Journal of Vitriolic Observations: JVO Blog

books Archives

Found at a Metra station: The Illustrated Man

There's a bookshelf inside my local Metra terminal that's used for book sharing.   The idea's simple:  Read a book, then pass it on.

I'd rifled through the books before and never found anything worth a second glance; Harlequin romance novels, old textbooks, and outdated self-help books half-lined the shelves.  Nice idea, just nothing there worth picking up.

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NaNoWriMo-30 days to write a novel (updated 11/13/10)

(UPDATED 11/13/10)

...and I'm out.  I just plain don't enjoy writing fiction in the same way I enjoy writing reviews and commentary.  


Original blog entry text from 11/1/10:

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Some will win, some will lose...Gambling, vice, and that Roeper book

I just finished reading Richard Roeper's latest book, "Bet the House."  In it, he documents his efforts to gamble 1K a day for a 30-day period.  It must be nice to be a bachelor who's enjoyed a successful run as an on-camera movie critic.  If I were to gamble away 30,000 dollars in the course of one month, I'd either end up in divorce court or prison. 

As a rule, I enjoy Roeper's writing.  His columns are usually spot-on, and I adore his book on the Chicago White Sox.  That said, "Bet the House" just didn't do it for me.  The gambling jargon used to describe various poker hands and betting rules found me skipping entire paragraphs to get to something more digestable.  Also, I had a hard time relating to Roeper as the focal point of the book.  When Peter Sagal threw himself into the world of vice, I believed throughout the book that he spoke for "me."  Sagal was an everyman walking down the serpentine avenues of American vice, chronicling the journey through a shared lens.  Conversely, Roeper, a successful, handsome, multimedia star on a first-name basis with Hollywood A-listers, doesn't much work as a touchstone.  To reiterate, he gambled 1K a day for a month.  Even for the sake of editorial inspiration and investigation, I have a hard time stomaching the book's premise.  The economy's been a motherfucker for me and most of my peers. 

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Crowdfunding and Me: Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo

A few years back, I started work on a book about the Chicago music scene in the 90s.  I spent close to two years conducting interviews, transcribing them, and formatting them into a readable context.  That book, "Chicago Rocked," had a publishing deal. Then it didn't.  

Once the publishing deal was over, my book was essentially dead.  The process had defeated me.  I had to let "Chicago Rocked" sit for a while before I could even talk about it again. After considerable time (two years), thought, and analysis, I made the decision to "crowdfund" the self-publishing of my book.  To make it happen, I turned to the then-new site Kickstarter.  Kickstarter collects pledges for projects, and then those pledges are applied to a goal amount that the project creator sets.  If that goal isn't hit, the pledges go away and the funding doesn't happen.

Using Kickstarter's 90-day maximum window for fundraising, I did everything I could to generate interest, from participating in a dozen traditional and non-traditional media interviews, posting countless updates and pleas across various social networking platforms, and making personal appeals to friends and acquaintances.  The result at the end of 90 days, as seen here, was close to the mark, but not enough to get the funding.  Three months after I launched my effort, the book was dead.  Again.

I haven't been thinking much about Chicago Rocked since the Kickstarter experiment. That is, until I got an unsolicited message from this guy, who helps run IndieGoGo, a new crowdfunding site.  I'd never heard of IndieGoGo, so I clicked over to check it out.  The first thing that struck me about the site is that it looks exactly like Kickstarter.  Shamelessly so.  The only (obvious) functional difference between the two is that IndieGoGo lets you keep the money you raise, regardless of whether or not your goal is hit.

I'm put off by IndieGoGo because its imitation of Kickstarter is so blatant and thorough.  I realize that imitation and mimicry of a successful brand are nothing new to the world of websites--or products, for that matter.  This just seems...not me.  

If I were to consider crowdfunding again, I'd likely return to Kickstarter.  The idea of generating some--but not all--of the needed funds for a project sounds dicey.  If only a portion of the money is raised, what does a creator apply that funding towards?  Isn't there an ethical obligation to provide contributors with a finished product?  Won't contributors feel "taken" if their credit cards are charged, but have nothing tangible from the creator in return?

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