Sunday, 24 October 2021

I wrote a book. So what?

I had never thought of writing. In 2010, I tried blogging, my soapbox for propounding my view of the world. But was there more?

In 2011, I participated In NaNoWriMo. I wrote my fifty thousand words in eighteen days. In 2012, I worked through November in twenty-six days. Finally, in 2013, with a spark of inspiration, I rattled off my fifty in just eleven days. For some reason, this third effort felt as more of a complete effort, a jewel in the rough, but something worth developing. Fifty days shy of three years (2.9 years), I clicked on the Publish button on September 22, 2016.

"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup."

I'm sitting here, five years later, realising, "So, what?"

Despite my marketing efforts, people still have no idea who I am. I've hardly sold anything. I've tweeted, posted on Facebook, done book tours, arranged ARC reviews, given away free copies, done just about everything short of standing on my head. How does anyone stand out in a crowd? I've come to realise, it's quite a crowd, and while marketing is important, luck is the big factor in success.

Being an indie author is an uphill struggle.

According to Wikipedia, there are 2.2 million new books published each year, 300,000 in the U.S., 150,000 in the United Kingdom, 20,000 in Canada. The book review section of The Washington Post states they get 150 new titles each day. Each day! What are the chances of anyone getting noticed? Even if somebody has written the next classic, there’s the harsh reality of statistics. Having the public choose any particular book out of the annual American field of 300,000 strikes me as being the equivalent of winning the literary lottery. Congratulations, E. L. James: over 70 million copies of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy sold!

By the way, the above is about new books published each year. According to Google, there are over 150 million books in existence! Literary lottery, indeed!

There's a lot of junk out there, which means the public is leery of investing their time in anything unknown. Who wants the literary equivalent of bad movie? "I want two hours of my life back." Cheers to the risk-takers who brought E. L. James to the forefront.

The Guardian – May 24/2012
Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500 by Alison Flood
Despite the splash caused by self-publishing superstars such as Amanda Hocking and EL James, the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.

Considering all the above, writing is not an undertaking which is statistically successful. Why in Heaven's name would anybody in their right mind take on such a task? I guess the key word here is "right mind".

"Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well." -Stephen King, On Writing (my book Review, Dec 27, 2010)

I will interpret that as meaning one does it for the love of it. I can certainly say that I'm not doing it for the money! Ha!

Self-publishing: I'm doomed!
Ron Charles of The Washington Post clearly states his position, No, I don’t want to read your self-published book. Kathy English of The Toronto Star says that the Star does not review books by self-published authors. And why do these people take such a stance? Roger Sutton of The Horn Book lays it out succinctly, The real problem is that most self-published books... are pretty terrible.

But now, I'm going to say something which is probably a little strange. Maybe very strange.

I wouldn't read my own book.

That, for me, was quite the revelation. First of all, I don't often read just any book I find. I don't have all that much free time so it's not like I'm in need of something to wallow away the hours. Maybe if I had a four-hour trip ahead of me, maybe if I was stuck in a cottage on a rainy day, I might randomly pick something off the shelf but for the most part, I pick things I know, authors I'm familiar with, themes I can count on to amuse me. I wouldn't read my own book.

I realise I'm not helping my cause, but I'm actually not surprised that nobody reads my book. Well, almost nobody. Time is precious and who wants to run the risk? This is where I can joke about dead authors becoming popular so maybe I could help my sales if I committed suicide. Or this is where I can joke about going on to the next project and let the rest of the world to catch up to me. Somewhere, I saw a professional author suggest that marketing will eventually take care of itself, and the best thing an author can do is write the next book. Writing [is about] enriching your own life.

Doing Something Different
I would be lying if I didn't admit to having moments of fantasy, my name in lights, fame, fortune, admiring fans. But the realistic side of me reined in that craziness to carefully examine the practical side of writing. First off was to admit right up front that I had no idea of what I was doing. In the acknowledgements of my first novel, in thanking those who provided me with editorial assistance, I wrote:

What did I know about writing? The first time somebody told me I had a dangling participle, I checked to see if my fly was open.

I swallowed my pride, and I asked for help. I knew so little about the subject matter, I didn't understand that I didn't understand. That old saying is oh, so true: "The more I know, the less I know." I was very much displaying the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

I resolved to keep at it, to work with more than one person, and strive to get a favourable consensus of opinion. This is where I joke about Mom liked my book.

I make great use of beta readers, using the service Fiverr to find them. Like everything, some are good, and some are bad but the important thing for me is to have another set of eyes look at my work. Once again, referring to the acknowledgements of my first novel:

Beta readers: they are too numerous to mention, but I sincerely thank each and every one of them. They pointed out things I didn’t see or couldn’t see. I wear glasses, however it turns out I’m myopic literally and literarily.

Final Word
I'm writing this on October 24, 2021. I've published two novels and five small collections of short stories, and I've sold merely hundreds of books. I remain unknown and don't see that changing anytime soon. What to do? I'm editing novel number three, going through a series of beta reads to fine tune my work. Once I'm satisfied, I will hire professionals to copy edit and proofread my work before clicking on the publish button, probably in the spring of 2022. Will I sell a million copies? I wish! But I will have a personal sense of satisfaction of having accomplished something. I will have enriched my life.


References

Shameless plug: my books on Amazon

IDG – Apr 10/2010: Google: 129 Million Different Books Have Been Published
For those who have ever wondered how many different books are out there in the world, Google has an answer for you: 129,864,880, according to Leonid Taycher, a Google software engineer who works on the Google Books project.

Note: Wikipedia states 2.2. million new books are published each year. The above article was published in 2010 so if I take 130 million plus 2.2. times 10, I arrive at about 150 million in 2020.

Wikipedia: Books published per country per year
TOTAL: approximately 2,210,000

The Horn Book - Sep 30/2014
An open letter to the self-published author feeling dissed.by Roger Sutton
I can imagine how frustrating it is to have your book refused possible review coverage by the Horn Book simply because it is self-published. But here is why that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon... The real problem is that most self-published books... are pretty terrible.

The Washington Post - Oct 1/2014
No, I don’t want to read your self-published book by Ron Charles
At The Post, we’re getting about 150 books a day. A day. And these are books that had to find an agent. And then a publisher. And then were professionally edited. And now are being professionally marketed by people with money on the line. Many of these books, of course, are bad, but many — far more than we can review — are interesting, engaging, informative, moving, timely and/or newsworthy for various reasons.

The Toronto Star - Jun 19/2015
So many new books, too little time and space: Public Editor by Kathy English
Deborah Dundas, who has been Books editor for almost a year now and has been reviewing books here since 1999, told me the Star is inundated with “hundreds” of books every week from publishers throughout North America and beyond. As well, although the Star does not review books by self-published authors, she nevertheless receives “endless” email pitches from those who self-publish.

my blog: Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King - Dec 27, 2010
Who on this planet doesn't know the name Stephen King? Born in 1947, this American author has written and published 49 novels including 5 nonfiction which have sold over 350 million copies. Of course, his fame has spread even further as a number of these books have been turned into successful films: Carrie, The Shining, It and Misery to name but a few.

my blog: Writing: Amanda Hocking: indie author goes viral - Mar 2, 2011
Amanda was born in 1984, just your normal girl from Austin, Minnesota. However, over the years, she has apparently written over a dozen novels, all unpublished. She got the idea of self-publishing her work and started in April 2010. Huffington quotes Amanda as saying, "As of Tuesday, January 04, 2011 at 9 PM, I've sold over 185,000 books since April 15, 2010." She states that she started with Kindle in April 2010 and has not sold less than 1,000 copies per month since May 2010. The newspaper USA Today, Feb 9/2011, states that in January 2011 alone, Amanda's 9 published titles sold 450,000 copies, 99% of which were eBooks.

2021-10-24

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Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Cancel Culture, Supposedly

I hear people complaining about being so-called cancelled. Woe is me! Of course, Godwin's Law takes over and now, it's the "Gestapo of Political Correctness" subjugating the masses to make them conform to what those G.D. libtards feel is socially acceptable.

Fine. Then I go look at the complainant and see what's been suppressed. I find racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, along with lies, misinformation, distortion of the facts, conspiracy theories and outright stupidity, coupled with an attitude of anti-education, anti-science, anti-expertise, anti-government, and anti-authority goddamnit, nobody's gonna tell me what to do! Fifty years ago, a nut would stand on a soapbox at a street corner with a megaphone. The potential audience was limited. Today, that same person can get their message out to millions.

We’re back to a fundamental question: We all want freedom, but should anyone be free to falsely yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater?

My Personal Experience with Facebook
I've had my knuckles rapped. On September 21, 2020, I posted the following meme. I believe this clearly indicates my pro-mask, pro-vaccine stance while being critical of those who downplay the severity of this public health crisis.


On September 21, 2021, one year later, I received this notification from Facebook.



Along with the removal of my post, Facebook also punished me by disabling my ability to post for 18 hours.


I forgot to take a screenshot of this, but somewhere was the threat that repeated infractions could lead to me being banned from Facebook.

Am I angry? No. Am I concerned? No. Am I amused? Most definitely. Why? Let's unpack this.

 

The Social Media Police
The giants, such as Facebook and Twitter have been loath to step in. Think about this. Collectively, we use social media to post our opinions. But then, we collectively became concerned at the outrageousness of the extreme ends of the political spectrum and asked, demanded, and have legislatively coerced these giants to censor these people. In other words, we can't control ourselves; we can't censor ourselves, so we're asking somebody else to step in. We're asking social media to play parent to us as feuding children.

Think about that. Collectively, we can’t police ourselves, so we have to ask somebody else to police us.

But what about that policing? Overzealous? Too tough? Too “politically correct”?

Let’s look at the stats. Facebook has 2.89 billion users. The world’s population currently stands at 7.9 billion. That means 37% of the people on the planet are using Facebook. Holy cow! That’s a lot of users.

Referring back to my above run-in with the Facebook censors, do I think a human being looked at my posting and manually clicked on the button to punish me? Considering my posting had been online with no problems for a year, I assume this is a new rule, but I also think this rule was carried out by an automated routine. Did this routine look at my wording? Did it look at the child trying to stick a knife in a wall socket? How does any of this promote suicide? Did the routine miss my sarcasm?

First off, I repeat that we’re in this mess because collectively, we can’t control ourselves. Secondly, the media giants are faced with an overwhelmingly complex problem of properly identifying and dealing with trouble. How to accurately zero in on what is the cause of the problem? Suicide prevention is a good thing but does my meme have anything to do with promoting suicide?

I worked in I.T. (Information Technology) for 30 years and can say from experience that computers are complex. I mean like really complex. Facebook has an enormous headache in trying to police the world and despite the advances in A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), computers remain stupid, doing only what we tell them to do. It isn’t that easy to instruct a machine to make the distinction between suicide prevention and political satire.

As such, I expect the pendulum is going to swing too far in the other direction, and now that Facebook is trying to take on this policing task, it’s not going to hit a bullseye on the first try. Heck, it may never hit the bullseye. Whether it’s a human being or a computer instructed by a human being, the rules, or the algorithms written to enact those rules, may cast a wide net, ensnaring what some may consider as being the innocent. The final decision may end up in some sort of court, to be decided by some sort of jury. I repeat Facebook is doing this because collectively, we couldn’t police ourselves, and we asked them to do this.

In the past few years, I’ve been startled, surprised, and shocked to discover that the level of intelligence and knowledge of your average citizen is, at times, appalling. I’ve heard people state that they believe such and such without a shred of evidence, never mind that such and such at first glance is patently absurd. To paraphrase: Never have so many said so much while knowing so little.

High-ranking Democratic Party officials, including Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, were involved in human trafficking, running a child-sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria.
-Pizzagate, 2016

This was absolutely insane, but this is but one example of the craziness being passed around the Internet. While I believe there are mischief makers making up sh*t because they get a kick out of stirring the pot, I also believe there is a significant segment of the population that is ignorant, myopic, and ripe to led off on a wild goose chase. Armed with a laptop, an Internet connection, and Google search, all of a sudden, your average Joe has turned into a world-class sleuth tracking down “the truth” in quotations marks. While I’m sure there are bad things that go on in the world, government corruption, exploitation of the masses by big pharma, corporate tax fraud, etc., I do not believe there is some sort of illuminati who sit in a conference room around a board table, plotting on taking over the world. This idea has been floating around for centuries and considering they still haven’t taken over I have to assume these so-called illuminati must be pretty incompetent.

Cartoon by Jon Adams, The New Yorker
(I apologise. I do not have permission to repost this, but it is too good to pass up.)


How does the world work? Nobody knows so we make stuff up. We invent gods or the God. We invent unprovable explanations because we lack the science to properly describe things. And if none of that works, we invent conspiracy theories: Somebody has to be in control, pulling the strings; none of this could happen by chance.

Stochastic Terrorism
t**** is guilty of inciting the insurrection of January 6, 2021. Period. Full stop. Fox News is complicit, including Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro. Other far-right personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and Ben Shapiro to name a few also contributed.

What is stochastic terrorism? In a nutshell, somebody makes inflammatory statements in the hopes of stirring somebody, anybody up enough to commit an act of violence. I heard t****'s speech. I saw him watching the TV afterward. He truly hoped the crowd would successfully storm the capital and take over so he could slip in and declare himself their leader.

The Pandemic
At the beginning of the pandemic, I watched Sean Hannity and other right-wing media personalities echo t*** by saying that every year, the flu kills thirty thousand people in the United States, while; the coronavirus had only killed five thousand people, so no big deal. All of these so-called pundits forgot to annualize the numbers. Take five thousand, multiple it by 52 weeks, and you end up with 260,000. Is that number large enough for ya? By the end of the first year, Covid-19 had killed a half a million people in the United States.

As of this writing, so many on the right are refusing the vaccines but some are promoting ivermectin, a medicine for treating parasites. Anti-maskers are incensed at their freedom being taken away but know nothing about respiratory droplets and the airborne transmission of infectious diseases.

No Big Deal
The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 saw 50 million killed worldwide with 675,000 in the United States. Today’s pandemic has almost five million killed worldwide but with a far greater population. Adjusting for population, the comparable number of deaths for the United States would be over two million so we can argue that today’s pandemic is far less virulent than the pandemic of 1918. I’ve heard people use this point to argue for less stringent measures: no masks, mandatory vaccination requirements are government overreach, etc. I have to make note of one important point:

Those who say today’s pandemic is no big deal are alive.

I believe it pays to be prudent. I think it’s better to err on the side of caution. According to the latest headlines, covid deaths are rare among the vaccinated, and nearly all deaths in the United States are unvaccinated.

In February 2021, The Lancet Commission, tasked with assessing the health policy record of t****, stated that 40% of the deaths from Covid-19 could have been averted if rates had corresponded to those of other high-income G7 countries, the equivalent of almost three hundred thousand people. (The Guardian)

I can write that, and you can read it because we’re alive.

Social Media Filters
As I said, we can’t control ourselves, so we have to rely on someone else to control us. Whether Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc., are the tech giants going to get their filters correct? Let's add on top of the technical challenges that what should be censored is subjective.

I've been mulling over this article for some time but was finally prompted to write while reading an article by a blogger who reported being censured by Google. In talking about the pandemic, this blogger, who seems to take exception to the current vaccines as not being fully vetted and their mandated application, stated that WHO, the World Health Organization was putting out propaganda. He used the word propaganda which refers to biased or misleading information. Do I see a pattern? The Right, such as Fox News and cohorts, prone to the psychological condition of projection, constantly sends out the message that the Left is spreading “propaganda” while, in fact, the Left is putting out a message based on accepted “science”. Example: Dr. Fauci and the CDC promote vaccines while Fox News discusses ivermectin. I can see Google attempting to use the word “propaganda” as a flag for those trying to discredit a legitimate organisation such as the World Health Organisation. Is Google always going to get this right? Probably not. But we did ask them to do this.

Final Word
I've heard it said that despite the technological advances, humanity has not progressed spiritually. We have unprecedented access to information but remain as dumber than ever. We have the means of speaking to world, but as testimony to the Dunning-Kruger effect, we completely overestimate our understanding of the situation.

As I said, we can't control ourselves, so we're now asking social media to control us, a formidable task fraught with difficulties such as overreach. With 37% of the world population as its users, Facebook would ban little ol' me and not give it a second thought.

How big of a task is it to police 2.89 billion users? In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, the host John Oliver pointed out that Facebook’s attempts at filtering out unacceptable material appears to be solely concentrated on the English language. Oliver showed a Vietnamese radio personality as crazy as Alex Jones whose message goes out unfiltered on social media. On top of it, Facebook is merely one of several communication platforms where individuals blindly pass around postings with no checks and balances. Pizzagate? Heck, say anything you want. Who’s going to prove you wrong?

As the old saying goes: “Perception is everything” or “Perception is reality.” We make jokes about people thinking the world is flat; the joke being is that we all know it’s not flat. And yet, there are a lot of people believing stuff which easily doesn’t pass the smell test, and we somehow accept this as all right.

I return to my initial statement: Should anyone have the right to falsely yell fire in a crowded theater? Of course, the debate is now on as to whether “falsely” is correct or not.

With rights, come responsibilities.


I repeat: Anyone who is anti-mask and anti-vaccine does not understand respiratory droplets and how they contribute to the airborne transmission of infectious diseases. Or, like the smoker who rejects the scientific evidence of the link between smoking and lung cancer, their own personal view is more important than the good of the community. They are so focused on their freedom; they do not respect my freedom. Like a smoker who smokes in front of me and makes me inhale second-hand smoke, an anti-mask and anti-vaccine person doesn’t care if they risk my life. Like the smoker who says smoking is not a health risk, the anti-masker is saying the coronavirus is a hoax or at least, an overblown issue. It pays to be prudent. It is better to err on the side of caution. You have the right to smoke but you have the responsibility to not smoke in public. You have the right to not wear a mask and not be vaccinated, but you have the responsibility to follow the rules where masks and vaccinations are required. You have the right to jeopardize your life, but you have the responsibility to not jeopardize mine.

 


Posted by Moveclips, Jan 18, 2015
YouTube: The Day the Earth Stood Still (4/5) Movie CLIP - Klaatu's Speech (1951) (2:37)

Klaatu: I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We of the other planets have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets—in space ships like this one—and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us; this power can not be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is that we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war—free to pursue more pro?table enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer; the decision rests with you.


References

Wikipedia: Shouting fire in a crowded theater
"Shouting fire in a crowded theater" is a popular analogy for speech or actions made for the principal purpose of creating panic. The phrase is a paraphrasing of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919, which held that the defendant's speech in opposition to the draft during World War I was not protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The case was later partially overturned by Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1969, which limited the scope of banned speech to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action (e.g. a riot).

The paraphrasing differs from Holmes's original wording in that it typically does not include the word falsely, while also adding the word "crowded" to describe the theatre. The original wording used in Holmes's opinion ("falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic") highlights that speech that is dangerous and false is not protected, as opposed to speech that is dangerous but also true.

Wikipedia: Stochastic Terrorism
The first mention of the term "stochastic terrorism" appears to be in a 2002 article written by Gordon Woo entitled "Quantitative Terrorism Risk Assessment" in the Journal of Risk Finance.[36] The term is used to suggest that a quantifiable relationship may exist between seemingly random acts of terror and their intended goal of "perpetuating a reign of fear" via a manipulation of mass media and its capacity for "instant global news communication".

Wikipedia: Cancel culture
Cancel culture or call-out culture is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those subject to this ostracism are said to have been "cancelled". The expression "cancel culture" has mostly negative connotations and is used in debates on free speech and censorship.

my blog: Masks: How we hate change - Sep 28/2021
To mask or not to mask, that should not be a question.

my blog: The Enemy Is Us - June 15/2019
We are our own worst enemy.


2021-10-20

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