The Sharing of the Crowd

Harnessing the sharing of the crowd will often take you further than you think, and it is almost always the best place to start. We have barely begun to explore what kinds of amazing things a crowd can do. There must be two million different ways to crowdfund an idea, or to crowdorganize it, or to crowdmake it. There must be a million more new ways to share unexpected things in unexpected ways.

In the next three decades the greatest wealth – and more interesting cultural innovations – lie in this direction. The largest, fastest growing, most profitable companies in 2050 will be companies that will have figured out how to harness aspects of sharing that are invisible and un appreciated today. Anything that can be shared – thoughts, emotions, money, health, time – will be shared in the right conditions, with the right benefits. Anything that can be shared can be shared better, faster, easier, longer, and in a million more ways than we currently realize. At the point in our history, sharing something that has not been shared before, or in a new way, is the surest way to increase its value.

– from “The Inevitable” By Kevin Kelly

Interview with a Book Publicist: Shanon Stowe

– by Jana Burson

I thought it would be interesting to interview an expert in the field of book publicity. I asked my long-time friend and colleague Shanon Stowe if she would be willing to be interviewed and she graciously accepted. Shanon is co-founder and president of the book division of Icon Media Group. She has 17 years of experience in book publishing and has launched more than 50 New York Times bestselling books. Shanon formerly served as Director of Publicity for Hachette Book Group, Publicist for Thomas Nelson, Inc., and also co-owned PS Media Relations.

Shanon, you’ve been doing book publicity for quite a few years now. What would you say are some of the biggest differences in publicity today from when you started 17 years ago?

Books and authors are two of my very favorite things! I’m fortunate to have worked in the book publishing industry doing publicity for my entire career. Many things have changed over the years, but the first thing that comes to mind are the types of media coverage opportunities.

Back when I first started, opportunities seemed unlimited–we had everything from a huge variety of daily radio and TV talk shows to countless daily newspapers and a plethora of magazines to choose from. Writers and editors were aplenty and you could always find a book editor who was likely to care about your project.

As the digital age has grown, we’ve seen a huge shift in all forms of communication and gone are the days of every newspaper having a book editor and countless radio and TV opportunities to choose from.  But we’ve quickly seen a rise in other forms of media including social media platforms, podcasts, blogs and online news sites. Initially it felt like all the good opportunities were gone, but in reality, we have more now than ever before. We just have to be more creative and open-minded about new media and digital opportunities.

What are some of the greatest challenges to having what you consider to be a successful publicity campaign for a book launch?

The number one component of a successful publicity campaign is a willing, able and eager participant. The engagement of an author is vital to the success of the campaign. Believe it or not, some authors are just not interested in promoting their book. Others are only interested in promoting it with “major outlets.” And others cancel their media interviews a few hours before going on air, or simply don’t show up … which is even worse. This behavior sends a message to the media outlet and the publicist about just how seriously the author takes promoting their book and how little they value another person’s time and investment in their message. This kind of behavior also hurts the publicists’ credibility and relationship with their media contact.

Another major challenge is the competition for coverage created by the sheer volume of books being published. Estimates are that anywhere from 600,000 to 1 million books are published in the United States each year, with at least half of them being self-published. And they all want to be on the TODAY Show. Can you imagine a producer or writer wading through their email, voicemail and regular mail from all the publicists pitching these books? Having a well-connected publicist is key!

What would you say are your primary responsibilities when your firm is hired for a book publicity campaign?

My first responsibility is to know my media contacts, understand their wants and needs, and to serve them well. If I don’t get that right, I cannot be an asset to my clients. My primary responsibility to my client is to invest in their project and help craft the best messaging and pitch for positioning to media. Once the messaging is right, our sole focus is pitching and pitching and more pitching. Bottom line: we’re paid to garner as much impactful coverage as possible for the book and author.

What, in your experience, are some of the biggest misnomers about book publicity?

  • It’s easy.According to CareerCast, a PR professional has the 6th most stressful job in America, falling just after military, firefighter, and airline pilot! Enough said.
  • Media responses/bookings are in the hands of the publicist.Nothing is more frustrating for your publicist than a media outlet that isn’t interested in or is unresponsive to a pitch. A publicist wants to land as much coverage as possible for their client, but it takes time. Sometimes it takes a really long time. I recently landed a major show for a well-known author that was 5 years in the making. Seriously, I pitched the producer on this piece for 5 YEARS! In the end it was all about timing–the media outlet’s timing. It’s also worth noting that after the piece was taped, it took 5 more months to make it on the air.
  • My book failed and it’s the publicist’s fault. I’ve heard it all: the publicist didn’t do their job, wasn’t good at their job, didn’t pitch me/the book correctly, didn’t make any follow up calls, doesn’t have the best contacts, etc. At some point you have to realize that sometimes a topic doesn’t resonate, or the timing isn’t right, or that the media contact just flat out does not care. Berating the publicist about whether or not they called a producer two more times or over the exact wording they used in their pitch is not helpful. If your publicist has a proven track record of success, I promise, it’s not them.

You’ve worked with some of the most well known authors in the business, as well as with first-time authors and everyone in between. What advice would you give to an author who’s just secured their first book deal and will be working with a book publicity team in the coming months?

First of all, congratulations! Being published is an honor and the professionals inside and outside the publishing house who are helping you carry your message to the world are a treasure. A few things to remember about the publicist you encounter:

  • Your publicist is excited about you and your message.
  • Be nice to your publicist. Your publicist is the person on the front lines representing you and your message to media. Send them flowers. Or chocolates. Or jewelry. Just kidding … kind of.
  • Ask questions and be open to honest feedback. Ask your publicist about her media goals for your book and for her honest opinion about media possibilities. Be willing to hear it: your publicist is talking to media on a regular basis and has her finger on the pulse of what will and won’t work.
  • Be flexible and available. When your publicist asks you to do an interview or write an article on the fly, try to accommodate. Be willing to move heaven and earth to promote your book. Not only will it show your investment, but it also motivates your publicist to work harder for you.

 

“Platform is not a stepping stone. It is the finish line.”

That’s a powerful-and powerfully counterintuitive-way to think about your work. And the reason more people don’t think in this manner is because they are afraid. They’re afraid of carving their own path and finding nothing at the end of it. They’re overly concerned with the vanity and status consciousness of fans who are comfortable in the traditional system. They want the validation that comes (supposedly) from being given a deal or signed to a contract by an established institution – whether that’s a publisher, a studio, an agency, a gallery, or a Fortune 100. Many of us are afraid, to borrow James Altucher’s phrase, “to choose ourselves.”

The great Stoic Marcus Aurelius once admonished himself to be a “boxer, not a fencer.” A fencer, he said, has to bend down to pick up his weapon. A boxer’s weapon is a part of him – “all he has to do is clench his fist.” In developing a platform, we eschew the promotional apparatus that must be rebuilt and picked up anew with each and every launch. Instead, we choose to bind ourselves to an audience, to become one with that audience, and to become one with our weapon.

– from “Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday

Who Are You Aiming For?

In the raw, conceptual phase, it was essential that you had some idea who you were making your work for – an unaimed arrow rarely hits a target.

The intended audience is the final blank in “This is a ____________ that does ________ for _________.”

I’ve asked a lot of people that question over the years, and the list of wrong answers would fill volumes. A few particularly egregious ones are common:

• “Everyone”
• “You know, smart people”
• “The kind of people who read Malcolm Gladwell”
• “Myself”

The problem with those answers is not just that they are vague (“smart people”) or ridiculous (“myself”), it’s that such audiences don’t exist. There is no convention where Malcolm Gladwell fans get together. They don’t all read the same website. Just as every politician has to create his or her own coalition in order to win, no creator can magically inherit the audience of another. Whatever you’re making is not for “everyone” either – not even the Bible is for everyone. For yourself? I know you’re not going to be satisfied selling just one copy.

At least those answers are plainly wrong. The most common response is even more alarming. It’s the creator who answers the audience question with:
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought much about it.”

If you haven’t thought about who you are trying to reach, then what have you thought about? Presumably you have some vision of people purchasing or using this thing you’ve spent all your time making. How could you not know who they are? It’s not going to happen by accident.

– from “Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday

Screening

In ancient times culture revolved around the spoken word. The oral skills of memorization, recitation, and rhetoric instilled in oral societies a reverence for the past, the ambiguous, the ornate, and the subjective. We were People of the Word. Then, about 500 years ago, orality was overthrown by technology. Gutenberg’s 1450 invention of metallic movable type elevated writing into a central position in the culture. By the means of cheap and perfect copies, printed text became the engine of change and the foundation of stability. From printing came journalism, science, libraries, and law. Printing instilled in society a reverence for precision (of black ink on white paper), an appreciation for linear logic (in a string of sentences), a passion for objectivity (of printed fact), and an allegiance to authority (via authors), whose truth was as fixed and final as a book.

But today more than 5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Digital display manufacturers will crank out 3.8 billion new additional screens per year. That’s nearly one new screen each year for every human on earth. We will start putting watchable screens on any flat surface. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on a glass surface in a rainbowof colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls, and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work – regardless of what we do. We are now People of the Screen.

This has set up the current cultural clash between People of the Book and People of the Screen. The People of the Book today are the good hardworking people who make newspapers, magazines, the doctrines of law, the offices of regulation, and the rules of finance. They live by the book, by the authority derived from authors. The foundation of this culture is ultimately housed in texts. They are all on the same page, so to speak.

But today most of us have become People of the Screen. People of the Screen tend to ignore the classic logic of books or the reverence for copies; they prefer the dynamic flux of pixels. They gravitate toward movie screens, TV screens, computer screens, iPhone screens, VR goggle screens, tablet screens, and in the near future massive Day-Glo megapixel screens plastered on every surface. Screen culture is a world of constant flux, of endless sound bites, quick cuts, and half-baked ideas. It is a flow of tweets, headlines, instagrams, casual texts, and floating first impressions. Notions don’t stand alone but are massively interlinked to everything else; truth is not delivered by authors and authorities but is assembled in real time piece by piece by the audience themselves. People of the Screen make their own content and construct their own truth. Fixed copies don’t matter as much as flowing access. Screen culture is fast, like a 30-second movie trailer, and as liquid as and open-ended as a Wikipedia page.

People of the Book favor solutions by laws, while People of the Screen favor technology as a solution to all problems. Truth is, we are in a transition, and the clash between cultures of books and screens occurs within us as individuals as well. If you are an educated modern person, you are conflicted by these two models.

– from “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly

Don’t Worry — You’re Normal (For A Writer, Anyway)

by Kerry Connelly

 

Who’s bright idea was this, anyway?

They should have stopped me. Why didn’t they stop me?

This sucks. Like, it literally sucks any sense of self-esteem I have right out the window, it’s so bad.

Nobody is ever going to want to read this silly drivel.

Who cares about this? I don’t even think I care about this any more. Who’s idea was this, anyway?

Hey, now. That’s not so bad, that part right there…

 

Welcome to my inner dialogue. It happens every single time I write — whether it’s a blog post, a paper for school (I’m pursuing my MDiv) or my book manuscript. It’s almost a given that at any point in time, no matter how excited I am when I start out on a project, about half-way through this nasty little voice of mine will rear its ugly head and start in with its nonsense.

In addition to being a writer, however, I’m also a Certified Life Coach, and so I know a handy little secret: this cycle of mental chatter is totally normal, and knowing that is half the battle. When you understand that this voice has very little to do with your talent and ability and more to do with the way brain chemicals are released and impact your mood and desire to work on a project, you can understand that this is simply a part of the process, and you can lovingly push through the voice and continue to work.

The cycle goes like this:

1) Hey! I’m super excited about this! This is going to be amazing! I can’t wait to get started!

2) Okay, this is moving a little slower than I wanted but that’s ok. I got this.

3) Dear God, what have I done? I’m going to go back to waiting tables. At least I’m good at that.

4) Oh wait. That might be a good sentence, right there. Let’s keep going.

5) Hey! I’m super excited about this! This is going to be amazing! I can’t wait to finish this!

Here’s the breakdown: when we start a project, our brain gets excited and releases feel-good chemicals, but like any high — natural or otherwise — that only lasts for a bit. Once those happy little neuro-transmitters stop surging, so does our confidence. That’s when the voice starts getting chatty. When that happens, it could be a sign that it’s time to take a break, and go find something that will get your brain feeling good again. Then, you can come back and use those happy thoughts to propel your project across the finish line.

And most of all, remember: as much as us writers can be, you’re totally normal.  

 

Trust (part 2)

When copies [of virtually everything can be copied] are free, you need to sell things that cannot be copied. Well, what can’t be copied?

Trust, for instance. Trust cannot be reproduced in bulk. You can’t purchase trust wholesale. You can’t download trust and store it in a database of warehouse it. You can’t simply duplicate someone else’s trust. Trust must be earned, over time.  It cannot be faked. Or counterfeited (at least for long). Since we prefer to deal with someone we can trust, we will often pay a premium for that privilege. We call that branding. Brand companies can command higher prices for similar products and services from companies without brands because they are trusted for what they promise. So trust is an intangible that has increasing value in a copy-saturated world.

 

– Kevin Kelly “The Inevitable”

Flowing

The Internet is the world’s largest copy machine. At its most fundamental level this machine copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the Internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied dozens of times in an ordinary day as the cycle through memory, cache, server, routers, and back. Tech companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. If something can be copied – a song, a movie, a book – and it touches the Internet, it will be copied.

 

– Kevin Kelly “The Inevitable”

Moving A Blog to A Website

Having a blog is an important element of online success.  Even with the increasing importance of social media, you still need an easily accessible repository of your rich content.  And not every concept can fit into 140 characters, so having a place to point to from Twitter is certainly a nice thing to have.  

 

In the past, a popular way to host a blog was through a blog hosting service. But now that website hosting has become so inexpensive and easy to do, many people are moving away from hosted blogs to their own website.  I won’t go into all the advantages of doing this, but among them are (1) having your own domain name – an important, and portable, branding element, (2) greater flexibility in website functionality, and (3) faster adoption of new technologies, such as those providing a great experience on small-screen devices such as phones and tablets.

 

But is it difficult to make the transition from a hosted blog to a blog on your own website?  If you’ve been using a hosted blog based on WordPress, and you want to move to a WordPress website, you are in luck. You can easily export your blog articles to a file, then upload the file to your new WordPress website.  Depending upon the different themes used for the hosted blog and the new website, you may need to do some tweaking with the look and feel. But your content should be there, safe and sound!

Father James Martin: “A Discussion on Spiritual Writing”

The Rev. James Martin is a Jesuit priest, best-selling author, and editor at large at America, the national Catholic magazine. He is arguably the leading Catholic author.

 This extended interview includes topics such as how he approaches writing, how he selects book themes, how to think of your audience, his writing schedule, social media, view of the publishing landscape, working with editors and agents, his author role models, and more

 62 minutes including Q&A

 To view it click here

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