One Thing & Another

Notes From My Journal: A “Year” in the Life of the Universe

 I came across this in something I read this morning – an interesting way to think about how old the universe is:

If the Big Bang occurred on the first second of January 1 and today is the last second of December 31, then…

* The Milky Way coalesced in March…

* The sun and the planets in August…

* The first single- cell organism appeared in August…

* The first vertebrates on December 17…

* Dinosaurs on December 24…

* Modern humans at 11:54 on December 31…

* And recorded history began in the last 10 seconds.


Today’s Word: truckle (verb)

 To truckle (TRUH-kul) is to submit to in a subservient manner. As used by historian James Truslow Adams in his 1930 book The Adams Family: “As we look over the list of the early leaders of the republic, Washington, John Adams, Hamilton, and others, we discern that they were all men who insisted upon being themselves and who refused to truckle to the people.”


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Bob Bly’s Case Against “Flimsy Books”

In this age of the rapidly expanding digital universe, the number of business opportunities in information marketing is expanding at the speed of light. Likewise the number of self-proclaimed experts.

In the field of copywriting, there used to be (before the Big Bang of this millennium) perhaps a thousand experts and just a few dozen true masters. Today, there are a hundred thousand self-proclaimed experts.

Masters? That hasn’t changed. There are still only a few dozen individuals I’d put in that category.

Bob Bly is one of them. He’s not only a master of copywriting but also of writing non-fiction books. At last count, he had published 95 of them. I’ve read a dozen and they were all good. By that, I mean knowledgeable, accurate, and full of wisdom.

In a recent blog post, he objected to what he calls “flimsy books.” This was something I’d never thought about.

Bob explains:

Increasingly, in this era of self-promoters and CreateSpace, the rise of books that should never have been written – or published – is increasing at a tremendous rate.

 I call these works – most not worth the paper they’re printed on or the price of a kindle download – “flimsy books.”

And I urge you to neither read, buy, nor heaven forbid, write and publish such books.

Now Bob is a mild-mannered superhero. He doesn’t often take umbrage at the dubious activities of the multitude of wannabes. So I was curious to understand why he was taking this strong position.

He says:

To begin with, flimsy books are actually flimsy. That doesn’t make them bad in itself, but it is an identifying trait.

 When you see a flimsy book, your first impression is that it’s a pamphlet, not a book. And actually, that is essentially the case.

 Example: A communications book I was given recently has barely 50 pages with text on them… and the page size is small.

Reason: Authors of flimsy books are more interested in having a published book for use as a marketing tool or to enhance their reputation, rather than writing a good book.

 So they tend to dash them off quickly, often without much effort, thought, research, or editing.

 Second, the vast majority of books I am referring to as “flimsy” are self-published, more often than not today on CreateSpace.

Again, that doesn’t make them bad in itself.

I’m glad Bob made that last qualifying statement. The fact is, there are many short books that are amazing. Bob himself has written a few that I thought were very good.

However, as someone that has published a (mere) dozen or so books through a big publishing house, I can say that Bob is right to say that such books are likely to get a lot more attention to detail – especially in the editing, proofreading, and production processes – than self-published books.

My editors at these publishing houses are demanding. They wouldn’t let me get away with being lazy in my thinking, incomplete in my research, or unclear in the expression of my ideas.

This was certainly my experience with the first book I wrote that was published by a major house: John Wiley. I was put through the paces and the book was better for it. My subsequent books passed through with less criticism. Whether this was because I had become a better – or more careful – book writer, I can’t say.

Bob continues:

Most self-published authors I know don’t hire a copy editor, and so their books lack this essential quality control.

This is true. And regrettably so. If a writer has an Internet audience already and publishes a daily blog, he may feel that his work doesn’t need an editor. This is a huge mistake.

I have had the fortune of having an editor review, revise, and sometimes reject my work for more than 30 years now. Judith Strauss is as good as any editor that works for any major house. (I know because I’ve had both.) And she knows my thinking better than anyone. Without the gauntlet she puts me through, I’d be reluctant to publish anything. Including my blog posts, of which this is one.

So I agree with Bob 100% here.

He continues:

Third, you don’t get much for your money with flimsy books.

 The flimsy communications book I am using as an example is, as I said, barely 50 pages and less than 15,000 words total.

By comparison, my average 200- to 300-page trade paperback for the big publishers is 80,000 to 100,000 words – so the buyer gets 5 to 6 times more content than in a typical flimsy book.

Check. I’ve published about two dozen books on business and wealth building. And the smallest of them is maybe 50,000 words.

Fourth, as mentioned in my first point above, the motivation for publishing a flimsy book is more often than not marketing – either to sell for a maximum profit with minimal effort… or to serve as a sales or reputation-building tool.

 As Dr. Jeffrey Lant notes: “A book is a brochure that will never be thrown away.”   

Good point.

Fifth, most flimsy books I review are – uh, how can I put this – just not very good.

It is painfully obvious that they have not been fact-checked, proofed, researched, or written with careful attention.

In so many flimsy books, the writing is disorganized, the text meanders and is full of pointless digressions, and the coverage of the topic is woefully incomplete – with much of the key information missing.

So painfully true. Bob continues…

But – why am I complaining? Why bother to protest? Is there really any harm caused by the growing practice of writing, publishing, and selling flimsy books?

Answer: Yes – some. And here’s why I think the world would be better off without so many – or even any – flimsy books…

Reason number one: The existence of flimsy books cheapens the value of real books.

When I started writing books in 1981, having a book published was prestigious. But flimsy books make people think less of books and authors.

This may be true. But I’d rather believe that flimsy books do the opposite. They alert readers to the fact that many books (even those published by major houses) are not worth reading.

Reason number two: People write and publish flimsy books to convince others that they are experts.

Yes. And that is a very important point. The only worthy objective for writing a book is to share your best thoughts and ideas and stories with the world.


Fun Fact

It takes 17 muscles to smile and 47 to frown.


Look at This…