The problem with Goodreads…

A few weeks ago I wrote about going “all in” with Goodreads.com as the means and method of keeping tabs on what I’ve read, what I want to read, and generally keeping me from buying the same thing twice. Yes, that happened more than once.

Now that I’ve been living with it for a few weeks, I’ve discovered what I’ve come to think of as its major problem… that would be the fact that every time I log in it forces me to face the ever growing list of books I’ve purchased, but not yet taken the time to read. It’s a problem I was vaguely aware of in the past, but now I’ve got this marvelous automated tool to remind me constantly that there are 31 books just sitting on various shelves and flat surfaces at home waiting for my attention. It wasn’t nearly so much of a problem when all they did was sit there quietly.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I’ll simply resolve this problem by delaying the purchase of any new reading material until I’ve cycled through what’s already here. I think we both know that’s not going to happen, though. What I’ll probably end up doing, in the interest of freeing up more shelf space for books I’ve actually read, is order yet another bookcase and set up all of my eventually-to-be-read collection in the spare bedroom. That’s how normal people do it, right?

Ask me anything…

​I try my best to keep a pretty extensive list of ideas I want to write about on the sideline just in case I run into one of those bad days when ideas just stop flowing. Over the last few months I’ve been cheating a bit and dragging ideas off the list. I find that quiver becoming uncomfortably empty at the moment and I’d really like to start adding things back to the list of potential topics rather than continuing to draw it down.

You, my dear readers, can do something to help. Although my personal pride would never let me ask anyone for cash donations, I clearly have no shame about asking you to help me out with ideas.

As I do here from time to time I’m opening the doors wide and encouraging you to go ahead and ask me anything. Is there a subject you think I should talk about? Do you want to know my thoughts on man-rompers or fidget spinners? Do you want to know my favorite food, color, and shoe size? I won’t sell this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, but if there’s anything you’ve been dying to know, this would be an awfully good chance to get an answer.

You can leave your questions in a comment here on WordPress, or on Facebook, or Twitter. Since I’ll be focused on answering your questions, that will give me the chance to refill my own pool of ideas, so really everyone wins here. You get the inside scoop about what’s rattling around in my head, I get to sharpen my writing chops on ideas I would otherwise be thinking about, and maybe we all get to learn a little something in the process. Really, what’s not to like about that?

1,001 misguided souls…

From time to time WordPress tells me things. Last night for instance it told me that I’ve managed to gather 1,001 people who regularly get some kind of exposure to the blog. That number is pretty eavenly divided by people who follow me directly on WordPress and others who are friends on Facebook. Twitter doesn’t even break into triple digits. Still, 1,001 is, in my opinion, a surprisingly respectable number… especially considering there’s nothing here that could be considered a theme, consistency isn’t exactly my strong point, and the very best you can really expect to find here is the addled raving of a working schmuck who’s desperately trying to ignore the fact he’s careening through middle age to the beat of a drummer apparently only he can hear.

This blog has evolved from just a writing exercise to become my “batshit crazy release mechanism” and it’s an absolute pleasure to share it five times a week with all of you 1,001 poor misguided souls. I really do appreciate having each and every one of you along on the road to whatever it is this becomes – even if it’s only ever one lone voice of sanity crying out in a world gone increasingly mad.

For the love of our game…

If there’s anything more thankless than going in to the office and trying to get some work done on the day before Thanksgiving, it’s got to be posting a blog later that same night when it’s virtually guaranteed that absolutely no one is going to be paying attention. The only thing in my favor is that here on the east coast we got the first snow of the season, so many potential readers might just be sitting the night out at home. I’m not holding my breath on that, of course, which is why you’re reading this process piece instead of seeing anything remotely resembling meaty content.

After more years that I want to think about, I really do have a sense for how scheduling drives the number of posts. It’s a blessing and a curse since it means sometimes I’ll withhold some good writing until I know more than a few people will be paying attention. It also drives the fact that I almost never post on Friday and Saturday. Sadly the world has better things to do on those days than listen to another blow hard ranting on the internet. I’m not selling any advertising here, but still it’s nice to know that what you write has got a fighting chance of being seen… because no matter how much noise we make about writing for ourselves and not for an audience, we really, really want the audience.

So as you’re sitting there, toasty warm in front of your pre-Thanksgiving fire, sipping your nog (or whatever it is you’re supposed to sip at Thanksgiving), think of the poor harried bloggers out there smashing away at their keyboards and wanting nothing more than a few more people to drop by their site. Take a little time tonight and poke around WordPress or Blogger and there’s a good chance you’ll run across someone whose voice you need to hear. It’s a jungle out there, but there are some incredibly good writers too who are just churning it out for the love of our particular game.

Challenge accepted…

Every Thursday night for the last two years, you’ve all been treated to a brief glimpse into what slights and outrages are simmering in my head as the week rolls towards its end. What Annoys Jeff this Week is consistently the most read post of the week and probably comes closest to capturing what I think of as my “authentic voice.” It’s a mostly unfiltered dump directly from my head onto the page and has probably saved me tens of thousands of dollars in psychoanalysis bills.

For some time earlier this year, Sunday mornings were reserved for reposting the “lost blogs” from MySpace and Blogger. They weren’t met with quite as much interest as WAJTW, but having a weekly theme did give me an uptick in traffic for Sunday mornings – no small thing on a day and time when most people are otherwise engaged with other than web-based activities.

This past Thursday a challenge was issued by one of my good and loyal readers to adapt my format slightly and offer a once a week post featuring What Jeff Likes this Week. I wasn’t immediately drawn to the idea. Most weeks I’d be hard pressed to come up with three items to talk about. Knowing this, my challenger graciously offered to let me get away with just expounding on one thing each week.

Challenge accepted. Beginning on Sunday, November 23rd and running every Sunday through the end of the year, you’ll be reading a new weekly mini-feature right here at jeffreytharp.com. I’m still kicking around actual titles, but the suggestions What Slightly Manages Not to Bug Jeff too Much this Week and What Jeff is Mostly Indifferent About this Week continue to be strong contenders.

Check back next Sunday to see what I come up with.

What Annoys Jeff this Week: The Movie

WAJTW 2012 - Cover ImageOK. I lied. It’s not a movie, but it is a book… and that’s like a movie, except for the part where there aren’t any moving pictures or dialog. You can still look mindlessly at the screen while jamming your face full of over-buttered popcorn and overpriced snowcaps, so it has that going for it.

I’ve been posting over the last few days as What Annoys Jeff this Week: 2012 in Review becomes available through the various retail sites, but since nothing is ever official until it shows up on the blog, I just wanted to let you know that you can now get your very own copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

For those using some of the more esoteric e-readers, WAJTW: 2012 in Review will also be available (through Smashwords distribution) from the iTunes, Sony, and Kobo eBook stores in a few weeks.

Introduction to Smashwords…

So over the weekend, I realize that I may have not done a very good job explaining one of the retail channels I selected to do business with. Being the biggest in the business, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are pretty much self explanatory. They’re forces of nature that you just accept you’ll do business with if you want to write and publish a book. Sure, you can work around them, but why would you want to?

The third retailer I opted to work with is Smashwords. Unless you have a deep abiding hatred of the big e-retailers or are a serious fan of independent writers, chances are you’ve never heard of them. Hopefully I allretailers can turn you around a bit on that, because I’ve found Smashwords to be a fantastic platform for the indy writer (translation: the author gets to keep a much larger percentage of every sale than they do with sales through other retailers).

Although they are a retailer in their own right, Smashwords biggest claim to fame is that they are large and growing ebook distributor. That means their primary mission in life is making indy works available to a wide variety of other retailers like Apple, Sony, Kobo, and others. This is a good thing because the goal, really, is to have your work available in as many places as possible in addition to the Big Two. More distribution channels means more opportunities for someone to see and hopefully buy your ebook… and that makes for a happy author.

From a reader’s perspective, Smashwords has a lot going for it too. Primarily, that’s because once you buy an ebook from them, you can download it in all of the major ereader formats. Whether you own a Nook, Kindle, or iPad, a Sony reader, something from Kobo, or you just want to read on your laptop or desktop, you can download your book in a format best suited for what device you’re currently using. It’s a great way to make sure your ebooks are not locked in to a specific device or proprietary format. While the e-reader market struggles to sort itself and its industry standards out, you’re safe from the impacts of format change and obsolescence. If you happen to be a voracious reader with a large e-library, that’s a very good thing.

So that’s my pitch by way of introducing everyone to Smashwords. If you’re looking for a read that’s not on the best seller list or have a itch for some of the great independent work out there today, give them a go. I’ve been very impressed with them as both a writer and a reader for the last year. If you’re in a clicking mood, feel free to check out The Cynic’s Guide on Smashwords and take a look around the site.