Friday, June 29, 2012

Golden Anniversary For Leading Discount Chains

1962, the year that gave us the Mets, the Rolling Stones, and Marilyn Monroe’s tragic death, also gave America its first Walmart, Target, and Kmart stores. The trio of deep discounters eventually replaced Woolworth’s, perhaps the original big-box discount shop of the nation.

The three chains represent over 11,000 stores, globally, with annual sales of over a half-trillion dollars. Walmart accounts for 1.7% of America’s gross domestic product and is the nation’s largest private employer.

On March 1, 1962, Kmart launched its first store in Michigan. In May of that year, Target opened its doors in Minnesota. On July 2, five decades ago, Walmart debuted in Arkansas. The retail revolution set in motion back then has morphed to the Internet with Amazon, which discounts beyond profitability in hopes of dominating marketshare. Costco, Sam’s Club, and other enormous warehouse bulk-selling retailers also add to the retail mix. Can any of these chains help sell books on a large scale AND keep fair pricing intact?

Perhaps the most logical place to sell books is Starbucks. People already hang out there and they get tons of customer traffic. You could rename stores Starbooks!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Comment On This Blog

Is posting comments on news sites, blogs, people’s Facebook pages, or group discussions a useful strategy to promote your book and your brand? The question tends to come about when people are looking for a cost-free approach to publicity and marketing.

The answer is a potential yes with two caveats: 1. If you don’t post comments what else could you do that is better? 2. The price may be free of money, but it is not free of your time. How much time do you want to put into this strategy?

Posting comments can be useful to you if:

1.      You post on relevant sites, in a timely fashion, and on a regular basis.

2.      Your posts are interesting and not obviously self-serving.

3.      You post and move on and avoid long exchanges and digital debates, for they will suck your time.

4.      You are respectful in your tone and language and seek to share ideas -- -not just rant, criticize or complain.

5.      Find a tactful way to share and help come off as a thought leader, and add a unique voice to the mix.

6.      You think of the comment as an audition for a great blog post.

7.      Tend to praise the host site or blog – obviously you want to win over his or her readers so to argue with them is counter-productive.

So how would you go about leaving a comment? First, come up with a list of blogs and sites that you want to post a comment on. They should be relevant to your book or career, or subject matter that you are an expert on. Get a feel for the editorial voice of the blog by reading it and skimming the comments posted. Then join the fray.

A few words to guide you:

·         Don’t post the same comment on multiple sites.

·         Keep the comment short – a few sentences will do.

·         Don’t come off like a commercial; instead, offer advice, an opinion, praise, or raise a relevant question.

·         Post 3 to 5 comments per day – each one should only take you a few minutes.

·         Rotate the blogs you post comments to, but try to hit the same ones once a week.

·         You can include a link to your site or your blog post but only do so if it can be made relevant. Never, ever try to sell anything in the comments section.

As with any marketing strategy, experiment and see what happens after doing this for several weeks. Lastly, you can contact each blog where you leave comments and suggest you would love for the opportunity to guest-blog on their site to further expand on the comment that you posted. More than a few will take you up on the offer.

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.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Where Does Your Consumer Shop?

Retailers looking to get more customers will analyze who their likely customer is and form a profile of his or her demographics, preferences, and needs. These businesses will likely try to find out where these people shop and either seek to steal these customers or just try to get them to shop at their store as well. As a publisher or author, do you know who your customer is and where he or she shops?

You can’t sell a book to someone if you don’t know who wants your book – and why. But once you have identified who your potential buyers are, you need to figure out where to find them.

Begin to ask yourself:

·        What does my potential reader do online? What sites do they visit? Which blogs do they
read? Which forums, webinars, podcasts, chats, and review sites do they participate in?

·        What online book clubs are they members of?

·        What news media do they watch (TV), listen to (radio), or read (newspapers, magazines)?

·        Which professional organizations or trade associations are they affiliated with?

·        Where do they socialize – online and off?

·        What religious groups, charities, or hobbies do they participate in?

Once you know who your customer is, what triggers them to buy or where they congregate you will need to map out a plan to reach them. It sounds simple enough but all of this takes resources: time, money, research and effort.

I would recommend that you prioritize who your best or likeliest customer is and then prioritize the best possible ways to reach them – and focus your concentrated efforts and limited resources on reaching out to them. Once you know where your customer shops, sell them what they want.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

What Should An Author Web Site Have?

What Should An Author Web Site Have?

An author’s Web site should be set up to do the following:

·         Inform others about who you are and what you have accomplished
·         Share ideas on topics of concern to you that relate to your book’s theme
·         Sell other products and services of the author, as well as the newest book
·         Brand the author
·         Provide resources

The best sites include:

·         Strong visuals and colors that don’t interfere but enhance the user’s experience
·         Well-written text
·         Appropriate photographs
·         Good-quality audio
·         Interesting video
·         Useful links
·         Special offers
·         Easy navigation tools
·         A blog
·         Means to sign up for a newsletter or some special freebie
·         Your connection to a charity (if one exists)

Your site should include the information that people want most often:

·         Overview or summary of your latest book
·         Author biography
·         List of your other books, products, services
·         Something free to download
·         Contact information – make sure you include everything
·         Media room – press releases, list of past appearances, media coverage links
·         Upcoming events planned or scheduled speaking engagements

Additional items that typically make it onto a site include:

·         A way to buy your book
·         A photo of you and of your book cover
·         Excerpts or a sample chapter from your book
·         Testimonials for you or endorsements for your book

What your site should avoid:

·         Deeply personal stuff – keep it professional – unless it somehow relates to your book
·         A lot of advertisements
·         Too many links – don’t overwhelm people
·         Sharing opinions or views on controversial topics that don’t relate to your book and could alienate half of your potential customer base
·         Inappropriate language, visuals, or declarations

The best Web site is one that is easy to use, interesting to read, pleasing to the eye, and regularly updated. It should also be peppered with SEO words and terms so that your site will rank higher on search engines. For instance, if your book is about relationships, liberally use words like love, romance, marriage, dating, etc – and all versions (tenses, plurality). Look at competing sites to get ideas – copy what you like; dismiss what you don’t. When in doubt, keep it simple, but always strive to expand and improve the site so that it looks current and comprehensive.

With a good Web site you are one click closer to realizing your riches.

Interview With Author Les Williams

1.      What is your new book about? First I want to thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed. I have two short stories electronically published by Publishing by Rebecca J Vickery coming out this summer. Last Assignment is about two men who grew up together in Lancaster Nebraska. They joined the police academy, eventually realizing their dreams to become detectives and carrying the coveted gold shield. One night in an abandoned warehouse, the life of one will be forever changed.  Reversal of Fortune is a mystery genre also set in the fictional town of Lancaster Nebraska. This is the first in my seven story Geezer Justice series with three main characters. John Walking Horse, a 62 year old Lakota, Sean Hagarty is 61, an Irish descendant, and 59 year old Jackie Kwon an Asian American woman. In Reversal of Fortune, Hagarty has come up with an idea on how Walking Horse can get pay back for a wrong done to his father years ago. This plan is not without its risks. Can they successfully pull it off? I’m currently at work on the next story in this series. A novel based on the Geezer Justice series remains a work in progress. To date there are seven stories in the Geezer Justice series. It is our hope to release one every two months. They will be available for Amazon’s Kindle and the Nook by B & N as well as other ereaders. I have three westerns E-published by Western Trail Blazer. They are Marquez, Under Nebraska Skies, and Unwanted Reputation. These are what the publisher calls Dime novels and sell for $.99.

2.      What inspired you to write it? I’ve always been an voracious reader. A trait I picked up from my father. I never thought about becoming a writer until I attended a creative writing class in North Carolina following my retirement in 2006. It was here I discovered I have a passion for writing.  My writing was jump started when I was accepted as a columnist for our local  quarterly senior’s paper 55+. A Senior Moment ran for four years. I was also encouraged when my western short story Under Nebraska Skies won second place in the 2008 Aspiring Authors Writing Contest as well as second place in the People’s Choice Award in the 2011 winter edition of The Storyteller: A Magazine for Writers.

3.      What are the rewards/challenges to the writing process? To me the greatest reward of being a writer is when someone tells me how much they enjoyed reading one of my stories. As far as challenges goes, it’s coming up with the hook at the beginning of a story and carrying that on to the end to where the reader can say, I didn’t see that coming.

4.      Any advice for a struggling writer? Read, especially in the genre you’re writing in. If you receive a rejection, learn from it. Treat it as an opportunity to improve on what was rejected. Find someone, a relative or a friend who will read what you’ve written and give you their honest opinion. After you’ve completed a story or piece, set it aside for a few days before beginning the editing process. Lastly, write and keep on writing. Even if it makes no sense at the time. You can go back later to edit, tweak, or fine tune what you’ve written.

5.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Electronic publishing, both on line and for tablets such as Amazon’s Kindle and B&N Nook is here to stay. Having said that, there is still a place for traditional publishing. I feel small presses are becoming more popular with authors. They allow a more one on one interaction  between publisher and author.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

12 Book Publishing Jokes

Here are a few original jokes about the world of book publishing. Some are pathetic, but maybe a few will elicit a chuckle. If you have better jokes, please post them under “comments” to the blog.

1.      The literary agent called in sick today. He felt ill-iterate.

2.      People used to worry about governments banning books. Now authors are just happy to sell a copy to a censor.

3.      I went to the dollar shop the other day. I picked up a pack of gum, a comb, and a book. I was given a quarter in change.

4.      Did you hear about the new bookstore that just opened up? Neither did we.

5.      Times have changed. People used to fight against censorship. Some authors are just glad to know someone read and edited their book.

6.      You hear the one about the book publicist? He got a promotion.

7.      Why do they call payments from a publisher to an author “royalty,” when most checks seem like “peasantry?”

8.      Is it bad that a travel writer told me his books go nowhere?

9.      Why do they call training an author to handle the media “media coaching” when it is the media that can use some coaching?

10.  They say you should write about what you know. A former laptop dancer’s new novel is part of a new genre: friction.

11.  Did you hear about the hypnotist who fell into a trance reading her own book?

12.  Did you read the book about Jerry Seinfeld? It is a book about nothing.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Hear Me Out: 26 Ways To Promote An Audiobook

The audiobook industry is in a position to see major growth as the explosion of mobile devices allows for the downloading of audiobooks to be listened to anywhere – bought everywhere.
What can audiopublishers do to lift audiobook sales? Here are 26 suggestions:

1.      Promote audiobooks at bookstore signings and events by playing an audio clip and actively pushing the sale of the audiobook version.

2.      Post spoken reviews online and encourage consumers to review audiobooks.

3.      Create a Net Galley version for audiobooks.

4.      Post audio trailers, not videos.

5.      Post interviews (no text, audio only) with authors and narrators.

6.      Take a single book and have an all-star cast of narrators and best-selling authors read portions of it.

7.      Get people excited for audiobooks by promoting a listenerthon at the newly launched Facebook page for audiobooks.

8.      Film a behind-the-scenes look at how an audiobook gets created.

9.      Promote audiobooks on a You Tube-like site but only post audio to the site, not video.

10.  Develop some cool slogans for the industry and have every audio publisher, author, and narrator use some version of these slogans simultaneously. Could that be “sensational” and “hear-oic”? See 25 suggested slogans at:

11.  Showcase audiobooks on a publisher’s Web site by only using spoken words and audio – no video, no photos, no typed words.

12.  More people need more exposure to audiobooks, as a medium, in order to appropriate its appeal and see the advantages presented by them. Audiobooks need to go viral!

13.  Consider changing, or better yet, defining the name ‘audiobooks.’ Even spell-check is confused by “audio” combining with “book” to form one of the most powerful compound words out there. Consumers need to know what an audiobook can do for them and why it is better (at times) than a written book or why it is more convenient to listen rather than read a book.

14.  Audiobooks are sold based on need (something to do while commuting, services the blind, helps kids develop literacy), and though more should be done to highlight this, what really needs to be pushed is the idea of audiobooks being desirable (theatrical readings and sound can enhance enjoyment; you can listen with your eyes closed and resting and not staring at a screen or book; they can provide a family/group experience).

15.  Audiobooks need more free downloads of entire books circulating so people get exposed to them.

16.  Actively promote audio as a preferred medium and not as an afterthought format.

17.  Make listening to a book like an event, much like going to the movies. Encourage meet-ups, where people come together to listen to a book and then discuss afterwards. A group of 10-20 people can gather and digest a book through the sale of just one audiobook.

18.  Focus on children. That is the growth area – once you win over a child and his parent, you will have new fans of the format for life. Partner with a parent, teacher, educator, and literacy groups to push kids to read while listening to a book.

19.  Promote, advertise, and market the audiobook for most and note the specific title or author. Further, promote the genres where audiobooks are needed (language books, business books, children’s books, novels, etc.).

20.  Market where sound is heard – radio shows, audio news releases, podcasts, etc.

21.  Don’t be laid back. Get out there and proselytize audiobooks. Sure you hope this develops organically, but all marketing needs to be pro-active.

22.  Create some humorous audio-video pieces that consist of some well-educated pieces and combines sound bites from various narrations that collectively tell a story.

23.  Promote the idea one can ‘read’ a book each week by listening to a book during their work commute. By the end of the year, you will have heard over three million words – and countless stories.

24.  Market to your consumer in a way that appeals to why he or she buys audiobooks: a parent who wants to help educate her child; a commuter who wants to be entertained in traffic; a businessman looking to learn a new skill; etc.

25.  Include a free audiobook with a device maker (smartphone, iPad, laptop, CD palter, etc.).

26.  Give the audio away with ebooks for a limited time, allowing device owners a chance to try audiobooks.

Maybe audiobooks need to be sold like birthday cards that play music when you open them up. Maybe books need a button on them as well.

How are you talking about books that speak to you?

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Scarcity Of Collecting Books

When I was a kid I used to collect coins, stamps, baseball cards, magazines, and other items. As I got older I built up a collection of books, CDs, and sad clown figurines. But I look around today and wonder how a world that converts its products, communications, and experiences into digital media will collect things. Will we value the physical items more or less a decade from now?

Everything is going to the online universe. Magazines, DVDs, CDs, newspapers, books, and other collectibles will either disappear or continue to shrink drastically. Google will be the one to store things for us. Want to see a 2007 newspaper? Google it. Want to listen to a song from 1997? Download it. Want to read a book from three years ago? Just get the ebook. At some point the physical products will no longer be easily accessible or even available to us.

All things physical are going out of style. The touchable is out of fashion.

It seems sad for those who treasure the physical to see how these things will disappear but for those weaned on the digital they fail to understand how something could ever be gone or go away. To them, everything will always exist online and be available to them for 99 cents or free. They feel more connected to the electronic dots than to the real thing in their hands. But real life doesn’t work that way. Who will curate, store, and maintain all of the vast amounts of expanding digital data that has circulated out there? Will technology outgrow the ability to ‘read’ or interact with old data the way today’s iPod cannot play an 8-track tape?

The virtual world seems to be absorbing everything. Even art. People are now collecting digital art online. Will we no longer see art in museums? Will artists no longer use paint, pencil or ink? Will we even use human artists – or will we use computers to spit out all permutations and combinations of coloring in the dots of a screen?

I am not sure what to make of our movement, as a society, to a less physical world. Everything seems to exist in a little digital box. We have gone from seeing people in person to phone calls to emailing to the indirect communication of random Facebook postings. We no longer hold things in our hands – photos, magazines, books, newspapers – it is all digitized and neatly stored somewhere in space. But it is never in front of us -- on a coffee table, a shelf, or a desk. It is all boxed away into x’s and o’s that are coded away in the vast and ever-expanding world of cyberspace.

Our physical things are going through a reverse big bang – we are downsizing and shrinking the physical world but life is growing exponentially in the invisible digital ether. The robotic world is getting bigger in proportion to the human world’s downsizing.

I love to go home to see my parents in Brooklyn, not only to see them and the old neighborhood that I was raised in, but because I get to open a trunk that is over a hundred years old and touch my childhood. Diaries, scrapbooks, old Met yearbooks, drawings, photo albums, records, newspaper clips, magazine covers, and other little treasures await me. Will you hug your cell phone 30 years from now?

The idea that people no longer have books in their house on display, boggles my mind. It would be like a home without a mirror. Books reflect us and also call out to us. They are so very special and yet the Twilight Zone growth of ebooks may one day wipe out book collections.

Is all of this natural evolution? Is humanity’s fate that technology take it over, first serve it and then eclipse it the way the slave one day rules the master? Technology is great when it enhances our lives, but not when it replaces the very things that humanize us. As our physical closeness to things moves towards extinction, I shed a virtual tear.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

Going Viral: Challenges & Rewards

Not that long ago the only thing that went viral was a disease. Now we crave when something goes viral – online. I had my biggest personal experiment with the intentional pursuit of having something go viral a few weeks ago. It was a modest success. Here is what I did, what results, we generated, and what I learned when I sent out this link:

I emailed each of my 4,500 LinkedIn connections and wrote a short but passionate letter about how I am available to help them and just asked that they read a blog post that was about how to make things go viral – and to share it with their pool of followers and readers. I usually don’t email my LinkedIn contacts directly, except for the very first time they connected with me. The response was very good.

By the end of the first day I had 1215 hits to my blog. I normally average about 200 per day. The second day I had 801 – four times my norm. Not only did people read and share the link, many expressed gratitude for the content. Five or six people asked me to guest-blog for them. Several others inquired about hiring the company I work for to conduct a publicity campaign. Many said they signed up for the blog. It was a resounding success.

Lessons learned:

·         There is viral fatigue out there. Some people said that they cannot keep up with the information sent to them nor can they take the time to re-circulate it.  I wasn’t surprised to hear this.

·         Others asked for reciprocation – to follow them on Twitter, to tweet about them, to read or subscribe to their blog, or to mention their site on my blog. Seemed fair enough. In most cases I offered to interview people for my blog. It gives me useful content and quality exposure for them.

·         The majority of people did not read the email. Of those that did, a tiny percentage wrote back to me. But I know many people read it and clicked on the link, and some shared it without saying they did so.

·         All respondents commented favorably about my blog and my offer to help them. Just one person said unsubscribe out of 4,500.

·         Having posted some 350 times on my blog, none of my posts got distributed to as many people as this one. It shows a direct email will be read and acted upon more so than a random Tweet or post on FB and LI.

Going viral takes a lot of things – great content, luck, timing, a large pool of followers – and the right incentive to convert a reader into a raving fan who shares your link and advocates on your behalf. But the process of building a social media network is time-consuming, mind-numbing, and filled with favor paybacks that would make lobbyists and politicians blush. It is a necessary evil today – to succeed as a writer, producing great writing is not enough. You need to create a marketing machine – out of your time and effort – or you need to hire someone to hunt for you.

Does this force us to be better writers, knowing that we need to write something that is truly marketable? Will it make us more disciplined, knowing our time to write is infringed upon, if not dwarfed, by the time needed to hustle and market ourselves and our works?

Technology and lower barriers to get published make it easier to be more prolific but it also means your competition is more prolific, too. Further, your time to write is decreasing as a result of all the social media activity you need to execute. Try and balance your wirting and marketing – you may one day go viral, too.

Interview With Winning Writers Co-Founder Jendi Reiter

1.      What is Winning Writers is a comprehensive online resource for creative writers, with an emphasis on literary contests. We have been in business since 2001, and have been named one of the "101 Best Websites" by Writer's Digest every year since 2005. Our database (available to paid subscribers) features complete guidelines for over 1,250 English-language contests for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Sometimes we have more current information than the contest's own website! Our free email newsletter, with listings of free contests and advertisements from carefully vetted literary publishers and workshops, goes out to 40,000 subscribers. We also sponsor several contests of our own. Winning Writers has a "consumer protection" orientation, in that we not only list contests, but we advocate for more transparent judging procedures, dialogue with contest sponsors about improving their rules and prize structure, and help subscribers resolve complaints. Unlike our competitors, we rank contests based on our impressions of their prestige value and other factors, and we give guidance about finding the contests that are most appropriate for an entrant's skill level (emerging, intermediate, advanced).

2.      Are you a published author as well? Yes, I have had three poetry collections published:
A Talent for Sadness (Turning Point Books, 2003)

Swallow (Amsterdam Press, 2009), winner of the 2008 Flip Kelly Poetry Chapbook Prize
(Publisher has folded, so please email me to purchase a copy:

Barbie at 50 (Cervena Barva Press, 2010), winner of the 2010 Cervena Barva Poetry Chapbook Prize

My prizewinning poems and short stories have also appeared in such journals as The Iowa Review, Bayou Magazine,, Alligator Juniper, The Adirondack Review, and many others.

3.      What are the rewards/challenges of being a writer today? The abundance of connectivity and content available at your fingertips nowadays is both a reward and a challenge. A reward, because you no longer have to live in an expensive big city or work at a university in order to be part of a vibrant literary network. It feels like there are more books, stories, poems, blog posts, etc. available to read now than ever before, and the Internet lets you discover them directly, without the gatekeeping of big bookstores and publishers. But this is also a challenge because you have so many distractions taking you away from writing, and so many other voices that compete with your writing for a reader's attention. In every era, I think, a writer must take the improbable leap of faith that toiling in solitude for years with invisible materials will someday have a meaningful impact in the so-called real world. 

4.      What advice do you have for struggling writers? Depends on what they're struggling with! Learn to know yourself and trust yourself. It's better to make your own mistakes than to succeed by pleasing a teacher or critique group. Don't let interpersonal static drown out your inner voice. Let the book tell you what it needs. You can think about the market later. A good book is a self-contained world that is consistent with its own inner logic. When something is shoehorned in, or whitewashed over, because you think "vampires are hot this year" or "no one will publish a book with a disabled protagonist" or whatever, your book becomes that much less true, and that much less necessary to the world.

5.      Where do you see book publishing heading? I think the stigma of print-on-demand and self-publishing will continue to fade, just as online publishing used to be seen as an amateur forum but is now becoming competitive with traditional print journals in terms of prestige value. The growing popularity of e-books will further lower the barriers to entry. I need a traditional press to fulfill print inventory orders, but I can sell an e-book to anyone with an Internet connection.

As a practical matter, there's not much difference between being self-published and being published by a small press, since you still have to do most of the marketing, editing, and proofreading by yourself. Even writers who have been published by larger commercial houses tell me that agents and book doctors are taking over the traditional functions of editors; the publishing house itself is investing less and less effort in any one title, whether in editing or in marketing. So why not eliminate the middleman?

An interesting intermediate step, which removes some of the vanity-press stigma, is for a writer or group of writer friends to start their own little press to publish their work AND others. Is that self-publishing? I see that question as becoming less relevant. Probably the academic job market is the main force keeping the publishing hierarchy alive. Writers who teach need those prestige points to put on their resume, even if their books might get better treatment from a small press or DIY operation. 


What Is Your Book Marketing Attitude?

Are You Cashing In Your Expertise & Ideas?

Will Book Vending Machines Replace Bookstores?

The Doctor-Author Connection

Has Facebook Peaked?

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.