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I’ve Done (almost) Everything Wrong On Social Media

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When I started blogging a few years ago, I did almost everything wrong.  I didn’t use any pictures in my posts.  I referred to myself in the third person and first person plural.  Some of my posts were over 2,000 words long.  I wrote a bunch of jokes that weren’t funny.  I’m sure anybody who noticed my blog back then thought it wouldn’t last.

Now the blog is doing okay, but I’m not doing much on other platforms like I’m supposed to for building an audience.  I do a little bit on Twitter, but that seems to be for famous people or people who can spend all day on it, and I’m neither.  Plus, most tweets are either meaningless (like mine) or horrible.

I was on Facebook for about a week and thought it was useless because I can just call or email my friends;  I don’t have that many of them.  I’m not even trying Instagram or some other platforms I’ve never heard of.

I’m dabbling with videos now, just because I can.  I used to hate to hate being on video, but that attitude just doesn’t work nowadays, so I’m forcing myself.  As I put more videos on YouTube (and getting criticized for it too), I’m getting more comfortable and developing a thicker skin.  Aspiring writers need that thick skin.

Just like my blog years ago, my YouTube channel is starting off kind of slow.  In the video below, I talk about all the stuff  I’m doing wrong (according to the experts) on YouTube.  When I’m wrong, I’m usually willing to admit it.

 

What social media platforms do you use?  Which one (besides blogs) are you most comfortable with?  What are you doing wrong on social media?

Author Self-Bans Book Because Of Outrage Mob

She looks ticked off. I’d be ticked off too if an outrage mob attacked my book.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have been interested in this book without the outrage mob.  First of all, I don’t like YA fiction because there are always too many kids in the books.  I don’t usually like reading books from the kid’s point-of-view.  It’s okay occasionally, but I’m in my early 50s, and it would probably be kind of weird if I liked YA fiction too much.

Plus, this book is fantasy.  Man, I have read way too much fantasy in my life.  I’m so bored by fantasy that when I watch Game of Thrones, I enjoy the political intrigue but I yawn when I see dragons and ice zombies.

As much as I don’t like YA fantasy, I truly despise outrage mobs.  They react too quickly and too forcefully to stuff and don’t give people time to process information.  Even if the outrage mob is right about a specific point (they usually aren’t), they act so obnoxious that they ruin any point they had.

Just so you know, I’m referring to an unpublished book called Blood Heir by Amelie Wen-Zhao.   The author has decided not to publish her book after an outrage mob attacked her for a variety of reasons.  I’m not going into those reasons, but you can find them here and here .  These two articles (especially the second one) explain the situation better than I could.  You can also go to Twitter and look up Blood Heir, but I don’t recommend that.  Twitter, ugh.

When I was in my 20s (like the author is now), I probably would have been influenced by outrage mobs too.  Back then, I cared a lot more about what people thought of me.  Now I’m grouchy and would be more likely to tell them to buzz off.  I mean, I’d consider what the outrage was about first, but then I’d tell them to buzz off out of spite, even if the mob had a point.

Outrage mobs attack YA authors for a reason.  YA is different from regular fiction because publishers go out of their way to make sure nothing is racially offensive.  When I was reading YA books a few years ago (because my daughter was reading them, but she’s out of that phase now), I noticed some sexual references that I thought shouldn’t be in books marketed to middle school kids, but I didn’t make a big deal about it.  YA book publishers might not care about sexual references, but they are very sensitive about multiculturalism and diversity.  I guess YA authors are so sensitive, they self-ban their own books for their unintended slights.

I think Stephen King self-banned a short story (it wasn’t YA fiction) that he wrote in the 1970s because he thinks it helped inspire school shootings.  If he feels guilty about that, I can understand why he wants to self-ban the story.  I don’t think he should feel guilty about that, but I understand it.  He can logically (kind of) see the harm that his story might have caused.  If I thought my story was going to cause that kind of violence, I’d probably self-ban it.  But I don’t think it did.  I think  Stephen King has written stuff that’s way worse than the school shooting story.  But that’s what you do when you write horror genre stuff.

A few months ago, The American Library Association celebrated Banned Books Week to fight against the banning of books.  Maybe I’m wrong, but most Americans are against banning books, even if the books have ideas we don’t like.  What would the ALA do with a book that the author has self-banned?  Will the ALA take the sides of authors who are attacked by outrage mobs?  I’m sure a bunch of libraries were going to purchase Blood Heir; will they stand aside and allow outrage mobs to influence what gets published?  Is a self-ban inspired by an outrage mob the same thing as an actual ban?  Will this start a trend of authors banning their own books?

Maybe the self-ban is good.  Maybe the world doesn’t need another YA fantasy series.  Book stores are filled with YA fantasy novels.  Then again, there are too many outrage mobs too.  If I had to choose sides, I’d pick the YA fantasy novel over the outrage mob.  The YA fantasy novel would have to be truly horrible to be worse than an outrage mob.  Outrage mobs are inherently horrible.  Ugh.  Outrage mobs.

*****

What do you think?  Is an outrage mob inherently worse than a (possibly) racially insensitive moment in a book?  Would you self-ban something you wrote if it offended a reader?  Have you ever seen a productive exchange of ideas on Twitter?

Books I Won’t Read (and why): A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I know several people who hate fantasy but still want to read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.  Part of me finds that odd.

When I was growing up, fantasy was the most hated genre around.  A few of us (we were called weirdos) liked Lord of the Rings, but if we talked about it too much, we’d get beat up.  Just so you know, I never got beaten up for it, but I know others who did.

Anyway, the Game of Thrones books have been popular for a long time.  The television series probably inspires some of that popularity because the last few seasons have gotten so bad that now everybody wants to know what’s really going to happen in the books.  We need the books to fix what’s happened on the TV series.

I want to read the books too, but I won’t.  And it’s not because it’s fantasy.

What do you think?  Is my reason for NOT reading A Game of Thrones valid?

Old Things That Are Tough To Explain: The Divisive 1960s

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People today complain about how divisive politics has made the United States, and I agree that a lot of that isn’t good.  Some people say that our political discourse  is more hateful and vitriolic than ever.  I wouldn’t go that far.  I would guess the discourse before the U.S. Civil War was worse, but I wasn’t around back then.  Maybe war, starvation, extreme violence, and slavery weren’t as bad as today’s internet outrage, but I’m pretty sure the divisiveness was waaaaay worse back then.

I was alive, however, during the late 1960s.  I wasn’t aware of everything when I was a kid, but I remember stuff, and I’ve read about the stuff that I don’t remember.  And let me tell you, the 1960s were waaaay worse than today.

First of all, there were political assassinations in the 1960s.  JFK got assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. got assassinated, Malcolm X got assassinated, Bobby Kennedy got assassinated.  There were probably more that I don’t even know about.

There haven’t been any of those high profile assassinations recently in the United States.  I hope they don’t happen because assassinations suck.  Maybe security is better at assassination prevention than in the 1960s.  If U.S. politicians start getting assassinated, though, I’ll worry.  If people then start excusing the assassinations, I’ll worry even more.  Assassinations are bad, even (especially) when my government supports them.

Anyway, back to the 1960s.  The 1960s had the Vietnam War, which was way more divisive than anything going on today.  Yeah, the U.S. is still involved in foreign entanglements, but not as many troops are involved today, so it’s easy to forget.  I’m not saying that’s good; I’m just pointing out that it makes the military actions less divisive.

Because so few troops are involved in our military actions, you don’t see many protests over them.  During the 1960s, the anti-Vietnam college campus anti-war protests were so bad that students got shot by the National Guard, and that made things even worse, of course.

The 1960s was the peak of the Cold War (depending on how you look at it).  We were constantly warned that the U.S. and Soviet Union might nuke each other out of existence.  We always heard about the nuke drills that schools did, but my school never bothered.  My family lived so close to a military base that crouching wouldn’t do any good.  We figured we’d just stand tall and watch the show before being blown up.  People argued a lot about whether we needed so many nukes, and those arguments could be just as divisive as anything today.

Race riots in major cities made the country seem unstable.  There are still racial divisions today, but it’s not quite the same.  I mean, pundits say they’re worse today, but I see people of all races and ethnicities working and mingling together all the time with no visible problems.  Yes, there are issues, but people work together on a day-to-day basis.  Back in the 1960s, people were literally divided by race, even after segregation ended.

Then you had a bunch of weed-smoking hippies growing out their hair like women and staying at home with their parents and… wait, that doesn’t sound so bad.

1960s counter-culture gives people fond memories that overshadow the divisiveness of the time.  When I was a teenager, the 1960s were glorified and the 70s were mocked.  The 1960s had cool music like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and the 1970s gave us disco.  Yeah, there was cool music in the 1970s, but there was also disco.  The 1960s had JFK, a cool president (who got shot), and the 1970s had Nixon (who had to resign) and Carter (a bumbler who got into a fight with a killer rabbit).

The 1960s ended with a moon landing, and that was unifying, as long as you believe it wasn’t faked.  If you think the moon landing was a hoax, then that can cause an argument too.    Anyway, the cool pop culture stuff in the 1960s make some people forget all the bad divisive stuff that actually happened.

I’m not a big fan of divisiveness.  To me, it’s the politicians (and a few other very powerful people) who are causing the bitter disagreements in the U.S.  Most of us have our beliefs but go about our daily lives trying to raise our families and be productive, and we get along with those who disagree politically.  Our friendships and communities are more important than matching each other’s political checklists.

Some of the political activists would call me the problem because they think I am doing nothing.  I think those political activists are the problem because they usually make the problems worse.

I have mixed thoughts about the 1960s.  I was born in that decade, and that’s a plus.  I don’t want my birth decade to be thought of as a divisive time.  I’m a unifying kind of guy.  Despite all the stuff going on today, I’m fairly optimistic.  I remember the Cold War, the Vietnam War, race riots, and political assassinations.  Stuff could get really bad in the near future, and there are some warning signs, but we’re not there yet.  I should know.  I was born in the divisive 1960s.

Writer’s Group Horror Story: The Enthusiastic New Guy

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Back in the days when there was no internet, aspiring authors had to form writer’s groups in order to get feedback.  These groups often met in public and consisted of writers with varying degrees of talent, motivation, and personality.

Even today with the internet, writers can be kind of flaky.  When you put 20 (or more) of them together in public, you never know what’s going to happen.  This is one of my many writer’s group horror stories.

*****

In 1990, I was less than a year out of college and had moved to a fairly large city.  My previous writer’s group had just disbanded because it was small and full of women who’d had other things to do (like birth and child rearing).  It had been a good group with no issues (except for births and child rearing).  Even though I’d been the only guy, I’d also been the youngest and most serious writer of the group, so I’d received lots of positive attention.  I was sorry to see this group break up.

This first group had been so positive that I was desperate for a new one, and I’d heard about a large group that met at a public library on the other side of the city on a weeknight.  The time and location were inconvenient for me, but I was working on a full-fledged novel and needed feedback.

This was my fake psychic detective novel that I mention occasionally on my blog.  I had a cool serial killer name (the Sandbagger).  I had a cool protagonist name (Dominick Cane).  He was married to a cool gun enthusiast/nut Samantha (the name Samantha Cane was used in a movie about five years later, and the character also was really good with guns.  I thought that was kind of a strange coincidence).

The women in my first group had said that they thought I was married because the dialogue between Dominick and Samantha sounded so natural.  They thought I was married?  Ha!  I should have told them my awkward moments in dating stories.

Anyway, I was concerned about this new group.  It was going to be large, at least 20 people, from what I’d heard.  I took a short excerpt from my novel (we didn’t call them ‘works in progress” in the early 1990s), and I made over 20 packets at a copy store.  It cost five cents a page back then (I might be making up that number).  I had a decent job and no girlfriend, so I didn’t mind spending the money.

The night of the meeting, I hurriedly ate dinner, and got ready for the next work day because I knew I was going to get home past my regular weeknight bedtime (I was serious about my decent job).  I made my next day’s breakfast and lunch, and then had my professional clothes laid out for the next morning.

The drive to the meeting was over 30 minutes, and this was before GPS, and I was in a part of town I was unfamiliar with so I had to circle around a neighborhood a few times before finding the right place to park.  The parking lot was small, so I had to parallel park on a side street.  The library was one story with a flat roof.  That’s all I remember.

I walked into the library with my stack of stapled packets.  I tried to carry them with one hand, but individual packets kept sliding around, so I had to shift to two hands, and then I looked clumsy and wimpy carrying them.  Next time would be easier, I thought, because I’d know how many to make.

When I entered the library, the librarian at the front desk gave me a condescending smile and pointed to a corner in the back.  I guess all the packets made it obvious where I was going.

Behind the reference section, there was a huge circle of chairs filled with guys in their fifties (or older) and a few women who seemed younger.  I remember lots of smoking, but I think that’s a fake memory because I’m pretty sure libraries didn’t allow smoking back then.  The floor area of the circle was empty except for ash trays and Styrofoam cups.  I know for sure there were Styrofoam cups.  I’m not making that part up.

Nobody else had manuscripts. That was weird, I thought.  There was lots of talking and camaraderie but no reading.  I was puzzled.  I wondered if I’d stumbled into a 12-step meeting.  Those were supposed to more private, I thought.  Then again, people in 12-steps meetings usually told great stories.  A 12-step meeting would probably make a great writer’s group, if not for the anonymity issue.

I slowly approached the circle and tried talking to a seemingly lonely guy with a vacant stare.

“Is this the writer’s group?” I asked quietly.

The guy nodded but didn’t make eye contact.

The circle was crowded with alleged writers (I saw no proof of writing yet), but I saw a gap with no chair.  I moved forward to place the stack of WIPs (not a term back then) on the floor so I could go retrieve a chair.  Just as I set the copies down, some middle aged guy said really loudly:

“Look!  An enthusiastic new writer!”

And everybody laughed.  It felt like everybody.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was getting laughed at, and nobody had even read my excerpt yet.  This wasn’t a good start.

*****

To be continued!

In the meantime, here’s another bad writer’s group experience, Writer’s Group Horror Story: The Vulgar Guy.

The TRUTH about Standardized Tests!!!!

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Even though the standardized testing season is weeks away, my kids are already complaining about it.  They’re whining about how many tests there are this year.  They’re moaning about how long they have to sit in one classroom and stay quiet.  They’re griping about how stressful and boring the tests are.

I don’t blame my kids for dreading the tests.  Testing wasn’t such a big deal when I was a kid.  We took one test that I recall, but there was no build up to it, so nobody really seemed to care about it.  Instead, we stressed over the semester exams that our teachers gave us.

Nobody (including teachers and principals) likes the current testing system, but the government insists that students take a bunch of tests anyway.  I’m starting to wonder why.  Why does the government insist that so much time is spent on standardized testing?

Maybe it’s about measuring student learning.  Maybe it’s about improving education.  Or maybe… it’s about something more nefarious.

Remember, I talk to myself when I write, and sometimes I go off topic.

Author Success Strategy: Work for a Publishing Company!

When The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn came out last year, it was a bestseller immediately.  A bunch of famous authors like Stephen King and Ruth Ware wrote extremely favorable reviews that were plastered on book site promos and the book cover itself.  Stephen King even made up a new word, calling it “unputdownable.”

The Woman in the Window was going to be the next Gone Girl.  There have been a bunch of novels over the last few years that were supposed to be the next Gone Girl, but not many of them got praised by Stephen King.  When I read the book, I thought it was average.  The character wasn’t that interesting, and the author seemed to try too hard with all the film noir references.

I knew something was odd.  The author A.J. Finn had never published a book before, but this author’s first novel was a #1 bestseller immediately.  At the time I wondered how this no-name author had gotten the publishing company to put so much publicity and Stephen King’s praise into this book.  If it had been J.K. Rowling with a new name or a book coauthored by James Patterson, I’d understand.  But it seemed weird that this bland novel by an unknown first-time author was a bestseller the very first week it came out.

How did this happen?  I wondered, and I hoped the first-time author had a strategy that I could use.

The answer is kind of anti-climactic (especially since I put it in the title of this blog post).  A.J. Finn worked as an executive editor for William Morrow, the company that published the book.

What?

The Woman in the Window might technically be A.J. Finn’s first novel, but he’s not some nobody schmuck sending query letters to literary agents and wallpapering the den with rejection letters.  A.J. Finn’s real name is…  well, it’s in this link to an NPR story about him, , but it’s not important what his real name is, at least it’s not important to the point of this blog post.

I think promoting A.J. Finn and The Woman in the Window as a rookie author success story last year was kind of lame.  An executive editor has advantages that regular shmucks (such as bloggers like me) don’t have.  Maybe the publishing company should disclose that to the public when it puts out this book: “Hey, this book was written by an executive editor in our publishing company, and it’s really good!  Even Stephen King and Ruth Ware say so!”

I’m not even faulting the author for working on a novel while he’s an executive editor for that publishing company.  If that was his plan the whole time, that was a great plan.  If he hadn’t planned it, then it was great improvisation.

But he’s not really a first-time author.  Technically, under the letter of the law, he might be.  But everybody knows he’s not.

The only thing that annoys me about this situation is Stephen King’s use of the word unputdownable.  If you’re going to make up a new word like unputdownable, use it for a better book.

Stephen King’s unputdownable review makes me again question King’s judgement in book reviews.  I put down The Woman in the Window very quickly.  I also made the mistake years ago of pre-ordering a book based on Stephen King’s review in an weekly entertainment magazine.  The book that King praised was so mediocre that I don’t believe Stephen King actually read the book.

I can’t prove that Stephen King doesn’t read the books he reviews.  I just don’t believe that he does.   I believe he WRITES the books he’s written, though, and that’s more than a lot of authors do.

Anyway, the lesson here is that if you want to be a famous bestselling author, work for a publishing company.  I’m probably too old (and cranky) for that now.  But some of you youngster bloggers and readers out there can do it.

No matter what, though, please do NOT write the next Gone Girl.  I liked Gone Girl, but we don’t need another one.

*****

What do you think?  Is it honest to call an experienced executive editor a “first time author”?  Is working a for a publishing company a brilliant strategy, a cynical strategy, or both?

Awkward Moments in Dating: Prom

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When it comes to me and dating, high school was the worst.  At that point, it seemed like I had peaked in first grade when I’d had two girlfriends at the same time and they’d fought over me and I thought it was cool.  In 7th grade, I got hit on by a 9th grade girl, and that could have been a dating milestone, but my mom put a stop to that.  At the time I was ticked off, but now I know my mom did the right thing.

Then I started getting weird growth spurts.  I became really uncoordinated.  My clothes never fit right.  I spent all my time and money on comic books (it was cool in elementary school but not in junior high).  My face broke out, and 1980s dermatology usually made complexions worse.  Once I started wearing glasses, my transformation to nerd was complete.

The good news is that I wasn’t one of those lonely, angry, near-suicidal misfits who are often depicted in movies, TV, or books.  I wasn’t picked on.  I was tall and could talk sports, and I could almost fit in with every group (except jocks).  I had friends, and I had my share of fun (or an introvert’s version of fun).  But I didn’t date.

I knew in high school that girls weren’t interested in me.  It was a lousy feeling knowing that certain things weren’t going to happen, and even in the 1980s teenagers were bombarded with sexual messages in music and television/movies.  It’s gotten worse since then, I know, but the sexual messages were still out there.

It was frustrating, but unintentional abstinence prepares you for adulthood better than things coming too easily.   When you know certain things aren’t going to happen, you’re better prepared to deal with those situations as an adult.  I later made some good decisions as an adult because of my high school (in)experience.  I know some guys who were smooth in high school who then made horrible life decisions as adults because certain situations with females had been too easy for them.

Here’s my point.  The prom was coming up in a few weeks, and I was hanging out with a bunch of guys at a restaurant on a Saturday night.  If a guy was planning on getting a date to prom, there was still time.  Nobody had that sense of desperation or urgency yet.

Proms back then were set up to be awkward.  If a guy didn’t have a girlfriend already, he was still expected to attend with a girl, probably one he’d never been out with before.  Today, kids seem to go to prom in groups, and that takes the pressure off.  But in the early 1980s, guys were expected to have dates.  I mean, it was okay to go with a bunch of friends, but that was a last resort, and it was seen as lame.

I liked my chances of getting a date.  My status had improved a lot my senior year.   Our school had just finished its musical.  I’d had a decent part (not the lead) and had stolen a scene (with the director’s permission).  My grades were good.  I’d been accepted into a Prestigious University (and hadn’t found out yet that I couldn’t get enough financial aid and scholarship money to attend).  The acne was clearing up most of the time.  I was fitting in better than I ever had in school.

Anyway, a bunch of senior guys who couldn’t get senior girls to go with them were asking out sophomore girls, but I wasn’t going to do that.  I knew sophomore girls who would go if I asked.  A sophomore girl would almost always go with a senior guy to prom, unless the senior guy was really detestable.  I wasn’t that undateable.  I was going to ask out a senior, and I already knew whom.

Once the guys at the restaurant that Saturday night started talking about prom, I felt I needed to join in.  And I made a rookie mistake.   Every teenager knows not to make this mistake.  Even a gullible naïve guy like me knew not to make this mistake, and I did it anyway.

And I’ll tell you about it in the next episode.

*****

To be continued in Awkward Moments in Dating: Prom Strategy.

Or you can start at the beginning at Awkward Moments in Dating .

Indie Author Success Strategy: Write a Ton of Books!

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Every independent author knows it’s almost impossible to make a living off of writing by itself.  An author has to do more than write quality content or promote books on social media.  A successful author has to do something that stands out from all the other struggling authors.  Some authors use a group of allies to sell books.  Some act crazy to stand out.

And in this case, an author simply writes a ton of books… literally.

Last month a publishing website put out an article called Helping Indie Authors Help Themselves.  It sounded nice, an indie author writing his own books, promoting them on social media, and then reaching out to other indie authors with an indie publishing company.  The publishing website’s article focused on how the indie author formed his own publishing company to help other indie authors.

If you don’t look any deeper than that, it seems like a heart-warming indie author success story.  When I did my own research, however, (that’s often a mistake), I found a list of all the author’s books.

Ummm….

This guy has written over a hundred books in three years!

It’s tough even to tell how many books this author actually writes because he’s pulled a James Patterson and is coauthoring a bunch.   Every book that I’ve checked (I didn’t check them all: I’m a blogger who writes for free) has his name on it.  It seems like he writes two books a month himself and puts his name on several others.   I think he has written (or published) more books than I’ve read in the last three years.

There’s no way anybody can write that many books and have an acceptable quality of writing.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve always thought that quality of writing gave some indication about how serious an author is.  Here are the first two sentences from a random book I chose ( Karma Is A Bitch: An Urban Fantasy Action Adventure (The Unbelievable Mr. Brownstone Book 12)by Michael Anderle) with a bunch of five-star Amazon reviews:

The chaos entity who went by He Who Hunts floated in a darkened chamber surrounded by glowing windows in the air, each a magical screen relaying images and sensations from the Brownstone team’s assault on the Council base.  He watched as summoned monsters and wizards fell to bullets, grenades, rockets, and even swords.

I admit, this isn’t my genre anymore, so I’m not the best judge of how pedestrian this opener is.  About 20 years ago, this might have appealed to me.  Maybe fans of urban fantasy adventure don’t have any problems with this kind of writing, but I’m not going to dissect the sentences as I sometimes do.  When an author writes at least two books a month (maybe more), a reader might be lucky all the words are spelled correctly.

The publishing website treated this author as a success story but barely mentioned how this author blitzed the market with a bunch of cheap and (probably) low quality books.  They didn’t want to delve into that?  Am I the only writer who sees this as a bad faith writing practice?  I know some writers are highly motivated to be successful, but as a reader, I don’t trust writers who put out more than one book a year.

I have to be careful not to be too critical of independent authors because it can come across as sour grapes.  I’m sincerely interested on how some authors succeed, but I don’t like shadiness either.  Writing so many books so quickly with so many five-star reviews strikes me as odd.

Maybe I’m too quick to react so negatively.  You can easily find sloppy writing in a bunch of bestselling novels.  If bestselling authors can get away with sloppy writing, then why shouldn’t an indie author?

Maybe I should respect a guy who cranks out that much writing.  At least the indie author is taking his/her own financial risk.  It’s tough making it as an indie author.  If co-authoring over a hundred books in three years is what it takes, then more power to that highly motivated indie author.

At the very least, I need to step up my game.  I haven’t self-published an ebook since 2015.  I need to quit blogging and publish some stuff!

*****

What do you think?  How many books can an author publish each year before you start getting suspicious?  Is this a writing success story, or is this a publishing scam?

Book Publisher Sues Netflix over Black Mirror Episode

I have issues with Netflix, but I don’t want to cancel it!(image via wikimedia)

It’s interesting to see Netflix get sued by a book publisher, even though the legal part of it might be boring. Legal stuff is interesting to most people only when sex or violence is involved.  Netflix has lots of sex and violence in its programming, but this lawsuit is only about possible trademark infringement.

Here’s the short version, probably with a lot of details missing (you can get more details here).  Last month Netflix (and the BBC) released an episode of Black Mirror called Bandersnatch.  The episode is set in the 1980s and centers on an interactive book that was part of a Choose Your Own Adventure book series in the episode.  The legal problem is that there actually is a Choose Your Own Adventure book series which was popular (I think) in the 1990s.

The publishing company doesn’t like the way Bandersnatch portrays Choose Your Own Adventure and is seeking… ugh… this is where I get a headache.  I’m glad I didn’t go to law school.

I think I remember the Choose Your Adventure books (or something like it).  They were popular in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the nerds, geeks, and weirdos (today they’d be called the cool people) played fantasy role playing games with boards and cards and dice.  Computers were too expensive for most families to purchase, so interactive entertainment was through books and board games.

Anyway, the publisher of Choose Your Own Adventure is claiming damages because Netflix used the phrase/title Choose Your Own Adventures without the publishing company’s permission.  Trademark infringement is different from copyright infringement (I’m not a lawyer, but I know just enough to be dangerous).   You can’t copyright a book title, but you can trademark a term or phrase as a brand.

Evidently, Netflix’s version of Choose Your Own Adventure was too disturbing or violent or adult and didn’t reflect what Choose Your Own Adventure really is.  The publisher thinks Bandersnatch’s version of Choose Your Own Adventure could negatively affect its brand.

I can understand an independent publishing company trying to defend its product.  Publishing companies don’t find successful books (or book series) very often, so they have to milk it or defend it when they can.

Even so, I have no idea how strong of a case this publishing company has.  I don’t know how damaging a warped version of Choose Your Own Adventure would be on a children’s series with the same name.  I don’t know if this is a case where an entity like Netflix automatically wins because it’s Netflix (or if it automatically loses because it’s Netflix).

The biased part of me wants protection for the small publishing company, but that’s just me.  Even though I subscribe to Netflix, there’s a lot I don’t like about it.  I don’t like the binge-watching model that too many of its original shows use, where the story takes up the entire season of 10-15 episodes.  There is a lot of wasted time in that model, and that wasted time is probably intentional.

It’s not just Netflix, but a lot of people use Netflix to refer to streaming services in general.  These streaming services have glutted the market with so much programming that it’s affecting how much time people spend reading books.  Yeah, I know the lawsuit has nothing to do with binge watching, but I feel like I need to root for the books.  I guess I can’t be on the jury now.

Bandersnatch is a long episode of the series Black Mirror, and I see Black Mirror the series as the opposite of most streamed programming.  I actually like Black Mirror (from what I’ve seen) because each episode is a self-contained story.  The episodes can get kind of weird, but you don’t have to invest an entire day to get to the end of a story.

I’m getting old.  I have little interest in watching the Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror, but I’m interested to see how this legal case turns out.

*****

What do you think?  Do you get more or less interested in legal stuff as you get older?  Is it wrong for me to root for the small book publisher just because I like books?  Or should I be… ugh… objective?