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29Jul/113

“The Cheat Sheet” NOW in Paperback!

I never thought The Cheat Sheet would be anything more than an ebook, yet people kept asking for a "real" book and now here it is.  The Cheat Sheet in paperback!

Beautifully designed by Nicole Pagliaro, each of the eleven stories has a unique design to best accentuate the story.  As far as I know, there's never been a story collection designed in such a way (though please correct me in the comments if I've overlooked something).

I hope you'll grab a copy and PLEASE spread the word via email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or whatever media you still think is cool.

~ Aaron

BUY THE CHEAT SHEET on Amazon

14Jul/114

Culturally Popular – To be a popular artist do you have to think popular culture is actually good?

I watched "The Hangover." I fucking hated it.  This is a movie 50 million people loved?!

I've tried to watch "Criminal Minds" and "Bones" and "NCIS" and "Big Bang Theory."  I detest them.  These are shows that get 10 million viewers per episode and dot the Neilsen ratings weekly top ten?!

I started "The Da Vinci Code."  Quit after page 50.  This is a book that has been read by zillions of people in 40 different languages?!  I didn't even know there were 40 different languages.

I'm not a culture snob.  I read, watch, and listen to everything.  True, I pursue the best of the best, but I also read, watch, and listen to the most popular of the popular.  Just to see "what it's all about."  Just to try to understand the zeitgeist.

When it comes to books, I not so humbly think that my book "How to Fail" is vastly superior to most.

Based on sales alone, it is most certainly not.

And that's my point exactly.

Does the fact that I hate most all best-sellers yet think my book is better, doom me straight from the get go?

Does one have to generally like the most popular of popular culture to then produce his own super popular culture?

Did Spielberg have to like the American Hollywood hits of the 50s and 60s (as opposed to the more artsy European stuff) in order to become the definitive hit-maker of his era?

Did J.J. Abrams have to worship blockbuster artists like Speilberg--because we know he did--to become the most famous pop producer of his era?

Did J.K. Rowlings have to be inspired by the most famous piece of pop culture ever in order to create the most read book series ever?

(Maybe I should start going the initials route--A.M. Goldfarb.  Yeah, that's the ticket.)

Would I write the kind of works that were not just liked, but were gulped up by the idiot masses if I was also a massive idiot that loved all the popular shit?

Perhaps.

Or, maybe I just need a movie released to 3000 screens, a TV show aired on CBS, a book given front table placement at the airport newstand.  Maybe I need to curse less.

Whatever the case, I'm about to start reading "The Hunger Games" to see what that shit's all about and why it sells like fucking crazy.

Then, I'll keep writing what I like to write.

 

 

Popular culture* of recent times I actually liked:

Every Pixar film
"Avatar" (seriously)
"The Dark Knight" & "Inception"
"The Blind Side"
"Bridesmaids"
The Millenium Trilogy
"Room" by Emma Donahue
NBC Thursday night comedies
"How I Met Your Mother"
"Modern Family"
"House"
Lady Gaga

*I defined this as blockbuster movies, highly-watched network TV shows, and best-selling books before any one argues.

11Jul/1112

The Six Stupidest Things My Publishers Have Ever Said

I would never make a blanket statement that all publishers are idiots.  They aren't.  But a lot of the publishers I've worked with clearly are.  With that, the six stupidest things these publishers have ever said.

(Names anonymous and quotes sometimes paraphrased)

1.  "Call Google and tell them to remove that!"

My publisher noticed a blogger had offered a scorchingly harsh review of one of his many terrible titles.  A review that was now appearing as the #1 returned search item when you Googled that very book's title.  He told the office technological guru--really just the one fat, bearded nerd in the office--to do the above quote.

2.  "Ask them why they aren't buying!"

Any time I returned from a book event--this publisher never attended--and I'd proudly tell him how many books were sold, he wouldn't pat me on the back and say, "Good job."  He'd instead wonder why the book hadn't sold to other people.  If 200 people were at the signing and 199 bought, he didn't care about those 199, he only cared about the one.  And, what was I to do for that one non-customer?  Why "Ask them why they aren't buying!"  How he wanted me to do this I am not sure.  I imagined jumping up from the table where dozens of people were waiting for my autograph and chasing down a guy I saw casually scoff and then exit.  "Excuse me, sir, excuse me, sir.  Can I ask you a question:  why didn't you buy my book?"

3.  "E-mail everyone and tell them to cancel their Amazon orders!"

This sounds too crazy to be true, but the first day my book went for pre-order sales on Amazon it immediately jumped from unranked to inside the Amazon top 5000.  Not too shabby, I thought.  Far too shabby, my publisher thought, apparently not pleased with Amazon getting 55% of his cut.  So, he told me to e-mail any one that had already bought via Amazon--how would I possibly know such a thing?!--and get them to cancel their orders and instead buy my book from his terribly-designed, user-unfriendly company website where he would get 100% of the cut.

4.  "NO NEED TO BUY FROM THE EXPENSIVE BIG BROTHER CAPITALISTIC AMAZON!!!"

Later, that same day, the aforementioned "office technological guru," e-mailed me (in ALL CAPS, natch), to further get me to try and push all future sales to the terribly-designed, user-unfriendly publishing company website by both denigrating the world's largest online retailer and bashing the very economic system that would hopefully make our book a bestseller.

5.  "Blurbs sell books."

I'd always hated blurbs and thought they were a waste of time to acquire and, more importantly, didn't aid in the selling of books.  My publisher disagreed and refused to go to press until I had some blurbs.  "Blurbs sell books!" he constantly shouted.  There's certainly some debate on the matter (which I discuss in video form here).  Long story short:  I was forced into getting blurbs.  And, actually, my blurbs did help me sell some books, my publisher might have been right with this stupid statement.

6.  "This 'Jersey Shore' show seems to be popular.  How can we get you on the show to promote your book?"

This statement occurred after my publisher accidentally got sucked into a "Jersey Shore" marathon one weekend while his grandchildren were visiting.  Considering Snooki and Sitch sold the fuck out of their books (sarcasm), maybe I should have stumbled over to Seaside Heights for a surprise walk-on.

I wish the above things had never been said to me, but they unfortunately were.  Hopefully, with my next book, and next publisher, I will be the only one saying stupid things.

Authors--if you have the balls to reveal them in the comments (feel free to be anonymous):

What is the stupidest thing your publishers have ever said?

RELATED POSTS:

*Who Cares Who Published It?
*Self(ish) Publishing
*The Vanity of Not Self-Publishing
*The Five Things "Go the Fuck to Sleep" Can Teach Us About the Future of Books

Buy "HOW TO FAIL:  THE SELF-HURT GUIDE" (only 99 cents on Kindle!)

 

7Jul/111

Making the Accidental Incidental – Todd Henry’s “The Accidental Creative”

"Anyone can improve his ability to generate good ideas consistently, if willing to be a little more purposeful in how to approach the creative process."

More and more jobs nowadays call for the use of serious brain power and creativity.  Even, the seemingly non-creative fields.  Yet, so few workers seem to have "time" for just sitting down and having a good think.  Todd Henry, author of "The Accidental Creative:  How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice," thinks this needs to change.

He tells the story of giving a talk at a conference and asking:

"How many of you would say that great ideas are critical to the future of your career or business."

Most hands go up.  But when Todd asks how many people devote time in their day to idea generation, almost no hands remain.

"What am I supposed to do?!  Just sit in my office thinking?!" are the typical complaints.

And, the answer is:

YES.

In Todd's mind, it's all about eliminating fake work from your life--mindless monitoring of e-mail for example--and doing real work.  The truly tough work.  The thinking work.  As a creative worker, you're paid for the value you create, not how much time you spend on something, yet so many of us still insist on believing in the old 1950s model that working long hours equals doing good work.  We're not factory workers, we're thinkers!  All that matters is the work that has been created!  Not how long it took.

"Because we tend to gravitate toward possibilities, many creative people wrestle with focus."

Todd is a firm believer in a strict scheduling of creativitiy.  It seems silly at first, if not impossible, but I must admit by following his ways he's helped me become more creative in a short amount of time.

I've quickly begun utilizing Todd's "Big Three" to great effect.  This calls for having a list of the three biggest "open loops" in your life which you are forced to stare at throughout the day.  I've taken to writing out my Big Three (usually a new book I'm working on, a screenplay idea, maybe a freelance piece) at the start of the week and then carrying it around in my pocket at all times.  And, you wouldn't believe how much this has helped my process.  Now, almost through osmosis, I'm thinking about these creative problems even when I'm not thinking about them--walking the street, riding the subway, while working out, etc--and getting so much more thoughtful work accomplished.  I come back from the gym or get off the subway and immediately sprint to my computer to write down everything I've thought of while "not working."

The Big Three technique sounds simple, and it is, but it's amazingly helpful at keeping your creative priorities always on your mind.  I advise you do likewise.

Many artist types, especially us writers, seems to believe that we can't influence our own creativity, that it just arrives with the muse (or a few glasses of Scotch) and then the magic happens.  Todd says not so and shows you why so in "The Accidental Creative."

In this way, Todd's book is similar to Steven Pressfield's great "The War of Art" and "Do the Work." If you dug those two books, you'll love this one.  But, while Steven's books are more pithy and inspirational, "The Accidental Creative" is a straight-up guide book for making you productively and efficiently creative.

For making you able to "create on demand."

It doesn't seem possible, but Todd shows it is.

Highly recommended.

BUY "The Accidental Creative"

(Oh, yeah, I get free shit.)

RELATED POSTS:

Mutual Admiration Society -- Todd interviews me

6Jul/118

The Four Lamest Reasons People Are Anti- Ebooks

I won't hide my bias, I love ebooks.

I love my Kindle, I love my Kindle app for iPhone, and I now hate paper books.  I'm not being funny, I really fucking hate dealing with books.  "Physical" books us ereader enthusiasts call them with scorn.

I simply do not understand why there are booklovers out there that aren't using ereaders.  Oddly, most people not using ereaders are actually anti- them.  Often times, virulently so.

But, after reading this Complaint Box piece in yesterday's New York Times (good thing I still had "clicks" this month)--"How EReaders Destroyed My Love Life"--I've now realize that when someone is vocally anti- ebooks, they're usually saying more about themselves than they are about this great technology.

Below, the four most common (and lamest) reasons people are anti- ebooks, and my quickie solutions.

1.  "I like knowing what people are reading."

In the aforementioned Times piece, a woman talks about how the rise of ereaders have hindered her chances at soliciting dates because she no longer has her go-to pick-up line:  "I love that book."   She mentions how she once fell for a man because she saw him reading a book she loved, "Portnoy's Complaint," on the subway.  With ereaders, her amazing opportunity to beguile New York City men has been lost!

Solution:  Just go fucking talk to the men, you dweeb.  It's not that hard.  Even based on the carefully curated pictures you provide on your blog, you are certainly cute enough to probably land some dates regardless of what "pick-up line" you use while annoying a man who is trying to lose himself in a book.

Solution #2:  Also, you might not still be single if you actually judged men on things more important than their reading preferences, such as "Portnoy's" which is essentially a book about a lazy Jew that masturbates too much (a better book on the topic: here).  Some better suggestions for things to judge potential romantic partners on:  total number of fingers, whether they actually grip the subway pole, dick size.

(My reading LIKES to judge me on.)

2.  "I like the smell of books!"

I can't believe how often I hear this weird one.  Like books have some unique aroma.  Oh right, they actually do.  New ones smell like pulp and cheap glue, old ones and library books smell like the homeless.  People actually like this?!

Solution: Let a small baby or gutter bum play with your ereader for a solid week before you retrieve it.

3.  "I like displaying books in my home!"

Move just one single time in New York City and you won't give a shit what is "displayed" in your home, as long as it's light.  Unless you're the kind of sad person who has a strong need to display to people how "smart" and "educated" you are.

Solution: Print out a list of books you own to hand to house guests once they arrive at your apartment so they'll be impressed by your amazing ability to purchase important books (many of which, let's be honest, you've never read).

4.  "I like the feel of a book in my hands!"

People that actually enjoy holding books are like people that actually enjoy anal sex.  To most of us, we simply have no idea how you find it comfortable and hope to never have to participate in such a thing again.  I don't know about you, but I always hated having to hold a heavy block of paper and cardboard just to get knowledge in my brain.  Reading a hardcover while tired in bed?  No thank you.  While forced to stand on a packed subway?  Impossible.  Paperbacks are a little better, but still generally necessitate two hands and a folded back cover.  With my Kindle, I just need a flat surface and a single finger to turn the page.  I can read a book on my iPhone while walking the street.

Solution: Strap weights to the bottom of Kindle or Nook.

 

Legitimate Complaints?

 

There are a few legitimate complaints, I suppose, for sticking with "real" books:  price, artistry, and note-taking abilities.  I'll quickly dismiss these.

Price: The Kindle App is free for your smart phone and both Kindle and Nooks are down to about $100 a piece.  With ebooks anywhere from cheap to free nowadays, if you're even just a semi-regular reader, after a few months you'll be saving tons of money by going "e."

(By the way, "How to Fail" on Kindle, currently only 99 CENTS!)

Artistry: I get this one, ebooks are boring to look at.  Kindle and Nook books are designed in no-frills HTML style courtesy of bland e-ink.  Every book looks the same.  But, as my friend Alex Miles Younger wrote in a great piece two weeks ago, shifting technologies actually mean that (e)books necessitate great, iconic design more than ever.

Note-taking: This is the only issue I have with ebooks at the moment.  I used to be obsessed with underlining and notetaking while reading, especially with non-fiction works.  I used to fill the margins of my books with about as many scribbled words discussing the material as there was actual text in the book.  But, notetaking is tough with an ereader.  On my Kindle it takes forever to type up a note on the clunky keyboard.  So, for now, I mainly utilize the Kindle's underlining capabilities (quite useful), while taking notes in a separate Moleskine.  I'm taking less notes, but at least I'm reading more books.

 

Bottom line:

 

Get an ereader.  By the end of your first book you'll be in love.  You'll be obsessed.  You'll be so focused on reading that you'll no longer be looking around your subway car for a man, any man, reading a dirty paperback so you can tell him:

"I love that book."

1Jul/111

“I’d Do it for Free” — Negotiating Things You Love

Every year we hear an athlete with such youthful enthusiasm--a Kevin Durant or Lionel Messi for example--say they love their sport so much they'd play it for free.

Of course, in the off-season, that athlete's "bad cop" agent goes out and gets them a $160 million dollar contract, but the sentiment remains.

When an athlete says he'd play for free, he's saying he has such a love for the game, that he'd do it no matter what.

That's great.

Everyone should have professions where they enjoy their labor without concern for the fruits of their labor.

But, of course, you can't pay rent with professional self-satisfaction.  (Though some charlatans think you can.)

It gets even trickier when you try to figure out what something is worth to you that you'd do for free.

A personal example: in the coming weeks I will be hopefully negotiating a deal on something I really want to do.

Now, in my mind, if I was a passive observer, I'd say this is something worth tens of thousands of dollars.

But, as me, the writer that loves to write, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I wouldn't want to squander.

I would do it for free!

So how do you go to the negotiating table knowing in your mind that you will allow them to continually lowball you to nothing?

Does it become a thing of respect?

Does it become a thing of, "If you won't pay me what I'm worth--I'll find someone else"?

How do you negotiate things you'd do for free?

Should you just do them for free?

 

RELATED POST:

Labors of Love Are Just Abusive Husbands