Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Do You Market Your Book Like The Olive Garden?

Note: Scroll down to see three interesting interviews with:

**Online Literary Magazine Creator Jonathan Farmer
**UK Author Carole Anne Carr   
**Humor Author Jo Dean  

Do You Market Your Book Like The Olive Garden?

I have a long-standing debate with a good friend about the Olive Garden.  I believe the imitation Italian restaurant offers low-grade food. He loves it. Even though we live in the New York metro area, where many great authentic Italian places line every other street, I can’t convince him that his chain restaurant fare is subpar compared to McDonald’s.

He says his whole family loves the OG. What he really might like is the price.

His eating habits are otherwise similar to mine – we enjoy elegant restaurants and a variety of ethnic cuisines – as well as a good rib joint. But on the Olive Garden, he refuses to acknowledge that it is two grades below Chef Boyardee.

Perhaps that is because, as with books, people buy on price when it comes to food. I used to think price was not a significant factor with books but the Great Recession and ebook deflation have conspired to teach consumers to buy on price. If my friend, who runs his own hedge fund, prefers Olive Garden because of its price - -tastes be damned – than I guess consumers will snub a book just because of price. Suddenly, a double-digit price is becoming the line of demarcation for books.

Books should never be commoditized but the marketplace – with author acquiescence – dictates otherwise. No matter how good your book is or how much you have invested in it, you must price it to sell at what people are willing or are able to pay for it.

Olive Garden, you make me want to vomit when I think of you, but you definitely taught me a lesson. People buy on price when it comes to food and entertainment - -and books fall under entertainment. Maybe some author can package his book with the Olive Garden and do a Groupon offering for a 99-cent e-book. That is, if the idea hasn’t already been taken.

Interview With Online Literary Magazine Creator Jonathan Farmer

1.      What is At Length and why did you create it? Somewhere around 2002, my friend Dan Kois (a literary agent at the time, now a senior editor over at told me we should start a literary magazine. It sounded like a terrible idea, but Dan’s smarter than me, so we talked about it and decided that if we could find a way to publish work we believed in, we’d do it. Eventually, Dan framed the question—what good work is being written but not published, which led us to the idea of a magazine focused on long writing.

I launched it as a print magazine in 2003 with Dan as fiction editor. I think we put out some amazing writing, but it was really expensive and I was bad at the marketing side of things, and after a couple years I gave up. It was almost five years before we re-launched it as an online magazine, which has turned out to be an ideal format for us. It’s let us add a lot more variety (we have music, art and photography, as well as writing), and it also cut down on a lot of the logistical work and expense that were so draining for me the first time around.

2.      How have you created an online community of creative geniuses -- or at least aspiring ones? It turns out that you can accomplish a lot just by reaching out to the people you admire. That’s been the case both with the team of people who work on At Length—I’ve had the good sense to promise that I’ll stay out of their way and to keep that promise—and the poets we publish (I think it’s true in the other sections, as well, but I’m not as involved with those.) I email the writers who excite me, and a good number of them have responded by submitting their work.

As for building an audience, social media has been hugely important for us, as has the whole long-tail phenomenon. We’re able to put good work out there and build an audience for it over time, which I find incredibly liberating.

3.      What advice would you give to a struggling writer? I’m not sure I’m qualified to give anyone advice; I’m still struggling myself. One thing that’s been hugely important for me, though, is resisting the feeling that I need to hurry toward success. It doesn’t cost anything to write, which means that you can keep doing it without anyone paying you—as opposed to my friends who make theater; they have to do so much before they can start doing the actual, artistic work. I wonder sometimes about the value of defining yourself as a writer—how much does it help keep you focused, and how much does it shift your focus away from the work and into the identity? I still don’t have an answer to that—or to the related question of how that affects your ability (my ability) to be fulfilled.

4.      How similar or different are the worlds of art, music and writing to one another? Many years ago, in an interview withthe poet Louise Glück, I asked why poetry mattered so much, expecting her to talk about what made poetry unique, essential, etc. Instead, she said that it was just important to her—that poetry was the means through which she was best equipped to experience meaning. I think that’s right. The main difference is that they serve different people differently. But beyond that, there are smaller differences that have to do with technology and convention—for instance, no musician would ever consent to having his or her song “published” in just one place, so we have to think of different ways of creating something that’s unique to our magazine. And of course, the audiences are larger for some art forms than others, and as someone working with the least popular art form in the whole magazine, I’m immensely grateful to our other editors for luring much larger fan bases to At Length, where a few of them might also stumble across a poem I’m eager to share.

5.      Where do you see book publishing heading? I don’t have much expertise to offer here. All my experience is on the journal/magazine side of the equation (the closest I come is reviewing books for Slate.) I do think the move from books to screens is inevitable, but for poetry we’ll need to see a lot of innovation before that really works, and even then the transition will need to be a slow one, since so many poetry readers are uncomfortable with change. For a lot of people, that physical presence (the book) is a trigger for a state of mind, and losing that would be disruptive—in an unproductive way. Also, I think our screens cue many of us to hurry, and I value poetry in part for its resistance to that. I’d like for us to leave room for these alternatives as we move away from print.

Interview With UK Author Carole Anne Carr   

1.      What type of books do you write? I write historically accurate adventure novels for children, covering the ages 9 to 11 and 12+, and include a great deal of humour, despite the sometimes dark, scary subjects.  Children tell me that so much happens on every page that they can’t put the books down, and when shall I be writing the next one in the series. The books are aimed at a niche market. First Wolf, a quest, set during the first Viking attack of Lindisfarne, sells well on the island and in Bamburgh Castle further down the coast where some of the adventures take place. Candle Dark, the first in the Ironbridge Gorge series, is set in a Victorian mine in a open-air museum that had been built as a Victorian town and is a World Heritage Site. It is extremely popular with teachers and their pupils when on environmental visits. Thin Time, my first fantasy, is different in that the children are of the 21st century but move through thin time into Norse mythology - with the help of a five hundred year old tomb dog who is a life sized carving in Tong Church.  This book was in answer to the requests from girl readers who wanted a girl as the hero instead of a boy! I have written one picture book for beginning readers, Little Boy Good-for-Nothing and the Shongololo.  It is an African folk tale I invented whilst living in that country. A little boy saves his grandmother and the village from drought by finding the rain-cloud that is guarded by fierce crocodiles. I read the story to young children in an English school and they drew most of the pictures and I copied the children’s style and drew the remainder.

2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about? My book to published in September is River Dark, the second in my Ironbridge Gorge Series. I am negotiating with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust for permission to use an 18th century painting on the cover –a background to my little people and the dog in my story.

3.      What inspired you to write it? As an only child growing up during the bombing of London, and with the adults around me too busy to notice me,  I read my way through a Victorian library belonging to my Grandmother and often scared myself half to death with the contents! Being lonely, I wrote stories and plays and press-ganged the local children to act in them. Teaching literature to children aged 5 to 11 led me to write school plays, and after early retirement I wrote short stories for magazines and some of my poetry was read on the B.B.C. I have a great love of history, and during my teaching years I took numerous children on environmental study trips. These visits with the children later became the inspiration for my novels. The 14th century church of Tong, which is filled with life sized tomb figures of knights in armour, I used on summer evenings with children from my class as an extension to my classroom. We studied the history, made up music, painted and made clay models, wrote stories, poetry and plays, made mathematical models of the church, and mapped the village. This was my favourite study place and for many years I was making up a children’s story, connected with these visits, which I hoped one day to write. This story became Thin Time.

4.      What did you do before you became an author? I began work in the Standard Bank of South Africa, returned to England at the beginning of the Rhodesian wars, became Deputy Head of a Primary School, and because my husband retired early from teaching due to ill health I gave up teaching to be with him.  Then began the search for a career that would fit in with our life style. I set up my own art and craft business, selling my work locally and into Europe. but the travelling became too much for my husband. I then became a professional actress, but this involved long hours of rehearsal and so I undertook a three year training course to be a minister in the Church of England. I had previously studied to be a Third Order Franciscan and this was a natural progression. Taking services around fourteen parishes, sick visiting, and becoming Assistant Chaplain at the Cottage Hospital was too time consuming, and I eventually found that writing my books from home suited myself and my husband. This enables me to write, undertake school visits as visiting author, act as speaker to various groups, complete book signings, occasionally teach literature in adult colleges of further education, and have a happy home life.

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? Wonderful! I miss teaching children very much indeed, and writing brings me into contact with them in the classroom once more. A bitter sweet experience. It is wonderful to see children reading my books and to hear how much they enjoy my stories and ask me for more. Even though I work alone as an independent author, and cannot reach a wide audience, I am slowly meeting more and more people, young and old. I love the fact that adults tell me I kept them up all night, finishing one of my books. And of course, we all need to feel valued, to feel we are of worth, have achieved something, and the praise I receive from my writing is priceless.

Interview With Humor Author Jo Dean  

1.      What type of books do you write? I write humorous chick lit of the Bridget Jones/Sex and the City Variety

2.      What is your latest or upcoming book about?  I have just published my latest novel on Kindle – selling on and in paperback.

Dallas Revisited is the third in a series of books.  Each story stands alone but features a central protagonist, Henrietta.  The first three books in the series being with, Forty Not Famous – Henrietta follows a picaresque journey through life and relationships searching for her soul mate and consistently meeting the wrong men.  Life becomes increasingly complicated as each man she meets on her way leads her to onto roads less travelled with disastrous consequences.  Living in a bed sit in London she has only her pet rabbit for company, named after one of her erstwhile lovers.  She does not find him boiling on her one ring stove but having given him the run of the room, believing in freeing the caged, he eats his way through the entire green carpet.  When she is forced to flee the bedsit, having become involved with a friend of a friends of the Kray twins, she has to abandon her bunny, leaving him in the hands of a fellow lodger – never to be seen again.  Heartbroken at the loss she purchases Oscar Wilde, a budgie who is then stolen by her latest fling, along with all her possessions.  Henrietta, a student is pursuing an acting training at Drama School but life outside the college she so rarely attends, is more dramatic than any scene played within its walls.  A simple country girl, she is led astray and amok and in true anti-heroine fashion she begins to “decline and fall” into the clutches of the mad, bad and completely corrupt.  Falling for every line and every Tom, Dick and smiling assassin, she eventually decides to flee back home to safety and sanity, only to be picked up by a Pentacostal, born again taxi driver who converts her on the way to the airport and moves her into his apartment to be born again.  Henrietta finds God whilst her cabbie finds her savings account......

Stage Left -  Sees Henrietta embark on her longed for acting career – seeking fame, fortune and waiting for her Director to come...she goes through one wrong door after another, ending up in a brothel in Soho quite by the style of Alice in blue door does not lead to stardom, but to the realms of lusty blondes with a very different profession in mind...having failed at one career after another, including becoming her own theatrical agent and supplying “extras” with extras, she escapes to Italy to avoid a married ex boss, an Italian politician and her latest Mr Wrong, only to find they all come in hot pursuit...with some dire and hilarious consequences....There is only one escape route open to her and she at last decides that the only way out is to “write” her wrongs whilst drowning in a vat of chianti.

Love No Marriage –  “When courting...becomes going to court.” Henrietta finds herself pregnant with the baby of Mr Wrong Again, who leaves with the afterbirth, afterbirth taking with him only a video recording of her various contortions and leaving her with a Frank Sinatra CD for moral support.  Henrietta heads home to her country cottage to discover the joys of single parenthood whilst Charlie goes in pursuit of Sugarmommy through an internet dating site.  With the machinations of a home help who helps herself to Henrietta’s drinks cabinet, she finds herself set up on a date with Sugardaddie – only to discover that the date in question is very familiar....Charlie hooks up with “Gingerstick” a leggy redhead and together they make Henrietta’s life hell...This time Henrietta at last gets a lucky break which sees her heading for America and a new life, but not without a great many obstacles on the way....

The latest novel in the series, just published – Dallas Revisited – finds Henrietta on her way to the Hollywood Hills to share an apartment with an obsessive compulsive gay man called Dicky...She and her young son Orlando discover that life not only imitates art, but also television.  Having spent years cooped up at home with her son and just old reruns of Dallas and Dynasty for entertainment, Henrietta begins a journey that quickly resembles the soap operas she has been vicariously living through for the last few years...characters from the past appear from nowhere and stars of the present cross her path as she attempts to make it as a novelist in this brave new world that has such film stars in it.....

3.      What inspired you to write it? I was very inspired by the humorous semi-autobiographical style of Erica Jong and particularly her controversial novel “Fear of Flying” which for its time was very bold and crossed boundaries.  I tend to write what women really think, but usually do not say.  Like most fiction writers there is an element of personal experience and truth in everything I write, but I like to take the familiar and exaggerate it out of all proportion for humorous effect.  There is no greater feeling than to know that people are laughing out loud at what you have written and strangers are sharing with you the humorous and the ridiculous aspects of life.  My work has been described as stand-up comedy in novel form and I would say that is a very accurate description.  I have always wanted to be a writer since I won a national essay writing competition at the tender age of six. 

4.      What did you do before you became an author? Too many jobs to mention, but mainly sales – everything from used cars to ad space and promotions – Going late to university, I then went into teaching which I still do to this day on a private basis.  There is no substitution to living and doing other things if you are going to write comedy.  Every experience brings with it the possibility of a humorous episode and every person that crosses your path has something to offer in the way of inspiration, so I don’t believe in writing in a vacuum – I live to write, which means I must live as well as write.

5.      How does it feel to be a published author? Pretty damn good!

6.      Any advice for struggling writers? Never ever give up and the most important thing is to just start.  Most people who want to write think about it as a whole project before they begin.  That can stop you beginning because it seems too daunting and too much work.  I have always found the best way is to think of a title, a vague story line and then let the characters evolve and develop their own story through the writing, rather than planning it all out first.  It is also much more fun that way because each stint at the computer leads you into a new adventure created by the characters dancing through your imagination...

7.      Where do you see book publishing heading? Probably more and more digitally based.  With the invention of Kindle there is less need for large print runs and most publishers are headed the print on demand route.  This is rather sad because in my opinion you can’t beat the physical quality of holding a book in your hand and smelling the ink on paper and running your hand over the crinkled pages of a favourite book dropped into the bath one too many times.

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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