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Monday, September 17, 2018

When A Book Marketer Confesses His Sins




As a Reform Jew in America, 2018, I still honor the Jewish Holidays, namely the current 10-day period that begins with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and ends with Yom Kippur (a day of atonement).  Not only do people usually see family, reflect on their lives, and ask for forgiveness during this time, participants feel a sense of renewal and commitment to the values of their heritage.  It also has proven to be a time for me to put my career under a microscope.  I would like, with your permission, to make a public amends to any wrongs I may have caused as a marketer and promoter.

For the sin of promoting bad books, I do apologize.

For the sin of not returning a call or responding to an email in a timely manner, I do apologize.


For the sin of making promises that I could not keep, I do apologize.

For the sin of encouraging the media to give coverage to inferior books, I do apologize.

For the sin of playing to another’s ego and giving them an unjustified view of themselves, I do apologize.

For the sin of promoting authors who were not nice people.  I do apologize.

For the sin of glossing over my mistakes, I do apologize.

For the sin of missing deadlines, I do apologize.

For the sin of manipulating our language to soften negativity and hype positivity in a disproportionate manner, I do apologize.

For the sin of agreeing to represent someone with character flaws or disingenuous values, I do apologize.

For the sin of letting money cloud my judgment of whom to promote, I do apologize.

For the sin of building up a media placement that really is not as big as it sounds, I do apologize.
  
For the sin of giving someone false hope, I do apologize.

For the sin of withholding criticism or information when one asks for candor, I do apologize.

For the sin of not helping a worthy author pro bono, I do apologize.

I believe throughout the year – and my career.  I’ve done a better, more honest and productive job than most of my contemporaries.  But I also know that on occasion, I fell short, that I was less than the ideal of what one should expect from another.

I will keep learning and changing and seek to improve.  I will also, in seeking to grow, forgive others who fall short or intentionally wrong me.  I will shower others with the compassion I hope they do unto me.

I also realize you don’t need to be Jewish – or have a new year to take stock of yourself, make amends, and move forward.  The book industry and public relations industry are both filled with humans who practice an art but who can also do it better and in a manner that honors good values and helps others.

Amen.


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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.

Interview with James LaRue, Director, American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom




1.       James, how do you view your role at the ALA?
    • The Office for Intellectual has three main areas of responsibility:
      • Support for challenges. We get about a call a day from libraries whose services - collections, programs, meeting room use, exhibits or displays, databases, etc. - are being challenged (meaning someone wants to remove or restrict access to them). We provide support to those front line librarian in many ways: media relations, policy interpretation, letters to boards, elected officials, or community, but mostly just the human contact to tell them they are not alone.
      • Thought leadership. We carry the torch for free expression. We work with committees of librarians to put out statements, guidelines, policies, and procedures addressing all aspects of the First Amendment implications of library work. We publish a weekly electronic newsletter, a blog, and a journal. We give talks, workshops, and webinars. See http://www.oif.ala.org/oif/
      • Leadership development. Through those committees and activities, we try to recruit and grow a new generation of intellectual freedom champions.

  1. What should be done to inform the public not only of which books are being banned and by whom, but to explain why no book should be banned?
    • The purpose of Banned Books Week is exactly that: an annual celebration of the freedom to read, and a look around at current threats to it. It reaches a lot of people.
    • Beyond that, many libraries offer programs in which people actually read, often aloud, the books others want to hide from them. It's eye-opening.
    • We emphasize the fundamental perspective that the First Amendment not only guarantees your right of free speech, but also your access to the speech of others. That's one of the great values of librarians: We stand up for those rights.

  1. How is free speech being threatened by President Donald Trump?
    • Back in January of this year, the White House sent a cease and desist letter to Henry Holt and Co., the publishers of Michael Wolffe's "Fire and Fury." In response, the publisher moved up the publication date. In September of this year, he called "Fear" by one of America's most respected journalists, Bob Woodward, a "work of fiction." At this writing, it is the number one bestseller in the nation. Also in September, Trump called upon the Justice Department to investigate the author of an anonymous editorial in the New York Times. That hasn't happened, as far as we know. And of course, Trump's repeated attacks on mainstream media as "fake news" are well known. All of these represent attacks on free speech. None of them have been particularly successful, although there's some indication that trust in mainstream media is taking a hit.

  1. How do we counter fake news and unjust accusations of something being fake?
    • It's always been hard to find out the truth. It takes dogged persistence, the careful weighing of evidence, and some careful probing to find out how reliable a speaker or writer may be. Librarians can help. On the Internet, before liking or passing along a wild story on Facebook or digging too deep into a suspicious website, I advise you to do a quick search on a fact checking website, such as Snopes or Factcheck.org. Generally speaking, if it's too bizarre to be believed, maybe you shouldn't.

  1. Does it surprise you that books still get banned in 2018?
    • No. Usually, the issue is parents of a 4-6 year old, or a 14-16 year old. They see a shift: their children are growing up. Suddenly, parents want a return to innocence, usually in the name of safety. Any parent can relate to that. But as someone once told me, you can't childproof the world. You have to try to world proof your child. Reading helps.
    • But there are also more pernicious attempts to suppress various political, religious, or other human perspectives. Those efforts pave the path to tyranny.

  1. Are there books that libraries and schools are justified in not making available for patrons or students?
    • Generally speaking, libraries buy books on the basis of the reputation of the author, the reputation of the publisher, critical reviews, and public demand. Not every book is right for every person. But surely ignorance is more dangerous, in the long run, than knowledge.

  1. How should one celebrate Banned Books Week?
    • Read a banned book! Write a letter to the newspaper in support of your library, and the right of everyone to investigate the world around them. Go listen to a talk from someone you don't agree with, and ask a lot of questions.

  1. What can be done to improve literacy in America?
    • I've been citing a 2010 study done by Mariah Evans of the University of Nevada, Reno. She and others conducted research into 27 countries over a period of 20 years. She found that regardless of the income level or education of the parents, getting 500 books into the home of a child between the ages of 0-5 was an good as having two parents with master's degrees. Early literacy, early exposure to language and story, is strongly correlated with health, longevity, freedom from incarceration, educational attainment, and income level. Books unlock children's brains.

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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.


Book Reveals Insights on the World of Libraries



The Library:  A Catalogue of Wonders
by Stuart Kells
                                                                 
                                                                  E X C E R P T S 


A Library With No Books
If a library can be something as simple as an organized collection of texts, then libraries massively pre-date books in the history of culture.  Every country has a tradition of legends, parables, riddles, myths and chants that existed long before they were written down.  Warehoused as memories, these texts passed from generation to generation through dance, gesture and word of mouth….

Cultures that lacked any form of writing could only ever preserve their texts imperfectly.  Those cultures, though, adopted elaborate techniques (such as intricate patterns of repetition) and rules (such as social obligations and taboos) to maintain, as best they could, the integrity of their texts.

Ancient Books and Their Storage
First came oral libraries, then collections of physical books. The roots of the words “library” and “book” derive from different languages – liber is from Latin, while bece, buc, and boc are from the cluster of Germanic languages that includes Old Frisian, Old Saxon, Old Norse, and Old English.  Both roots, though, have similar meanings: liber is bark, bece beech wood.  Both roots, though, have similar meanings:  liber is bark, bece beech wood.  Both etymologies relate to forest materials for book-making.  The meaning of these roots is important. As soon as people began writing things down, the properties and availability of book-making materials became intertwined with the history of books and libraries…

In the making of books, local availability long dictated what materials would be used, and to what extent; local abundance enabled abundant use. The banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates were heavy with clay, so Mesopotamian scribes naturally used it to make their books.  In the Nile Valley, however, clay was scarce – the very first Egyptian tablets were made from bone and ivory.  Later Egyptian books, in scroll format, used the plentiful pith of the Nile papyrus.  In China, long before Europe, paper was in large quantities from the abundant bamboo and the by-products of everyday life….

Greatest Scroll Library
The greatest scroll library in all history was assembled downstream from the main source of papyrus.  A port city in northern Egypt, Alexandria was a key capital in the Hellenic empire established by Alexander the Great and his generals.  Around 300 B.C., the Greek-speaking Ptolemaic dynasty founded the Great Library of Alexandria inside the fortified walls of the royal palace, on a spit of land between an intertidal lake and the man-made port at Pharos.  The library’s bibliothekai or bookshelves were probably set in recesses along a wide covered passageway.  The precise layout of the collections is uncertain, but the Italian classicist and historian Luciano Canfora surmised, “Every niche or recess must have been dedicated to a certain class of authors, each marked with an appropriate heading.”  Above the bibliothekai was an inscription:  “The place of the cure of the soul.’

Library of Alexandria
The library adopted an admirably inclusive and international ambition:  to assemble books from all the known countries and in all the languages.  During the third century B.C., Ptolemy III sent messages kings, lords, and rajas asking for books to copy.  While in reality most of the texts obtained by the library were Greek, it did succeed in gathering substantial numbers of books from India, the Near and Middle East, and elsewhere in the Alexandrine world – books that represented a multitude of philosophies and creeds.

At its peak, Alexandria’s library held hundreds of thousands of scrolls.  Some accounts have put the number at half a million, others 1 million, plus another 40,000 in a building attached to the Temple of Serapis, in the old Egyptian quarter of Rhakotis…

Many different stories have been told about how the library came to an end.  Perhaps an accidental blaze destroyed it in 47 B.C.  Perhaps it was a casualty of a first-century pagan revolt against Alexandria’s Christianization.  Or perhaps Roman Emperor Aurelian’s troops destroyed it in 273 A.D. when they set fire to Alexandria’s royal quarter.

An altogether different school of thought is that, long before Omar, the manuscripts had simply worn out.  Papyrus is a terrible material for preserving texts.  Without a large and unwavering commitment to conservation and copying, a library of papyrus scrolls will readily and unceremoniously disintegrate – especially in the damp conditions of a river delta.  Alexandria’s library might have just faded away.

Changing Library
For almost 1,000 years, Europe’s libraries held almost nothing but Bibles, church-sanctioned religious tracts, and selected classical works of science and philosophy that were accessible only to a privileged class.  A typical Christian monastery possessed fewer than one hundred books.  Not until the end of the Middle Ages were monastic libraries likely to have more than two or three hundred.

Library Growth
Libraries grow according to their own version of Moore’s Law. Don Tolzman estimated that America’s major libraries were doubling in size every twenty years from the 1870s to the 1940s, and every fifteen years after that.  Globally, the British Library was the first collection to surpass 100 million items.  The Library of Congress was not far behind.  As early as the seventeenth century, people worried about the rate at which books were proliferating.  Leibniz remarked, “if the world goes on this way for a thousand years and as many books are written as today, I’m afraid whole cities will be made up libraries.”  Noticing the explosion of printed titles, Thomas Coryat observed, “methinks we want rather readers for books than books for readers.”

Nature
The very first libraries had problems with worms:

Over millennia, the animal kingdom of book botherers has included termites, mud wasps, snakes, skunks, foxes, cockroaches, and silverfish.

When Disaster Strikes
Something similar happened in 1968 at Northwestern University.  A heavy, freestanding section of empty shelving fell against shelves that were full of books.  John Camp and Carl Eckelman reported on the incident in their technical paper on library book stacks:  “a domino effect toppled twenty-seven ranges, spilling 264,000 volumes, splintering solid oak chairs, flattening steel footstools, shearing books in half, destroying or damaging more than 8,000 volumes.”

The Beginning
Between 250,000 and 100,000 years ago, humans began to speak.  About 5,000 years ago – after the domestication of horses, the cultivation of chili, the brewing of beer, the hoisting of sails, and the spinning of clay – humans began to write.

Digitization
Suppose a library decides to dispose of much of its paper texts, relying instead on microfilm and digital copies, on the grounds that originals are held elsewhere.  And suppose, too, that other libraries make the same judgment.

Much more than accumulations of books, the best libraries are hotspots and organs of civilization; magical places in which students, scholars, curators, philanthropists, artists, pranksters, and flirts come together and make something marvelous.

The digitization of bibliographical treasure is a valuable means through which rare books and manuscripts can be discovered, studied, appreciated, and enjoyed.  Digitization, combined with online publication, gives easy access to texts from anywhere in the world.  Ease of access to rare materials is a boon, as is ease of discoverability.  Digitization is also a technique of conservation.  The case for digitizing early and precious materials is obvious, particularly for especially delicate books that cannot be handled without endangering them.

Something else is lost, too, in the experience of digital browsing.  Browsing books on a screen is utterly alien to the delight of browsing and getting lost in a physical, fractal, serendipitous library of real books.  This book has walked through many different species of the wonder of libraries:  secret, hidden spaces; marvelous chance discoveries; high art in paint, stucco, timber, and stone; and every aspect of the human drama, from triumph to despair.  The physicality of books in libraries – spines, fore-edges, verticality, shelf-marks, bookcases, stacks, stalls, halls, domes – all these may be read so what we may know the histories of the books and the libraries; when and how they were made, how they were used and appreciated.  In the case of digital texts and digital libraries, such a mode of reading is impossible or irrelevant.

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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.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Book Shows How The Evolution Of English Continues




We may take modern English for granted, but when you examine its roots and explore how our language has evolved over the years, you begin to see patterns emerge.  Once you feel you understand what English really is, it changes on us, with new words coined daily and old rules thrown to the side.  If you want a very good, but brief look at English, read The English Language:  A Very Short Introduction by Simon Horobin (Oxford University Press).

Here are some interesting excerpts, covering linguistics, dictionaries, Old English, and unwritten rules:

1.      English today is spoken by approximately 450 million people all over the world.  But the language used by its many speakers varies, in pronunciation, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary, to such an extent that it seems necessary to ask whether these people can all be considered to be speaking English.  Even more people speak English as a second language, with figures varying from 1 billion to 1.5 billion people, and with considerably greater levels of linguistic divergence.  Are all these people speaking the same language, or are we witnessing the emergence of new Englishes?  Sine more than half of the world’s native English speakers live in the USA, we might wonder whether the balance of power has shifted such that to speak ‘English’ today is to speak General American rather than Standard British English.

2.      English has been in use for 1,500 years; during that time it has changed to such an extent that the form of the language used by the Anglo-Saxons is unrecognizable to contemporary English speakers.  Today we refer to this language as Old English, but should we perhaps think of it as a different language altogether?

3.      What is the status of foreign words in English today?  Should we be restricting the number of words adopted from other languages?  Are foreign words corrupting the purity of the English tongue, leaving it impoverished and capable only of unintelligible gobbledygook, or do borrowed words add to the diversity and richness of English?

4.      The earliest recorded form of English is known as old English – a language used by the Anglo-Saxons, as well as other Germanic tribes who came to Britain from continental Europe in the 5th century, following the withdrawal of the Roman legions.  Despite the disparate origins of the various Germanic tribes who settled in the British Isles during this period, they eventually came to consider themselves a single people and adopted the name of the Angles, from which the world English is derived.

5.      The most obvious place to turn is to a dictionary, frequently held to be the ultimate authority in discussions of usage.  But this is not as straightforward as it may seem.  Where many people refer to the dictionary’ as if there were a single such publication, the reality is considerably more complex.

Does this mean it is a legitimate word or not?  Consulting a dictionary for an authoritative pronouncement is not as straightforward a solution as might initially appear.

The view that a dictionary should set standards to be followed can be traced back to Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

Although Johnson’s Dictionary is often celebrated as the first such work in English, earlier instances of the monolingual dictionary can be traced in list of hard words.  The oldest example is Robert Cawdrey’s Table Alphabeticall (1604), whose full title establishes its remit:  A Table Alphabeticall, conteyning and teaching the true writing, and understanding of hard usuall English words, borrowed from the Hebrew, Greeke, Latine, or French.etc.

6.      Today, the inclusion of slang words, acronyms, and terms deriving from social media, such as amazeballs, YOLO, and selfie, into updated editions of dictionaries often provoke consternation among the media and the general public, who see such words as unworthy of inclusion in such an authoritative repository.  But since these words are in widespread use among English speakers, it is proper that they should feature in a dictionary.

7.      The popular view that a dictionary should uphold standards and prescribe, rather than reflect, usage was perhaps most strongly demonstrated by the furore that surrounded the publication of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary in 1961, in which labels which had traditionally commented on the acceptability or otherwise of certain words were recast in a more neutral tone, reporting rather than dictating usage.

8.      Perhaps the closest England has come to having an institutionalized academy is the Society for Pure English, founded in 1913 by the poet Robert Bridges, who was concerned by the ‘advancing decay’ of English caused by the laziness of its speakers.  Bridges attracted a number of distinguished academic supporters for his mission to improve the language as an aid for ‘the intercommunication of ideas’.  Yet, alongside his desire to promote intercultural harmony was a darker purpose that sought to root out the ‘blundering corruptions’ caused by those ‘communities of other-speaking races’ whose imperfect acquisition of the English language was infecting and mutilating the superior tongue.  Bridges’ conflicted aims demonstrate how attempts to purify and control English are often driven by social, moral, and racial agendas; by seeking to keep English pure.  Bridges was really concerned with the purity of its speakers.

9.      If dictionaries cannot be trusted to provide the kind of prescriptive authority that people seek, and without an academy of distinguished scholars to draw upon, where should we look for reliable and authoritative linguistic pronouncements?  An alternative source to the dictionary is the usage guide, which tends to adopt a more prescriptive approach and which focuses on a small subset of frequently disputed points of usage.  But where we might turn to such a guide in search of a single, unassailable viewpoint, the reality is a wealth of conflicting advice in a range of publications.

10.  The importance of the canon of great literary writers continues to influence debates over correct usage today.  Appealing to such precedents remains a common tactic among writers seeking an authoritative basis upon which to sanction or outlaw a particular usage.

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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.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Looking Back At Book Advertisements, As Seen In A Book



How have books been advertised in the past?  

A book, Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements by Dwight Garner, published in 2009, shows with hundreds of examples how books were advertised throughout the 20th century.

Garner, a New York Times book critic and the founding books editor at Salon.com, brought together original ads for some of the most acclaimed and best-selling books of the last century.  We see ads for The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man, On the Road, Lolita, The Joy of Sex, Catch -22, Helter Skelter, Satantic Verses, and dozens of other classics.

“These ads show us famous books when they were simply new volumes jostling for attention on bookstore shelves, not yet icons of our literary culture,” reads the cover flap.  Indeed, this book shows over 300 vintage book advertisements, revealing not only clever copy and attention-getting imagery, but a sense of the nation’s psychology, sociology, and political makeup with its choice of presentation.  Ads not only sell us on a book – they tell us about ourselves.

“These advertisements are full of insights about how publishers sought to market provocative and intellectually thorny works of literature to mass audiences,"writes Garner. He adds: ”Book advertising is an under-explored topic.  Scholars have mostly slipped around the subject. Most of the ads here have not been seen, let alone scrutinized since they first appeared in print.”

Though “book advertising’s print heyday’s behind us,” says Garner, “the century’s earliest book ads were generally straightforward, leaning on typography more than on other design elements.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t fascinating.”

Gone with the Wind, Farenheit 451, The Grapes of Wrath, The Fountainhead, All the King’s Men and the Naked and Dead, are among the advertised titles featured in the book.  The ads seem so simple and reflective of the past – content-heavy and filled with wall-to-wall words.

Ads can really capture what a book is about and they can sell readers on certain points or themes.  Ads also showcase a stunning image, making onlookers curious.  Many ads feature reviews or testimonials, but maybe that will change soon.

Today, book ads are dying.  They’ve moved online, though you still see them in PW, publishing trades, and some book review newspaper sections. Social media posts and email blasts are today’s book ads.


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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.” 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.