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Even though I work in publishing, it’s important to note I am not an editor and don’t work with agents outside of the marketing realm – I don’t handle book acquisitions and rarely have the chance to read a manuscript or chime in on the purchasing decisions. I don’t get to hear from authors before they are published or searching for the elusive contract, so I was thrilled when LeAnn Neal Reilly, author of THE MERMAID’S PENDANT, shared some of her thoughts with me on being a self-published author and her decision to take this unconventional route.

In LeAnn’s own (clever) words –

Getting an agent is essential to getting a publisher, but it was like looking for a husband who picked you from a lineup while he stood behind a two-way mirror. You didn’t really know what he wanted in a wife or whether you’d dressed appropriately. To make it worse, you weren’t sure if you’d like him or his looks. Most of the time, you waited and waited until you knew that nobody stood on the other side of the glass. Sometimes, you got a bit more information about how long to wait or a terse, written kiss-off. If you were really lucky, he might ask you to open your jacket and twirl around a bit, but even then you might not get any helpful feedback. You just didn’t get called into the next room to arrange marriage. At first, you’d try to be choosy and go to lineups for guys whose personal ad sounded like it had potential, but then you’d realize you might have to go to hundreds of lineups and end up with someone you couldn’t stand. Or someone who couldn’t perform in bed. Then you’d have to get a divorce and start over.

I decided to risk self-publishing to see if I could attract an agent or publisher that way. There have been enough stories in recent years to make me think that this path might become more common. It makes sense to me. It’s one way to let someone else pay the costs of developing a title and testing the market. I’ve done well enough at this point that even if I don’t get a bigger publisher, I’m happier than I would have been if I’d stuck my manuscript in a drawer or spent more months querying without success…

I commend Mrs. Reilly for taking the chance and getting her work out there. It’s a risk but it sounds like she did her research and made a well-informed decision.  I hope

As many other tours hosts have noted, THE MERMAID’S PENDANT is a looooong book.  I think the premise of “a modern fairy tale about growing up and discovering who you are” is great, but it’s lost in the length of this tome with competing subplots.  I though Tamarind, the mermaid, was an interesting character but couldn’t drum up much interest in John – her lover and the main character in this novel.

Reading this book did give me fond memories of watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid in my family’s van on road trips and I thought the descriptions of the island were gorgeous and definitely made me want to plan another tropical vacation.  I thank LeAnn for sharing her thoughts and wish her only the best in the future – and a huge thank you for the escapism found in the beaches of your novel!

Visit the other bloggers on this tour – the entire list is available here.

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I’ve been living in NYC for well over a year now and I feel pretty at home in my ‘hood – which I’d consider to be the area below 14th Street and above Canal. Having lived in the East Village and now in SoHo, I have the East -> West covered.  Once hailing from St. Marks on the verge of the  area known as Alphabet City, I would skip through Tompkins Square Park to drink Mimosas at the great brunch spot of Sunburnt Cow on Avenue C.

Author Josh Karlen recently taught me that Avenue C hasn’t always been the eclectic, colorful place it is now in his memoir LOST LUSTRE: A New York Memoir.  While I still wouldn’t hang out there alone after dark (I don’t necessarily suggest one do that anywhere, really), when he grew up on this street it was colorful due to the bruises and bleeding that would happen after his repeated beatings and muggins, and eclectic because you could buy any drug you wanted.

Karlen’s recent memoir tells of the NYC your parents used to warn you about: the grimy and dangerous, yet vibrantly alive city of the past.

Composed of separate essays, this book did have many repeating parts (I can’t tell you how many times growing up on Avenue C was referred to in varying degrees of detail) but for lack of a better term, it had a good heart.  You cared about the author as a young boy coming of age in a dangerous time, and his talented and aspiring friends.  In a vein similar to The Glass Castle, I was shaking my head at the actions (or lack thereof) of the adults in this book.  He acknowledges the lack of authority and rules, but it’s mind bogling to think that parents were that unaware, uncaring and/or oblivious.

If you’re interested in social history through the years, music, or have a tie to the Village in Manhattan this memoir may be for you!

 

About Josh Karlen:

Josh Karlen, a native New Yorker, grew up on the Lower East Side and in Greenwich Village.  A former journalist, he was a correspondent in the Baltics for United Press International, Radio Free Europe, and other news organizations.

Josh lives in New York City with his wife and two children and is a media relations specialist.

US jacket

Yes it’s Wednesday, and I’m skipping my Wordless Wednesday post (even though I have several fabulous doors to share!) because I told myself I wouldn’t  participate unless I had shared a review since my last WW.  So here I am; writing about vintage clothing instead of sharing some vintage doorways.

Last week while delayed in yet another airport, I went on a little Kindle buying spree (for conservative spenders, it’s really convenient that Kindle doesn’t give you a combined order total but charges for every title) and among the new Larsson, Evanovich and Roberts, I discovered a jewel in THE VINTAGE AFFAIR by the charming Brit,  Isabel Wolff.

While this novel has stories of romance, the protagonist Phoebe is an independent woman, who opens a vintage clothing store in London.

A warning to all you with a propensity to shop: be careful upon finishing this book! I happened to be in Newport, RI for a gorgeous wedding last weekend and found myself spending hours in the vintage store, determined to find the dress that spoke to me, as deliciously described by Wolff.  Unfortunately (fortunately for my wallet) I found no such dress, but I will keep looking.

UK jacket

Beyond the gorgeously described vintage threads, there is a story of two female friendships woven throughout.  One is that of Phoebe and her late best friend, Emma, and the other is through a connection discovered with an ill, elderly woman who lived during WWII.   The emphasis on the novel is strongly in the friendship camp, although there is a bit of romance (or discussion of the lack there of) in Phoebe’s dating life and the recent demise of her parent’s marriage.

This book isn’t life changing, though it definitely offers more depth than traditional chick lit.  It will make you think about some of your personal regrets you’ve been carrying with you, and may offer some insight on how to let it go.  Perfect read for a trip, especially if you’re escaping to a charming countryside with many vintage offerings!

Which jacket do you prefer? UK or US?

My out of office is officially enabled, letting everyone who emails me know that I will not be returning until MONDAY, JULY 12th!!!!!

Off to the Hamptons for a long, idyllic 4th of July weekend before heading  home to MI to my childhood home for the LAST TIME! I don’t know if I’ve shared with everyone, but my parents are packing up our home of 25+ years and heading South – all the way to MISSISSIPPI!  Yes, of all the places in the world to relocate to, it wouldn’t have been my first pick either (hello, San Diego!?), but I’m very excited about the opportunity for my family and look forward to a warm Christmas.  I’ve never been to MS, so if anyone has any reading suggestions I’d love to hear them!  Of course I’ve read THE HELP and plan to reread again before my first trek down there, but would appreciate additional suggestions.

Then on to Chicago, for the wedding of a college friend. I’m at that age where everyone seems to be settling down, which is both exciting and rather scary!

No worries on reading materials; my Kindle is uploaded with lots of good stuff like the  upcoming BODY WORK by Sara Paretsky, GARDEN SPELLS that was suggested by many of you (thanks, Lisa!), THE GOOD WIFE, and also two physical books I’m in the midst of enjoying: IF YOU KNEW SUZY and the upcoming book of the fall from Kensington Books, FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE.

I look forward to enlightening you all on my “vacation” (though I intend to take a tropical one in the real future that involves more umbrella drinks and less packing) readings.  I wish you all a happy 4th!!

I haven’t had my fingers cut off,  but I have felt awfully incapable of blogging lately. Maybe because I’m so nervous in anticipation of my first ever blog tour post that’s slated to go up tomorrow!  So yes, that means I WILL be updating tomorrow, since I’m a stickler for deadlines, even though I am very, very nervous…

In the meantime, I suggest that you entertain yourselves with two book trailers I’ve recently worked on, both for HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER (since I’m a far more productive worker than blogger, though I love both endeavors).

In case you don’t immediately fall in love with the bear, here’s the book jacket to help you make the connection-

“A beautifully written, thought-provoking novel that I’m telling everyone I know to read.”   –Kathryn Stockett, author of THE HELP

Tomorrow, my dear friends, is the day THE POSTMISTRESS will be on sale at your favorite bookseller.

There’s something very satisfying about seeing a project you’ve worked on for a long time come to fruition.  For so many of us here at Putnam/Amy Einhorn Books, I think that’s what THE POSTMISTRESS is.  This was the first title I read in manuscript form upon joining the Marketing department all the way back in July.  It’s hard to believe we’ve been gearing up for this novel for so many months, and I know I’m just one of many who are thrilled to unveil it to the world tomorrow.

Great excitement among reviewers has already been vocalized, including an Entertainment Weekly article that so eloquently says, “There’s both exquisite pain and pleasure to be found in these pages…”

Now, I’m excited to see what happens and have my fingers-crossed that the work of so many colleagues, and the wonderful language of Sarah Blake, is embraced by readers everywhere!  I welcome your thoughts.

I was doing so well on my two resolutions of packing lunches and updating blogs for… two whole weeks!  I’ll come back to it, I swear.

Though I’m slacking on my book reviews (though still reading, reading, reading) I’m trying out a new “page” to keep you posted, and my thoughts fresh, on many of the eating and drinking experiences I’ve had in NYC.

I’d love for you to visit my new “City Imbibing” and let me know your thoughts and if you have any suggestions/recommendations on what else needs to make the list.

I’ve been on a mystery reading binge lately!  I even tried (and ultimately enjoyed) my first noir thriller – I invite you to join me as I guest blog on Meritorious Mysteries today!

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 🙂

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!

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