Archives: Book Review

Trying to publicize a book, particularly by way of newspapers and magazines, can be so challenging for already published or just publishing titles that authors in this position are often turned down by publicity firms. Finding the right publicist has become a bit like finding an agent.

There is enormous value to be had in the months until publication, and when consulting with writers, this has become the starting point of any conversation. Carving out ample lead time to promote or think about promotion can make the difference between a book published proactively and a book published reactively. With 3-6 or even 8 months to plan what you want your publication to look like, the reading world is your oyster. You can begin to craft a marketing strategy including those blue sky ideas that, when you’re publicizing a book retroactively, will be near impossible to achieve. With 3-8 months ahead, you can do a lot by way of networking, social or otherwise, and have a much better shot at mainstream publicity.

But for lack of knowledge or budget, or for relying too heavily on their publishers, many authors find themselves in the retroactive position. Instead of tossing in the towel come what may, I think there are avenues to market or publicize your book in a way that builds an audience perhaps slowly, but also more meaningfully and permanently. Before you begin, it’s crucial to shift your objective from ‘buy my book!’ to ‘learn about my book and see if you like it.’ Don’t fall prey to algorithms and popularity contests. What good are those thousands of followers and friends, those form letters to no one in particular, if these are not people who would realistically enjoy your book?

Here are a few ways to use free social platforms available to everyone to genuinely connect with readers at an individual level:
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I rarely write book reviews for this blog. Recently, I fell upon a book that compelled me to write one.

Health and medicine play integral, immeasurably important roles in our lives.  And yet, we ask very few questions of our doctors. When we see our physicians, most of us try to get in and out the door as soon as possible, wipe our hands and be done with it. We conceptualize a doctor’s exam as having to do with a physical problem we want to eliminate, not an emotional experience. And very possibly, our doctors are treating us the same way. Just another problem to be solved.

But illness can have significant, even devastating, emotional consequences on patients: anger at the injustice of a disease; shame while lying naked and poked at on a table; sadness at the loss of a limb or a breast; fear at the prospect of a painful procedure.

What about the emotional impact on doctors? Has society allowed for doctors to feel? Or to fail?

The worldview that doctors are superhumans, immune to emotions and mistakes, is exactly what Dr. Danielle Ofri challenges and successfully upends in her valuable new book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine (Beacon Press; June 4, 2013). As Ofri demonstrates, drawing upon her own personal experiences and the stories of others, treatment isn’t simply a physical equation. We have read amply, and many of us know personally, about the emotional distress that endures long after a surgery or diagnosis. What we know minimally, if we consider it at all, is the emotional distress that doctors feel on the other end: how fear or grief manifests over time in the lives of doctors; how even bearing witness to a grave illness or mistake can change the way a doctor diagnoses, treats, or cares for us.

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Books are made on word-of-mouth.
At least those books that receive critical acclaim or top the bestseller charts. Think The Help or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and countless others.

This is more than publicity. This is the unquantifiable magic of human capital. No matter how much you spend, it can’t really be predicted.

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A tweet can make a difference.

I see this happen all the time. But many writers I’ve advised to blog and tweet, will grieve: “no matter what I do, I don’t see anyone coming to my blog!”

But then, suddenly, one day, one hour, and within ten seconds, that changes, and one of the most influential Twitterers falls upon your blog, and tweets about it to his thousands of followers. And suddenly, you see 20 new follows and an unprecedented spike in your web traffic; if you’re published, maybe even a spike in your Amazon ranking.

In publishing today, there is no such thing as “build it and they will come.”

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 I’ve just started a series called Book Jacket of the Week. Every week, I’ll pick something that catches my eye, and you can comment if you agree or disagree. Here is the first: do you recognize it?

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This week, the series continues with Man of La Book on the almighty powers of Twitter. You can see the first post of the series here.

Hello again, Zohar. Here’s one question that I, at least, would love to know: What makes you follow someone? Do you give it more than a moment’s thought? Are you most likely choosing on the basis of that person’s popularity or on their content? Have you noticed that following others increases your following, or has no effect?

Here is one no-brainer way to approach it: if someone follows me, I’m pretty likely to follow back. It seems indecent not to — no skin off my back! Many people believe that following back is good “netiquette:” if someone takes the time to listen to what I have to say, I like to show my appreciation.

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Why Book Blogs Matter

I recently interviewed with a blogger I like, and met on Twitter, on how I see book bloggers changing the business of publishing, and why social networking, or utilizing social media for actual networking purposeshas become a new way of “storytelling” for authors. You can read the rest of the interview here.

Q. How do you see the role of social media play­ing in book mar­ket­ing today and in the future?
I believe that suc­cess­ful books are made on the basis of word-of-mouth: whether your book club, a friend or fam­ily mem­ber, a movie some­one loved that was adapted from a book.

Word-of-mouth has never been quan­tifi­able. Nei­ther has social media.

Nor has pub­lish­ing ever really been all that inter­ested in quan­tifi­able value—that’s not where our pride is.

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Here is the last segment of this week’s social media series before we say sadly say goodbye to Man of la Book. If you missed prior posts in the series you can find them here and here. And we’ll be back with more interviews with authors, bloggers, and publishing experts on in our next series on Authors and Social Media, coming soon.

First question: are there any favorite author Twitter feeds you follow? Why?

My favorite authors to follow are Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), Chuck Palahniuk (@chuckpalahniuk) and Jason Pinter (@jasonpinter). They talk about writing, life, research, and you can always find them engaging with their followers.

It seems that the most popular tweeters constantly a) tweet constantly and b) link to breaking news, blogs, etc. According to your profile, you are a book blogger, engineer, “wood worker,” father and husband. How is that you can also tweet with such enthusiasm?

My secret is that I’m pretty good with technology. Combine that with obscene laziness and you find good solutions for such issues. I use the cotweet online utility to send out tweets at intervals (30 min. to 1 hour), but check Twitter several times a day to answer questions, interact with others or see what I might be missing (sometimes not much, but that doesn’t stop all of us on Twitter from checking anyway).

But don’t be fooled: it takes great patience, persistence and hard work. Though often a great substitute for real work.

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Authors on Twitter: A Weekly Series
In the next month, I’ll be interviewing authors, book bloggers, and other experts in the entertainment industry on best practices for using Twitter to grow a following, in all of its myriad promotional and informational ways. I’m launching this series with Man of La Book, who I first noticed on Twitter. His tweets encouraged me to look, to link, and to read–whatever he was telling me to. And at 3,000+ followers, I couldn’t have been the only one who felt similarly compelled…

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When I was twenty-two years old, I moved to Paris.  I craved the flexibility of an unstructured, lawless life, governed by creativity and self: the freedom to write or drink wine late into the hours of the night without some arbitrary wake-up call the next morning. Without someone telling me what to do, just because others were so keen to live this way.

Writers, in my both my personal and professional experience, are often as self-conscious, despairingly so, as they are ambitious. Because they are driven by the vocation of writing — in its original sense, a calling — they are capable of the longest hours, the most maniacal and solitary confinement required of the craft.

This penchant for maniacal focus, and also for personal freedom, makes writers a lot like entrepreneurs.

I left France for the simple reason that in New York, unlike Paris, you can hang a shingle on your door, and with a little luck, carve a business from out of a passion — in my case, a passion for authors and literature, a passion I could only understand because I felt it at my own core, years ago.

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