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the usual and the not so usual

BOOK REVIEW: Fire & Fury Inside the Trump White House

BOOK REVIEW: Fire & Fury Inside the Trump White House

BOOK REVIEW: Fire & Fury Inside the Trump White House


Yes, I admit it. I bought it. Burn me at the stake, if you must, but I did it.

And since I bought it, I also read it and feel compelled to write a review.

*DISCLAIMER* This is not a political post and does not in any way reflect any one else’s opinion but my own.

So, have you paid even the slightest attention to the news on President Trump in the past year? You have? Oh great! Then you’ve read this book.

It’s really like a chronological compilation of all the stories you’ve heard with some behind-the-scenes action shots. This whole, “DC rocked by new book” is hysterical to me because nothing in this thing should surprise you.

The writing is fantastic. The pace moves rapidly. The stories are entertaining at the least, and a bit scary at most – unless you’ve read anything about how LBJ or Nixon ran their White Houses. I learned a lot of new words. The author is very pleased with himself and his vocabulary. Would I read something else by this author? Probably not.

Will it sway opinion on President Trump? No. His supporters will scream it’s trash, and his detractors will scream it’s the God’s own truth. Is it worth a read? If you know you are an extreme leftie or righty, don’t bother reading it. The leftie will grin with glee and the righty will seethe with anger, both unable to discern fact from fiction. If you truly can read something objectively and with a grain of salt, then go for it.

The best PR for anyone in the world is for someone to demand you not to buy something. And that’s what happened with this book. Every administration has had something like this put out about it. The reaction is what relegates it to the dust bin or the New York Times Bestseller list.

So, if you’re sick of politics or are just wondering what the hype is about, find your favorite news outlet and read the review. It will have all you need to know.

#jensreviews

 

Two Definites You Need in Book Marketing

Two Definites You Need in Book Marketing

Have you heard there is no sure thing in publishing? It’s crazy, isn’t it? Well the only sure thing in publishing is that someone already well-known could sell a book. That’s why the Big Five focus on celebrities, sports figures, politicians, and for nonfiction, those with an established platform. But I’ve had more than one book agent tell me that other than name recognition, word-of-mouth and Oprah, they don’t know what truly sells a book. They package up a publicity schedule bundle that includes book signings and book talks and events and what happens? They hope.

I have a mantra: No, is just the beginning. No, typically means “I don’t know” or “It’s too hard.” Writing a book is hard too, but you did it. Now you need to market it. Don’t take “no” for an answer ever. There is a way to make it work for you.

So, if we go off what we know, you have three ways to get to the “yes” with your marketing scheme —  name recognition, word-of-mouth and Oprah. Let’s assume you are not a major celebrity or that you know Oprah, and go with word-of-mouth. How do you build it?

In today’s super social media saturated world, it’s hard to figure out where to focus your marketing energies. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Kik, Strava, LinkedIn, Google+, Goodreads. Where to even start?

Here’s what I’ll tell you. Forget all the social media outlets except one. While most social media outlets have morphed into niche issues, Facebook continues to be the outlet with the most diverse group of users. Young folks may have abandoned it to Snapchat or Instagram, most still have a page. But readers who buy books are between the ages of 30-55. Those people are still on Facebook and there is no trend analysis showing that will change in the next ten years.

Therefore, focus on Facebook. Will you sell books there? Probably not. What you will do is build your network. This is where you build your word-of-mouth marketing. Build a Page, Build a Group, Buy Ads and Publish Cool Content.

Then, focus on Amazon Ads. This is one place on the Internet where you know people go to buy things. They’re primed for it. It’s why they go there. If you can master the art of Amazon Ads, you can get your book in the right place for a buyer to see it. There are a plethora of videos on YouTube to help you with this. Take the time to learn it, master it and sell your books.

Never take “no” for an answer. Find the “yes.” If you don’t know where to start, begin with Facebook and Amazon. Everything else is noise. When you’re comfortable with those two, then you can move on.

 

 

“No” is Just the Starting Point

“No” is Just the Starting Point

In my line of work, I’ve been called a “puppy dog yapping at my heels,” “bulldog pain in the ass,” “go-getter,” and on one occasion “the energizer bunny.” I wear each of those proudly because they mostly come from people who are not focused enough to get where they want to go. They don’t know how to get there or are motivated by the title, not the job.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Have you ever had a great idea and the immediate response from the first four people was, “No. It can’t be done”? “No” is the easy answer, right? If someone says yes, it typically means they’ll have to be more involved.

Here’s what “No” really means:

  • I don’t know.
  • I don’t care.
  • I’m threatened.

I don’t know.

Whether he doesn’t want to admit he’s ignorant on a subject or truly doesn’t know is almost irrelevant. The fact is that this person is not going to help you and unless you are his boss, move on.

I don’t care.

This is the lazy man’s response. This person punches her clock every day and does the bare minimum. You will not get where you want to go with this person or his attitude.

I’m threatened.

This person is scared you’re going to show him up. You have a good idea, and he wished he’d thought of it first. Move on before he steals it.

 

So, how does this relate to you and your marketing?

If you want to be a best seller, it takes a massive amount of effort – to write the book and to sell the book. You are the sum total of the five people you spend the most time with. If they are motivated, you’ll be motivated. If they are couch bums, complaining about why their social media won’t work with their one post every other day, then that will be you too.

What I’m saying is this. Surround yourself with people who want to get to the “Yes.”

Yes, but … here are all the things you’ll need to do to get there.

Yes, and … here are some things to do as well

Yes, yes, yes, ….. I can totally help you do this!

 

So, brainstorm your ideas for marketing. List them out. And find people to help you get to the “yes” of making them work for you.

Facebook is King of Social Media Marketing

Facebook is King of Social Media Marketing

I just read the Social Media Examiner’s 2017 Social Media Report and from their research, hands down, Facebook is the marketer’s #1 social media outlet. Usage has gone up considerably in the last few years, but here’s the thing. While usage has gone up, belief in it’s effectiveness has gone down. Way down.

So why the discrepancy?

I think there are two reasons:

One, you can’t correlate sales and ad buys. Unless you have a “Shop Now” button on your page, you simply won’t know why people decide to buy your books. I do know authors who see a considerable jump in sales after a large ad buy. But even with the “Shop Now” button, what you’ll really know is when and how many. Over time, a correlation may be found between ad buys and sales, but the current state of Facebook doesn’t help us truly figure it out.

Two, no one understands Facebook. Truly. Why does one post get likes and shares and not another of the same vein. Why do some political posts grab a reaction and some don’t? Why do Sally’s puppies make a splash but John’s don’t? This is about human nature, which is inherently unreliable and unpredictable.

What does this mean for book marketers? Because there is a difference between “ad agency” guy and publicist. I know some book marketers who have stopped buying Facebook ads altogether and rely on the author’s followers and their followers, like a pyramid scheme, to spread the word. And they use other online marketing methods in conjunction.

My take is that Facebook ads help spread the word about your page and what you’re selling. They also help you grow a followership. But your community is what keeps them around. What are you posting to Facebook? People go to the social media network to find entertainment and news. It is not a built in shopping environment the way Amazon is.

For any author, the idea is that readers get to know you and feel exclusive in their interactions with you. People, in this case readers, want to feel a part of something cool. If you create that in a Facebook Group or on your Author Page, I believe you’ll find good results. I am not discounting ads, but unless you have McDonald’s $52B ad budget, I’d probably stick to buying them at opportune times:

  • New Book Out
  • Author Event
  • Free Give-Aways
  • Important Dates
    • Birthdays
      • Yours or Your characters
      • An important member of the team
    • Anniversaries
      • Your first day of writing or attending your first conference
      • Your books
    • St Paddy’s Day
      • Because who doesn’t love Lephrecauns
      • Pick your favorite holiday and do a give away then

Stick Around! We’ll talk about setting up Facebook Group Experiences and Amazon ads in later posts.

 

 

Travel! Stay, Eat & Meet Local

Travel! Stay, Eat & Meet Local

I live in South Korea — a fiction writer’s dream! Seoul has direct flights to almost every major travel spot in Asia, which is good for me because I absolutely love to travel. The cultures are fascinating. The history is interesting. The architecture is amazing. The people are wonderful. I travel to learn and experience, and that knowledge generates tons of new story ideas.

I recently visited Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Da Nang, Vietnam. It’s nicknamed The Lantern Town because lanterns hang from every building and entranceway. The Old Town looks remarkably like it did in the 16th century with its Japanese covered bridge and the 19th century with its yellow French architecture. It’s a busy town, like a lot of Vietnamese cities with motorcycles representing most of the road traffic and tourists the rest of it. But Hoi An really comes alive at night. All the lanterns are lit and people flock to the streets. Music wafts from the bars and most places open directly onto the street. It’s warm most of the year there, so unless it’s monsoon season, shops and restaurants are partially open air.

To get the most out of any new location, I have a three-step plan: Stay local, Eat Local, Meet Local. The idea is to delve into the culture of a place and experience it, rather than just watch it, and Hoi An was no different.

Stay Local

I met a man from Florida who travels to Hoi An four times a year and stays at the same place every time, which happened to be the place I stayed this time – The Vinh Hung River Resort on the Thu Bon riverway. He told me this river was a major passageway for the spice trade back in the day, and still represents one of the busiest small commercial waterways in Asia. The front desk folks confirmed it. Now “resort” makes it sound like a large, commercial place but this little gem has only 89 rooms.

In the early evening, we’d sit on the porch and watch small boats with no mufflers cruise along the water, but no boats cruised at night because of a lack of electricity. Instead, guests heard music from across the river or just birds singing. My bed faced a wall of windows that opened directly to a back porch with loungers overlooking the river. Lilies fragranced the air, and coconut trees provided ample shade. The cool morning air was perfect for a cup of coffee and a book.

Eat Local

We did eat at the resort for breakfast since it was included but two things stand out for me in Vietnam during breakfast. Dragon fruit and pho soup. Dragon fruit is in everything – salad, casseroles, wraps – you name it, and pho soup is for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have found pho soup for breakfast is one of the most satisfying meals. It’s warm and a little salty, and it fills me up.

Every other meal was on the locals. For $24, three of us ate a dinner of spring rolls, pho soup, pancakes (banh xeo) and noodle soup. For a deeper culinary experience, we paid a little more and spent two hours at lunch learning how to make a plethora of Vietnamese dishes in a little place called Vy’s Cooking School. Thin rice noodles, thick rice noodles, rice dumplings, rice pancakes, spring rolls on rice paper. Believe it or not, they had several dishes with tofu. The hubs tried pig brain and cow tongue. As a vegan, I did not, but now I know these are some every day foods for the Hoi An locals.

Dinner was spent at a local farmer’s market, which looks more like a potluck than a farmer’s market. You start at one end of the long row of tables and each person hands you one of whatever they offer that night: mi quang (pork or shrimp & rice noodles), banh bao (rice dumplings), banh dap (rice pancake) and of course rice wine. Snag some chopsticks and you’re ready to go.

Meet Local

The resort usually gets a kickback or two from any place they recommend, so before I go anywhere, I look around online for any place I know an American might be. They’ve generally been in the location for a while and know all the best spots.

Randy’s Books was my first stop. A Vietnam War veteran owns this charming little bookstore with a pretty deep bench in the Vietnam culture and biography section. He’s a writer and when I visited was currently editing two of his friends’ books. I’m pretty sure this bookstore is in the front part of his house. The staircase has book titles on the panels, and the smell of the 18th century wood mixed with old books would intoxicate any reader.

Randy told me where Anthony Bourdain likes to eat when he’s in town and swore the best foodie experience in Hoi An is actually in a Greek restaurant run by an ex-pat. He also ticked off on his fingers temples, museums, shops and craft tours. It’s clear he does this a lot. By the front door was a rack of business cards and he handed me several. Armed with this, I set out.

 

Buddhist temple to pray, check. Japanese covered bridge, saw it. Lantern-filled streets at night to dance, yep. Boat ride down the Thu Bon, done. Local tailor for new suits, had to. Chatting with locals about their history, a must. Meeting Americans in sports t-shirts, of course.

But more importantly for me, I met and talked to real people, and that helps me develop real characters for my novels. And I drove a motorbike (actually crashed a motorbike!) and made rice pancakes and toured the alleyways not just the main drags. That’s how I can build authentic worlds for my readers. So the next time you travel, think bed & breakfast instead of hotel and hit up the local bookstore or coffee shop for ideas on where to go. Trust me, you’ll love your trip all the more for doing it!

—————

Quick travel tip:

A lot of people ask me about the language barrier, and frankly, I’ve traveled to 35 countries, and that’s never been a problem for me. If you smile and nod and point, you can communicate with anyone. But I do find it useful to learn a few local phrases: hello, thank you, where’s the restroom/taxi/train. Most locals like it when you make the effort, and frankly, it’s respectful to the culture to at least try. But definitely download the language to your Google Translate app. It may not have the most exact translation, but it will be close enough to help.