Wednesday, February 8, 2012

8 Interviews With Publishing Experts: Authors, Literary Agents, Book Reviewers

Interview With Literary Agent Liat Justin
  1. Liat, what do you love most about being a literary agent? This may come off a bit corny, but I love being a literary agent because it provides me with the opportunity to find and promote those writers whose ideas and stories would not otherwise be heard.  
  2. What do you look for in the types of authors and books that you agree to represent? When sorting through the slush, I am most drawn to authors with high-concept ideas or unique writing styles. If I am not intrigued by either the style or concept, how can I expect to grab the interest of the editors to whom I will then have to pitch their work? Also, I know that many authors believe that they must use a "hard sell" in order to grab our attention. From personal experience, I can tell you this is NOT the case. I don't want to feel as though the writer is trying to sell the book to me but rather, I want to feel like I couldn't bear to miss out on them.   
  3. What do you make of all the changes in the book industry? While I believe that writers must go through much greater lengths in order to sell their work, I don't believe that words such as "platform" should frighten authors. Social media, author websites and blogs are fairly cheap tools that authors can use to attract audiences and make a name for themselves. As for self-publishing, while this does take away from our roles as agents, it also comforts me to know that those writers who we chose not to take on still have the opportunity to get their writing out there.  
  4. What do you advise your authors to do when it comes to promoting their books? I think authors should become as knowledgeable and as connected with the topics on which they chose to write. Go to where your audience is. Visit the blogs your audience frequents and get involved in their discussions. 
  5. What advice do you have for struggling writers? I understand that it is easier said then done but don't get discouraged! If you believe that your work is both unique and marketable, then it could be that you just haven't found the agent who is right for your book. Many writers just send their work to the top agencies while they should be taking the time to check out the agency's website and see if they are looking for your type of book (or have done so in the past).  

Interview With Crime Author Joseph Pittman

  1. Joseph, what do you love about being an author?  When the book is done!  Writing is a love/hate relationship.  Something inside of you compels you to write, to create people and story and to see where it all ends up.  Even when you’re not writing, you’re thinking about writing, and so when it’s all done on paper (or on screen), there’s a satisfaction that is unequaled.  I’m answering these questions rather than finishing up the new book, so sometimes you have to give yourself a break.  It gets done when it’s ready.

  1. What  is your latest book about?  CALIFORNIA SCHEMING is the long-awaited (in my mind…) second book in the Todd Gleason crime series, following LONDON FROG.  It’s a caper novel, about a con man who has to outwit both friends and enemies as he solves a cold case of noted bank robber Fast Cash Cashman.  Three million bucks is on the line to whoever can figure out what happened to the money.  Of course there is lots of back stabbing, distrust, and other fun stuff.  Todd Gleason has to outsmart not only a bunch of crooks, but a killer with no moral boundaries.  It’s fast, funny, and always surprising.  I had a blast writing it and I think that comes across on the page.

  1. What do you rely on most to promote and market your books?  Social networking—Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads is a good start.  An extensive network of family helps spread the word, too.  I also attend mystery writer functions, such as Bouchercon, the World Mystery Conference.  It’s a great way to interact with fans and other writers.

  1. Having world for several book publishers, what are your impressions of the book publishing industry today?  Flux would be a good word.  More people are reading, I think, thanks to the various eReaders available.  So if they are not actually buying physical books, they are buying.  So what’s wrong with that?  My philosophy is this:  I don’t care who you read, or what you read, as long as you read.  Hey, read me!

  1. You have worked with authors such as Max Allan Collins, Lawrence Block, Stephen King, Martha Grimes, Jeff Abbott, and Joan Collins. What advice would give to a struggling writer today?  What each of those writers has in common is they write, first, for themselves.  They don’t look at what’s successful out there and say, “I’ll write that, that’s what a bestseller is.”  You have to find your own voice and certainly all of those writers have that. But writing is not something that is taught, it’s in you and oftentimes is screaming to be let out.  In Stephen King’s case, the screams are on the page!  I’ve had the great privilege of working with each of these authors and many, many more who are less known but no less talented.  To think about writing a book is brave; to finish it is to pat yourself on the back; to get it published, well…there are those screams again.  Be true to yourself, your voice and your vision.

For more information, please consult:

Interview With Book Reviewer Renee Fountain

Renee says: “I have 8 years publishing background (Harcourt and S&S). Currently and for the past three years, I've been a story analyst and bookscout for a television network. In addition to my own website, I review books for the New York Journal of Books and Kirkus Reviews.”

1.            What do you love most about reviewing books? Reviewing books gives me the opportunity to read so many different voices and styles. It’s always interesting to see who comes up with that little twist or something different that separates their book from all the rest.  I love reading that really great debut novel and knowing that it’s going to be huge. Reviewing as also introduces me to new writers who haven’t hit the mainstream yet—as well as many who never will.

2.            Which genres do you prefer to review? I don’t really have a preference. I spent eight years in publishing, mostly in children’s and YA – so I think I’m a little partial to young adult. However, there’s nothing better than a really interesting memoir, a compelling urban fantasy or well-done mystery. Some paranormal/supernatural still holds my interest, as do certain types of business books.  I think it’s easier to say, what I don’t prefer. I’m not a big romance or chick lit reader—unless it’s funny. I’m not into para-romance, or heavy fantasy/super sci-fi that feature worlds and characters with unpronounceable names like Xexicus and Pfordiice.

3.            What do you take into consideration when reviewing a book? Writing style is first and foremost. You can have the best concept in the world, but if you can’t execute it well, then nobody is going to read it. Also, there’s nothing worse than reading something that’s overwritten or has awful/ unrealistic dialogue.  So, above all style, structure, and writing ability are top, then comes the story. Is it interesting? Are the characters well-developed? Do they make me care enough about them to see what happens? Does the plot have good forward momentum? Are the scenes well thought out or are they convenient and contrived?  Finding the book that’s the complete package is what makes reading and reviewing it more fun.

4.            Is the quality of the books you are receiving for review increasing or decreasing? What do you attribute this to? The quality of the books depends on the source and the person reviewing. Most of the books I review for major publishers are usually quality. However, the books I’m getting from smaller presses, PR companies and self-published authors seem to be decreasing in quality. This isn’t to say that a major publisher doesn’t put out bad books—subjectively that is—they do. However, self-publishing has opened the door to anybody with a computer and limited writing ability.  Given my time constraints I no longer waste time writing bad reviews—and that goes for the books of big publishers as well. Again, a review is a very subjective thing. One man’s slush pile is another’s best-seller.

5.            Where do you see the book industry heading? Where the book industry is heading is anybody’s guess. It’s definitely evolving.  Back in the 90s it was thought that computers were going to kill the traditional book, which was ridiculous. Nobody was going to curl up with their desk top on the couch. Now we have e-readers, which are more of a potential threat. There are so many purists out there, who would much rather have a tangible book in their hands. I have to hope that’s enough to keep the print book from becoming extinct.   However, for those people who are migrating to ebooks, I think the higher prices are definitely a contributing factor. To pay almost $30 for hardcover and just under $20 for a paperback is fairly exorbitant—especially if the book turns out to be a disappointment.

6.            Do you have any advice for struggling writers looking to promote their work? The advent of self-publishing has made things both easier and much harder for the aspiring writer. No longer do they have to rely on the publishing houses to see their book become a reality; now they can self-publish in book and e-book form, which also allows them to build a following at a lower price point.  However, getting noticed in all that noise is almost impossible.  It’s even tough for those who have a major house behind them.  You pretty much just have to get the word out through social networking, word of mouth, reviews, social writing sites, blogs, attending conventions etc.  Being a writer is a tough way to make a living. If you have true talent, then you just have to keep plugging along in the hopes of catching that much-needed break—and it does happen. Writing is definitely a labor of love.

Interview With Historic Fiction Author Cynthia Drew

  1. Cynthia, tell us about your upcoming book, City of Slaughter (March 2012). City of Slaughter is the tale of two Russian Jewish girls, Carsie and Lilia Akselrod. Orphaned in a pogrom in Russia's Pale of Settlement they flee to what they believe will be a peaceful life with an aunt and uncle on New York City's Lower East Side. But they've arrived in the great immigration wave that occurred at the turn of the 20th century and find  themselves living in what was, at the time, the most crowded square mile on earth. Children work for pennies a day, garbage festers in the streets and people sleep in shifts because there is no place to lie down unless they do. Carsie and Lilia have moved from one hell to another.

  1. How did you come to write in this genre? The genre found me, really. I wanted to write something about the Triangle Waist Fire, New York City's worst work-place disaster until 9/11. 147 young women were killed in the Triangle fire. When I first heard the story of the fire - immigrant workers trapped inside a burning garment factory that was locked by its owners from the outside - I knew I had to write about what happened there. But I write fiction, so I had to come up with a fictional worker, and I devised a young woman who is a Russian Jewish immigrant, and put her in the factory on the day of the fire. But first I had to get her to America, ground her on New York's Lower East Side, and give her a life we would care about, so that the inferno would be the wrenching experience I imagine it was. The rest, as they say, is history: Jewish gangs, Tammany Hall politics, con men fleecing people out of what little they had. But the beginning of labor unions and women's suffrage sprang from that fire.

  1. What do you find challenging and rewarding about being a published author? City of Slaughter is my debut novel, so I'm sure there are challenges and rewards out there that I don't even know about yet. Still, of the four novels I've written this is the first one to see daylight, so the challenge has been even getting a publisher interested in my work after nearly 100 rejections over the past ten years, and not getting discouraged. City of Slaughter received more than a third of those. - 37. When the book was taken by Daniel & Daniel Publishers a sense of relief washed over me rather than elation. Seeing the book in print was my first reward.

  1. What should an author do these days to promote their book? I'm a huge believer in social media as well as print and electronic media promotion. Authors these days can't ignore any of those, because the competition for recognition is too great. My book isn't published by one of the big six houses, so I'm fighting for a spot on bookshelves and ereaders, not having the imprimature of a big house behind me. However, being published by an independent press carries a kind of "literary" air, doesn't it? I've handed out postcards at writers conferences, taken out ads in magazines, event programs and newspapers, bought ad space on websites, set up a fan page on Facebook, and I hype City of Slaughter any time I'm in a group of people. Shameless promotion. Probably makes me tiresome at parties, but it's all about the book. 

  1. What do you make of the book industry and where do you see it heading? Won't this be interesting to watch from inside the industry? I have to think agents are scratching their heads right now, wondering what to do about the epub world, and its successes. Large publishing houses are flummoxed as well. Brick and mortar bookstores are struggling - 21% fewer hardcover books were sold last year. Ebook downloads are on a huge upswing. After Book Expo in May we'll know what the traditional publishers plan to do. Things are still shaking out from Digital Book World's conference last week. The next few months will be telling, I think.

Everyone wants into the epub business now that Amanda Hocking has made millions at it. Even established authors are cutting their print houses out of the middle in favor of epublishing their own work. Co-publishing is an interesting new avenue, where author and publisher share in the expense and effort of publishing and selling a book, using the publisher's contacts and credibility, and the author's backing and mobility. The book gets into the right distributors' hands and onto the right review lists because it comes from a legitimate pubishing house, and the author plans the appearances and signings as though he or she is the publicity arm.

  1. Any advice for a struggling writer? I've always been a big proponent of marketing your work selectively. It works really well with short stories. By selectively I mean sending your work ONLY where you think it will be accepted. If you have a manuscript that belongs with a small press or offbeat magazine, don't make yourself nuts sending it to big presses or big literary journals, knowing in your heart they're going to reject you. Of course you'd like to get that big advance for your manuscript, or a nice check for that story, but be real. Send your work where you know it will be loved. Your bio will still read well.

Second, make no mistake, writing for the consumer market is a business, and you need to know what 's going on. Read BookMarketingBuzzBlog faithfully - and that's not a plug, it's sincere. Sign up for GalleyCat and Publisher's Lunch. Subscribe to Poets and Writers and use the classifieds in the back. Know the competition for what you're writing. Know how a book is physically printed - what signatures and logical pages and kerning are. Know what you can really expect in the way of an advance (if you get one at all), and how much a publicist costs.

And then this: several years ago, writer Chris Offut told me that when he and his college roommate first started submitting their work they had a contest to see who could get 100 rejections first. He said things were going well for him in the contest - he was up to about 87 rejections when the inevitable happened. He got a book accepted. Well, that happened to me, too. It took almost that many before City of Slaughter was accepted - ten years' worth of writing and submitting. I know it's hackneyed, but if you're really a writer you have no choice - keep writing.

Interview With Maria Keller, Founder and Executive Director, Read Indeed, A non-Profit Promoting Literacy

  1. Maura, how does Read Indeed help address the topic of literacy? Read Indeed was founded by a young girl, Maria Keller, who had a vision to get books into the hands of the kids who need them the most. We work hard to address the issue of literacy in the U.S. and beyond by helping others understand the powerful role books play (should play) in children's lives. In the state of Minnesota, for example, 50 percent of kindergartners are not ready to start school... and one of the key reasons is that they haven't had access to books. Many families in need have no books in their homes. By giving books to children in need and inspiring a love of books and the stories they tell, Read Indeed is making an impact on the literacy issue both nationally and internationally.

  1. As its founder and executive director, what do you believe is the solution to illiteracy in America? Actually our 11-year-old daughter is the founder of Read Indeed. She founded it when she was 8. Because of her large goal of collecting and distributing 1 million books to  kids by the 18, fostered a tremendous amount of support, Read Indeed needed to become a 501c3. As executive director,  I believer that one key solution to illiteracy is communicating to adults the vital role that books play in children's success in school. Consider this: When the State of Arizona projects how many prison beds it will need, it factors in the number of kids who read well in fourth grade (Arizona Republic (9-15-2004)).  Evidence shows that children who do not read by third grade often fail to catch up and are more likely to drop out of school, take drugs, or go to prison.  So many nonreaders wind up in jail that Arizona officials have found they can use the rate of illiteracy to help calculate future prison needs.

Kids need books. Kids need to be read to at a young age. Parents need to recognize the role books can play in their child's future. Solving the problem of illiteracy begins in the home. Too often parents rely on the education system to solve these literacy issues, but reading has to take place outside of the school doors as well.

  1. How can we get more people to read more often? We need them to have access to books. As one social worker explained to Maria when she asked why more people don't have books in their homes, the social worker replied, "Even if the family shops at a thrift store, they will spend the 50 cents or $1 on a shirt or pants, than buy a few books from the thrift store shelves. Many people simply don't see the importance of books in their lives. They have never experienced the moment when you are lost in a story, only to look up and realize you aren't running through the forbidden hallway of a castle, or venturing down an unknown tributary of the Amazon—that you are in the middle of your living room. More attention needs to be paid to good books in the media. We've seen what can happen when a title receives a tremendous amount of attention. We need more of that.

  1. What do you believe book publishers and authors can do to help stomp out illiteracy? Again, publishers and authors need to write and produce books that are engaging and relevant. They need to provide access to books when the need arises. Too often you hear of publishers 'recycling' thousands of copies of a book to make way for the paperback version. Publishers need to partner with organizations like Read Indeed to get these books into the hands of kids and adults in need.

  1. What can the government do to help? The government needs develop a strategy for more stable funding for literacy programming, as also incorporate into existing legislation the concept of the library as an education agency. More research needs to be conducted to truly define the extent of illiteracy among children and adults and thoroughly evaluate the literacy efforts by libraries and other literacy providers. Let's face it. Poverty is a common cause of illiteracy. Children in need should have access to preschool and school readiness programming that will include a large component of literacy initiatives, long before they enter kindergarten. Education needs to be provided to new parents about the importance of reading to young children and having a home filled with books. All aspects of a child's care—from pediatricians to case workers to teachers—should focus on incorporating books into children's lives. Rather than free stickers at a doctors office, a child should be given a book to take home and keep. The government needs to make literacy a key priority or our nation will be greatly affected in the near future.

For more information, please consult:

Interview With Parenting Author Jerry Adams, Ph. D.

  1. What is your book about? While a child smirking over a toy obtained through incessant whining and a child beaming over an A+ achieved on a spelling test are operating on the same principles, their parents are likely to view their behavior quite differently.  This book clarifies the principles underlying such behaviors; describes how behavior develops and how to modify it; identifies ways in which parents work against their own goals; and provides parents with a comprehensive, positive, and effective approach they can tailor to guide their own children to behave responsibly through fully understanding the impact of positive reinforcement.

  1. Why did you write the book? Over nearly two decades I developed and refined a class for parents, learning from the hundreds who attended what does and does not work and what is and is not acceptable to them.  Despite increasingly detailed handouts, I was frequently told by parents, “You should write a book”  – and finally I did.  Actually the writing process was difficult enough that several times I was tempted to quit.  Each time, though, while out in public I would witness a distraught mother swat and berate her son, leaving them both upset and angry.  Such observations would remind me of the many class members with similar complaints who were able to learn effective discipline while fostering loving parent-child relationships, and I would go back to writing.  Further, while I was working on the book, a self-absorbed mother described in a new book her harsh demands for “perfection” from her children, claiming to speak for a whole culture of “tiger mothers.”  Surprisingly, her indictment of less demanding and controlling parents as lazy and her declaration that “the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish, and shame the child,” received a great deal of attention, strengthening my resolve to present a loving and positive alternative that relies on research-based principles underlying behavior and that builds on children’s own innate striving for mastery.

  1. What do you love most about being a published author? What is most gratifying to me about having my book available is that with each book sold I dare hope that one more family has found a way to balance a warm and happy family live with instilling responsibility in their children, the foundation for joy in childhood and preparation for success in adulthood.  For me the book is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

  1. What advice can you give a struggling writer? Because there are so many different motivations to write and so many different approaches to the process, it is difficult to offer meaningful generic advice.  One characteristic common to most writers, though, is a true fire in the belly to communicate in words.  Those who produce a readable book must develop a clear vision of what to say and how to say it, all the while focusing on a defined audience.  Throughout the process, it is important to be patient and to accept that some days the words just don’t come or they come out badly enough that some laboriously-produced paragraphs must be deleted for lack of merit.  And it is vital to be willing to bounce back each time from those dismal moments to try again, searching for those moments of clarity when the right words come in the right order in enough abundance to justify continuing.  Finally, it is important for new writers to recognize that promoting a book after it is completed is in many ways more difficult than writing itself.

  1. How are you promoting your book? Because mine is a “how-to” book, I am promoting it through a variety of avenues to reach those with potential interest in learning “how to” understand the influences on child behavior and how to apply the principles involved in their everyday lives.  Among my efforts are presentations to groups of parents, use of social media including my own website and a Facebook page, seeking reviews to appear on, contacting healthcare professionals who work with children and their parents, and achieving linkage with other websites whose audiences includes parents.

  1. What do you make of the future of the book publishing industry? There are so many influences on the book publishing industry it is difficult to guess how it will evolve.  I expect that soon electronic readers will replace bulky and heavy school textbooks that are often outdated before the print is dry, and the content will become truly current, interactive, and presented in multi-media formats.  Children growing up with such devices are likely to expect to obtain ever-larger portions of their information in such fashion, and as a result print books are likely to recede in importance.  While those of us who love books may find this distressing, these developments will afford vast opportunities to expand the kind and style of information provided to consumers; creative “writers” may find themselves functioning as screenwriters, producers, and audio-visual experts – or find others to support the underlying “script” – as much as story tellers.  As with all changes, responding to these challenges will be painful for many, but will provide great opportunities for others.  A core challenge for the literary community will be to find ways to preserve and foster what has been great in the world’s writing and to avoid being overwhelmed by mediocrity that might too-easily be masked by the bells and whistles of technology.  For print publishers, print-on-demand is likely to become increasingly influential, with major vendors such as Amazon and Google becoming more influential.  With this will be less control by traditional agents and publishing houses, and potentially more control by authors

For more information, please consult:
How to Raise Disciplined and Happy Children: Mastering the Power of Positive Reinforcement

Interview With Publishing Expert Evelyn Fazio

1.      Evelyn, you are looking to establish a publishing house or division that caters to young adult books. Why do you feel the market is strong in this area? Teen/young adult fiction is one of the fastest growing categories in publishing, and since the debut of WestSide, other companies have come to the same conclusion. But there still are many niches in the genre that are underserved. I want to continue bringing out the kind of edgy, realistic fiction that I published at WestSide, but I want to broaden the scope a bit to include other types of teen fiction so that more books can be used in schools. Libraries were a huge supporter of WestSide and I hope that’ll happen again, and I want to participate in as many ALA initiatives as possible, since they are so important in helping teens discover great new books. And since teens have their own discretionary funds to spend how they please, making great books available for them to buy, both in print and as e-books, is an important mission. There are underserved teens out there who are looking for good books that make them feel less alone, especially when they’re going through tough times. That, combined with young people’s rapid adoption of technology, means there’s ample room to publish great books for this audience, especially if the books are available in every possible format that they might want. The more kids we can get hooked on reading, the better for all of us, as an industry and a society. If they want to read books on their phones or anywhere else, that’s fine with me, as long as they read.

2.      You have created start-ups in the past that were successful. What do you enjoy most about the process? I love start-ups because it’s so much fun making something out of nothing. And you get to do everything, from picking a suitable name and the logo, to sending out the call for submissions to agents and groups like SCBWI that clearly defines the mission so the right books come in quickly, enabling a faster return on investment. I love connecting with the buyers at the major distributors, and with the review publications like Publishers Weekly, SLJ, Booklist, etc., and getting the ads put together to encourage orders. And it’s especially great getting out there and exhibiting the books at major meetings like ALA and BEA. I try to sick around the booth as much as possible because I want to hear what people have to say about the books. It’s all very exciting to see something coming to life, especially when you can talk first hand with the buyers/users/adopters. There is no better way to get honest, immediate feedback about a list, the book covers, what else they’d like to see published, and any other detail you might want to ask about, than being in a booth with potential buyers. I’ve gone home from ALAs and changed book covers based on librarians’ or buyers’ feedback, and it’s really rewarding and fun talking to them. And some of those people end up becoming both advocates and trusted advisors as you move forward. There’s also nothing like the feeling you get the day those first orders come in. I’ve been known to haunt the order dept. to watch the orders come off the fax, and used to get the PDFs directly from Barnes & Noble.  And when one of my books gets a starred review or an award nomination, I practically levitate. So I’d have to say I enjoy every bit of the process.

3.      You recently worked for five years with WestSide Books as the publisher. What was that experience like? Working at WestSide was a phenomenal experience. It was so exciting to be able to conceptualize and create a new teen fiction company from the ground up, and before that, most of my experience was in nonfiction. It was great fun talking about the books with the owner, Stewart Penn, who provided the means to make everything happen, especially to publicize the books to the best advantage. People too often neglect that aspect of a start-up. The art director/book designer, Dave Lemanowicz and his team came up with handsome, compelling designs that helped me establish a strong brand for the company, and my outstanding assistant, Jen Burger, now a high school English teacher, did a tremendous job helping me put together the catalogs and handling all the details on ads and working with the distributors, sending out Advance Reader Copies to all the myriad reviewers, and doing the legwork on the production details as the books went through the stages before publication. But one of the best things about being there, on site with the Marco Book/Everbind crew, was seeing the books bound there in the bindery, and seeing the care and expertise that went into everything they did out in the plant.

Ben Primavera and Janet Robinson are two of the best people I’ve ever worked with, and they were always wonderful about explaining everything to my authors who wanted to see their books get bound.  And it was so fortunate having the support of the excellent customer service people who I worked closely with every day. It was especially exciting when big orders came in and they made sure I knew about it right away. It was all such fun, despite all the hard work it took to get to that point. My only regret is that  we didn’t have more time. In just 2 ½ years of publishing we accomplished a great deal, but it takes longer to turn a profit. And I so wanted to get the e-books out last fall—I believe they would have done very well. But despite the premature ending, it was sublime while it lasted and I hope to see great things in the future for all those authors we published, and for the parent/sister companies that remain.

4.      You worked for Baker and Taylor as a VP in e-content acquisition almost a decade ago when eBooks were in their infancy. Where do you envision them heading today? We were one of the first companies to work on e-books, and B&T is a technologically advanced company that’s very future oriented. As a result, we were way ahead of the industry, and perhaps a bit too early. I think that now, with so many individuals adopting the technology, with several kinds of ebook readers available at reasonable prices, e-books are going to surpass print more rapidly than anyone expects. And the thing about it is that there isn’t a generational divide—I know people over the age of 60, and even up into their 90s, who prefer to read books on their Kindles or Nooks or iPads. I have more than one friend who won’t even look at a printed book anymore. I don’t think anyone expected that, but it makes sense, especially when traveling. I love being able to take a lot of manuscripts on my ebook reader, whereas in the past, I’d have to pick one or two to take along because I couldn’t carry more. And it helps avoid having mountains of manuscripts piled up at home, waiting to be read. It means a lot less clutter. Still, my home is stuffed with books—there are book cases in every room and that’s not going to change. But I think that e-books have already changed publishing and they’re making it easier for just about anyone to get published because individuals can self-publish with very little cost, and they don’t end up with a garage full of unsold inventory.

I also think it’s helping to revitalize publishing in unforeseen ways because the technological needs of companies who publish e-books has created new jobs that didn’t exist before, just the way it’s made it necessary for a whole support industry to come into being, including the formatting and creation of e-books, most of which is outsourced to fine companies like OverDrive. And then there are all the manufacturers of the e-book reader devices themselves. This is all very good for books and authors—it helps disseminate their work to people who might not have found it otherwise. For example, the fact that someone can change the type size at will is a fantastic advantage, especially for people who might have vision problems that would have made it harder to find the wealth of reading material they can access now. So the simple answer is that e-books are here and they’re going to revitalize the publishing industry, and they’ll be good for authors because it gives them more options for getting their books into more hands. The downside, of course, is the impact on the printing industry, but many printers are rapidly adapting by providing e-book services, including Bookmasters, the printer we used at WestSide, and they’ll do very well by being prepared for this sea change.

5.      What do you love about being a part of the book publishing industry these past three decades? It’s such an amazing industry, filled with smart, incredibly creative people. I don’t know of any other industry where you can be surrounded by so many amazingly articulate, brilliant colleagues. And it’s such a great way to make a living, reading and working on great books by all these talented authors, some of whom are leaders in their fields, and many of whom end up becoming life-long friends. Recently I spoke with a few of my authors whose books I acquired in my first job, at Prentice Hall, all of whom have new books and wanted to talk about them, and who are friends of 30 years. It was as if no time at all had passed since we worked together, and that’s one of the greatest things about being in publishing. Because we spend so much of our lives at our jobs, it also really matters who you work with. Even though you have to be able to work with just about anyone, you may as well do it with people you really like; it sure makes it easier when problems come up. I’ve had the privilege of working with and managing some of the best people in the industry, and it’s what makes a career in publishing so much fun. When you get to collaborate with all these smart, creative people it’s so rewarding, especially when the effort pays off and the books get great reviews, endorsements and awards, and especially when they bring in a great return on investment. There’s really nothing like publishing and I’ve loved every minute. And I can’t wait to see what the next chapter turns out to be!

Interview With Author Donna Marie Seim

Her books include: WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY?  a picture storybook, with two national awards for excellence, HURRICANE MIA, a novel for middle grade readers, and her newest, SATCHI AND LITTLE STAR received honorable mention from the New England Book Festival. They are all available from and  

1.      Why did you write the book? Living part-time in the Turks and Caicos Island of Grand Turk, I have fallen in love with the wild horses there. They are gorgeous creatures, and I have often wished I could catch and tame one for my own. These horses have been wild for generations, they have learned to live off the land but it is not easy on a desert island. Proceeds from my book are donated to the Grand Turk Chapter of the TCSPCA. We hope to build a Sanctuary for the horses where they may remain wild and safe.

2.      What do you love most about being a published author? My greatest reward is reading to the children and discussing my books with them. They are the true judge as to whether a story is a good story! Their eyes and faces show me that they care and are intrigued with the story and listen intently to learn how the story ends. After reading the ending I love to see their reactions. And then the discussion that arises from the story. Kids really do have lots to say and they love to learn about other children and places from different cultures. As well as the children in the Caribbean love to see themselves in a story. It is my greatest joy to read to the kids on the islands. They don't have many authors showing up on their doorsteps, so it is a real treat to be welcomed by the teachers and classes there.

3.      What advice can you give a struggling author? Follow your heart! And write, write, write. You have to believe in yourself and your work. If you don't, no one else will. And a writer doesn't just write, they have to sell themselves and their books. That's the hardest part, but without a strong belief in your work, you may as well put your book in a drawer. I have a novel out there right now looking for the perfect publisher. It has been years now that it has been rejected from carefully selected publishers that I thought were the best home for my novel. I will continue to search until I find the perfect match, because I believe it is not just good, but excellent writing, and a fabulous story that young readers will identify with. So hang on, and believe in yourself! In the mean time do everything you can to learn how to promote your work.

4.      How are you promoting your book? First of all, I have a publicist who helps with finding  great reviewers and getting the word out about my books. However, a lot of the actual promotion of my book is up to me. I do have an excellent website which links directly to my distributor. Please feel free to check it out! I have facebook accounts for my books and I do, as I am doing right now, a lot of work online. I organize a mailing list and send out news before the book is released, then have a launch party and  numerous book signings to kick off the release of my newest book. I travel to my accounts, that I have established relationships with, both in New England and in the Turks and Caicos. I could always use more accounts, so I visit stores in person and do mailings to bookstores with a brightly color postcard and order form for my books. Beyond the basics, I visit schools and do readings, events, give workshops on writing, and give key note presentations.  I have an ongoing relationship with a class in a nearby school, the teachers and I have set ups a pen pal club with a  Caribbean class. The students love getting letters and having pictures up in their room of their pen pals across the ocean. I do enter award contests and have received two national awards and just received honorable mention from the New England Book Festival. I try to be as visible as I can be in the community. I donate books to good causes and libraries in need.  I am always looking for good ideas to promote my books.

5.      What do you make of the future of the book publishing industry? Now that is an interesting question! I wish I knew the answer! I do believe that it is changing and that the digital world is taking a huge chunk of the written word away from the hard copy. My worst fear is that the little local bookstore will be a dinosaur. But, we have to be realistic and not stick our heads in the sand. I am working on a contract right now for an app for my first book, WHERE IS SIMON, SANDY?

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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