Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Interview With A Playboy Editor & Author , Albert Podell

Albert Podell has been an editor at Playboy and national outdoor magazines and written over 250 articles. He wrote a new book that sounds fascinating: AROUND THE WORLD IN 50 YEARS:  My Adventure to Every Country on Earth. Here is an interview with him:

1.      Albert, what inspired you to write about your around the world adventures? My friends.  When I began my quest in earnest to visit every country in the world, I had no certainly at all that I would succeed because there were so many difficulties and obstacles, so I never thought of writing a book because I never knew if there would be any achievement worth writing about. I did send lengthy emails – I called them dispatches from the field – every couple of weeks while on the road, and after several years, my friends started to urge me to use them as the basis for a book because they thought they were interesting, informative, and exciting. When I completed my final country, more and more friends urged me to write a book so I could share my adventures and observations with the world. As I was starting to consider the idea, one of these friends, a magazine editor, forwarded a batch of my dispatches to a literary agent, Tony Outhwaite, a former Oxford University Press editor, who loves both foreign affairs and adventure, and Tony contacted me and told me he loved the dispatches and that if I wrote a book about my journey, he would definitely sell it. So I did, and he did.

2.      Which country did you enjoy the most or least? Why? I like Ireland the most because it is peaceful, relaxing, and safe  – unlike the last 40 countries I visited – and beautiful and charming. The people are warm and welcoming and mostly understandable, if they speak slowly. The women are lovely, the hiking and climbing in superb, and the elves are enchanting. It would be Paradise if only they would learn to cook a little better… My least favorite was the island-nation of Naura in the Pacific. It is a vast wasteland, devastated by years of rapacious surface mining of its once-huge deposits of guano. With those all exhausted, it has no natural resources, no industry, and little income. It is so small that I was able to bicycle around it in four hours, and there is so little to see or do there that it is boring and bland.

3.      What travel tips can you share with us? Far too many to fit in this space. But, if your readers are willing to spring for 99 cents, I recommend that they buy my Survival Guide for the Adventurous International Traveler, now available as an e-book, which is loaded with tips on planning, packing, preventing illness, avoiding the bad guys, and bargaining for souvenirs.. Among my top tips: Never stay in a hotel room in the tropics that has little red spots on the wall near the bed. (That room is open to mosquitoes, and previous occupants have squashed many after being bitten.).

4.      What were some of your more unusual experiences traveling? My strange visit to North Korea Eerie encounters with the spread of militant Islam Being forced to eat the brain of a live monkey in Hong Kong. Here are others:

·         Learning about the Dogon practice of female genital mutilation.
·         The relics of slavery and the Afro-American tourist experience
·         Attacked by flying crabs in Algeria
·         Blasting out of a minefield in Morocco
·         Traveling in Benin and Togo with a guide who was also a voodoo priest
·         Inside the Thai massage parlors          
·         Observing the plight of women in most of Africa and much of Asia.
·         Sandboarding in Namibia
·         “Selling” three New Zealand nurse to an Arab chief of police in Algeria
·         Tough traveling to Timbuktu
·         When Mongolia customs agents found animal skull in my suitcase
·         Tracking the golden bamboo lemur in the Ranofamina ainforest
·         Talking to the dead and turning their bones in Madagascar
·         Atop the floating islands in Lake Titicaca
·         Trapped between Cape buffalo, hippos, and crocodiles
·         Crashing into a wild boar and wrecking the car in Botswana
·         The night of the egg-laying turtles in Nicaragua
·         Swimming with the penguins and seals in the Galapagos
·         Attacked by a tiger shark in the South Pacific
·         The drowning nation (going under the ocean from climate change)
·         Searching for edible mice in Malawi and fruit-bat pie in Tonga
·         Almost drowning on a Costa Rican whitewater rafting foray
·         Eating rats in Ghana, anteaters in Panama, elephant dung beetles in Kenya
·         Stranded on Kiribati
·         Run-in with the guerrillas in Yemen
·         Grunting with the gorillas in Ruanda
·         Hunting with the nomads in Libya
·         Eating matzos with the Arab camel drivers by the Great Pyramids
·         Going back to Vietnam, after 48 years
·         Robbed in the Khyber Pass by al-Queda prototypes
·         Shooting a robber in Algiers, escaping across the Sahara
·         My failed hope for a longitudinal traverse of the globe
·         Breakdown on the Peak of Death
·         Inventing a sure cure for jock itch  
·         Dodging Ebola
·         Arrested in the Congo
·         Detained and interrogated by Cuban secret police
·         Diving on the Ghost Fleet of Truk Lagoon
·         Visiting Mogadishu, the most dangerous city in the world.
·         and my encounter with the amazing penis-theft panic in Kinshasa

As a former Playboy editor when will you pen a tell-all on the exotic jungle known as the Playboy Mansion? What a prescient question! I actually do that in chapters 1, 25, 26, and 27 of the sexual memoir I’m working on, now 80% written and tentatively titled  Pussy Galore, The Helpfully Hilarious History of One Happy Horndog. My literary agent, who is a very respectable and proper chap, considers the manuscript too hot for him to handle, so if there are any bold agents reading this, please contact me at

5.  What challenges did you have in writing your new book? Many, including:
·         The number of words, which had to cut from 196,000 to 120,000 to reach a reasonable price point.
·         Whether to tell each tale or chapter in the present tense, as it was taking place, to give it a sense of immediacy, or in the past tense, looking back on it. I ended up fudging and sometimes sliding from one to the other.
·         Whether to portray myself as an ultra-brave Indiana Jones or an honestly worried, and often scared, Albert Podell. I went for the latter and called myself “a cautious adventurer.”
·          Whether to leave out the all the lovely, friendly, safe countries from Switzerland to Taiwan to South Korea to most of South America so I could concentrate on the danger zones, which I did..
·          How to relate all the danger-filled episodes in their full terrifying impact yet not discourage readers from taking adventurous trips.
·          How to sustain the suspense in a book where the readers know from the first page that I survived and endured and completed the mission.
·          Whether to begin at the beginning and explain how I got involved in this crazy quest, or to begin with sheer adventure and work in the bio business later, which is what I did.
·          Whether to tell the tale chronologically, or to break the narrative for interesting and essential materials (which I did with chapters on what exactly constitutes a country and what weird foods I had to eat along the way.)
·          Whether to use a properly literary style or a more conversation one. I opted for the latter and tried to write it as a story told to my friends around a campfire  
·         Major battles with my editor, who wanted to take out all the sex
·         The sharp economic shift from earning $400 an hour for writing briefs as an attorney to earning, after four years of labor, less than ten dollars an hour as an author.
·          Finding a title that could encompass it all. I went from Between a Croc and a Hard Place to How I Survived to 196, to Adventure of a Lifetime, to the final title, Around the World in 50 Years; My Adventure to Every Country on Earth.

6. Where do you see the future if book publishing going?
Down, but not hopeless. Publishers need to realize that they are no longer isolated and insulated in a literacy enclave, but they are part of, and competing against, the entire spectrum of entertainment entities, from films and TV to video games, and the entire information industry, from blogs and podcasts to Wikipedia and social media. To face that competition, and get a solid market share of it, publishers need to change their stodgy ways, Specifically, they need to

·         Hire brighter, sharper people and pay them appropriately so they don’t go to work for hedge funds and cable networks. An office full of dowdy bookworms just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
·          Use market research, testing, focus groups, daily electronic sales reports from bookstore registers, SKU analysis, and every marketing tool used by every other business in the nation except theatrical productions, which operates solely – and usually unprofitably -- on ego.
·         Abandon rigid habits, antiquated assumptions, and formats that no longer work in the digital age.
·          Stop being so foolishly frugal; learn that you have to spend money to make money.
·         Understand that every book is special and has its own special market or markets. Be sensitive to that and position that book for maximum exposure to those markets most likely to be most receptive to it.
·         Do not overlook the audio book market, which has doubled in revenue in each of the last two years
·          Be less imperious and work more collaboratively with their authors, who know more about their book and its likely audience than anyone else.
·         Introduce the authors to those who will be marketing and selling their book and encourage a free exchange of ideas soon after the author is signed.

·          Learn the difference between marketing, merchandising, advertising, and public relations, and structure their organizations accordingly. 


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

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. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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