Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Educate More Readers, Sell More Books

In 1970 the United States had the globe’s highest rate of high school and college graduation.  Four decades later we have dipped to Number 21 in high school completion rate in the world, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  Three in 10 ninth-graders in 2012 will fail to get their high school diplomas. It sounds impossible, but it’s sadly true.  So what can be done to fix this?

Only 21 states require students to attend high school until they graduate or turn 18. Let’s start by mandating all states must force kids to graduate high school.

Another place to start is get more kids to attend pre-school, in small groups, by age three and four.  Introduce learning early on and we’ll build a lifetime of learning.

We must prevent the 1.3 million Americans that drop out of high school each year from essentially dropping out of society. What job prospects will they have?  What will they contribute to society?

More graduates not only means a more productive, brighter society, but it also means more book buyers, so we all win when we educate our youth properly.

To expand the reading public and contribute to stomping out illiteracy, consider supporting any and all of the following groups:

Literacy Assistance Center  www.lanyc.org
Literacy Partners www.literacypartners.org
National Center for Adult Literacy www.ncsall.net
National Center for Family Literacy www.famlit.org
Children's Book Council www.cbcbooks.org
Reading is Fundamental www.rif.org
Book Aid International www.bookaid.org
The National Right to Read Foundation www.nrrf.org
Behind the Book www.behindthebook.org
Book it Forward www.bookitforward.org
Reading Partners www.readingpartners.org
Kids Need to Read www.kidsneedtoread.org
Reading Tree www.readingtree.org
The Reading Tub www.thereadingtub.com
Milk and Bookies www.milkandbookies.org

Interview With New York Journal of Books Reviewer Vinton Rafe McCabe

1.                  Vinton, as a book critic for the New York Journal of Books, where do you see the book publishing industry heading? I see the publishing world as heading more or less where it has always been heading—anywhere it can to make a buck.  Publishers have always been explorers of sorts.  There never is a sure thing with books.  The book that seems the perfect product for a given season can fail.  And the book that no one believed in can be a huge success.  There are myriad challenges in the publishing world today.  We all know of the rise of the Kindle, the iPad and other devices that have brought about the creation of the e-book.  And some say that this is the end of the paper book that we now know.  Personally, I doubt it.  History has shown us that the creation of a new technology never brings about the demise to the old.  Television did not destroy the movies.  Nor did it end radio, although both were predicted.  Instead, each falls into a niche in our lives and in our culture, each still has a place.  In the same way, new explorations in publishing will not end the old ways, they will merely be added to them.

2.                  What do you find challenging about reviewing books? Just keeping up with the new publications is the biggest challenge.  I know this sounds facetious, but it’s true.  Without even counting self-published books, more books were published last year than ever before.  For the reviewer, it is a little like the old “I Love Lucy” episode in the candy factor, with the foreman coming in from time to time to shout, “Speed ‘er up, boys,” and the books come flying at me faster and faster.

I believe that every book deserves respect.  It represents a good four or five years of a writer’s life.  I represents endless hours of work, emotional highs and lows as the process of finding the agent through signing the contract nearly drives the poor writer crazy, and then, finally, the editorial process itself, in which the writer will be forced to defend his or her work with an editor, a publisher, a marketing “expert” and a lawyer or two.  I have too much respect for writers to ever do anything other than give them every break.  I read ever book, every page of every book, and mark it as I go.  Then I go back to my markers and re-read key sections—sometimes reread the whole book.  Then I like to take a day or two to think about what I read.  Then I write.

When you are reviewing two or even three books as well, as I sometimes do, it can be very hard to give every book the same attention. But it’s something I try very hard to do.

3.                  What type of books do you like to review? Which genres do you feel are trending upward? I have been cleared to write on many different genres of book.  And I appreciate that.  The NYJB editors will only clear reviewers to write about genres that they have proven in their previous work history to be able to handle.  Luckily, over the years, I have written, produced television about or discussed via electronic media a sufficient number of diverse topics to allow me to tackle many different books.

That said, I have found myself attracted to a smaller number of genres in recent days than I was back when I started reviewing for NYJB.  In the early weeks, I explored many different genres, now, however, I find myself reviewing literary fiction (with a particular zest for debut fiction), memoirs of people I find interesting, notable biographies and works related to the LGBT community. 

As I’ve come to feel a bit mired, look for me to begin exploring some other genres, perhaps mystery, perhaps science fiction, in the coming months.

In terms of trends, the big trend today is away from memoir and other nonfiction works
and back to fiction.  We have lived through a decade in which it was harder to get fiction
published than it was nonfiction.  Noticeably harder.  In the years ahead, I expect to see
fiction regain its place at the top of the publishing heap

4.                  Do you believe e-books will radically change the length/format/content of a book to the point it will be harder to define what a book is? No.  I believe that, when it all shakes out, the e-book will continue to be published a long side the paper book and will not have the huge impact that is now expected.  I think that e-books are great, because I love my Kindle and my iPad and love the freedom that e-books give me.

The downside of the e-book is that it allows every man to be his own publisher.  And this is a good thing.  I myself have a series of “McBooklets” that I have published as Amazon exclusives.  In that I had already published ten books in the traditional manner, it was a simple thing to add on to that list with self-published volumes on the same topics related to health and healing. 
So, especially for authors who already have a track-record and a following, e-books can be a wonderful adjunct to publishing the traditional way.

The problem with e-books is their number.  Last year nearly three quarters of a million titles were self-published in one form of e-book or another.  This muddies the marketplace, in that there is no method by which the quality works can be told from the work that was simply not worthy of publishing in any manner.  The advent of the e-book has allowed vanity publishing to go wild. And it will take some time for us to develop methods by which we can pick and choose among these e-books and find the products that best relate to our needs.
Until then, self-published e-books represent something of a white noise in the land of books.

5.                  What do you love most about being a part of the book world? What I love most is that moment in which I realize that a review of mine has done some good.  A few months back, I reviewed a collection of short stories by a brand new author.  And I really thought the stories were great and said so and tried to prove my case with some small samples of the writer’s work.

My editors liked the review and put if on the front page of at the NYJB site and I heard that the sales of the book picked up from that review.  I was told by a friend of mine that the author had mentioned my review on her web site and visited it, to find that she wrote that she owed me a kiss for the review.

I love having the opportunity to give some attention to a book that might otherwise be lost in the marketplace.  Especially now, with all the aforementioned “white noise.”  There’s nothing nicer than having a bit of a platform from which you can try to give attention where attention is due.

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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Interview With Amazon Kindle Ebook Star Author John Locke

1.      John, you are the first self-published author to join the Kindle Million eBook Sales Club. To what do you attribute your success? I put my readers first by pricing my books as an afterthought, and wrote a series that struck a chord with a niche demographic. My audience is deeper than it is wide, meaning my readers are fiercely loyal to the characters and story lines. I love my readers, and they know it. And they honor me by spreading the word about my stories. In a very real sense, we've become partners and friends in this writing adventure.  

2.      The sales of The Donovan Creed series have led to a paperback distribution deal with Simon and Schuster, who will bring out the eight-book series this year. Do you think your success is an aberration or a new model for self-published authors? The e-publishing vehicle changed the landscape for self-published authors, transporting us from what we were to what we could become. The Simon & Schuster distribution model is a bridge that can take us to a place we've never been: retail outlets. This agreement proves Simon & Schuster is not only capable, but eager to lead the charge into
the future of publishing, which I envision as more of a partnership between authors, readers, and publishers.

3.      What advice do you have for struggling writers? Believe in yourself. Be unique and outrageous. Create a brand. And finish your manuscript before you start editing!

4.      What do you love most about being a published author? The thrill of seeing my books purchased in stores, and read in airports, and on planes, and by people on vacation, sitting on lounge chairs at swimming pools all over the world.

5.      Where do you see the publishing industry heading? I believe traditional publishers will be less top-heavy in the future. They'll partner with authors and spend less money on advances and promotional activities, which will allow them to sell more books at lower prices. Traditional publishers who put the reader first, like Simon & Schuster, will thrive in the new publishing paradigm.

6.      Any final thoughts? By the time this interview is in print Wish List will be in retail stores across America. To celebrate, we've priced the mass-market paperback incredibly low. Wish List is a wild ride, but one I'm certain readers will enjoy. If I'm right, it's the beginning of a wonderful friendship between us, because we plan to publish the entire series. If I'm wrong and you don't love Wish List, we can still be friends, yes?
Editor’s Note: No doubt Locke is in a good position to sell more e-books. It is believed Amazon sold six million Kindle Fire tablets in just the fourth quarter alone.

64 Hours Into The Past & Future

Technology is a funny thing. It follows a definite pattern.

First, a device becomes optional.  It’s new and some people will pay a high price to be the first to try it. Those initial few first-generation users create curiosity and make others feel they are missing out.

Then we get a wave of devotees who also embrace the product but changes get made based on their feedback and soon a new version of the gadget is introduced.

Now more people sign on and before you know it there’s a tipping point, where a critical mass is reached and now we move to widespread adoption of the device, partly out of curiosity, partly because people see it as helpful.

Finally, the last phase is when the shiny new object now feels like a necessity, even an obligation, where you find it hard to imagine life before it.

It’s a little like dating.  You move from meeting a stranger to becoming their playmate to the moment they fill so many of your desires.  You get to a point where you need them.

We’ve become co-dependent with our technology.  It’s moved from enhancing society to transforming it.  It is spawning a new world, for better or worse.  Change comes at the pace technology delivers it.  If something is created, it will catch on and it will change how we do things.  And there will be no going back and there won’t be an option to avoid it.

The truth is we’re just in the infancy of the tech era. Everything we see or do today likely will no longer exist 50 years from now or will be radically different.  Why?  Five reasons:

1.      Innovation breeds innovation– one idea and invention leads to another and another.

2.      Money – too much money is at stake to remain stagnant.  We need to keep making new things for someone to buy.  Our economy depends on us always needing stuff.

3.      Power – advancements in technology could dictate a nation’s economy and military capabilities, and influence how we run the world.

4.      Curiosity – we’re a curious and inquisitive population and the globe’s mind power has not even been tapped into.  Billions of people are still not wired into the new century.  Once we get more people exposed to modern technology improve the education system we’ll have more bright minds competing to create the next new thing.

5.      Need – aside from greed, desire, power and curiosity, we have needs that hopefully technology will resolve, from curing disease to finding new energy sources to finding new ways to build, share information, or travel.  There will always be a need to improve, replace or create something.

One day robots will rule the world or become partners with humanity.  We’ll clone ourselves, not with flesh and blood, but with metal and plastic robots or what I call “think boxes.”  These units will think like us, but not be us.  They will take our experiences, style of life, ideas and passions and use them to live online in some form.  Imagine if you had the ability to social network but not do it yourself?  Your computer can be your surrogate and mimic you so that you’ll have an online persona.

On the other hand, do we need all of this technology in our life?  Until we learn to make love, not war, and value people over things, and unite under one approach to government and society, technology won’t save us.  It may help us live longer, but not better.  We’ll do things faster but accomplish less.  Technology presents a true enigma for us.

Smart Phone Missing
I forgot my smart phone Friday night. As I left the office at 5:30 pm and hopped on the subway to Grand Central Station I searched my bag frantically for it.  Nowhere to be found.  I thought back and retraced my steps. I recalled leaving it in my office to recharge.  I was relieved I didn’t lose the data on my phone, or worse, have it fall into the wrong hands.  But I also was relieved to know I’d go 64 hours until I would have it back in my palm. I felt a burden lifted.  I didn’t have to check anything, respond to anyone, or feel the need to fill an available second to search for something that wasn’t important to begin with.

This past weekend, while phoneless, I found myself more at peace.  I was no longer checking news, sports scores, emails, texts, voice messages, weather, time and all the other stuff that I constantly track. Life didn’t end – it began. I don’t expect to give it up permanently because society no longer allows for that anymore than I can walk around without a credit card, clothes or a driver’s license.  The phone is part of who I am, but I needed a vacation from it.  Breaks are good.

One of the things I did this weekend was visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the nation’s greatest institutions in the history of the country.  I took my family to explore the Egyptian exhibit.  My seven-year-old son wanted to see mummies.  He couldn’t get enough of it.  He was fascinated with 4,000-year-old dead people.

It’s always fun to feed the curiosity of a kid because not only do you see their mind growing, you get to pass on whatever knowledge you have.  It’s an opportunity to shape the next generation and leave a legacy. But it’s also a chance for me to learn new things as I reacquaint myself with stuff I thought I learned before.  The experience today was eye-opening because I noticed that the ancient civilizations that no longer exist stand testament to the likelihood our current world won’t exist forever.

It’s hard to think that way, but it’s true.  Things will change radically.  Whatever was, is no longer, so whatever is, won’t be.  Not just people will come and go, but whole countries and cities.  It could be war, steroids, disease, aliens, technology – or all of them – that will drastically alter our planet.

I tried to look at the tomb paintings, the artifacts, the hieroglyphics, and the statues and realized that everything has changed.  Today we think change means going from a paper book to an e-book or a shoe store gets replaced by a bar or our house is heated by solar energy panels. Those changes are nothing compared to what is to come.

I don’t know if I’m comforted by such a notion, or depressed, or fearful.  But it doesn’t matter how I feel.  The world will change without my approval or assistance.  But perhaps what shall remain are the values, principles and traditions every generation acknowledges as worth upholding  Will we still value love, children, dogs, a sunrise, freedom, creativity, peace and art?  Or will be devolve into something subhuman, some tech-human hybrid that loses its way?

At the museum’s gift shop I stumbled upon a book entitled New York:  Lost City, a wonderful book filled with rich text, and old photos of structures that once dominated the city’s landscape but no longer exist.  Just as we look at the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Coney Island, Central Park and other landmarked buildings with marvel today, it is likely 50, 100 or 200 years from now these iconic places will perish.

Maybe there’s some lesson in all of this. Maybe it tells us about how to see life and live it.  We can’t hold onto things that we think define us.  Our world is not defined by a building, a cell phone, or a sports team.  Our world is defined by what we think and feel, what we experience and imagine and by the people we connect with - not online but on a deeply personal level.

Step away from our gadget, your cool car, your favorite pair of shoes, your 900-inch TV set and for a day or two look around you and see that life really is about a whole lot more than these things.  Don’t get rid of them but don’t worship them and don’t fall a slave to them.  Balance is needed, between thing and person, reality and fantasy, news and entertainment, nature and science, sun and moon.

My 64-hour journey concluded this morning, and I feel awakened by it.  I have no doubt I will soon fall into old patterns but I also believe enough of me changed this weekend to approach life a little more fully and less seriously, for as time goes by all that my world is shall no longer be.

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, January 27, 2012

Do You Promote Your Book This Way?

So you have a book coming out and you wonder what you should be doing, right?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Rethink the situation.  Maybe you should withdraw your book and instead publish each chapter on your blog for free.  No, just kidding!

  • Hire a publicist to do what you can’t do, don’t know how to do, don’t have time to do, or lack a desire to do.

  • Mobilize those you are connected with.  Your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, former colleagues, ex-classmates, dentist, barber, and those you come in contact with can and should be your first responders. Have them reach out to their pool of connections to highlight your book’s value.  Tell them how they can help.  Share ideas with them.  Offer them something to e-mail to others. Exploit your relationships.

  • Influence those who are the opinion-makers out there.  Find 100 people who are experts in your field or related industry and contact them.  Tell them about your book, praise their work, and offer to guest-blog or invite them to connect with you. Don’t beg them; seek to partner with them.

  • Create a Facebook fan page and tweet on issues related to your book’s subject matter. Authors who don’t tweet make it harder on themselves.

  • Perfect your elevator speech – a 20-second pitch that reflects who you are and what the book’s about. Anything else is too long and not to the point.

  • Write Op-eds for your local paper about a topic related to your book.

  • Watch, listen to and read the media you hope to be covered in.  Understand how they present ideas, observe who they interview, and learn how points are presented. Get a feel for the voice and personality of a show, site, or publication.

  • Decide how far you want to go in what you will say to get attention.  What persona will you project?  How controversial do you plan to be? Once you know who you will be, begin acting and talking that way.

  • Kill somebody.  It’ll get you media coverage.  Even bad publicity is good.  Actually, just get into a dispute with your landlord or car dealer and get on Judge Judy, the most-watched daytime TV show in the nation.

  • Even though $80.2 billion is spent for online advertising, as an author, most of it is not worth doing.  If you do advertise, you might get better pricing from AOL which ranks fifth amongst the top places to advertise. Google has 44% of the market; AOL just 1.5%, so they will be desperate for your business.

Book Review On Getting Published

I just received a copy of Publish Your Book:  Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author by Patricia Fry.

Publish Your Book is a professional guide to publishing success for the new and struggling author.  With insider tips, up-to-date marketing strategies, timelines, and other resources, this book offers a comprehensive tour of the world of book publishing to help authors successfully navigate the industry.

The book includes information on:

  • How to find the very best publisher for your project.
  • How to write the right book for the right audience.
  • How to put together a book proposal.
  • The good, bad, and ugly facts about pay-to-publish company.
  • The self-publishing option.
  • Creative bookselling and ways to market and promote

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, this book will help you write your book for a target audience, build promotion into your book, and most importantly, successfully promote and sell your book. Authors and publishers in any genre and at any stage of the publishing process will benefit from this comprehensive resource.

Author Patricia Fry has almost forty years of experience as a career writer.  She is the author of more than thirty books, most of which relate to writing and publishing, and has contributed hundreds of articles to magazines and newsletters such as Writer’s Digest, The Los Angeles Times, and the Artist’s Magazine.  Fry established her own publishing company, Matilija Press, in 1983, and is the executive director of the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network [SPAWN]. 

For more information, check out: www.allworth.com
Customer Surveys Need a Survey

Here’s a “do not do this” example in customer service.  Don’t email me a survey that you warn will take up to 25 minutes to fill out.  That’s exactly what pet insurer, VPI, did the other day.

I recently got pet insurance for my two-year-old bulldog.  A month later, I put in a $1300 claim when she got sick.  Hopefully, it’ll get processed smoothly.  The claim must have prompted their survey department to contact me.  The thing is, I haven’t heard how much they’ll pay on the claim so there’s no customer service to give feedback on.  Pay me a lot and I’ll give you glowing remarks; pay me little and I’ll give you a negative rating. You need a survey for that?

But wait, it gets dumber. They think someone will spend 25 minutes taking a survey so we can provide information that they may eventually sell to marketers or possibly use against us?  Who fills out a survey?  Where’s the incentive?

Let’s be real.  If you provide great service, you’ll retain customers and get new ones. If your service sucks, people will complain and/or leave.  No one is waiting around to fill out a survey.  Actions speak louder than words.

I urge anyone who gets a survey to send it back blank with a note asking them to take a survey from you.  First question:  Why did you send me a survey?  Second question: Can you lower your costs by not sending these surveys out?  Third question:  Can you stop sending me surveys?

Maybe I should survey others on this.  But that would be a waste of time, wouldn’t 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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Interview With Manuscript Doctor Patti Miller, Co-Founder Of AP Miller

1.      You had a bestseller on Amazon, Peter and Pumpkin Patch. How much fun is it to be a best-selling author? It’s amazing! We can’t begin to describe what a thrill ride it has been for us or how much fun we have writing books that make readers want more.

2.      You have 35 years of experience in fiction and script writing, newspaper and magazine writing as well as publishing. Where do you see the book publishing industry is heading? In many directions actually, while some readers will want the convenience of reading on any type of reader they can get their hands on. You will also see the remainder of the readers wanting to curl up with a paperback or hard cover in their hands. I must admit, I love reading a book I can feel and smell. I do strongly believe we will have both digital and print in the future. I don’t foresee any huge changes in the near future as far as digital taking over the market that much. Especially in the children’s and young adult books, as schools and libraries will still demand books in print and let’s face it, parents alike. It will be very difficult for anyone to want to give up that pleasure.  All though I do see where some genres are going to end in a big way. I won’t tell which ones we will just have to sit back and wait for it to happen. 

3.      What advice do you have for struggling authors today? Sit down and think before you begin to type. I mean that seriously, people. Make sure to do your homework before you decide to sit down and write a book. Learn the craft and brush up on what you know. There is nothing more important than hearing from a reader or a book reviewer how much they enjoyed your story. Write from the heart. Don’t write something to get in on the band wagon, and don’t offer a sloppy manuscript to an editor. Most of all NEVER insult an editor by informing them it’s their job to write your book. Or inform them your mother liked it so they have to publish it. Remember, it is an honor to get a contract from a publisher. They don’t owe the author a contract. You as the author must be deserving of that and become as loyal to your publisher as they will hopefully become towards you. If you self publish it is a much tougher road. You will be responsible for everything you do. I mean that literally. You will be strongly criticized for mistakes and trust me some comments will not be in your favor. That’s part of being an author. It is your responsibility to offer the publisher and the readers the best possible book.

4.      You co-own AP Miller with your husband. Please tell us what your company does – and how do you manage to work with the man you live with? We are asked this question quite often…first of all we are a team, we write stories together chapter by chapter or we write separately. We write in many genres and aren’t really limited. Working with Andrew is wonderful. He is brilliant and an extremely talented writer. We generate thoughts together which makes our books realistic, masterful, whimsical and fun to read. We also share much in common and of course our love of writing and for each other. It’s a team effort we never question.

5.      What are the rewards and challenges of writing and illustrating children’s books? Many! Being a retired Teacher has its benefits. You live and learn when there are children involved. I enjoy watching my books come alive and reading the joy in a child’s letter when I hear how much they loved reading it. As far as challenges, well…right now there aren’t any. I love children, and want nothing more than to make them happy by offering them a story that will take them out of reality just for a little while…it’s almost magical.

For more information, check out:

Newt’s Victory Upsets Media Landscape

The Republican presidential primary season looks to be long, which means more media coverage will go towards following the highly competitive and combative race, thus, there will be less coverage of everything else, including books.

Unless you have a book that relates to the election and its candidates, then you are in business.   Books on Mormonism, (Romney), infidelity (Gingrich), religious right (Santorum) or Tea Party (Paul) will get attention as well as books about policy, government, elections, politics, and key issues: healthcare, job creation, taxation and budgeting.

Newt won the South Carolina primary after Mitt won New Hampshire after Rick won Iowa.  The race is suddenly a toss-up.  Romney is presumed to be the eventual nominee, mainly due to his resources and business experience but Newt, the former Speaker of the House, is coming on strong.

2012 is a busy year.  Big election, locally and nationally, Olympics.  Big sporting events, big movie releases, major awards shows, hit singers releasing albums, celebrity gossip, trends, cool Web sites, viral videos, news of the day…and millions of newly published books will compete for media coverage.  Even a recent bill that didn’t even get voted on by Congress caused a media uproar – the anti-piracy legislation.

Whether you follow politics or support any of the Republican candidates, we all are affected in the race to secure mindshare for the books we promote and market.  It’s a race, not just to the White House, but to the consumer.  So many people vie to use the media to influence and inspire sales for their book.  It looks to be as big a battle as I’ve ever seen.

Snow Droppings

It snowed this past Saturday and I surprisingly didn’t fear it nor get agitated by it.  What happened?

I thought I was at the age where snowfalls leave me feeling annoyed.  Time to shovel in the cold.  Have to drive slow.  Events get cancelled.  Power lines go down.  Gonna be late for work.  Just one negative thought competing with another in my cranium.

But I also still feel a little bit of my youthful playfulness.  The snow, visually, as it falls is beautiful.  It instantly redesigns my surroundings and paints the town white.  It reminds me nature beats humanity in the game of life.  We can’t ignore or influence the snow – how much falls, where it falls, or how long it’ll stick around for. We can move it from point A to point B, but that’s it..

My kids, four and seven, remind me snow is fun.  They slide in it and throw snowballs.  Then draw patterns in the snow with whatever they get their hands on, including their little bodies.  They don’t see the obligation to clean or the danger it poses to roads and property.  It’s just outdoor sugar to them and the more they can get of the powdery substance the better.

Truth is, the only exercise I get is in digging my car out of the driveway and shoveling a path leading to my front door, so I don’t fully mind having to clean it up.  My oldest, Benjamin, helps, so it’s a family activity.

My happiest memories of the snow come from childhood. The kids in Brooklyn loved mixing ice, even rocks, into their snowballs. It was great when you could pelt the bullies from all sides with killer snowballs.  I also loved playing football in the snow and going to Coney Island after a snowstorm.  The air would be cool but calm in a place normally populated in the summer with hundreds of thousands of screaming folks.  Just me on the cake-topping sand and the tumbling waves of the Atlantic Ocean pouring in. That was beauty and serenity at once.

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, January 26, 2012

11 Reasons You Hired The Wrong Publicist

  1. You have crazy goals. When you dream out loud the publicist doesn’t set realistic expectations or worse, plays up to your fantasy in hopes of winning you over.

  1. Your ego blinds you. You hire the one who kisses your ass.

  1. You mistakenly believe throwing money at something means you’ll get what you want.

  1. You are lied to and lack the knowledge to know any better.

  1. You let price drive your decision too much.

  1. You make certain assumptions about the publicist that turn out to be wrong.

  1. You’re drawn to the physical looks, the confident demeanor, or the seductive voice of the publicist.

  1. You feel intimidated and don’t ask the right questions.

  1. You fail to shop around or ask for references.

  1. You don’t fully understand the details of an offer presented to you for PR representation.  You might not understand the terms used or you mishear what’s being said.

  1. When a publicist tries to level with you or doesn’t sound wildly optimistic you dismiss him as an underachieving naysayer.

So what should you do when hiring a publicist?

  • Be realistic, don’t be cheap, and be clear in what you want.
  • Find someone who understands your field, promotes books regularly, and has represented others in your genre.
  • Ask a lot of questions and carefully listen to the answers.
  • Find someone you feel you can relate to and who possesses experience, knowledge of the type of media you are pursuing, and who comes off as genuine and not the image of who or what you think a publicist should be.
  • If possible, get a referral.

Interview With Author  Jason W. Womack

What inspired you to write Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More? Since reading the book Think and Grow Rich (which isn't really about money, at all) I gained an appreciation for getting better. Simultaneously, I've noticed as I've gone through careers as a graduate student, high school teacher, corporate consultant, professional advisor and now author that "most" professionals continue learning. They take classes, earn credentials, attend seminars, read books and have mentors...all of that helps them get from where they are, to where they could be. This is a handbook - written in 3 parts and 10 chapters - that people can use to facilitate their movement forward. A newly promoted manager, a brand new hire, a mom taking a local community not-for-profit board position are all prime candidates to Work Smart, Think Big and Make More.

What are three ways one can work smarter? Another way of saying "smarter" is efficiently and effectively. Efficient means you're working quickly, moving on to the next thing quickly. Effective means you're working on the right things, moving the priorities forward one day at a time. Here are three things you can do right away:

  1. Know Thyself: Assess your own approach to work and your workflow, and work at that advantage. Are you a morning person? If so, skip checking email first, and work on a contract, write a few pages, brainstorm a new character or signature story for an upcoming speech. Are you a night person? Eat dinner a little bit earlier, and make sure you've got some protein in the meal so that you stay fuller, longer, and can get those Most Important Things done before you fall asleep.

  1. Pace It Out: Too much and too fast, and you might burn out, get board or feel overwhelmed. Too slow and too little, you might wonder if it's all worth it, and simply give up. Pacing means you're taking the long-term view, and identifying chunks of work that you can accomplish in 5, 20 and 60 day blocks. 

  1. Time Is Limited: Look, you only have 96 fifteen-minute blocks of time in a day. So, instead of meeting for a full hour, meet with someone from 10:15-11. That will give you back 1% of your day. Get to work an hour early, and you can use that 4% to work without interruptions. Really utilize just 5-10 of those fifteen-minute blocks of time during the week, and you just might get another hour or two of free time this weekend!

What are four ways to think bigger? One of my takeaways from reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (another professional development classic) was just how limiting our own lens of focus can be. Truly, I see what I see because I'm accustomed to seeing it. When someone said, about a year ago, that I could turn my blog into a book (thank you Pam Slim, author of Escape From Cubicle Nation) I had to admit that I was shocked. I had always seen it as a blog of ideas and inspiration. Then, I turned it in to something evergreen - an owner's manual to your career development and personal improvement. Here are 4 of my favorite ways to think big:

  1. Practice Makes...Comfortable. In order to think bigger, you have to practice thinking bigger. So, over the next 24 hours, answer these questions at least 4 times: "How would the CEO of my favorite company (just open your fridge, look in your garage, or scan your desk to find one of your favorite companies represented there) respond to this idea? What would she or he ask me that I haven't yet thought of?"

  1. You Think You're Busy? Recently, a journalist asked me, "How do you lessen the feeling of overwhelm when there is so much to do?" My answer was, "Turn to your social network." Now, by this I don't mean your social MEDIA network, I mean the people you actually know. You see, there is someone in your current network who is busier, more overwhelmed and significantly more accountable than you are. And, they are making things possible. Ask them for a lunch or #CoffeeChat date, and learn from them how THEY handle the overwhelm. Learning from someone busier than you could give you skills you use for the rest of your life.

  1.  Subscribe AND Unsubscribe. What magazines arrive in your mailbox each month? What books are on the desk or coffee table? What TV shows have you recorded to "catch up on" when you have time? Look around and find something new to bring in. Lately, I've been watching more documentaries (I have an Amazon Prime Shipping account, and there are more than 500 documentaries I can watch for FREE!) and I'm learning a ton. Oh, and...I'm thinking bigger.

  1. Track and Grow: It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you track where you're thinking small, you will bring attention to those areas and give yourself an opportunity to turn it around. For an entire year, I tracked the answer to this question in a journal that I traveled with (around the world!): "What one word describes my recollection of today?" Then, as I thought of and wrote that word down, I set an intention to bring a bit more focus to that the next day. Try it for five days, practice thinking bigger and see what shows up!

What advice do you have for struggling writers? Unfortunately, Nike set the bar really high with their "Just Do It" campaign. Me, I teach another method. It's called, "Just Get Started." In Silicon Valley, where I work as a productivity advisor for large and start-up companies alike, there's a "secret combination" to achieve success: 1) Be really smart. 2) Be really good. 3) Get really lucky. It's that third one that's a little bit ambiguous, isn't it? So, as you go about your writing, reading, drafting and editing, remember that luck favors the most prepared. There's an opportunity that's waiting for you just right around the corner. The advice I give myself is to continue honing the craft, practice what I preach, and get ready to meet someone, see something, or go somewhere new. Oh, and I suppose another piece of advice is this: Get Published. Get your buddy to post a guest entry on their blog. Get your local newspaper to publish your "how-to" article. Get your high school or college - you know, the one you graduated from years ago! - to publish something in their annual, on their website, or in their weekly paper. Seeing your name in a byline will do wonders for your self-esteem and productivity.

Where do you see the book publishing industry heading? A child of the 70's, I'm used to holding books in my hands. A citizen of the 21st century, I assume I can get information any time, any place, anyhow. "Book publishing" as we knew it is transforming, not overnight, but changing beneath our very feet. Just as important as ever will be collecting, collating and curating great content - both fiction and non-fiction. The successful book publishers of the future will have done what any other "content management" system/organization must do: Identify WHAT people want to consume, and offer that in a way that the public will expect, accept and - most importantly - pay for.

For more information, please consult: http://www.womackcompany.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.