Top 101 Web Sites

"In carrying out my day-to-day business of marketing and publishing, I've come across many wonderful web sites. In this section of our web site, I am developing lists of my favorite sites. You can't pay to be in these lists. You can't bribe me. You can't sucker me. You cannot toy with me. But if you have a good site, I will place you here myself. If you think you have a site which should be featured in one of my Top 101 sites, please email me (John Kremer) with your URL. I'll check it out, and if I like your site and believe it fits in one of the Top 101 categories, I'll not only feature you in that Top 101 site listing, but I'll also send you an award." - John Kremer

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Book Marketing Blast-Off Delivers a Mixed Bag of Goodies

A first-hand account of John Kremer's Book Marketing Blast-Off seminar
In John Kremer's book, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, he begins by saying, "This book is not intended to be a textbook on how to market books. Rather it is designed to be an organized potpourri of ideas, examples, tips and suggestions to stimulate your creativity and encourage you to explore new ways to market your books." The same can be said for his 3-day Book Marketing Blast-Off seminar.

Having just completed Kremer's $495 seminar, I am impressed at how this stocky 54-year old man from Fairfield, Iowa (not exactly the hotbed of publishing) with graying wavy hair and an unpretentious approach can fill people with hope and the belief that they can achieve best-seller status. What impresses me isn't that he's capable of motivating people -- it's simply in the subdued nature in which he does it and the attention he gives to each individual attendee.

Unlike many seminars where the trainer's energy and enthusiasm are sometimes greater than the value of the information shared, Kremer takes a low-key, soft-spoken approach. The self-proclaimed wizard of book marketing, spent the bulk of the three days perched on a stool in front of the room. A single white-board at his side was his only prop for illustrating the ideas and concepts he shared. As an independent publisher, I wondered how he would be able to address the needs of the 21 attendees. After all, we were a mix of publishers, printers, book shepherds and authors - some of us with books already in print while others still in the manuscript or idea outline stages.

During the course of the three days, Kremer took time to single out each project and show how certain topics were more relevant to some attendees than to others. And unlike some "experts" who hold themselves at arm's length in order to maintain the mystique of who they are, Kremer is very approachable and easy to talk to. Although his approachability is an asset, it could also be one of his greatest liabilities. Because the tone of the seminar was more conversational than tutorial, Kremer tended to wander on some of the points he was making. Often allowing himself to be sidetracked by questions or his own depth of knowledge on a subject. Much to his credit, he did manage to bring his stories full circle and tie it back to the original point he was trying to make. For the most part, these slight detours served as only minor distractions and didn't detract from the overall intent of the program.

This brings me to my only real suggestion on how he could improve this seminar in the future...have a well-timed agenda. The room was set-up classroom style with narrow tables and straight back chairs that are the devil's contribution to ergonomics. Working without a set schedule, we endured 2-hour (or more) sessions without an "official" break. Granted, we're big people and can certainly decide for ourselves when we need to be excused to stretch. But in this type of situation, you hate to leave for fear you'll miss that one tip that would assure your rise to stardom and marketing excellence.

During the three days, we covered the following topics:
* The Basics of Book Marketing
* How to Create a Best Seller Without Breaking the Bank
* Working with Distributors
* Publicity & Promotion
* Creating News Releases
* Internet Marketing
* Selling Subsidiary Rights
* Selling to Specialty Outlets
* Creating a Marketing Plan

Each topic provided ample opportunity for questions and answers. It was during these free-form dialogues that Kremer was able to demonstrate the depth of his knowledge and tailor the event to meet the needs of each attendee. Because there was so much time spent in Q&A, it's safe to assume that each Blast-Off seminar, while working from the same basic outline, would be a new experience. That means you could probably attend two different sessions and still get plenty of new information.

Something else that contributed to making this experience unique is the range of people who attended. One of the advantages of attending seminars, regardless of the topic, is the opportunity it presents to meet new people. And while Kremer may have been the "star" of the show, there was still a wealth of information to be learned from the attendees. During the course of the day, those who had "been there, done that" didn't hesitate to share their experiences. All too often presenters assume the role of the all-knowing and don't acknowledge that other people may know more on a topic and also be able to contribute. Wisely, Kremer was willing to share the stage and let them talk. By allowing other people to showcase their experiences, Kremer helped open the door for the attendees to build some camaraderie. This inspired many people to share meals together and to even explore the local nightlife (we were in Marina Del Rey - just outside of Los Angeles).

As could be expected during any seminar, there was some self-promotion. Kremer's approach was more than tolerable. On a couple of occasions he showed off several of his books and reminded us that he has a number of reports for sale through his Web site. He didn't do much beyond that. At no time did it feel as though we were attending the seminar simply to be sold other products. To his credit, he did give us a free CD-ROM (a $170 value, according to him) that includes many of his reports and databases of various book publishing related resources. This value-added perk is nice and helps offset the cost of the seminar.

One thing that I thought was interesting was that on the first day Kremer was dressed in a three-piece suit. Days two and three, he wore casual drawstring pants and a button crew shirt. Not that fashion is my thing, but I thought it odd he would go to the two extremes. Whether it's related or not, on the first day he seemed confined and less personal. On the "casual days" he appeared more relaxed and allowed his humor and personality to come out in his presentation. I imagine he dressed-up on the first day to get a sense of the audience. Because we were a less-than-formal bunch, he felt comfortable dressing down. Personally, I was there to see him. I didn't care what he wore, just so long as he wore something.

One of the key selling points of the seminar was the opportunity to have a one-on-one session with Kremer. Although the allotted time was 30 minutes, my experience proved this really wasn't enough time to have a quality session. In my case, the first 15 minutes were spent sharing information. We then spent 10 minutes doing Q&A and clarifying our company's marketing objectives. That left five minutes for Kremer to share his perspective. My recommendation to others would be to be very organized going into the one-on-one session and focus on one issue such as the book cover, overall manuscript content or promotional opportunities.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess I had a flight to catch on Sunday afternoon, so I was unable to attend the last two sessions - Selling to Specialty Outlets and Creating a Marketing Plan. I imagine that the latter of the two sessions would also be a good opportunity to work with Kremer on a one-on-one basis to define and refine a specific marketing plan to match an individual's needs. While it would be difficult to create a plan with much substance (I have 20 years experience in creative development and marketing marketing plans aren't put together in an hour or two), this time would certainly present an opportunity to at least create an outline of things to accomplish.

Would I recommend that you attend a Book Marketing Blast-Off seminar? Absolutely. Regardless of where you are in the process, how many years experience you have, or how much you think you know on the subject, the combination of Kremer's experience with the knowledge of the other attendees makes this an event worth the price.

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Sam Goller is the director of marketing of Stowers Innovations, Inc. a Kansas City-based publishing house and forum for the philosophies, beliefs and strategies of self-made billionaire James E. Stowers, founder and chairman of the board of American Century Companies, one of the nation's leading investment management firms with nearly $85 billion in assets and one of Fortune Magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work for in America.

Stowers Innovations, Inc. is the publisher of "Yes, You Can ... Achieve Financial Independence", an award-winning book showing people how to manage their money, regardless of their financial situation. Now in its third printing, it is based on the values and philosophies of self-made billionaire James E. Stowers.