Thursday, June 21, 2012

Being Open To Yes

My seven-year-old son might have the right approach to book publicity. Let me explain.

He often asks if we can do things that I know will be problematic, impossible, or require too much money, time or sweat to do. But I don’t want to instantly say no and shut down his desire to share his curiosity, passions, and ideas – no matter how nutty they may be. Instead, I try to ask questions that he will hopefully answer in a way that will allow him to draw the conclusions I have.

But every so often it goes the other way and he convinces me to indulge his whims, to experiment and take a chance. Logic and probability are thrown to the side. We are adventurers on a mission, journeying into new territory, exploring the world that is only bound by the limits of his seemingly infinite imagination.

It occurred to me that as authors and publicists – and those in the publishing industry – we should be willing to indulge our ideas. So what if 95% won’t work out – when it does go right it is fulfilling and amazing. We need to be open to yes, even when logic dictates the probability of success is low. The key is that if something is possible, it can come to fruition, and therefore we should try our best to make an idea or dream come true  -- at least some of the time.

You might just get to feel like a kid again and that is a reward all by itself.

Interview With Author Paula Paul

1.      What is your new book about? My latest book is an historical novel about Catherine the Great of Russia, an intelligent, complicated woman who changed the course of history for Russia and all of Europe.  She was a woman who was passionate about life, her children, her lovers,  her adopted country (Russia) and about all that she did.

2.       What inspired you to write it? Several years ago when I was in my twenties, I was working for a newspaper that required all reporters to review new books from time to time.  I was handed a nonfiction book about Catherine the Great and asked to review it.  I can remember that it was incredibly boring, and I had to force myself to plow through it.  I can't remember what I said in the review, but it couldn't have been good.  Since we were allowed to keep the books we reviewed, I brought it home and put it in one of my book shelves. Over the years I would see it from time to time when I was looking for another book or trying to squeeze one more volume into my over stuffed shelves.  I got a guilty feeling every time I saw it.  It was as if Catherine was saying, "You didn't do me justice.  You should read more about me."  I really didn't want to do that, remembering how dull that book was.

Fast forward many years--more than I like to count--when an editor asked me if I had any ideas for an historical novel.  I was about to tell her I'd have to think about it when I got a kind of creepy feeling on the back of my neck, and when I turned around in my swivel office chair, I saw that old book on the shelf behind my desk. Before I knew it, I heard the words, "How about Catherine the Great?" coming out of my mouth.  I had trapped myself into writing about her.  I read more books about her, books about her lovers, books about her enemies, her unfinished memoir, her correspondence, books about Russian history, books that Catherine read, books about the Russian Orthodox Church.  Except for that old book that I reread, none of it was dull.  Her exciting story almost wrote itself.  I think she might be pleased.  At least she doesn't haunt me anymore.

3.      What are the rewards/challenges to the writing process? I find everything about writing challenging.  It's hard to make myself sit down every day and do it, because I can always think of other things to do.  I will admit, though, that sometimes things go well, the story flows, and it's quite satisfying.  Sometimes it doesn't flow, and I become frustrated.  Sometimes I doubt myself.  I've learned, however, that when it doesn't flow it's usually because there's something wrong with the plot or with the way I've tried to develop a character or because I just don't know enough about the subject.  It's challenging to fix the problem, especially when I can't figure out what the problem is.  It's challenging to keep that nagging phrase, "What if this doesn't sell?" out of my brain.

It's rewarding when I write a scene I know is good.  Finishing the book is rewarding.  Selling it is rewarding.  Hearing from readers and reviewers is most rewarding of all.  Well, it's rewarding if they think the book is good.  Otherwise it's shattering.  It's like hearing someone say one of your children is ugly or dumb.

4.      Any advice for a struggling writer? Take Winston Churchill's advice and "Never, never, never give up."  There are a lot of reasons to stop trying, but if you REALLY want to be a writer, you won't stop.  You do have to honestly examine your work to find ways to improve, and you do have to be aware of market trends--who's buying what.  Study the work of writers who are successful, go to writers conferences, especially the ones that invite editors as speakers.

5.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Of course, it's going more and more into e-books.  If that weren't true, all those entrepreneurs like Amazon and Apple and Microsoft wouldn't be manufacturing e-book readers  I couldn't have imagined that when I was twenty.  I couldn't imagine being able to reach into a "cloud" and pull out a book or a song.  I don't know what will come next, but it will be magical and exciting. Self publishing is re-emerging after a hiatus of 200 years or so, thanks to advances in technology.      Self-publishing never went away completely, although it lost respect.  I believe the current trend will refine itself in some way that will allow the cream to rise to the top.  Capitalism will see to that.  But because there is a great deal of ego involved in writing and publishing a book, self-publishing is here to stay in whatever form it takes

Have You Seen These Recent Posts?

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You Can Use Crowdfunding On Your Next Book -- Turn Your Idea Into A Business

How Promoters, Authors & Publishers Get Others to Say YES

How To Get Others To Share Your Links – And Go Viral

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.

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