Friday, December 30, 2011

Exclusive PR

Some of my best media placements have come not because I had a celebrity, best-selling author or breaking news story to promote. In fact, aside from luck, timing and targeting the right person at the right media outlet, I can think of no better way to get media coverage than through one simple trick:  offer an exclusive.

The media loves getting an exclusive. It wants to be first and to scoop the competition.  So give them what they want.

By attaching the word “exclusive” you set a few things in motion.

First, you elevate your pitch into sounding important and demanding it be looked at.

Second, it forces a timely decision by that media outlet – either they want you or they don’t.  No need to follow up next week.

Third, it makes what you have to offer sound better than what it is and yet if your pitch is good and you have something interesting, you may just get someone to bite.

So what do you do if multiple media outlets say yes?  You break down the yeses by media type – first TV first newspaper, first magazine, first blog, first radio show, etc.  Within each media class there are outlets that don’t conflict with each other.  For instance, a local radio show in Philadelphia doesn’t compete with a national NPR show. A morning TV show doesn’t find national evening news programs to be their competition.  See what I mean?  So it turns out you may do five or six exclusive interviews without violating what it means to grant an exclusive. Further, once you do an interview with a big news outlet, the smaller ones will follow.

Interview With Author Josh Katzowitz

Josh Katzowitz has an untitled book about football great Sid Gillman due out in summer 2012 from / Clerisy Press and wrote Bearcats Rising, published in 2009 by Orange Frazer Press.

1.      What do you love about writing? Too many reasons to count. Taking the words and stories a person tells and making them better. Peppering a tale with details that really make a story sing. Finding the right balance between bland prose and overwritten swill. Drinking coffee in the morning or whiskey at night and letting my mind wander into my fingers. Finding an old story that has been long forgotten and shining it into a can't-miss anecdote. Finding your writing style and then forevermore tweaking and improving it. Reading what I wrote the night before and never being satisfied with it. And honestly, it's awfully satisfying to pour your soul into a book and then seeing the finished product. Even when you're exhausted from the previous research, interviews and writing, it makes you want to do it all over again.

2.      What is your latest book about? It's the the story of Sid Gillman, the only coach inducted in the Pro Football and College Football Halls of Fame, and the lifelong impact he made on his players, fellow coaches and the modern-day game of football. He's the father of the modern passing offense, but for some reason, he's been allowed to fall through the cracks of NFL history. I'm trying to correct that. But it's more than just a story about football. It’s also the story of his life away from the field, about his wife, Esther, and his four children who vigorously love him and protect his legacy from those who forget his influence.

3.      What inspired you to write it? When I wrote Bearcats Rising, I found myself fascinated with what occurred in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, and a big reason for that was Sid Gillman. First of all, there's never been a book written about him. Secondly, he's a fascinating character (innovative around a football program in ways that were legal and, um, maybe not quite as legal) with many good qualities and a few warts as well. Third, I wanted to explain to fans why the football they watch today isn't quite as new as they think. Gillman was inventing and perfecting some of the techniques you see today in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

4.      What advice do you have for a struggling writer? If you ask this question to any writer who knows what he or she is talking about, that person will tell you 1) to write every day and to write every chance you get and 2) to read other people's work until your brain is saturated. All of it is great advice. But my advice is something different, and it's this: develop a thick skin. Particularly when it comes to somebody editing your work. In this day, a college student can go years without anybody really touching their work if he/she has a personal blog and/or works for the student newspaper. But editing is so important - in the short term and the long term. There are lessons I've learned from English professors who tore apart my papers (one of those lessons being don't use the phrase "there are," like at the beginning of this sentence) and journalism professors who bled red correction marks all over my articles. But that kind of criticism - that kind of learning - made me a better writer. Listen, being edited by somebody else sucks. When somebody marks out a great turn of phrase you thought you had nailed, yeah, it stings. But simply put, if you're not being edited, you're not growing as a writer. So, take it like the big man or woman you are. Because it's only going to help in the long run.

5.      How are you taking advantage of the new marketplace to market, promote and sell your book? You have to be involved (and involved heavily) in social media. It's actually something at which I need to do a better job. It's all about Twitter and Facebook and your own personal website or whatever the newest phenomenon is. Of course, learning how to make social media work is an entirely different lesson of its own. For my first book, I kept a blog about what the process was like for a first-time author. That probably earned me a few extra buyers. An author I really admire, Jeff Pearlman, recently released a book on Walter Payton, and he did a series of video blogs on YouTube that talked about his process of writing and marketing his book. Unless you're a famous author who all he/she needs is his/her name to sell books, social media is certainly worth exploring. And, in most cases, it's imperative. 

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

You Can’t Dress For Summer In The Winter

Marketing is about perceptions. Marketers rely on appealing to the perceptions, misperceptions, preconceived notions, fears, and desires of potential customers.  They don’t have to lie, but they certainly don’t always embrace the facts.

But I’d like to correct several perceptions too many authors and publishers have – that social media and e-books rule the world and that traditional media is no longer impactful  This may  one day all come to pass, but not as of now.

No doubt e-book sales are growing.  The sale of digital e-readers this year surpassed the total that existed prior to 2011 (I made that up but it’s probably close to correct).  But even so, for the moment, 80+ percent of book revenue is still from paper books.  So for now, paper books are still The Marketplace.  They are losing steam and they will eventually be on par with the number of e-books sold in the coming years.  But not there yet, so authors should still sell in a paper world and not assume that digital – only is the way to go.

The other misperception out there is that social media alone will always push a book to great success. The truth is, social media is an important growing tool to market and promote a book.  But by itself it can only do so much for so many people.  It takes time, effort, and savvy – you can’t just blog and click millions of sales. Like anything else, social media has to be used wisely and often.

Further, when social media is enacted in tandem with other things – radio tours, book signings, seminars, book clubs, direct marketing, book reviews, road tours, etc. – great things can happen. Traditional media is far from dead.

Major newspapers, magazines, TV shows and radio shows still reach millions of people and are respected as authoritative sources that get picked up by the blogosphere, so by no means is traditional media gone. Are their circulations and viewerships eroding? Yes, but small, gradual declines from what were once lofty numbers still means that even at three-quarters strength, most authors would rather be featured in their local paper, on a national TV show or a radio show than in most other things online. The truth is, there is no reason to choose between online and offline – just as one doesn’t have to choose between PR or marketing – do it all!

So, for now, don’t dress for summer in the winter. Do what works in the current climate and always diversify your efforts.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Consumer Experiences & Books

I went to the Houston Zoo recently.  Nice place. None of you care that I saw chimpanzees, giraffes, and fish.  What I think is of interest is the zoo’s approach to the consumer.  First, they sell “family” memberships for the year, so they ensure a certain level of support for their program.  Second, by making it “free” to return, you may end up going more often than you would have planned for, leading you to come and buy overpriced concessions and gifts. Third, when you first walk in, they take your photo.  You may conclude you’re not buying it, but before you leave you may end up looking at it and falling in love.  It’s 16 bucks for a photo that costs them under a buck to print.  Everyone likes to buy themselves a present.  A photo of yourself is a perfect appeal to the consumer’s ego.

What’s done at the Houston Zoo is done at other zoos and attractions across the country.  I don’t fault them for it. I marvel at their practices.  Oh, and I forgot they charged five bucks to feed three pieces of lettuce to a giraffe that they’d otherwise have to pay a person to feed.  Imagine that – they made it so we pay them for what they’d otherwise have to do.  It’d be like the consumer paying extra to bind his own book or cook his own food in a restaurant or sew her own clothes in a department store.

On my recent visit to Houston, I also went to Kemah, a small waterside amusement park.  It features fewer than a dozen rides.  Each one is about $4 to ride but they have a pay-one price unlimited one-day riding pass for $20.  So if  you think you’ll go on five rides – or on several rides several times you conclude to buy the pass.  Once you buy the pass you probably stay longer at the park than you planned – to get your money’s worth – and thus, end up buying food and toys and playing carnival games not included in the ride pass.  It’s a nice racket.

One night on my trip I went to a comedy club. Instead of saying you’ll spend at least $50 there, they break it up into pieces.  You pay a  $15 cover charge at the door.  There’s a two drink minimum, and food is separate.  When you get your bill for food and drinks you’ll have already paid the cover charge, so the final bill won’t add it all together and thus not look as big as it really is when you figure your costs in. Plus they keep you liquored up and laughing, so who’s going to have time to calculate all of this?

While on my four-day journey to Houston, I had some free time so I started to shop for the holidays.  My son, about to turn seven, wanted his first gadget.   Last year I gave him my old Netbook but he doesn’t access anything online or play games except cards on it.  This year he wants a DSi.  I went to several stores to shop on the possibilities.  I couldn’t believe how many e-toys there are out there – Xbox, Wii, and all of these handheld devices.  Each one has add-on costs. You never really know what you’re paying for until after the fact.  You end up buying various games, warranties, bigger batteries, extension cords, this and that, and your wallet shrinks to the size of a byte.

I concluded my son will potentially bore of whatever I get him. It’s only natural.  New gadgets will sprout up and as he ages, even from 7 to 9, and he’ll likely want new experiences.  So I bought a used DSi for a hundred bucks (I saved 50) and it came with a one-year warranty from Game Stop.

From all of these experiences described above I believe that perhaps the book publishing world can learn from them.  First, every industry should study the practices of other industries and see what it can copy, enhance, avoid and learn.  Second, book publishing must realize it is competing for the consumer dollar.  Part entertainment, part education, the book world will have to market and price itself with the knowledge of how Netflix, smart phones, toys, magazines, music, etc. sell their stuff.

I boarded my Continental flight back to New York making another realization.  I wanted to buy my wife a gift for allowing me to play with my friend for four days while she tended to my kids at home.  I bought a gift in the airport, which is always a mistake – selection is limited and things are overpriced.  Plus you can’t go back so easily to make a return.  But I found something I thought she’d like, a pair of earrings made by a Texas native.  I got the kids small things so they’d not think I forgot them.

Consumers are predictable. If something is sold, we buy it.  We may try to be disciplined and be smart about it, but eventually we cave in to our circumstances and justify our expenditures.  If only we can get people to buy books everywhere and anywhere.  Perhaps that’s the key to the industry – we need to make books available everywhere.  We try, to a degree.  The airport sold books.  So did the zoo gift shop.  But Game Stop did not and that’s where the dollars of young people are going.     When publishers can crack the gadget market they’ll likely prosper.

Interview With Author Michael Capek

  1. What do you love about writing? I think for me, one of the best things about writing is the freedom it affords me to work anywhere and anytime I darn well please. In my previous life as a public school teacher (for 27 years), I had to be in the same place at the same time everyday—discounting holidays and summers, of course. I thoroughly enjoyed the rewards and challenges of that profession, but after I retired, I never wanted to go back into the classroom. I always knew writing was what I was born to do. I only feel 100% alive when I’m doing it.

  1. What is your latest book about? The Steamboat Shuffle is a middle grade historical novel based on a true event and incident that occurred in Cincinnati, Ohio, in April 1922, when an extraordinary assemblage of old-style steamboats gathered at the public landing during a celebration of the 100th birthday of President U.S. Grant. President Warren G. Harding came to make a speech at Grant’s birthplace upriver from Cincinnati and traveled there on one of the boats. Somehow an eleven year-old boy evaded heavy security, sneaked aboard and spent the afternoon with Warren and Florence Harding. Real and fictional details mingle into a combination river adventure and coming-of-age story, with a focus on why and how the kid did what he did and how the experience changed his life.

  1. What inspired you to write it? I’m from the Greater Cincinnati area and first heard the true story of the young stowaway fifteen years ago. I was totally intrigued and wanted to know more about the real boy, his life and motives. I felt that story would make a great nonfiction book. Research revealed fascinating details about the Hardings the boats involved in the Grant Centenary celebration, and the 1920’s, particularly the years immediately after the First World War. But I found very little information about the boy stowaway himself, at least not enough to write the book I had intended. I finally decided to write the book as a novel. That freed me to invent a compelling backstory and create a realistic main character. Over the years, even while I wrote and published other books, I continued to work on the Harding stowaway story, doing draft after draft, struggling to find the right voice, to get at the heart of the book. I knew it had to paint a picture of middle America during that era through the eyes of a child—not a privileged, well-adjusted boy, but one with big dreams and problems, the kind that might drive him to try something desperate, even foolhardy, to solve them. That’s the kind of kid I always wanted to read about when I was young and the kind of character I love to write about now. Anyway, more than two dozen drafts and fifteen years later, The Steamboat Shuffle was finally published.

  1. What advice do you have for a struggling writer? It may sound strange to say, but my best advice is: Learn to love the struggle. The fact is nobody gets something for nothing. It’s true that you might just hit it big with your first book or story, or maybe your second, but most likely you won’t. You’ll have to struggle a while. Most of us pay our dues through hard work and, yes, failure. I’ve managed to get fourteen books published in about twenty years and every one of them was the final result of a struggle of some sort. In the case of Steamboat Shuffle, the battle lasted for years. But every one of those struggles taught me something new about myself and about my craft. The best thing I’ve learned is that struggling isn’t so bad—at least when viewed in retrospect, with a finished book in one’s hands. It’s no accident that one metaphor often used to describe literary creation is that of childbirth. Or, as Winston Churchill said, “Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge.” He was talking about WW II, but he also could have been talking about the process of creating a baby or a book.

  1. How are you taking advantage of the new marketplace to market, promote and sell your book? Honestly, I’m not. The fact is promoting myself and marketing my work, whether in the new or the old marketplace, is not something I enjoy or am very good at. Besides, I’m old fashioned, still hooked on the sensual memory of ink and paper. Printed and bound books aren’t gone yet, but the writing’s on the wall. E-books are not just the future, they’re here, now. I also know that promoting oneself through the social media is what’s happening. I do a little Face-booking, but not much, not to the extent many writers of my acquaintance do. They also tweet, Skype, blog, write book apps, compute on “the cloud” and post video trailers for their books on YouTube. I admire them and wish them well, but I’ve resisted joining them. I do intend to publish my next book as an E-book, though. Perhaps that will finally launch me into the Digital Age, but I doubt it will make me like marketing any better.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Friday, December 23, 2011

What Will Stop Amazon?

The book industry is fed by Amazon but it also is under a grave threat from it. Amazon is trying to not only increase its market share, but dominate it, and it will kill the competition and even the publishers in the process. So what can be done to contain Amazon?

1.   Don’t buy from Amazon, dear consumer. Amazon will listen to you.
2.   Create a government regulation of some kind that forces Amazon to stop its predatory practices of undercutting legitimate competition with below-cost pricing. Amazon will use a lot of loss leaders to win a sale.
3.   Companies and publishers should stop selling to Amazon. Either support other retailers, such as Barnes & Noble or form a company that services publishers and does not compete with them.
4.      Find a universal e-reader device that gets rid of the idea that one who owns a Kindle can only buy from Amazon. Everyone should be able to buy from everywhere – with one device.
5.      We need a scandal to break that forces Amazon to clean up its act. Maybe Jeff Bezos has a dirty secret that can be uncovered and used to blackmail him into better behavior?
6.      We need a government investigation into Amazon’s practices, the way Microsoft got knocked around under suggestions of being a monopoly, Amazon is taking over the world the way Mr. Potter bought out that small town in It’s A Wonderful Life.
7.      The public needs to be educated about what it means to buy from Amazon, how every sale with them threatens the existence of book stores and the local economy. The best price doesn’t mean the best deal for society.
8.      Incentivize Amazon to do the right thing, even if for the wrong reason, the way the US gives “aid” to enemy countries, in essence buying off the opposition. We need to placate the giant with something in hopes it won’t keep focusing its energy on putting others out of business.
9.      Hire a hacker to injure Amazon’s site. It has one selling location -- you harm the site, you kill the beast. Of course I’m not suggesting one break the law but desperate times make us think of desperate measures. 
10. We need an anti-Amazon, a store that highlights how it earns business on merit and not merely by cannibalizing others. Instead of seeing an economy run by Wal-Mart and Amazon, we need a solid business that wins because it has a good product, great service, and gives back to the community. We need Starbucks to enter the book business.

Perhaps the best way to influence Amazon is to get its stock to tank. Where is an 80’s style corporate raider when you need one? We need an Occupy Amazon movement.

Amazon’s stock price peaked in 2011 in mid-October at $246 a share, reflecting a 35% gain from a year ago. But its aggressive under-pricing has caused it to barely make a profit, sending the stock down to $170 (below the cost of a Kindle Fire).

Amazon represents the best and worst of capitalism. It is capturing market share, not just in books but in other sectors and remains the No.1 online retailer. It is aggressive, cutting-edge and deliberate. It leads, rather than follows. But it is also taking everyone else down.

Most people, with no skin in the game, don’t care which company makes money or how much, but few of us will soon be able to ignore this behemoth that kills industries, jobs and local economies. As consumers we just want our stuff cheap and fast. We’ll buy from street peddlers who likely stole their goods. We’ll buy from stores who import goods from China. We’ll buy sneakers made from sweatshops overseas. We’ll accept a business whose customer service is staffed in India. But can we turn a blind eye to Amazon when it impacts us at home?

I don’t think the average consumer gives thought to the repercussions of a Wal-Mart Amazon nation and not all of what these two companies do are bad. I don’t want to see either one go out of business, but I’d like to see them reform their ways – before it is too late.

Interview With Literary Agent Brandi Bowles

  1. Brandi, why do you love being a part of the book publishing industry? The publishing industry sits right at the intersection of art and commerce. It’s certainly gratifying to sit back at the end of the day and know you’re helping to produce art that will move, influence, and entertain tens of thousands; when you boil it down that’s why we all do this. But the longer you’re in the industry the savvier you become about the weird business culture around books, the intimate drinks and lunches and social gatherings where you’re soft-selling your latest or sharing your passion for different types of writing. This is business built on relationships, often with some of the most interesting, intelligent, and stimulating characters you could ever meet.  There’s never a dull moment, as they say, and at the heart of it we’re all advocating for an art form that we love.              
          2. Where do you think it is heading? My answer is probably pretty predictable – greater growth in 
          e-books, more e-reading devices, and smaller print runs. Perhaps fewer books that convert from
          hardcover into paperback, going directly into e-book format. But it’s not all bad news – as long there
          are people reading through whatever means, then publishing will survive, and the role of the editor and
          the agent, as editorial curators, will still be of great value.

  1. What is Foundry Media and what do you do for them? Foundry Literary + Media is a full service literary agency in the traditional model – we represent authors work to publishers, both domestic and abroad, negotiating for and protecting our clients’ interests and championing the book throughout publication, and beyond.  We’re heavily invested in protecting our clients’ foreign rights and making sure they’re well published all over the world, and we’re on the forefront of licensing book rights for film and TV. I have my own client list within Foundry where I specialize in nonfiction – particularly pop culture, humor, science, food, and memoir – and some fiction and YA.

  1. What advice do you have for struggling authors looking to be innovative with their content? Innovate at the project’s core – the best way to get published is to write a wonderful, well-paced, high-concept book, whether fiction or non-fiction. You can test whether your book is high-concept if you can pitch it in two sentences or less. I don’t advise authors go the self-publication route, not to protect the agent’s role but because so many authors underestimate the difficulties of promoting their work in a glutted market. With a publisher, not only will the book benefit from professional editorial, copyediting, proofreading, and design, but it’ll have folks with years of experience helping to market, distribute, and promote. The system has its flaws, but it’s still far and beyond the best shot an author has at gaining a readership.

  1. How important can a literary agent be to the entire publishing process? Beyond the writing of your book, publishing it, too, should be a very artful and carefully considered process. There are vagaries and nuances to this business that you only learn through years of having one’s ears to the ground, through working at the type of agency that shares information, and through publishing experiences both good and bad. We know which houses regularly churn out bestsellers, which phone it in, and which regularly overpay. We know how to negotiate for ancillary rights like TV and film, audio books, e-books, and graphic novels. We know the market, what is selling, what isn’t, and who is willing to take risks. We take risks, when merited. There is no better advocate to have on your side than a savvy agent who truly loves your book.  

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

When You Need A Book PR Firm

Writers today have many options and choices – self publish or traditional publish; e-book only or printed book only -- or both; what should be available for free and how much should you charge for your content?  As authors, you then must decide how you will promote, market and advertise your book.  What is your budget, in time and money?  Who will you hire, to do what?  What will you do on your own?

We’re becoming a do-it-yourself society, whether by choice, necessity, or circumstance.  You buy your airline ticket online, you check yourself in, and print your own boarding pass.  You go to the supermarket, scan your own stuff and check yourself out.  You go to the bank and use the ATM rather than a teller.  Every day, in so many ways, we have the liberty and burden of doing everything ourselves.

But when it comes to promoting a book, many would benefit from using a public relations firm.  Sure it costs money -- thousands of dollars- - and it’s an investment that one makes in the way a writer invests his time and energy into writing a book.  You do so with the belief of gaining a greater payoff.

Authors who seek to promote themselves miss out on the following:

·        Professional guidance from experienced publicists who know what works and what doesn't.
·        Access to media contacts and key relationships.
·        An outsider who can provide critical advice and feedback to you..

Authors will spend too much time promoting themselves and not enough time writing their next book, and doing things that make money, such as consulting.

Being interviewed by the media is fun and rewarding; getting rejected 90% of the time and chasing the media is not.

Don’t assume you know it all or think you can blog your way to a best-seller list. It takes a lot more than posting a YouTube video to sell books, build your brand, and project a strong positive and useful message to the masses.

PR firms think like the media.  They know how to transform a writer into an expert or authority.  They know how to get results.  Their reputation depends on it.

Of course, there are mediocre to lousy publicists out there.  Hire a trusted leader in the field with a solid track record.  You need a PR firm with depth, not a one-person publicity outfit who is too busy seeking out clients than to service them.

A good publicity firm:

-         Sets realistic goals and sets expectations.
-         Targets its outreach and follows up.
-         Communicates often with you.
-         Helps present you in an innovative way.
-         Understands your message and spreads the word.
-         Builds your platform and takes you to the next level.
-         Provides a bigger picture for the long-term.

Authors who don’t use a publicity firm may find:

-         Their press releases lack punch.
-         They lack time to properly contact all of the media.
-         They don’t understand what appeals to the media and fail to connect what they have to what the media wants.
-         They overestimated how easy it would be to get media coverage.
-         They didn’t follow  a preferred timeline or protocol for contacting the media, leading to fewer successful results.
-         They are too close to their own work, lacking the distance needed to promote their book.
-         The media hasn’t responded to calls and emails from individuals or unknown entities.
-         They need to be media-trained in order to convert an interview opportunity into a book sale.
-         There were many things they were not aware of or didn’t fully know how to execute until it was too late.

There are many misconceptions about what an author can/should do on their own and what needs to be done by a trained PR professional.  Certainly, it’s a collaborative effort.

Some things an author can and should do; other things are best left to others.  Together, a savvy publicity firm and an assertive author can make great things happen.

Interview With Author Ron Meyer

Author: The High Heeled Guide to Enlightenment (2009) & The High Heeled Guide to Spiritual Living (2011) from Soul Rocks Books.

1.   Ron, what inspired you to write your upcoming novel, Extinction? Ever since I was a kid finding fossils in a local quarry I've been interested in evolution. Many years later When I saw that that evolution had become aware of itself through us I wanted to tell that story in the form of a novel. A thriller that would reach the widest possible audience.

2.      What is it about? It's about a female doctor Kira Taylor who one day wakes up and senses the echo of the Big Bang, the evolutionary pulse itself. It takes her on a spiritual journey which leads to consciously taking the next step in evolution. The sci-fi backdrop to the story is that there is a Terminator gene in every species. After a finite number of generations the t-gene kicks in and eliminates the species to make way for the new. Many paleontologists would agree there is some such mechanism actually operating.

3.      What do you love about being a published author? I have had two books published before and the coolest thing is when a reader tells me how much the book meant to them.

4.      Any advice for struggling writers? Optimize your chances of getting published by choosing through research the right content and genre for your first book. Then the old adage “The easiest way to get published is to have been published” kicks in.

5.      Where do you feel book publishing is heading? Somewhere in the virtual world.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Long-Term Contracts Fading In Publishing?

Oddly as we reach a time where no book shall go out of print thanks to e-books, publishing deals are getting shorter.

Authors used to sign deals with book publishers that allowed publishers to retain a book’s rights until the book went out of print.  Today, “out of print” is being redefined based on sales totals, not based on whether a printed book exists in a store somewhere.

Further, authors aren’t necessarily tying themselves to one publisher or one publishing method. They are reserving the right to sell future titles to others or on their own.  When they sign e-book rights away some are setting a time limit, such as seven years.  Authors no longer have to feel a slave to a publisher.

Long-term contracts don’t always work out in life. Look at marriage.  51% of adults are married today.  50 years ago 72% of adults were married. People don’t see the need to marry and those that do marry get divorced half the time.

In sports, most long-term deals are good for the players, not as much for the owners who often spend for non-productive or injury-riddled years while getting some of the all-star seasons they’d hope to have out of an athlete every year.

In the office, no one has a contract but a few executives, and usually when a company wants to part ways  before the deal is expired, a big payout settlement needs to be made.

The longer any deal goes for the more likely one entity feels screwed.  Someone who signs a long-term lease today may have mixed feelings in five years when property values change or other shifts occur in the marketplace and community landscape.

But shorter commitments by an author to a publisher sound good to me.  It always seemed like a one-way deal, where an author was so glad to get published that he or she would sign away their first-born child.  The playing field is starting to level, although many publishers will need to revisit royalties on e-books.  Anything short of a 50-50 split with the author seems greedy and outdated.  As the market continues to change, no doubt, so will long-term contract lengths and terms.

Interview With Touchstone Novelist Nancy Bilyeau

1.      Nancy, what inspired you to write your upcoming novel with Touchstone? I've loved to read about British history, particularly the Tudor dynasty, my whole life. I have a home library full of books by Antonia Fraser, Alison Weir, David Starkey, and many others. I also like a well-done thriller. Historical thrillers are not easy to write, because you have to feed the research into a fast-moving plot. But I decided with my first novel to give it a shot, to fuse my beloved Tudor England with a genre I find absorbing and entertaining. So I wrote a thriller set in the 16th century. I deliberated for a long time over who my main character would be and whether my book would include "real" people or not (it does). I decided to write my book from the perspective of a Catholic novice thrust into a dangerous quest. The Dissolution of the Monasteries, the destruction of the abbeys and priories in England by Henry VIII as he broke from Rome, is a shocking period in history. I thrust my story into the middle of that. I was inspired while writing it by the feelings of economic fear and disintegration in our country--since I live and work in New York City, by the tension right outside my window. I told a friend, "I think I dealt with my fears of disintegration by writing about dissolution!"

2.      What is it about? In "The Crown," Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. She's arrested for interfering with the king’s justice,  and Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London. The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain. But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a young monk to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive.  With Cromwell’s men threatening to shutter her priory,  Joanna has to decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life.

3.      What do you love most about writing? I was a magazine editor and writer for a while before taking the plunge with writing a novel. I was an editor at InStyle magazine, and before that, Good Housekeeping, Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone. I enjoy working on nonfiction stories, whether I'm the writer or I'm editing another writer. But there is such a deep thrill to writing a novel, to creating characters in my mind and setting them loose. I work hard on descriptions--I want to make readers feel as if they are in the priory garden or on the muddy London street. It's just terribly exciting to create my own world and then like a magician beckon others to join me in it.

4.      What advice do you have for struggling writers? I benefited a lot from workshopping. I read pages in a group led by a published author and that is very beneficial, to try out your work on others. Then I switched to online courses at Gotham Writer's Workshop. I read extensively in my genre. It always surprises me when people don't do that. And although a common piece of advice is "Write what you know," I think that has become twisted into "Write only what you know." I believe writers should try harder to master plot, to truly tell an absorbing story and not get so caught up in nailing that perfect moment of verisimilitude. Sure, that might get your short story published in a literary journal but if you want to write commercial fiction--get an agent and then a contract from a publisher--you have to tell a story in which someone is going to be eager to know what happens next.

5.      What do you feel are the key elements to writing fiction that sells? Strong plot, characters with emotions, sharp details, surprises. Originality without being too "out there." And research. I spent years researching my book. Even if it isn't historical fiction, writers need to dig up the facts that will make the writing fresh and interesting. Readers appreciate it!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brokering A Publishing Deal Without A Middleman

Literary agents are concerned that authors will bypass them to self-publish.  Real estate brokers fear home owners will sell without using them.  Sports teams wished sports agents didn’t exist, as they negotiate huge contracts for athletes with a savvy approach.  Can entertainers go directly to their fans and skip agents, studios, and networks?

Comedian Louis C.K. proved it can be done.

He recently sold a comedy special on his Web site for $5, selling over 200,000 downloads and netting a $750,000 profit. He didn’t need to convince a cable station to air it or sell it to a network.  He didn’t need to line up advertisers and sponsors.  He didn’t have to answer to anyone, ask for a thing or do a lot to promote it.  He just capitalized on his fame and notoriety and cashed in.  Good for him.  Authors, musicians, and other talented individuals already do this.  But two issues come into play.

First, what does this individual-to-individual pay-per-view model mean to the consumer?  How many $5 downloads can one afford, on top of cable bills, internet fees, phone costs, etc.?

Second, how much of our entertainment will come through filtered channels, such as a TV network, a movie studio, a book publisher – and how much will be from independent sources?  Does a balance need to be struck or can society continue to move beyond the “authorities” or “gatekeepers” that we’ve come to both respect and shun?

I guess the Internet will settle the question. Millions of websites and blogs collectively can influence and inform and entertain society.  We may not do away with NBC, USA Today or NPR but these entities will shrink in size. However, their influence may not become smaller.  Though fewer people may watch the Today Show many other media outlets continue to report on the show’s contents.  It’s getting to where more people learn about the show second-hand than watch it first-hand live.  They’ll see snippets via YouTube.  They’ll read about a guest in their morning paper.  They’ll hear a talk show on radio comment about what they saw.  Bloggers, like me, will write about the show.  But fewer will watch it on NBC between 7 am-11am EST, live or taped.

We’ll have to wait and see how this all evolves.  Perhaps a new communications medium will present itself and it won’t have any crossover links to the media landscape of today.  Imagine that we get ideas, information, images, sounds and experiences that can’t be obtained elsewhere or seen by others.  Oh, wait, that’s our dreams or fantasies, and our thoughts.  Perhaps turning inwardly is the best way to entertain ourselves.  No middlemen, no institutional experts, no fees.

A media network of one.  You.

Interview With Stephanie Taylor, Publisher, Astraeapress

  1. Stephanie, as the owner of Astraeapress, what are you impressions of the book market these days? Honestly?  I don't like it.  That's why I started Astraea.  So many cleaner writers have to market amongst erotica writers, and let's face it.  Sex will always sell better!  I had the same issues as an author.  Astraea isn't just an inspirational publisher.  We publish sexy and edgy stuff, too.  The difference is, we do it WITHOUT the filthy language and "pink parts."  I have a USA TODAY bestselling author and several #1 bestsellers already, after only a year in the business.  That goes to prove there's a market for it!

  1. Why do you love being a publisher? It helps me keep my sanity (I'm a homeschooling mom of a 5, 4 and 3 year-old!).  But most of all, I get to be the kind of publisher I wanted to work for/be published with.  I'm happy to say that almost everyone at AP has been extremely happy with the way I run things and I love all of my authors.  I'm a very blessed gal!

  1. Where do you see the book industry heading? As I said before, there IS a market for clean romances.  I get emails all the time thanking me for what a good thing I'm doing and that they're sick of erotica.  I keep hearing that sweet romances are making a comeback and I fully believe this will come full circle.  Everything does eventually.  And when it does, Astraea Press will be right there on top!  ;o)

  1. What do you do to promote and market your books? Social media is the biggest outlet right now.  We also have a blog, a marketing director who works directly with the author to help her come up with a marketing plan, and Facebook/Google forums where our authors all interact and exchange information.  They've been a huge part of our marketing for Astraea.

  1. What advice do you have for struggling writers? Email me.  ;o)  I love helping other people learn to write and succeed.  There's room enough for all of us in this industry.  And when you are done? I might just have to publish it!  
Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Planned Television Arts. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.