Writer’s Conferences in August

 

MC900435237Berkshire Writing Workshop invites published and aspiring adult writers to join in our annual summer gathering from August 4 to August 8, 2014. The program features five days of intensive writing workshops with a focus on creating new work. Under the guidance of a dedicated instructor, writers should expect one of the most productive writing weeks of their lives.
Date: Aug 4-8
Location: Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, MA

Catamaran Writing Conference at Pebble Beach
At Catamaran Literary Reader, our artistic themes tap into the rich literary history and beautiful setting of the California Central Coast.  We invite you to transform your own creative work in the scenic location of Pebble Beach, a major source of inspiration for writers from John Steinbeck to Robinson Jeffers.
Date: August 13-17
Location: Pebble Beach, CA
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Can Any Book Survive the Future? by Brian Feinblum

Renior for Test of Time All creative artists want their work to be embraced by a loving public, even long after they are dead. They want to leave a legacy and to be appreciated by others. It doesn’t matter if it’s art, film, books, architecture, or other forms of creation – the desire and drive of all creators is the same.

Sure, some are ego-driven, money-hungry, fame-seekers, but all, at the heart of their efforts, want to see their work valued and to know it’s inspired, enlightened, entertained, and informed others. They want to know they sparked a dialogue, provoked action, stimulated thought and led to a change in society or impacted lives. Writers want to think that they created something not just for today or for a generation, but something everlasting and permanent.

The truth is it doesn’t work that way. Not at all.

I was in the public library the other day to help my eight-year-old son do research for a school report he was writing for his second-grade class. While he looked for books about the Blue Iguana of the Cayman Islands (we found none), I happened upon a volume entitled “Colonial History to 1877.” As I flipped through the book I realized how much has happened in our nation’s history of nearly 237 years but I said to my son: “You know, there will come a time when all of the history you will spend your school years learning, will be taught in a day.”

Eventually there will be little difference between 1813, 1913 or 2013, because so much history will have taken place over the years. Here’s what will happen:

· The more recent history of the present era will always seem more significant and important than the distant past.
· So many more significant things will happen in the centuries to come that by the time it is 2513, to reflect on the quaint times of today will seem insignificant.
· As time goes by, the time dedicated to studying history will be replaced, in part, to be used to learn new skills that future technologies will bring about.

Our ability to record news, find facts, publish analysis and share information will overwhelm the education system and forbid it to properly give students enough time to discuss any specific event or subject in great detail.

Every year that goes by, the amount of classroom time spent learning about history generally remains the same but the amount of time put to any one event or person generally shrinks because more history is created and has to be covered. History books have three decades of history and five more presidents to write about since I graduated high school in 1984.

How much longer will the school year need to be in order to properly cover future history? I calculated I spent about an hour per day in class on history – some 2160 school hours (an hour per school day, 180 days per year, 12 years). That is about 10 hours dedicated per every year of this nation’s history. That means another 290 hours of instruction would be needed just to cover the last 29 years. What will that come to in 100 years? 1000 years? 10,000 years?

So, I come back to my opening remarks about the lifespan of a creative artist’s work, especially books. We still read old books – the Bible, works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and some ancient texts, but compared to all that has been written and published, how many books are read well beyond an author’s lifetime? Books expire. They have a shelf-life even if they can exist forever online. Relevance, discoverability, language – all of these things doom most books.

But it does not stop us from writing as if our words will last forever. Heck, before we can think about our works being read and enjoyed a century from now, we struggle to find readers today. But we can strive to write today and hope the words live another day.

The odds of being read today are much greater than they will be even next week, when, at least 7,000 more books will have been published by traditional publishers. Write as if you’ll be read tomorrow, but hope to be read today.

Remember these words, for chances are they won’t live beyond your lifetime: Create, because you reflect the truth. Create, because you need an alternate to the truth. Create, because you don’t know the truth. Create, to inspire greater truths.

History will tell us what really was true, if only history were complete, unbiased, and accurate. Who knows how long your words will exist, but make them count right now, and if they do their job to inspire greatness, change, and more creativity, then they will become useless and unneeded with time. They will have led a revolution that will render them obsolete. Perhaps being made obsolete is the honor to strive for.

Will your words stand the test of time?

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. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©

Read A Few Thousand Good Books Lately?

by Brian Feinblum

Publishers could pick up a few marketing tips from major league baseball.Imagine being sequestered somewhere for about a year, getting paid to do what you may love the most:  read books.  Lots of them  Every day. Non-stop. A marathon of books, books, and more books. Could you do it?

The equivalent for sports watching is taking place right now. Major League Baseball, in its infinite marketing wisdom, is paying two guys to watch baseball day and night throughout the season. They will watch 2450 regular season games and then the playoffs and World Series. They are on display to the public – you can go to their first-floor “fan cave” in a space formerly famous for occupying the original Tower Records on East 4th Street in Manhattan.

Besides watching games, the two superfans film a reality show that airs on www.MLB.com. These unabashed baseball addicts interest me because they call into question the old adage:  Too much of a good thing is not so good. I wonder after it is all done if they will ever want to watch another game or will they come away as addicted as ever?

Can publishing house sponsor some gimmick like this? Can Random House, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster or St. Martin’s Press host a read-a-thon by its best authors? Would Amazon sponsor a book-a-thon to highlight the readings of its best customers? Should Barnes & Noble pay someone to read as many books on its Nook as possible over the summer? Maybe someone wants to set a Guinness Book of World Records mark for most books read and blogged about in one month?

The writing profession does get its due. There are many book and author awards out there. There are a number of best-seller lists one can make.  There’s attention drawn to a book by reviewers and bloggers.  There are public book signings. And there is countless coverage on social networking sites. But maybe the industry, as a whole, needs some fanfare. It’s been a rough few years with layoffs and consolidations, shrinking sales and store closings.

It’s time to celebrate the profession and art of writing. Go buy a book – or read one.

Or a few thousand of them.

** Brian Feinblum,  the chief marketing officer for Planned Television Arts , has been promoting and marketing authors since 1989. feinblumb@plannedtvarts.comwww.plannedtvarts.com. Please check out his blog at: http://www.bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com/.

Coming Soon: Memoir of a Six-Year-Old

By Brian Feinblum

Abroad by Thomas Crane and Ellen Houghton (Source: Wikimedia Commons)My six-year-old soon recently asked me if I can “advertise” a book that he plans to make. He doesn’t exactly know what I do for a living even though I remind him that I promote authors to the news media and market their books. But he knows enough to see that anyone – even a kid – has access to cheap technology that can create a book (regardless of the quality of the content) and he knows that it can sell with the right promotions.

I didn’t ask him what his book would be about or why he thought others would want to buy it. I wanted to applaud him for thinking this up and on the other hand I didn’t want to encourage him to put his book together because I knew it would mean I’d have to promote it.  Not that I’m lazy or disinterested in supporting his efforts. It’s just that I wasn’t sure how I’d explain all the things many adult authors seem to miss the boat on.

Too many authors think like my kid does – slap together a book and promote it. Then count the sales, right?  It’s not that easy.  Just as almost any healthy under-40 adult can have a kid, provided they have unprotected sex, that doesn’t mean he or she will be a good parent.  And so it goes with publishing.  Almost anyone can get a book published but it doesn’t mean the book is any good. And even if it’s a gem, it will need smart, relentless promoting or it will just die a quiet death.

I suppose if I did encourage my son, Benjamin Feinblum (I put his full name here so he can find himself online), to pursue his dream of getting published, selling lots of books, and becoming famous, I’d first help him think through what he plans to do.  I’d want him to think about how his book will be written, designed, and presented.  Image is becoming just as important as content. I’d ask him to define his marketplace – Who does he envision as his customer or reader?  Why will they buy from him and at what price point?  Lastly, he should tell me how he’ll promote it. Yes, a six-year-old with a business plan!

That may be a tall order to ask of a six-year old. Many adults fail to answer those questions or to deliver as promised on the answers they provide. There’s a lesson here, I think.  Technology allows us to get a book published instantly.  It also creates a marketplace and a means to promote. But behind all of the button-pushing we still can’t lose sight of the basics – you still need a compelling book, lots of energy, time, money, and creativity to promote it, and a readership that can be targeted to with the right offer.

Ben has already convinced me to participate in his other money-making schemes – a car wash, cupcake sale, lemonade stand to name a few.  Maybe publishing and marketing a book for a kid these days will become the new norm. I’m sure some other six-year-old is asking his parent to help with blogging or creating a website as we sit here now.

One thing my son has that most adult authors don’t is his innocence. He has charm and personality. Who’s going to turn down a smiling six-year-old peddling a cute little book for a couple of bucks? Maybe he should write about dogs, happiness, money, or chocolate – a big percentage of the population supports each of those things.  Throw in a charity tie-in (Let’s raise money for the homeless, maybe?), and you have a neat little package.

For publicity, do I need much of an angle beyond; “Six-year-old publishes memoir; nation’s largest book PR firm promotes it?”  Too bad Oprah is gone but I can see a Publisher’s Weekly interview, New York Times profile and a Today Show segment (albeit, hour number eight) in the cards.  At least that’s what we’ll write on the galley copy’s back cover. His mom can give a great testimonial though his three-year-old sister, Olivia, can’t quite use her crayon to write neatly.

Say, the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to see why my son suggested his publishing foray in the first place.  He has me sold on it.

Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer, Planned Television Arts, has been promoting and marketing authors since 1989. feinblumb@plannedtvarts.com 212-583-2718

What’s A Book Worth? by Brian Feinblum

Juan Gris- Portrait of Picasso-1912As the debate rages within the publishing industry over how much information is worth, a May 3rd Sotherby’s auction yielded a 170 million-dollar windfall for 44 works of art.  There was one painting – a Picasso – that sold for $21.3 million. It made me wonder why we don’t value the written word the same way.

Now, granted, books, other than ancient or rare manuscripts, will ever fetch millions of dollars, but why is information today being devalued in the marketplace?

The Internet poses many challenges to information peddlers.  Book publishers, newspapers, magazines and websites are still searching for the ideal pricing model. Part of the problem is there’s so much information out there and a lot of it is free. But the art of writing should not be commoditized, where we weigh words by the pound. It’s the quality, more than the quantity, of content that should count.

As it is, many authors fail to earn much from their work. Publishers Weekly reported on a study performed last year that showed 7 percent of all books published generate 87 percent of the sales revenue. Further, 93 percent of all published books sold less than 1,000 copies each. In fairness, many sales happen off the radar (via authors’ sites, seminars, bulk organization sales, etc.) and thus there are probably more successful authors on top of this study, but still, these are sobering statistics.

I believe book publishers have made a tactical error in making e-books so cheap. As a result, they undercut the perceived value of all published writings.  It’s a model that, the longer it persists, will be harder to reverse.  I would prefer they give extra value to a higher purchase price, rather than lower the price.

There are many factors weighing on the pricing of information, including:

  • We’re still in a recessionary mode and for some, buying a book or subscribing to a magazine poses some challenges.
  • Publishers are playing follow the leader, letting, Amazon, Apple or Walmart dictate terms.  If a publisher tries to push its own model, it has to compete against what the vast majority has established.
  • All information is competing with each other, so people are choosing what to spend on the increased choice of books, magazines and newspapers – while also reading free blogs, posts on social networking sites, and Tweets.
  • More than ever before, people are spending time creating content and writing, and therefore, devote less time reading and buying the works of others. Our nation is moving from consumers to producers of content.
  • Aside from free and purchasable information, there is a competition for time and mindshare.  People also devote hours and hours to television, radio, video games, on-demand video, and a host of other entertainment forms.
  • As the number of e-readers increases, more people will secure information digitally, and thus, the printed version of content is likely to suffer lower sales.
  • Global competition online.  Walking into a bookstore used to confront you with hundreds of thousands of choices but online, the choices extend to the millions.  Books never go out of print online and no boundary of store or country stands in the way of you accessing materials from around the globe.

In time, the dust will settle.  I would venture a guess that in a few years a clearer model of pricing will develop and the lines will blur as to what even constitutes a book. Information will merge and the distinction of what’s a book, a magazine, a newspaper or a blog will become less clear.

Just look at television and movies. The boundaries of distinction are decreasing. Not long ago the major TV networks produced content and then syndicated reruns were shown on cable stations. Now cable stations produce original shows. Netflix used to rent old TV shows and movies. Now it’s getting into the game of airing shows that didn’t air elsewhere first. More importantly, people are not going to movie theaters as often as they used to and not buying DVDs as often as they used to. They watch it on TV or through streaming online video, for free or little charge. Even worse, millions of homes are off the TV grid.

Nielsen reported this past week that three and a half percent of all homes do not own a single TV.  Some of it is attributed to the recession, although TV-based entertainment is cheaper than almost all other forms.  Some of it is attributed to the switch two years ago over the elimination of antennas, thus requiring transition to cable or the purchase of a converter box. Others may simply believe TV offers nothing of redeeming value and avoid it. But the real culprit may be the Internet. People are watching TV for free online.

So what does all of this add up to when it comes to pricing books? I would suggest publishers stop lowering their prices and curtail all of the free content to a degree. Or else look for ways to trumpet the uniqueness of a book. Authors devote their lives to their writing. Shouldn’t they get paid more than what comes out to below-minimum-wage royalties? This is true for self-publishers and print-on-demand authors: Don’t devalue your own work. Once we’re all on the same page, the market shall improve.

But if writing doesn’t pay off for you, consider investing in art. I hear there’s money to be made there.

Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer, Planned Television Arts, has been promoting and marketing authors since 1989.   feinblumb@plannedtvarts.com 212-583-2718

NAIWE members will find the recording of our April 2011 interview with Brian on the Members Only blog in the Library section of the member area. You may log in from the top of any page on the main NAIWE site.