Monday, June 11, 2012

Help From My Friends - Kevin Kaiser

Good Monday evening, everyone!

I hope this post finds you well. Today's guest is Kevin Kaiser, an uber-intelligent publishing professional working on both other people's writing and his own. When this boy speaks, you must listen - it will only help you. Not that I would call him a soothsayer, but much of what I have heard him talk about has come to fruition in he publishing world. Read on, folks.

What is/was the most important step in getting yourself established in the industry?

KK: Oddly enough, it wasn't one step but just learning how to be patient. Everyone's looking for the silver bullet or the shortest path to whatever it is they're trying to do. When I stopped trying to push and force things that's when I started becoming established. It just takes time.

I think libraries all hold a near-and-dear place in our hearts, what is your take on the situation of libraries and how can we help stop the downward spiral?

KK: It would be a tragedy if libraries went away. They're community centers as much as they are book repositories. The only way to stop the spiral is to become more involved in our communities. Sometimes we're so consumption minded that we forget about the important stuff around us. Libraries are one of those things.

If there is only one book people can read of yours, what should it be?

KK: I helped author Grey West with a project called Double Barrel. It's a serialized zombie thriller set in the 1800's. It's The Walking Dead meets True Grit. I'd start with Episode 1 of Double Barrel.

What is the biggest pitfall in the publishing industry that people should stay away from?

KK: (Laughs.) Is there just one? I think it might be this: believing that the most important relationship is between the publisher and the reader. It's not. Does anyone remember who published The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter? The most important relationship is between the author and her audience.

Getting international book deals is another cog in the wheel of success, how should authors go about doing this?

KK: Working with a foreign rights agent is the best way, but most agents won't work with an author unless they are already published and have some level of success. International publishers are looking for authors with cred.

With more authors relying strictly on e-book sales for their success, what is the one thing that is being overlooked in the e-book industry that people should be focusing on?

KK: If I knew that I'd be rich.

Kindle Select - good or bad?

KK: Anything that locks you into a walled garden without a significant amount of upside is bad in my opinion. I'm not sure the upside is there anymore.

With the declining sales of print books, what do you feel needs to be done to resurrect this portion of the industry? At this point, can it come back?

KK: It will normalize and level out. Every new technology has a steep spike early on before it finds a reasonable, organic growth rate. Print will never be what it once was, but it'll never go away in my opinion. It's still the majority of sales and it'll probably stay that way for awhile.

When editing, how do you separate yourself from the book to make it better when your editor gives you constructive criticism you  may not agree with?

KK: Practice. The first time working with an editor is terrible. But with time you learn how to hear people and learn how to glean the things that truly matter from those that don't.
What has been the best way to promote your work (knowing that success is different for each individual)?

KK: Word of mouth using social media. It's painfully slow, but that's part of the deal.

With so many self-publishing options out there now, apart from making more money (as stated time and time again by Joe Konrath) what is the biggest pro and biggest con of going about it yourself?

KK: The upside is that you can do anything you want whenever you want in terms of your writing. The downside is that you're responsible for everything. You're running a start-up, essentially, in a very crowded market. That means you not only have to be a good artist, but also a good entrepreneur, which most people aren't.

What would you suggest bookstores do to stay with the changing industry? Would your answer be different for chains vs. local?

KK: Care about readers and do more to build community around books. Create an experience in your stores. Many retailers say they do this, especially the indies, but they don't. They're actually in the consignment business and rent shelf space to publishers. Most bookstores are no more plugged into their communities than Amazon because they focus on simply processing transactions. That's why they'll go out of business because they can't compete on price.

What sets you apart in a sea of competition?

KK: I have nice hair. (Smiles.) Actually, it's the ability to tap one particular subset of the market, which I connect with most. But the hair also helps.

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

KK: Only this moment is life. Be aware of that fact.

What is your most humbling moment in the industry?

KK: There was a time I "Replied All" to an email that I shouldn't have. Let's just say, if you don't have something nice to say, never put it in an email. Especially if it's going to the CEO of one of the Big Six.
What aspirations do you have left that you've not yet met?

KK: The second two thirds of my life. I'm a young guy so my list is too long to run down.
What is the best way to handle a negative review?

KK: Respond with kindness and don't let yourself identify with it on a personal level. You're not what someone says you are. And, honestly, you aren't your writing either. Your writing is an expression of you, but it's not you. I think most writers are to insecure to let people berate their work without it sending them into a depression.

Do you ever thank a positive reviewer? How do you go about it to not seem like you paid them for the good review?

KK: Occasionally, but I'll do it privately via email.

What fact is stranger than fiction in the publishing world?

KK: I once had an executive at one of the Big Six tell me, "You know, don't tell anyone else, but we don't know what the hell we're doing. We just put stuff out and hope it sticks. We'll just let everyone keep thinking we're geniuses, though." So that'll be our little secret. Don't tell anyone.

Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time to answer these questions. If you have anything you would like to have him answer, please leave it below - questions and comments are always welcome. I hope that you received some new info you had not previously had. Oh, and by the way, no lies about the hair!

Kevin Kaiser is Senior Brand Manager at CreativeTrust, an entertainment management company based in Nashville, Tennessee. He oversees creative development, digital marketing and social media strategy formany international bestselling authors and advises several of the Big Six publishers on effective grassroots marketing. He is also co-founder of The American Fossil Company, which publishes the popular Double Barrel series. More at

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