Friday, May 11, 2012

10 Things A Graduation Speaker Won’t Tell Aspiring Book Publicists

I don’t think I’ll be invited to deliver a commencement speech for a college graduation in the near future but that doesn’t preclude me from preparing a speech, does it?  Here are 10 things most graduation speakers wouldn’t dare to share with those looking to start a career in book promotions:

1.   The book industry could stagnate, so consider developing your skills in a way that you can transition into promoting other industries. 

2.   Promoting books is not like promoting a widget—you are promoting lives, personalities, experiences, and ideas. 

3.   You will have a growing amount of competition in your field because the only jobs a manufacturing-less nation can produce is in service.

4.   You will have to constantly learn something to not just stay ahead of others, but to merely keep up.

5.   Even if books don’t change, the marketplace does, and you’ll have to constantly change with it. 

6.   Promote the books you believe in and don’t compromise your values.  However, over time, your values may change.

7.   You’ll work with people you hate, don’t understand, or who don’t like or understand you.  You won’t be able to please everyone nor should you even try to.

8.   The things that will give you an edge or advantage are either short-lived or will require more of your time, focus, or money to sustain that edge.

9.   Your definition of success many come from those you work for or with, but your sense of pride will be dictated by the standards you set for yourself.

10. Never lie when promoting a book or author but do your best to dress up the truth and conveniently leave out certain facts.  This job will test your moral characters, so determine ahead of time, before you are thrust into a dilemma, as to how you’d act in a given circumstance.

I love promoting and marketing books and authors because I value ideas, appreciate the written word, and enjoy the energy and passion of those in the book world.  Find what makes you happy and do it well.  Always strive to improve and to commit to making the world better as a result.

Lastly, good luck in your job hunt!

Interview With Author Missy Martine
What is your latest book about?  My latest book, Anna Doubles Down, is a paranormal, time-travel romance.  Anna is vacationing with a friend who’s doing research for a book of her own.  The two women travel to the ghost town of Hamilton, Nevada.  While there, Anna goes off exploring on her own and enters the old saloon.  Something draws her down a pair of rickety stairs where she loses her balance and falls.  When she wakes, she’s in 1871. Beau and Zeke own the Silver Rush Saloon and can’t believe their eyes when they discover the scantily clad woman in their cellar.  They do their best to convince Anna that life with them would be perfect, while struggling to believe her tales of the future.
Anna knows enough about the local history, from her friend’s research, to prevent a terrible disaster, if she can make the two men believe her story.  She has to decide if life in the old west is for her, or should she do everything she can to get back home.

What inspired you to write it? I got my first, vague ideas for Anna’s story when I was walking the paths in Hamilton, Nevada.  My husband and I spend a lot of time taking our Jeep into out-of-the-way places to explore.  Although Anna Doubles Down is a fictional story, it’s based on my own observations of the actual ghost town.

There isn’t much left of the area.  The buildings of the town are mostly gone, but there’s a definite “feel” to the place.  We were the only tourists around when we visited, so it was easy to walk the weed-infested dirt roads and imagine what it must have been like over a hundred years ago.  Deadly quiet, marred only by the squawking of birds and the fluttering of wings, made it seem as if we were the only people in the world.  We hiked down the dirt road to the old Belmont Mill.  The buildings there are still mostly standing, but not safe for anyone to explore inside.  I stood outside the ore house, where the cables still run high up to the Seligman Silver Mine, and just listened.  I know it sounds weird, but I kept hearing strange noises from inside the large building.  Close by, there was a huge building we think was a type of bunkhouse for the employees.  I got the same strange vibes there.  You couldn’t get close enough to see inside the windows, but if you stood there long enough you began to see shadows and movement.

I know, I sound like a nut, but it gave me the idea of making a story that sent someone back to the enigmatic town.  I visited the local cemetery, which is still mostly intact, and did some research on the people that originally inhabited the small mining town.  So, even though my romance is fictional, it has a lot of the town’s real history woven in.

What are the challenges and rewards of writing erotic romance ventures? For me, the challenges are making the stories unique, and keeping them from crossing the fine line between erotic and pornographic.  I believe that the sex should enhance the story, not define the story.  Too many of the books out now seem to just string one long sex marathon after another with little story thrown in to balance things out.

One of the biggest challenges I face is writing the erotic portions of my stories.  The challenge is making each erotic scene different.  You don’t want a book, with 4 major sex scenes, to each sound the same.  You want to ensure you don’t reuse words or positions for each instance.  That may sound simple, but believe me, it’s not.  I developed a system of using an excel file to literally map-out my sex scenes before I write them into my books.  I decide which descriptive words, which positions, and in some instances, which endearments will be whispered, before I begin writing the scenes.  That way, there are no two, even remotely, identical scenes in my books.

I’ve always went out of my way to make sure the books were erotic, and not pornographic.  Of course, that had to be based on my own ideas of eroticism.  I think a scene is more erotic if you can make your reader “imagine” they’re in the place of the heroine/hero.  You must give enough detail to put a picture in their mind, while leaving enough left out for their imaginations to take over.

The rewards have been the letters I’ve received from fans.  People write me to say how much they enjoyed my stories, and to ask when a certain character in a book is going to get their own story.  When I can inspire someone enough to make them write to me to ask for more, then I have accomplished everything I set out to do.

Do people ask you for sex and relationship advice because of what you write?  I’ve never had anyone ask me for sex or relationship advice since I’ve been writing.  I have received letters where they “assume” that I must have a pretty rich sex life myself based on what I write.  Some of the letters are quite pornographic in nature and at times quite disturbing.  Would these same people assume Stephen King goes out and kills people for his stories?

The funniest reactions are my husband’s.  After my books began coming out, his fellow co-workers looked at him in a whole new light.  I think they must believe that I try-out everything on him before I write it.  For a while, he walked around a big head and a huge grin on his face.  He acted like they were in awe of his life…hehe

What do you feel readers want or expect when they read your books? To be honest, I’ve never been good about guessing what the readers want or expect.  They’ve sent me multiple letters asking for certain books based on characters they’ve read in another of my stories.  There wouldn’t be a book called “Catch Her When She Falls” if it wasn’t for the hundreds of letters I got asking what happened with the phone call Serena makes in Table for Three.  I listened to their letters, and created Serena’s own story.  Surprisingly, it’s been my best seller and just won Reviewer’s Choice for Best Erotic Book of 2011 by CATA. I feel like the readers want stories with characters they can identify with.  They want people with the same problems they have, but who are getting their own “happily ever after” endings.  They want romance stories that give them hope for their own future.

What do you love most about being a published author? Without a doubt, the interaction with my fans.  There’s nothing like getting a fan letter, or having someone ask you for your autograph.  I attended the Lori Foster Reader Writer Get Together in Ohio last year and it was amazing.  I had several books out by then, but didn’t have the feeling that people really knew who I was.  The most exciting moment of the conference was me walking down the hall in the hotel and having a lady scream out “Missy.”  She came racing up to shake my hand and ask for my autograph.  It was a feeling I’ll never forget.

Do you have any advice to a struggling writer? My advice would be to not give up.  You won’t always get a publisher to like your first book, or even your second.  It might just be you’ve approached the wrong publisher.  Research them carefully, see what genres do best with the different ones.  You have to find the right fit for your book and that can take time.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other published authors.  Many are happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. Don’t let anyone try to dictate what you write.  Your story will only be good if you’re writing about something that’s important to you.  You can’t up and write a story just because you think that is’ what sells.  Your heart has to be in whatever you write for it to be a success.

Where do you see the book publishing industry heading? I haven’t honestly given this a lot of thought.  Sounds crazy, with me being a writer, but I haven’t wanted to worry about the future.  I don’t ever see eBooks taking the place of good, old-fashioned print books.  People get comfort from holding a book and lovingly turning the pages as they read a favorite over and over again.
I do think that publishers will have to offer some specialized services to get new writers in the future since self-publishing is getting so easy.  I like the convenience of having an editor and artist provided by my publisher, not to mention the advertising they do for the books on their sites.  I wouldn’t give that up to add the worries of publishing myself.  I’d rather just write.

For more information, consult:

Interview With Author Larry Matthews

1.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? My latest novel, to be released in July, is called Saving Charles and it’s a sequel to Healing Charles, which came out in February of 2011. The first book is a coming of age story about a young man who grows up in Appalachia, in the hills of northern Alabama. He has a “gift”. He can heal pain by laying on hands. He has no interest in the gift and wants more than anything to leave the hills and see the world, which he does. As the story develops, Charles and a singer/songwriter friend find themselves back in the mountains and, oddly, the most famous young men in America. Healing Charles has a feel-good ending. Saving Charles takes place thirty years later and Charles is still on the mountain, his marriage is in tatters, his kids don’t like him and he doesn’t like himself, so he sets out on another journey.  This time it’s a journey of bad decisions and self-reflection. Saving Charles is the story of one man’s last chance to make something of himself and to make sense of his life. The story is populated by oddball characters, swindlers, liars, and even some who are well-intentioned.

2.      What do you love most about writing? I have always loved storytelling. As a journalist I was drawn to the human interest stories on the street. That is why I found investigative reporting interesting and rewarding. I did not find much satisfaction in reporting from Congress or even The White House because the material is stripped of its “truth”. My memoir, I Used To Be In Radio, has many stories of the characters I came across in thirty-plus years in broadcasting. Now, as a novelist, I have the luxury of allowing my imagination to carry me to every oddball, street bum, or swell that I can conjure.

3.      As an author, what advice do you have for fellow struggling writers? It’s the same advice I received and I’m sure everyone else has come across it at one time or another: If you want to be a better writer, write.

4.      Where do you see the book industry heading? Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it? Electronic books are the future, in my opinion. I have a Kindle and love it, although I also have an affection for paper books and love to see my own books in that form. I believe the number of books sold will continue to rise but the traditional model will continue to shrink.  The big challenge will be in the publishing business. I think many authors will strike out on their own and forsake the traditional publishers for self-publishing. I know many authors who are asking themselves what they will gain – or lose – by going one way or another.

5.      Larry, tell me about your experiences as a business journalist with TV and radio. I was a general news reporter for many years, in addition to my time as an anchor, news director, editor and producer. Frankly, I grew weary of the shootings, rapes, robberies, thievery and corruption that made up the day-to-day news. I was offered an opportunity to work on a television business program and found that I liked it. The stakes were, in many respects, lower because all that could be lost was money, not human life. I also found that business at the top level is a lot like war. Empires are created and lost. Kings are made and vanquished. Victory and defeat. Seen in that light, business reporting can be quite exciting.

6.      Which is more challenging to write – fiction or non-fiction? Why? I don’t know that I can answer that. Fiction is certainly challenging in that character, plot, pace, and so on are created by the author. This places a special responsibility on the writer to create a world the reader will want to inhabit. Non-fiction is all about the facts and how they’re assembled and explained. Done well, non-fiction can be as compelling as a thriller. Bob Woodward is a master of this type of non-fiction. One of the little sayings journalists sometimes mumble to each other is something along the lines of “there’s a difference between fact and truth.” Non-fiction deals with fact and, it’s hoped, finds the truth. Fiction, well done, is merely truth.

Interview with Author Larriane AKA Larion Wills

1.      What’s with the two names? Split personality? Although I feel that way at times, the reason is fairly simply, I'm a multi-genre writer. The two names help my readers in knowing what to expect, science fiction, western, contemporary, suspense, mystery and/or romance, all with paranormal, ghost and witches, often thrown in. I use Larriane for science fiction and fantasy, keeping Larion for all the rest. When I first started publishing, I considered more names to break down the genres even more. It didn't take me long to figure out two were plenty to keep track of.

2.      You say you’ve penned tens of thousands of stories? How could one person have time or the creativity to pull that off?  Where were they published? A slight correction, I didn't say I'd penned thousands. My first publisher chose that tag for me, understanding that even though I haven't penned that many, I have at least that many floating around in my head. I believe the same could be said of any writer. The creativity never seems to stop, triggered by nearly everything we see, hear, do or think. I did have a dozen books published with my first publisher, Swimming Kangaroo Books, a small independent company which sadly has since closed down. Being new at publishing then, being with them was a great learning experience for me. I entered the market, said tongue in cheek, about six years ago with such a lack of experience I didn't even know what an Ebook was. I had no idea I could submit electronically, no concept of what the editing process entailed, or the first thing about social groups or loops. I've since moved to two other publishers (MuseItUp Publishing and Secret Cravings Publishing) with both new and slowly re-issuing the old books.

3.      What do you like to write about? Why? As I said, I'm multi-genre. I write historical in my westerns and future in my science fiction with all manner of things between. As to why? Sort of like the man who answered 'Because it was there' when asked why he climbed a mountain. The stories are in my head, roiling around, seeking a way out. Writing them down is the way, rather like an exorcism.  

4.      What advice do you have for struggling writers? With so many aspects possible of why they're struggling, the list of advice would be extremely long. One of the first things I'd suggest is be true to yourself. Not for any particular reason when asked for words of wisdom, again said with tongue in cheek, other than it that was the first to pop in my mind. I attempted at one time to write in a currently popular genre to 'cash in' on the fad. I wasn't comfortable with it, couldn't get the thoughts to flow, that type of thing. The story was there, but the words were forced. The effort, which never satisfied me, is sitting on the shelf. The story that wants out is the one to work on, not the one you have to struggle with. Secondly, for newbies trying to break into publishing, investigate small publishing houses rather than the 'big boys.' As I mentioned above, I've gained valuable information while working with small houses, the publishers taking the time to educate me whereas the big houses can't-don't take the time. Not only that, but small companies are more apt to invest their time and money in an unestablished author. Most of the big houses won't accept an unsolicited manuscript and only accept submissions from authors, a frustrating situation. Finding an agent can be as time consuming and disappointing as finding a publisher, for the same reasons. Make sure of one thing before you submit to publisher or agent, follow their guidelines.  

5.      How can writers make a buck from crating words these days? Publishing with the idea in mind that you're going to 'make a buck' is fine. If you have the idea you're going to make a fortune, you're destined to be disappointed, though the maybe notion is fun to hang on to. Getting that best seller in any market is becoming more difficult, partially as a result of Ebooks. I'm sure that statement has got some backs up, but it's simple mathematics. In the last five years I've seen the Ebook market practically explode with online companies. More new companies, more new authors, more and more books equal a smaller slice of the pie. What I'm seeing fellow authors getting the biggest return on now are short stories, inexpensive, quick reads, though that may not be what you're asking. Since promoting is one of my least favorite things, I'm not the best person to ask this question of. I can quote though, words I hear over and over, "Get your name out there." One of the best places to learn how to do that is from peers, online groups, author groups, etc. I see many 'yet to be published' authors on the groups, learning before they get that first contract. Oh, that reminds me, I've got a new contract waiting for me to sign and return. Better run. I don't want to keep my publisher waiting. Thank you for letting me visit, Brian, it's been fun

Interview With Sci-Fi Novelist Mark Tierno

  1. What type of books do you write? Fantasy and Science Fiction, though I love to mix them together.  My Maldene series, for instance, starts out as more or less typical Epic Fantasy but gradually introduces some science fiction elements.

  1. What is your latest or upcoming book about? Maldene (currently available as Volumes 1 and 2) is the first in a 13-novel fantasy series.  It starts off with our little band of characters finding out that the world has more secrets than they thought they knew, not the least of which involves the plans of a villainous wizard named Miro, one that has been around for as long as what people know of as History and is said to be feared even by the gods themselves.

  1. What inspired you to write it? I had been accumulating the plot for quite a number of years, and actually knew that I would be writing *something* as far back as when I was 12...  I just had to wait until home computers and word processors before I'd start anything as I hated the physical effort behind handwriting everything.

  1. What did you do before you became an author? I was helping my mom care for my dad who had Parkinson's Disease for about 25 years.  Before that I was in school, ending up with a MS in Physics.

  1. How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers? Being published means the hard part begins: marketing.  Not something I'm all that great at but I'm learning.  The initial feeling was "Hey, great I'm published," then followed by that "honeymoon is over feeling." My advice to struggling writers:  Find someone to support your efforts and don't stop writing.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? While E-publishing will be of ever-increasing importance, I wouldn't write off the traditional printed page just yet.  There are some of us that still like to walk into a bookstore, scan a shelf of 20 or 30 titles at a glance, and spot that one cover that attracts us to pick it out.  You can't do that e-shopping... at least not yet.
In Case You Missed These Posts:

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Interview With Steven Rosato, Event Director of Book Expo America

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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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