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My Campaign to Change the World (and also sell some books)

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Cover of America is Not Broke
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I've been writing articles on major economic reforms since about a year after I started taking classes at the Henry George School of Social Sciences in New York City (www.hgsss.org/) in 2007. My purpose has been the same as for all my activist work subsequently -- including becoming president of the local New York City metro chapter of the Georgist advocacy group Common Ground-USA (commonground-usa.net/), the New York Coordinator of the Public Banking Institute (www.publicbankinginstitute.org/), and even graduating the school and becoming a part-time instructor there -- to educate and move people to advocate for the major macroeconomic changes that will Change the World for the better.

This article is not so much about the specific reforms, though the embedded radio recordings will provide plenty of background on those, but rather to talk about the process of using a book as a vehicle for positive social change.

Publicity experts say that writing a book is half the battle, but this really understates things if, like almost everyone, you are a relative unknown. While Bill Clinton could write almost anything, or have a ghostwriter write most of it (paid for by the publisher) and it would be an instant bestseller, most of us will write books destined for the remainder pile almost before we publish. Consider, Neilson Bookscan said that only 13% of traditionally published books sold more than a thousand copies (http://bit.ly/1N0vFuG - slide 14). But this was in 2004, and the rise of the Internet and print-on-demand since then have only diluted sales further. The definition of a bestseller is murky (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestseller), with dependence on various bestseller lists, or online sales that can be gamed, at least for a short time if you can time simultaneous purchases and reviews with lots of colleagues near the book's debut (I've done this with my novel, Neitherworld Book 1 (amzn.to/1PRkiG0) and Book 2 (amzn.to/1MZku0N), but it's much harder now than it was in 2007).

It's also a fact that unless you are a well-known personality, even the large publishers will not spend much money, if any, in promoting your book. The smaller publishers will probably not spend any at all, and with the micro-publishers, defined as a publisher with fewer than 50 titles (at publication time) like Tayen Lane (bit.ly/1yNhh43), who published my book, you're really on your own, even for reviews.

As implied above, however, the way to think of a book, especially a non-fiction book like mine, America is Not Broke! (amzn.to/1QyMmjg), is as a way to position oneself as an expert in the field. This was explained to me by a V.P. from Smith Publicity at the Spring 2015 Book Expo (bit.ly/1lzimqT). I attended this event at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City with Rob Kall, the publisher of Opednews.com, who also wrote the Foreword for America is Not Broke!

By mid-summer of 2015, I realized the book was never going to sell well, nor was I going to be able to promote the vital ideas in it, if I simply relied on my own efforts, and the past efforts of the publisher. I had sent out dozens of books on my own by then to bookstores and reviewers and although I did get some responses -- one bookstore asked for the book and the Midwest Book Review wrote a nice review - I realized would need help from professional publicists. I researched several publicists and then decided on Smith Publicity (www.smithpublicity.com/), which is one of the most established and largest of the publicity firms (some of the others were little more than one-person shops). I was assigned a publicist, Sarah Gilbert, along with a team approach to marketing the book, and we began a series of weekly conference calls. Smith is not the cheapest of the lot, however, and depending on options, a 3-month campaign costs in the high 4-digit range. In addition to that, I had to pay to ship 75 books (hardcover, which I had bought at my author's discount) to Smith, and provide a $500 postage fee for them use to send out books. As of this writing, the campaign has wrapped up, and after a grace period of a couple of weeks for any late targets to respond, I expect to receive my remaining 20 or so books back, along with the balance of my postage fee.

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Smith provides a long questionnaire about your book, you, your goals, etc. In practice, I'm not sure how, or if, they ever referred to this. It only came up once or twice briefly in our earliest calls. They also put you on their mailing list so you get periodic emailings about publicity and tips to position yourself.

The first couple of weeks were slow, involving mainly reach-outs to 23 mostly mainstream financial media outlets, and 13 professional reviewers, befitting the nature of my book. Sarah also followed up on some local media contacts I had made earlier in the summer. Like me, she received no response from them.

A bit about the book is in order here: The full title of the book is "America is Not Broke! Four Multi-Trillion Dollar Paths to a Thriving America." In the book, I discuss 4 unrelated but possibly synergistic approaches to dealing with the $18.5 trillion national debt and ensuring a sustainable growth path for the country:

1. Sovereign Money, aka debt-free money

2. Land Value Taxation, aka the Georgist single Tax on Land/Location.

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3. Public Banking, based mostly on the highly successful model of the Bank of North Dakota

4. Ending Government Financial Asset Hoarding, basically uncovering and possibly reallocating the trillions of dollars invested in over 200,000 government enterprise, agency, proprietary, and fiduciary accounts (e.g. by allocating a portion of the pension funds to a public bank).

The book is an updated anthology of articles I have written for Opednews and elsewhere from about 2010-2014, plus new introductions and extensive endnotes (456 of them). The title and main ideas came from a flier I and some of the activists in my Common Ground-NYC group had handed out in Zuccotti Park in the Fall of 2011, when Occupy Wall Street occupied it. When the publisher contacted me and asked me to create an anthology, I considered it for a few weeks and then threw myself into the project for several months. The book was published in March, 2015.

One of the first successes was a separate and new article I wrote for the Cleveland Daily Banner, a Tennessee newspaper with about a 20,000 circulation. During our weekly conference calls, Sarah and I would brainstorm ways to connect the broad themes in my book with current events. In this case, I wrote an editorial rebutting Rep. Vern Buchanan (fxn.ws/1jbAOE8) (R-FL16) who wrote in a Fox News opinion column dated June 27, 2015 (fxn.ws/1YkUB3H) that America needed a balanced budget. My article was entitled "America Urgently Needs an Unbalanced Budget" and although we couldn't get Fox to publish it, and it was never published online by the Cleveland Banner, I did receive a printed copy and then republished it in Opednews, with a related cartoon (bit.ly/1Ojp5i1). Lesson learned: You can't expect to be able to rebut establishment figures in the same media if you are less well known then them, even if you have a book. One of my earliest scheduled radio interviews never called me (all radio interviews were conducted remotely on my landline phone), and when we couldn't get a reliable commitment from him we dropped him from consideration. Lesson learned: you can't trust even professional people to do what they say. I also turned down an opportunity to do a 57-minute solo program on Alternative Radio. Although this would have provided me with a long format open forum, I thought both my lack of professional experience and the lack of a professional radio host to guide the conversation would produce a bad result. Sarah told me Ellen Brown of the Public Banking Institute had been approached previously and had turned it down as well (Brown now co-hosts the radio show "It's Our Money" with new PBI Chair Walt McRee). Now that I have 15 radio shows to my credit, I may reconsider this. On with the shows One of the earliest programs was from September 16th on WJIM 1240-AM LANSINGS' BIG TALKER, aka the Steve Gruber Show, from Michigan (bit.ly/1MsA4Fd). I should say that I wasn't trying to talk over Gruber, as it sounds like in the recording, I simply couldn't hear him given the audio quality early on, plus the editing may make it sound like I was just talking without listening. Still, there is no denying my interview with Gruber, mainly about Public Banking, was combative at times, since he is distrustful of government and I believe, perhaps naively, that properly reformed, government can work for the People as it is supposed to. Although Gruber asked me to come back, he never extended an invitation and Sarah and I wondered if that was intentional. You can listen here, running from about 11:35 minutes -- 16:09 minutes.

One has to keep one's cool on shows like this, even if the host disagrees with you. It is still an opportunity to get your point of view out there and possibly change some minds in the audience. If I had had more time, I would have explained how Sovereign Money would allow for us to have money without the debt he was so worried about.

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http://newthinking.blogspot.com/

Scott Baker is a Managing Editor & The Economics Editor at Opednews, and a blogger for Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Global Economic Intersection.

His anthology of updated Opednews articles "America is Not Broke" was published by Tayen Lane Publishing (March, 2015) and may be found here:
http://www.americaisnotbroke.net/

Scott is former President of Common Ground-NYC (http://commongroundnyc.org/), a Geoist/Georgist activist group. He has written (more...)
 

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