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Monday, June 18, 2012

Good News, Bad News For TV


Good News: When you factor is the number of people watching a TV show via DVR, ratings for many shows surge. For instance, Modern Family viewers surge 40% -- to 16.7 million weekly viewers – when you add in 4.8 million DVR viewers.

Bad News: Those who use DVRs likely skip through most or all of the commercials.

Good News: 56% of homes still don’t own a DVR.

Bad News:  44% do and they are not only skipping commercials, they are channel-surfing less often. Discoverability is down. Many people have appointment watching, such as a live event – sports/news, or a water-cooler show such as reality shows or awards shows, where people want to be able to discuss the show right after it airs. If they don’t have a scheduled show to view they will look to see what is left on their DVR or pay-per-view – or they will do something else, such as surf online, listen to music, etc.


Interview With Author Charles S. Weinblatt

1.      What is your current book about? I just completed a thrilling sci-fi novel. Lost & Found (temporary title) is a tale of suspense, love, aliens, monsters, planetary war and survival.  It is grounded in carefully researched aerospace knowledge and in plausible future scientific advances. Deeply entrenched social overtones make this story appealing to the discriminating science-fiction reader. 

My protagonist is a contemporary John Glenn. On a mission to the International Space Station, he is exposed to the most massive solar flare in recorded history. He soon discovers that his mind is traveling near the speed of light with the solar flare, but not his body.  Arriving in a distant solar system, his mind is downloaded into the body of a cloned alien.  He wakes up to discover that he is in a new, featureless alien body on a planet with two warring races.  He becomes a fighter pilot and is shot down over enemy territory. Nearly killed by grisly monsters in a steamy primeval jungle, he is captured by the enemy, who, to his utter amazement, look exactly like humans. He becomes infatuated with the beautiful daughter of his captor. Despite his “alien” appearance, she also falls in love with him. Our hero feels compelled to become a catalyst for global peace. He must also to return to his human body and travel back in time and space with his true love to Earth. If successful, he and his love can live together on Earth for the rest of their lives. If not, they will both perish.

2.      What inspired you to write your newest book? My last novel was a 524-page piece of very serious historical fiction, called Jacob’s Courage.  This is a tender love story of two young Jewish adults living in Salzburg Austria at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria.  This novel explores the dazzling beauty of young love, powerful faith and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are murdered.   It is a potent coming-of-age love story; but is also filled with terror, sickness, starvation, slavery and everything that you might anticipate in a Nazi concentration camp (Theresienstadt) and a Nazi death camp (Auschwitz). You can read some of the reviews and see the video trailer here: http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/. After years devoted to research, writing, finding the right publisher and then marketing the book, I was ready for some fun.

So, I turned to my favorite genre, science fiction. I’ve loved sci-fi my entire life. From Star Wars and Star Trek to Blade Runner, Total Recall and Avatar, science fiction heroes and villains have become ubiquitous and endemic in our culture.  Science fiction delivers the capacity to reach beyond the barriers of technology, time and space into a future, place or dimension in which anything is possible.  From extraordinary technology and horrific monsters to alien races bent upon galactic conquest, science fiction enables the reader to imagine with unlimited potential. 

Despite all of the possibilities, we are often left with a decision to conquer all who are different, or to develop interspecies communication and favor acceptance.  A race can discover new horizons and learn from other species and civilizations. Or, we can destroy them in favor of our own cultural matrix.  In Lost & Found, the reader must explore these concepts and is forced to examine the potential for tolerance.

From Buck Rogers to Battlestar Gallactica, people love space-based science fiction heroes.  Framed in thoughtful sociology and psychology, serious sci-fi readers enjoy the added social meaning delivered through multifaceted screenplays, including disparate titles such as The Outer Limits, the Twilight Zone, Slaughterhouse Five, 1984, The Time Machine, War of the Worlds and Brave New World.  In each successful case, there is a significant social message, apart from astonishing sci-fi technology. Lost & Found is filled with charismatic characters, compelling situations, symbolism, metaphor and poignant social meaning. 

3.      How difficult is it to write about a subject that reflects one of the worst aspects of human civilization? How would you feel if, at age seventeen, the government removed you from school, evicted you from your home, looted your bank account and took all of your family's possessions? How would you feel if ruthless police prevented your parents from working and then deported you and your loved ones to a prison camp run by brutal taskmasters? How would you feel if you suddenly lost contact with everyone that you know and love? How would you feel if you were sent to the most frightening place in history, and then forced to perform unspeakable acts of horror in order to remain alive?

Jacob’s Courage was indeed difficult to write, necessitating years of daily research and writing. Although I have not yet experienced writer’s block, some days were more emotionally taxing than other days. There have been many books and films about the Holocaust. Alost all of them whitewash the experience. Even Shindler’s List produced a view of the Shoah filtered to avoid the most graphic experiences and brutality. To see the Holocaust as it was, you need to view documentaries, not fictional accounts.

I decided to help the reader understand not just what occurred, but how it felt to be a Jewish prisoner in Nazi concentration and death camps. The editor of the Toledo Free Press called Jacob’s Courage, “The Forrest Gump of the Holocaust,” because young lovers traveled thorough carefully detailed historical events. Deeper yet, I wanted readers to see, sense, taste, touch and smell the daily terror, brutality and degradation of being a Holocaust victim. I wanted my readers to feel the experience of losing everyone and everything that was precious to them. This included the horrific pangs of starvation and the agony of untreated sickness. I wanted the reader to smell burnt human flesh and to be in the room when Nazis forced doctors to perform medical experiments upon innocent men, women and children, especially the experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele. I wanted the reader to know how it felt to watch your family disappear forever into the fires of Nazi purgatory. My goal must have been accomplished at least in part, because the most common comment from readers has been, “I could hardly put the book down.” I also had to argue with a survivor in Florida who insisted that I had to be at Auschwitz because no one could write with such detail about life there without having experienced it.

At the same time, this novel is a powerful coming-of-age love story with a very surprising ending. I wanted the reader to experience the wonderful feelings of my adolescent protagonist lovers; to sense the glory of a tender and passionate first kiss and to feel the thrill as they grope with their first sexual encounter. Jacob’s Courage explores the most beautiful and uplifting experiences of young lovers, along with the most frightening and horrific experiences as victims in Nazi concentration camps. I think that I’ve given the reader every possible emotion in Jacob’s Courage. It’s a wild roller-coaster ride of emotions and thrilling circumstances, delivering a commanding view of the very best and the very worst aspects of humanity. Thankfully, the reviews have been tremendous.   

4.      What have you done to promote your book? I believe that marketing must begin with compelling reviews from the most persuasive sources in the genre. Publishers and literary agents can help with this. Thankfully, my publisher did this for me with Jacob’s Courage. They obtained positive reviews from organizations that my target audience would find convincing, including Jewish Book World and The Association of Jewish Libraries.  

I marketed with web sites, blogs, a video trailer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHqowym6wyU), a video teaser ad, press releases, public speaking, media interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, and via advanced social network marketing (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Ziggs, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Multiply, etc).  I purchased a Facebook ad and created a Facebook fan page for Jacob’s Courage (http://www.facebook.com/jacobs.courage). I also wrote many related published articles at TRCB: http://tiny.cc/utf0fw and Ezine: http://tiny.cc/2yf0fw). I am a contributing journalist for The Examiner (http://www.examiner.com/user-csw2) and I am a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books (http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/reviewer/charles-weinblatt). All of these efforts enhance an author platform. When a publisher or literary agent decides to Google or Bing your name, you want plenty of positive, writing-related topics to appear.

My publisher engaged in e-mail and fax blasts, catalog marketing and representation at key international book fairs, conferences and conventions. My publisher also handles warehousing, global distribution, stocking, restocking and sales.

Marketing is an endless task, even if you have a trade publisher. As long as your book is in print and for sale, you will need to devote at least 10-15 hours per week to marketing. If you’re on a limited marketing budget, forget about Facebook ads and focus on creating a terrific trailer. Post it everywhere; not just on You Tube. I fabricated a 30-second video teaser ad for FREE at Animoto (www.animoto.com). You can see it here: http://youtu.be/-YDnOAKoGM4. This might not be a full two-minute video trailer, but it generates interest and it cost nothing but two hours of my time to complete. I also created an author web site on Wix (www.wix.com). Through it, readers are one click away from my blogs, landing pages, video trailers and retailers. You can see it here: http://tiny.cc/4sndi. Again, it was free. It covers all of my published books, so far. It took maybe an hour to create. Your video trailer can be a solid investment. I’ve seen dozens of them, ranging from authors droning in a monotone voice for half an hour to powerful trailers that Hollywood would be proud to call their own. If yours goes viral, book sales will soar.

Finally, create two blogs. Again, you can do this quite well without spending a dime. I used BlogSpot (free) for presenting a detailed synopsis of Jacob’s Courage (http://www.jacobscourageaholocaustlovestory.blogspot.com/). For my free landing page, I used Wordpress (http://tiny.cc/2jfpl). Your landing page is not just for presenting information about your book. It is used to count and track visitors, entice them to become engaged, to stimulate conversation about the topic and to determine which sites led them to your page (referrers). In other words, select your landing site with analytics in mind. Much more of this is at my writing and publishing blog here: http://cweinblatt.wordpress.com. I also have an inexpensive e-book ($1.99) called, Book Marketing 101, which offers step by step directions for how to effectively promote your book (Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes, etc.).

5.      What advice do you have for struggling writers? If you feel uncomfortable about your skill level, or if you have been rejected repeatedly by publishers, take courses in writing or find a good mentor. The more that you understand about character development, dialog, narrative, description, context, metaphor, flow and timing, the better your books will become. This can be accomplished in local classrooms, in conferences and workshops, by attending conventions, by reading books on the subject and through computer or Internet-delivered courses. Many universities, community colleges adult education centers offer writing courses. 

I also recommend a large dose of patience. It can take several books for an author to reach her optimal skill level. It can take years to create a single new book. Then, it can take months to have it professionally edited. It could require several more weeks to create a proposal that you can be proud to tender to an agent or a publisher. While you’re being patient, read, read and then, read some more. You’ll acquire the best skills of each author.

Don’t doubt your ability to be published. If you believe that you have the talent that readers and publishers desire, learn how to create a winning publishing proposal. The same applies to being represented by a literary agent. The odds are against you; but it is possible. You might need to contact dozens or even hundreds of small independent publishers and literary agents. If you’re unwilling to pay this price, then get out of the way so other talented authors can accomplish the task.

One does not simply write a book and then mail the manuscript to publishers. Creating a winning publishing proposal is the central piece of this puzzle. Unless you’re already a celebrity, you will need to convince a publisher to spend a few thousand dollars on your book. Publishers don’t dole out that kind of money out of the kindness of their heart. One must have talent and a marketable book that’s better than your competition. A captivating publishing proposal will devote at least one section each to: sales attributes, marketability, a biography, synopsis, market analysis, competitive analysis, chapter outline and marketing strategies. The publisher will also expect a writing sample, often the first three chapters. This winning proposal can take weeks or months to fabricate and can easily stretch to 50 or more pages. If you simply send the entire manuscript electronically or by mail, it will almost certainly be rejected. No publisher that I have seen desires your manuscript before you send them a detailed proposal. In fact that can be a warning sign of a scam publisher or agent.

Try to also include a demographic analysis of your target audience and a very detailed and sound competitive analysis, including meticulous summaries of the best books of similar content within the genre. Compare and contrast your book with those successful books. Include relevant details, such as current Amazon sales rankings and review data.

Once you have a good proposal, be willing to send it to dozens or even hundreds of agents and publishers. Unless you’re a celebrity, forget about Random House or Harper Collins. The big publishing houses will not even glace at your fine-tuned proposal. Instead, focus on the thousands of small independent publishers around the world. I had to proffer almost a hundred proposals to publishers in order to generate four sold contract offers for Jacob’s Courage, excluding vanity publishers. This took several months. The last offer turned out to be the best one (again… patience). Most importantly, research each publisher carefully and adhere to every rule of their submission guidelines. With the vast volume of incoming unsolicited proposals, publishers can and do delete proposals that do not follow all directions completely. Never accept the first contract offer unless it’s the best one.

It can be tempting to self-publish. I’ve done it twice. For everything, there is a season. If you write non-fiction, and especially when you can sell plenty of books on your own, self-publishing might be the best decision. It can also be useful to test market a book. It’s fast, easy, and you will control all aspects of the process. You interview and hire your own editor, graphic artist, printer, etc. You purchase the ISBN and create global distribution contracts. Many writers can sell books through their occupation, as a consultant, as a public speaker or through seminars. Such authors should give strong consideration to self-publishing. I could sell copies of my job seeking skills book with my consulting fees. The same book became required reading for graduate students at my university. This is a perfect example of why people should SP. Why share the profit if you don’t have to?

However, if you write fiction, and especially if you need to develop a successful author platform, consider the value of traditional publishing. They are still the gold seal of approval for quality fiction authors. A trade publisher will have a talented professional staff ready to make your book perfect, including editors, graphic designers and printers. Most importantly, trade publishers have inroads to the most influential review sources. These publishers will represent your book at global book fairs, conventions and conferences and via extensive global marketing. Remember that trade publishers only earn a profit from sold books. They will typically do whatever is necessary to distribute, to market, publicize and promote your book. The simple fact that your book was selected for trade-publishing can be the most important factor for a fiction author who needs to create or enhance a significant author platform.

If you self-publish, you will be responsible for all of the above, including the cost (typically several hundred to several thousand dollars). And while the self-published author must focus vast amounts of time for distribution, marketing, stocking and restocking retailers, or managing private sales, the trade-published author can use that time to write her next books. Self-publishing is also risky. As of 2008, the average self-published book sold only several dozen copies; likely insufficient to recoup author expenses. Meanwhile, the average trade-published book sold several hundred copies and cost the author nothing.

Of course, being trade published is not a decision. You must win the publisher over. And publishers receive hundreds of submissions each week; many will be just as promising as yours if not better. The odds are not good. You must motivate the publisher with your talent and your book must be marketable. If you cannot demonstrate why tens of thousands of readers are likely to purchase your book, you won’t be trade-published. No one would buy a book by Charles Dickens if the topic was how to drink a glass of water. The submission proposal to a publisher and the query letter to a literary agent must contain sound logic. Finally, never stop writing. We learn by doing. Like any other talent, you will become a better author as you continue to write.
I do not recommend vanity publishing, unless you’re certain that you don’t care at all about sales. It’s expensive and very unreliable for sales. Some memoir authors are better served with a vanity publisher, since they only wrote the book for their progeny. Vanity publishers (publishers who charge the author a fee) will do nothing to distribute or sell your book. Once they have your money, you will be dropped like a hot coal. You’ll have a nice book with your name on it for the coffee table. That’s it.

I cover all of this and more at my writing and publishing blog here: http://cweinblatt.wordpress.com.

6.      Where do you see book publishing heading?  There will always be bookstores and there will always be demand for hardcover books (especially for art, architecture, photography, etc.) and paperbacks. Roughly half of all global book sales in 2009 came from a brick & mortar bookstore. Large retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Target and Wal-Mart are profitable with book sales). On the other hand, readers are gobbling up tablets, e-readers and smart phones, and reading books on computers. The percentage of e-sales is continually rising. My royalties reflect this as well. Therefore, I believe that the astute author will publish both ways. It makes no sense to bypass one market or the other. I’ve enjoyed having my e-books distributed and sold with Smashwords. With a premium membership, they will format your book for all e-readers, tablets and smart-phones and they will distribute your book to all major retailers, including Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Scrollmotion.

Self-publishing is also on the rise, due in part to the ease with which it can occur. However, this also is the Achilles’ heel of self-publishing. As long as your dog or cat can become a self-published author, the value of all SP books is eroded. The percentage of poorly-written SP books is vastly higher than trade-published books. I’m not just referring to a multitude of typos, errors in punctuation, spelling and grammar. I’m also referring to books poorly written for dialog, metaphor, imagery, descriptive content and literary context. A huge percentage of SP books are so poorly written that you must wonder if the author hired an editor at all, much less a talented editor. This is unfortunate because there are some truly excellent SP books. Unfortunately, a large percentage of readers refuse to seek out the excellent SP books because they are almost impossible discover underneath the vast morass of SP crap. You can count the number of best-selling SP fiction authors on your fingers. For SP to climb out from the cloud of poorly-written, mistake prone and unmarketable books, there must be a mechanism to separate them by quality.  
Until then, SP will remain a dead end for most of us, especially for fiction writers. Being SP also does little or nothing for the typical fiction author’s platform. Some experts suggest that SP reduces the value of a platform.

Unless you’re a celebrity, there is no easy shortcut to becoming a successful author. You will need to acquire your reputation one book, one article, and one interview at a time. Your platform will determine your future success. Build it wisely.

Have You Seen These Recent Posts?

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You Can Use Crowdfunding On Your Next Book -- Turn Your Idea Into A Business http://bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/crowdfunding-your-next-book.html


How Promoters, Authors & Publishers Get Others to Say YES

How To Get Others To Share Your Links – And Go Viral

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 brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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