Tag Archives: Naked in Dangerous Places

Freedom 101: Come, join me in vigorously slapping down the publishing industry.

Today is an occasion in our home. My partner’s new book has just appeared on Amazon. One copy. That’s all. But it’s there, and soon it will be available on the iPad too. Our entire household – me, him, and the cats – is elated.

But it’s way more significant than that. This represents a turning point. Liberation. Rejuvenation.

This is our Egypt.

I hardly need to tell you, the American publishing world is in a time of great transition. We’re entering a literary ice age. Printed books are slowly becoming an outmoded technology. Next week, Borders will announce it’s going into bankruptcy. Our local Borders in Hollywood has a ‘for lease’ sign on the wall, and it’s not even closed yet. Barnes & Noble, once so vibrant, is now a chain of graveyards and shutting down branches.

Many people see this as the last gasp of glory for authors such as myself, before progress sweeps away our livelihood and we’re forced to get real jobs. Within a few years, as the iPad and other tablets rise to consume us, most people will view long-form reading as a drag, an antiquated pastime, and printed books themselves as ridiculously clunky, much like the first cellphones that were the size of housebricks or the first laptop, which actually was so heavy it used to crush your lap and make it hard to walk afterwards.

But this development is really a good thing and authors should rejoice.

Over time, the idea of writers needing publishers to support their work will fade. I’m even setting up a small epublishing company myself this year and putting out my own mystery novel, which is now complete and getting rave reviews from friends, even though they were charged with criticizing it and tearing it to bits, sparing me no mercy. I wanted it to be as good a book as it possibly could be. This way, though, I won’t need to go through the usual laborious process, waiting until 2012 or 2013 to see my work in bookstores (the same bookstores that will by then have closed due to lack of business). Instead, my work can be on readers’ Kindles and iPads by this summer, all cute and pert and lovely and ready to go. I am very excited by this prospect. We all should be.

*

I used to work for a show on public radio called Marketplace. At our office in Los Angeles we had a very long wall lined with bookshelves up to neck height. On these shelves were stacked copies of new books sent to us by lazy PR people at publishing houses in the hope that we’d give them a free plug on the air. We didn’t. And the reason we didn’t was because the books were crap. With rare exceptions, they were poorly written, derivative, boring, badly-thought-through, and exploitative junk. Nobody read them – not us, not even the members of the public they were intended for. At best they were ornamental. Same way they are in bookstores. Eventually, after gathering dust on the shelves for a month, they were thrown into bags and tossed out. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Regularly. Year in, year out.

Frankly, I could stop this blog here. That’s all you need to know.

In that one short paragraph, I’ve explained why the publishing industry in America is gasping for breath, like an old aunt with emphyzema.

Editors were slow to see their own demise. They have continued for years putting out mediocre book after mediocre book, seldom investing in anything good or original. They played safe for fear of losing their jobs, sticking wherever possible to yawn-making celebrity tie-ins, self-help books that made huge promises but which were really just previous self-help books with a different jacket, and shallow, awful novels aimed at dim people who could only take chapters that were four pages long, Beyond that, things were too baffling. In other words, many editors abused their role. They became predatory opportunists rather than creators and instigators, which is what they were meant to be.

Instead of using passion as their baseline, making it a goal to discover and nurture good authors and stick with them from book to book until they attracted a strong following, they became fickle and coquettish, the way debutantes are in costume dramas, putting out any old book that took their fancy. If one author didn’t make it big immediately, the next one might. This same mindless policy was rampant in the music industry for a while too, and look what happened there.

Publishers plowed all their resources into the production of books, but left no budget for marketing them. That is to say, they’d launch a product, then tell nobody at all that it existed. I mean, jeez, what bright spark thought that system up? It’s tantamount to sticking your book in a garbage sack, leaving it by the side of the freeway, and hoping motorists slow down and go, “Hm, I wonder what’s in that bag?” It’s not going to happen.

So the industry is dying. Printed books are heading the way of CDs and newspapers. And it’s their own f’ing fault.

Success right now is a fluke. Without passion as their compass, book editors simply wish upon a star that somebody – anybody – will show an interest in their products; they neither put their weight behind them nor show courage in the convictions of their choices. That is no way to run a business.

I even heard that the marketing team at my publisher once refused to give Oprah a bunch of free books to hand out on her television show as one of her favorite things. They refused to give the Queen of TV 320 measly books. Oh my god. In the Kitty Kelley biography that was out not long ago, Oprah called this “the dumbest move EVER.” And it is. But that’s publishers for you. They have brilliant editors, but often, I think, total morons as publicists and marketing people, and they make one lousy decision after another. Why? Because nothing hangs on it for them. They get paid whether a book sells or not. They’re not personally invested in anything they put out. If they were, it would be an entirely different story.

Another instance: years ago, when my book Gullible’s Travels– which was a really funny book, and went on to win the Benjamin Franklin Award for Humor – came out, the marketing department at Globe Pequot, the publisher, mailed 150 copies to the press. But only in theory. In practice what they did was write their own address on the label. So within days all 150 books came back again. By the time they were sent out a second time, momentum had been lost. It was a tragedy.

With the US version of Naked in Dangerous Placeslast year, another piece of work I’m extremely proud of, about the amazing adventure I had making my TV travel series, the complacency of the PR people charged with promoting it grew to become the stuff of legend. The miniscule effort they did put in was the equivalent of going over to the window, leaning out, shouting, “Hey, everyone – look at us. We’ve published a terrific travel book,” and closing it again before anyone could catch the title. Result: not one radio interview, not one review of note, not one mention in any major magazine or newspaper. Nothing at all.

And you know what? They don’t care. Since Naked came out, the same company has published about fifty thousand more books. Some of them may even be good. And I bet they’re neglecting those as well.

“How the hell do these people still have a job?” I kept asking myself.

Well, actually, they won’t soon. That’s the gratifying part. Due to a gigantic volume of idiocy, greed, and short-sightedness that’s gone on for years, a fine industry is on the ropes, and before they know it, a good many of these apathetic losers will be out of work. When that happens, we mustn’t feel sorry for them. Remember, they slit their own throats.

For too long authors have been writing their books in order to appeal to, not the reading public as you might expect, but editors, trying to second-guess what editors would like, in the hope of pleasing them and getting an advance for their work. That’s the wrong way to go about things. It stifles passion.

Strangely, the editors, for their part, were not interested in quality or uniqueness. They showed interest only in books whose author had an established following. This system existed, again not for the benefit of the reading public, but because marketing people were drop-dead lazy and couldn’t be bothered to publicize their products, beyond sending out a press release or making a couple of phone calls between coffee breaks. This, thankfully, is about to change too. In time, authors will be empowered to take over the process and market directly to their readers, cutting out publishers entirely.

*

And that’s why I’m so proud of my partner. He put his money where his mouth was and produced his own cookbook. A cookbook stuffed, crammed, jammed with fine recipes, each one of which we’ve eaten about two dozen times while he refined, played with, and photographed it (OMG, his cheesecake is the absolute best, and I’m not just saying that!)

The result is called Completely Delicious, and every ounce of the love and patience and caring he put into it is on display. It’s the real deal. I know I’m biased, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between this and any other professionally-produced cookbook out there.

Now, he’s lucky, of course – he has his own store in Beverly Hills, where he’s currently shifting several copies every day! But even so, what a coup. Here’s a guy who’s never written a book before and he’s beating the system. I hope more authors are inspired to do the same.

Inspired by this, I’m following him into the trenches. I’ve hired an illustrator, who is currently turning out fabulous work for the cover of my novel, and a designer is waiting to put it all together. Expect it to be available this summer.

Seriously, this is the future, people. A bright, shiny, new democracy. Where we, as authors, no longer have to hand our work over to companies that don’t respect it or have passion for it, the way we do, and where we can finally take control of our destiny, make our own decisions, and our own money. Remember, when you publish your own book, ALL the money goes to you, not just the measly 12% royalty the publishers decided to give you. That’s incredible.

So you see why I find this period of change so intensely empowering. I get tingles in my legs just thinking about it, although it may be the onset of diabetes from eating too much cheesecake, I’m not sure. But I’m betting that this is how the people of Egypt are feeling right now, and they haven’t even got a book out!

TV Swami – he get sidetracked today. But he have a point to make and he feel strongly.

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Psst. Over here. There’s a naked man with a book to sell.

Today’s a tentpole day in the world of British literature, or so I like to think.

Despite the fact that the publishing industry is crumbling around our ears, and even though spotting someone reading these days is about as rare as restaurants that still have unicorn burgers on the menu since the ban, I can reassure you of one thing at least: quality books that are worth your time and money are still occasionally being published.

That said, allow me to draw your attention to the following:

Today in the UK, John Blake Publishing Ltd, the noble and esteemed institution behind such instant classics as Ant and Dec: The Story So Far and Chopper 10: A Fool and his Toes are Soon Parted, is releasing the British version of my travel book Naked in Dangerous Places, which they have decided to call Stranded in Dangerous Places. Same book, but with one big difference. Can you spot what it is?

Anyway, it’s about a grueling 15 months I spent living with various tribes and cultures around the world, from Cambodia to Dubai, Russia to Australia, a journey that scared the bejesus out of me, put me in hospital three times, and eventually led to me having an organ removed. Now seriously, who wouldn’t want to read about that? Though in case you’re still on the fence, the cover carries a depiction of me running naked with my underpants around my ankles, making it an instant collectors’ item.

Stranded in Dangerous Places by Cash Peters –  read it, love it, buy a second copy as back-up, in case you soil the first one laughing.

In fact, I’m so convinced you’ll laugh at this book that if you don’t, the publishers will give you your money back. Probably. Just check with them first to make sure that’s the case.

TV Swami – he support this message.

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Oh look: an author making an idiot of himself.

An alarming thing will happen at the end of this week.

Alarming for me, anyway. I’m making a public appearance. Something I never do. But what other choice is there?

Here’s the thing. One of the many duties you have as an author is to publicize your books. The principle behind this rather antiquated idea apparently being that if people don’t know your book exists, then how can they buy it?

Hm. Well, okay. I see their point.

But where do I draw the line? Isn’t it enough that I wrote the thing in the first place? That I presented my material in an amusing, highly readable way, and went through about twenty different drafts of it in various forms as they arrived from the publisher? So much so that, if all copies were suddenly lost, I could rewrite every single chapter word for word from memory, footnotes included? I mean, come on. By that point isn’t the author off the hook? 

Isn’t it up to the publishing company – I had to pick mine at random, so naturally I chose Random House – to then step up, grab the baton, and go crazy-mad with their marketing dollars, flinging them from rooftops if they have to, to let the public know their latest product is available in stores, and it’s a doozy?

Well, no. Seems not. Seems I’m being wildly optimistic on that front. Publishers publish books; they don’t see it as their responsibility to let the public know that they’ve done so. That would be outrageous.

SkylightTherefore, this coming Friday at 7pm I’m going to do something I don’t like doing at all. A book-reading. My first, and with any luck my absolute last.

I’ll be at Skylight Books in Los Angeles, at 1818 N. naked book 2Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz, as part of a four-author event, where I’ll be rattling off a couple of sections from Naked In Dangerous Places, my latest travel book, with one eye on the page and the other scanning the room for the nearest exit. 

I’ve only ever agreed to do one other reading before this. At Barnes & Noble GTin Santa Monica a few years ago, when Gullible’s Travels was published. Big ads in the window drew a large crowd, the meeting room was filled; the only person who wasn’t there was me. Much to everyone’s annoyance. It was a huge mistake, I realized afterwards, and I apologized profusely. Still, it demonstrates how strongly I feel about this issue. About doing nothing.

Now comes this. Another one. And exactly like last time, the organizer of Friday’s event told me to get the word out. “Let people know about it. Ask them to bring friends.”  

“Ooh, okay,” I chuckled. “Whatever you say.”

So that’s what I’m doing. Except that, in what might seem like a spot of reverse psychology but isn’t, I’m saying to you (and only you; keep this under your hat), don’t bother. Stay home. You’re busy; I’m sure you have other plans. I know I do. Only, in my case I’ve had to give them up to do a stupid book-reading.

And yes, yes, yes, Mr. Organizer, I will show up this time. Promise. Under duress, naturally. Sweating profusely with nerves, sure. And expecting the audience to number between – how many shall we estimate? – three and five people, all of them there to hear the other authors. But I will most definitely swing by.

And you – well, you join us at your peril.

Here’s what the fuss is about:

www.cashpeters.com

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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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The vultures are circling again.

Ever seen a show called Bridezillas? Here in the U.S. it’s on the increasingly popular WE network, “The Network for Women.” Or, more specifically, “the network for women who’ll happily watch hours and hours of ancient reruns and bland, substandard crap without complaining.”

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Last night on the BBC we were discussing Bridezillas and I played clips.

It’s a reality show – an “unforgettable” one, apparently – about highly-strung and difficult brides-to-be and the men who, contrary to all the laws of common sense, are prepared to marry, and presumably later on, divorce them.

From what I hear, the series has become quite a phenomenon in the world of low-grade trashy entertainment, running for six seasons and attracting a massive 2.5 million viewers, even becoming the foundation for WE’s TV offshoot, The Wedding Channel, a new network devoted to everything marriage.  Ooh, just what we need.

The reason I bring this up is because the production company behind Bridezillas came sniffing around my heels recently, asking if I wanted to do more TV. Nothing official, just a quick email, a casual inquiry.

I almost took the bait too.

My lovely little travel show, Stranded with Cash Peters (someone has kindly uploaded a short clip of the Cambodia episode here) aired three years ago, which is a long time to be away from the public eye. And although it wasn’t a major hit, the people who did watch it loved it to bits. Not a week goes by when fans don’t write and ask what happened to it, when it’s going to be rerun, why episodes aren’t available on iTunes. (The answers are to be found in my new book, Naked in Dangerous Places).

Furthermore, it’s tempting, when you’ve been in TV for a while but aren’t currently, to feel immediately flattered by the attention of producers and eagerly grab anything you’re offered, just to be center stage again.

Yet I dither.

First, I am more than happy right now writing books (the new novel is a little firecracker; you’re going to love it, I promise), and hardly yearning for another stressful adventure any time soon.

Second of all, making Stranded put me in hospital three times and left me permanently scarred in all kinds of emotional and psychological ways, thanks largely to certain people at the production company, who were monsters.

And lastly, quality shows cost money to make. That’s why there’s so much abysmal trash on our screens right now and why viewers of any intelligence are being driven to abandon the box by the million each year and find something more entertaining to do with their time.

There are only limited amounts of talent and money to go around, that’s the problem, and these days a lot of non-talent and miniscule budgets are being funneled into shows targeting the Dimwit Demographic: undiscerning, uneducated, unthinking, unmotivated, undemanding, unconscionably low-octane minds; minds that find Spencer and Heidi Pratt (nee Montag) or Ant and Dec intriguing, who’ll watch any show that Ryan Seacrest is in or executive produces, and who believe that Transformers is high art.  High schools nowadays are basically factories mass-producing these kinds of people in their millions.

In other words, minds that can’t tell the difference between good and bad, quality and trash, or subtle hues and bright, gaudy colors. They don’t need expensive programming, extraordinary stories, good writing, hosts with personalities, material that challenges the intellect or raises the bar emotionally; it’s all a wash to them. Basically, if a series doesn’t have these basic elements: lots of noise, bright colors, people shouting, and dinosaurs – well, screw it, they’re grabbing the remote and returning to Bridezillas, which has all four in spades.

So there we are.  I’m not expecting to hear from the producer guy again, especially after I told him yesterday that, if I did succumb and do more TV, I’d prefer to make a quality travel show, a holistic health show, or a combination of both. That’s usually enough to send TV people running from the room with their hands over their ears, yelling, “Quality television – noooooooo! Aaaaaaaaaghghghgh!!!!”

Well, so be it. Until all the stars align in an appealing way, I’m in no rush. And if they never align again, that’s fine too.

I have a health book coming out in the fall, I’m mapping out a sequel to the novel (did I mention that it’s a real firecracker?), and I have to travel to Britain and Australia soon to promote Naked in Dangerous Places when it’s published there. So all in all, I’m doing okay.

Fame and celebrity can wait a little longer.

TV Swami – he say NO to Bridezillas.

www.cashpeters.com

Watch Cash’s little movie HERE.

Buy Cash’s breath-catchingly funny travel book here.

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Someone’s won a BSA. Bet you can’t guess who.

I’ve never placed much value on winning awards. Mainly because I don’t win any. Not as a rule. I’m told I won a Peabody Award in 2001. And Gullible’s Travels, my travel memoir, took home the Ben Franklin Award for Humor in 2003. There were others as well, but they’re very thin on the ground and I don’t remember them.

Furthermore, when I received the glass slab that winners of the Franklin award are sent in the mail, I promptly dropped it and chipped a big hole in the side. Now I’m embarrassed to bring it out.  

But yesterday was different. Yesterday I won an award that, in a small way, I’m quite proud of.  A BSA.

Don’t worry if you’ve not heard of it; neither had I.

But you know how I mentioned that I’d uploaded my short movie, Fast and Very Loose, to Vimeo? (You can watch it here) Well, I went and posted this fact on the Curezone website – which is a phenomenal resource, a sort of Wikipedia of all things health. I mentioned it in the fasting section, and immediately began receiving great responses – including a BSA.

A – wait for this – Bright Star Award. Oh yes.

It’s the award that Curezone’s forum moderators give to the best post ever. And my little movie won it. That’s no mean feat – however unimpressed I might seem at this moment.

Here’s what was said at the ceremony. (I’m guessing there was a ceremony.)

Cash,

As a Curezone moderator, I have to admit to
you this is the first time I have ever given
a post a BSA .....the highest mark, but this
is the best!!!!! You are so honest about your
feelings before the fast....wanting to eat
everything in sight. You cracked me up... I
was laughing out loud....

You have a great talent, Cash, and I thank
you for sharing it with us.

Paulette

Well, that is just the sweetest thing. I don’t have a speech prepared, but of course I’d like to thank the Academy, and Jesus, and my family – no, not my family, but everyone else. Left to my family, I would never have won anything, much less a Bright Star Award from a moderator at Curezone. I’d still be sitting behind a desk in the Civil Service stamping forms. Truly, I’m honored.

If you’re interested to see what the fuss is about – and a BSA is tantamount to a fuss, right? Please say it is – you might want to check out the movie for yourself. Then, if you enjoy it as much as Paulette did, maybe you can invent your own award too and give it to me. I promise not to drop this one.

Now, that said, what about Ebay, you’re wondering. Well, things are really hotting up over there. Here’s the current state of play:

1) Mommy’s Little Freedom Fighter + free signed copy of Naked in Dangerous Places: bids end TODAY.  You have to be in it to win it.

2) Naked in Dangerous Places, signed, with free unpublished end chapter (two pages): bids have already begun.

3) Naked in Dangerous Places, signed, with free unpublished end chapter (two pages): bids have also begun, so get in fast.

Auctions end soon.

www.cashpeters.com

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Big in Afghanistan. Oh yes.

GT final coverThis morning I received a wonderful message from a mother whose son has been fighting in Afghanistan. Some while back, she sent him a copy of my first travel book, Gullible’s Travels, the Adventures of a Bad Taste Tourist. Here’s what she wrote.   

“I wanted you to know I sent your first book to my son in Afghanistan and he came home safe and sound last week. He kept quoting the book. I told him how we’d “met”.” (On Facebook) “He was blown away that you were a real person who actually corresponded with other real people! So I just ordered him your new book as he starts his leave next Friday. You are more than welcome to come to his welcome home party in NJ on the 26th if you are around. What a hoot that would be! Anyway, thank you for providing him some humorous relief in the midst of an otherwise crappy situation! We love you.” 

Isn’t that great?

I hear lots of great stories like that. It’s quite heartwarming.

Sadly, I also know of a couple of instances when reading Gullible’s Travels actually put readers in hospital. One bust his stitches after an operation, and another had a relapse of a heart complaint after laughing so much. Gratifying, yet also strangely worrisome, I must admit. The last guy’s wife even wrote to say they were considering suing because there wasn’t a sticker on the book to warn just how funny it was. Well, hey, I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t know. 

A couple of years ago, some man wrote to say that his mother had been trapped for days in a remote island village after it flooded following a small tsunami. Being marooned without help, she spent her time reading Gullible’s Travels instead of panicking, and that got her through. He was writing to thank me, as if I’d anticipated that it would come in useful in that way. Nevertheless, I felt incredibly honored. As a result, helping people without actually lifting a finger is now my latest thing. 

new book coverAnd now this latest woman is sending her son my new travel book, Naked in Dangerous Places which I truly believe would also help lift the spirits of tsunami victims around the world.  And soldiers. Anyone, really. 

 

 

 

 

www.cashpeters.com 

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