Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Wrap-Up

August has been a very busy month. With a few days of vacation, the Olympics, and just plain busy days, it flew by for me. I cannot believe that tomorrow is September 1.

It was another good month for us at Cumberland House. We've met our deadlines for our Spring 2009 list preparation and presentations. We've had one key account presentation already that went very well, and several more coming up throughout September. Front covers for all the new books have been designed. We had a good time developing the cover for Wine Savvy and I appreciate your input and participation. I can hardly wait for you all to see our new catalog--both for the new books as well as the effort in the new design and presentation of the catalog itself.

We wrapped up this month with a special visit from new Cumberland House author, Dr. Michael Aziz. Dr. Aziz has written a diet book that we will be publishing in Fall 2009 called The Perfect Ten Diet, about balancing ten hormones for weight loss and better health. Dr. Aziz took a few days away from his busy Madison Avenue practice in New York to spend time with us in Nashville teaching us about his diet and working on our plans to launch the book. Several of us in the office will be starting the diet together this fall. If you are interested in joining us, send me an email ( and I'll get you an advance copy of the manuscript. Look for more blog posts on that in the days ahead.

Here are the headlines from August's posts:

And here is a list of posts by topic:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Five Pieces of Advice to Avoid Becoming "That" Author

Today I got an email from an author with effusive praise for a job well done. I passed it along to the people really deserving the credit and got back this reply from one of my teammates: "Holy crap a positive word from an author... the thud you heard was my jaw hitting the floor :)"

Obviously, this was a tongue-in-cheek response (as noted by the :)), but it illustrates a point. It is so important for an author to protect how he or she is received and perceived inside the publishing house. At any given time, the publishing team at CHP is working on twenty books that just released last cycle, twenty books releasing now in this cycle, and twenty books about to release next cycle, each with their own demands and expectations. This is an emotional business with a high degree of personal investment. Often times, we don't hear from authors until something has gone wrong. So I offer you some advice for navigating the sometimes tricky relationships with your publishing team.

1. Find a champion and treat them like gold. Be it your publisher, editor, publicist, a sales person, customer service, whomever--find one person you "connect" with and develop a genuine relationship with them.

2. Use email, not the phone, to ask questions and share ideas. It allows you to say exactly what you mean and it allows the person you are emailing some space to get the answer rather than feeling put on the spot. It also provides an easy way to follow up and keep record of it.

3. Limit emails. Make sure that every contact is important and positive. Don't email so often that it becomes a topic of discussion in the office. The last thing you want is to provoke the thought, "Not her again."

4. Email the right person for the issue in question. Consider whether the issue is editorial, marketing, sales, financial, or new book idea, and email the appropriate contact. Think about what it is you hope to accomplish and ask yourself if you think your email will get what you are after before you push "send."

5. Give thanks and praise. Personally, I thrive on affirmation. I can't get enough of it. I've told my wife that I'd prefer she tell me, "I believe in you," more than, "I love you." But keep it real. The goodwill a kind word will buy you is priceless and will take you exponentially further than any browbeating or tongue lashing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How to Get the Most Out of the Author/Publicist Relationship

This article appears courtesy our friends at Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists

Help Me, Help You

It would seem like common sense for authors to treat their publicist with kindness and respect. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Publicists often bear the brunt of authors’ disillusionment and frustration when his or her book doesn’t become an overnight success. If this sounds all too familiar, its time to rehab your attitude. The following are five “difficult” author types and the accompanying cures to become the kind of author that your publicist loves to work for.

1) The primadonna. It happens more often than you think. Some authors really think shouting and swearing at their publicist for allegedly not doing their job properly is the way to get results. Would you do the same to your doctor or accountant?

Cure: Become team player. Ask your publicist what you can do to complement his or her efforts. Keep an eye on the top news stories, and inform your publicist about current events that tie into your book. Draft opinion pieces that your publicist can place in the media. Compile tip sheets on practical topics related to your book. Mine any unusual hobbies or anecdotes from your personal biography and put them at the disposal of your publicist. Are you scheduling book signings and speaking engagements that your publicist can leverage for media opportunities? Have you provided a list of your top media priorities? Your publicist will love to brag about how helpful you are.

2) The unrealistic author. “When will my book be reviewed by The New York Times?” “Have you heard back from Oprah yet?” Please stop bugging your publicist about booking you on Oprah. Most authors don't have a realistic view of just how serious the competition for national publicity really is.

Cure: Get practical. Don’t compare your experience to your peers. Fiction and non-fiction books will simply not get the same kind of publicity. Remember that the amount of books produced each year has increased while the amount of media opportunities for books has decreased along with circulation figures. Realize that even relatively successful authors have trouble attracting and sustaining national media attention. The key is to build momentum. Start with your local media. Once you have several articles and interviews under your belt with your local press, regional and national press are more likely to pay attention.

3) The control freak. This is the author who calls everyday to check on the progress of the campaign. The author who sends email after email trying to control the minutiae of the campaign process. The author who completely re-writes the press release in “sales-speak” so that it barely resembles the original.

Cure: Go Zen (let go). Realize that the more time your publicist spends communicating with you about the campaign, the less time he or she is actually on the phone talking to the media about your book. There are an infinite number of variables that affect the success (or failure) of a book: competition, breaking news, conflicts of interest, timing, author credentials, marketing budget, cover design problems, etc. Hire a publicist you trust, and then let them do their job. They’re the experts.

4) The literary snob. Who can forget Jonathan Franzen’s public ambivalence toward his selection for Oprah’s Book Club in 2001? While some authors would have reacted to such astonishing good fortune by expressing heartfelt gratitude, Franzen offered whiny insults instead. Oprah eventually cancelled his appearance and Franzen lost an incredible opportunity to get his message out.

Cure: Adjust your attitude. A lot of authors talk about wasting their time on interviews with small-town newspapers and radio stations. The truly successful authors know that everything counts. With the consolidation of media ownership, articles that appear in local newspapers can often be picked up by wire services and syndicated to hundreds of newspapers around the country. Interviews with seemingly tiny radio stations have been tapped by NPR and broadcast nationwide.

5) The absentee author. This is the author who can’t be reached via phone, who takes days to answer an email, who doesn’t clearly communicate availability, or who cancels and/or reschedules at the last minute.

Cure: Set priorities. Authors generally only have three months after a book’s publication date to make an impact with the media. Use your time wisely. Good publicists know how to work within the media’s chaotic process, but author flexibility is the key ingredient for a successful campaign. Authors miss valuable media opportunities all the time when they don’t understand that reporters live by the deadline. Keep your publicist informed of your schedule. Make sure he or she has all of your contact info. Answer requests for interviews in a timely manner. You just might become your publicist’s new best friend!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Penguin's Internet Advice for Authors

Publishing 2020 blogger Joe Wikert recently pointed to this incredible resource for authors developed by Penguin Group USA. It is a free 64-page document called Internet Advice for Authors: Getting Started, Getting Online, and Getting Noticed. It contains some great advice for those just getting started. Topics include:

Getting Started
1. What is Online Marketing?
Why you need to be on the Web - How we can help - Basic decisions
2. Domain Names
How to register a domain name - Choosing a domain name -
What to do if your domain name is taken - You have your
domain name. Now what?
Getting Online
3. Web Sites
Working with a designer - What should the site consist of? - Pointing your domain name
to your Web site (“Hosting”)
4. Blogs
How to set up a blog - Blogging best practices - Marketing to blogs
5. Multimedia
Photos - Audio – Video - Flash
Getting Noticed
6. How to Use Third-Party Sites
Amazon – Facebook – Myspace – Google – Wikipedia – Youtube – iTunes - Flickr

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Meet Brian Ellsworth

Brian Ellsworth is a national accounts sales representative for Cumberland House. Brian maintains select national accounts and specializes in pursuing nontraditional and special market sales. Prior to coming to Cumberland House Brian worked in purchasing and customer service.

As far as "something about him no one would guess," I would have totally guessed what he wrote. Brian is one of the nicest, most giving people you'll meet. Now, I would not have guessed anything about "Travel agent school." Sounds like there may be a good story there. . .

Name: Brian Ellsworth

Childhood nickname(s): Lounge Lizard (never sat straight up in my chair)

Title: National Accounts Sales Representative

Hometown: Springfield, IL/Murfreesboro, TN

Education: Travel agent school

How long in current job: 7 months

Previous job: Purchasing Coordinator, Schneider Electric

Dream job: Not Sure. Having fun with this one!!

Passionate about: My Children

What are you reading? Trying to find time to start The Shack

What’s on your iPod? I’m still behind the times; I don’t own an iPod (I do accept donations though)

Tell us something about you that no one would guess: I spent a week in Mississippi helping with cleanup after Hurricane Katrina

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Future-Proofing the Book Business with Library Journal

This is an exciting time for publishing. The culture has shifted. What readers want, how they interact with words, and the way they read have changed, thanks in largest part to technology.

The 8/15/2008 edition of Library Journal features a cover story on "Future-Proofing," where LJ emailed their "Movers & Shakers," a group of industry innovators, for their ideas on how to ensure a vital library for the future. That same issue includes the articles "In Ebook Race, iPod Touch Is a Contender" and "Broward Library Circs Sony Readers" about how the Broward County Library system in Ft. Lauderdale has started a program to loan Sony ebook reading devices. Beyond LJ, I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that I have heard, read, or used the word "Kindle" every day in the last six months.

I've written before that I believe the printed book itself is a brilliant piece of technology--portable, durable, compact, user friendly, instant, economical. Books also have aesthetic and emotional value that will keep them around for a long, long time. I find it interesting and encouraging though, that our entire industry is having similar conversations about the future. I've excerpted pieces from the "Future-Proofing" article below. Substitute the word "library" with "publisher," or "book," or "author," and see what it means to you.

Hire people who eat, breathe, and sleep libraries, information, and community—and want to do those things at your library. These are the people who will relish finding new, innovative ways to connect their community to the library.—David Lee King, '08

We can't continue to do what we've always done—we need latitude from administrations and funding sources to take risks and be proactive and responsive.—Jennifer Nelson, '08

Out Front
We need to dismantle systematically the barriers to change that discourage innovation and creativity; we can pay close attention to the wildly successful experiments happening in the private sector and find applications for them in our libraries.—John Blyberg, '06

I believe relevancy is the key, not sustainability. It can be detrimental to libraries to become too focused on trying to achieve long-term sustainability that we miss out on remaining relevant to our communities' current, vital (and, yes, even sometimes short-term) needs. —Helene Blowers, '07

Social Capital
Libraries represent thoughtfulness, peace, and possibility, and we should strive to keep them as transparent and accessible as possible. —Char Booth, '08

Local Value
A 21st-century library may be more digital or more technological, but the items collected by a special collection will continue to bring the patron into the building.—Mark Greek, '08

Don't stay behind the desk...or even in the library. Go out as much as you can. Do outreach in all languages, form a multitude of community partnerships, meet people where they live and congregate. Involve them. “Nothing for us without us”!—Lynne Cutler, '04

Design Thinking
We must use design thinking to create great library experiences for our users, because when people can get their information anywhere, all that can differentiate our libraries is the unique experience we can deliver—but it must be based on personal relationships, it must deliver meaning to the user, and it must be well designed. —Steven J. Bell, '02

The future of libraries lies in being community convergence points or gathering places—the place that you go to not only to get books and information but to access services, the Internet, and literacy courses. —Caroline Hallsworth, '03

Our existing organizations of knowledge (Dewey, LOC), our existing architectures, and the library cultures that support them, are crippling libraries and threaten our future vibrancy and place within society.
Bonnie Peirce, ‘07

While it is important to work as an individual it is critical in future-proofing to also work within in the community with elegant perspectives about others and connections to community and funding sources.—Lisa Weaver, ‘06

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Such Thing as Bad Publicity? --or-- Irony: Another Reason I Love this Business

Independent publishing house, Chelse Green, made the trades last week for crashing through a book about Barrack Obama in time for the Democratic National Convention. Publishers Weekly reported that the publisher would make 2000 advance copies available exclusively through Amazon. When I read a short news blurb in a daily e-mail from PW I thought it was an interesting strategy but it struck me more as a publicity gimmick in a crowded field of political books.

Today the story has surfaced again, this time in PW, Publishers Lunch, the AP, and The Wall Street Journal.

From Publishers Weekly:
Barnes & Noble has cancelled its 10,000-copy order of Obama’s Challenge, a book by Robert Kuttner that Chelsea Green is making available early exclusively through B&N's decision follows in the wake of independent booksellers' outrage over the book being sold early exclusively through B&N spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating said Chelsea Green's move "effectively takes away sales from all booksellers in the period when the predominate sales of such media related titles typically occur. Our initial order was based on the book being available to all booksellers simultaneously—an even playing field—which is common practice in book publishing." She continued, "We... believe the appropriate perspective is for the publisher to show appreciation to the bookselling community that has supported Chelsea Green for many years. To couch their action as a bold political move is a red herring for unfair business practices."

From Publisher's Lunch:
Chelsea Green president Margo Baldwin insists to the WSJ "that she struck an exclusive agreement with Amazon 'because it was the only way we could get advanced reading copies to the Democratic National Convention on time and make the book available on the first day of the convention, Aug. 25'"--which may pass unnoticed by consumers, but will not satisfy anyone in the trade. More to the point, Baldwin says, "This is part of a strategy to get the buzz going so that demand will escalate and the copies will sell through at all outlets when the main printing arrives."

I love Barnes & Noble. I love independent booksellers. I love Amazon. They are all great customers for CHP and I shop at all three with about equal frequency. Even more, I love this industry. There is a strong sense of community. We cheer for the little guy and for justice. There is high regard for playing fair and standard practice. We value independence and independents. We like to discuss issues and express opinions. And, most are intelligent enough to quietly appreciate the many ironies of this entire situation.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Headlines - Blogs to Read

Here are a few headlines from other blogs I enjoy that I think you may appreciate and enjoy too.

WildFire Marketing
Rob Eagar, founder of WildFire Marketing, recently sent me a message asking if I'd check out an audio file he created to help authors with media interviews. I finally managed to carve out some time to listen to Rob's file and I highly recommend it to any author who looking to leverage media interviews to promote their book.

Ten Things that Agents and Editors Hate
The following are ten things agents and editors hate. They hate when:
#1: Writers claim no competition exists.
Competitive or comparable books usually exist. Rarely does a book have no competition.
#2: Writers claim their books will be. . .

10 Blog Traffic Tips
In every bloggers life comes a special day - the day they first launch a new blog. Now unless you went out and purchased someone else's blog chances are your blog launched with only one very loyal reader - you. Maybe a few days later you received a few hits when you told your sister, father, girlfriend and best friend about your new blog but that's about as far you went when it comes to finding readers.

When members of the media hear about books and authors, one of their first moves is to find out more about them on the Internet. It’s become standard procedure. Since journalists and producers are always looking for stories, they want to learn about authors: who they are, what they’ve accomplished, what others have said about them, whether they’re interesting and unique, and how they present themselves.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Do You Want to Discuss?

I've probably been staying up too late watching the Olympics but I am really tired and feeling pretty blogged out. If I'm tired of hearing my thoughts, you must be exhausted.

I'd like to get some feedback on topics you'd like to discuss. Do you have questions about publishing? Do you have an idea to promote your book or a success story to share?

I feel a bit like Linda Richmond. "Ill give you a topic. The Progressive Era was neither progressive nor an era. Discuss!"

I invite you to please post a comment or question to start a new line of discussion.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Reader is the Boss

We've been having a lot of discussion around Cumberland House recently about digital publishing and how and where we are getting in the game. Clay Shirky, author of the book Here Comes Everybody, about how social tools like the Web and mobile phones are transforming society, wrote a great article called "Mattering to Readers" in the 8/4/2008 edition of Publishers Weekly. The subhead of Shirky's article is, "Some advice to publishers from an Internet guru and author about how to survive in the digital age," and I think he made some very good points.

"A book isn't just a collection of 80,000 words on paper. A blogger can build that up in a few months. A book is a collection of words that have been obsessed over by people other than the writer. That's what a publisher does, and that process helps a book become a focal point for a conversation or an argument."

"Publishers can no longer rely on production or distribution as special capabilities, thanks to a variety of technologies, from PayPal and Amazon to the Espresso and the Kindle. Publishers also can't out-web the Web; a 'quickie' book still takes eons in Internet time."

"To stay in business, publishers must do something besides fronting the cost of printing and distribution, and the most important thing they can do is tell a reader, 'You've never heard of this author, but you should give this book a read,' and have the reader trust them."

"For publishers to matter, they will have to matter to readers."

Today I handed off to our editors most everything I have in hand related to our Spring 2009 books with a word of encouragement and empowerment: "I am looking to each of you to make your books the best they can be. I am sincere in my view that the reader is the boss—not Ron, not the author, not me. It is the reader we have to make happy first so if you have an idea that will give the reader a better experience (cut this, add that, move this over here) consider yourself free to work it out with the author and make it so. "

So if you get a call or an email from your editor suggesting some changes to your manuscript, hear them out, and remember, the reader is the boss.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Importance of the Proposal, Submission Guidelines, and R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Recently I read a post on Ted Savas' blog, A Publisher's Perspective, about Savas Beatie's success with history and military book clubs which Ted attributes to the quality of their books and the partnerships they have with their authors. One excerpt especially stood out for me:

"And let me tell you, Savas Beatie authors work hard. They are routinely courteous, very helpful to others, and absolutely love what they do. And we screen them much more thoroughly than some probably even know. (A warning to prospective authors: one fellow was rude and short recently on the phone with one of our staff when he was told to submit his manuscript using the guidelines found on line. When he did so two days later, I immediately rejected his work. If he is rude about protocol, we don't want to work with him. And I told him exactly that.)"

Unfortunately, I found myself in exactly the same position this week. To quote specifically from my rejection letter, "At Cumberland House we attempt to foster a sense of business partnership with our authors. Your lack of respect for our procedures and employees, the incomplete proposal, and the limited communication options are all indicators that that a healthy partnership with you is not a likely option so I am rejecting your book proposal and wish you all the best in your pursuit of the right publishing partner for this project."

I share this to express appreciation to Cumberland House authors who truly are great publishing partners, to encourage my Cumberland House teammates that we won't tolerate disrespect, and lastly, as a word of advice for prospective authors.

1. Write a good book proposal. Small business advisers stress the importance for entrepreneurs to create and maintain a business plan as the dynamic document that establishes the vision, defines the market, analyzes the competition, and spells out the goals. Your book proposal is your business plan.

2. Research prospective publishers' submission guidelines and follow them.

3. Treat people with respect.