Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “oilspill dotcom”

Accusing From Afar

Living in England, you learn that the British Empire was something positive. It brought roads, education, medicine, and culture to the masses. You see movies of the aristocratic class in India, Africa, and just about everywhere else. “The sun never set of the British Empire,” was said as an expression of pride, if not wistfulness, as I grew up.

One of the biggest shocks to my social conscience occurred when I began studying sociology at London University. I had been political as a teenager, advocating for human rights in the Soviet Union, Tibet and South Africa. I was about to receive a rude awakening.

I arrived late to university as the semester opened on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The class was discussing a book, A Savage Culture, by Remi Kapo. A black, English sociologist was describing how many of the violent, classist, and racist facets of British society, were entrenched as part of the psyche of the British Empire, even though the British Empire was now a largely inactive Commonwealth.

I thought I was just missing something. I raised my hand and asked whether his premise was that the British Empire was wrong and evil. You could have cut the tension with a chainsaw.

The professor looked at me for a moment trying to decide, I imagine, whether I was being a smartass. Seeing that I was trying to disappear from embarrassment, he took pity and explained everything, feeding off my willingness to be honest about what I had learned growing up.

I remember wanting to tell him and the other students how I considered myself a political activist and brag about the campaigns I had participated in. This was a group of very politically aware students and it was a while before they accepted me as a friend.

It is easy and convenient to see evils from afar and confer rapid judgment on what others are doing. Here on the Left Coast we are especially good at doing this. However, are we doing this to feel good with ourselves because we are unable to solve the injustices in our own backyard? Does it not feel more righteous to accuse others (usually well-deserving), rather than admit when we fail to achieve the values and ideologies that we preach?

The age of the Internet has made it possible to help others in any part of the world. My novel,  The Accidental Activist, tells this very story, highlighting how the Internet was utilized by a small group of activists to fight a multinational corporation in court (It is based on the McDonald’s libel trial in England in the 1990’s).

But while today there is no excuse for being uninformed about world events, it also makes it easier to avoid injustice on our own doorstep. It is simply more convenient to go online than onto the streets.

When I look at the inequalities here in California and the potential that we have to correct them, I wonder whether we can perhaps teach the greatest lesson by being the greatest example. ——————————————————————————————————-

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

New Book Cover – The Accidental Activist

Oilspill dotcom will be withdrawn on October 15th and reissued by Three Clover Press with the new title: The Accidental Activist.

The Accidental Activist will be launched at the Northern Californian Independent Booksellers Association’s trade show on that date.

More details will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. Below is the new cover. Thanks Lily for all your hard work and a great job.

The Price of an ebook

In a recent blog post I referred to a marketing report that detailed the exploding market of ebook readers and the growth in the sales of ebooks. I just came across a draft that I had planned to share with you when Amazon.com seemed resistant to lowering the price of my kindle version of Oilspill dotcom from $9.99.

The basis of my argument was not just that the price was too high, but that I had another distributor, Smashwords, selling the ebook in all formats at $4.99. My kindle version of Oilspill dotcom was eventually reduced to $4.99 and actually began to sell. I have just noticed that Amazon.com have now further reduced the price to $3.19.

Fair enough. But this has got me thinking what exactly should the price of an ebook be? There are hardly any costs involved after the initial set up. There are website overheads, promotion etc., but no trees are being felled, replaced, distributed and returned.

For my recent birthday, friends gave me gift vouchers for Amazon, so that I could begin building a library on my newly purchased kindle. I am, now the consumer, finding myself dismissing anything over $10 on principle, and skeptical about a book over $5.

Jeff Rivera wrote an interesting article: Writers: Making a Living Off of Kindle? (Apr 19, 2010). He interviewed J. A. Konraith, the author of the Jack Daniels detective series. Mr. Konraith is making a living primarily off of his ebooks and is justifiably proud of it. He points out that he is making more from his digital books than his tree books (luv the name!). I will cover this article in the future, but want to share one particular aspect here.

Mr. Konraith sells his latest novels for $2.99. With Amazon’s new royalty system, he will make $2.04 off each book. He sells his older novels for $1.99. The idea behind this is that people will probably hear of his latest and read that first. After enjoying the book, they can go in and order 5 for $10. They are now packed for their vacation! Even if they order them one at a time, his books are at the price level of an impulse purchase for most people.

I love the idea of responding to the question of how much my book costs with: “Less than that cup of coffee you’re holding. And it doesn’t cool off as you read your way through.” Not sure I’ll persuade Starbucks to make my novel their Pick of the Month!

I would be interested to know what price you are willing to pay for a novel when you download to your eReader, computer, or phone?

Good Writing,
Alon

http://www/alonshalev.com/

An Open Letter to British Petroleum (BP)

Dear BP,

That was not nice! Isn’t it enough that you’ve polluted the ocean, massacred wildlife, and destroyed people’s businesses?

Now you have to go after me? I’m also a Brit, in case you weren’t aware.

Am I really such a threat? I know, I know, the pen is mightier than the oil drill, but do you really feel so threatened by the onslaught of literature?

Oilspill dotcom isn’t even about you. It could be, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one day it will be, but I was having a go at McDonald’s. Honest. I happen to love the rain forests as well as the oceans.

I sell most of my books over the Internet. It’s the only way. I have a full time job running a non-profit that supports students. And they will, unfortunately, all be driving oil-fueled cars in the very near future, so you could see me as a stakeholder of sorts.

Did you really have to buy up ALL the ‘oil spill’ search words from Google? Now all those literature lovers are going to get distracted by apologies to the tarred brown pelicans and your explanations for why BP shares aren’t performing as well as one might expect.

Poor buggers. They just wanted to buy a novel to read on the beach (a tar ball-free one) this summer, enjoy reading some humor, sex, and politics. Solid summer reading that QUESTIONS THE UNCHECKED POWERS OF MULTINATIONALS!

Oilspill dotcom confronts the issue of freedom of speech and you buy up all search words to control what people see on the Internet – the final frontier of freedom – do you even see the irony?

BTW – there is also a small company down in West Chester, PA. They clean up oil spills and their business URL is http://www.oilspill.com/ I wish their business well. I hope they don’t rely too much on the Internet for business referrals. Hey, perhaps you could become a client!

Your Internet Competitor,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Making a clown out of Ronald McDonald

April 1st, 2010

I came across the following post yesterday:
April Fools? Group Calls for Ronald McDonald’s Retirement
Written by Free Audio Books – Free audiobooks on March 31, 2010 – 11:13 pm -

A nonprofit consumer rights group argues that Ronald McDonald is hardly a good example to children and, in fact, has played a leading role in the country’s current epidemic of obesity and diet-related diseases, says Corporate Accountability for International.

Now the group says it’s time — long-past time, perhaps — the clown packed up his over-sized shoes and messy red wig and retired.

“McDonald’s, and its iconic clown, is not only the face of the epidemic: it is the engine behind it. No corporation has done more to hook kids on unhealthy food,” said Stacey Folsom, spokeswoman for Corporate Accountability International. SF Gate

Truth is, Ronald McDonald is no stranger to controversy. In the McLibel trial (rumored to be the real story behind my latest novel, Oilspill dotcom), one of the defendants shared his rage at the clown appearing at a birthday party and at a public school event. When the verdict came down, McDonalds lost the point that claimed they advertise to children.

However, my favorite anecdote was when the original Ronald McDonald went vegetarian. Of course, McDonalds took him to court and attempted to force him to eat his words. They did succeed in preventing him from ever donning his McMakeup again.

Thank you to all who congratulated me on reaching the final 250 entries of the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Please do click on the link and leave a comment, review etc.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Valentines Day

An old lover, a flame from the past, memories. A touch so familiar, a well of emotion long forgotten. Yeah, I know my wife is going to read this, don’t worry.

Today has been quite a day. My youngest had his birthday party and 10 seven-year-olds were initiated as Pokemon trainers on a concrete parking lot in West Berkeley. My wife and I got to spend some quality time together, and a chick-flick and wine await us as the kids settle down.

But something else happened. Somewhere between cleaning the dishes from supper and putting the boys to bed. Something special, something vibrant and exhilarating.

I finished writing Unwanted Heroes last April, ten months ago. Since then, Oilspill dotcom was published and promoted, and Heroes is going through endless editing. Ten months…

Ten months since I sat opposite a blank page (well word document to be precise) and let the story flow. I have been worried that I might not be able to get back in the groove. I’m told it’s like that for every writer. Full-time authors split their day between promotion of what is published, editing what is completed, and writing something new. They never want to run the risk of not having that unchecked creative flow.

But for the vast majority of us, writers who hold down a full-time job, support their partners and families, and who consider themselves lucky to carve out an hour or two a day, there is no way we can fulfill all three of these tasks.

Especially writing something new. When I wrote Heroes, I wrote 80,000 words in three months. I wrote every day, didn’t go to the gym, didn’t watch my favorite TV shows. Oilspill dotcom was at the publishers and I just had to respond to questions and decisions. I did nothing but focus on writing Heroes and it was EXHILARATING!

I never wavered. The book just wrote itself, spewed out of me (excuse the artistic verb, but it’s accurate), in less than a hundred days.

This evening, Valentines Day, in less than an hour, I wrote my prologue and first chapter. First draft, extremely rough, but I am feeling that high again. Tomorrow is Presidents Day. I am home with my boys, but I’ll get 90 minutes before my wife goes to work to slink off to a café and write. Hopefully Chapter Two.

Happy Valentines Day to those of you with a loved one, a soon-to-be loved one, or a story waiting to be told.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Two Worlds Converge

Tomorrow I will be selling my book, Oilspill dotcom, at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center Book Festival. I am excited. The festival is about Jewish literature, and not Jewish authors, and since Oilspill dotcom doesn’t have any Jewish content, I count myself lucky to be there.

I have been allowed in through the back door because my full-time job is as the head of a Jewish non-profit which is seen as a vital component in the Jewish Community – The San Francisco Hillel provides educational opportunities and support for Jewish students in a part of the US where it isn’t always easy to be openly Jewish on campus.

My claim with the bookseller at the festival is that I am a recognizable figure and plan to hang out by the book table.

This is true. But it also brings up another issue. I have never exploited this circle of influence to market myself as an author of political fiction. When I launched the book, I certainly told everyone and have received varying degrees of support from students, fellow staff and stakeholders. I could have pushed for more coverage, for readings, and included more plugs in my correspondents and updates.

But generally I have kept the worlds apart. I’m not sure why. I doubt that even those who might take issue with my view of multinational corporations would hold it against me in my work at SF Hillel.

I do believe that part of my drive to write novels that spotlight and challenge social injustices comes from the emphasis that Judaism puts on Tikkun Olam – fixing the world.

So on Sunday I will wear my smarter work clothes to ensure I am recognized and will discuss political literature alongside Jewish identity, look for common ground, and hopefully sell a few books in the process.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Vacation – A Time to Chill

My first month since Oilspill dotcom was published has been a rollercoaster. The highs of seeing the book move up the Amazon.com rankings and the excitement of the book launch party at The Bread Workshop in Berkeley. Both were very successful.

Since then it has become more challenging. I have spent the last few weeks trying to garner interviews, author meetups and generally networking beyond the Bay Area bubble.

Perhaps it is the slowing pace of the summer months, the call of vacation, but everything seems slower and more difficult. And, in truth, I am feeling it too. I thought it was the anti-climax after the excitement of the first month, but perhaps there is an accumulating exhaustion, trying to juggle a new commitment amidst the general chaos of a challenging full time job, a young family, and the desire to keep writing.

I need to find a way of incorporating the marketing of Oilspill dotcom, into an already packed everyday routine, without it taking the fun out of writing and being an author.

I am going on vacation and when I return, I will create a more realistic marketing plan, one that is sustainable and compatible to my everyday life. I do not intend to blog over the next few weeks, but take a break both physically and mentally. On my family vacation I plan to write, just get back to being creative, and getting the energy back.

After all, this is what a vacation is about. And marketing Oilspill dotcom can wait two weeks. In order not to burn out, I need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

See ya’ all in a few weeks.
Alon

http://www.alonshalev.com/

A Pit in the Stomach

It’s June and Oilspill dotcom has just been released! Everyday this week I have gone into Amazon.com, just to …well… make sure it is still there. In the next few days I will send out emails and blasts to all my family, friends and colleagues. I will post on the various social networking sites where I maintain a profile and on Internet forums in which I participate.

My birthday is next Friday (06/12) and I am hoping for an Amazon ranking on that day. As a gift for my birthday, I am asking friends to buy a copy of Oilspill dotcom for themselves, or as a gift for someone else on June 12th. If people buy from amazon.com, I might break into the top 1,000, which will be a feat and hopefully help attract some exposure. A few people have already purchased the book and, for a while, I broke into the top 250,000 – Oprah here I come! Currently, I think I am languishing around the 1 million mark, deep in what publishers call Amazon’s ‘long tail’.

I will continue to promote my book launch on June 20th at The Bread Workshop in Berkeley. I have posters printed and have sent press releases to local newspapers and magazines.

Everything is going according to plan, but…

There seems to be a small pit of fear that’s taken up residence in my stomach. I am not doing enough to promote…I will make a fool of myself…people won’t like the book…won’t take me seriously…won’t come to the book launch…won’t…

It’s cloudy here in San Francisco. It’s June – the sun should be shining.

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25,898 other followers

%d bloggers like this: