Sometimes people send me books to review; sometimes I review them.
As a writer myself, it’s an interesting approach to marketing. Based upon my previous Amazon reviews, authors have approached me to review their books. It’s almost always business books, and rarely novels or bottles of whisky. Perhaps this is because business authors are more marketing-savvy.
The email pitch was a good one:
I’m a first time author reaching out to those who love learning and reading about innovation, leadership and new ideas on reinventing companies for digital.
Your review of StrengthsFinder 2.0 is what caught my eye. Our new book (The Age of Surge.) was written to help leaders and everyday employees take the kinds of ideas covered in StrengthsFinder 2.0 and show how to put them to work in even the most dysfunctional, “broken” companies. I think you’ll find our book provocative and thought provoking… you might even like it 🙂
Would you be open to reading our book if I send you a free digital copy (no strings attached)? Obviously I’d welcome and appreciate any time you’re willing to spend leaving an honest review.
This was a good pitch for a couple of reasons:
It was personalized. The email was not just a press release but a personal note that highlighted the fact that I liked a similar book. There was research behind it.
It was written in a human voice. The pitch came from the author. It was direct, concise and respectful of my time.
That said, just because it’s a good pitch doesn’t mean I’m going to review it.
I look at these books on business reinvention with a jaundiced eye – my novel Don’t Mess Up My Block satirizes the genre, following a clueless consultant who leaves disaster everywhere he goes. It’s based upon my experience seeing organizations conduct ill-conceived change initiatives.
I didn’t want to like The Age of Surge. But it is a very readable, humane look at change in the workplace from someone who operates in the real world, not the theoretical domain of management consultants. The author praises middle management – I’ve never seen that before.
So, it’s not enough to craft a catchy email. First, you have to write a great book. But to get reviewers to read your book you have to approach them with a personalized, human, relevant message. That’s a good pitch.
Even the most stalwart defenders of The Washington Post would agree that the current business model is untenable. It was high-minded journalism made possible thanks to the generous support of low-brow classifieds. Garage sale ads paid for Woodward and Bernstein.
But Craigslist stole that income stream years ago. Newspapers thought they were better than that. They were wrong.
It never found it. Print subscribers deserted the paper and digital ads never amounted to much. The Post used to be the paper of record, augustly informing the imperial capital what was news and what wasn’t.
Those days are over, and thank god. Instead, readers have the power. We decide what’s important.
Still, a city needs a newspaper, right? Wrong – we need journalism. It doesn’t matter whether it’s paper or electrons, tweeted or printed, we need the old-fashioned work of writers, editors and photographers.
Bezos buying WaPo is an endorsement of that view. He bought journalism, with an eye for reinventing it like he reinvented online shopping and book publishing.
What should he do? As a DC resident, long-time reader of the Post and freelance writer, I’ve got some ideas:
1. Create a weekend edition of the Express
Reading the Washington Post Express is a daily routine for tens of thousands of Washington commuters. We get up, pick up a copy of this free paper, and then read it while we’re stuck in the Metro. We’re literally a captive audience, stuck underground, as we endure the latest Metro calamity.
But it’s a Monday-Friday paper and underutilized asset. I suggest creating a weekend edition, targeted to a different audience – tourists and people coming into the city for the weekend. Make it a fun guide to the weekend’s events, something that people can take with them.
And include a map in each issue, to help people navigate Washington’s yuppie delights.
2. Double the pay of Express distributors
Rain or shine, you can find a friendly face handing out copies of the Express every weekday morning at Metro stations. With a stack of papers and a hearty hello, they are Washington Post brand ambassadors – and deserve to be paid accordingly.
Double their pay as a goodwill gesture. Reward the face of your brand. Doing so will address the accusation that Amazon is anti-worker. Also, these brand ambassadors might just solve the last-mile problem. If they can hand out papers, they can hand out other things as well.
3. Fire Ezra Klein
No one embodies the mediocre state of the news like Ezra Klein. A reliable stenographer for Washington’s elite class, he is a journolist who got caught trying to fix news coverage. He and his cohorts sought to deny the rest of us the truth.
Straddling the line between reportage and advocacy, he exists in the chummy East Coast world of liberal groupthink, where Washington insiders pass seamlessly between politics, media and government.
Let him pursue his inevitable destiny, as a lead-in for hoaxer Al Sharpton or as a particularly mendacious Obama press secretary.
4. Hire Glenn Greenwald
With his NSA exposes, Greenwald is a true muckraker who lives up to the crusading ideals that the Washington Post was once known for (where was the paper, BTW?). Greenwald risks Gitmo to get the story. He believes in something and is willing to put his life on the line to cover it – how many DC reporters would do the same?
He’s prickly, and an asshole, but isn’t that what you want a journalist to be?
5. Kill the paywall… forever
The paywall is twenty years too late. News has escaped its bounds and can now be found everywhere. Why pay for something I can get for free?
And like many of the Post’s digital initiatives, the paywall is a sloppy, second-best effort full of holes and loopholes. Work in government – no paywall for you! There are so many exceptions that I wonder who the fool is who actually pays for the paper online.
Kill it. And swear that it will never return. Like Facebook, promise that the Washington Post will always be free online.
The Washington Post has been a part of my whole adult life. I read it in college between classes. Coming home late at night, I used to see the trucks lined up outside the building on 15th St, ready to deliver papers to the Washington region. Seeing my first article published in the paper was a special thrill.
I’m also an Amazon fan and a supporter of the Internet revolution. I’ve self-published two novels with Amazon. I own (and love) a Kindle Paperwhite. I work on web sites for a living.
Jeff Bezos, I wish you luck. With your customer-centric philosophy and history of innovation, you’re just the man to figure out how to make the news survive as a business. Newspapers may no longer be printed on dead trees but journalism must endure.
Don’t Mess Up My Block is a parody of self-help books. This funny and cynical tale follows the adventures of Laurent Christ, a man who pursues self-improvement to its logical conclusion – he reinvents himself with a brand-new name and history. He drops a hundred pounds, shaves his head and goes on the road as a management consultant.
Everywhere he goes, comic disaster follows as companies follow his glib counsel.
When the world’s most famous explorer is murdered at the Smithsonian, it’s up to a cynical Washington detective to solve the case.
Bob Fundwell dies in the Smithsonian’s Ocean Hall when the life-size replica of a whale falls from the ceiling and crushes him.
Murder in Ocean Hall is inspired by true events, including the real-life controversy over the discovery of the Titanic, as well as my two decades in Washington, DC. This fact-based murder mystery takes you behind the scenes of our nation’s dysfunctional capital, revealing the real city beyond the monuments.
Borrow one now and the other in October, when you can borrow another Kindle title!
There’s a reason why Amazon is such a titan in the e-book world – it delivers income to writers. It does so seamlessly, easily and without authors having to do anything. You don’t have to hound publishers for checks or wait for the results of some sort of mysterious accounting process.
Amazon posts sales results weekly. For me, it’s just beer money, as I watch my two novels sell in dribs and drabs. Still, it’s something. My work is getting out there and I’m making some cash, even if it’s not going to get me more than a six-pack or two.
And the company constantly innovates, like with their Amazon Prime program. Among other benefits, you can borrow select e-books for free. And authors get a share of a pool of money set aside for the program. In March, it was $600,000!
Each time one of my Kindle titles got borrowed last month, I received $2.18, according to the Amazon press release. That’s a nice royalty, considering one of my novels is 99 cents and the other is $2.99.
So if you’re an Amazon Prime member, borrow my books please! You don’t need a Kindle either. There are Kindle apps for the iPad, iPhone, Mac and PC.
Murder in Ocean Hall is a great read if you like mysteries set in DC. A reviewer wrote that it will take you behind the scenes of the city and show you how things work – or don’t work. It’s a mystery novel written by someone who actually lives in Washington and knows the neighborhoods beyond the monuments.
Looking for something fast and fun? Then check out Don’t Mess Up My Block, a satire of the self-help biz. Follow the adventures of Laurent Christ as he pursues success across an American landscape littered with greedy consultants, social media frauds and incompetent bureaucrats.
Check them out! And remember, borrowing my books will keep me in beer, an essential element of my creative process 😉
My new book, Don’t Mess Up My Block, has advanced to the Second Round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA).
ABNA brings together talented writers, reviewers, and publishing experts to find and develop new voices in fiction. The 2012 international contest will award two grand prizes: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance.
Finalists will be announced in May with grand prize winners selected in June.
Don’t Mess Up My Block is a novel that satirizes self-help books like Who Moved My Cheese and The Secret. It follows the adventures of an ambitious consultant as he goes from disaster to disaster, believing that success is a matter of just following the right catchphrase.
You can now order my book, Murder in Ocean Hall. My book is a mystery, set in DC, about the murder of the world’s most famous explorer. He’s killed in the Smithsonian, when the replica of a whale falls on top of him. It’s up to a cynical Washington detective to solve the case.
Murder in Ocean Hall is based in fact, drawn from my experience living in dysfunctional DC, and from working in the field of ocean exploration.
Get this new mystery today, now available in print and Kindle editions.