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An open letter to Huff/Post50.

Dear Huff/Post50:

I see what you did there with the slash in your heading–Post50, as in after 50. And that dear Huff/Post50 is where I begin my letter to you. See, I’m writing this to you out of frustration.

I’ve clicked on the /Post50 section of your site several times now and with each and every instance I do, I am left scratching my head and wondering if you just decided you didn’t really care about the section and let the 20-somethings run it, and being young, they don’t understand that being just past 50 is not the same as being say, 65–where most of the articles skew. To quote a dear friend, “Thinking that at 23 you understand what it is to be 52 is like thinking you know 23 when you are 10.”

Or maybe you’re letting the college interns mess around there and since they’re interns they can be forgiven since they aren’t being paid–and they’re younger than the 20-somethings.

But honestly, what age group do you think your /Post50 section attracts as readers, because I am 51, about to be 52 in a few months, and I can say with a great deal of certainty, nay positivity, it is not aimed at me. My friends and husband all agree, there’s nothing here for us. And that’s okay. So why the catch-all /Post50 heading?

It’s like AARP now including anyone over 50 into their fold. What happened to the American Association of Retired Persons actually representing just retired persons? Retired means senior citizens, senior citizens mean people aged 65 in this country, you know, the people collecting their Social Security and Medicare benefits because well, they paid into those programs all their working lives.

Just a personal aside here, seeing the unending stream of Fidelity Investments retirement ads on the /Post50 section doesn’t add to my overall je ne sais quoi, state of mind call it. See, Fidelity was my husband’s former employer. Just as he finished six months of chemotherapy, a desperate attempt to stave off his aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis, while working the entire time, they called him in and said, “Hey, we noticed you aren’t keeping up with your peers, so either sell $10 million in assets each month for the next three months, which we realize no one has ever done before or go on probation–OR here, sign this paper, promise not to sue us and bye-bye.” We could have been salting away money in a Fidelity retirement account, like the fancy ads say, but they let him go for not “keeping up with his peers”–who weren’t on chemotherapy and fighting MS. Obviously, they’re a sore spot for me.

But back to why you are labeling yourself a post-50 section when all I see when I go there are articles that do not pertain to my age or anything to do with what it means to be a 50-something. Let me show you what I mean. Let’s click through the section, let’s start with this article:

Unemployed For The Long-Term: It Doesn’t Seem To Get Any Better

Here we go, oh , but the article starts out with a man who is 62 years old and was able to take early Social Security benefits.

And damn, right there on the right of my screen another Fidelity banner ad, this time for the Roth IRA. A “planning your retirement” ad right next to the posting about long term unemployment not getting any better. Ah, the irony.

Is Coconut Oil Really All It’s Cracked Up to Be?

Oh wait, got taken to HuffPost Healthy Living section, back to /Post50, back arrow, click. Arrgh, Fidelity Investments ad again. You’d think Fidelity would realize we aren’t making what we did 10 years ago. It all went, poof!

Let’s scroll down to the featured bloggers to see what’s here. Oh, there’s Arianna herself, founder of Huffington Post. Okay. Click. Again, not in the /Post50 section but taken to The Third Metric.

Hmm, scroll up and let’s click the main heading. Okay, sub-headings are:

  • Reinvention
  • Retirement
  • Parenting
  • Health
  • Love
  • Retire Overseas
  • Featured Fiction

Hmm, Reinvention may be worth a look-see, but you know I did spend a lot of hard work, time and money on a Master’s degree from a good school, that should still count for something. Maybe not.

Retirement, nope, as that ain’t happening no matter how many Fidelity ads you show me.

Parenting. Still the same as when I was 49, nothing has changed by aging a few years.

Health, better than ever, thank you. I’m vegan, I run 5 and 10 k races, do yoga and hit the gym.

Love, still married to the man I love, my husband, for almost 22 years now.

Retire Overseas? Again with the retire business, and overseas no less. May be cheaper in the long run, but first things first.

And what’s this? Featured Fiction? All right, let’s go there. Click.

Not sure what this is, fiction written by people /Post50 or fiction about people /Post50–there’s nothing to describe this subsection when I get there, no tagline, nothing to engage me or tell me what this is all about.

But guess what? I know what Fidelity wants me to do here because their ad is right there telling me; they want me to rollover my non-existent 401(k).

You see what I’m saying here Huff/Post50, you are suffering from laziness. Just sticking up the number 50 into a website section isn’t going to attract our demographic. And doing things like posting articles about “binge drinking after 50″ then going to the original posting site and finding the article was written for those older than 65 is disingenuous and rather shiftless.

I know it’s not just you, Huffington Post, you just seem to be the latest tabula rasa; it’s a typical mindset out there in internet land and beyond. You are just imitating what’s out there.

But if your new owners, AOL, ever want to make any money they might very well consider actually producing something worthy of reading or viewing, something unique that will attract people my age. With a 43 year old CEO, and former Google guy, one would think brilliant ideas would be falling off of him in droves; not ideas like blaming Obamacare and distressed babies for cutting retirement benefits, but good ideas that could actually make AOL some money. Imagine.

Maybe AOL will figure out that creating original and engaging content, and not just relying on subscription revenues (who still uses AOL anyway?) will produce new revenue streams. You are an American multinational MASS MEDIA corporation. Look at Amazon, Netflix and Hulu; look at the former Huffington Post–loads of original content.

You want traffic? Give us something more than a number and woeful content.

Sincerely,

m.e.welman

LinkedIn is doing what? Run away, people, run away.

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“The postings are so–littered with–business lingo, oh, the calamity.”

Since I’m not on LinkedIn, I missed this when it was announced, but yes indeedie, LinkedIn is going to allow you to post stuff, like words, just like Facebook. And we all know how insightful those Facebook postings can be.

According to LinkedIn, its rollout of its definitive professional publishing platform is opening new doors for its members, allowing pros to establish thought leadership and boost social influencer rankings. LinkedIn is even tagging its content publishing initiative Unlocking The Experts — all 277 million of them currently leveraging LinkedIn for professional networking and outreach.

Definitive professional publishing platform. I’m not sure what LinkedIn means by that, exactly, but maybe they wanted the act of posting to their website to sound important.

Establish thought leadership, boost social influencer rankings–all by putting some words up on the internets. From what I understand from some LinkedIn users, they kind of stopped allowing anyone and everyone to post and you have to request to do so. I guess LinkedIn realized that not every professional out there can string words together in a readable, interesting way.

LinkedIn wants your buy-ins to empower you.

You may be wondering why I am being so curmudgeon-like about all this, sarcastic even.

As someone who herself likes to put words together and make observations, I find the use of the word “publishing” very silly indeed. All I am seeing here is a way to get LinkedIn users to stay on the site longer. The longer users stay on the site, the more clicks, more likes and shares, more eyes on ads, the more personal data they are giving away.

They’re not doing it because they are partaking in some noble social experiment by informing, by inspiring and educating–nope.

From Allen Blue of LinkedIn:

“When we sat down to think what we could do to make professionals better on a daily basis, we basically tacked on a few words to our mission [statement],” explains Blue. “Could we make the world’s professionals more successful by helping them stay informed, inspired and educated?”

They tacked on a few words to their mission statement–I’m sure that wasn’t intentionally funny.

It’s scalable and part of our Core Competencies, Best Practices and Reading Vertical.

So they think reading stuff may make you “better.” I think we’ve known that reading does have immense benefits,  it’s the kind of stuff you read that defines “better.” You could read NewsMax all day long and not be any better for it. You could read this blog and definitely not be more enlightened (I hope not) either, so I guess what I’m asking is how is this not just playing to people’s vanity so that they’ll stay on LinkedIn longer.

People like to see their words up in the ether and they like to get approval for it as well. Vanity does make money. My jaded self tells me LinkedIn needed a new revenue stream so they figured out they better take on more Facebook-ish features.

Look for the ability to upload Paradigm Shifting Videos By Professionals coming soon. Possibly the LinkedIn channel will make an appearance on your Roku.

And of course, LinkedIn Books: by Professionals for Professionals with loads of Professional, Actionable, C-Level words in them. No Scooby Snacks though, sorry.

Key to the finished novel? Focus.

cartoonTrue story, when I was in grad school and I worked 9-5, I could not sit down and focus on anything. Why? I’d been sitting down all day at my 9-5 job. My only recourse was to go out and jog the West Side Highway and get it all out of me so I could sit down, again, and read, write, what-have-you. I had a lot of energy back then. Still do, and I still jog. But I digress.

The world is filled with many writers who have half-finished books tucked away in their closets or computers. Why couldn’t they finish them, they got half or three-quarters of the way there? Mostly, I believe, it’s a lack of focus. Not exactly the kind required to just sit down and write, but a mental focus; the one that allows you to see your plot flaws, bad dialogue or inconsistencies in character traits.

That kind of focus is hard to maintain, unless your Stephen King. But he’s an alien species and a very talented one at that.

When I read about this author or that one who churns out eight of nine books in a year, I become envious. I wonder how the hell they do that. Then I question the quality of the work, which may not be a fair thing to do, but I do that because I know I could not write that much. To be fair, I have never tried to do that, but without proper inspiration in the form of feedback or a royalty check, I don’t know if I have it in me.

For me, without the knowledge that my work is being read and accepted by the reading public, that kind of dedication and focus would very hard to come by.

The kind of focus I’m talking about here should yield a good, two or three books a year. And this kind of focus, if you are a writer, is a bit easier to find. It does take practice and dedication to the craft. It takes discipline as well.

Here are some good writing habits I put on myself to make sure I keep my focus and the work flowing:

1. Write the same amount of words per day, no matter what. Even if the words coming out of you that day are bad, keep writing anyway. You can always go back later (much later) and edit.

2. Stop yourself from editing your plot as you are writing it. That will lead to all kinds of wasting of time.

3. Keep distractions to a minimum, like the internets. (This takes discipline because I can always use a Google search as an excuse for research for what I’m writing. One thing leads to another and I’m at GoFugYourself.com, laughing and killing time.)

4. Don’t leave the time you need to finish your work open-ended. Set a deadline for your book so you have the momentum to finish it behind you. If you are writing five pages a day, you should have a first draft of say, a 337 page book in 67 days.

5. Work simply and you’ll get the book finished. That is, don’t try to write four or five projects at once because you will lose your focus. Those characters you’ve created may only say what they have to say once, so listen carefully.

I know there are a lot of new writers out there you say they only write for themselves, and frankly, I started out writing as a way to amuse myself. But, I did and still do want a reading audience, one that may say, “Hey, I liked that, thanks.” But I know I will not please everyone. Giving, and receiving, fair criticism is part of being an intellectually honest writer, and that’s all I can strive for. And maybe a nice, royalty check.

No matter what you choose to do in life, there’s always going to be that guy.

Yeah, that guy. There’s always one, either at work, school or wherever you are, he’s there. Before I get to that guy, first a little backstory.

Five years ago I resurrected my catering company, Maggie’s Tapas, here in Los Angeles, mainly because my husband was sick with MS and then his employer, Fidelity Investments, let him go. The economy tanked and we needed to make a living. We hoped we could be successful together and grow the business. We needed to pay the bills.

Then in December, 2011 he got stomach cancer. That, in itself, is another story and one I’m working on as a book, mainly because I have a lot to say about how we got to that point in our lives, but suffice to say it is germane to this story as you will see.

It’s now February 19, 2012 and I get a catering call about a wedding in July. I’m struggling at this point with figuring out what I’m going to do. I’m kind of in crisis–do I keep up the catering when the very food I’m serving is what caused my husband’s cancer? I’m vegan at this point so can I still serve meat to customers? Isn’t that hypocritical of me?

I take the call and a few red flags started to go up right away. First there was lack of a full venue address, only an intersection. Then there was the quick, “Oh, you’ll have to deliver the food outside since our venue doesn’t allow outside caterers.”

And that is where I made my first mistake with that guy, although I didn’t know at that moment he was going to turn out to be that guy. I should have stopped right there and said, sorry, can’t do that. It’s not the right thing to do as a caterer. No outside vendors means just that. Where was I going to deliver the food–in the street?

The final warning to me was his email request for six different tapas for 250 people (delivered mind you) for $1000 or $4 per person. To put it another way, this would have been $0.67 per person, per tapa. I could not give him what he wanted. I had not figured out the whole fishes and loaves to feed a multitude catering trick–and still make a profit.

But you know why I didn’t just tell him that immediately?

I was too preoccupied with:

1. Trying to get my husband on the PCIP or Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Program, a stop-gap program before the full implementation of Obamacare and,

2. I was struggling with figuring out how in god’s name we were going to pay for Gleevac, the chemotherapy pill that had been prescribed to him. It costs $40,000 per year. That year anyway. Have no idea what it costs now.

I was worried for my husband’s health. I was worried for my sons. I was scared.

And here’s where the life lesson comes in. No matter what you choose to do in life from everything to work or attending a class in ceramics, you will always come across people like this; people unable to see past themselves.

It’s up to you to decide how to deal with them. I highly recommend keeping your dignity even though you may not want to.

I emailed back on March 14 that I could not help him for his price point and politely suggested he may want to consider DIY’ing his appetizers. I worked with many brides on a budget and my recommendation was meant with good will.

My reward for this was an email back wherein I was called a “piece of work,” and “greedy and unprofessional.” Not sure how turning down his business squares with greedy, but there you have it.

Seconds later, his Yelp review was online. Of course it was.

I was, naturally, very upset especially since his Yelp diatribe was full of untruths–okay, let’s be real here, his review was lies. I did offer him another two price points, $20 for everything as requested or $10 with some modifications. He just didn’t like them.

He wrote, “So many other quality caterers were willing to give me a respectable, transparent price within budget.”

Wonderful! Then why call me if he already had what he wanted?

I suspect he was not getting what he wanted from anyone, quality or not.

Now that my husband’s health has stabilized (cancer free as of last screening and no longer on MS meds, thanks to a vegan diet) and I no longer operate my catering business–I feel I can address what happened with some deeper wisdom.

The ultimate lesson in all this is temper yourselves. Our connected world makes it too easy to hit send or publish, whether it’s a book or hotel review or email. Take time and reflect. What will your words say about you?

You don’t want to be that guy. You really don’t.

What’s funny to me, and demonstrates the inability of some of us to see past our own navels, is that he owns a small business, right here in Los Angeles. Hope he doesn’t get a call from someone like himself.

Would you self publish if you knew no one would read your work?

I retweeted an article yesterday where I read a great observation. It was from Digital Book World dot com and it was about Amazon and their vision for the future of self-publishing. From Jon Fine, director of author and publishing relations at Amazon speaking at the Publishing for Digital Minds conference (part of the London Book Fair) this week:

“We’ve created this tsunami of content.”

Yes indeed, self-publishing has created a tsunami of content. So much so that most all self-published books barely see the light of day. For authors without a built-in audience (say, formerly with a traditional publisher) it’s all about how to get noticed, how to get read once you’ve pushed the Publish button.

Many self-published authors believe the case of getting widely read is not insurmountable. Some just don’t care and just want to fill their blogs and ebook shelves on Amazon with anything they’ve pounded out on their keyboards. And this brings in the great debate of whether or not you (the esteemed self-published author) should even bother since no one has given you critical approval–like an agent or book editor.

Unfortunately, the few self-published titles that do manage to get noticed, make good sales and receive good reviews are just that–few. And it could be due to a tsunami of material to wade through. Others say it’s because there’s a lot of crap out there.

Fine went on further to say that this “discoverability” problem is the next big challenge. I agree.

How that is going to be tackled, I believe, will be through a further narrowing of genres and tastes vis a vis various platforms. Think about how you try to discover something to read when you open your Kindle. It’s kind of maddening. Goodreads helps narrow things down a bit as do other reader-oriented sites. Reader reviews are somewhat helpful too, not so much for what they say as what they do to help move the title further up in the food chain of the internets–discoverability.

Just like sci-fi has many sites for its fans, I think we’ll see further distinctions in sites like Goodreads where readers can immediately find what’s new in self-published mystery, erotica or thrillers. Maybe Goodreads will have separate curated sites for all its genres. Fine also said it won’t be called self-publishing anymore. So maybe we’ll call it micro or quantum publishing. Time will tell.

50plus1

Hey UCLA, this isn’t helping 50-somethings with the job hunt.

I'mnotasenior

I got this in the mail yesterday. I’ve ranted a bit before about being a 50-something and I’ve wondered how in the world we came to be lumped in with Senior Citizens. Last I checked, Senior meant retired. Retired meant 65 and receiving your Medicare and Social Security benefits, because well, you’ve paid into them all your working lives so you’ve earned them.

Can’t do any of that at 50.

As far as retiring at 65–people in our age range, roughly 48-58, can’t. For many in our age group it simply isn’t an option, thanks to those esteemed fellows (aka blood sucking jackals) on Wall Street.

So, what’s UCLA’s Fifty Plus program got to do with the job market and blood sucking jackals on Wall Street?

When they (UCLA) decide to promulgate the idea that people in their 50′s need or want or even CAN (because we have tons of free time) attend workshops like, “Street Smarts for Seniors,” or “Get Connected: A Technology Fair for Older Adults,” then they are playing into the notion that we are ancient fucking idiots who can’t walk down the street let alone operate an iPhone or gasp–get hired in IT.

Technology fair for older adults? See this blog, it’s WordPress. I can code too, let alone needing or wanting this:

This free event includes computer workshops for beginners on using the mouse, basic internet and email; lectures for more advanced users on social media, how to shop safely online and mobile devices and apps; special one-on-one assistance in “gadget garden” (bring your own device for individual help) and “information stations” (one-on-one assistance on applications and Websites).

technocrap

Come on over to the Gadget Garden, older adults over 50, and learn how to flip open your phone.

You read that right, Gadget Garden. Who wrote this, the pre-kindergarten program director?

See UCLA, by lumping 50 year olds who need to find a job in today’s ever increasing youth oriented job market, all you are doing by calling your service Fifty Plus Program is killing our chances. You are playing into the minds (and hands) of employers who see us as less than worthy because of our age. Never mind our experience, our full CVs–according to programs like this, we can’t even figure out how to operate the Like button on Facebook.

But UCLA, we are not the same as someone who is 65 or 70 who may not know how to tweak the code in WordPress. We bought stock in Amazon (and stupidly Excite too) so we already know how to shop online. We aren’t feeble (yet) so walking down the street at 50 or 51 isn’t in our breadth of concern.

By adding our age group into an already pre-defined group of people, you are not adding to our wellness, UCLA, you are adding to our stress.

So please UCLA, do us 50-somethings a huge favor and go back to calling this service what it is, a program for people who are retired and/or over the age of 65.

craigslist

Craigslist mash-up, writing/editing jobs.

I present to you, from the writing/editing jobs section of Craigslist, a variety of sentences that people (looking to maybe, actually ? hire a writer) had the audacity, stupidity, cluelessness, or combination thereof, to put into their job descriptions. Enjoy!

We are looking for people with at least 10 pimples to try a face mask made of natural home products. 

We are looking for someone who is passionate about digital media and getting the right, most up-to-date and attractive content across the online world.

Sort and prioritize incoming mail. Bachelor’s degree required.

Position involves researching and writing extensive descriptions on historically significant manuscripts. $15-16/hour + commensurate with experience. 

Because copy writing is hard. . .it takes a full year to learn to be AMAZING. . .and most people don’t have that kind of desire within themselves to be great. and when your writing DOES start making sales you won’t rest on your laurels. . ..you will
STEP IT UP and improve it once more in order to CRUSH IT!

You will have to sign NDA/Non-compete agreement, and a warranty of non-WGA membership. You will also sign a ghostwriting agreement that signs all copyright/rights of authorship over to the client. 

And my favorite, because misspellings for writing jobs just CRUSH IT:

Must have or be on track for a B.A. — M.F.A. a plus. Must be good with characters and [sic] dialog.

I’m over 50, not dead, stupid or on AOL–geesh.

Two 50-something women. Note lack of gray hair and walking assistance devices.

Two 50-something women. Note lack of gray hair and walking assistance devices.

That’s a picture of me (redhead) and my friend Cristi. We’re both now over 50. I don’t think we look dead or stupid–Cristi is a high school math teacher. I know neither one of us uses AOL.

Have you done any internet searches on being 50? You know, maybe you were looking for job hunting tips (hah) or fashion hints. What I found was that none of what’s written out there in internet land pertains to me. Or my husband. Maybe you have found the same thing. I feel like the website authors are writing to an imagined audience of 0ver-50-somethings. Ones on the verge of breaking a hip or who haven’t been in a clothing store in over 30 years.

Do you guys forget the ’80s? If the answer to that is yes, then congratulations, you had a very good time. If the answer to that is no, then keep reading.

Let’s start with the AARP website–American Association of Retired Persons. Come on, that’s for when you turn 65, right? No longer. They needed to open up their demographics. But a YouTube tutorial on make up–at my age? Sorry, I’ve been putting make up on long enough to not need or want a tutorial.

The Menopause Makeover website. Pluck me, to paraphrase Gordon Ramsay. 10 Household Chores for Burning Calories! Sorry, I run three to four times a week, go to the gym and do yoga, and I do that with a 51-year old body–one that hasn’t been in this great a shape since my early 40′s. There doesn’t seem to be a place for women like me online.

I’m also NOT a Boomer no matter what MetLife says about the Boomer tag being a “demographically correct affiliation.” That generational title got debunked, finally, last year. We’re Gen X. Time Magazine dubbed us The Lost Generation sometime back in the ’80s, but now we’re back to X. What this means, to me, is that a whole group of us have been ignored or lumped in with a group with which we have few, if any, commonalities. So yeah, we get ignored and there’s a lack of community. At least we have Jon Stewart.

Ageism. Let’s talk about that because it’s what at the heart of everything for people our age. We have children entering or already in college, we have workplace experience, sometimes as much as 25 plus years, but we’ve been dubbed the new ‘unemployables’– say researchers at Boston College, my husband’s alum.

Well no wonder,  according to what’s out there on the internets, we don’t know how to put on make-up (see above) or use said internets, see here. And we may still use AOL (seriously).

Where does that leave us? For my husband and myself we are learning that whatever comes next, it’s got to come from us. We aren’t still hoping to find that next job, because it’s not out there, not once the recruiter or employer sees our college graduation dates on our CV’s.

Ever been on a Google campus? I have, right here in Venice, CA. I spent about five hours there and no one, and I mean no one was over the age of maybe, 32. No one.

I think it’s high time we 50-somethings band together and use our experiences to forge a new business and community frontier–one where we don’t discriminate against others because of their age. We’d be welcoming to all, based solely on experience.

Hey, Eric Schmidt, at age 58, aren’t you waay too old for your own company? Or maybe Google should consider hiring someone, anyone over the age of 49. Go on, I dare you.

rottenheart

Review of Rotten at the Heart.

4.5FrenchFryBaskets

No spoilers ahead–you’ll want to read this one all on your own. And I give this book, four and a half French Fry Baskets out of five.

Bartholomew Daniels (Dan O’Shea) has taken Shakespeare and turned him into a private eye. When I first read the description at NetGalley (where I did receive a free Kindle edition of the book) I knew I had to request a copy–so very glad I did.

The book begins with how Daniels comes into possession of an old trunk of British books and a surprise tucked away at bottom of the trunk–an even older wooden box. Inside the box he discovers a letter written by the original owner of the trunk (Lt. Thomas McBride) who found the wood box in a bookstore torn open by a bombing raid in WWII. The box was saved by the owner of the bookstore who himself did not survive the raid.

Already a great opening to the book and we, the readers, haven’t even gotten to what else is inside the box.

And this is where the book begins, with the found papers of William Shakespeare where Shakespeare details his adventure beginning with being called into service to help Lord Carey figure out who may have murdered his father–the Bard as an unwilling PI.

O’Shea then takes us on a great, Elizabethan ride complete with Shakespearian language. It took me until chapter four to get into the groove of the writing or O’Shea hit his stride with the language–not sure which. Either way, by that point, I was completely hooked.

And kudos to O’Shea for being able to keep up the language so well and in keeping with its formalities. The insults thrown about are so very well done.

Historically, O’Shea kept it clean and tidy, not hitting me over the head with too many factoids that would get in the way of plot. Of course, because of the time and setting, we do have a torturer and they always make such detestable characters. O’Shea’s torturer, Topcliffe, is one you’ll want to reach into the pages and kill yourself.

What made this book so enjoyable for me overall was its taking on of themes like religion, status, gender and ‘Wall Street’ combined with a whodunnit–that ensnares the Bard as well. And he’s no saint–what shamus (or actor) is? It’s Shakespeare’s personal failings that give the book depth and a good plot device as well.

My only regret about reading this is not having a real copy, but having to deal with the digital edition. It’s one of those books you’ll want to read on paper because you’ll want to flip through the pages, back and forth, easily. Looking forward to more of Mr. O’Shea’s work.

NetGalley: Digital Galleys & Book Review Copies 2014-02-15 10-19-29

A glimpse into the world of publishing at NetGalley.

NetGalley: Digital Galleys & Book Review Copies 2014-02-15 10-19-29

As a voracious reader, hence consumer of books, I was ecstatic when I found the site, NetGalley.com. You join, give some bio information, tell them what kinds of books you are interested in reading and in return you get free digital copies of books. Yes, FREE. It was music to my ears.

NetGalley is a go-between site that helps publishers get buzz going about upcoming books and gives people like me a much-needed reading fix–all that’s asked in return is to promote the works sent by posting reviews.

The limiting factor at NetGalley is that you don’t get all the galleys you request–it’s up to the publisher to decide. How they do that is not clear, but NetGalley prompts you to write a decent bio so I suspect the more information you provide, the more likely you will receive books. To keep getting your requests filled however, you must send feedback. My tally thus far is one invitation (sent to me by the publisher), three approved (books I requested and read) and two feedback (I sent my thoughts), so it’s clear I’m new to this.

Two observations as a writer:

1. If you have the money in your budget as an Indie Author, I recommend using NetGalley to get the buzz going about your book. You also get much needed feedback.

2. I am beginning to realize how much in the publishing world is all about relationships, relationships, relationships. And proximity.

All the books I have requested so far have all been from New York writers. What else is in New York? Literary agents and of course, publishing houses. It doesn’t hurt to live and work close to where the action is. It’s why I went to NYU. But I didn’t stay in New York and even with our highly connected digital world, it still matters who you meet for happy hour or who lives in your apartment building. Connections get made that way.

Make that three observations as a writer:

Even though these books were all accepted by an agent to try and sell to a publisher–and then purchased by a publisher–and may have even gone through more than one formal editing process, I am seeing some work, in my humble yet well-read opinion, that should not be released–even as a galley copy.

I clearly state in my bio at NetGalley that I will not publicly review any book I do not give four or five stars to because ripping apart someone’s hard work ain’t what I’m about. But please know, there is work I am being sent that needs some serious editing. I’m not talking typos, I am speaking of substance.

Here’s what I mean. One work I read was part memoir part slice of life. It was written by someone with an MFA. And an open thesaurus. Seriously, the language got in the way of everything, and for the topic of this book, it was a ridiculous exercise in showing us how many words the author knows. The metaphors, that probably made the author smile, were just odd. Adjectives were thrown about to give insightful detail, yet I was left with many, many questions about that detail. A kind of WTF does that even mean? feeling permeated every other page.

In another book, the plot is jumbled and I blame that on pacing. The author is a really good writer and the author’s resume (and age) probably play a big part in their technique–it’s good, enjoyable, funny and I would really like to read more of what this person has to offer. However, a relationship that is crucial to the plot is not believable because of the way the plot has unfolded–the pace in which things have been revealed. Surely the seasoned and professional minds at XYZ publishing house (it’s a big one) saw that too?

But my guess is someone played around with this author’s work and they did not have the experience necessary to do so.  Because the book is only being released as an ebook (as far as I can ascertain based on the information sent in the e-galley copy), I am guessing that not a lot of money is being spent on this work and that’s a real shame.

Another book, by an author who is making their publishing house money, was thin on plot. Good writing style, but bereft of conflict, so it wasn’t all that interesting.

You are probably better than you know.

If you are a struggling Indie Author, who has spent time honing your craft, do not give up hope. These books tell me that traditional publishing, while being what most every author wants–a contract to see their work in PAPER in bookstores!–doesn’t really have it going on. As to why that is, my best guess is that the people involved in the process are woefully inexperienced. Money is not being spent where it should be, on hiring experienced editors. Agents are too busy trying to find that magic bullet of a book instead of courting a larger array of authors. Who to blame for that–the big publishing houses–of course.

I really believe that big publishing is its own worst enemy. They have writers throwing themselves at them and this is the best they offer a reading public? Agents out there–stop Tweeting about how horrific the query letters were this week and get to work reading. Good work is out there if you know where to look. Is there bad work out there too? Yes, and some of it is on my Kindle sent to me by the publishing houses.

Indie Authors out there, keep writing and keep self-publishing.

amazon4

Amazon sees fortune in everyone’s (sort of) cast-offs.

amazonstudios

Amazon is at it again and I say good. Like all those mid-list authors discarded by their publishing houses and picked up by Amazon where they are seeing a new life and making (gasp) money, Amazon Studios is launching ten new pilots by some big name creatives–shows that may have never been put into production otherwise.

Who are the creators of these new shows? Chris Carter of The X-Files fame along with Eric Overmeyer of The Wire to name but two.

Along with giving you, the viewer, some new and different shows that may have never seen the light of day otherwise, Amazon allows its customers to rate the episodes. It seems they actually do want your feedback, you know, since you are paying for Amazon Prime.

Are Mr. Carter and Mr. Overmeyer Hollywood cast-offs as my title suggested? Absolutely not. But–are the executives in charge of the traditional production companies willing to do what Amazon is doing and allow these talented people’s work to come to fruition? Emphasis below is mine:

Jill Soloway, creator of dark comedy ”Transparent” about an L.A. family forced to confront their secrets, said she brought the project to Amazon because the deal combined production and distribution in one package. “Going to Amazon and recognizing that they were willing to do this quickly, and make a decision quickly, was awesome,” she said. “I know if I sold it to HBO or Showtime, there was a possibility it would not get made.” Among other credits, Soloway was showrunner for “United States of Tara” on Showtime and won the 2013 Sundance Film Festival dramatic directing award for “Afternoon Delight.”

Let’s see: forward thinking in terms of production and distribution in one swift deal. Check. Allowing the customers to rate and give feedback and not just letting the possibly out-of-touch executives decide which shows move forward? Check. Fast moving production times so shows can get to customers faster? Check. It seems to me that everyone involved wins.

Netflix is another non-traditional producer of new content like Orange Is the New Black–although they tout House of Cards as original and it is original in that there’s an American version now, it’s a re-do of a British program or programme–which I think may be even more dark than the Netflix version.You can stream that on Netflix as well.

Hulu is in there too with a mix of new series and foreign transplants. Hulu is probably my least favorite in terms of interface, but I am a Daily Show and Colbert fan, so…

While the big, traditional publishing houses bemoan their fate (you guys are still King in terms of paper!) and NBC blasts us with Olympic games that no one really cares about all that much, especially since it’s being broadcast from dog-killing Sochi, I will turn to Amazon, Netflix and Hulu for my reading and viewing pleasure–oh, and they’ll get my dollars as well.