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Growing up, I associated my “community” with distance – however far my parents were willing to drive to deliver me to play, and later the mileage I covered in my own car, cabs, trains, and planes.

As I’ve continued to age, the boundaries shifted from place to place, but frequently covered tangible ground. Within my community were others that shared similar interests and hobbies and had somewhat comparable moral values. Under their influence, I purchased clothing, drank my first wine cooler, and got my navel pierced. Obviously, my most prevalent hobby/interest has always revolved around books (even in my “rebel” years). And since reading is typically a lonesome activity, when I meet those rare souls with whom I can banter, discuss and share favorite authors and writing styles, I hold on tight. Luckily, with the advent of social media, connecting with people has never been so easy.

Thanks to noted technology, my community is no longer limited by distance. I can find people with shared libraries by a quick blog search, or if I’m really lazy just log into GoodReads or LibraryThing and see whose bookshelves are most similar. I can get personal book suggestions, read intelligent reviews, and even win the occasional new release through blog giveaways. So while my community may no longer be on speed dial, it is very accessible.

Earlier this month, the Denver Post questioned the future of book blogs in the interesting article, Who Will Write the Future? While the article is examining the more prestigious litblogs and discussing pay walls, I think it overlooks the importance of the book blog that may be “more enthusiastic than professional.”

…ok, now that you’re hooked, why don’t you stumble on over to the complete article at Beneath the Cover for a little thumbs up action 🙂

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Thanks to Twitter for the endlessly engaging string of content and link sharing, I’ve come across what has quickly become my favorite column in Huffington Post.  Not only is the woman funny, humble and smart, but she’s also an author here at Penguin.

Since obviously I’m terrible at posting my own content (writing, for me, is one of those things so easily pushed around or shifted to make time for other endeavors, ugh) I’m going to re-post (call me an aggregator of content) my all time favorite Joanne Rendell column!  Additionally, after you enjoy this witty and insightful column on making reading the “healthy and attractive ” lifestyle choice (come on people, cheaper than the prescription drugs the pharma companies sell us!) and take a gander at Joanne’s latest title, CROSSING WASHINGTON SQUARE. Oh, and don’t forget to enter my first giveaway! It’s for an author and book, both of which I’m very fond…

Time to Sell Reading: What the “Good” Publishing Industry Needs to Learn from the Big “Bad” Drug Industry

Author Joanne Rendell

Author Joanne Rendell

I’m going to preface this post by saying I know absolutely nothing about marketing. I have a PhD in literature, not an MBA. I’m married to an NYU professor, but I’ve never been near the business or marketing schools. Furthermore, even though I’m a published author, I don’t know much about the machinations of the publishing industry either. Yet in spite of my lack of knowledge in these areas, I want to make the bold step of offering the publishing industry some marketing advice.

Here goes: “Publishing industry, listen up, it’s time to sell reading.”

The book industry needs to make the act of reading sexy and hip, enviable and sought-after. Instead of putting all their rapidly declining marketing dollars behind single authors and their new releases (think of those rather dull ads on the subway or in magazines which feature an author’s grinning face, a book cover, and a few generic “thumbs up” quotes), why don’t publishing companies run campaigns which would make reading itself a desirable lifestyle choice? Why not help craft a new, exciting, and sexy “reading” identity for people to aspire to? In short, why not take a leaf out of the drug industry’s marketing book?

Now, I concede, the publishing world is a very gentlemanly place. Even though sales are declining, digital media is encroaching, and bookstores are closing every day, the people in the book industry still pride themselves on being good, moral, and thoughtful people. Rejection letters are kind, verbal contracts are held firm, booksellers aren’t too pushy, and lunch at the Algonquin Hotel between editors is an amiable, bookish, and cerebral affair.

The idea that this “good” publishing world might emulate the big “bad” drug industry would probably send the Algonquin’s fine silverware trembling and independent booksellers weeping onto their carefully selected front tables. But the pharmaceutical companies know what they’re doing and they’re doing it well (along with banks, they are now the most successful businesses in the world). If the publishing industry wants to survive, it might have to suck it up and start studying all the tactics employed by the drug industry which sell us a happier, healthier, smiling, sexier life — all thanks to drugs.

“Educating consumers to the virtues of a product sometimes entails altering the cultural environment surrounding the consumption of that product,” says Kalman Applbaum in his book The Marketing Era: From Professional Practice to Global Provisioning. For a successful example of this, Applbaum shows how drug companies managed to change the “cultural environment” surrounding depression in Japan and thus open up a whole new market for their products: SSRI antidepressants.

In the past, there was “considerable stigma” attached to mental illness in Japan, according to Applbaum. But working “synergistically,” four big drug companies waged a multi-faceted campaign to “increase awareness of depression.” They used ads, newspaper articles, and glossy waiting room brochures. They sponsored the translation of best-selling books from the US which acclaimed SSRIs. Throughout the campaign, the motive was the same: to awaken “public consciousness to the symptoms and treatability” of depression.

Running ads with smiling and sexy people reading books will only be a start. As the Japanese example shows, a campaign to change a “cultural environment” must be advanced on all fronts. It will require competing publishing houses and competing book sellers to work together to shake off old stereotypes about reading and readers (“lonely women with cats,” “geeky professors,” “bespectacled librarians’). It must help forge a new and brighter image of the 21st Century reader — a reader who will not only be hip and sexy, but who will also buy books.

I have no idea exactly how this will be done (I refer you back to my first paragraph). But I have some thoughts for anyone who cares to listen. New spaces need to emerge where people will meet and discuss books and, importantly, be seen and respected for discussing books. TV and movies need to show sexy readers, much like they showed sexy smokers back in the day. Celebrities need to be caught reading books — or Kindles — on the beaches of the Caribbean. Book groups should not be left to form themselves; they need to be propagated and supported by the book industry. Expert voices should be everywhere, in newspapers and on Oprah, talking about the intellectual, personal, health, and even sexual benefits of reading!

Books can offer us so much. They can offer deep insights, escapism, healing, empathy, knowledge, and revival. They can illuminate who we are, our dreams, our deepest fears and our sufferings. Books can change us in profound ways. They can make us laugh and cry, desire and yearn. Surely, there is way to market these incredible offerings and help people want to be readers.
Joanne Rendell is the author of the newly released Crossing Washington Square (Penguin), a novel about two women who are hip and smart and beautiful – and very passionate about books!

According to Jane

According to Jane

Yes, this is my FIRST BLOG GIVEAWAY so please be kind and participate!

It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett’s teacher is assigning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From nowhere comes a quiet “tsk” of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who’s teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author’s ghost has taken up residence in Ellie’s mind, and seems determined to stay there.

Jane’s wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go—sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane’s counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham.

Still, everyone has something to learn about love—perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie’s head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending…

I am not a Jane Austen fanatic.  Truthfully (ashamedly), I’ve never even read

My Austen "collection"

My Austen "collection"

the works of Ms. Austen, though I have her large red omnibus on my bookshelf, along with an old garage-sale copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the same book with the irresistible, re-designed cover from Penguin classics.  They are on my ever growing, never dwindling shelf of to-be-reads (I’m sure many of you can sympathize).

So even though I’ve never officially been introduced, I now feel I’m on intimate terms with Jane, after hearing her wit and euphemisms through the voice of author Marilyn Brant and in the head of protagonist Ellie Bartlett, in the debut novel ACCORDING TO JANE (Kensington Press, Sept. 29, 2009).

While the premise sounds odd (Jane Austen in a role similar to an invisible friend or “A kind of literary twilight zone thing”), the witty banter, lovable characters and unforgettable story take me to my happy “I don’t actually want this book to end but I just want the characters to find what they’re looking for” place.

Brant manages to jump around time and place without making you lose a second of the story to confusion.  She has the rare ability as an author to take you from reliving your awkward high school years along with Ellie (and the traumatic male/female interactions) to within the psyche of a single, searching, adult woman in the next paragraph.  Ellie is a unique female protagonist that I find endearing in her failures and utterly relateable in her fears, while trying to find herself (though I wish she weren’t already worried about marriage at the mere age of 26!).

It’s no surprise to me that this book took home the coveted Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements in 2007.  Brant has the humor of Sophie Kinsella with the best-friend-esque (made that up) intimacy of Jennifer Weiner.  The sex scenes are humorous in an actual funny, relatable way as opposed to the over-done, awkward to read (unless that’s just me) scenarios found in other novels featuring “strong romantic elements.”

Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant

In an effort of full disclosure, I was lucky enough to meet Marilyn back in June, when I wrote an article on the romance genre.  But, just because I like you doesn’t always mean I’ll like your book – so imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered my friendly, vivacious penpal can translate her personality so splendidly to an entire book!  I invite you all to hurry and visit Marilyn at her personal blog Brant Flakes ASAP, so you can boast about how you “knew Marilyn Brant before she was a huge author”!  Even better, visit her blog and let her know you’ve already pre-ordered ACCORDING TO JANE and are anxiously awaiting its arrival (discounted to only $10.29 – a steal! I’m thinking book club…)!

I admit, I’ve already read my bound manuscript twice and have thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself laughing even more — in one instance, out loud at sushi by myself in NYC – now that got me some looks.

And now for the fun part:

  • Do you like free books?
  • Are you a Jane Austen fan?
  • Ready for some new chick-lit/women’s light contemporary fiction?
  • Enjoy reading a new voice?

Marilyn was nice enough to send me two extra bound manuscripts PERSONALLY SIGNED (!!!) for your reading & reviewing pleasure!!!! Hurry now for these limited pieces.

To enter to win your copy of ACCORDING TO JANE, please comment below including your email address.  For an additional entry, share your most embarrassing high school makeout (ok kidding…unless you want to – I would reward you!) – for an extra entry up to 1/day, tweet this giveaway with a link and include my @novelwhore handle.  The contest ends Friday, September 25 at 11:59PM EST.  I’ll contact the two winners via email, and you must respond within two days to claim your prize.

My friend Elyse over at Pop Culture Nerd (a far superior blog, I highly suggest visiting regularly!) is asking people to share their motivation for choosing a new book to read.  Interesting right?

What drives you – is it a friends’ recommendation?  A great priceReview in the NYT? Sick of seeing it on Twitter and not contributing to the conversation?  Whatever it may be, I ask that you comment here as I am intrigued and you don’t want to be responsible for keeping me up at night…

The Chosen OneLast night, after a few drinks for a friends’ bday and a sleepless night before, I was ready for an early bedtime.  Since reading before bed is like a religious ritual for me, I decided I would just grab a YA novel for some quick, light reading.  Well, I made the wrong decision when I pulled THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams from my (new, beautiful and well organized) shelf.

This novel follows Kyra, a 13 y/o that is one of 20 siblings living in a polygamist cult ruled by a Prophet that oversees the lives of his apostles.  Oversees may be too kind of a word – dictates, rules, decides all fit as well.  Kyra has a tough time conforming and living within the rules of the commune, especially after becoming a member of the library on wheels and diving into the outside “world of satan”. When she is chosen to be the 7th wife of her 60 y/o uncle, Kyra realizes she has to make some big changes.

I used to be so very intrigued by the Amish, but now the polygamists have my undivided attention in the sector of my brain focused on “I don’t understand why the hell people live like that.”  At least the Amish people don’t do harm unto others – it seems to be similar to get out of a polygamist situation is more similar to leaving a gang.  While this novel is fiction, there is murder by weapons as well as by lack of medicine.

I’m still astounded by the lack of power found within the family – Kyra’s father seems to be more human than the cult leaders (though he does have three wives) but he has no influence over his daughter being married off to his brother (hard to believe, right?).  And it’s so sad in the story because Kyra believes her dad can take care of the situation – equivalent to my dad going along with my sister or I being sold into sex slavery.  I want more details – this story is starkly written, without the everyday details I would find fascinating, like no descriptions of the clothing and few details about the father dividing time between wives.

I finished this book without moving from my bed, and when done I ran out to give it to my roommate and instructed Women in a Polygamist Culther to read it immediately.  So much for a good nights sleep – I was thinking about this story (and wishing for a sequel!) and the real lives of the Warren Jeffs followers.  I’ve already added STOLEN INNOCENCE to my shopping cart, to dive into the true story of one young girl who lived Kyra’s fictional life as a teenage bride in a polygamist society.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
  • Title: THE CHOSEN ONE
  • Author: Carol Lynch Williams
  • St. Martin’s Griffin

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