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Category Archives: books

Humans 3.0 lands a Canadian publisher

vitruvian

I’m very pleased to announce that my upcoming second book, Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of a Species, has found a Canadian publisher. Goose Lane Editions, which has published such amazing Canadian writers as Noah Richler, George Elliott Clark and Douglas Glover, will be releasing Humans 3.0 in early 2015, alongside the book’s U.S. launch by Lyons Press.

I’m obviously stoked, especially after meeting with publisher Susanne Alexander, who very clearly gets the book. In a nutshell, Humans 3.0 examines how technology has affected the various levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs over the course of human evolution. The book takes a statistical look at how technology has changed prosperity, health, relationships, religion and happiness, among other things, then filters it all through a pop culture lens.

It’s a technology book for people who aren’t necessarily into technology – an analysis of how we’re changing because of the things we’re creating, without all the annoying jargon or boosterism that’s often found in tech writing.

So why go the traditional publishing route rather than self-publishing, which is all the rage these days? I’ve seriously considered that question over the past few months and was actually poised to do it on several occasions. I did, however, want to see what sort of interest my book might generate with publishers first, and to see if any impressive offers might arise. To my surprise, two publishers stepped forward, resulting in a minor bidding war. Alexander ended up impressing the heck out of me with her understanding of the book and release plan for it.

To be honest, knowing that a traditional publisher likes your book and wants it is edifying – it’s nice to know that after putting so much work into it, it’s good enough to warrant attention from the so-called gatekeepers. Self-publishing is also a giant risk where all your hard work can easily vanish into a void. With the traditional route, I’ll at least have a printed book that I can hold in my hands and that will sell at least a few copies.

I’m still very jazzed about trying self-publishing, but obviously not with this project. With luck, I’ll have something with which to give it a go before the year is out.

I’ll have some more exciting announcements to make regarding Humans 3.0, including additional territories, very soon.

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Posted by on May 20, 2014 in books, evolution, lyons press

 

Easter: a time for skills renewal

sbb-screenLast week I lamented the dark clouds swirling over the profession of journalism; what with the continual layoffs, frequent rejection and criticism from the public, it’s not what most people would consider to be a great job. As with people working in many fields that have been disrupted by the internet, today’s journalists need to learn new skills to remain employable – and competitive – in these turbulent times.

In a religious sense Easter is a time of renewal, but on a personal level I’m also trying to drink my own Kool Aid, which is why I recently took a course on how to use WordPress, the popular software for designing websites. I have a few big projects in the works that I’ll be talking about very soon, but they will all involve the web, hence my interest in the course. Now is as good a time as any to refresh those skills.

For some quick practice, I decided to rejig the site for my book Sex, Bombs and Burgers. The new site, I think, is simple and straightforward, and miles ahead of what I was able to manage five years ago by using iWeb. Have a look and please send along any comments, questions or criticisms. Any feedback will certainly help with what I’m working on next. And have a great Easter!

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in books, media

 

On the joys of ‘finishing’ the writing of a book

Start-finish-lineA week ago, I hit a particularly large personal milestone in that I finally finished off the manuscript for my second book, Humans 3.0: The Upgrading of a Species. And yet, while I breathed a huge sigh of relief once I hit “send” on the email to my agent, I can’t really say I’m anywhere near “finished,” which is actually a good thing.

The manuscript now goes into what will be a long editing process. My agent is having a long look at it before we submit it to my editor at Lyons Press, and I’ve also sent it out to a few journalist friends for their thoughts and comments. I’m curious as to what they’ll think and the criticisms they’ll make, with the thoughts they return to me inevitably making the ultimate product better.

Humans 3.0 is, I think, a rather ambitious look at how exponentially advancing technology is affecting people on several levels. Many other books have explored specific aspects – I’m currently reading Clive Thompson’s new one, Smarter Than You Think, about how technology is expanding our thought processes – but I’ve instead taken a top-down macro look. I’m wondering whether technology has made the world a better place, and more importantly, whether it’s making us better people. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in books, lyons press

 

My ‘expert’ advice on writing non-fiction books

lightbulb1Every now and then, someone asks me for tips on writing a book and getting it published. I usually start by reassuring them that they’ve come to the right person since, having done it once before, I’m clearly a qualified expert on the topic. (The sarcasm is generally more obvious in person.)

But seriously though… I’m far from an expert, but I am learning more about it the further I delve into writing book number two, which is due in a few months. I’ve also had the good fortune of talking to a number of editors over the past few months about what makes a good non-fiction book, so I thought it might be worthwhile to pass on that advice to any budding authors out there.

When it comes to non-fiction, I think I can distill that advice into two tips: have big ideas, and have a strong narrative. Or, at least those are the two must-haves that are top of mind for me as I work on Humans 3.0. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in books

 

Hey writers: you are almost obsolete

Could a robot have written The Da Vinci Code? Uh, yeah.

Could a robot have written The Da Vinci Code? Uh, yeah.

Journalists have long joked that it’s only a matter of time before we’re replaced by robots. Well joke no more, because that day is just about here.

Philip M. Parker, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD Business School, has created a program that can write a non-fiction book in 20 minutes. Not content with this being merely theoretical, Parker has indeed put the system to work, with more than 100,000 books listed in his name on Amazon, with almost 700,000 attributed to his company Icon Group International.

Most of the books are not what the average person might want to read, with technical and business manuals making up a good chunk (Sample: The 2007-2012 World Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats). But, as SingularityHub.com points out, the information in these books is generally good enough for their target audiences: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in books, robots

 

Death of pro writing has been greatly exaggerated

Does anyone else hear violins playing?

If you haven’t read an unmitigated whine-fest recently, check out this story from The Globe and Mail last week in which a couple of writers complain about the internet. British writer Ewan Morrison is particularly impassioned about how the internet’s culture-of-free is devaluing the art, which will ultimately result in “no more professional writers in the future.”

Predatory pricing from Amazon, self-publishing, amateurs who are willing to work for little or nothing, ebook piracy, the Huffington Post – all of these phenomena are conspiring to bring down the publishing and journalism industries, to the point where it’s hard to make a living as a writer anymore. Or so the complainers say.

Oh please. What utter bunk.

Yes, it’s true that freelance rates haven’t gone up in ages and yes it’s true that book advances are falling, but to paraphrase one great writer, it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times – both for established and up-and-coming writers.

Not only are the biggest of the big – the likes of J.K. Rowling – finding it more lucrative to go into business for themselves, there has also never been more opportunity for those just starting out thanks to websites hungry for content. Just about every site out there is looking for contributions, which means there are plenty of writing gigs available for budding writers of every stripe. Those sites, some of them “content farms,” may not pay well if anything at all, but they do provide opportunities for writers to practice their craft, get exposure and perhaps even build a name for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in books

 

The Virtual Self: a chat with Nora Young part 2

Today we continue our chat with CBC Spark host Nora Young about her book The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us. If you missed part one yesterday, go ahead and check that out. Otherwise, read on:

In your book, you also touch on copyright issues. Content owners are cracking down on privacy yet individuals have to accept terms of service agreements without any input. Is there an imbalance forming between corporate and individual rights?

In terms of service agreements in particular, I spoke to Ian Kerr at the University of Ottawa about some of the issues that come out of this and it’s mostly his observation that we have this standard form contract where you click “I agree.” Obviously it’s not practical for you to negotiate your own separate contract between you and Facebook, there’s a reason for why we have these things, and yet when we’re dealing with our data, this is really quite new.

If we had been born digital and none of those external things like terms of service agreements were in existence, we probably wouldn’t be thinking about negotiating those relationships in the way that we currently do. Again, one of the things that people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do (lawyers and so forth) are thinking about whether we need something like a data bill of rights or whether we need to think in terms of ownership of data and be more rigorous in the governance of who can do what with it.

Obviously in Canada we’re lucky enough to have organizations such as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner who are writing those questions. It seems pretty clear that if we’re going into a situation where theoretically it’s starting to look like our lives are being captured, do we really want to be relying just on these individual terms of service agreements or maybe what we want to say is that we’re the people who have the data, the data belongs to us and we decide when we want to lend it out and make it available to other third parties.

I consider it a completely fair exchange to be on Facebook for free and the quid pro quo is that they get to use my preferences and so on to sell me advertising. That might be a completely legitimate decision for me to make. But right now, what seems to be happening is that we have all of this personal data that we’re creating that’s kind of separated into all these different companies with which we have a relationship, which are governed by these terms of service agreements that are difficult to understand. They don’t really give us the power to control our data or bring it all together in one place. As we start thinking about whether this information has value, maybe we need to recalibrate that relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in blogging, books, cbc, copyright, Facebook, privacy, spark