course her writings will reflect the wisdom of those days, where people would utter “the only good Indian was a dead Indian.”  

But her books reflected kindness, love, family, education, hard work, and support of community as positive values.  Anything in those books could repulse someone, such as the way women were shown to be second-class citizens to their husbands. Wilder didn’t invent nor lobby for such things – her works merely reflected life back then.  To criticize her is ridiculous.  She’s merely the messenger – history is history.

If one’s to buy into the anti-Wilder movement he or she won’t stop there.  They’ll look to rewrite every book, censor every story, and condemn every writer.  

Look at the Declaration of Independence.  It’s a great document that declares freedom, yet, it speaks of men, not women.  It only promotes the whites and it even refers to “savage Indians” several times – a term that Facebook flagged as hate speech.  Should we tear up the Declaration of Independence, too?

With Wilder, how can someone be deemed so great one day and then treated like persona non grata the next?

Nothing’s changed but the world itself, and in this case, not for the better.

Let’s acknowledge a key fact – many books past and present will contain ideas, terms, or values that at the time reflected those times.  It’s hard to judge them a century later.

Maybe one day we will ban books that praise revolutions, fearful terrorists will use them to rally anti-America sentiment, even though this country was founded on a revolution.

Maybe books that champion equal rights will be burned, replaced by books that call for a non-white  America.  

Maybe one day robots or aliens will really take over.  Will they purge human-centric books, believing they’ve been discriminated against?

Perhaps books about PT Barnum should be tossed, since they depict an animal-enslaved circus?

Books about anything – or by anyone – will find critics, not for the quality of content but for the values espoused in them, or privately by the authors.  One day, the ALA may have to rename its children’s award simply because views on childhood will change.  Maybe the word “children” will even fall under criticism.  Or perhaps there will be a backlash against the ALA for issuing elitist awards.  Did they really read every children’s book this year and adequately weigh its merits?  Probably not, but that won’t stop them from issuing an award.

Perhaps a key mistake in the award-giving process is having any award named after someone, for once you do, you now expose the award to future criticism, as mores change or new information is uncovered about that person.  Awards should be named not after a person, but an accomplishment.  Best Teacher, Best Adult Fiction Book…you get the idea.  Otherwise, any award will fall under future scrutiny.

Society has a history of renaming buildings, companies, streets, hospital wings, college dorms, and many things.  But awards seem like they should be permanent, unless that award is no longer needed.  One day there may not be an award like best actress or a genre called Black Studies.  

Things change all of the time.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.”

Friday, July 13, 2018

Authors Should Follow This Advice On Speaking



I had the opportunity to see an advance copy of the 20th anniversary edition of Knockout Presentations:  How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch and Pizzazz by Diane DiResta.  Morgan James Publishing will release it in the fall.  Though her advice is for speakers of all situations, especially business, much of what she writes about, based on decades of experience, is directly applicable to authors.

Some of the myths you should expect to overcome are as follows:

“I’m not a public speaker.”

Oh, but you are.  Anytime you talk – at a bookstore library, school, church, office – or just one on one – you use the power of persuasion – from body language and voice, to energy and word choice.

“Look over the heads of the audience when speaking.”

Why? Look, instead, directly at specific people.  Connect with your eyes.  Look at a few people, one at a time.  This creates a feeling of a relationship.

“Memorize Your Speech.”

Don’t read a speech but don’t try to memorize it either.  Let it flow naturally.  Memorize certain, concepts or ideas – but not whole sentences or specific words.  Have some notes or outlines handy.

“Cover all of your points in a speech.”

Rather than trying to cram too much into one speech, where you feel rushed or overwhelm the audience, focus on a few major points and let the speech serve as a teaser for one to buy your book, go to your site, or take an action step.

DiResta also cautioned speakers not to start with a joke, saying “You don’t have to be funny to be effective.”  I disagree wholeheartedly.  Lighten things up with humor and wit – but make sure that what you say is truly funny.  Test it.  Scrub it to make sure no one can misinterpret what you say.  The last thing you want is a shit storm over a perceived misstep.  Leave sex, race, religion, and politics out – unless the crowd you are in front of (and your book) relates to a specific topic that’s relevant to one of them.

Of course speakers need to properly prepare for a presentation, which includes showing up early to make sure your equipment (if you use any) is set up.  She cautions you should make sure that you:

·         Know what type of audience you’re presenting to.
·         Don’t speak in a monotone voice.
·         Present in a focused manner.
·         Introduce details further into your presentation.
·         Provide strong evidence or examples to back up your points/claims.

Authors need to speak to sell books.  They can set up presentations for 10 people or 500+. Venues vary, but the speech may remain relevant to all.  The key is to provide useful content, present yourself in a fun or inspiring manner, and to find ways to connect with those you speak to.  Ask the audience questions and let them ask you questions, if possible.  Provide handouts or guide them to a link for more information.

Authors like to write, rather than speak.  Some are shy or insecure about their appearance or voice.  Others stumble on their words and forget what to say.  But if you can practice and prepare – and find friendly places to present – you’ll soon find that it’s rewarding to speak.

Good luck!


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Enjoy New 2018 Author Book Marketing & PR Toolkit -- 7th annual edition just released


Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.”