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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Do Book Characters Change Over Time?



I found myself spontaneously drawing and doodling while on an airplane from New York City to Austin, en route to attend the IBPA Publishing University.  I don’t need many things to amuse me.  I’m always reading, writing, researching, contemplating, analyzing or just dreaming awake.  But I suddenly got the urge to put down the book I was reading and found my left hand jerking itself into a familiar formation, as if a laser pre-programmed me to jot out a pattern. In this case, it was a character I’ve drawn thousands of times.  I realized, as I was rounding his eyes and shaping the contours of a body that only exists on paper, that I’ve been comforted in illustrating him for 35 years!

I started to wonder what it must be like to write about the same subject matter or in the same genre for decades.  What is it like for novelists to write about a character after many years?

For me, I accidentally created my guy, a person I initially labeled “Wacko Man” back around 1980.  I remember going through a phase in school of drawing often, usually copying political cartoons that I fund in daily newspapers.  This character that’s become my own, grew out of a figure that I would often see in the New York Daily News.  My version became a youthful, muscular one, someone brimming with energy and optimism.  I didn’t realize then that I would draw him for the rest of my life, but seeing him brings a smile to my heart.

He hasn’t really changed in these passing decades, though I have changed and the world around me certainly has. Authors who write series with one or more continuous characters probably let their creations evolve and reflect the times they live in, but I suspect the faux characters don’t change as much as the lives of their creators.

We want James Bond, more than 50 years after the first film, to continue doing what he does best.  He doesn’t age, always takes risks, and beds every beautiful woman.  His fans don’t want him to change.  In fact, the more they change, the more they need Agent 007 to be there and give them strength and satisfaction.

Still, I wonder why my drawing hasn’t changed at all with the passing of some 12,600 days.  Did life just stop in that time period?  Then again, look at cartoons like The Simpsons.  Bart will forever be in elementary school, 25 years after his debut.  Maybe that’s the beauty of creating characters, whether with words or drawings.  We stay forever in the world that we created them in, and in the process, we feel younger for it.

Creative artists, singers, writers, illustrators – come back to certain themes, sounds, and looks after many years have passed.  They re-create more than create, looking to continue to express themselves in a familiar way.  They are comforted by the continuity and given sanctuary in their replicated worlds.

Wacko Man will always be some kid of extension, reflection or model of me.  As I age he becomes what I want to be or what I was.  I wish he could walk off the page I draft him on and hear him talk to me.  What would he do with his newfound freedom and multi-dimensional world?  Would he choose to remain at my beck and call – or will he embrace his independence?  What would the characters that novelists create do if they could be alive and gain domain over their fate?

Be careful of the characters you develop for your books.  You may end up creating a persona that never grows up and moves away.  Actually, just embrace it.

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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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Which Books Are Really Needed?



What if a coming event was so devastating that only a handful of books could survive?  Never mind what the cataclysmic event is – whether war, disease, alien invasion, asteroid, energy void, famine, drought, robot takeover (take your pick) – all that you need to know is some kind of mass destruction disrupts or destroys people, property, and life as we know it.  You  have the resources to safely store and preserve only a thousand books.  Which ones would you choose?

Before you answer, think about why you’d choose such books. Remember, by choosing these 1,000 books you will never again see the millions of books that exist today – unless future generations start to write them.

Maybe it would be a good thing to start over.  Sure, we’d lose so much knowledge, history and aspects of the known and imagined world, but we’d also get a chance to dream new, to start fresh, and to build on a new body of language.  What seems unimaginable may actually be refreshing.

Would we save only non-fiction books, as they teach us how to function, from science and construction to health and governance?  Would we seek to preserve history – or let it go?  Would we use precious books on things we could potentially recreate, such as novels?  How many books do we really wish we could have that would minimally satisfy society’s needs?

We’d have to consider saving books that we never read or knew existed.  We’d have to consider books in different languages and those that concern the people of 200 countries and various cultures and faiths.  We’d need to consider books that address every phase of life – from infants to seniors.  We’d need books to teach our youth all that they’d need to go on to make their imprint on this world.  Certainly, a thousand books is an impossible amount to work with, but that is what you have to work with.

Before we go on further exploring this science-fiction scenario, let’s apply it to our world today.  Though there are millions of books in existence, there are gaps in what’s needed and in what today’s reader wants.  Take the same approach to the world-is-coming-to-an-end scenario and apply it to today’s real world.  Which books should be written now and which ones would fill a void?  Which ones would replace or add to existing books?

Are your thinking caps going?  Do you see the books not yet written that you could pen?  Can you see books that exist but are outdated or insufficient and need replacing?

See the world as it could be. 
Now make it so.

Writers have a vision for society.  Let’s use that ability to survey the market landscape and produce the books that people really need or want.

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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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

In The Hierarchy Of Things, What Is Most Important?



Is it our actions and the physical world we live in?
Is it the financial world that we live in?
Is it the psychological one?
How about the imagined one?

Where do spoken and written words fit in to all of this?

Certainly, action trumps all and inactions -- intentional, accidental or unknowingly -- are to be given a priority over words spoken, written or merely thought of or read. What of our willful fantasies or our subconscious dreams? Where does all of this fit in?

The written and published word is reality-defining for the writer. That is the medium of his or her existence, his oxygen, his water, his land. To the writer, words speak louder than actions.

The written word holds us accountable and forces us to examine behavior, our strategy, our thinking. It highlights and isolates the moments, events, and people that need a bit more scrutiny. The written word confronts the reader and causes him or her to reflect, to question, to search a little deeper than he would otherwise.

Actions can be permanent, such as death, but words can be reversed, tempered, even erased. Words may goad action or inspire activities, but the word is not owned if it is unread,misunderstood or disagreed with.

Is the pen mightier than the sword? How many people can the sword claim? How many words does it take to claim a person?

We choose what is most important. For me, I choose words over people, ideas over actions, and writing over reading.

What is your hierarchy?


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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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Do You Really Know Why People Buy Your Book?


It sounds like a dumb question, but do you know why people buy your book? It’s not the same question as: Why do you think your book is good?

You may logically think that people buy your book because it’s good, but they don’t.  They buy it because they hope or think it’ll be good.  They don’t know how good it is until they actually read the whole book.

So what can be done to convince another to believe your book will be good?  How do you play into their perceptions?

First, you should identify who you feel is your targeted reader demographic.  Look at things such as age, education, sex, location, and other census-type indicators.  Then think of specific characteristics.  Is your reader one who likes something that you feel translates to who would read your book?  For instance, if your novel is about an auto theft ring would it appeal to people who love cars?  Or who work in law enforcement?

Second, think about what’s new, unique, or different in your book.  Do you have a strange character in your novel, or if it’s non-fiction, is there a special resource or bit of information revealed that isn’t found elsewhere?

Third, how does your book compare to the competition within your genre?  What can you boast that no similar book can?

Fourth, does the book feel and look cool?  Is it designed and laid out in such an appealing way?

Fifth, all things being equal in content, author status, and layout, is your book less expensive?

Sixth, would people buy a book because of who wrote it?  Of course.  People follow celebrities, best-selling authors, and people who are credentialed experts.  If you don’t have any of that going for you, what can you highlight about your experiences, positions held, people that you’ve met, or ideas that you share that will convince people you are a worthy personality with an interesting take on the world?

Let’s go back to my original question: Why do people buy your book?  Do you know now?

Sometimes we guess or make assumptions as to why people buy anything from us.  You should just ask: What motivated your purchase today?  Maybe they read a positive review.  Maybe your book cover and jacket copy drew them in.  Perhaps it was bought as a gift for someone who likes the subject matter that you wrote on.  It could be a friend, relative or colleague who bought it as a favor to you.  Find out why people buy – and you’ll learn how to sell better.

To sell your book it takes many things to go right.  You need copies of your books to be where your targeted reader exists. You need to have an opportunity to hand-sell them.  You need to find people who want what you have. you need to say just enough to lure them in.

The selling of most books is not done face-to-face and in-person.  It’s done by e-mail, website, catalog, mass mailings, and social media.  It’s done via ads and word-of-mouth recommendations.  So how do you influence each of these sales points if you can’t be there to seduce and charm your buyer?

Your words will need to do the work.  The descriptive copy that you write on a blog or in an email is what your book becomes.  Sixty-five thousand words get reduced to a few hundred.  You’ll need to induce a sale based on what you say about yourself and the book.  What will you say?

For guidance, look at what others do and borrow what you like.  Experiment and see what works best.  Where possible, seek out in-person sales opportunities – bookstore signings, library appearances, speaking engagements, taking a booth at a community book fair, and meeting with retailers to convince them to at least carry a few copies of your book.

People buy on perceptions, even misperceptions.  Appeal to their usual pressure and desire points:

·         Sex, love, lust, nudity, beauty
·         Money, greed, financial security, wealth
·         Power, politics, and domination
·         Family, children, parents
·         Self-help, advice, motivation
·         Entertainment, celebrity, fun, sports, fame
·         Faith, religion, God
·         Morality, ethics, and justice
·         Culture and community
Safety, victimization, bullying, crime
·         Overcoming a loss or solving a problem
·         Battling addiction: booze, weight, drugs, smoking, gambling, sex

Start to track or note who bought your book and why.  Look for patterns.  Use this feedback to help you to sell to others.  You may think people buy your book for one reason but it may turn out they buy for other reasons.  Once you know why people buy from you, the selling process becomes simplified and easier.

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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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

Authors Can’t Take Slip & Fall Approach



Many writers work hard, not only at their craft, but to market and promote their books as well.  Yet, some authors don’t try hard enough, or worse, they look for an easy way out.  For a number of writers, they approach book publicity and marketing like a slip-and-fall con artist.

The other day I was walking home from work to catch a train at Grand Central Station.  I came upon an alarming landscape.  A man was lying in the gutter, eyes closed, arms outstretched like a cross, on his back.  A cab was less than a foot from him.  I asked bystanders what happened.  Several said he hit into the cab.  I said, “You mean the cab hit him?”  They said no, he fell/walked into the cab as he was turning the corner.  It was a fake accident.

The guy in the street was hoping to get a payoff from his shenanigans.

The man in the street had several french-fries in his right hand, holding tightly to them like they were gold.  It was not a natural position for a guy who supposedly was struck by a cab and laying on the street flat on his back.  No way he holds onto the fries.  Not one fell to the floor.

There are people looking for easy pay days, even those willing to lie, cheat, steal, and scam their way to a check.  Just watch Showtime’s Shameless and you’ll agree.  But for authors, there are no shortcuts to riches.  Writers must work hard and intelligently to elevate their brand and become successful authors.

Writers must hammer away with social media, speaking engagements, traditional media and even telemarketing.  They have to try a number of things at their disposal, but they can’t do the equivalent of flopping in front of a car and getting a windfall insurance settlement.

Writers have to embrace a strong work ethic. They must dedicate time and resources to promoting and marketing a book, perhaps at a 3 to 1 ratio of marketing to writing time. You build a following, maintain it, and then grow it some more. You sell, sell, sell – and then sell some more.  You establish your brand and then reinvent it and remind others you exist.  It’s non-stop.  Publishing is not a game that you win once and are set for life.

I guess years ago the slip and fall approach would be similar to a writer or literary agent building up a book-to-be to generate a huge advance – and then the author delivers crap or doesn’t help on the promotions.  But those days, if they ever existed for a few, are long gone.

Writers must persevere through the grind.  Or they can give up and hit a cab.

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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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Asking For Help Sells Books!



We all would benefit from getting help in any aspect of our life, but it’s especially true when it comes to writing, publishing, marketing, and promoting our books.  In fact, just the act of asking for help would greatly assist us, as it forces us to (a) admit we need help and begin the process of seeking an answer, and (b) allows us to examine alternate methods and possibilities that we previously dismissed or failed to explore.

To peer into how the world of help works, let’s identify the relevant questions:
·         Whom should you ask for help?
·         What should you ask for?
·         How often should you ask for assistance?
·         What type of help should you expect to receive?
·         How shall you return the favor to those who help?

When asking for help, ideally you’d ask people whpm you believe are in a position to help you.  They may be smart or have specialized knowledge.  They may have money or access to other connections who can help you.  They may have experience in the specific area that you need help in.  But anyone can be helpful.  You just need to be open to asking anyone and then use your filter to figure out which responses are truly helpful.

You should ask people their opinions, even on things you’ve made your mind up, just to see how they answer and to discern their overall usefulness – or to see if they surprise you with an idea or source of motivation that you didn’t expect.

Be willing to ask for something, depending on what you need.  After opinions and ideas, people can give you things, resources, and funds.  You never know what people will give you.  They can always say no, but that’s not a loss – and they could say yes, and that’s a bonus!  Often, the best one can do is give you psychological support and then lead you to other helpful people.  When money comes your way – whether as loan, investment or gift (if you need some); that would be the jackpot.

You should be willing to ask many for help and appear open to hearing from everyone, but don’t go to the well too often.  People get annoyed if all you do is ask them for things.

To accept help of any kind, you need to be of the frame of mind to accept it.  Don’t criticize the one who helps you, never turn down one’s help, always act delighted to get their input and assistance, and send thank yous their way.  Be prepared to repay the favor of those who help you and do so gladly.

There’s no limit to how much help one needs nor of what one can receive nor of what one is willing to give.  Asking for help should be part of your strategic business plan.

What could an author ask for from others?  Oh my, the list is never-ending.  Authors need help with everything!  Start small and ask for people to connect with you via social media.  Ask friends and family to introduce you to people who can help you.  Ask for people to buy books, to sell books for you, and to help you increase your brand.

When asking for help, employ alternate styles.  For some, they will appreciate you coming to them and will want to mentor you.  For others, appeal to them out of desperation.  For some, if you approach them in a tit for tat style, they’ll agree to help you in exchange for something.

Let me be the first to ask for help.  Please share my blog with other people.  You not only help them but you build up my readership and make me feel great.

Now, what can I do for you?  What can others do for you? What can you do for others?

Start asking, receiving, and giving.  It’s a wonderful cycle.

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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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

Interview With Victor Kahn, Author of Walking Distance


1.       What is your new book about? I focus on individual episodes of eleven shows that have long been my favorites, analyzing them from the perspective of the playwright I am and trying to point out how and why they work. I also recall the actual experience of viewing these and many other programs, all the while drawing on an embarrassingly extensive backlog of information I’ve acquired about the creative personnel involved.

2.       What inspired you to write it? I’ve been watching television all of my life and ruminating about these shows for decades. This book represents my sharing ideas that have been percolating inside me for as long as I can remember.

3.       What was rewarding and challenging about the writing process? For me the greatest challenge in writing is always capturing the proper tone, so I manage to say exactly what I want as effectively as possible. The great reward of this project was revisiting these programs and finally putting into print thoughts that have been with me since I was young.

4.       How do you compare TV today with the fare of fifty years ago? The chief distinction, of course, is license. For today’s artists, especially those in cable TV, nothing is outside their realm. All aspects of life may be dramatized and with no boundaries. Artists in the ‘50s and ‘60s, on the other hand, worked within severe parameters of content and style. Yet the best of their creations remain as compelling today as they were fifty or sixty years ago. In sum, no matter how many options artists today have, the core of a successful show remains the same: characters and plot that inspire audiences to care.

5.       What are your all-time favorites? Why? My favorites are the ones I discuss here. I begin with “Walking Distance,” the best episode of what I believe is the most influential series of all time, The Twilight Zone. Each of the following chapters includes discussion of two shows that are in some way related: two military farces, The Phil Silvers Show (“Bilko”), and McHale’s Navy; two creations by Roy Huggins about quintessential loners, Maverick and The Fugitive; two of the most popular comedies of the 60s, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Andy Griffith Show; two spy spoofs, The Avengers and Get Smart (which feature two of my favorite women characters); and two comedies that often verge on drama, The Honeymooners and All in the Family. I don’t insist that programs are the best of their time, although some surely are. They just matter the most to me.


6.       Where do you see book publishing heading?  I can’t claim to have more than minimal expertise in the business of publishing. All I can say is that I relish the feel of a book in my hand, and I hope I never lose the opportunity to experience that sensation.

In Case You Missed It…

Can You Overcome 16 Obstacles To Being A Successful Writer?

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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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015