Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Counting My Linked In Connections

When I saw my number of contacts on Linked In hit 999 yesterday afternoon I knew it could be a matter of minutes or hours before I’d reach quadruple digits. It is somewhat of a milestone and yet I couldn’t help but wonder what it really means.

Certainly what matters is that my number of connections has been steadily rising.  I think I had about 300 as of May.  I’ve more than tripled that with a concerted effort over the past few months.

Further, what’s important is the quality of one’s connections.  I’m only connected with people in the publishing community – such as leading publicists, marketers, editors, literary agents, authors, and related experts.  These are the people I want to communicate with and develop or expand upon a relationship.

The thing that is most important is how you build and interact with your network, whatever its size. Linked In is not a destination, but a tool, here to serve you and facilitate the expansion of your professional game.  For image and ego alone I want to hit 1,000 and then double it and double that again. But what I really want is to enjoy a solid network of like-minded people who are willing to help one another succeed.

Once you connect with a lot of people, start to think about how you will stay in touch and how you will share information with them.  You can’t stay silent but you can’t keep sending out messages constantly. Find a happy medium.

And feel free to send me a Linked In request!

Interview With The Marketing Director Of Mulholland Books

Miriam Parker and I met on LinkedIn. Here is what she shared about her vies on the book publishing industry:

  1. As the marketing director for Mulholland Books,, a division of Little, Brown and Co., what challenges do you face in marketing books in today’s marketplace? I think our challenges and our advantages are in some ways the same. With Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and blogging, we finally have the ability to connect directly to the people who love our books and our brands in an authentic and immediate way. But, there’s also much more noise than ever, more competition for readers’ time. We have to convince the folks who love to read that they should pick up a book instead of watching TV or playing Angry Birds. By publishing the best books we can and by spreading the word in a way appropriate to each individual title, I have confidence that we will be able to do just that. I do think that the digital revolution that we are going through right now is ultimately a positive thing though, it brings every book to every potential reader at every moment. What could be bad about that?!

  1. What do you love about being a part of book publishing? I’ve worked in publishing for a long time, but I still get giddy when I get to meet an author who I admire, whose work I’ve read. I also think the best thing about publishing is that the people I work with are actual geniuses. It’s such a joy to work with brilliant people on a day-to-day basis. I look forward to coming to the office and finding out what they’re all thinking about.

  1. Where do you feel the industry is heading? Obviously we’re headed toward more and more digital purchases on multiple platforms. I think that devices that do multiple things—allow cultural consumers to read, listen, watch and play all at the same time—are the thing of the future. We have too many electronics in our handbags right now (this is why I love reading on my iPhone. It’s always with me!) I do also think, however, that the printed page is still the best way to really commune with a book. I can’t imagine living in a home without bookshelves and I predict that I will continue to fill mine and that I won’t be the only one.

  1. What can authors do to promote or market themselves? Connect. Connect. Connect. Be yourself. Find your fans. They are out there and they want to be your friend and friends buy each other’s books. You don’t need to tell them your address or the social security numbers of your children, nor does it need to take up your entire writing day, but you can still communicate with your readers in an authentic way. Think of your social media presence like a cocktail party, you need to listen to be listened to.

  1. What role should social media play in marketing books today? I think it plays a huge role whether you want it to or not. If you’re a public figure (and as an author you are a public figure) you are going to be discussed in social media. Why not participate in the conversation yourself? It’s such a unique time in our history that we can communicate with fans in such an immediate way. And what fun to get immediate feedback!

  1. Aside from my wonderful blog, what other publications or Web sites do you consult to learn about marketing and book trends?  I read all of the publishing trades (Publisher’s Weekly, Publisher’s Lunch, Publishing Perspectives) and tech trades (I especially like Mashable and Silicon Alley Insider). I also learn lots from Facebook, Twitter and my social networking pals.

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.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

For Your Next Book, It's All About Timing

Promoting your book is all about timing. Ever notice in January there is a slew of business and diet books (everyone wants to commit to their resolutions) and in June a lot of novels come out for summer beach reading? Of course all of the major books come out in September, October and early November -- they all want to capitalize on everyone being back from vacation in September and by November everyone wants a piece of the holiday gift market. But what can you do to strategically make sure you are timing things well?

First, you might want to release a book out of season, so there's less competition for your title. Why not a diet book in April, a tax guide in October or a baseball book in December?

Second, you might want to partner with the competition. Find out who is publishing books that are similar to yours and see if you can ride their publicity and marketing efforts, perhaps setting up joint book-signings and appearances. Instead of you talking about the laws of wealth or the 7 principles of parenting, team up with two or three other authors and form a panel of experts.

Third, if the Fall season will be busy for major books in major cities, don't compete with that. Go to smaller cities and take a lion's share of the media and the market there.

But if you really want to time things, you'll write a book that reacts to a major event that hasn't happened yet. Do you ever wonder how publishers quickly have a book that responds to a tragedy like 9/11 or a trial just before it ends or the death of a celebrity? Anticipate the news so that you can capitalize on it once it happens. For instance, many people assume we will have a double-dip recession, so why not write a book on it, wait for the crash to happen and then rush to press and have the first book to tell us how it happened, even though you knew how or why it would happen before it happened.

Interview With The Founder Of The Lisa Ekus Group, LLC

1.      Lisa, how many years have you been in book publishing? 33 years—before faxes or email!
2.      How is the publishing industry is changing? How much time do you have? In house publishing staffs are seriously diminished, so old-time editing has pretty much vanished; PR has changed 180 degrees. Authors MUST be partners with publishers, not expect them to lead the way selling or marketing your book. The onus is fully on the author (like it or not). E-books, digitization, on-line everything has changed the industry. Advances and publisher risk have plummeted.  It is still wildly in flux. Here’s the thing: every blogger wants a book deal and a book in hard copy; give-aways at BEA were all real books, not codes for e-books, or free APPS. There is massive change in the HOW of the dissemination of information, but the NEED and DESIRE for information is greater than ever. Bloggers have leveled the playing field—anyone can be a writer. How you succeed is still based on talent.
3.      How are you, as a literary agent, responding to these new changes, challenges and opportunities?   Every industry changes—it keeps us healthy and challenges us to stretch and evolve. We are keeping abreast of the current industry standards for things like e-book rights; we are going to blogger and digital conferences; we are reading and learning and collaborating with other agents issues around photography rights; payout of advances, e-books and apps. We ask as many questions as we answer and are trying to shape some of the direction through our contracts, looking ahead. This is challenging because the industry has not settled into a norm yet, and I think it will be a number of years before things really shake out. That means covering our clients for as many possibilities as we are able.
4.      What are you looking for in an author – aside from a great book!? Passion. Commitment. Partnership.
5.      What do you love about being a part of the book publishing industry? Discovering, nurturing and building new creative voices in the industry. We always have at least a handful of first time authors on our list of clients. I love the words, the intent, the creativity of so many talented writers.
6.      What advice can you offer to a struggling writer? You only need one “yes”,  so don’t lose hope or faith when looking for an agent and/or publisher. Follow your passion. Ask for help. Learn from your rejection letters. Don’t give up your day job!
For more information, please consult: www.LisaEkus.com

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.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Publishing Quartet Share Advice

A book publisher, a literary agent, a media coach, and a salesman/marketer each share their insights on book publishing below:

Interview With Select Books Publisher Kenzi Sugihara

Kenzi Sugihara has owned Select Books for a decade. Before founding his book publishing company he was in book publishing for three decades. His first job out of college was at McGraw Hill. His career highlights include being a publisher and a vice president at Bantam Doubleday Dell and Random House. Here is what he told Book Marketing Buzz Blog in an e-interview recently:

1.      What advice do you have for those looking to break into the publishing industry? I do not advise the course I took even though it turned out to be very positive for me. I think the best entry point these days is through a small publisher because that way the beginner will experience a broad spectrum of the business. Out of necessity the small publisher will throw all types of projects at the novice who will have to learn fast in order to survive. This can sound frightening but it really isn’t that bad because anyone with reasonable resourcefulness can do well.

2.      What do you think is the future for book publishing? Another reason I suggest entry with a small publisher is because I believe that is where the real action and growth is. I believe that our real problem is that we are being overwhelmed by the multiple opportunities presented to us via technology. These tools have revolutionized all aspects of the publishing process including operations, development, marketing, distribution and product. I believe the small publishers are best positioned to harness these radical changes. Of course I believe the future of publishing is unlimited.

3.      What types of books does Select Books publish? What type of authors are you seeking to publish? SelectBooks is a nonfiction trade book publisher. We have been most successful in the business, self-help and new age categories. You might have noticed that these categories are quite disparate. This is because with the new marketing tools available to us we can reach and build brand recognition in various sub-category markets quite efficiently. SelectBooks’ extremely flexible publishing policy allows us to open ourselves to a broad range of authors. The delivery and freshness of ideas is of prime importance. However we are looking for authors with strong platforms for bring the book to targeted audiences and ideally their own distribution channels distinct from the book stores. For example, business consultants who might want to use their book as part of their presentations.

4.      What can publishers and authors do to promote and market their books? The concept of publishing to subcategories is as old as publishing itself. However, the economic and other efficiencies of the new technologies is allowing us new dimensions to reaching and refining those markets. It is also interesting that this subdivision of markets does not necessarily lead to smaller sales. It is still possible to reach six-figure units within fairly specialized subcategories. Authors with their specialized knowledge and contacts in these subcategories are of critical importance to publishers. They are the key to reaching the markets.

5.      What do you enjoy most about being in book publishing? I have always been a book person. I have always loved books as long as I can remember. I was also raised in an entrepreneurial family and now I have the best of both worlds.

6.      How has the bankruptcy of Borders impacted the industry? Will we see new bookstores open up? The bankruptcy of Borders is unfortunate but it is a symptom of overexpansion. Following my mantra stated above, I think new stores will open with a tendency toward more category specialization but increased functionality such as education centers and perhaps even publishing houses.

7.      What have been your most successful titles and what made them successful? We have had a number of successes including Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Unleashed, The Intuitive Investor, and The Answer to Cancer. All of these titles owe their success to a close and constant collaboration between publisher and author.

Interview With Media Coach Jess Todtfeld

Jess Todtfeld is president of "Success In Media," a media coaching service. The Washington Post called him a "media training expert." He works with people who are looking to create tangible results from media interviews and business presentations. He has been running his company for eight years.  While New York City is his home base, he spends about half his time servicing clients in other cities.  Prior to launching his company, Todtfeld was a TV producer for ABC, NBC, and FOX.  He now appears in national media almost weekly and set a Guinness Record in 2009 for most radio interviews conducted in a single day... 112. He can be found on the Web by going to www.SuccessInMedia.com.  His recent interview, via e-mail, with Book Marketing Buzz Blog reveals the following:

  1. Jess, you have been coaching experts and authors for many years. What do the exceptional authors do that others don’t when presenting themselves to the media? Exceptional authors know that interviews are about more than just getting exposure. It's ultimately about.. get this...  selling books!  Authors need to not just look and sound good, they need to plant seeds that can lead to sales.  They can do this by using phrases like "when researching the book, what I found was..." or "I have a whole chapter about that. What I noticed was."  This sends a clear message to the audience that this is not just great (or random) information they are hearing. It is part of a larger set of information... a book. Your book!
  2. Can you share five ways authors can best prepare for their media interviews? A) Write out all of the ANSWERS you wish you could use in your interview. Just the act of doing this will dramatically increase your chance of getting those exact answers into the interviews. B) Practice answering questions. Part of the formula to having more control with questions is to realize that you don't have to just talk about what the interviewer wants. This is not grade school. We don't have to be good little students. You can give a short answer to deal with their question, then follow it with some of those ANSWERS you were hoping to inject into the interview. (Those ones you wrote out.) C) Practice with a video camera. You likely have one on your cell phone or built into a computer.  This piece of technology will help you to get out of your own body and see yourself the way the audience and the world sees you.  Notice what is working... and do more of that.  Find out what ISN'T working and do less of that.  D) Give value.  Give the audience plenty of great information and a reason to find out more, to hunt you down, to end up in your virtual book store, A.K.A, your Web site. E) Educate yourself.  Here are free videos and tools I am happy to share with you:  Free Author Media Marketing Tools.
  3. How difficult is it to transition someone who is used to speaking for 30-60 minutes – or longer – into speaking in sound bites of 15-30 seconds? Giving presentations and giving media interviews are two completely different skills.  When giving a speech, you need to keep people awake, make eye contact, speak in a way that makes you memorable... so they ultimately will act and do something.  You have a different set of goals when speaking to the media.  If you are speaking to a print reporter, your goal is to get quoted.  More specifically, to get the exact quote you want in the article.  Same for recorded video pieces.  For live television, you want to be interesting, plant seeds, get web traffic. It's not a matter of difficulty but it is about tapping into a different skill set.
  4. You worked in national television prior to launching your media coaching company. How has TV changed over the past few years and where is it heading? The Internet and social media is what has changed TV the most. I think TV is becoming more and more like radio, a secondary media.  While we still like it, the main / dominant media is something else... the internet.  Think about where you spend your time during the day?  Most of us are hooked in to the internet all day at work, then again on our blackberries, iphones, iPads, internet-ready TV.  The most exciting part of this transition is that we now have more control over being the media.  You see this with celebrities Tweeting.  I use YouTube heavily as part of everything that I do and so do many of my clients.  When I meet people, they say "Hey, you're the guy from the videos." It's the same effect of people seeing me on TV.
  5. How should someone dress for TV to make an impact? Simple. Dress in a way that best represents you.  If you are a lawyer, look like a lawyer. If you are a rock star, look like a rock star.  Think about the image you want people to take in on the other side.  After that, just know that white is the brightest image on the screen and black looks like the absence of color.  Test out outfits with your home video camera... and don't turn this part into the entire process. I'd rather have you practice giving interviews and getting your pre-determined answers or "media messages" into the story.
  6. What do you like most about working with authors? While most of my work is on the corporate level, authors are like myself.  They are individuals, usually on a mission, usually trying to help people.  They often have great things to say, but have trouble conveying it to the world.  I tell them that writing the book felt like a marathon, but now that they are at the promoting and marketing phase, they realize that they've only run the half-marathon. I enjoy being able to shape them in a short amount of time, into people who can have the skills needed to succeed.
  7. What are the myths or misconceptions some authors operate under when it comes to being interviewed by the media? Myths: -The media is out to get you  -The media wants to trip you up. Not true. More often, especially with authors, they WANT to make you look good.  They WANT to provide interesting content to their audience.  What you may interpret as an awful, terrible, mean interviewer, is just someone trying to keep it interesting. In fact, if you understand that, you greatly increase your chance of looking like a super star.  Just as in the sales process, you want them to bring up objections they may have.  The more you deal with them, the closer you are to a sale.  In most cases, we're "selling" them on our ideas. Misconceptions: -Anyone who uses media training techniques is trying to put one over on the media like a sleazy politician.  -You are at the mercy of the interviewer.  -The interview is a conversation.  Media training should be like TV makeup.  It is important, it makes you look great, but no one should know it's there.  If they do, it wasn't applied correctly.  You should never be at the mercy of the interviewer.  The flip side is that you should never dodge questions. It is not a conversation. That interviewer has thought out all of their questions and put them down on paper.  You can do the same. They have a nice outfit, TV makeup, and lighting.  You deserve the same.  They have a road map or a game plan prior to the interview.  You deserve the same.
Interview With Literary Agent Robert Astle

For the last six years, Robert Astle has been a literary agent. Prior to that, he worked in professional theater in Canada for 35 years as a playwright, director, actor and teacher.  He has published three plays and a work of non-fiction, so the transition to literary agency was not that difficult.  Some of his published authors include  

1.      What do you love about being a literary agent?  Working with authors-- no question. It is a fascinating relationship that begins with a raw manuscript and a plan to find a readership. I have a small shop, so for me it is all about the editorial and clearing the weeds so the writers' voices can be understood loud and clear. I also really like building long- term relationships with editors, publicists other agents in publishing. 

2.      What do you see for the future of book publishing? Buckets of ink has been spilled on the future of publishing. The fact is simple-- a book is a perfect machine. Like a hammer it does the job...perfectly. I don't see books vanishing.  Distribution and editorial will have some big changes and I see publishing conglomerates breaking into smaller units- as the major six publishers really focus only on best-selling authors both in fiction and non-fiction. The e-book is already having a profound effect for publishers -- which basically gives consumers a vast backlist and an up-to-the date bookstore in their hands. That is really terrific development. Editorial will also have to adjust to these realities. Authors will have more clout, as they decide that trade publishing will not get their books into the hands of their readership, but with savvy marketing, they can create and build an audience. 

3.      What is the flavor of the month right now in terms of what publishers are looking for from authors?  YA, and more YA.  Intelligent girls are demanding and they want  intelligent heroines that speak to their generation. YA book publishing grew enormously in a pretty bad economy. Their parents want memoirs from aging rock stars, and more than likely-- a whole slew of Obama books. The Boomer generation will still be looking for existential answers, and books on memory, or the lack of it, as that generation hits seventy-plus will be wanted.  

4.      What advice do you have for struggling writers seeking to get published? Read and write every day. Write the first novel, keep it to 75,000 words and don't show it to your best friends or family Ask your best friends to find other readers so you have a degree of separation. Then, once you have that book reviewed, edit it, and then keep it in your files. Then write another book and if it passes all the tests mentioned above, have it professionally edited, and reviewed by some publishing expert. Then and only then, write a query letter to seek out an agent.

5.      What do you look for in an author? Non-fiction: Authority and a professional proposal that is market-savvy. Fiction: An unmistakable voice, and something powerful to say to a readership.  

6.      What do you advise your authors in regards to what they need to do to generate publicity and marketing? They have to pay a professional publicist.  Publishers are only interested in investing in the cream of the crop, and all other books are on a sink or swim basis.  Authors that pay for a professional marketing and publicist plan always do better. Almost all my of my clients are working with professional publicity firms.

Interview With George Hedges

  1. George, what do you love most about the book publishing industry? I love the uniqueness that is each book.  I might be selling a 'product' that is paper and ink but what is exciting is the different genres, themes, and all of the new ideas and thoughts that are constantly changing within each book's covers.  And while I might not read specific genres, there is always an audience for those books and the passion of the buyers, editors, etc. as well as the readers of those books is infectious. There is always more to learn and that is exciting.

  1. After being in it for over 20 years and now finding yourself looking to get back in, where do you see growth for the publishing industry? I think growth will be seen in marketing, publicity and promotions.  Given the explosion of e-books and e-readers, I think we will continue to see shrinkage in brick and mortar bookstores, although I don't think that traditional paper and ink books will disappear entirely.  I also think that with Borders having sadly exited the scene, there could be a resurgence of independent bookstores, especially since the big box retailers are only interested in the big bestsellers and don't go very deeply into any publisher’s list.

  1. When you were the national account manager to Borders while working for Simon & Schuster did you get the sense that Borders was in trouble or that it could not pull itself together and survive? At the time I was working with Borders, I think everyone knew that they were experiencing problems because of the economy, but I don't think anyone thought they wouldn't be able to survive.  My thought was that they would shrink the size of the company by getting rid of under-performing stores, perhaps even become a smaller regional chain. That they are now closed is really sad for the publishing community because Borders provided such a unique and independent voice as a retailer that cannot be duplicated.   

  1. You also worked on the retail side. What does that vantage point look like? I worked for an independent bookstore for six years right out of college and that is a lot of hard work.  Not only do the books need to be unpacked and shelved, overstock put away, and customers waited on, but you need to know enough about the books to be able to assist people in finding them as well as making recommendations when asked.  It really is a job that you have to have a passion for and when you find one of those passionate book people, you know you have struck gold.  

  1. Based on when you coordinated marketing and advertising for Random House, what do you feel are the components to a successful marketing campaign for books these days? Traditional marketing and advertising is still how I learn about the books that I read and that method still works.  However, I think that marketing through social networking sites is the wave of the future.  But I haven't seen a social networking campaign yet that has made me run out and buy a book.  Everyone is looking for that certain uniqueness in creating their campaign strategies, but I think that social networking promotion is really about creating word of mouth buzz.  The trick is figuring out how to get the hook into the consumer to get them to purchase a book, especially since we are competing for their leisure time and dollars, and I don't think anyone has hit on a formula that works consistently. 

  1. What does the average consumer not know or understand or appreciate about books and the process it takes to create and sell them? It is the time element involved: the 12-18 months that it takes for a book to be available in the marketplace. It is a very busy and extremely important time for each book.  During that time, an editor reviews the book to see if it is coherent and understandable and works with the author to make any necessary adjustments.  Then choosing a place in the schedule to put it into the market must be considered (you don't want a Christmas title out in the middle of summer, you want to try to avoid competition in similar genres, etc.).  Covers need to be designed, books need to be designed and printed, publicity needs to line up reviews, interviews and appearances for the author, advertising needs to be designed and space purchased in appropriate venues, sales departments need to sell to the retail outlets and books need to be distributed. My point is that there are many hands that need to touch every book that is published to make it the best product possible and it doesn't happen overnight. 
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.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Personalization Is Key To Marketing But Rarely Practiced

Marketing a book takes a lot of time, effort, brainpower, luck,  and help. But it’s not rocket science.  You reach out to those whom you believe would buy your book if only they knew about it.  The problem is that many authors fail to properly identify their likely buyer – they either vastly overstate or understate what their prospective buyer pool is.

But once you know who to reach out to, and you find those people, you need to contact them. Assuming you have all of the relevant contact information, you could call people, e-mail them, snail mail them, fax them, meet them in person, or hope to reach them indirectly via advertising, social media or a news media campaign. Once you determine your methodology of outreach – and I strongly suggest you use several methods to reach people – you then have to make a big decision:

Will you customize and personalize your outreach or will you take a mass outreach approach that’s less personalized?

I believe both have their payoff, depending on the cost and time put into these efforts, but when it comes to taking a personalized approach it can get very time-consuming and research-intensive. But nothing beats that type of contact – the recipients definitely notice it and usually respond favorably.  They feel like you speak directly to them, like they are special like they are understood.  But let’s face it – all marketing is geared towards making a sale no matter how personalized something sounds. I never believe that any marketer really knows me or cares about me when contacting me, so why do we care about a “personal” touch?

Because we like to be fooled.  We enjoy believing someone understands or knows us. 

Start by using their first name in the body of the email – spelled correctly.  Then use language that suggests friendliness and openness. Keep the pitch relatively short but highlight why you contacted them.  You can’t just say how great your book is. You should explain how you can help them, that you understand their needs or goals.

One thing I will say about your marketing approach:  Express passion.  People buy from those they like, those who have a great reputation, those who offer a good value/price, and those who sound passionate about what they do.

Let them hear it in your voice – or at least see it in your letter – that you love what you do, that you know your stuff, that you’re on a mission, that you hold strong principles or convictions for the topic your book covers.  You’re not selling a widget or a commoditized product – you sell ideas, emotions, information, maybe even life-changing ideals.  Your words can be worth much more than the cover price of your book.

No question, personalization is important, and making it personal is likely to position you best for a sale.  Nothing is wrong with playing the numbers game, where you contact a lot of people generally hoping for at least a few, low-effort sales.  But the breakthrough sales will come when you speak directly to your intended consumer on a level that makes that person feel they are the only ones you’re talking to.

Interview With Heather Moore, Senior Publicity Manager For SourceBooks
  1. Heather, as the senior publicity manager for Sourcebooks, what is your plan of attack to get your books media exposure? At Sourcebooks it starts with the structure of the department.  Over the past couple of years we have worked to better align the publicity department with Sourcebooks key verticals – children’s & YA, romance/women’s fiction, non-fiction (parenting, humor, memoir) and college guides/study aids.  So each person on the team becomes expert in their area of focus.  We’ve really seen the positive effects of this in romance, where we’ve built a successful and well-regarded imprint (Casablanca) very quickly.  A big part of that is our PR relationships with the romance community – bloggers & reviewers. 

Our general approach to the media is really pretty simple.  Because each publicist has a lot of books to work on, we really try to focus on quality over quantity.  We target the outlets that will drive sales and awareness for each book and go after those hard.  We meet with the people we’re pitching – face to face meetings go a long way have led to some really great exposure for our books.

  1. What do you suggest authors do to help promote their books? We actually created an online author toolkit for our authors several years ago in an effort to give authors tools to help promote their book.  This includes a “30 Things You Can Do…” which has tips on everything from blog tours (comment, comment, comment – the more you interact the more you’ll drive word-of-mouth) to soliciting reviews for Amazon and GoodReads, creating talking points and key messaging around your book, signing stock at bookstores within driving distance, scouring headlines for (applicable) PR hooks, and much more.  When we introduce authors to their publicist we make it clear then that this is a partnership – that we expect just as much hard work from the author.  This is not a time when authors can sit back and expect the media inquiries to just roll in.  Most get this, but some need a little help and that’s usually because they just don’t know what they can do. 

  1. Why do you love being a part of the book publishing world? I’ve been in the business for nine years and for me there’s no better job than getting to talk about books every day.  And not just books we publish.  I get just as excited as the next person to talk about a new author I just discovered.  And I love that we all have that in common – we all love books.  I love working on the PR side of the business because we get to work with authors and the media.  We all know that rush of adrenaline you get when you finally nail a big booking that you’ve been working on for months.  After telling your boss, the next best thing is telling the author.

  1. Where do you see the industry trending towards? At Sourcebooks we are working really hard to be a leader in the transformation that the industry is going through.  We recognized early on that there would be tremendous opportunity and we’ve been moving very quickly ever since.  For publicity, that’s going to require getting really efficient when it comes to promoting existing products (books) and also really smart and comfortable when it comes to promoting digital initiatives.  This past February we launched the Fiske Interactive iPad App (http://bit.ly/oIqaC2) – a digital, interactive version of our bestselling Fiske Guide to Colleges.  This was an entirely new territory for us, and we quickly found that pitching tech media is not the same as pitching book media.  We have a lot of really cool things coming up the rest of this year and into 2012, so becoming experts at launching digital products is definitely a focus of ours.  I imagine other publicity departments are going through a similar transition.

  1. What do you believe most often influences the media on whether to interview an author or review a book? I think any number of things can lead to a booking – a great pitch, a good hook, a media-worthy author, a relationship with that media person.  At the end of the day I do think it’s about the book.  I know, I know –PR 101 says “don’t pitch the book, pitch the hook.”  But a hook only gets you so far, and often the interview ends up not being about the book and you don’t actually see that media appearance sell books.  A good book and a publicist who can be creative and get a media person’s attention is a winning combination.

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.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How About Making Some Money?

Too much of a good thing could kill the market – or at least force consolidation.  This is true for most industries.  Truth is, we need someone to be a clear-cut leader, the near monopoly that everyone else loves to hate but benchmarks themselves by.  Baseball has the Yankees.  Smart phones and tablets have Apple.  Online search has Google.  Social networking has Facebook. Fast food has McDonald’s.  Online book sales has Amazon.  And so on.  It looks like all of the daily deal sites need to fold up so that a few can succeed.  The Wall Street Journal reported the other day that a third of the daily-deal type sites have shuttered or were sold this year.  Take a look at the most visited sites for one-day sales offers and the share they have of the market (as calculated by the number of Web site visitors):

·         Groupon 47.6%
·         Living Social 29.5%
·         Eversave 10.6%
·         Deal Find 3.6%
·         Bloomspot 1.7%

The rest account for just a few percentage points, combined.  And yet it is questionable if any of these sites are actually making money, due to start-up costs and advertising.  That’s the thing with e-commerce -- so many sites develop a name for themselves but not so many are making real money.  They may get investors and issue an IPO but all of this is Ponzi-like speculation.  When it comes to really creating and selling a service or product that makes a decent profit, many are  challenged. Even Groupon is bleeding red ink.

So when you read about this company or that company with huge followings, probe a little deeper and see if they are really making any money.

Authors and publishers should be aware that the e-book gold rush is also overstated.  Just because costs to produce  an e-book are lower than printing books does not mean they are assured of success.  You need to market and promote the e-book and work harder at it since books lacking shelf-space miss out on accidental or point-of-purchase sales.

Book publishing was stronger when there were a few, well-established gatekeepers, both on the publisher side and the retail side.  Increased competition isn’t necessarily bad but now there are too many “publishers” and too many ways to sell a book and all of that choice, convenience, and democratization of the process to publish and sell may end up shrinking or stagnating the industry.

I envision more fracturing and diluting of the industry for several more years and then I envision mergers and the consolidating of some of the bigger players, and I see small presses or individuals joining forces in newly formed conglomerates, much the way some large distributors already represent hundreds of tiny presses.

There will be two clear worlds – those who publish  for profit and those that do so for fun, hobby, ego, or as a charitable venture.  This may be happening already but I think there will be a starker contrast over time.

Publishing will also phase in other multi-media, where books and video or books and music are packaged together or where books and membership blogs or Web sites are sold together.  It’s only logical that we see more bundling of media and information.  There’s so much of it out there and everyone’s competing for the same, scarce dollar.

But the real profiteers when it comes to the media appears to be the delivery service and the hardware maker.  Amazon makes money when selling the Kindle as does Amazon in selling the iPad.  Verizon makes money selling smart phones and service packages.  But what about the creative artist, the content creator?  He or she still searches for riches. 

Look at e-books and paper books. The average hard cover book may make an author around $4 per sale but only $2.75 for an e-book.  The publisher makes about the same amount either way.  If more sales go to e-books and there’s no increase in the number of sales, authors will start to earn less.  But Amazon makes money no matter what it sells -- printed book, e-book, Kindles, etc.

Maybe we should all be in the device-making business or become the utility service that data is sent over.  That’s where the money appears to be.

Interview With Cherise Fisher, Editor & Publishing Consultant

1. You have a 17-year publishing career and are the former editor in chief for Plume. In your opinion, where is the industry heading? I'm very hopeful about authors being able to share their ideas and stories with a wide group of interested readers. But I suspect that's not really your question. Your question is about the industry -- the behemoth that has developed over time to profit from authors being able to share their ideas and stories.

I started in publishing in the mid-nineties. That's not so terribly long ago, but the environment was totally different.  I didn't have internet access or an email address in the beginning. I spent a tremendous amount of time standing over fax and photocopy machines, assembling review clips, and scouring through Books In Print. Titles were sold by an army of sales reps who visited independent bookstores that dotted the United States. Having your book selected for the Book of the Month Club really meant something,  and the success of your book was closely linked to getting print reviews.  I can't speak to cause and effect, but I would say that the convergence of several things --the predominance of internet use, the corporatization of the major publishing companies (where the marketability of a book is at least equally important than the quality of the book itself), the  corporatization of bookselling (and the accompanying collapse of independent bookselling), the advances in technology when it comes to producing and enjoy books,  the rise of Amazon (which gave people not only an opportunity buy books outside of established routes at a discount, but also gave readers the power to review books) -- all of these things and more has accelerated a dramatic shift in the industry. I realize that I'm making generalizations that anyone can poke chock full of holes, but what I've witnessed over the past seventeen years is this: there was an elite group of people who made decisions about what should be published and an even more elite group who would tell the masses what was worthy of being read. And now the process is far more democratic. Readers and writers have a lot more self determination when it comes to books. I say that this is a good thing. Now the 600 lb gorilla, also known as the major English language publishers, are going to have to catch up by changing the way they do business -- or suffer extinction.

2. What do you love the most about being a part of book publishing? Being an editor both satiates and inspires  my curiosity about everything. It gives structure to my tendency to be bossy and talkative. But most importantly, publishing has given me joy in knowing that I am contributing to our world’s future, beyond what I can imagine. The truth is this: books connect people to each other through shared experience. And I think connection  is our most essential human impulse. It's a privilege to be a part of that process.

3. You are the Editor in residence at A Chapter a Month. What is that? What do you do there?  I am primarily a Developmental Editor and a Writing Coach.  But I am also the Editor in Residence for the wonderful website achapteramonth.com. One of my authors -- the talented, prolific, and entrepreneurial Victoria Christopher Murray -- figured out a way for readers to enjoy their favorite authors more regularly. Fans can buy a fresh, exciting chapter every month for 99 cents from a selection of popular authors, and give witness to how novels evolve. There are also writing workshops for aspiring authors on topics like character development, plot, etc. Every three months, as the Editor in Residence, I do a workshop through  live stream webcam, answering whatever question workshop attendees might have about publishing. I'm fascinated by what people want to ask me.

On September 28th, I'm starting a 10 week online writer's group. Whenever writers ask me for publishing advice in the past, I would tell them to workshop their book. It's so important for writers to get constructive feedback. Now I'm excited to be able to develop a group -- and you won't even have to leave your home to participate! Registration is going on now. For more information, see http://www.achapteramonth.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=124&Itemid=246

4. When you edit a book, how do you go about making it better without compromising what already makes it good? My first job is to be a reader, not unlike the readers who will eventually buy the book. I read a quote by Ursula K. LeGuin that really resonates for me: "The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story." Writing is such a solitary task, and it is very natural for the writer can become insular, myopic. As a discerning reader, I can expose the writer to the impact of their words, apart from his or her intention. From there, it is a conversation between author and editor. I'm an editor who asks a lot of questions, and makes lots of "suggestions" (some more forcefully than others). The notes I offer are intended to probe. My ultimate goal is to fully dissolve into the writer's voice so I can magnify what he or she is doing well, and fortify what is lacking. If you approach editing that way, it is impossible to compromise what is working well with a book.

5. How come you’re not on Twitter yet? Ha! I get why celebrities would want to update their fans through Twitter. But I'm not a celebrity -- just a civilian trying to make a difference in the lives of authors and readers. Having said that, I was also late to Facebook, and now I love it. So there's hope for me and Twitter.

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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Publishing Community Upbeat – When Wine Is Served

I attended an industry event last night that I’ve been going to for years, the first of the season’s monthly gatherings of the Publishers Publicity Association (PPA).  The get-together, over the past four to five years seemed to mirror publishing – shrinking in size, pessimism in the air.  But yesterday was different.

There seemed to be optimism underlying the buzz and chatter.  The roof-top cocktail gathering appeared to hold more attendees than in recent years.  It felt energized and forward-thinking.  Those expecting to see a funeral were mistaken.

The book industry is still made up of intelligent, talented individuals who love books.  Many of the publicists are young women, some right out of college.  They give of their time and mind -- beyond their pay scale -- because they are doing what they love and doing it with pride.

No one accidentally winds up in book publishing.  You’re there because that’s where you belong.  More than likely, you belong nowhere else.  You love words and books, even more than you love people, but as publicists, you enjoy communicating with others as well.

The PPA event is nice for people who so often e-mail each other and don’t get to see a face match up to a name. It’s also one of the few times competitors mingle with one another.  Today the person you laughed with is calling the same editor or producer that you’re trying to convince should talk to your author over theirs.

Of course, the industry, like life itself, looks better through wine-colored glasses.  Maybe the key to selling more books is to get consumers to drink too.

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.