Kevin Moriarity

Books. I Read a Lot of Books. I Like Trains Too.

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Book Review: The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu

The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our HeadsThe Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book. It gave a basic history of media and advertising, from newspapers to today. The main thesis is that news and entertainment was largely created to deliver consumers to advertisers. I’m sure some of the creators thought they were doing a public service (news) or being artistically creative (entertainment), but the bottom-line, financially, was all about delivering eyeballs to advertisements.

From the book:

“At bottom, whether we acknowledge it or not, the attention merchants have come to play an important part in setting the course of our lives and consequently the future of the human race, insofar as that future will be nothing more than the running total of our individual mental states. Does that sound like an exaggeration? It was William James, the fount of American Pragmatism, who, having lived and died before the flowering of the attention industry, held that our life experience would ultimately amount to whatever we had paid attention to. At stake, then, is something akin to how one’s life is lived. That, if nothing else, ought to compel a greater scrutiny of the countless bargains to which we routinely submit, and, even more important, lead us to consider the necessity, at times, of not dealing at all. If we desire a future that avoids the enslavement of the propaganda state as well as the narcosis of the consumer and celebrity culture, we must first acknowledge the preciousness of our attention and resolve not to part with it as cheaply or unthinkingly as we so often have. And then we must act, individually and collectively, to make our attention our own again, and so reclaim ownership of the very experience of living.”

View all my reviews

The Importance of the Book Title

I was thinking about how I bought books before the internet. I would wander to the thriller or mystery section and, generally speaking, I was confronted with mostly book spines. So, what made me take a book out of the shelf? What made me think “Oh – this one will be interesting?” and then flip to the back of the book (usually a paperback because I’m way too cheap to buy a hardback) and read the blurb? I could see the spine, where there was very little room for any artwork, and the title. Perhaps the font of the title influenced me, but maybe it was the title itself. I think titles are an overlooked marketing decision. Do we pick the book title based on what will sell?

Here are some articles about titles:

“I have talked to other crime writers that have been urged by various professional people in their life to put the word girl in their title,” says Abbott. “It’s not necessarily an issue with the content of the book itself, but there’s this sort of shorthand that if it has ‘girl’ in the title, then I know what to expect.” Read the entire article…

“Authors are generally too close to the project to make a good decision. Your own fans know you so they aren’t the best either. You want to know what title will make someone new click to look at your book further. Tim advises using data to make a decision and talks about using (wow – did they pick a lousy name for a website!) to work out what gets clicked the most. It is unlikely to be what you think.” Read the entire article…

For non-fiction writers: “The right title should clearly indicate who should buy or download your publication, why they should buy or download it, and how they will benefit from it. Read the entire article…

This site had the Headline Analyzer website link! (I did not try it.) Check it out…

Factory of the Future

Watch this video from Goldman Sachs about the factory of the future.

What’s missing? People!

The narrator says that in the future factories will be “location agnostic.” Why? Because factories no longer have to be built where skilled labor exists. Factories may be built here in the United States, but they will employ a fraction of what the same facility did 20, 30, or 40 years ago.

I’ve been writing about this for a long time now. This will be one of the largest challenges we face in the very near future – and the current efforts aimed at illegal immigrants and trade deals will not solve this problem: what to do with all the “extra” people!

Is Blogging Good Use of Your Writing Time?

With readers and writers ever more pressed for time, can indie authors justify spending valuable writing time blogging?

Read the entire article…

Writers Digest Self-Published Book Contest

For more information:

Online Indie Author Fringe Fest – March 18th

The Alliance of Independent Authors is hosting the Online Indie Author Fringe Event of 2017, which kicks off at 10 AM on Saturday March 18th (London Time – 4 AM Chicago time).  They have 24 hours of speaker sessions planned, and more speaker bios are being added all the time.

Some of the speakers and their topics:


For more information…

Alexander Hamilton on Demagogues

I am currently reading Washington’s Farewell by John Avlon. From the book:

Hamilton harbored many of Washington’s concerns about demagogues and the way they could connive to divide the nation: “There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious men are often mistaken for patriotism.” Hamilton even imagined how one could rise to power as a populist demagogue: “I would mount the hobbyhorse of popularity, I would cry out usurpation, danger to liberty etc. etc. I would endeavor to prostrate the national government, raise a ferment, and then ride the whirlwind and direct the storm.”

Wow. How well he predicted our times!

Open Sky Poets Call For Submissions!

Open Sky Poets will publish a print book of poems, short fiction, and essays. Recently we have seen the tide threaten to turn on time-honored values (freedom of the press, immigration, public education, etc.). The book, currently untitled, will provide a venue for civil discourse on American values. No rants or hate speech.

Open Sky Poets panel of editors will determine what will be published. Submissions, if accepted, may be edited by our panel. You will be contacted for permission regarding any changes. No payment will be made for poems, short fiction, or essays used in the book, but we will provide one free copy each to contributors. We request the first right of publication.

The book will be released in early fall.

Submission requirements:

  • Poems: 1 page in length, maximum
  • Short fiction: 1000 words, maximum
  • Essays: 1000 words, maximum
  • Open Sky Poets will accept only three submissions per author
  • Submissions must be in Microsoft Word or Word compatible (.doc, .docx, .rtf, or .txt file types) Do not send a PDF file.

Please email submissions to Lynne Handy at by July 31, 2017.

Writers: BBC Interview Worth a Listen

On the short interview:

  • Neil Gaiman on his new book: Norse Myths and writing
  • Mark Dawson (UK author), Alex Clark (literary critic at the Guardian) and Neil Gaiman on self-publishing

Listen to the interview.

Book Piracy

One of my clients enrolled his eBook in KDP Select. One of the requirements is that you agree to keep your eBook on Amazon exclusively while you are in KDP Select. Shortly after he received an email from Amazon claiming he had violated the exclusivity agreement. They found his book on some website based in Mexico. They probably have some software program that searches for these sites. I went to the site and, indeed, there it was. It was all in Spanish, but the Chrome browser offered to translate it for me. They were offering his book, but the format was not stated. It was for sale for $308 pesos, which at the current exchange rate was $15.15. That seemed quite steep for an eBook! Also, it said it would ship within 10 – 12 days, which also did not make sense.

I did some research online and found that book piracy, like music and DVD piracy, is rampant. Many books, especially ones that become popular, are offered for free download in PDF format. Others are for sale, but the articles I read said that many of the sites asking for money are credit card phishing scams (good thing I didn’t buy my client’s book – I was curious what they would send me).

How do the bad guys get the books? One article said they get them from the free giveaways that seem so popular lately! My client’s eBook has been around a while, and is pretty popular, so it could have been on the Mexican site before his giveaway, but the theory does make sense.

My client sent the following note to Amazon:

This work, XXXX is my first book. I wanted to get into KDP for the help it provides in getting attention to the book. I didn’t expect to see it hacked and in the hands of a Mexican Cartel.

You message advises me of actions that can be taken against me if I engage in activities that undermine Amazon’s conditions to have sole usage of the book for a period of 90 days. I have not engaged in any such activity.

I did not ask or authorize any site other than KDP to offer my book.

I will, if I can figure out how to send a a cease and desist letter to a piracy site, demand that they cease and desist.

I have, since receiving your message, learned that “book piracy” is rampant and doubt that any such letter if written and received by the gangsters running the site would result in their obeying my request.

Your group, Amazon, probably has the wherewithal to identify and locate the pirates. If you have information about the group doing the piracy, send it to me and I will turn it over to the Illinois Attorney General.

Best Regards

The next morning he had an email from Amazon saying basically “never mind.”

I agree with my client. It’s a lot to ask us individual indie writer / publishers to take on book piracy. Amazon, with all its legal and technical expertise, is far more capable to squish these scumbags like bugs.

I was able to find out a little about the site – I got a name connected to the domain, but no address or email. My client’s son is a lawyer, and he speaks fluent Spanish. So, maybe there will be a karma-filled follow-up to this story at some point!

However, as the following articles say, all is not doom and gloom. The people that troll for free PDF downloads were never going to buy your book anyway. Perhaps they will read it and leave a review. There’s not much we can do about it, as musicians and moviemakers have also found out.

Read more:

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