I’m a huge Stephen King fan and an avid reader of his novels. This past month when I was on vacation, I went to Barnes & Noble and found a new author in the horror genre: Ronald Malfi. I had never read any of his books before, so I took a gamble and bought one of his books.
I’ve found a new favorite author!
The next time you’re at the bookstore, on Amazon, or considering buying a book from an author you know, consider trying out a new author in the same genre. You can also experiment and try a new genre outside your comfort zone. If you love fantasy, try romance; if you love sci-fi, try historical fiction, etc.
Or, if you are a hardcore fiction reader, try a non-fiction book on a topic that interests you.
It’s easy to get locked into reading patterns – I know I do – but every once in a while, give yourself the challenge of trying out a new genre or author. You may not like it and run back to what’s familiar, but at least you know you tried.
Or you’ll be like me and find a new author to enjoy.
Happy Reading, and I’ll see you next time!
What authors or genres have you tried and found you enjoyed? Leave a comment and let me know!
There’s something somewhat antiquated about the concept of banning books. Societies of the past have participated in book bans and even book burnings in the town square. Before the recent news stories about banning books, America had an odd obsession with rap music, destroying CDs with steamrollers to the cheers of those who feared its edgy lyrics.
People fear what they don’t understand and don’t care to learn about. And ignorance spawns an odd mob mentality that can lead to collective fear, anger, and violence. In our most recent incarnation of book banning, LGBTQIA+ books in school libraries have been the target of many parents and politicians. This has led to threats on librarians to closed local libraries due to pulled funding.
Let’s dig into the idea of banning books in 2022 and whether all this madness and furor is worth it.
Is it Really About “Protecting the Children,” And What Exactly Are We “Protecting the Children” From?
We hear this from both sides of the political spectrum. It’s all about protecting the innocent child. Conservative and progressive politicians and parents use this fictional child entity as a political weapon. This fake child will be forever scarred, their life ruined if they see – or don’t see – something before the age of eighteen.
What I find interesting about this in the context of banning books is that we never hear from real children who are upset, offended, or bothered by the content of these “evil” books that have “invaded” their school libraries to “corrupt” their naïve and unknowing consciences.
While I do believe that there is content that children shouldn’t be able to access, we also have to accept that in 2022 where everyone has some device linked to the internet, most young people have viewed content – on accident or not – that is probably more graphic than anything they will see in a library book.
Let’s move on to another aspect of this book banning that many have not considered.
The Taboo Effect
When I was in high school, a college acting troupe came to our church and did a sketch about the evils of television. One of the bits was a re-enactment of a scene from Married…with Children. I had never seen the show, but the troupe’s portrayal of the Bundy family didn’t seem that offensive or make them look that bad.
That night at home, I found a rerun of the show on TV and have been a lifelong fan of the series ever since.
I don’t think that was the intended outcome this acting troupe was hoping for.
Kids – and I used to be one – always seek ways to rebel against their parents and society. They can be overt acts of rebellion or more covert acts. When someone in authority tells a young person not to do something and becomes hyperbolic in their reasoning as to why it’s bad, a kid is more likely to want to find out about it for themselves.
When I hear about a book being banned, I immediately want to know why, and it also makes me want to read it to see just how “bad,” “evil,” and “morally corrupt” it is. And if I’m doing that in my 40s, curious kids and teens will do the same thing.
When a society demonizes something – rock music, rap music, video games – it tends to make that thing more popular and more intriguing due to its taboo nature.
Another aspect of this is that these parents and politicians who bring up these books and want them exorcized from libraries are creating free publicity and generating interest for them as well. There were thousands of books in the school libraries at my elementary, middle, and high school, and most I never looked at or read. Were there books about topics that some may have found objectionable? More than likely. But if attention isn’t drawn to them, no one knows about them, and they remain on the shelf.
By broadcasting your disdain and disgust for a book on a national stage, you just made that book more popular.
Book Banning in the Amazon Era
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, if you wanted to ban a book from your local library – like TheCatcher in the Rye – you would probably have successfully kept it out of the hands of the “vulnerable” youth in your town.
However, in 2022, a book ban at a school is pretty meaningless when anyone can order any book they wish via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any number of used booksellers online. Senator Ted Cruz (R – Texas) did a big presentation in Congress about a children’s book called The Anti-Racist Baby. If he were rallying against this book in 1950, we probably would never have seen the book again in most sections of the country.
But his is 2022, and his presentation about the book led to a surge in sales on Amazon, making it the #1 children’s book that week.
Senator Cruz’s action leads me to another point…
Never Trust a Politician
Whether on the right or left, Democrat or Republican, conservative or progressive, politicians only want your money and your vote. When you see any political entity either rallying for or against books being banned, ask yourself: What’s in it for them?
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is banning LGBTQIA+ books and even some textbooks from schools across his state. Read more here:
In our era of aggressive political divisiveness and hyperbolic rhetoric, these two governors, Ted Cruz, and others of their ilk show that making book banning a political issue is silly, pointless, and another attempt to fundraise off of scared parents who are either afraid of books being banned or want more books banned ASAP.
The American Library Association publishes a list of The Most Challenged Books annually. I highly recommend checking out the list and reading a few of them to see why politicians and others are so appalled and oppose these works.
So, the next time you see any politician talking about banning books for any reason, ask yourself their motivation. More than likely, it has nothing to do with saving the children or protecting society from bad words on a page. It’s probably all about them.
The Offended Offensive
It’s fashionable in 2022 to be offended or upset by something, and books that have content contrary to one’s personal beliefs are a great way to get riled up and cause problems for school boards and libraries.
My take is that you have the right to control what your child reads, but not what my child reads and has access to in the library. That’s not your call. By creating a blanket of being offended on behalf of everyone, you do more harm than good, causing a national uproar when you are the only one with the problem.
In 2022, with a 24/7 news cycle and social media, one person can act like they are one of the angry millions when that is probably not the case.
When you see a story about a parent or politician upset over a book in their child’s library, take a step back and find out why they are upset and demanding the ban. What perspective are they coming from? Is there an agenda behind their demands? Are they upset about the content or how it’s presented? Would you even know about this book if this person wasn’t on CNN?
By taking the time to find out the why you’ll see that there may be religious or political reasons why this person is offended or upset. They have the right to be upset and offended, but that shouldn’t give them the power to ban a book.
Author Salman Rushdie was attacked and stabbed during a talk this past week. He made headlines and created controversy in 1989 when he published The Satanic Verses, and a fatwa was placed on his head by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran. According to The New York Times, the Ayatollah ordered “Muslims to kill Mr. Rushdie and [put] a price on his head of several million dollars. Mr. Rushdie, who lived in London at the time, immediately went into hiding with 24-hour protection from the British police, moving every three days from place to place until a fortified safehouse was prepared for him. He lived there for most of the next 10 years.”
Three decades later, there are still people angry about Rushdie’s work. And now, Rushdie is in critical condition from injuries caused by an angry man with a knife.
Is this where we’re headed? Actual violence against authors who write content someone objects to or finds offensive? We have to do better than this.
Being offended is one thing, but violence, attempted murder, or taking someone’s life because you object to their writing cannot be tolerated in our society in 2022.
More on the Rushdie story here:
More about the fatwa here:
Learn more about The Satanic Verses here:
Keeping Literature Alive
If you read a lot like I do or follow authors or book channels, you’ve probably come across this slogan on mugs or shirts:
I am 100% for doing this. If someone is trying to ban a book, go out and buy it. Don’t let the mob on social media or a news story tell you what your opinion should be; read the book and make up your own mind.
Don’t fall prey to groupthink.
So, the next time you hear about a book being banned, do your research, learn about it, buy it, and fight against the powers that wish to silence authors.
Happy Reading, and I’ll see you next time!
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know!
In Part One, television writer Dave Hackel talked about his career and his time working on Wings. In this post, I’m excited to bring you the second part of the interview, where he talks about writing one of my favorite Wings episodes, “Murder She Roast,” which is Episode 21 of Season Two.
When Joe’s (Tim Daly) house has to be fumigated, Brian (Steven Weber) gets an offer to stay with Fay (Rebecca Schull). While at her home, Brian watches his favorite show, Fugitives from Justice, and the subject of the episode – a woman who has left a trail of dead men in her wake – has many similarities to Fay.
Freaked out, Brian shares his newfound info about Fay with Joe and Helen (Crystal Bernard), which they quickly dismiss. But as Brian’s paranoia about Fay’s possible true identity mounts, are his suspicions about her crazy, or is he really staying with a serial killer?
Meanwhile, Lowell (Thomas Haden Church) begins selling a gadget called the Car-B-Que. Will Roy (David Schramm) take the bait and buy one, or is this just another idiotic thing Lowell has ventured into?
I love this episode. It’s interesting to watch it now in the context of our cultural obsession with true-crime series and podcasts, and the idea that you could see or hear about someone you might know on one of those shows seems more possible than ever.
The cast takes the solid material and runs with it, and the entire set-up and pay-off of the main storyline is exceptionally well-crafted and delivers solid laughs throughout.
And I’d really like to know a little more about the culinary science behind the Car-B-Que, especially how it cooks chicken so fast.
“Murder She Roast” never fails to make me laugh. Wings is reliably funny and always can get a smile or a laugh no matter the episode. Whether it’s a line of dialogue or the line’s delivery, “Murder She Roast” is great stuff.
I was honored to be able to ask Dave Hackel about the inception and writing of the episode in question. His answers are below:
Ian Dawson: How was the initial story pitched?
Dave Hackel: As conceived, “Wings” was a show about two brothers. Obviously, other great characters made up the initial ensemble and others were added along the way. The production staff had to service all the actors/characters and some were easier to come up with stories for than others. Rebecca Schull was and is a marvelous actor, but Fay was often difficult to create shows around…especially in the early years of the show. The network wanted stories about Joe and Brian so when trying for a Fay episode, we had to find ones in which the boys were prominent, as well.
So, our job was to come up with a story in which Rebecca could shine and still give Tim and Steven good parts to play. “Murder She Roast” was clearly inspired…if not liberally borrowed…from the classic Alfred Hitchcock story about the woman who killed a man with a frozen leg of lamb, then cooked it and served it to the investigating detectives. I suggested that we might be able to come up with a story that cast doubt on Fay’s character in a similar way. Of course, we ended up with — certainly in that last block comedy scene in Fay’s kitchen — an homage to Hitchcock’s story.
ID: Were you assigned to write the episode, or did you pitch the episode and then were sent off to write it?
DH: All of the above. I came up with the basic idea then, as will most of the episodes, the entire staff worked out the story and I was sent off to write it.
ID: How long did you have to write an episode? Did you craft an outline or beat sheet first that was then hashed out in the room, or did you jump into a first draft with an outline?
DH: As with all of the episodes, first you work out the story in the room, then the writer — in this case me — was sent off to write the outline — usually around ten pages of prose that broke out the story beats into scenes and included many of the jokes that were pitched in the room. Then, after a week, I turned it in, met with the staff, went over the story, made changes and then I went off to write the first draft of the script. That usually took about two weeks.
ID: How did the storyline/episode evolve from pitch to shooting script? Did the B-story with Lowell and Roy change at all, or were the A and B stories pretty much set from the start?
DH: All the beats, A & B stories, were worked out before I started to write the script. As was the case with all of the episodes, stories were adjusted, edited and hopefully improved throughout the week with the help of the writing staff and, of course, the actors and the director of that episode, Noam Pitlik.
ID: Do you recall what the initial reaction to the episode was at the table read?
DH: I believe the script went over quite well at the table read. Those initial readings were usually a great deal of fun for all of the “Wings” episodes.
ID: As the credited writer on this or any episode, do you get final say on any changes that are suggested by the actors, director, or other writers? Do remember if there were any network notes that you had to deal with on this episode?
DH: The initial writer doesn’t get the final say on an episode. Once it’s turned in, the script becomes fair game for everyone to work on and improve. That includes the actors, director, writing staff, as well as anyone in the crew who comes up with a good idea. It’s an incredible amount of work to produce a new episode every week, so any input that makes it better is appreciated.
ID: What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing or during the taping of the episode?
DH: Time is always the enemy on a television show. How to get it done in five days while, at the same time, working on editing last week’s episode and coming up with new ones to round out the season. “Murder She Roast” was no exception except for the fact that we also had to find time to shoot the footage on the “news” program that Brian initially watched. We went onto Paramount’s back lot and did those sequences as well as filming Maury Povich playing the part of the newscaster.
ID: Looking back at the episode now, is there anything you would change.
DH: Oh, I’m sure if I viewed the episode carefully, I could find jokes that could be better — sharper, funnier — and perhaps a shot here or there to improve. That’s the case with every show. But I remember being quite happy with the finished product have always appreciated that, when people are asked about their favorite episodes of “Wings”, “Murder She Roast” is often mentioned.
I appreciate Dave Hackel taking the time to talk about the writing of “Murder She Roast.” You can find this episode and other episodes of Wings on Hulu, buy the complete series on Amazon (or watch on Amazon Prime), and watch via the PlutoTV app on the 24/7 Wings channel (channel 456).
After my initial call with Smith Publicity and deciding on what program to use (I opted for their three-week media blitz), I was emailed an in-depth questionnaire about myself and my novel. The information I provided would aide them in crafting an official press release for the novel to send out to potential reviewers and interviewers.
It was a lot of questions, and after a week I submitted the completed questionnaire and the work began. And that work began with a quick call on the first day of week one with my publicity team to go over any question I may have before we got into it.
And the adventure began.
By the end of the afternoon my book was posted on NetGalley. NetGalley is a site where book reviewers, educators, librarians, and booksellers can request eBook versions of you novel and review it. They then post their reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, NetGalley, etc. By the end of the week, over 30 people had requested and been sent an eBook to review. This was a good start!
As the first week progressed, my team and I went back and forth revising and fine-tuning the press release that would be sent out to people over the next two weeks. By Thursday it was done and ready to go, and my team sent out an initial flurry of email queries for the book.
On my end, I printed out 30+ copies of the press release to include with the review copies I had on hand in preparation for sending them out ASAP. The wheels were now set in motion and it would be only a matter of days before I would be making multiple trips to FedEx and the Post Office.
Here are a few takeaways and final thoughts I have about self-publishing The Field:
It’s important for your own creative sanity that once you make the leap from your novel being your baby to publishing it either as an eBook, a paperback, or both, it is now a viable, marketable product. This means that you have to put distance between you the author and you’re the person trying to market and sell what is a now a viable commodity.
This distancing will also help you in the event your get a negative review or criticism you don’t like. The person may not have liked your product, but they still bought the product and you reap the benefits either way. By taking this more objective and business-like approach to each work, you can then free up your mind to write the next book, and the next, and the next.
Distancing yourself emotionally from your completed project will also help you think more clearly when it comes to the marketing and sales aspects of your work. It’s not at all helpful if you get wrapped up in a minute detail that occurs during the publishing process and your obsess over something that in the end has an easy fix. Case in point: I talked in a previous post about the paperback being priced at $14.63 due to production costs. I agonized over this for half a week, sure that my book was now doomed for failure because it was too expensive. Then, a Book Baby rep suggested I create a promo code to decrease the price. Boom. Problem solved.
I had I been thinking like a salesperson and been more pragmatic than emotional, I could have solved the problem without the needless drama. Leave the drama for the page not the publishing.
Know that if you are self-publishing that you are going to have to do almost everything yourself. Yes, there are sites like Book Baby that will guide you, but when it comes to getting the word out to a wide swath of people, just know that you are the best marketing tool there is. So use social media, your own website, co-workers, family, and friends to get the initial word out. If you want to, you can enlist the aid of a marketing company – like I did with Smith Publicity – to spread the word farther. But again, while they will be assisting with press releases and other aspects, the project is still driven by me and my knowledge and passion for the project.
There are also dozens of videos on YouTube as well as blogs that can give you insights into how to market your book either inexpensively or for free.
Also, make sure that you have the means to afford all the aspects of doing this yourself. There are inexpensive and even free alternatives if you want to publish your eBook on Amazon or even on your own blog chapter by chapter. Don’t go into debt or sacrifice eating or bills to do this. And if you do, make sure you budget and keep track of all your expenses.
So, what would I do differently. Well, for the next book I will definitely publish the eBook and paperback as part of the same project. The reason: it’s cheaper. I could have paid 50% less if I had gone with one of the packages offered through Book Baby that allows you to do both. But I thought just an eBook was easy money. As of this post I have sold more paperbacks than eBooks, so that shows what I know!
I also learned that the best strategy is to budget your time in an efficient manner, especially if self-publishing is a side business and not your full-time occupation. I work six days a week at my main job, so everything involving the book is like having a second job. It’s important to give yourself some downtime and not burn yourself out with everything that now needs to be done on top of all your other responsibilities. Your novel won’t get published any faster if your agonizing over pricing at 4am. Trust me. It’s not worth losing sleep over.
And that’s my self-publishing journey. It was definitely worth all the time, effort, and expense, and I will definitely be doing it again soon. If you have any questions, comments, or further advice you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.
Yes, yes. I’ll admit it. Yesterday’s post was pretty technical. Metadata. Pricing. Websites. While they aren’t exactly sexy topics, they are important parts of the self-publishing puzzle, which is why it’s a good idea to know about them. So, today, let’s talk about a few more exciting topics.
So, you’ve submitted your manuscript, your cover, and input all the important info needed to launch your eBook on various sites. Well, while you’re toiling away at your website, a busy group of people in another part of the country are converting your Word doc or other files into a polished and professional-looking eBook.
The nice thing about Book Baby (and I’m sure other self-publishing sites do it, too) is that they constantly email you to let you know the progress of your book. You can also check the status of your project on their website as well. I was very excited to get the email announcing that my proofs were ready for me to view. I will confess that when I opened the file for the first time and started to go through the pages I jumped up and down (I really did this, I’m not lying). It was an exciting feeling to finally see what I had written converted into a format for others to read and enjoy on their tablets or phones.
That part done and approved, I had to wait for the book’s official release onto Amazon and other sites in order to move on to the next step: reviews.
Readers’ Favorite (https://readersfavorite.com) is a site that works with Book Baby and allows you to do a number of helpful things with your book. You can sign up for their Press Release program, you can participate in their Book Exchange Program, and you can have your book reviewed. Now, you have to pay for the reviews, but I found this was a helpful way to get new eyes on my book and to get some legitimate reviews to use on my Amazon page and website. I paid for three reviews, having no clue what I would get.
About a week later I got all three reviews back and they were all very positive, five-star reviews! But, me being a skeptic about things, I did do some digging to find other reviews written by these particular reviewers and they weren’t just handing out five-star reviews across the board. That added to the legitimacy of their reviews, which was a good thing!
The Field by Ian Dawson was officially launched as an eBook on July 4, 2018, and I was pretty excited. But other than my family, friends, and co-workers, how could I get others to buy the book? In a word: Publicity. In more words, stop by for tomorrow’s post!
In its most basic terms, metadata is data about data. A novel is filled with data, and Amazon and other sites use data (keywords) based on the data in the novel to categorize your book and make sure that when certain terms or phrases are searched that your novel pops up.
If you do wish to change these in the future for your novel you can, and it takes about 24 hours for the changes to occur on Amazon.
Now on to pricing. Since it was my first novel, I didn’t want to charge a crazy amount, but I also wanted to make sure that I could make some money off each sale. I decided on the lowest amount that gets you a maximum return on Amazon: $2.99. At this price I get 70% of the sale and Amazon gets 30%. Any lower and I get 35%. $2.99 seemed like a fair price since it is affordable for an eBook and my main goal was to get people to download and read the book.
With all that in place, I did a few more accounting-based steps about where you want your money sent and at what set amount would you like the money sent to you, and awaited the proofs for the eBook.
But did I just sit around waiting for that day to arrive? Quite the contrary! I knew I had to create a platform for people to learn about my book, so I created a website using www.wordpress.com. I started with a pretty basic and bland theme and format, but eventually took the time to make it my own. I opted for the business website option, which costs a bit more but gives you more freedom and options with your design.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about proofs, other book sites I joined, and getting early reviews. See you then!