Tag Archives: Amazon

A deluded underdog rises once more.

Weirdest thing. Over the weekend, somewhat inexplicably, my new travel book Naked in Dangerous Places got the wind behind it and began racing up the Amazon charts.

That’s an incredible development. For me it is, anyway. For you, probably less so.

But what’s even more incredi – oh, and by the way, thank you to all thoseGT people who bought it; you won’t be disappointed – but what’s even more incredible is that my previous travel book, Gullible’s Travels, the Adventures of a Bad Taste Tourist, did even better. For a while there, GT was fair rocketing along, picking up sales at every turn.

I was flabbergasted. And even now I have no idea what caused this outpouring of desire to own my work, I’m just glad it happened.

Publishers of course, have a real downer on Amazon. They’ll tell you, scornfully – and I’ve been told this many times – that the Amazon ranking is meaningless. That the company gives no rational accounting of how book sales are tallied, therefore it all seems pretty much random and can’t be trusted. That’s the corporate line.

naked book 2Well, fair enough. But if both your books – both – having languished a little of late in the low numbers (which I guess, by that token, means nothing either) suddenly take off like Derby thoroughbreds and careen up the chart past hundreds of thousands of competing works, then, call me deluded, but to me that says people are buying them.

One book without the other could be a freak happening. Together, though? Come on, publishers – who are you kidding?

Alas, by Sunday, the ranking had dipped, indicating that the feeding frenzy was over (or that sales were still fierce and the Amazon ranking really is meaningless). Still, a few more weekends like that and, who knows, I might even be tempted to write a third one!

Incidentally, remember a couple of weeks ago when I put three signed copies of Naked on Ebay? They were, I’m delighted to say, snapped up right away. But then afterwards I got complaints from people who either didn’t know about the auction or were outbid, saying they were really disappointed, and that won’t do.

So I’ve put two more books up there. (HERE and HERE)

If they sell, they sell; if they don’t, they don’t. But at least you have a chance to purchase a copy of what I guarantee is a very funny book, while also knowing that, unlike every other Naked book out there, this one will be dedicated specifically to you. I mean, that’s got to be worth something, right?

 www.cashpeters.com.

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Celebrity hating: some quick do’s and don’ts.

After Friday’s post about Miss California and the whole gay marriage thing, someone sent me my first piece of real blog hate mail.

Now, working in radio and TV, you grow used to receiving horrible letters. So much so that you can start to lose faith in the goodness of your fellow man, it’s that ghastly.

In fact, I believe I still hold the record for the number of death threats received by any personality on American public radio, following an inappropriately upbeat report I did from Dublin some years ago about an ancient abandoned Irish jail.

For some reason, many irate listeners in the Irish community in Boston, Mass., thought my suggestions for brightening the place up with flower-beds and wallpaper insulted their history, and felt that the only reasonable response to such comments was to give me a good knee-capping, then leave me to bleed to death. Which is fair enough. As we know, and as history shows time and again, especially Irish history, violence solves everything.

Plus, of course, while my TV show was on the air, the network’s message-boards were filled with hateful comments. Luckily, these were countered by copious praise from viewers bright enough to understand the series, who not only loved it but engaged in a running ground battle with the haters, in the hope that the executives at the network were also bright enough to ignore the negative tirades of the minority and keep the show alive. Alas, as we know, the haters won. 

Plus, my books always receive their fair share of detractors.  If you look on Amazon right now, some creep from an obscure magazine I’ve never even heard of, called Booklist, has written a truly unjustified and quite mean-spirited editorial appraisal of my latest, Naked in Dangerous Places.

Only, here’s the thing. You can tell – or at least I as the author can – that it’s based on nothing. He’s barely read beyond the first chapter.

Quite bizarrely, the review appears to be a critique, not of the book  per se, but of my radio style, which he despises. Powerless, however, to get me taken off the air, he’s instead turned his ire on my literary work, hoping that this will teach me a lesson or two, and possibly curb sales. And hey, maybe it will, who knows? Why doesn’t he just go the whole way and suggest a sound knee-capping for my efforts? That would be just as rational.

As it is, every review of the book from people who’ve actually read it has been resoundingly positive, drowning out the reviewer’s voice of hate. 

Which brings me back to Friday and the  comment I received about the gay marriage piece. It came from a guy called Clint. Here’s what he wrote. It’s not pleasant.

“Ok go shoot yourself in the fucking head. That shit was way to long. You need to take yourself to church become a priest and touch little children you fuckin homo. Another thing whats up with the artsy gay ass abstract modern art pic of yourself at the top. I would wipe my ass with that pic and actually talk about gay from an angle that interests people cause your opinion is not doing it.”

Wow! In one short paragraph, and without meaning to, he managed to illustrate the very point I was making in ways I never could. As it happens, the piece probably was too long. And I honestly can’t justify or excuse my artsy gay ass abstract modern art pic. So maybe he’s right about that too. But the abuse about becoming a priest and touching little children? My God, that’s indefensible. Like something my own father might say.  Please, though, not a complete stranger.

Anyway, I have a way of dealing with this, which I’d like to pass on to you.

Long ago, I used to work for the British government. Every day for several hours I sat on a public desk, dealing with complaints from angry strangers with an axe to grind, who wanted someone’s head to grind it on. And I was that guy. The guy they ground their axes on. It was quite a horrendous time, but very character-building, and it taught me two important lessons about how to deal with angry, hate-filled people.

Lesson 1) When  they shout, don’t shout back. Rather, speak quietly.  They will soon realize they’re shouting and begin talking quietly too.

Lesson 2) Stay calm and agree with them. Agree there’s been an injustice. Agree they have a valid point. Agree that you may have made a mistake, and will do everything to correct it.

Follow these two lessons, and all anger magically dissipates, like angel dust in the opening sequence of Xanadu. The result is usually miraculous.

Most people just feel they’re not being heard, that’s all. That their opinion doesn’t matter, that they don’t have a voice. So listen to them, behave like they matter and that you’re interested, and most times they will immediately calm down.

That’s my trick.

Nowadays, based on that experience, when I receive genuine hate mail from people, I do the opposite of what’s expected. I don’t argue or take offense, I write back agreeing with them. More than that, I discuss their issues in a calm, rational way, hoping to learn something from their points, then make my point in return. Simple. And almost without fail I end up with a positive, harmonious result.

Which is what happened with Clint. 

I have no idea how old Clint is; he could be 15, he could be 85. But he’s angry and wants to be heard. So my reply to his hateful comment was placatory, kind, open, and non-aggressive.

Result: within a couple of hours, here’s what he wrote back:

“Wait who are you and what are you talking about and yes I mess with people. Its nothing to be taken seriously….why do you blog if you dont expect to catch some shit from people. Be truely astonished omg. Get a clue and if you can in any way learn from this experience take it to the head and realize thats life and how it truely works.”

Still aggressive, right? Barely comprehensible, actually. Written English is not Clint’s strong point. The gist seems to be, though – if you’d allow me to translate – that he’s tough and likes to screw with strangers, and if I’m going to post an opinion on the web, well, I should expect to be attacked for it by angry people like Clint.

Disagreeing somewhat with this premise, I wrote back.

“You have every right to say what you think about a blog or anything else. You happen to be on the money about it being too long. You may even be right about my gay-assed picture. But imagine how much more seriously your views would be taken if you aired them with respect and kindness, rather than abuse. It’s so easy to tear something down – it takes almost no effort at all. Making constructive comments is harder. But it gets you a lot more respect.  

“Next time you feel the urge to write an abusive comment, imagine that the person you’re writing to, instead of being a stranger, is your best friend. Someone you value and wouldn’t want to lose. I guarantee your approach will mellow.”

That was my two-penneth. Very fair, very balanced. But in the real meaning of the words, not the Fox News  “saying that, but doing something else” way.

And lo and behold, guess what happened! Almost immediately, Clint, having made a human connection now, and feeling appreciated and understood, wrote back, this time with an entirely different approach.

“Yeah you are right….I owe you an apology. Maybe your opinion do matter to some just not to me at the present moment. That is the way I am though I am rude crude and I wreck stuff. You can think I am an ass thats ok it doesnt bug me one bit. Im sure some one will eventually bag on my blog and I will simpally call it karma. Anyways happy trails and may God be with you.”

Obviously, his use of English isn’t any better when he’s calm, but his approach is entirely positive and kind, even, dare I say, loving in tone.

From hate to love in three moves. Not bad, eh?

And it works almost all the time.

I honestly recommend you all try this. From now on, try dealing with anger in a reasonable, quiet, calm way instead of rising to it and becoming angry too, and see what happens. Well, actually, you can already see what happens. Magic happens. Like the opening sequence of Xanadu.

Now, I have to stop. Once again, this is way too long.  Also, I have to see if I can change that  artsy gay ass modern art pic of mine before Clint sees it and writes to me again. I can only take so much.

TV Swami – he say YES to love, kindness, understanding, and being nice to people.

www.cashpeters.com

 

 

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There’s something weird happening on the Moon.

Yesterday was the beginning of the End Times for the book industry.

I said it would come. In fact, I’ve been promising a revolution for years, I just didn’t know how soon or what form it would take when it got here. Only that the book industry as it’s been for the past few decades had to die a grisly, horrible, humiliating death and that this would begin the moment something better came along to replace it.

Well, yesterday that something came along. It’s called the Kindle DX.

Basically, it’s an ordinary Amazon Kindle, the flat-screen, glareless reading tablet that made its debut, I believe, in 2001. Not the year, the movie. And which lets you read books, magazines, flight-paths, and articles about mysterious happenings on the Moon all in one handy gadget. Only now they’ve DX’d it! And when you DX something, you make it bigger and slicker and suitable for reading newspapers, PDF files, and text books too.

Also, if you’re too lazy to read the stuff you’ve downloaded, the Kindle DX becomes all masterful and starts reading it to you in a spooky robot voice, like the one on the GPS in my car. Or Hal in 2001.

Another thing I predicted – I’m always predicting things, then conveniently forgetting the ones that don’t come true  – was that the moment the current younger generation found a gadget that would help them avoid lugging a stack of cumbersome text books around campus in a backpack, then the book industry as we know and despise it would be screwed and collapse like a faulty card table.

Well, bingo! That’s happening right now.  The Kindle DX, and the flood of  similar devices that will follow it, are the book industry’s Kryptonite.

Here’s why.

Bookstores will eventually disappear. They’ll have to. We won’t need them any more. Have you been inside one lately? They’re already like graveyards. I visited my local Borders recently and had trouble finding where the books actually were. Instead, the place seemed to be filled with DVDs – another technology that’s on the way out. So it’s only a matter of time – years, maybe, but not too many – before these stores are no more.

This follows a business model I like to call ‘The Music Industry’.

We used to have a giant Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard here in Hollywood. That’s now gone. Closely followed by the Virgin Megastore. Why did they close? Because we started bypassing their overpriced merchandise by downloading music instead of buying CDs.

And why did we prefer to do that? Because the music industry was exploiting us. It had become smug, inefficient, bloated, and more about business than artistry.

CDs were not only bad value, but they usually contained only one or two good tracks – the ones that became singles – while the rest were mediocre if you were lucky; utter crap if you weren’t.  Then along came Napster, illegal music-sharing, bands giving away whole albums for free, and finally, with iTunes, a new form of democracy where the consumer actually grabbed back control and only bought what he wanted to buy. As a result, we got to download the songs that were any good, while the crap ones got ignored (are you listening, Elton John?), which is how it should be. In consequence, the music “industry” is now bordering on extinction.

Yay!

The same will happen with book publishing. These days it’s become more about business than artistry, and someday soon, trust me, that’s going to cost the boring, scheming weasels in suits who run these ridiculously top-heavy enterprises their very livelihood.

I mean, have you tried to get a book published in the last few years if you’re not already famous or influential in some way, with a built-in audience? It’s beyond difficult, verging on impossible. I hear this all the time from writers.

Gone are the days when a brilliant, well-written manuscript would sell simply because it was good and deserved to be published. Now it’s become a labored committee process. Accountants are involved. Marketing people are involved. Publicity people are involved. Lawyers are involved. And a whole bunch of other faceless nobodies, none of whom could write a book themselves if their life depended on it.

I recall, when I put together my handwriting book Instant Insight a few years ago, I had to fly over from England to New York at my own expense and actually audition for a boardroom full of people in suits before I could even get a commission to write it. It’s nuts.

At our radio station in downtown LA. we have shelves and shelves filled with books. Books that flood in every day. Books that hold no interest for anyone. Tedious, badly-written, total-waste-of-paper books that publishers put out year after year in the hope that someone somewhere will open them – “Please? Somebody? Aw come on, see how glossy the cover is!” – and take a look inside. Books that sit there in our office until there’s no more room for them, then they get jammed in boxes and tossed out. What a waste.

The Kindle DX will do away with all of that nonsense. The new democracy that revolutionized music is heading for the book industry. Decades of apathy, bad judgements, smugness, and fatcattery are about to be washed away by a cleansing tsunami of consumer power. No more bookstores, no more libraries – they’ll become museums, or just continue to be places where the homeless can go to clean up and take a dump – and no more needless hassle for authors.

I told all of this to the publicist at my own publisher the other day, and she almost turned suicidal on me.  Apparently, none of this had ever crossed her mind. “But I’ll be out of a job!” she wailed down the phone.

Yup.

There’ll still be publishers in the future, of course, they won’t go away. But the emphasis will shift. In this new world, they’ll be there to help authors hone their manuscripts ready for direct download to the Kindle, or whatever other device comes along, instead of putting up roadblocks to prevent them getting their work to the public, which is what happens now.

In fact, most authors will publish their work directly themselves as glorified blogs without ever going through a publisher, and the emphasis will shift to marketing. Chapters will routinely be given away for free, books will come with video clips and maybe introductory talks by the author about his work – it’s going to be fantastic and fun and energizing and extremely liberating.

For us at least. Not for people currently working in the book industry.

Hah!

So there you go. We’re in the midst of something huge. To all those frustrated authors out there who can’t get their books in print – I say hang on. Help is on the way.

Speaking for myself, so far I’ve had seven books published. Some were good and still sell even now; some less so, and I wish they weren’t available on Amazon Old and Used.

The new book

The new book

The latest, Naked in Dangerous Places, is one of my very best. My editor and I, and a bunch of others, worked very hard on it for almost two years to make it as good as we could, and I’m extremely proud of it. It is, however, probably the last non-fiction book I’ll entrust to an old-fashioned publisher.

My next one, due out in the summer of 2011, will circumvent all the old ways, all the accountants and lawyers and PR people and faceless nobodies, and use new technology and internet marketing to reach its target audience. I won’t be asking anyone’s permission, I won’t be submitting proposals, there’ll be no committees or debate; it will just happen. Plus, it will be accompanied by a small film I’ll be making, which you’ll be able to download too, to enhance the experience. I mean, come on – how great is that?

I’m sorry? What did you say? What’s the book going to be about? Oh, I can’t possibly tell you. Not yet.

But here’s a clue: there’s something weird happening on the Moon. Astronauts have dug a pit and found a big black tall thing at the bottom of it that talks to monkeys and goes “EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” when you touch it.

Go buy a Kindle DX – I’ll tell you more in the summer.

TV Swami – he say YES to democracy.

www.cashpeters.com

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