Friday, February 10, 2012

I No Longer Want to Steal Your Mail

As a teenager growing up in 1980’s Brooklyn I had a number of fantasies, most of which never came to fruition. Sure the Mets finally won a World Series in 1986 (and not one since) but I never got to sleep with my high school crush.  Another fantasy that went unfulfilled was to steal the day’s mail cart from the mailman, who’d deliver thousands of pieces of mail by foot every day.  I thought it would be great to run off with an unattended cart and just sit under a tree somewhere and read everyone’s mail. Then I would return it.

Fast forward 25-30 years later and there is little intrigue to be found in the mail delivered today.  Whereas I used to dream of reading people’s personal letters and seeing what families, overseas pen pals, and lovers write to one another, all I’d be privy to today is junk, bills, catalogs, financial statements, charity solicitations, periodicals, and legal notices.  According to a USPS survey, only .7% - that’s one piece of mail out of 142 – is a personal letter.  When you factor in some must be in a foreign language, maybe 1 in 200 pieces of mail is a good old fashioned letter, probably written by an older person or a poorer person who doesn’t have access to the Net.)

I used to envision how I’d discover people’s secrets as I read their letters. But I wasn’t looking to use their information as blackmail or to tear open envelopes and find cash or checks to steal.  No, what I’d hoped was to find validation about how people really live their lives and to just please an unquenchable curiosity.  I’m fascinated by the way humans really live.  Society puts on a face, but behind closed doors is a different world  I thought the purloined mail would reveal the dark, passionate, crazed side of life.

But I’ll never know, for the mail has changed and the window of opportunity has passed.  I regret few things in life – what’s the point?  But I do lament that I never had the courage to steal the mail for just a day and to learn what really goes on in people’s lives and minds.

Magazine Sales Dip

Single-copy newsstand sales are on a long, downward, trend.  The second half of 2011 saw sales drop nearly 10% from 2010’s second half.  The five magazines with the highest newsstand sales – all women publications or celebrity rags – showed declines as well.  However, subscriptions must be up because the overall paid circulation – newsstand sales – and subscriptions – declined just 1%.  Considering so much content is online for free, that’s not bad at all.  Also consider hundreds of Borders stores used to sell magazines but all of their sales vanished in 2011.  But one magazine saw phenomenal growth:  Game Informer Magazine, read by video game enthusiasts. Its paid circulation skyrocketed by 48% to 7.51 million.  Perhaps print publications will survive – provided they cover technology and online stuff. Do printed magazines hold lessons for books sold in bookstores? If so, what can we conclude from this?

Interview With Viral Video Queen & Amazon Best-Selling Author Katherine Cahoon

  1. As the author of The Single Girl's Guide to Meeting European Men, what advice do you have for women? A key tip – not just to meeting European men but men in general – is to be yourself. I have done a lot of book events with girls in their late teens and twenties. Many of them confided that they feel pressure from society and their friends to look and act a certain way. Most men of substance don't want to date a girl who is blindly mimicking her best friend. He wants to date a girl who is an individual. This tip applies to life in general. It's important for a woman to follow her own dreams, not those of someone else. 

2.      Your book made it to No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller lists for solo travel when it first launched. What do you attribute your success to?  I think it was a combination of factors. Around that time, I was on a radio tour that PTA set up for me and some short video book teasers that I created myself with my home video camera went viral. I received emails from people around the world saying they were on primetime TV―no one knows quite how that happened! I was also participating in events at bookstores and universities. Many of the students I spoke with were preparing to study abroad and got really excited about my book. One even sent me an email saying that she formed a fan club for my book in her cute!  

3.      What inspired you to write the book? I was an International Studies major at Vanderbilt University so I got to study in Europe every summer semester. I really wanted to immerse myself in the culture of the countries I visited, so I made a point of getting to know locals and had a terrific time. When I returned to Vandy each fall, my girlfriends asked me what seemed like a million questions about the European men. They wanted to know everything, from the best places to meet quality guys, to flirting tips, and how to stay safe while dating. They were the ones who encouraged me to write the book.

4.      You have had a number of videos go viral with significant viewership. What are the elements of a great viral video? Can you share a link to your most popular or favorite one? During my freshman year at college, I took a Hypertext Online course. We studied content that created buzz. I learned that most of it contained either humorous or touching elements. Since I like to laugh, I decided to put humor into my videos. One of my favorites is "Ladies, if you're lookin' for a European man..." Normally, I script my videos, but in this one, people who read my book gave their responses to it. This is an eclectic, fun group ranging from college girls and moms, to reporters, men, and even widowed grandmas who want to start dating again!

  1. Some people who love the videos find them funny and playful. Plus you look great on camera. But others think the videos put women in a bad light. How do you explain the two extreme reactions? I'm really appreciative of all the great comments people have made about my videos. Criticisms that they create a negative view of women are rare. I think it's sad that some people go through life straining to find a dark side when instead they could enjoy the light. The videos are meant to be fun and many see them that way. Women have emailed me saying they liked them so much that they read my book and found it empowering. Several said it gave them the courage to explore the world. Some even told me that they began international careers because of it.

6.      What advice do you have for struggling writers? Don't get discouraged. The answer isn't always "yes" the first, second, third, or even hundredth time. Look at Stephen King. Before he became a huge success, he was paid very little for his short stories and struggled to support his family.  If I had let rejection get to me I wouldn't have even applied for college, and since my experiences studying abroad were what led to my book, I wouldn't be an author now. I was severely dyslexic. One of my elementary school teachers said that I would be lucky to graduate from high school, and would never go to college. As a seven-year-old, I decided to prove her wrong. I worked really hard to overcome my dyslexia. I never completely did, but I was able to graduate from Vandy with honors. I sure enjoyed sending that teacher a graduation announcement! So remember that "no" doesn't necessarily mean "never." Don't give up.

7.      Are you planning your next book? I just started working on another book. I've been stitching it in amongst interviews and book events for The Single Girl's Guide to Meeting European Men. Fans have given me a lot of great suggestions for my new book. I love them.

Note: The PR firm I work for did some book publicity cfor Cahoon's debut book in the fall of 2010.
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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