Monday, October 31, 2016

Are Writers Challenged By Their Tombstone?

When I found out that Kevin Meaney died suddenly at age 60, I emailed two friends I’ve known for a long time and got surprising responses.  One said he didn’t know who he was; the other knew but summarized his life as “he really didn’t have a great career.”  It makes me wonder how writers who die are viewed by others.

Meaney, for the record, was a talented comedian who probably did better than 95% of all comedians in his day.  He just didn’t make it into elite territory, but that’s far from being seen as an unknown or a nobody.  The truth is, we all contribute something to this world.  We impact others along the way but sometimes we forget or remain unaware of how we influence others.

I remember seeing Meaney perform several times in the mid 80’s at NYC comedy clubs.  The New York Times, in its obituary, said he was “a headliner on the stand-up comedy circuit for more than 30 years.”  I would say that’s an impressive epitaph.

Meaney made numerous appearances on late-night TV, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.  He had several HBO specials, appeared in a Broadway play and starred in a failed TV series based on a John Candy movie, Uncle Buck.  He appeared on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, 2 Broke Girls, and other shows. He just didn’t have a signature event, a memorable book or movie, or a singular moment that defined his career.  He was a quality comedian who was a steady performer for decades.

My father died earlier this year and it was hard to summarize a life that was far less public or accomplished as the one Meaney lived, but I knew that his life, if for anything else, meant something to me.  If I could impact others and contribute to the world, it would be in part, because of his influence on me.  Perhaps that’s the best thing you can say about another human being, that they made a difference in the lives of others – and hopefully those people made a positive impact on others.

For writers, their tombstone could never reflect who they were.  Their own writing should do that.  It speaks for itself.  The lasting impact of those words on others is what becomes the eulogy or obituary.

Writers always wonder how others will view them and their work upon their death.  What you write goes a long way to influencing what they will say.  So if you want to help define how you’ll be seen upon your demise, work hard now at penning the words that could define your legacy.

I saw an advertisement for Book of the Dead:  320 Print and 10,000 Digital Obituaries of Extraordinary People by William McDonald, published by The New York Times.  I don’t know that I could read them without feeling either envy for their success or sadness that I no longer could meet them. Besides, obituaries are written in a certain one-sided way that make them incomplete, if not dishonest.

I guess if you just play a numbers game, you’d say that most lives are unimportant.  In the scheme of things, only the top 1% of the 1% really matter.  They are the powerful, successful, wealthy, talented, educated, leaders, politicians, doctors, writers, teachers, and members of every profession who rose above all others.  But if you are the other 999 in 1,000, did your life not matter or mean something?

Of course it did.

The same is true with writers.  You don’t need a best-seller, an award, or an avalanche of favorable critical reviews to know that your books are of value, that your writings are worthwhile.  If you feel differently, prove me wrong.  Be a more prolific writer, an improved writer, an activist writer whose words change things, who gives back to others, and who strives to inform, inspire, educate, or entertain with the written word.  Look death down and rise up to write your best book yet.  Become who you want to be, whom you hope others will see and talk about.  Celebrate your life and writing today and let your words tell your story upon your death.

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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 2016 ©.
Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby  

Interview with Leonard S. Marcus, Book Review Contributor to New York Times & Author

1.      As someone who has contributed book reviews to The New York Times over portions of the past three decades, what is it that you look for when reviewing a book? I write about children's books and my favorite genre is the picture book because it's a bilingual medium: storytelling in pictures and words. I look for a picture book to merge all its elements into a complete and satisfying world in 32 pages. I look for words to be put to new use, as Margaret Wise Brown was so inspired at doing--and so few other writers for the very young ever are. And I look for illustrations that bring something more to the story told in the words and that establish a strong emotional connection with the reader. Because the best books for children have something to say to everyone, I look to be stirred and entertained myself, not just to see how some hypothetical child might be induced to react that way.

2.      What is it that you love so much about books that you have dedicated your life to them? Swimmers feel at home in water. I feel at home in words and pictures. I had a big vocabulary as a small child--and a hard time learning how to read. One day my remedial reading teacher asked me to write her a poem, and because I had written it myself I had no trouble reading it to her the following week. From then on, writing and reading have felt as closely linked to me as breathing out and breathing in. And books have seemed both a way out of myself and a special way in.

3.      What can be done to bring back more print book review space in magazines and newspapers? It may be that this is a matter for the great foundations--Ford, Carnegie, Gates--to think about underwriting. A democratic society cannot function without a vigorous press and a literate population that cares about books and the ideas found in books. Frederick Melcher, editor of Publishers' Weekly for several decades during the last century, was a major supporter of the children's book industry because he understood that literacy skills and a love of reading are best cultivated from the first years of life. (To put his money where his mouth was, Melcher single-handedly created both the Newbery and Caldecott Medals.) If the advertising model no longer works for print media, then maybe nonpartisan foundations need to fill the breech in the interest of preserving democratic values.

4.      What advice would you have for a struggling writer? Most writers face two kinds of struggle: the creative struggle and the financial one. I would say of the art form that writing has to be a struggle, and that that dis-ease is something that you have to learn to live with and even to accept. As for the financial struggle, there is no telling how that might go. Some talented writers meet with early success while other, equally talented ones labor at the margins all their lives. All you can do is love your work and, as E. B. White said, "be prepared to be lucky."

5.      You have a new book out. Please tell us about it. Comics Confidential (Candlewick Press) is a book of Q-&A interviews with 13 contemporary graphic novelists writing and drawing for children and teens. Among those I spoke with are Gene Luen Yang, Sara Varon, Hope Larson, Kazu Kibuishi, Harry Bliss, and Mark Siegel. Each artist also created an original one- or two-page comic for my book. So, Comics Confidential is an introduction to several of the most creative spirits in this fast-growing genre, and it's also a showcase for their work. I fell in love with the graphic novel genre several years ago and now read books in this vein every chance I get. I enjoy the hybrid nature of the storytelling that goes on in their pages: the cross between literature and film and I guess you could say hieroglyphics. They're lean and mean storytelling, and I've always been attracted to the most distilled forms of communication: the pared-down, plain-spoken prose of E.B. White and poetry of Elizabeth Bishop and writers for children like Brown and Beverly Cleary. Graphic novels have proven to be a gateway to literacy for reluctant readers and they've become a lingua franca for an international community of young readers. All very exciting to me.

6.      What inspired you to write it? I wanted to have a chance to get to know the graphic novelists' community better. It really is a community, a band of devoted outliers linked by friendship, mentorship, online art sharing, guerrilla publishing efforts, convention encounters, and increasingly by a sense of having reached a readership that is as passionate about what they are doing as they are.

7.      How does it compare to some of your prior works? I have published a number of interview books. The Wand in the Word (Candlewick) gave me the opportunity to dip into a genre I felt no special affinity for: fantasy fiction. Harry Potter had come along a few years earlier and I wanted to understand why so many readers felt drawn to stories of that kind. I spoke with Lloyd Alexander, Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L'Engle, Susan Cooper, Philip Pullman, and Terry Pratchett, among others--an amazing group. I was struck by how often they had felt inspired to write fantasy by their experiences of war. It turned out that for them writing fantasy was not an escape from reality but rather a way of speaking about unspeakable realities. For a history buff like me, that was quite a revelation. For my interview book Show Me a Story! (Candlewick) my goal was to talk with some of the picture book makers whose work I already loved and revered: Maurice Sendak, William Steig, James Marshall, Helen Oxenbury, and more than a dozen others. For that book I was starting from a place of intense interest: the challenge was to learn more about the making of familiar classics, and to look for the thread the connected the artists' life stories to the stories they chose to tell.  Deep down, I have always been a biographer. My biography Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon (Harper Perennial), which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017, was my introduction to the entire field, and to the question of how it is that some few special adults manage to maintain contact with their child selves and create real art and literature that invites all of us to reflect on the essentials of our lives.

8.      Leonard, where do you see book publishing heading in the near and distant future?
The picture book will continue in print form, in part because young children are tactile learners and in part because we all like to be in the presence of beautiful and special things. For this reason, picture books are already becoming more like artists' books and even some adult fiction is being published with illustrations, as in Victorian times! Most series fiction, on the other hand, and other kinds of books that are read once and forgotten, will comfortably migrate to digital form, along with most reference books. But not the kinds of books we most care about. Teen girl fans of the Twilight series have wanted to own the books in hardback. Apparently we humans prefer our touchstones in tangible form. Meanwhile, exciting new technologies will keep coming along and mixing and merging in unpredictable ways. Great. But none of that will matter unless the people involved remember that the value of a new technology is the extent to which it serves the storyteller.

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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 2016 ©.
Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Is It Time To Allow Books To Include Advertising?

Advertising expenditures have gone up every year from the prior year seemingly forever, at least in each year of the 21st century except for 2009, when the Great Recession fully took hold.  Digital has led the way in terms of growth for the advertising industry.  But projections show that print is in trouble.  Maybe books should start allowing for advertising.

At present here’s how ad money is spent in the U.S. out of $552 billion projected to be spent in 2017, the breakdown by medium shows that:

40.4% of ad money is in television
33.3% digital
9% newspapers
6.9% magazines
5.8% outdoor (like billboards)
4.3% radio

It’s time that books embrace advertising.  You could do it in so many tasteful ways:

1.      Limit it to three advertisements per book.

2.      Have a single sponsor for the book.

3.      Allow consumers book price discounts if they agree to receive emailed ads from a select advertiser.

4.      Insert an advertising card/flier into a book\

5.      Put ads only in between chapters, the back of the book or the very front.

There’s something refreshing about books being ad-free, but if authors and publishers increase their profitability and thus visibility via advertising, so be it.  As long as the ads don’t harm the content or conflict in any way, what’s the big deal?

If book publishing took in 1% of all ad revenue, that would be over five and a half billion dollars! If it took a tenth of that or one one-thousandth of the ad pie – the windfall would be 550 million bucks each year.  That could bankroll plenty of writers.

Advertising and sponsors exist at publishing events, conferences, and seminars so why not in the books themselves.  Book media, such as PW, NYT, and Huffington Post receive ad revenue for writing about books, so why not have the book industry earn some money too?

Or are there dangers and deficits associated with advertising?  For instance, what if an advertiser got involved in scandals?  Does the book feel dirtied by say having a Wells Fargo ad in it?

What about politically sensitive issues or people – can ads by the NRA, Donald Trump, or Marlboro run in a book in good conscience?  Can authors separate themselves from any conflict of interest issues when it comes to having advertisers and financial backers?

Will readers start to judge a book by its advertisers?  Would some not buy a novel by one who has ads against Planned Parenthood in it?  Would that same reader purposely buy a book for having other types of ads?

Some book publishers are owned by multi-media conglomerates, so it surprises me that a publisher like Harper Collins, with connections to Fox-TV and The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, doesn’t run ads in select book titles.  But maybe the cost associated with getting and running ads – or the problems I just mentioned –outweigh the rewards of opening this additional revenue stream.

It’s hard to believe in a society where ads are all over the place, where few marketing opportunities are missed, that a big industry such as book publishing has missed the boat.  

Maybe I should be thankful, but it is something that some entrepreneurial writers and publishers should strongly consider experimenting with.

On Writing

“The written word preserves what otherwise might be lost among the impressions that inundate our lives. Thoughts, insights, and perceptions constantly threaten to leave us before we have the opportunity to grasp their meaning. Writing can keep technology-driven, fast-paced, quick-fix, ambiguity-intolerant modern life from overpowering us— and give us something palpable upon which to reflect. Reflection slows matters down. It analyzes what was previously unexamined, and opens doors to different interpretations of what was there all along. Writing, by encouraging reflection, intensifies life.” -- Helena Hjalmarsson

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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 2016 ©.
Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

14 Areas All Authors Must Master For Success

Writers are particularly observing, analytical, and creative when it comes to their approach to perfecting their craft.  But for some reason they seem to be at a loss when it comes to their understanding of why their writing career hasn’t soared.  The truth is they need to embrace the kind of common sense advice that they likely would dole out to others.  If only they can observe themselves from a distance and then sharpen their tools to repair their writing lives.

Here are 14 areas all writers should focus on – if they are serious about becoming successful authors and book marketers:

1.      Learning more about book publicity and marketing.  Whether you read blogs like this one or read books, attend conferences, download instructional videos, subscribe to industry magazines, listen to helpful podcasts or consult with other writers, build up a body of working knowledge in the very area that will help you grow the most.

2.      Utilize strong time management skills to help you balance your commitments and desires.  You’ll need time for writing and for promoting. Time for strategizing, researching and learning, and time for taking action.  You’ll need time for work, chores, rest, family, friends, health, fun and everything else life demands from us.  Budgeting your time, setting priorities, staying committed and focused, and acting out of a sense of urgency are a must.

3.      Raising funds or borrowing resources will be the key to your writing freedom.  It takes money to make money, so have a plan on how to pay for marketing campaigns.  You may need funds to give you time off from work so you can have time to write and market your book.  Who or what will be your bank?

4.      Networking will always be helpful in life, but especially for your writing career.  It is true that who you know is more important than what you know.  Those who have access to the things and people that could help you are worth a lot.  They help you take shortcuts and eliminate lost time and failed efforts.  Get to know the kind of people who can help you, from other writers to publishers, editors, literary agents, members of the media, writer groups, and trade associations.

5.      Be organized.  It may seem like obvious advice – and it’s applicable to every career – but I can’t highlight its importance enough.  You need to have your act together in order to be a really successful writer.  You can have a messy desk, work under chaotic circumstances, and deal with many challengers, but you do need to be organized and self-disciplined.

6.      Choose to write and promote -- not either or.  One must invest a heart and soul to write well and often.  The same is true for book marketing.  Leave energy, time, and brain power every day to do both.

7.      Find support.  Writers are loners and we pride ourselves as being independent thinkers, even leaders.  But we need help too – whether from a professional coach, mentor, friend, colleague, family, or therapist.

8.      Set goals or set yourself up for failure.  Create a plan to address all of the smaller steps to meeting specific goals.  Set priorities and deadlines for yourself.  Fitter all activity through the prism of fulfilling your goals.  Anything else puts you off track and on the road to nowhere.

9.      Participate in social media.  Yes, don’t cringe.  Set up your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube – or all of them -- and post, share, connect, and click until you see your members go up, up, up.  No matter how many books you sell from it, social media is important.

10.  Always further your branding and marketing.  It’s a 24-7 experience.  You need to work at in order to get good at it – and to get a pay-off.  If you need assistance, hire a marketer or branding expert.

11.  Get better at procuring and doing news media.  There’s so much media out there – local and national – even international. There’s radio, television, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, trade publications, blogs, podcasts, video sites, and so much more.  Become an expert by declaring yourself one via media appearances, byline articles, book reviews, and guest posts.  Again, hire a publicist to help fill in the gaps or to simply take over the process for you.

12.  Speak and then speak some more.  Every opportunity to speak can lead to book sales, book deals for a new book, more speaking opportunities, media exposure, a chance to influence others, and a great time to build your marketing portfolio.

13.  Develop spin-off products, services, and books.  Also, sell off or pursue other rights formats (such as audiobooks, e-books, paperback editions, foreign rights, film and TV, etc.  Will you create a series?  Can you repackage content into something else like a paid webinar or seminar?

14.  Acquire technology devices/programs and the skills to use them to your advantage.  This is a battle everyone in the 21st century must take up.  We need to be aware of the myriad of devices out there that can help us be more efficient and successful.  Plan on taking refresher courses, online tutorials, or experimenting in order to find the right technology that becomes an asset to you and not a burden.

This list could have been of 114 things – not just 14 – that writers should address in order to advance their careers.  But these 14 shall serve as a great starting point, and if mastered, will really position writers to become profitable and successful artists.

In Praise of Books
“The books we read help to shape who we are. Reading offers us, as children, our first independence- allowing us to travel far beyond the confines of our immediate world. Books introduce us to great figures in history, narratives that stir our spirit, fictions that tug us out of ourselves and into the lives of a thousand others, and visions of every era through which human beings have lived. And in the process of stretching who we are, books also connect us to all others- of our own or previous times- who have read what we've read. In the community of readers, we instantly become linked to those who share our love for specific characters or passages.”  -- Helena Hjalmarsson

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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 2016 ©.
Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Why Do Most Writers Trail Katy Perry On Twitter By 93M Followers?

What must it feel like to have 93,705,562 followers on Twitter?  Katy Perry can tell you. She is ranked on Twitter Counter as having the most followers in the world on the social media platform that just laid off 9% of its workforce because of growth and profitability issues. Maybe the singer can send out a few supportive tweets to Twitter.

Twitter’s handle on Twitter has the ninth-most followers, at 57.269 million.  Twitter has other spots on the list, including Twitter Sports and Twitter EspaƱol.

It’s interesting to see such a huge disparity so quickly on the list.  For instance, No. 100 is Beyonce Knowles.  Most people wouldn’t think of her as so far apart in popularity or success as Perry, but 98 spots separate them.  She has "only" 14.613 million followers.

Other tech and social media companies rank on the Top 100 list, including Google at No. 83 and Instagram at No. 19.  You Tube is No. 5.  Facebook didn’t make it, nor Pinterest.

Several Jenner-Kardashian members make the list as well.  Five of the top seven spots are singers.  Barack Obama is the highest-ranking politician at No. 4 with 78.343 million followers.

In the TV Talkshow wars, The Ellen Show leads the way, at No. 8, with 62.895 million followers.  Jimmy Fallon is next, at No. 15 overall, with 43.197 followers.

The leader in print media?  The New York Times, at No. 26, with 31 million. TV news was led by CNN, No. 33, at 28.9 million, but ESPN took up two different spots ahead of it for top TV honors.

Absent from the list were writers and authors.  It may not be surprising, given writers would rather write for money and pleasure and not have to get sucked into Twitter wars.  But it is a calculated mistake for authors not to have a presence on Twitter.

Social media helps generate sales, pushes your brand, and positions you to have a voice in the daily dialogue of life.  Some celebrities with large followings will even sell their influence with paid tweets, follows, and shares.

On the other hand, do large Twitter followships correlate to significantly more product sales?  Does Twitter create a demand – or do you already want their stuff and thus, you follow them as a fan?  Still, the numbers don’t add up.  Katy Perry doesn’t sell 93 million albums or concert tickets in a year.  Justin Bieber doesn’t sell anything near what his 85 million or so Twitter followers would suggest he should sell.

No doubt, some of these Twitter follower numbers are bought or bogus.  It’s hard to believe that certain institutions don’t have a strong presence on Twitter but it’s also harder to believe that Perry has over six times the following as Beyonce.  Bey knows marketing and has a machine out there, not to mention a huge loyal fan base.  If she can muster up 14 million Twitter follows, how do others triple and quadruple her?

A lot about Twitter remains a mystery or falls under a cloud of suspicion. Just how many people use it with any regularity and how many sales does it lead to?  The company itself struggles to make money or grow.  When one tweets, how many people read a given tweet?, earlier this year, showed that Twitter had 320 million users – about a fifth of the 1.71 billion FB users.  Google+ supposedly has 300 million users but I don’t know a single person that actually uses it.  Instagram was 400 million, LinkedIn 450 million, Pinterest 100 million and YouTube a billion.

Interestingly, social networks earned just 8.3 billion from advertising in 2015.  That seems like a tiny amount given the Internet has 3.17 billion users. There are 2.3 billion active social media users. That’s an average of less than four bucks per  social media user each year.

One million new active mobile social users are added daily – one every 12 seconds.  It’s mind-boggling.

There’s still a lot to figure out with digital media, in terms of how users and the tech companies can profit from all of this technology and communication.  Writers need to be a part of this if they want to raise awareness for their books and brand.  You don’t have to be Katy Perry to know this.

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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 2016 ©.
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Interview with Author Ralph Masengill


  1. What inspired you to write your book? Research shows that up to 90% of the American public has no clue of how change works.  I could not believe the lack of knowledge most of us have about change and how it affects us every minute of every day.   I know how much my knowledge of change, after studying change for over 40 years has helped me in my life with my family, my businesses and in my relationships with others.  For me it has made a huge positive difference in my life.  I felt a need to share what I know about change with others in a way that was easy to understand and fun as well.

I became determined to write an easy-to-read, fun book about the serious subject of change.  I wanted to make sure it was not just another academic paper on change.  I wanted it to be written in a way that all of America and the world could understand change and use that knowledge to continue to improve their happiness, enhance their income and have less stress in their daily lives among other things. 
Many of the examples used to illustrate a particular point in the book are humorous and easy to understand.  That hopefully keeps the reader in a great frame of mind to absorb the information about change in the book. 
The book is designed to give the reader a leg up on being even more successful in their family and business lives.  The data in this book should give the reader a much better chance of true success in life.  That is what I had in mind.

  1. What is the book about? This book is about how change works.  The book is about how to use the knowledge of change learned from the book to make life better for the reader in many different ways. 

  1. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for the readers who finish your book? Having read the book I now have a solid understanding of how change works and how it affects me every day has made my life more positive in many ways.  I now know that change always causes feelings and emotions in humans and I cannot change those feelings and emotions I can control the way I react to those feelings and emotions.

  1. What advice do you have for writers? You must have a passion for what you are writing about.  Do the research, spend the time and make yourself an expert in the subject you are writing about before you ever sit down at the computer to begin your task.  If you are a fiction novelist you must still do your research and know your subject inside and out.  For me passion is the key to success in all cases for writers.

  1. Where do you think book publishing industry in headed? Many people like to read.  Many younger people are not taught to treasure reading as an entertainment or even a hobby in today’s world.  However, that is not to say that reading for pleasure will go into a great decline but it will be a lower total than previous decades. 
More and more people will be using various devices similar to kindle in the future.  However, there is much to be said about how handy having your own book can be.   
Book publishing is going to have to make changes.  Some publishers will change others will not.  Those that do change in the right direction will continue to do well.  The book reading audience is changing and so must this great industry.
 Perhaps they should all read a good book on change. 

  1. What challenges did you have in writing your book? This is only my second book so it is still new to me.  I am still on a steep learning curve.   Being informed on the subject of change was not a challenge for me since it has been a passion of mine for over 40 years.  However, putting the mountains of data I have in an order that made sense and was easy to understand was a great challenge.   My goal for the book was a book that would explain change in an interesting, entertaining and informative way to the general public.  I sincerely believe that all people should have a solid understanding of change so that they can use that information for a happier and less stressful life.

  1. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours? The data in this book can and will make a real difference in how successful the reader can be immediately and in the future.  It is a self-help book that many who have read the book use as a reference guide that they go back to from time to time in dealing with change.   Change is constant; it is happening all the time and that means we need to know how to control our reaction to change.  We cannot change the emotions and feelings change causes all of us but we can control our reaction to those emotions and feelings.
Isn’t it time to do something for yourself?

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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 2016 ©.
Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby