An Excellent Pairing

In this post, I would like to be your literary Sommelier and offer you a tasteful book/movie pairing. Both offerings are from 2019, an excellent year, and concern the creation and influence if the iconic media company Netflix.

My first suggestion is the memoire, That Will Never Work by Marc Randolph. What I really appreciate about Randolph’s writing, is the way he describes how success was achieved at Netflix through hard work and innovation, without it becoming a mutual admiration society. He doesn’t try to make anyone, including himself, seem like some godlike, flawless, all knowing genius. Instead, he gives credit where credit is do, and acknowledges failures as he describes how much effort was required to stay the course in the early years of the company’s development. Although it’s a memoire, it is as enjoyable and enlightening as non-fiction narrative works by Ben Mezrich, Stephan Talty and Erik Larson.

Although it isn’t an adaptation of Randolph’s book, the documentary film Neflix vs The World directed by Shawn Cauthern and written by Gina Keeting is an excellent pairing. As well as describing the company’s early years, Netflix vs The World goes on to explain the epic battle between Netflix and Blockbuster for the video rental market and how it came to a surprising conclusion. If you’re old enough to remember renting VHS tapes at a video store, this documentary will offer you a clear explanation of why the industry has changed so dramatically. The mix of interviews, news reports and television commercials over that time is both entertaining as nostalgia and informative as history.

The real significance for writers, however, is served up in the latter segments of Netflix vs. The World as it describes Netflix’s foray into producing original material and how that has influenced other streaming services to start their own productions. If you’re a screenwriter, the market for your work has just expanded. And since short stories, plays for live theatre, and novels are adapted for feature films, it has the potential to impact all writers. That Will Never Work and Netflix vs. The World remind us how fast the media landscape can change, and writers like you and I need to be paying attention and be ready take advantage of those changes.

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper

Nine Hundred Libraries

I was facing the same dilemma as every other author of a self-published eBook. How do I make my eBook, Jack: A Lady’s Cat, stand out? Was there anything I could do to bring it to the attention of readers and perhaps receive some positive reviews?

When I released my first eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper in 2016 I had some success with libraries, but unfortunately, the title was too long, and the cover was boring. I was convinced that the cover of Jack: A Lady’s Cat was much more eye-catching, thanks to a cat who looks great in a bow tie. Sometimes a decision is based not on guaranteed success, but just because you can’t think of a better idea at the time. So, I decided to commit.

While searching the internet I found extensive lists of libraries in Alberta and Ontario, so that’s where I started. By the time I finished those two provinces, I had contacted over two hundred libraries. I then continued e-mailing smaller number of libraries in the other provinces and territories. I also contacted libraries in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

I wanted to contact libraries in all fifty states of the United States of America, and decided that the best approach would be to pick the top ten largest cities and towns for each state. So, how do you work your way through five hundred libraries? On weekdays I’d contact ten libraries, on weekends I’d contact thirty or forty libraries.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned through contacting nine hundred libraries: Many libraries will not consider self-published books or eBooks, unless it’s written by a local author, or it’s about a local subject. Some libraries don’t have any room in their budgets for self-published authors, they only purchase books and eBooks by established, best-selling authors. Some libraries will only consider your book or eBook, if you send them a copy to review. Libraries are more likely to buy your self-published book or eBook, if it already has some positive reviews.

The bottom-line? Jack: A Lady’s Cat was released at the end of November 2020. So far, I’ve sold seven (7) copies to libraries. Surprisingly, I don’t regret the effort I invested in contacting libraries. Regardless of the disappointing sales results, at least nine hundred library employees now know about my eBook, and also know that I’m a Writer.

Life often comes down to a simple decision to try something, with no guarantee of success. To start moving you have to overcome inertia, but since you don’t know where you’ll end up, the decision to start moving takes courage. So, what are you going to do today, to start your next literary journey? Write an outline for a novel? Write the first scene for a screenplay? Submit a short story to a literary journal? Start doing research for a non-fiction book? Let the words flow….

Copyright © 2021 by J. Paul Cooper