Friday, July 13, 2012

Competition Everywhere For Authors & Publishers

While attending a recent author reception at Thrillerfest I met an author who said, when asked if she reads her competitors, “I don’t consider them my competition.” Perhaps she was being humble or naïve, but she felt until she is at the best-seller level she was not really competing with anyone. Truth is, she is competing to get discovered, to get shelf-space, to get read, to get media coverage, and to raise her social media platform.

She is competing not only with authors and their current books, but with the vast backlist that forever lives online. She is also competing with TV shows, movies, blogs, the media, video games, sleep, sports, work, and anything else that keeps her from reaching her potential reader and fan.

Do not think for one second that you are not competing for market share, mindshare, or media coverage. Everyone and everything competes with you.

Interview With Terry Doherty, Mom’s Choice Awards Director of New Media and Alumni Education

1.    What is the Mom’s Choice Awards®? The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA) evaluates products and services created for children and families. Products that bear the Honoring Excellence seal are recognized as the best in family-friendly media, products, and services.

More importantly, parents, educators, librarians, and merchants around the world trust that seal when they are making choices for books, educational products and software; gear and accessories; personal use items; toys, games, and puzzles, to name a few of the broad categories.

Our proprietary methodology integrates and weighs industry and consumer assessments. Panelists measure products and services in a number of categories, including production quality, design, educational value, entertainment value, originality, appeal, and cost.

The organization is based in the United States and has reviewed thousands of entries from 20 countries.

2.    What do you do for Mom’s Choice Awards® ? What do you find challenging/rewarding about what you do? I hold the title of Director of New Media and Alumni Education. One of the pre-eminent ways the Mom’s Choice Awards® distinguishes itself is in the way it celebrates and supports its award winners.

Honorees are considered “alumni,” and carry all of the privileges that term generally carries. As I often tell authors and publicists that I meet, we offer the same marketing opportunities to our 2005 Honorees that we do for the newest Honorees this year. There is no “sorry, you are a 2010 winner, we are focused on the 2012 cycle now.”

Whether it is participating in an industry event like BookExpo America to display or sign books, a filmed interview to add to your Media Kit, one-on-one consulting, or attending one of our training classes in the Mom’s Choice Awards Academy … if you are an Honoree, we are here to help you leverage your marketing opportunities.

My favorite part of the job is meeting Honorees. Although I follow all of the announcements and provide distance learning classes, it isn’t the same as shaking someone’s hand and hearing their story.

Cutting through the noise is my biggest challenge. There isn’t a platform that isn’t arcing under the weight of information overload. My job is to cull through all of that to identify data points that fit within our strategic plan, as well as support and educate our community.

3.    What kind of books do you honor? You can find our Guidelines and Eligibility on the website; in a nutshell, the Mom’s Choice Awards® evaluates books in all formats (digital native through traditionally printed), across all audiences (infant to adult), and in more than 75 book categories.

Entries that are a good fit for our program are products that help families grow emotionally, physically and spiritually; are morally sound and promote good will; and are inspirational and uplifting. That said, we understand that there are many important works that deal with disturbing themes or contain what some may see as “objectionable” content.  We evaluate that content using educational criteria, and assess that content in the context of the work as a whole.

4.    What is the state of children's books these days? The Mom’s Choice Awards is rooted in children’s literature. We have enjoyed having a front-row seat in watching industry trends. Many of our entrants still come from this genre. We are seeing an increase in entries in the eBooks and Book Apps categories, but there are still plenty of traditionally printed books as well.  Our emphasis is less on the format and more on the quality of the material, whether fiction or nonfiction, as well as the evaluator’s response to the product as a reader.

5.    What is lacking in the genre serving our youth? Wow, that is tough. Although I do not evaluate children’s and Young Adult books for the Mom’s Choice Awards, they are exclusively the genres I read. Given the number of unsolicited boxes and packages that arrive on my doorstep in hopes that I will read and review books for The Reading Tub, there is no shortage in the number of books being marketed to children and the adults who purchase books.

Ironically, I would have to say that we are “over serving” our youth. Helping kids find the best book for them is JUST - if not more - difficult as the challenge I have in cutting through the noise to help our Honorees with information of value.

There is often a lot of talk about reaching boys to improve reading, but recent trends suggest that the stereotype that girls read more than boys is also showing some cracks. The key is reaching kids where they are in their interests and as readers. In a recent article on my Family Bookshelf blog, I highlighted an article from the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance about not doing enough for boys in young people’s publishing.

I would add, though, that it could help authors tremendously if they took some time drilling down through bookseller sites searching for books that are “just like” theirs … maybe even go to the library and borrow some. It is so important that they can articulate how their children’s book about [pick your topic] distinguishes itself from the pack in a succinct, specific manner.

6.    How do you go about promoting your awards? I wasn’t sure what context you were focusing on with this question - how do we promote ourselves as a brand or how do we help our Honorees - so  answered both.

Our seal matters. You can find our Honoring Excellence seal on the covers of books that have earned a Mom’s Choice Award in stores and libraries, on websites and banners, as well as in displays at trade shows. On a day-to-day basis, we have two robust channels for promoting our Honorees and their award-winning products.

Through Mom’s Choice Matters (blog) and Facebook page, and Twitter (@MCAmatters), and our Pinterest boards we connect with our Honorees’ demographic: parents and families … many of whom are moms, educators, librarians, and merchants.

We have a parallel series of platforms to help our Honorees promote their award-winning products. You’ll find interviews and trailers on our YouTube Channel; Honoree announcements and interviews on Celebrating Mom’s Choice (blog), our Mom’s Choice Awards Facebook page, and @MomsChoiceAward on Twitter.

7.    Where do you see book publishing heading? Technology and broader access to platforms for the general consumer have exponentially expanded the opportunities for writers to become published authors. It seems to me that if people are open to the possibilities, it is a wonderful time to be part of the industry.

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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