Monday, May 21, 2012

Do Book Publicists Save Lives?

The public relations industry is often accused of using sleazy trickles to promote individuals, causes, organizations, or ideas that may be mediocre at best, harmful at worst.  As with advertising, anyone who can afford to do so can pay someone to market them or their products and services, regardless of the credibility or substance behind what’s being promoted.  Many publicists who practice the art of PR will pause at times to reflect upon their role in life, questioning if they are doing any good in the world, or worse, destroying it.

Today, it occurred to me that perhaps I help, in some way to improve, even save the lives of others.  Am I just a self-absorbed, ego maniac looking to justify what I do for a living?  Perhaps. 

But I’d like to think that there are times, even if few and far between, where I contribute to society as a result of my book marketing efforts.

Most books are benign.  Fiction is just a made-up scenario and the reader knows this going into it, so I don’t believe novels can make the world worse off.  If anything, they can instruct us or allow us to find a way to make up for life’s shortcomings and impossibilities.  But when it comes to non-fiction books that directly advise and instruct the reader, there’s no doubt a book can contribute to one’s life, for better or worse.

One of the reasons I choose to promote books and not widgets is that I love supporting the arts.  Books can do so much for a person.  They can up lift the reader and arm him or her with information, ideas or inspiration that can transform a life.  The books can at least entertain the reader and offer a welcome respite from the shortcomings of the world.  Books have always nurtured a safe haven for me. 

But what if a book can truly help someone, to help them live a better life, heal a wound, motivate them to change for the better or inform them of resources and strategies that if implemented, would enrich their lives?  Some books can do this and I may have promoted a few of them.

It occurs to me that a book I’m about to promote may actually be a lifesaver to some who read it.  It’s a book written by a man who once suffered a mental breakdown, was locked up in a mental institution, diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and told there was no cure.  He’d lost his wife, a considerable chunk of his considerable wealth and most of all, his dignity.  But he fought against the odds and uncovered a lifestyle solution that keeps him not only mentally fit but physically vibrant.  His book, Stress Pandemic, really offers a balanced approach to wellness by implementing nine steps to ward off stress. 

The book launches July 31st.  Though there are many books written about stress, depression, or mental illness, most are written by the perceived expert—psychiatrists, therapists, PhD’s, medical doctors.  What makes this book different is it is written by the patient, by a man who was at rock bottom, by a person who knows firsthand how unchecked stress could get the better of a person.
I think readers will not only benefit from the advice that he offers but they will be inspired by his story.  I’m motivated to go the extra mile for him.  It’s important that his book be embraced by others.
If my team does a great job and we get lucky, we not only will promote a book that sells many copies, we may just help of even save a few lives.

As a book marketer and publicist, I get to feel like the hero.  That doesn’t happen very often.  For once it’s not about counting downloads or Twitter followers.  Soon I may get to keep score by how many people get help as a result of reading Stress Pandemic.

For more information—and to help make me a hero—please consult

Interview With Mitra Author & Illustrator Modarressi 

1.      What type of books do you write?  I write and illustrate picture books.
2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about?   My latest book just came out and it is called "Owlet's First Flight".  It is a simple rhyming story about a little owl who leaves his nest on his own for the first time and all that he sees on his night time adventure.

3.      What inspired you to write it? I wanted to do a very simple story that was set at night time, which led me to think about owls.  I was also inspired by some very cute taxidermal owls that I sketched at the California Academy of Science here in San Francisco.  My goal was to create a quiet, soothing story.  The little owl is a bit nervous and timid, but he gains confidence on his journey.  .

4.      What did you do before you became an author? I was an illustration major at Rhode Island School of Design.  After graduation I worked for several years managing the children's book department in a book store.  It was great inspiration to be surrounded by all these amazing books every day.  

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers? I am thrilled to be published.  It is so rewarding to see a project come together in book form, and to get to work at something I love to do. It’s not easy, though.  I think I imagined that after my first book came out it would be smooth sailing, but I still struggle to sell a manuscript and find my next project.  My advice to others would be that if you truly love writing (or illustrating) to stick with it and have patience.  Don't worry about what everyone else is doing and how you measure up.  It tends to crush the creative spirit!  

6.      Where do you see book publishing heading?  Things seem to be changing at a rapid pace and I worry about the fate of picture books.  I am disheartened to see mainly blockbuster titles dominating the shelves.  It makes it hard for the smaller books to get discovered.  But change is inevitable and I am hoping that perhaps, through ebooks, lesser known authors will be able to reach a new audience, or keep a book in print longer.  I just hope that people still buy actual picture books because you can't beat holding them in your hands!

Interview With Author Nick Arvin

  1. What type of books do you write? All three of my books have been fiction, two novels and a book of short stories. I’ve written historical stories and fantastical stories and this new novel has elements of mystery and noir, while in the back of my mind now is a sci fi novel. Basically, I write about whatever is interesting to me. I guess, for lack of a better term, I call it literary fiction.

  1. What is your latest book about? I'm an engineer. Nowadays I work on the design of power plants and oil and gas facilities, but some years ago I worked for a while in forensic engineering, reconstructing the events that led to car accidents. The Reconstructionist is about a young man who stumbles into doing that kind of work, and it’s about the limits of analysis to explain matters of the heart, the gravitational pull of past events and their meaning to our present day relationships, and how in an instant a collision can irrevocably change lives. It also involves an illicit love affair, Legos, a zombie pig, and a large number of car crashes.

  1. What inspired you to write it? I found accident reconstruction to be incredibly interesting work, but also discomforting in the way that it applies cold, analytical techniques to examining situations that are full of coincidence and human drama. The Reconstructionist is my effort to explore this conflict inherent in the work. 

  1. What did you do before you became an author? I've been a writer and an engineer in parallel my entire professional life, and I can't really say that one preceded the other. They coexist, sometimes happily, sometimes less so, but all and all I like having them both in my life. It's often a relief to be able to turn from one to the other.

  1. How does it feel to be a published author?  It's very gratifying. This stage of my writing career has its own struggles, but I try to bear in mind how lucky I am to be able to do this and to have a voice, however small, in the great conversation of books and literature. 

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? Well... Predictions are for suckers and sci fi... But it does seem to me that the shifting technological landscape is opening real opportunities for self-publishing and for small independent publishers like Bare Knuckles Press and Foxhead Books. Looking at it optimistically, my hope is that these opportunities will free writers to pursue their visions in a more pure way, less constrained by commercial requirements and proscriptions.

Interview With Author Kelly Wilson 

  1. Kelly, what inspired you to write The Wisdom to Know the Difference (New Harbinger)? Well, drug and alcohol abuse and dependence are huge behavioral health problems. About 1 in 10 adults in the US meet diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder, drug use disorder, or both. So some of the reason to write the book stems from a desire to respond to a big healthcare need. As a scientist, that is my job. But I also have a more personal stake in it. I have myself been in recovery from really severe drug and alcohol dependence since 1985. I know firsthand the kind of wreckage addiction can produce. It just seems right, personally, that I try to make a contribution in this area. I caused a lot of harm and the book is a small attempt to set some of that right. Also, there are a lot of self-help books out there with a lot of things in them that have no science behind them. I know three things that make me the right guy to write this book. I understand the scientific evidence. I have a personal feel for people suffering from this difficulty. And, finally I know how to talk from science in a very nontechnical way--in a way anyone can understand.

  1. What were the challenges and rewards in writing it? There were a few challenges. One I faced right away was that I could not figure out how to write the book without some elements of my own story. As a clinician and as a teacher, I tend to work with people at a deeply personal level. I have never made a big secret about my addiction history, but in science writing, that sort of thing does not come up.   In my more informal writing and speaking, blogging, on facebook, teaching in workshops, I have spoken of these matters often. Doing so has allowed me to connect with a lot of people. In the end, the audience for this book was regular folks struggling with drugs and alcohol and I felt I could reach out in a more personal and meaningful way. It is not a usual thing for a scientist to do, but I am not really a very usual scientist.

Another challenge involved coming up with a way to write it that would be inclusive. The evidence for ACT is good. I also think that a fair look at the evidence suggests that there are a lot of beneficial elements to AA and other 12-step programs. I personally think there is a lot of potential synergy between ACT and 12-step programs. The problem is, there are a lot of people who just do not like AA. I ended up writing the book in 3 parallel streams. First and foremost it is a workbook applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy ideas to addiction. Second, is a stream of personal stories and reflections. And, finally, there is a stream of 12-step pullouts talking about the ways the main workbook fits with AA and other 12-step programs. It is possible for people to just ignore the 12-step pullouts if they really do not like 12-step. The book is enhanced by them, but is coherent without them. I also spend a bit of time at the back of the book on a section called "But I Hate AA." In it, I try to remove some obstacles to using 12-step programs. In the end, I wanted to write a book that would be useful to as broad an audience as possible.

  1. As a recovering alcoholic, how hard or easy is it for your therapeutic approach to be embraced by others? Well, in terms of the book's ability to speak to people, I guess only time will tell. I have certainly treated a lot of folks over the years and supervised the treatment of many more. I have found people quite open to the approach. For example, the word acceptance is in the name of the treatment. It is pretty easy for people to understand that you do not step away from a serious substance abuse career without understanding something about acceptance. Recovery has some very painful periods. I think the approach will be particularly accessible to people who have had some contact with 12-step programs. Also, I have run early drafts by some people I know in long-term recovery and they were very positive and encouraging.

  1. As an associate professor of psychology how much of our work is based on scholarly research vs. personal experience? My education came after my addiction. I had an interest in addiction from the very start of it, but my research has been much, much broader. Personal experience and scholarly research are inextricably linked for me. I research what I care about. Life is much too short and too sweet to squander on anything I do not love. Science is a tool that can help me to make a difference in things that matter to me.

  1. What advice do you have for a struggling writer? You know, this is my 10th book and I barely feel like I am finding my feet as a writer.

  1. Where do you see book publishing heading? I think paper books are just about dead. I expect that there will be gift books and coffee table books, but I think almost everything will go electronic. I have quit buying paper books.  I do not even think we have gotten a glimpse yet of the ways that electronic publishing is likely to transform books. For example, the things Apple is doing with textbooks give a tiny glimmer. I expect that for certain sorts of books, electronic publishing will change the very meaning of what a book is. I can easily imagine workbooks like this with links to pages of worksheets and other resources--videos, audio tracks, etc.

Please note: Kelly’s publisher, New Harbinger, hired the company I work for, Media Connect, to promote the book in a radio tour.

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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