Monday, October 3, 2011

The Book World Is One Button Away From Growth Or Mass Destruction

I have a new toy and I wonder how long before I use it.  It’s a Kindle.  This little digital box represents both optimism and pessimism for me. It can kill or save the publishing industry. It can enhance or detract from the reading experience. So much rides on the e-reader.

The book publicity firm I work for took up my idea to buy every manager an e-reader of choice.  I researched the Kindle, Nook and Kobo and made my choice based on a number of factors.  But the idea of reading a book on a device is something that gives me feelings of guilt and pleasure.  I’m the last person to want an e-reader and I bought one.  That tells you where the industry is heading.

I am staring at it, wondering when I will ever use it. It’s very much like me to buy things I don’t use.

I once bought a gym membership and never used it.  Never. Not once.  I had a free trial membership for a week at this gym and went three or four times. Then I signed up.  Four months went by as I paid over $100/month not to work out.  I eventually cancelled it.

More recently, I bought an electric shaver, the kind barbers use to give guys a buzz cut.  I ordered it through my barber, Tony, an old school guy who has to have given nearly 200,000 haircuts over the course of the past half-century.  I took it out of the box.  And still haven’t used it.  That was two months ago.

Okay, I’m going to see if I can keep an open mind and see what e-readers can bring to the table. I will post this blog entry and then plug in my Kindle, to charge it up.  It could be by Tuesday that I begin to enter a whole new era and begin reading a book in a way that is foreign to me but will be the standard for my two young children. It’s exciting and sad, but it’s reality.

The book world is a click away from growth or bankruptcy.

Interview With Literary Agent Robin Mizell
Robin Mizell is a literary agent based in Athens, Ohio. She recently took part in an online interview with Book Marketing Buzz Blog. If you’d like to know more about her please feel free to consult:

1.      Robin, how do you work with authors? Prospective clients usually learn about my agency online or at a writers' conference, and then they email their queries along with samples of their manuscripts. A list of the types of manuscripts I'm seeking and specific guidelines for queries can be found on my website.

When I receive an exciting query, I ask to read the completed manuscript before deciding whether I'd like to work with the writer. Unlike some agents, I don't consider proposals for works in progress, including nonfiction.

I'm able to offer representation to less than half of one percent of the writers who send me queries. I think that's a fairly normal percentage for literary agents who are accepting new clients.

The writers who decide to work with me are given an agency agreement detailing the terms of our business relationship, which helps to prevent any misunderstandings or misconceptions. I work on commission, so I don't get paid until rights are licensed to a publisher and royalties are paid to the author. In addition to finding publishers for my clients' work, I advise my clients how to use social media and other means of self-promotion, how to advance their writing careers, what editors want to see, how to understand their tax liabilities, and what to expect during each step in the process of getting published. I also serve as their advocate before, during, and after deal negotiations, which frees my clients to concentrate on creative endeavors.

I'm not a publicist; I'm a full-time agent. If my clients want to engage freelance publicists or publicity firms, or any other professional support, I help them find the experts who are most likely to suit their needs. The compatibility of author and publicist is just as important as the trust between author and agent.

2.      What do you love most about being in the book publishing industry? People in every sector of the book publishing business are, by nature, enthusiastic and kind-hearted. They're also the most entertaining people to be around. I'm sure you agree. It makes the job fun. I love my work.

3.      Where do you see it heading? We already see the rapid pace of ebook adoption. During the past couple of years, many new publishers have launched, because the barriers to entering the business were lowered. It's easier to be a book publisher using digital technology. It's now easier for publishers to have their books distributed worldwide, so territorial boundaries are becoming anachronistic. In three more years, we'll begin to see which of the new generation of publishers are succeeding, financially and critically. By then, we'll also be able to tell which of the venerable older publishers will continue to thrive. The best time to take advantage of the flux has passed, I think. Although the average consumer, or the average aspiring author, is only beginning to notice the changes in the book publishing industry now, in 2011, the transformation has been underway for several years. People in book publishing are accustomed to projecting two years ahead.

4.      What advice can you give to writers struggling to get published or to write a great book? Everyone knows that good writers are avid readers. Aspiring authors also need to be adept with technology and discoverable online. But those are the easy parts. The difficult part is writing a great book. A person can't become a great writer without paying attention to readers at some level and without learning how to revise. The best thing a serious writer can do to gain an advantage over the majority of less committed writers is to obtain lots of impartial feedback. The most obvious way to get feedback is to join a good critique group, but writers also can learn a lot from the process of submitting short stories and essays to magazines and online publications, from working as freelancers and copyeditors, and even from blogging. Ultimately, writers succeed in proportion to their devotion to their art, because the folks who aren't sufficiently motivated simply quit when they discover that becoming a successful writer isn't as easy as it looks. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

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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