Thursday, May 31, 2012

Who Will Avenge Publishing?

I enjoyed the latest Avengers movie last week. Though I didn’t see it in 3-D, the film was eye-opening in one respect. Its popularity and wild success begs the question: Where is publishing’s version of The Avengers?

Sure there are always popular books for sale. Fifty Shades of Grey is one example. But how many books gross over a billion dollars worldwide after just a few weeks?

My question is this: Why are movies so much more popular than books? It isn’t even close.

I know it is easier and quicker to watch a movie than to read a book, so I guess movies offer instant gratification. Should we start selling shorter books or pushing books that feature a collection of essays and short stories so a reader can feel they experienced a complete story in one night?

Movies offer great visuals. Should more books feature photographs, illustrations, and charts to make the reader experience more colorful?

Movies offer sound. Should more books be accompanied by music for the background? Should more books come with the audiobook version, so one can listen to a book?

Movies offer video. This is the hardest thing for books to offer, but if you are on an e-reading device perhaps special videos can be created to play on it. They can be short and used to recreate the opening chapter or a key chapter in the book. But I am guessing production costs would make this unlikely.

Or perhaps we accept the fact that movies get the big bucks for the following reasons:

·         They are scarcer. Maybe a thousand films get played in theaters annually. Meanwhile, millions of new books are released during that same time.

·         Movies are unfiltered, to a degree, for mass appeal. They are built to get a big audience when they throw in special effects, a great soundtrack, and a story that can draw many people in.

·         Movies are physical escapes. You leave the house, congregate with others, and share in it with friends, family, a date, etc. Books are read at home, in private, in isolation.

·         Most movies get reviewed and are talked about by the news media. Comparatively few books are featured by the media.

·         Movie releases are scheduled, short-lived events that people rally around. Book launches happen slowly and wait for word of mouth to spread.

In the end, we don’t have to choose between a movie or a book. In fact, many movies are based on books and fans of these books flock to the theaters to see how the movie portrays those books.

There may come a time where price factors in on whether one sees a movie or reads a book, but for now that may not be a big deal. Maybe the real advantage films offer viewers over book readers is that the story is told and shown to them as opposed to one reading to themselves. The reader may want to get out of his head and no longer hear his own voice. He wants to just shut down and let others put on a show for him. He no longer has to use his imagination. He cedes control to the movie and lets others dictate his experience.

I love to run to the movies and to let Hollywood inspire and entertain me. But I surely love books as well. No need to choose between the two but it would be great to see book publishing find ways to expand sales by following part of Hollywood’s script.

What Advice Would You Give To A Struggling Writer?
“New writers should understand that, like any other profession, becoming a published author requires an extensive education. Attendance at conferences and workshops, as well as seeking the services of a qualified editor, will help the struggling new author learn what is expected by the publishing industry, which can be quite different from what might be anticipated. This is equally important to those who self-publish, because their works should be comparable to commercially published material.

“Also, although movies and novels can be quite different and play to diverse audiences, there is one similarity. Making a movie requires the combined efforts of a creative team of a director, writer, actors, cinematographer, set designers, etc. Crafting a novel requires all of these efforts as well, but performed by one individual--the author, who must serve as director, writer, actors, cinematographer, set designers, etc. One of the most common weaknesses I see in my editorial clients is poor directing skills. Know what to emphasize and what to minimize. Always focus on your lead character and especially know what to cut. Movie DVDs usually include as a bonus a few select deleted scenes. They were deleted for a reason. Know what to remove from your manuscript to make it more cohesive and improve pacing.”

-- Michael Garrett, Editorial Services  and

“Quit struggling. If writing is a struggle, find a way to make it joyful, fulfilling. If the struggle is in finding the time to write, make a writing appointment with yourself. Write it on the calendar. Keep it as you would keep an appointment with a friend or your dentist. Even half an hour a day can make all the difference. Make a date with a writing friend to write alone/together. 

“If the struggle is with a particular piece or section of a project, sometimes it's best to put the thing away for awhile, let it cool off. Once again, quit struggling. Ask for help from writers you trust. Look for another way to approach the piece. Don't aim for perfection; it doesn't exist. Aim for getting words on the page. 

“Writing is hard work, but it shouldn't be a struggle.”

--Judy Reeves is a writer, teacher and writing practice provocateur.  See:

“It’s always insightful to get a chance to gather my thoughts; I am pleased to share a few new ideas and old truths with your readers. These are gathered from my experience marketing my book, Turning Memories into Memoirs, which has sold 35,000 copies since its publication in 1992. I’ve learned a few things in the ensuing years that I hope will be helpful to self-published writers struggling to bring their books to the attention of readers.

“First, I’d like to address appearance. Despite the common aphorism, people do judge a book by its cover. Make your cover—and the inside of the book— professional and well-designed. Choose a layout that is pleasing to the eye and conventional. This is not the place to get creative—save that for your writing! The look of your book must be the same as you might find in a big-name publisher. (I like to think all my books and our client books look like they come from Random House or Simon and Schuster!)

“Next let’s talk about outreach. Do all the promotion you possibly can—and then some more. Use every outlet available, including local radio and television spots, blog appearances, internet radio programs, contributions to newsletters. Create or participate in publicity events—a reading at your library, a presentation at a conference, a signing at a book store. And don’t neglect to send out a press release as well as get listed on every calendar of events you can think of (both on- and offline).

“Your book is your baby, don’t ever abandon it. Keep believing in what you’ve written—and back that up with action—and your book will sell. No publisher will work as hard as you will on getting your message into the world. Large publishers often desert their books after only a few months: your book will continue to resonate years after its publication, with the proper care.

“Here’s one last tip that I’ve discovered in my twenty-five years in the business. When promoting a work of fiction, look for a relevant, factual aspect of your novel to promote. For example, if you’ve written a story set on the sea, focus on selling sailing to an appropriate audience. Target the market you know.

“You don't have to do it alone. There are many supports and resources available to you. Good luck and much success promoting your writing!”

--Denis Ledoux, Founder, Soleil Lifestory Network,
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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