Friday, March 28, 2008

MediaMensch Exclusive Pics - Bill Clinton at Hillary for President Rally in NC

Preparing for Bill Clinton's Arrival

Kaplan talking to Alex Reed, TV journalist/reporter for NBC Affiliate WCNC Charlotte, NC.
Alex was discussing the life of a reporter in a top 25 city. We agreed how great it is to be able to cover events like Clooney and Clinton and have such access. Reed also was an extra in the Clooney movie Leatherheads and reported on it as well.

We will have Alex on a future MediaMensch radio show discussing his life and career as a mid-market tv journalist. The MediaMensch show is a live talk show (also becomes a podcast) where we interview people in media, sports, politics, technology, and entertainment about their life and careers and their current ventures.

We welcome any suggestions for guests for our future shows.

My first Press Coverage Bill Clinton Campaigning in NC

What a week....I came in at around midnight last night to find an e-mail saying Bill Clinton was going to be in the area...turned out he is at the same Train Depot that George Clooney was at on Wednesday. This time we were outside the station.

There was a crowd of a few hundred people. We were in the press area behind the crowd on a platform so we had a clear shot of the crowd. Bill's speech had humor and was direct and pointed about plans to really turn this country around. He discussed the need for 100 mph cars which can run on Lithium, to pulling the troops out of Iraq, to schools and getting rid of all of this national testing for No Child Left Behind and to really look for true success not just test scores.

He also praised the McCain and Obama and this election has being historical no matter who wins.
The main theme was the Hilary has always been a 'change agent'. Not just in talk but in deeds her entire life. She thinks about the individuals, not just those with wealth and has been an advocate for children and families.

On the economic side, he made a great point about our trade deficit.
China, Japan and Korea are our largest trading partners, followed by the oil producing nations. They are also the countries who own our debt and lend us money to fuel our economy...his quote was that dealing with fair trade is tough since China is our banker...and "You don't go up to your banker, punch them in the face and then ask them for a loan".

He also joked about Not being able to go home, if he didn't campaign for his wife...

One of my highlights for the new mediamensch networks venture was meeting ABC News Producer for the US Senate Zach Wolf..we had a brief discussion of his feelings for the personalities and effectness of Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain's surrogate, Sen. Tom Coburn (whom I believe may be on the VP short list..just my gut feel)....
More later....

Amazon to Force POD Publishers to Use BookSurge

This move sounds horrid. It's going to hurt small publishers and authors.

Publishers Weekly Daily:

"Amazon has notified publishers who print books on demand that they will have to use Amazon's POD facilities if they want to sell their books directly on, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"The move signals that Amazon is intent on using its position as the premier online bookseller to strengthen its presence in other phases of bookselling and manufacturing," the Journal continued. Amazon "has evolved into a fully vertical book publishing and retail operation. Most recently, Amazon acquired audiobook seller Audible Inc. Amazon also sells its own ebook reader called the Kindle."

Publishers will have to use Amazon's BookSurge POD subsidiary. Among competitors are Ingram's Lightning Source and"

Read the whole article in The Wall Street Journal

From Writers Weekly:

"BREAKING DEVELOPMENT: We were notified by a PublishAmerica author that her book was available for purchase through Amazon on Tuesday but today the "buy" button for her book on Amazon is gone. We researched some other PublishAmerica books and it appears the "buy" button on Amazon has indeed been removed from the vast majority of their book pages.
PublishAmerica issued a press release today that states: "PublishAmerica will not comply with Amazon's ultimatum, and will not allow that company to dictate who will print PublishAmerica's books, and at what conditions."


Some Print on Demand (POD) publishers are privately screaming "Monopoly!" while others are seething with rage over startling phone conversations they're having with Amazon/BookSurge representatives. Why isn't anybody talking about it openly? Because they're afraid - very, very afraid. purchased BookSurge, a small POD publisher/printer back in 2005. Amazon also lists and sells titles for the largest POD printer, Lightning Source, which is owned by Ingram (the large book distributor). According to their website, Lightning Source serves more than 4,300 publisher clients and has more than 400,000 titles in their system.

You'd think Amazon's purchase of BookSurge might have made things a bit uncomfortable between the two companies. However, they continued to work together, getting books on demand to's loyal customers. Things appeared to be cruising along just fine, but perhaps not anymore.

Reports have been trickling in from the POD underground that Amazon/BookSurge representatives have been approaching some Lightning Source customers, first by email introduction and then by phone (nobody at BookSurge seems to want to put anything in writing). When Lightning Source customers speak with the BookSurge representative, the reports say, they are basically told they can either have BookSurge start printing their books or the "buy" button on their book pages will be "turned off."

The book information would remain on Amazon, and people could still order the book from resellers (companies that list new and used books in Amazon's Marketplace section), but customers would not be able to buy the book from Amazon directly, nor qualify for the coveted "free shipping" that Amazon offers.

Don't believe it? I didn't believe it either. I am Angela Hoy, the co-owner of POD services company and publisher of I am well-known in the industry for my activism performed through WritersWeekly Whispers and Warnings. Over the years, we have helped writers recover tens of thousands of dollars in fees from deadbeat editors and publishers, helped them negotiate better contract terms, assisted writers in obtaining payment after their copyrights have been violated, and even assisted police in collecting evidence to prosecute criminals who have preyed on writers. I am also the author of 11 non-fiction books.

Still doubting the reports could really be true, I emailed an Amazon/BookSurge representative who's been trying to get us to talk to him by phone. John Clifford of Amazon/BookSurge called me at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, 2008.

My first comment was to tell him we heard a rumor that POD publishers who didn't use BookSurge would have the "buy" button on their book pages turned off.

He said, "What? Who told you that? That's not true!"

I told him I'd heard some rumors from the "POD underground."

He said he'd previously tried to talk to my husband, Richard Hoy, the President and CEO of BookLocker. I explained that we had a very bad experience with BookSurge in the past and that he was, naturally, hesitant to do business with them again. (Google the words BookSurge complaint without any quotes to see other customers' comments about them as well.)

He claimed the people who worked for BookSurge back then are probably all gone (but that didn't explain the more recent complaints). He made his sales pitch, talking about percentages and such, and said many POD publishers are resisting their attempts to convert to BookSurge. Mr. Clifford also said BookSurge's aim was to help Amazon customers get their books faster.

What he didn't say was that Lightning Source not only packages books for Amazon customers in boxes that feature an return address label, but also drop-ships those orders directly to Amazon customers at Amazon's request. Hmm...

He stated several times that books not converted to BookSurge's system would be "taken down." Since that wasn't exactly what we'd heard, I asked about books that perhaps weren't selling well, that aren't good candidates for converting to BookSurge (books that would remain for sale through Lightning Source, but would never be converted to BookSurge due to the time/expense involved).

Contrary to what he stated at the very beginning of our conversation, Mr. Clifford finally admitted that books not converted to BookSurge would have the "buy" button turned off on, just as we'd heard from several other POD publishers who had similar conversations with Amazon/BookSurge representatives.

Mr. Clifford said authors of those books could participate in the Advantage Program, meaning they would have to pay Amazon $29.95 per year PLUS 55% of the list price of their book, as well as buy and then send those books to Amazon directly for them to warehouse and ship to customers.

I explained to him that we had more than 1500 books in print and that it would take quite awhile to convert all of those over to BookSurge's system. He said as long as the relationship was "moving forward" that the "buy" button would remain active on our authors' books that had not yet been switched.

Another comment Mr. Clifford made was that their eventual desire is to have no books from other POD publishers available on


I have to wonder if Jeff Bezos is even aware of what is going on within his organization. Here is Amazon's Vision Statement, taken directly from their website:

"Our vision is to be earth's most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online."

What it doesn't say is, "Our customers can buy any print on demand book they might want long as we also get paid to print it."

Nobody likes being backed into a corner, and saying "do this or else" naturally breeds angry rejection and hostility. If we did agree to sign the contract, pulling and transferring files to Amazon/Booksurge would take an enormous amount of time and money. From the POD publishers we've talked to, and from our own experience at BookLocker, we could all be looking at a dire and immediate threat of revenue cuts if we refuse to sign the Amazon/BookSurge contract. Most importantly, there could be an outcry from and potential financial hardship on the authors, who are completely innocent in all of this.

In BookLocker's opinion, and the opinion of all the fellow Lightning Source customers we talked to, the Amazon/BookSurge proposal does not appear attractive at all (yes, we obtained the contract and the file submission specifications). Amazon/BookSurge would make money two ways on sales - first the fee for printing the books, and then 48% of the list price of each sale through Lightning Source allows its customers to set their own discount rate for Amazon and other retail sales, and does not force POD publishers or authors to pay "48%."

Furthermore, it could take the larger POD publishers months to submit their book files to Amazon/BookSurge, at a considerable cost and number of man-hours. This makes the deal even less attractive. Finally, while the initial list of books submitted by POD publishers could be submitted to Amazon/BookSurge for free, the contract states future books would cost $50 each to process. The cost for individual authors to publish through BookSurge is considerably more, with an average publishing package cost of more than $1,000.

Since Amazon/BookSurge does not offer Ingram distribution (Ingram distribution is considered imperative in the industry for bookstore sales), any company that accepts the Amazon/BookSurge deal, who desires to keep offering Ingram distribution, may need to maintain two copies of the book files. Since the Amazon/BookSurge current specs don't match the Lightning Source specs, future book files, both interior and cover, may need to be formatted separately. So, they would have to pay double the setup fees and might have to do double the formatting work as well...or pay designers to do double the formatting work.

Likewise, self-published authors who believe they must have Ingram Distribution AND an active "buy" button on Amazon to be successful may need to pay double the setup fees (to a POD publisher AND Amazon/BookSurge), and also may need to create two separate sets of formatted files.

In the event where two versions of a book might be available, Mr. Clifford said the Amazon/BookSurge version of the POD book would trump (override) the version offered by Lightning Source on


When authors get wind of this, we believe they are going to be livid. Authors are also readers. They love books. We suspect they buy from Amazon in droves. I, myself, have been an Amazon junkie for years, not only heavily promoting in my non-fiction books for writers and on our very popular website,, but also listing my own books for sale there, ordering other authors' books, DVDs and numerous other products as well. I pulled up our Amazon customer account and looked at our receipts. We've spent $1508.81 at in the past six months. Multiply that by the number of authors this will affect...authors who, like me, have a multitude of websites to choose from when doing their shopping online.

In addition, authors participate in the Amazon experience, via blogs on the website, by posting reviews about other books, and more, activities that help to continually make Amazon bigger and better. Authors are a loyal bunch! For years, they've been faithfully sending their readers to, again and again, even when they earned lower royalties for doing so.

It's not inconceivable to think that this group, if shoved against a wall like this, won't simply pledge their allegiance elsewhere. Let's face it, offers free shipping on orders of $25 or more, too. Authors can change the links to their book pages on their websites, in their ezines and press releases, and even in their email signatures to their book's page at Authors can spend their own money elsewhere as well (as I plan to do). I imagine will be very happy to process the extra book sales that could result from all of this. might also upset countless companies that have Amazon Affiliate bookstores on their websites (many authors have these, too!). If Amazon/BookSurge were to follow through with turning off the "buy" buttons for thousands of POD titles, customers following those links from other websites could be confused and annoyed. After clicking on a link, they would find no easy way to purchase the book directly from Amazon, and no way to obtain free shipping on that book, even if they're willing to buy more products to meet the $25 free shipping threshold. One would think Amazon must know the free shipping strategy works to upsell customers on additional products. That's why they offer it. Without it, these customers could have no incentive to buy more products because the product they surfed in to buy does not qualify.

One has to wonder if traditional publishers will be next? Will Amazon eventually require all books sold through to be printed by BookSurge?

Let's all hope and pray this situation is one huge, misguided idea from some mid-level management person and not corporate policy being dictated from the office of Jeff Bezos.

What can you do? Let Amazon know what you think about this "offer" by Amazon/BookSurge.

The names of their Officers and Directors are here:

Amazon's Investor Relations Team email address appears near the bottom of this page:

Their address is:, Inc.
P.O. Box 81226
Seattle, WA 98108-1226

Next, tell your author friends, your book buyers, your website visitors, your ezine subscribers and everyone else about this situation. was built on books. Books are written by authors. Unfortunately, it appears authors may ultimately be the innocent pawns in this power struggle."

Click here for even more at Writers Weekly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Photos from Leatherheads Press Conference

Exclusive Photos Copyright 2008 MediaMensch Networks. All Rights Reserved

Cameraman in Salisbury Press Conference

Exclusive Photos Copyright 2008 MediaMensch Networks. All Rights Reserved

Clooney Signing Autographs in Salisbury, NC

Exclusive Photos Copyright 2008 MediaMensch Networks. All Rights Reserved

Hundreds of fans turned out today to see George Clooney and Renee Zellweger on their press tour for Leatherheads. Clooney and Zellweger arrived on a train which was used for filming in the movie. As they pulled up into the station, Clooney and Zellweger were waving from the window inside the train. As they exited the train a roar came up from the hundreds of fans who had been waiting for them for as much as four hours. The film was shot on location in Salisbury and the train museum and train were used in multiple scenes in the movie.

George and Renee were decked out in the 1920's attire. At the press conference, George and Renee both agreed is was so much fun to be in such a friendly small town. Renee actually thought being nice and smiling was a prerequisite. In real life Clooney grew up in a small town in Kentucky, while Zellweger grew up in a small town in Texas. This reminded them of home.

Clooney and Zellweger -- Audio Clip of Press Conference

Well, here is copy of the press conference with George Clooney and Renee Zellweger. I had the opportunity to ask two questions during the press conference and had a fun time with George kidding with me about my role in the movie.

Click here for Audio Clip of entire press conference from Radio Station WBT in Charlotte.

Exclusive MediaMensch Pics - Clooney on a Train Arriving at Leatherheads Press Conference

Exclusive Photos for MediaMensch Networks. Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved

Charlotte Observer - Clooney and Zellweger at Salisbury Train Depot

Here are pictures of the Leatherhead's Press Conference from the Charlotte Observer. I had the opportunity to sit next to Lawrence Toppman who is the film critic for the Charlotte Observer at the Press conference.

Tomorrow on radio station WBT Charlotte with Al Gardner morning show the audio version of the press conference will be played and posted on their website. Click here to listen live.

Whistlestop Tour of Leatherheads with George and Renee

Today was one of those surreal days...I interviewed George Clooney and Renee Zellweger at the Leatherheads Press Conference in Salisbury NC today. The press conference was held at the same train depot and they rode in on the same train seen in the movie. Renee and George were dressed in the 1925 outfits they wore in the movie. They are the Hepburn and Tracy in this romantic comedy. Prior to the press conference there were over 1,000 fans outfitted in Leatherheads t-shirts and with other promotional items for autographs.

More later...

News from Amazon Breakthrough Novel Semifinalist

Julie Ann Shapiro's first novel, Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries just had it's first major reorder from Amazon. This comes on the heels of being mentioned in USA Today. This article has been picked up by at least 20 major media outlets, if not more.

The author's second novel, Three Drop Pennies was recently a semifinalist in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest. In a clever marketing development many of the semifinalists have come together to create a forum and a literary print magazine to which Julie will be serving as a flash fiction editor.

The ABNA Books Forum has united the semifinalists in the hopes of marketing their novels and attracting major attention from the publishers. For more information on the forum check out their recent press release.


Amazon Semifinalists Launch

Community Creates Literary Site for Networking and Promotion, an online showcase, network and marketplace for writers, was launched on March 1, 2008. ABNA Books is a place for writers to present their work, keep track of fellow writers’ news and publications, and get the attention of publishers and agents.

What began as a group of entrants and semifinalists in the “Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award” contest, evolved into the Association of Breakthrough Novel Authors on Through the Amazon discussion forum, participating writers grew into a community, working together to improve their writing and promote their books.

Brainchild of semifinalist Valya Dudycz Lupescu, establishes a more permanent home for ABNA writers and their works.

“Several writers and reviewers mentioned that they wanted a way to stay in touch and to find out about the publications of other entrants,” said Lupescu. “ provides us with the place to do that. The general public can also subscribe for a free monthly update about news and publications.”

Selected as a semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Lupescu's debut novel, The Silence of Trees, gained more than 200 positive reviews from customers and reviewers. Lupescu and her husband, Mark, decided to create ABNA Books to maintain the community started during the contest, while at the same time providing the public with a place to track the manuscripts and publications of this talented group of writers.

"Since the manuscripts in have been pre-screened in Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award competition and most have received positive reviews from Publishers Weekly, I can see it as a legitimate source of good literature,” said Enrico Antiporda, author of the Top 100 Semifinalist entry, A Light in the Cane Fields. “I foresee literary agencies and commercial publishers mining the website to add to their catalogue."

Julie Ann Shapiro, author of Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries, who’s second novel, Three Drop Pennies is an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Semifinalist has been an active participant on the Amazon forum. “This community of authors have novels that are top notch, peer-reviewed of the highest caliber and ready to be published. Book publishers should take a serious look at these manuscripts.“

With short synopses, lengthy excerpts, and prior publications, ABNA Books provides agents and editors a snapshot of writers’ projects and potential. The site also provides a place for comments and reviews, so that an author’s following and marketability may be glimpsed.

For more information about ABNA Books please visit


About ABNA
ABNA began as a group of entrants and semifinalists of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Through the forum, they grew into a community of writers working together to improve their writing and promote their books. is the next step in their evolution, a place to maintain that solidarity while promoting their work and perfecting their craft. ABNA Books is an online showcase, network, and marketplace for writers. It’s a place for writers to present their work, get the attention of publishers and agents, and help each other in the process of publishing and promotion.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Place of Hopes

This is a moving video for orphans in Cameroon..I am on the advisory board. Our group led by Abong Farkham and Barney Barnum...the spent two weeks.. see ...the next trip is planned for July 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Media Mensch Radio Show - BlackTurtle Media - Neal Thurman

Today's guest for the show on March 21, 2008 was Neal Thurman, VP, Audience Relations for

Andrew Kaplan, host of MediaMensch, and Thurman discussed the development of the site for the young creatives, the creation of a citizen journalist blogging site for soccer which was sold to Yahoo. and his past non-profit project for linking inner city children with books called

Listen to the Radio show at

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Independent Film - Insignificant Others

The last two days, I spent time as an extra working on a film called Insignificant Others. We filmed at the old courthouse building in Charlotte. My roles included a police detective or lawyer, and a police officer in full uniform.

Here is a blurb about this project:

In/Significant Others" is John Schwert's follow up feature to "Among Brothers" (, which played 17 film festivals in 2005-06 and was just featured on Dateline NBC ( Although it's a low-budget project, the script is strong and will be a top-tiered festival piece targeting the 2009 Spirit Awards.

Story line: Blurring the lines between drama, comedy, mystery and crime, In/Significant Others is a modern thriller that voices a unique narrative by trailing an eclectic ensemble cast of characters through their unpredictable daily lives. The film peeks inside personal, intimate moments of these unknowingly-linked character’s lives, including glimpses of drug addiction, stand-up comedy and murder. The character’s parallel storylines converge and we build to the climactic finale with a captivating and visceral series of reveals.

The Family That Preys - Day 1 - Arriving in Atlanta

I drove down to Atlanta for the role as an extra in the Tyler Perry "The Family that Preys" movie. We arrived outside the Atlanta Civic Center after maneuvering through downtown Atlanta which was just recovering from a tornado a few days before. When I arrived at the parking lot I was met by some of the production assistants on the film and then went to line up. I was to be in group "B". My call time was at 5:30 pm. As I went to the back of the line, I heard someone call my name. It was Edd, who was in Leatherheads and Gospel Hill. He had driven down from NC. We talked about the movie and also that as I stopped by at the Greenville, SC Starbucks, there was a poster for a "premiere" party for Leatherheads being organized. With Ed was Gina and Alisa who also were in Leatherheads.

Since it was about 4:45 when we arrived for our bus, the earlier groups to go over to the set were band members and the "A" group. We were going to the Bank of America Building (31st Floor) for extra's holding. On the 31st floor were racks of the tuxedos we were to where for the scene. I finally met Tiffani-Mishell who I had spoken to numerous times on the phone. I was given my tuxedo and then went into the dressing room which was really someones empty office.

We then were asked by different groups to take the elevator to the lobby...dozens of production people were there and it looked exactly like a real black tie gala. We had a 20 piece orchestra, dance floor, bars, and tables with 4 ft high centerpieces.

At our table, I sat next to Joe and Tiffany. Our waitresses name was Hope. My "wife's" name was Ylian. We started to film at about 10 pm and spent the next 6 hours filming the party scene.
I had sushi (real) and champagne (sparking apple juice). the red wine was cranberry and the chardonnay was white cranberry. I even had a "scotch" placed in my hand.

During one of the scenes Robin Givens (actress) comes to our table and talks to a couple sitting across from me. A large camera on a boom is being used to film this scene. I had seen a similar large camera in Leatherheads. It is on a crane about 40 ft high/long.

The others on the scene included Jennifer Hudson and other actors and actresses. Here is the IMDB Listing

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Starbucks Post for "In Your Face" Column

This picture above was created and is property of The comment below was the original comment posted on's website for an article called "How to re-energize Starbucks". After posting this comment, selected this comment for their "In Your Face" feature for readers. is moving quickly to become a website which is embracing its readers and engaging them in conversation.

andrew kaplan Feb 21, 2008 4:11 PM GMT
Starbucks ideas
1. Focus on a niche for non-coffee drinkers as well such as moms with small kids. They have organic apple juice,milk and also really their cream based frappucinos are really close to milk shakes..(no caffeine)..

2.They also should get rid of the merchandising and focus on teaching the customers about coffee. Most customers and coffee drinkers do not realize each coffee is paired with a cake/food they sell and can eliminate the need for pouring milk and sugar into regular coffee as it sweetens the taste. Many of their bold coffees have better taste when paired with chocolate.

3. They really should have some type of community bulletin board in all stores.

4. They should have a permanent counter with stools and a barista teaching...and attracting single customers.

5. They should hire "public speaking baristas" who can go out to the community

6. GO GREEN - Have real mugs and encourage use of travel cups (give a large discount to "Green Customers".

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tyler Perry, Kathy Bates and Me

A new adventure is about to unfold in my 'career' as a movie extra/actor. About two weeks ago, I applied to be an extra in a new film called "The Family That Preys" starring Kathy Bates, Tyler Perry, Alfrie Woodard and others.

Tyler Perry's personal journey has been featured on Oprah and is a "rags to riches" story with its core being "belief that anything is possible" and "Not to Listen to Naysayers".

A few days after applying for a role as an extra, Tiffany, from Tyler Perry called me and told me about the scene. I would be shooting a scene for a Gala Event. I wasn't sure what that would mean right away. That is, until she called back a few days later to tell me to come to Atlanta to be measured for a tuxedo. Since I live 4 hours away and they were not paying me "Feature Actor" pay, I asked whether I could have an alternative place to be fitted for this "costume". She told me I could do it locally and to call her on Monday with the sizes. So last Sunday, instead of driving to Atlanta, I drove to my local Men's Wearhouse store to be fitted. The salesperson filled out a card with all the measurements and on Monday, I faxed them to Tiffany.

Meanwhile, my friend had just returned from Atlanta from his shoot and told me he was up on a large construction site in high winds for 10 hours of filming. He was cold and his lips were chapped. Tyler Perry was in the scene with him. I thought about the luck of being inside at a Black Tie Gala. Hope the hors d'oeuvres and champagne are good.

I believe 'The Family That Preys" will be out in theatres in October 2008. - "In Your Face"

This week was an amazing media week. A comment I wrote about how to re-energize Starbucks was featured at the top of's new In Your Face page which was added to their home page yesterday. They created this picture.

I also had the opportunity to kick off my new MediaMensch radio show with an interview featuring Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks North America and International and current board member. The show can be found at

In addition, I was introduced to an "experimental" Starbucks drink this week which was a "Mint Chocolate Chip" frappucino. It is not on their menu and tastes exactly like the ice cream. We submitted the idea to Starbucks this week as well and thought they could do a "Green Day" on Earth Day with Green Teas, Green Lattes, and test this new Mint Chocolate Chip Frappucino.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Crystal Shawanda - "You Can Let Go Now"

Crystal Shawanda is a client of a good friend of mine from Lake Norman Toastmasters...she is now on the Canadian billboard 100. Gorgeous song!...she is Canadian Native the journey to Nashville was somewhat amazing.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

MediaMensch Radio - Author and Executive Howard Behar of Starbucks

We are excited that our MediaMensch radio show is off to a great start. We are featuring stories in media of people, authors and musicians who might be new to you.

Our next show will feature, Howard Behar, the former President of Starbucks International and long time board member who has published a book entitled "It's Not About the Coffee". Howard will be appearing as a guest on the new live MediaMensch radio show on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 from 12 to 1 pm. We will be discussing his views on Starbucks culture and successful leadership practices and observations such as "The Walls Talk" and "The Person that Sweeps should pick the Broom". We also will discuss the changes taking place at Starbucks since Howard Schultz returned as CEO.

You can listen to this show at

This show can be listened to live from your computer. You can also call in a special phone # as well. This show and future shows will be archived and available via this link and on iTunes.

We also have a sister show for the Facebook Economy called "Facebook Enthusiast", one of MediaMensch Networks new brands. You can listen to this show at We have an interview with the incredible young and prolific Anastasia Salter, a college professor and reader of over 5,000 books at age 23. She is one of the top reviewers for the facebook applications, Visual Bookshelf.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Turning a Dream Into Reality

(Note:Here is an real life inspiring story of a daring woman, a disability and a dream). MediaMensch will be featuring authors from now on both on our blog and on our new radio show at

Jeanne May's Inspiring Story and Journey To Outer Mongolia

When did you decide to live your dream of visiting Outer Mongolia?
Wednesday, November 10, 1993 -- at dinner with a friend and a woman I had only met once before. Early in the evening, Sally (we were at her place and I had only met her once before) was talking about her recent trip to Tibet... one thing led to another and at some stage I mentioned something about Mongolia and Sally immediately said " Why not go there??" my immediate response was: no way... I thought she was kidding and would leave it at that -- but Sally is into dream analysis and has been for many years. She kept saying “why don't you?” After a couple more drinks, my protests faded and the three of us that night decided to go to Mongolia. And at that point... I knew my life would never be the same again.

What was the most empowering aspect of having a life long dream become a reality?
It broke through my limiting beliefs about what I was capable of doing. It also broke through many other people's limiting beliefs about me – many of my family and friends and doctors were very vocally opposed to me going -- I even got told I was irresponsible, and I should not be contemplating it given my physical challenges and enormous breathing problems.
The most empowering thing about it is that I know anything you really want to do badly enough... you can do it, no matter what your circumstances are.
If I can turn my dream into a reality... anyone can

What delightful surprises occurred, and what unforeseen obstacles presented special insights that you might not have otherwise encountered?
Many delightful surprises -- our guides and the people who looked after us (drivers, interpreters, tour guides) in China and Mongolia -- took us into their hearts as we did them. We built up incredibly strong and trusting relationships very quickly with them.My 40th birthday celebrations (by the Mongolians) -- that was so exquisitely beautiful. Touching the Great Wall of China -- it was one thing I never anticipated I would actually do. Managing really well without speaking the language.
We were our own group -- we were not part of a tour group because we needed to have as many things wheelchair accessible as possible -- our needs (my needs) were very different to what tour guides/travel agents were used to! Part of the delightful surprises were that we were taken to places regular tourists didn't go to and experienced things that were not on the tourist itinerary.

Obstacles -- it seemed every country we went to there were many obstacles. But that's what
travelling is all about!

Many obstacles I had to resolve long before I went e.g. getting a suitable wheelchair for travelling, getting portable breathing equipment, getting an alternative to electricity. Also obstacles related to people's negative reaction to me going.

While away... some of the obstacles included:
our visa to Mongolia was not available in Beijing -- we thought this was all organised before we left -- but it was a major hiccup which put the rest of the trip in jeopardy.My breathing equipment spat the dummy bigtime in Inner Mongolia which again threatened the rest of the journey.
Not being able to travel the Mongolian border by vehicle... coupled with my breathing equipment problem, meant that we had to catch the train which meant our schedule pickup at the other end had to be changed at very short notice -- fairly dubious few hours I can tell you!
In Outer Mongolia our tickets to leave the country were not in our name.

Wheelchair access was difficult all throughout.
Electricity going off at our Hotel in Outer Mongolia for an unknown length of time -- we were on the 8th floor! My bell I had bought was confiscated at the airport as we were leaving Mongolia -- caused a major drama! But all obstacles were faced and dealt with... and it was all part of the journey. It made us stronger.

Is there any advice you give someone who’s stuck listening to the inner voice saying…dream on…you can’t do it?
Make a stronger inner voice speak "I can do it!"... quiet all the negative talk -- listen to it and see if it is guiding you to plan more carefully, to do things more deliberately, and thoroughly. But the overriding advice is to use the negativity as a learning experience not as something that says I can't do this!

All of the negativity I gave myself and heard from others just made me stronger.

For the sake of readers, could you give a brief synopsis of Outer Mongolia—specifically describing ways that demonstrate fulfilling a life long dream and how fulfilling that is?
In essence, this book is about a journey to Outer Mongolia. It tells of a fantasy which became a reality. For many years, Outer Mongolia had been a place I would retreat to in my mind when I wanted to get away from the hassles and demands of daily life. It represented a real spiritual haven for me.

My fantasy was going to Mongolia but my reality is that I was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which left me dependent on a wheelchair, with limited strength and significant breathing problems. Travelling such a long distance from Australia to a relatively closed country like Outer Mongolia should not have been considered an achievable goal given my health and mobility challenges, but the beckoning of Mongolia was far too strong.

OUTER MONGOLIA...No longer a fantasy has an important message for everyone: that if you truly believe in doing something, and if it is meant to be, then anything is possible, whether you are disabled or not.

Contrary to what seemed to be the logical and sensible thing to do... on July 15, 1995, Ro, Sally, Pat, Fred and I embarked on a fantastic journey... to Outer Mongolia. Together we flew eight times, travelled on the Trans Mongolian Railway, drove through and over the Gobi Desert in a bus, slept in tents on the steppes of Mongolia, touched the Great Wall of China, slept in a yurt, and saw a yak. We visited countries, saw places, met people, and experienced things we never thought possible.

What is your next big dream?
I have two big dreams:
1) provide information, inspiration, guidance and support to others to turn their dream into reality.

2) Mongolia did so much for me and I want to give back to them. The best way I can do this is to donate every dollar I receive from the sale of my book to the Developing Countries Aid Fund (DCAF) Asia -- Mongolia, which is administered by the Red Cross.
So my big dream is to sell 10,000 copies of my book -- for the people of Mongolia.

Links to ordering your book:

Monday, March 03, 2008

Facebook Enthusiast Radio Show #3

This was an interesting show with the brilliant, young Anastasia Salter, who is one of the most prolific reviewers and readers of books. At age 23, she is a PhD candidate and has read more than 5,000 books. She reads an average of a book a day.

Come hear her insights on social media, books, gaming and digital media.

Why You Should Take Digital Fiction Seriously

The book publishing world is a hard if not brutal business. I know 50 outstanding writers that don’t stand a chance of getting published by the mainstream industry and of this group each writer in turn probably knows another 50 and so exponentially we’re looking at 1000 writers with books that under regular circumstances wouldn’t stand a chance of making it. But the good news is there’s a whole world of opportunities opening up in the digital publishing arena. Before I go into that I want to tell you the typical cycle from writer to literary agent to a mainstream publishing house.

The average literary agent gets 150 queries a day from writers hoping to get their book published. The agent chooses to represent roughly 1% of these books. Agents pitch these books to the publishers who get thousands of manuscripts a year to review. An editorial committee at the publishing house then decides what books to take, but that’s not the end of the cycle. The committee still has to convince marketing that the book will earn out its royalties and advances. One naysayer at a publishing house can literally kill the book’s chances of getting published.
Novels by the established, the well known, the trendy and celebrity types with ghost writers have a greater chance of getting a book published than many talented writers.

Fortunately, digital publishing has arrived on the scene and with the potential to revolutionalize the publishing industry. This means every word, image, sound, animation, and movie can be delivered as a series of digital ones and zeros. In a word, digital publishing has changed our definition of books.

Today digital publishing is anything from an electronic (e-Book), CD-ROM, to a paper-based book or hybrid with Internet inactivity. Many of you have heard the term print on demand. This utilizes digital technology. It’s a means many independent and small presses have adopted to get their books out there and so have the likes of Harper Collins. Often times when book stores today purchase books they are printed on demand to keep costs of production down. It’s a little known cost saving secret and how the publishing industry is evolving.

What digital publishing has done for the book world is to level the playing field and give independent presses a chance to publish the kinds of books they want. More importantly it gives readers a chance to read books beyond just what the mega-conglomerate publishing houses produce.

Most of the mainstream publishers go with what’s safe and proven to make money. It’s less and less about art and more and more about dollars. This is where small digital presses have a chance to offer readers something different and to in turn give new generations of talented writers a chance.

Yes, talent, that’s what you’ll find in the digital realm in my not so humble opinion. It’s fast becoming a home for bold fiction that’s not afraid to take chances much like independent films. As more and more legions of writers are shut out by the main stream publishing conglomerates they will have no choice, but to seek out other avenues. For this reason some may liken digital publishing to self-publishing. While it’s true that anyone can publish something digitally, it doesn’t mean that by association digital book publishers are places to shun or disrespect.

This neglects the marketplace and the recognition that there are a plethora of well respected independent publishers such as Double Dragon Press, Zumaya, Mundania Press, SynergEbooks, New Concepts Publishing, Boson Books, C & M Online, Samhain Publishing, Echelon Press, Silk’s Vault and countless others who choose to offer books digitally. Not to mention the major distribution channels established for ebooks, including Fictionwise, and Mobipocket.

Even the mainstream publishers recognize the dynamic medium that digital books offer. Most of them now have ebook divisions and are seeking to capitalize on the vast Internet audience, the massive amounts of people using PDAs and other mobile devices that support ebook readers. Last fall, Harlequin announced that 40% of its new titles would be issued as ebooks.

The September 5, 2007 article in the New York Times, Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books, talked about’s Kindle, an electronic book reader priced at $400 to $500. It mentioned that the Kindle’s ability to wirelessly connect to an e-book store on Amazon’s site is a significant advance over older e-book devices, which must be connected to a computer to download books or articles.

Google also has plans to start charging users for digital copies of books in their database. Despite these two major Internet leaders’ plans to further their reach in the digital publishing market along with the respected publishers in the ebook marketplace, legions of consumers still don’t view digital books as real books. Many consumers in turn are hesitant to purchase ebooks, even though they are vastly cheaper than their paperback counterparts, not to mention the environmental factor of saving trees. In turn many traditional book reviewers will not consider reviewing a digital book. The authors of ebook, digital produced print on demand bookss and even epublishers at times feel like Rodney Dangerfield uttering his famous refrain, “I don’t get no respect.”

It’s time to recognize digital books as real books and applaud digital publishers for giving talented authors a chance. Let’s recognize that they are entrepreneurs living out the American Dream and carving a niche in a difficult market. After all, thousands of very good books are turned down by the mainstream publishers every year for the basic reason that they are not commercial enough…i.e. they won’t generate enough cash.

If you love books, support a digital literary writer by reading and reviewing their books. Good books deserve to be given a chance. This is your literary future, your legacy.


Written by Julie Ann Shapiro

Freelance writer , flash fiction writer and author of Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries