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  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 He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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