Why wait in line to buy some giant piece of electronics that you don’t need? Instead, stay at home and download my novel Murder in Ocean Hall for free on the Kindle.
Starting at the Smithsonian, the book is a tour of DC that one reviewer called, “A profile of the nation’s capital city from the inside out.” Another reviewer said Murder in Ocean Hall was, “A thoughtful and discerning first novel by an author with something to say.” Another said, “Joe Flood is a find.” (That was my favorite.)
And look for a sequel to this book coming next year!
I have a guest post on Digital Book Today on how reading novels is good for you. Novels teach essential skills, such as concentration, careful reading (not skimming web pages) and the ability to frame and express a story. Novels are more than just entertainment. Immersing yourself in words on a regular basis will improve your writing ability, something that is vital for business success. You’d be surprised at the number of college grads I’ve met that can’t write a sentence. Being able to craft blog posts, articles, reports and other kinds of communication is a way to differentiate yourself from your ADD-afflicted peers.
Digital Book Today was founded by a book industry veteran. Its mission is to help readers find new authors in the digital world. It focuses on e-books and provides a great list of free new e-books every week.
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.
Britain in 1979 was the sick man of Europe. Militant trade unions controlled the country, overthrowing successive governments. General strikes made life miserable. Britons suffered through a “winter of discontent” with power cuts, transport strikes and trash piled up in the streets. Inflation as high as 21% wiped out the savings of people who had scrimped and saved their entire lives.
This is the context that’s been missing in discussions of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, and one that’s provided by Always Right by Niall Ferguson. In this Kindle single, he shows how the benefit of hindsight has diminished our view of Thatcher’s achievements.
As Thatcher stated before taking the job of Prime Minister in 1979, “My job is to keep Britain from going red.”
This was a real danger. I did a study-abroad program in London in the mid-80s. As part of the class, we visited a Labour MP in Parliament. After he got done insulting us as spoiled rich kids, he shared his aim of imposing socialism across the country. Real socialism, not the Obama kind, but a political system where the government controls where you live, what you do and how much you make. The Soviet Union was held up as a model to emulate.
It’s hard to believe but millions of people shared this belief.
Thatcher was right, of course, and they were wrong. And the elite classes of England hate her for it, to this day. Despite being the most famous graduate of Oxford, the university never gave her an honorary degree. The middle-class grocer’s daughter is not one of us…
We’re fortunate to live in a better time. As bad as things are, it’s not 1979. Always Right is a look back, without the benefit of hindsight, at the parlous era and the Iron Lady who changed it.
This murder-mystery is set in DC, but in the real city beyond the monuments. It makes a perfect gift for anyone who wants to learn more about how Washington works – or doesn’t. Murder in Ocean Hall has received a slew of five-star reviews on Amazon. It is a quick, entertaining who-dunnit filled with memorable characters and a dash of humor.
As someone who spent many years dealing with consultants, federal contractors, and federal employees …. this book rings all too true. The people, places, and situations are much too familiar … for me, it was a non-fiction “day in the life” – or “you won’t believe the day I had”. Well done Joe! The author has captured life on the Beltway merry-go-round.
I know the reviewer and if anyone is an expert on the Beltway merry-go-round, it is he. Glad that my book rang so true with someone so attuned to the absurdities of life in Washington.
Beyond the pomp and ceremony of the Presidential Inauguration, there’s a whole other city, a real city, where people work and live in a world far removed from the ideals and monuments of the Washington you see on TV. It’s a place where ordinary folks struggle to find good schools and survive in a rapidly-changing urban environment.
It’s the world of Murder in Ocean Hall. This mystery novel takes place in city neighborhoods like Dupont Circle and U Street. In this book, the world’s most famous oceanographer is murdered. It’s up to a cynical DC detective to solve the case. Along the way, we learn about the history of city and why it works – or doesn’t work.
A reviewer wrote:
Read this book if you think you’ve been to Washington, DC. The author, Joe Flood, will take you behind the scenes of places you’ve been and tell you how they function then give you insights into people in power and how they fail to function.
Get my funny satire Don’t Mess Up My Block for free today and tomorrow on Kindle! This novel takes aim at self-help experts, social media gurus, business consultants and other American charlatans.
I wrote the book as a parody of self-help titles like Who Moved My Cheese and The Secret. However, Don’t Mess Up My Block is filled with bad advice. Follow the picaresque adventures of Laurent Christ, a self-appointed business expert, as he goes from disaster to disaster. Can you fake it until you make it? Find out in my funny new novel.
I started the year with What It Was by George Pelecanos. It was the first book by this DC writer that I’ve ever read. And it was also the first book I ever read on an iPad, an experience I found to be surprisingly pleasant. What it Was is a muscular, brutal novel with a strong plot that captures Washington after the 1968 riots. In my review of this crime novel, I said that:
Pelecanos has a great eye for the details of the time, from the tricked-out cars to the soul music of the 1970s.
I then devoured the first three books of A Game of Thrones. Starting off a skeptic, I was soon enraptured by the violent, amoral world of Westeros. But by the end of the third massive tome, I had fallen out of love – when is this thing going to end? Arrgh, why does George R. R. Martin keep killing off main characters? For those familiar with the endless tale, it was the traumatic events of the “Red Wedding” that made me stop reading.
The death of Harry Crews in March reminded me of what a good author he was – I reread Body, his crazy disturbing look at female bodybuilding. Crews loved Florida and freaks.
A more genteel book is The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett. This Kindle single is one of the most practical guides to writing I have ever read. And her novel State of Wonder was one of the best books I read all year. It’s a great examination of scientific ethics in the Amazonian rainforest.
Another great story about an author is Hemingway’s Boat. Filled with colorful tales of Papa in Cuba, it’s a damning portrait of a genius in decline.
In the category of “I can’t believe I’m reading this”: The Rock Star’s Daughter. It’s a young-adult page turner that was free on Kindle. This really was the year of the e-book for me.
I had plans to review each chapter of The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau. He’s an ideal author for people pursuing alternative career paths. But I got stuck on chapter three – follow your passion… maybe. In this chapter, Guillebeau said to look for things that you love to do that you can also get paid for. The stories are inspiring but he understates the difficulty of discovering this sweet spot of passion and money.
This idea of discovering what you’re best at is explored in The Pumpkin Plan, a very nuts-and-bolts book for small businesses. The message: only do what you’re best at. Nothing else.
In the category of philosophical, “what should I do with my life?” books I would also place The Winner Stands Alone and Aleph, a pair of somewhat cruel novels by Paulo Coelho. They fail to capture the magic of The Alchemist, lacking the hopeful spirit of his first book. Which is disappointing, because The Alchemist is required reading for anyone who wants to be an artist.
Another disappointment was Swamplandia – it started out so strongly but then got bogged down in a literal and metaphorical swamp. Parts of the book are brilliant and hilarious. The editor in me wanted to cut a hundred pages out of this book. There so much potential in this story of Florida swamp eccentrics.
Fortunately, I have friends who write books! Angry filmmaker Kelley Baker produced a gem of a book on no-budget filmmaking while Jon Gann contributed a great guide to film festivals. Get both books for filmmakers on your Xmas list.
And of course I published my second novel, Don’t Mess Up My Block. This parody of self-help books made it to the second round of Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
That’s my reading list for 2012! Hope you find something that you can enjoy!
Get my biz book satire Don’t Mess Up My Block for free this CyberMonday! My funny novel follows Laurent Christ, self-annointed business guru, as he travels the country dispensing bad advice to clients large and small. The book skewers social media consultants, big government, corporate-speak and other evils of contemporary America.