Monday, April 21, 2014

Discovery of a small town bookstores, and I'm not prepared the way a salesman would be!


On Saturday, April 19, I passed through the pleasant exurb of Purcellville VA (on an unrelated and private “mission”), at the end of the Washington and Old Dominion bike trail (which provides one of the town’s principle sources of business), ten miles west of Leesburg, not far from the Blue Ridge.  It’s somewhat removed from the new enclaves of corporate America, like the huge Internet server farms and condo developments around Ashburn, fifteen miles farther East, on the other side of Leesburg.  One thing you do find in smaller towns away from big government and big companies is older walk-in bookstores.  I stumbled upon the “Around the Block Books”, link here. It has a Facebook link here
   
No, I had not carried book samples with me (I do have some paperbacks and a few hardcovers in a personal “inventory”); nor did I have the book stubs, “movie” posters, or business cards with me.  I did have a nice chat with the people about my books, and about why a work like the “Momastery” book (previous post, this blog) is such a big seller in  a world where selling hardcopy printed books is harder because everybody is online.  It does seem that informal book gatherings are still more common in small town America.  

  
Actually, HRC (Human Rights Campaign) has a signing May 1 in Washington DC for ESPN’s Kate Fagan, “The Reappearing Act: Coming Out as Gay on a College Basketball Team Led by Born-Again Christians” (link ).

Fifteen years ago, when I was living in Minneapolis (from 1997 to 2003), I found small bookstores to be more common, again, in the communities farther from the Twin Cities, like around Northfield or St. Cloud.  
  
They seem to be less common.  Lambda Rising (LGBT centered) operated in Washington DC from 1974 to 2010 but eventually closed, partly because of competition from big box stores but most of all Amazon.  Lambda Rising used to host book signings, such as Joe Steffan’s “Honor Bound” in September 1992 (reviewed here, Oct. 10, 2007). Borders is no longer.  

Another resource for moving hard copies is consignment stores,  I did drive past one in Purcellville.  I recall leaving a couple copies of my first DADT book in 1997 in one in Richmond VA and getting into a debate with the owner about aggressive affirmative action, which he supported!


Update: April 24

In Falls Church, VA tonight, across the street from a restaurant, I noticed a small "One More Page Books" store.  I will check into it soon. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Glennon Doyle Melton: "Carry On, Warrior": Does she write a best-seller from the heart?


Author: Glennon Doyle Melton

Title: “Carry on Warrior! The Power of Embracing your Messy, Beautiful Life

Publication: New York: Scribner, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4516-9822-0 (paper, also in hardcover and ebook) 300 pages, 7 parts, 50 short unnumbered chapters, with a Reading Group Guide and Author QA.

Amazon link is here

The author runs the site “Momastery.com”  which may look self-explanatory enough to the visitor. How would she compare to Heather Armstrong, who founded the "grandmother" of mommy blogs, "Dooce" back in 2002, after being fired for blogging about her employer (even from home). 
  
Let me be honest about my motive for ordering the book.  I’ve just self-published my own third book in my “Do Ask, Do Tell” series (see the blog entry here Feb. 27), and I was asked about purchasing a publicity package with Publishers’ Weekly for bookstore placement.  Now, seriously, I think most of my exposure will be online, and this seems old-fashioned.  About the same time, I heard about “Momastery” somewhere (I think on morning television) and that this book (which appeared this month) would become a super best seller.  Why?  What makes something like this so popular that it deserves 5 and 6 figure marketing campaigns?  I did look it up in Publisher’s Weekly here  with the added caption, “Thoughts on Life Unarmed”. 
  
Melton, I can conclude, shares my concern that people are becoming isolated, judgmental and asocial, to the point that society can become unsustainable; but she has no political agenda and has no intention of solving a moral problem with some sort of intellectual, deductive process (which I do).  She writes from the heart. 

  
She lives her life, has babies, gets married, gets Lyme Disease, gets in trouble with alcohol, drugs and bulimia. She recovers through family life and connections to other people.  But she is willing to take a lot of chances to live her life.  She can do that because she has developed earthy connections with other people. 
One of the most touching chapters is her letter to her gay son, Chase, the chapter titled “A mountain I’m willing to die on”.  Later, she goes on a multi-day AIDS ride from Florida (where she lives) to Washington DC.   I recall going to the kickoff party in St. Paul for such a ride through Wisconsin in 2002.


She talks about telepathy at one point. That’s very real to me, rather like an organic Internet connection as in the movie “Avatar”.  With a very few friends I experience that.  I have dreamed one friend’s music as he was composing it, and later found the dream was pretty close.  Some of my own music comes in dreams. 
She also talks about the challenges of keeping a (traditional) marriage intimate and alive, and there is no hint that the distractions from the visibilities of those who are different can really affect her marriage.  (Hint: apply this to same-sex marriage.)


She talks about paying off an upside-down mortgage without a short sale, and starting over.  This was OK.  It wouldn’t be for me.  Later, she talks about the struggle to adopt a child from Guatemala, and later Rwanda.  She gives sacrificially, much of her savings, to an overseas relief organization for children.
In a late chapter she talks about hospitality, which is almost like a moral responsibility.  A local church here in Arlington Virginia (Trinity Presbyterian) has coined the term “radical hospitality” which she describes to a tee.

She talks about Elie Wiesel’s book “Night”, which was read in ninth-grade English classes when I worked as a substitute teacher a few years ago (although with an abridged version).

She has an interesting comment about kindness and bravery on p. 125.
  
It’s interesting how she talks about writing, on p. 25.  She characterizes it as a form of sharing (as well as “living out loud”).  Can I say that about my books, blogs, and tweets?   It isn’t the same as sharing up close and personal with people.  And that in turn invokes a bit of irony.  We live in a culture of “mind your own business”, privacy, and not making too many mistakes.   In fact, since I grew up as not being very sociable, I had to learn not to “screw up”.  I wound up being very productive and dependable, but vulnerable, not willing to admit that I can need others on terms other than my own.  I can certainly project that on to a Christian perspective, as Melton often does.  Nobody gets out of needing others, and nobody gets out of needing God (or a supreme being of some kind).  There is no way to be perfect because, like it or not, we have to share the purposes of others.


Monday, April 07, 2014

"Without Infrastructure, You Can't Be Social" (that means people)



The other day, I got a “freebie for CM” e-book titled “Without Infrastructure You Can’t Be Social”, 112 pages (PDF)  with subtitles “The Rise in Social Experience Management” and “Do you really know your customers?” The company that publishes it is “Sprinklr, Social Experience Management”, link here with CEO Ragy Thomas.  There are a number of authors, including Jason Keath, Paul Michaud, Don Bullmer and Lara Tumberelli. 


The title threw me at first.  It really refers to a “social infrastructure” of people, not the physical infrastructure, like the power grid or cybersecurity, which I think are pretty essential.   

The company helps clients measure the social media response of their clients’ visitors.

What seems to matter is whether social media visitors to a company’s site in turn interact with each other (outside of obvious places like Yelp and other ratings sites).  

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Newsweek has a print version again after all, with provocative articles, especially about national security

The magazine Newsweek is supposed to have ceased printing at the end of 2012, but print versions can still be found in some supermarkets.  They may be the versions distributed in the UK and Europe by IBT Media.
An issue dated March 21, 2014 had some particularly valuable articles.

One of the most important is the cover story, “The Cure Could Kill You”, about poorly regulated labs that the article says might be more likely to cause a major pandemic than bioterror.  There is a discussion of Project BioShiled, and the idea that in order to research the possible perils from a pathogen, you have to learn how to recreate these perils in a lab.  One reason is that Congress has limited liability for companies making antidotes to drugs, as the article explains with the anthrax issue from 2001.  It later discusses smallpox and a student in Texas getting infected with brucellosis.


Kurt Eichenwald has a story “The $500 Million Cyberheist”, about spyware and hacking tools for sale, which criminals use for money laundering or to attack bank accounts.  The most notorious of these was SpyEye.  The Webroot threat blog has written a lot about the “malware toolkit” industry. Thefts with SpyeEye often involved wire transfers of money to other offshore banks controlled by hackers.

SpyEye can launch a "man in the browser" attack, interposing extra questions on a bank website and masking the fact it has siphoned money from users by making bank statements look normal online.  I had not heard of this part of the threat before. 
Davis Ewing Duncan has an article, “Hacking your DNA”, predicting that the next Edward Snowden will be a geneticist who keeps the government from keeping taps on people whose genes show a propensity for violence, perhaps using illicit data to keep them from buying guns or boarding planes, especially by correlating genes to social media activity (even “likes”).  What a take on online reputation!
  
And Lecia Bushak writes about the suicide rates of men in Russia, in a piece “Dying to get out of Russia”. Under Communism, men drank a lot and didn’t develop the skills, especially social ones, to hold down jobs in a tech economy.  She doesn’t take the opportunity to relate this to the new Russian anti-gay propaganda law, which seems like a crude attempt by Putin to socialize “marginal men” into being willing to marry and have children even in an uncertain economy.   


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

New professional website for my new "Do Ask, Do Tell III" book; what is my marketing strategy?



The “official website” for my new book (“Do Ask, Do Tell: Speech Is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened to Is a Privilege”, the 3rd in the series) is available now, called “Doaskdotell3book”, link here.   The site was created by XLibris and includes some material from the press release questions.

The site is heavily scripted, and is maintained for one year according to the agreement.  It will not affect my publication on all my other sites, which don’t require much fancy programming. 

I’ve also received posters, business cards and book stubs.
  
The most important task in my court right now is to review all the fiction content (book manuscripts) I had developed in the 1980s and 1990s, many of them in hardcopy only.  I do want to get a fiction manuscript (now called “Angel’s Brothers”) professionally edited and submitted somehow by this summer. So I want to see what I was doing all these years.  It’s a little disturbing to see how much of it I had forgotten.  The first of these manuscripts, “The Proles” (1969) is discussed on a companion site here (link ).  The first “Fiction” story in the DADT III book is essentially Chapter 4 of “The Proles”, based on my experience in Basic Combat Training in the US Army after being drafted, at Fort Jackson, SC in 1968.

How will I sell the book?  Well, it’s a mixture of activity.  Finishing the rest of my content is really the top priority, and only I can do that right now.  There is some travel that I need to do, to locations important from episodes earlier in my life, or because of simply honoring others associated with an issue.  (I’d like to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, even though I am a white male (gay).)

I do think that volunteering can help sell books.  That sounds like serving with the expectation with something, at least intangible, in return.  I don’t see anything wrong with that.  Service should always be thought through carefully.  Yet I see both sides even of that statement.

What about book fairs?  Maybe (there are LGBT fairs, especially in NYC), but I think that this book will be more likely mostly sold online, though Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the like. 
  
Amazon’s link for all my books is here.  This includes iUniverse POD's of the earlier books in the series. 

The Barnes and Noble link is here. I don’t see the 1998 booklet “Our Fundamental Rights” there.  I would have to hustle to find my own inventory somewhere.  It is dated. 

I’ve had entries on other retailer’s websites, including Powell’s and Books-a-Million.  Maybe I sound “disloyal”, but the media business has changed so much with the Internet that I haven’t really kept track of the bricks and mortar business lately  (I actually applied for a retail job at a Barnes and Noble store in 2004, never heard anything).  My earlier DADT books used to live at the Lambda Rising, but the Washington DC store near Dupont Circle closed a few years ago out of competition problems.  The closest thing to it now is Kramerbooks and Afterword Cafe  (book store and restaurant, link ), in the next block.  I should pay that store a visit.   Another similar business is Busboys and Poets (link ), one store actually at Shirlington in Arlington.  Food and Friends has sponsored some “night outs” with this group.
But, I have to finish my real “homework” first.

See also the earlier posting on this matter Feb. 27.