Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How Do You Establish A Writer’s Legacy?

Most authors come to me for help in promoting their current or upcoming book.  They want to sell books, promote their message, build their media resume, and be positioned as a leader in their field.  Some may want to use the book campaign to drum up business as a speaker or consultant.  But a little while back I was approached by a then 83-year-old author who told me he wanted to hire the public relations firm that I work for so we could establish his legacy and authorial name.  I’d never been given such a mission.  What a weighted burden to have, to be commissioned with the objective of turning someone into a legend.

It is a unique task.  It is challenging enough to build one’s brand when they are younger but have a whole writing career ahead of them.  On the other hand, this author had over four decades of books to highlight, but not one of his books ever became a best-seller.  How will I take someone to a place they’ve never been during their many travels?

I profess that I hadn’t heard his name until we had spoken but I was impressed with his background once I researched it.  He’s an enigma.  He has published over two million words and on a dozen occasions his novels were sold to Hollywood.  One of them fetched over 1.2 million bucks—but it was never made into a movie.  Still, two of his books became successful movies and one was turned into a PBS trilogy.  There is one book that is his signature story and it’s been turned into a movie starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito.  It went on to be converted into a play in over a dozen countries. The book?  War of the Roses. 

Author Warren Adler has written nearly three dozen novels, many of which received praise from reviewers at the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and the leading publications of the day.  Still, even with his Hollywood hits, never a best seller, never a household name.

Will things change this time around?  Last year we were set to work with him as he was on the brink of doing an unusual thing—releasing five new books in an exclusive deal with Amazon—all on the same date.  We ended up not working with him at that time over a dispute that we both laugh about now.  But his experiment with Amazon never flourished and now, a year later, the 84-year-old was still looking to establish the legacy that has eluded him all these years.

We began working together several months ago to promote his upcoming book, The Serpent’s Bite, a wonderfully crafted story that features murder, incest, and the false pursuit of fame.  It’s due out in September (distributed by Greenleaf Book Group).

I feel a certain obligation to Warren.  I don’t want to fail him.  He’s entrusted a dream in my hands and instills his faith in what he knows is a long-shot.  I like his fighting spirit and his ability to reach for the stars.  Most writers have lofty goals because their ego blinds them from seeing reality, but the thing about Warren is that his books, collectively and individually, represent all writers.  He knows how to tell a story and engage the reader.  He’s just one hit away from a new generation to take notice of a lifetime of work.

I don’t know what the formula is for establishing one’s legacy, but I’m happy to say that Publishers Weekly is scheduled to run a story in the Show Daily at the upcoming Book Expo America.  That could be the start of a march towards establishing a solid PR campaign and maybe even one’s legacy.

For more information, consult  If you’d like to download some of his earlier works—for free just click on
 Here's the current schedule:
Free Download- Sunset Gang
Free Download- Mourning Glory
Free Download- Housewife Blues
Free Download- Never Too Late for Love
6/18- 6/24
Free Download- Residue
Free Download- Random Hearts
Free Download- Banquet Before Dawn

Interview With Author Lynn Rush

1.      What is your book about? Awaited is book two in the Wasteland Trilogy. It’s Russell’s story. Like Wasteland (book one) it’s told from the male, first person point of view. Here’s the official blurb:

Russell Leonard is a centuries-old Guardian who’s lost faith in his purpose. So when he’s charged with procuring the first female Guardian in over two centuries, he can only hope it’s the red-headed beauty who’s been haunting his dreams for months. And if it is, he intends to claim her as his. But when he finds his dream woman, Annabelle is mute and bears no Guardian’s Mark.
He soon realizes she’s been tainted by an ancient evil. Russell must somehow release the secrets trapped within this delicate soul to help her tap into the only weapon powerful enough to silence a millennia-old demon—her voice.

2.      What inspired you to write it? After Wasteland was contracted by Crescent Moon Press, I thought it’d be fun to try and write the next novel. And Russell was such a fun character I figured I’d give him a try. Book one was from a half-demon’s point of view, I thought it’d be interesting to jump into the mind of a Guardian…the exact opposite of a demon. Russell’s story pretty much wrote itself. I just love his character. 

3.      What do your readers want to read? I’m known for a giving my readers a rush. Tons of action laced with the thrill of an intense romance. Though my romance is considered more on the “sweeter” side of steamy, the relationship of the hero and heroine are the center focus of my stories.

4.      What are the challenges to write in your genre? Most challenging is just getting the word out about it. New Adult is a fairly new concept, so some people just aren’t sure if they’re ready to try that. But that’s okay. I don’t mind forging a new path for people to take. I love what I write and hope to be doing it for a very long time.

5.      Where do you see book publishing heading? I think paper books will always be around. I know I have a Kindle and read primarily on that, but I still buy paperbacks of my favorite authors. Publishing is an ever-changing entity, and all publishing houses need to change with the times to stay with what the readers are wanting and in the format they demand.

6.      Any advice to a fellow writer? Write on! I know, I say that a lot, but it’s so very true. With each book you write, you’re going to get better, and the next one even better. Some doors will shut along your path, just keep walking to the next one…you just never know what’ll happen.

Lynn Rush is providing a free copy of her short story, Prelude to Darkness. Follow the link for your FREE copy of the prequel to the Wasteland Trilogy.  For more information, consult:

Interview With Author  Fergus M. Bordewich

1.      What type of books do you write? Today I primarily write narrative history on major national themes that have included the nation’s founding, slavery, westward expansion, and the coming of the Civil War. I see history and politics as a great human story, full of conflict, drama, and always about men and woman struggling to shape and control the events they set in motion. In "Washington: The Making of the American Capital," I showed how the politics of slavery determined where the nation’s capital would be built. In "Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America," I showed how the Underground Railroad was more than a fabulous tale of midnight escapes and mysterious hiding places, but rather a significant national movement that liberated thousands, and helped to change Americans’ thinking about slavery.

In "Killing the White Man’s Indian: Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the 20th Century," I interwove on-the-scene reporting with history and political analysis to explore both the realities of present-day life in Native American communities, and the dizzying layers of mythology and wishful thinking that obscure the ways in which Indians are seen by other Americans. "My Mother’s Ghost" is a memoir about personal loss and an effort to rediscover the remarkable life of my mother, LaVerne Madigan Bordewich, a poet and political activist, who died prematurely in a tragic accident. "Cathay: A Journey in Search of Old China," chronicles my travels in China searching for traces of the pre-Communist Chinese world.
2.      What’s my latest book about? "America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas and the Compromise that Preserved the Union," just published (April 2012), takes readers into the epic political struggle that averted secession and a war between the states, if just barely, in 1850. For decades, the United States had delicately balanced the number of free states with slave states. The admission of California as a free state was about to tip the balance. Radicalized defenders of slavery were prepared to take their states out of the Union if they lost power in Washington. Even members of Congress worried aloud that blood would soon be spilled in the halls of Congress. Some of the most brilliant political men in American history struggled for ten months to pull the nation back from the brink. This is the story of what happened.

I’m also about to publish an e-book titled "The Looming Conflict: Rebels, Radicals, and the Road to Civil War," which incorporates a selection of my essays on the Underground Railroad, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, the battle for Fort Sumter, and other subjects.

3.      What inspired you to write "America's Great Debate"? When I was writing "Bound for Canaan," a national history of the Underground Railroad, I stumbled across a passionate speech delivered in 1850 by the famous orator Daniel Webster, then the Secretary of State, who had long been regarded as the leading voice of the antislavery New England. In his speech, he fiercely defended the terrible new Fugitive Slave Law, and promised to personally see that it was enforced across the North. I wondered what had happened to Webster, how he had come to abandon lifelong principles on behalf of what seemed to me to be a morally indefensible law. Webster plays a significant, if secondary, role in my book. But he inspired a quest that eventually took me into the tortured heart of antebellum America.
4.      What did you do before you became an author? I have been a professional writer for more than forty years. As an independent journalist, my articles have appeared in the "New York Times," "Wall Street Journal," "Smithsonian Magazine," "American Heritage," the "Atlantic," "Harpers," "Reader’s Digest," "GEO," and many other publications. They have covered a wide range of issues in international politics, culture, and economics, including such subjects as: human rights in China, Islamic fundamentalism, political change in the Middle East, the civil war in Burma, economic transformation in Vietnam, peace-making in Northern Ireland, German reunification, and the population crisis in Africa, to name just a few. In recent years, I have written regularly on antebellum American history and the Civil War for "Smithsonian Magazine."

5.      How does it feel to be a published author?  For me, writing is a vocation. I have always been driven by inexhaustible curiosity about subjects that engage me. Once I began writing, more than forty years ago, I never looked back. Wring books enables me to dig as deeply as I want into questions of history, and to follow my instinct for where a story leads as far as I can. Beginning a book is always daunting, rather like standing at the bottom of a mountain that looks too steep to climb, and thinking, "What the hell was I thinking?" Every book is surprising, leading me to no problems, new questions, and to remarkable characters who often were forgotten by history, or so mythologized – I’m thinking of George Washington and Henry Clay, for example – that we can no longer see then as flawed and contradictory human beings like ourselves. Completing a book is profoundly satisfying. I’m always astonished that I managed to do it, and that I learned so much that was new.

6.      Any advice for struggling writers? Writing has always been a vocation for me. Early on, I filled in with all sorts of jobs, so that I could keep writing: I worked as a taxi driver in New York City, a deckhand on a freighter, a roustabout in the Alaska oil fields (all of which provided valuable windows into the human condition for a middle class kid from suburban New York). I wrote freelance for magazines and newspapers for twenty years before I published my first book. The 1960s through the 1990s were a golden age for independent writers: magazines were numerous, fees were on the whole excellent, editors answered their own phones and would personally listen to a story-pitch, and for a writer who had a lot of ideas, was willing to travel, and would take on sometimes risky assignments, work was plentiful. When I began writing books, I had a solid publishing foundation to build on. I have never had difficulty getting my books published, however I’m not a natural salesman, so a good, aggressive, well-respected agent has always been essential. I also don’t let myself fall in love with ideas – for books or articles – that are commercially unviable.
7.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Frankly, things look pretty bleak at the moment. The advent of e-books has obviously had a devastating effect on traditional publishing. The harder it is for publishers to make a profit on the books they sell, the fewer books they’ll sell, and the ones they do take on will be less risky. Advances are already plummeting, with potentially catastrophic effects on writers who are not independently wealthy, or established at a university, or some other salary-paying institution. It’s impossible to know what books will never see the light of day because writers can’t afford to write them. E-publishing in its many forms has created all sorts of opportunities for writers, but whether it will enable many serious writers to earn a living is still an open question. That said, people will always read, there will always be wonderful stories to tell, and there will always be entrepreneurs able to figure out ways to sell those stories.

Interview With Joel Yanolfsky

1.      What type of books do you write? Actually, I've written all kinds of books. My first was a collection of comic essays called Homo Erectus and Other Popular Tales of True Romance. My second was a novel, Jacob's Ladder. Third was part literary biography, part memoir called Mordecai & Me: An Appreciation of a Kind. My most recent book, which was published in Canada by Penguin last year, but is just coming out from Arcade in the U.S. this May, is a straightforward memoir. It's called Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism. It's the story of me and my son, who has autism. So that pretty much covers the map. What they all have in common is that they are all personal stories, based on my experience, regardless of whether they are fiction or nonfiction. I find writing about myself saves time on research.

2.      How and when did you know that your destiny was as a writer? It's funny, I've recently been talking to high school kids -- middle school in your country, I'm guessing -- and telling them how in grade six I was a terrible student and the teacher announced there was going to be an essay contest for all the grade six students in the district. I ended up winning it, to everyone's surprise, including my own. I was particularly surprised when the teacher wrote my name on the board. That feeling of seeing my name like that foreshadowed how I'd feel seeing my name in newspaper bylines, magazines and ultimately books. I think the sense that I could be good at this, at something other people weren't as good at, especially the so-called smart kids, was the beginning of my obsession with writing. I just read a lot and wrote a lot after that.

3.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? As I said, Bad Animals is coming out in the U.S. next month and it's a story of a father, me, trying to cope with the fact that his son, his only child, has autism. it was a tough book to write, as you might imagine, and took some time. But I wanted to write a book that was honest and that spoke to all parents, not just parents of kids with autism. To the feelings of disappointment and surprising joy we all can't avoid feeling. I also wanted to write a book about autism that was, at its core, funny. So there is a lot of humor in the book to go along with the obvious anguish. I'd also read a lot of memoirs that have happy or uplifting endings, where acceptance is easy, and that wasn't my experience so I tried to write a book that was unflinching in dealing with the day-to-day experience of having a child with autism.

4.      What inspired you to write it? Clearly, my desire to connect with my son, to understand him better. He's a sweet kid and is considered high functioning but we do have a lot of difficulty just conversing, for instance, so in part the book was a way for us to engage in a conversation. In fact, the title is his. He came home with a book called Bad Animals that he'd written in school and the title was so good I stole it. He wrote about how the animals in his story keep getting frustrated and disappointed when things go wrong and, as a result, don't always behave well, behave badly in fact. And that was my story too. I was having a lot of trouble being a good father so in a way I wrote the book about a character who ends up, after a lot of ups and more downs, being a little better at raising his son and, weirdly, as a result, I became better at it too. I realized, halfway through the memoir, that I had to be a better person so my character could be better and, again weirdly, that is what happened. Of course, once the book was done, things tended to slide back to the way they were.

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? Any advice for struggling writers? It is always a great feeling, followed by the inevitable let down. But I am always amazed that I get the thing done. This last book, in particular, since I frequently felt I couldn't write it. I guess what I would tell struggling writers isn't that original. But take pride and pleasure, even when it's no fun at all, in the work. Try to write the best book, best article, best story, you can. Also, when you get to the point where the only thing worse than writing is not writing than you are probably in a good place.

6.      Where do you see book publishing heading? I am, most of the time, a book reviewer and a literary journalist so I've been writing articles on the death of literature for years now. It is a little bit terrifying now. But people keep reading and people keep writing and as long as they do the method of how the content is delivered isn't that important. The short answer to this big question is: who the hell knows?

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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