I’ve chosen an indie publishing path for my novel Surrender. It’s been a journey to get the book listings right with Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers. You’re a URL. Deal with it.

You caught me when I’m typing, which is what I’m usually doing, or talking, which is what I’m doing now.

– Issac Asimov

You're a URL. Deal with It

I’ve chosen an indie publishing path for my novel Surrender. It’s been a journey to get the book listings right with Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, Book Depository, and IndieBound. When the first listings in those online bookshops went up, they listed the author as TBD. Panic ensued. Unless my name is part of the URL, people won’t be able to use “Lee Schneider” to search for the book in the online store.

When you do non-Amazon distribution, everything begins at Ingram, the distributor that populates all bookstore listings (and links) with metadata. Ingram has the catalogue that booksellers use and they send out the books, both hardback and paperback. A glitch at Ingram left out my name as the author in some editions. Once I got in touch with Ingram and fixed that, all the other listings should have self-corrected. But they didn’t. It took an email from me to each online bookstore to be sure everything was listed right.

Indie publishing!

Surrender will list on Amazon in two weeks, but it’s available now at Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, Book Depository, IndieBound, and an ebook edition for preorder at Kobo.

Working on sorting out Apple Books next.

The look on Tommy Paul’s face when he realized he could not execute a game plan against Djokovic. It was just deer in the headlights wide-eyed confusion.

Max Frederick's kidneys are healthier, after we changed his diet. He's back to his old self. He is 11. Happy

Interesting user flow fail on a spam call. I picked up (I almost never do, but this was from an area code I was expecting a call from.) A woman identifies herself as Susan and goes into a pitch, waits for my response, then talks over me just like a real phone center salesperson. When I ask "are you a bot?" the bot breaks the connection. You'd think whoever made this diabolical spambot would have a better response.

>I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.
-- Ursula Le Guin

The two scientists sat there thinking, or appearing to think, staring at the robot that continued to move on the table. - best sentence I've read all day.

This whole pickleball thing should blow over soon.

It's getting real. Barnes & Noble listing just went live. Surrender is also available at Bookshop.org.

How good is Philip Glass?
song.link/i/1519471939

Pretty, pretty good.

Science communicators should do more podcast interviews! It's a great medium for getting your work and ideas out to a wider audience. Here's a post from my newsletter about how to be a podcast guest.
buttondown.email/redcupagency/

Start 2023 by Being a Guest on a Podcast

There are many good reasons to be a guest on a podcast. You may want to promote your business, make some noise about your creative work, or raise money for a passion project.

Back in the old days, it was hard to find the right podcast to appear on. When I did this kind of podcast search for clients who wanted to guest, I had to scour podcast directories, figure out who the producers were, and write a compelling pitch email. It involved a lot of “cold emails,” because there was no way to know whether a podcast was looking for guests until you reached out.

Now, finding the right podcast to guest on has become easier than ever thanks to a few platforms that connect podcasts and guests.

Pitching Myself

Recently, I was a guest on the Understanding Politics podcast to promote my new book, Surrender, a science fiction novel that will be released next month. (But as you’ll read below, if all I did was to promote the book, they probably wouldn’t have had me on the show.)

The producers of Understanding Politics found me because I’d posted a profile on Podmatch. Podmatch is a smart site that connects podcast producers and podcast guests. On the guest side, after you sign up, write up your profile, and pay a nominal fee, the site’s AI goes to work. Every few days, I get an email from Podmatch with some suggested podcasts I can pitch to see if they’d like to have me as a guest. It works in the other direction for shows. As a producer, you can list your show so that guests can find you.

As a potential podcast guest, I’ve found the site easy to use. The Podmatch founder, Alex Sanfilippo, has posted ten videos on Podmatch about how to pitch yourself to podcast producers and how to navigate the Podmatch site. I’ve been producing podcasts for a decade, and Alex has helped remind me of a few key pathways to success. An example: In your pitch email to producers, it’s a good idea to propose questions you’d like to answer. This gives producers a quick snapshot of the kind of guest you’d be.

Another podcast guest matching site I’ve tried is Matchmaker.fm. Unlike Podmatch, Matchmaker.fm can be used for free, with no monthly fee. That makes it a good “toe-in-the-water” choice for experimenting with podcast discovery and pitching yourself as a guest. Like Podmatch, Matchmaker.fm emails me every few days with suggestions for podcasts that might like me as a guest.

Why You’ll be a Great Guest

As a guest, you’ll need credibility, a sense of what part of your story you want to tell, and a willingness to give more than you get. When I book guests for the podcasts I produce, I stay away from potential guests who are purely promotional. The promotional kind of guest uses the interview to recite their LinkedIn profile, or give a PowerPoint on the merits of their startup. That’s not the person I’m looking for. The guest I want has a story to tell.

Podcasts thrive on storytelling. So, as a guest, it’s your responsibility to bring along a narrative. You should be able to tell a story about a life lesson, or a time your career changed direction, or when you found yourself directionless and needed a new solution. Yes, there’s risk in that because you have to be vulnerable, but that’s what listeners really want. You must choose the part of your story you want to tell for any given podcast. We all contain multitudes. No podcast can contain them all.

Why Are You Talking Right Now?

To be a good guest, you’ll need to be clear about why you’re appearing on the podcast. To take myself as an example, if a producer evaluating me as a guest thought that all I would say during the interview was, “Buy my book,” they wouldn’t book me.

Instead, I try to be more interesting by talking about what I learned writing the book. My favorite topics include online privacy, the dangers and benefits of AI, and how we might handle our anxiety about climate change or social media. I cover all of those things in the book, but in a podcast interview, I want them to be woven into a story.

Production News

At Red Cup, we’re celebrating the start of 2023 by launching season four of The Glo Podcast. We’re continuing production on two internal podcasts that Fortune 500 companies will release on their networks. I’m prepping a new consulting program to help podcast hosts hone their craft and become better hosts. In a few months, we’ll be in pre-production on the FutureX Podcast, a podcast about futurism that will start by exploring how to create positive online communities.

I hope 2023 will be a great New Year for you.

Thanks for reading,

Lee

A newsletter about the future. It's called 500 Words. Here's my pitch to subscribe. universalstoryengine.com/2022/

Subscribe to the 500 Words Newsletter

500 Words is a newsletter about the future. In every issue, you’ll get an essay about the path forward, often questioning the path forward. Do we really need that app? What are the motivations of the people who made it? What will it track about me and why? All the tech developments before us are exciting, but I think we also all need a filter.

I publish the newsletter more or less once a week. 500 Words is also a chronicle of the futurist projects going on at FutureX.Studio.

The FutureX.Studio vision for science fiction storytelling is positive. Every project we support asks, “What would the future of a just world look like?”

Science fiction storytelling is often dystopian. This dystopian view is valuable because it helps us see how not to proceed into the future and shows how we have failed. But storytelling focused on imagining social change must also ask what a just future would look like. FutureX.Studio exists to ask how technology can be our ally, and how future visions may be shaped to help us envision gender and racial equality and social and environmental justice.

Why 500 Words?

I used to write a blog every Thursday that ran 500 words. It was called 500 Words on Thursday.

I would write about everything, from tech, to education, to creative work, to marriage. I even did one blog that was exactly 500 words long. Most Thursdays, I wrote it and sent it, fresh out of the oven. 500 Words is about taking creative risks, and the newsletter is an homage to that impulse.

Thanks for subscribing,

Lee Schneider

Releasing the last podcast episode of the year, and I just made the deadline. This is Episode 10 of Your Performance Review, and it features the great Andia Winslow. Show notes here: buttondown.email/500words/arch GIF by Metin Seven

Your Performance Review Episode 10 — Commander Field

Hello!

This is the tenth and last episode of Your Performance Review. Michel and Commander Field are reunited and reconstruct the failed lunar mission that changed both of them forever.

Listen to Episode 10

Michel has had two chapters in his life as a bot. A before when he was doing the bidding of admin (basically following orders from a higher-level AI), and an after, when he realized that the orders he was following were wrong. In this episode, he regrets these mistakes and wants to make amends. But he may never have the chance. The Investigator, Hillary, is on her way to destroy him.

For those of you who listened to Mission of the Lunar Sparrow, this episode connects the dots between the two series, taking you backward to remember what happened on the moon mission, and forward to a resolution from Commander Field and Michel.

The Road Ahead

One of the deeper aspects of AI will be how the machines will talk to the machines without any human control or intervention. Beneath the surface of cities, corporations, and nations, AIs will talk to other AIs to make things run smoothly. For humans to remain in the position of control we enjoy now, we will have to stay aware of where that road leads. It will be tempting to rely on the wisdom of bots and let them run things for us, and those in power will encourage that temptation.

One of the experimental aspects of this series was to see what would happen if a bot were the main character of a podcast. I learned that getting listeners to care about a non-human actor is incredibly hard! It’s all in the writing, since the bot reads the lines the same way every time. For variation, we look to the humans cast in this series. I am grateful and amazed at the skills the actors bring to these episodes. They made the scripts come alive in ways I never imagined.

Another experimental aspect of Your Performance Review is its secret purpose. I have used several episodes to workshop characters and themes that appear in my novel Surrender, which will be released in February. Some of those characters will be in the sequel novel, Resist. It’s weird and fun to experience characters like Michel and Commander Field as speaking parts and also as characters in a novel.

Happy New Year, everyone! This is the last newsletter of 2022.

I wish you all the best for a prosperous, healthy, and futurist 2023.

Lee

*****  The GIF used in this newsletter is by Metin Seven, a visualizer, illustrator, and 3D designer. Find him at metinseven.nl or on Mastodon at @metin@mastodon.art. If you want to follow me on Mastodon, I’m at @docuguy@scicomm.xyz.

Ingram Spark prints a nice paperback. Just received the first batch for my book

Strange pre Christmas combination of freezing temps, beautiful photography, growing Mastodon universe.

Looking for some peace among the chaos.

Sorry this week's episode is late! End of the year, watching a certain car wreck of a bird site, and other stuff caught up.

In Episode 09 of Your Performance Review, Michel outwits a maintenance bot. GIF by Metin Seven.

universalstoryengine.com/2022/

Your Performance Review Episode 09—The Maintenance Bot

Hello!

Sorry that this week’s episode is late. End of the year stuff just piled on, and I was also watching Twitter take a hard right turn. But we’re ready now.

In this week’s episode of Your Performance Review, Michel outwits a maintenance bot. That’s not all that hard because the maintenance bot isn’t all that smart. But I hope you’ll agree that Michel’s methods are ingenious. He cracks the code to restoring his archive.

Listen to Episode 09

You’ll notice a new link this week to the episode. That’s because with the launch of my novel Surrender I am rebuilding the FutureX site to accommodate the publicity push, and some links will have to change. If you’d like to catch up on any episodes you’ve missed, the season thus far is at this link. There is one more episode coming at the end of the month.

Machine to Machine

In this episode, we have one machine talking to another. I scripted their dialog, but soon the script won’t be necessary. ChatGPT, created by Open AI, has shown that it can write a plausible imitation Seinfeld script, and even write an article starring itself in a dystopian future scenario. An app called DoNotPay offers a chatbot that will talk to other billing chatbots, convincing them that you should not pay a bill. And the people behind DoNotPay are working on an app that will talk to you through your earbuds, coaching you in traffic court with live advice, so you can wriggle out of paying a traffic ticket, given advice by a bot that talks to you.

Chatbots talking to other chatbots could be a timesaver, but already teachers are concerned about students using ChatGPT to do homework for them. Coders are already instructing ChatGPT to write malicious code.

Bots like these are only as good or as bad as we are. This is a good time to cite Safiya Umoja Noble’s excellent book Algorithms of Oppression, which documents how search engines enforce racism. The search engines are only as good as the people who create them.

These tools are like hammers. The hammer doesn’t care whether you use it to make furniture, nail up some mistletoe, or smash a window to break into a store. Developers will delight in creating new kinds of chatbots. Some will be good, and some will do a lot of damage. It’s up to us to know the difference and restrict their use when it’s the right thing to do. I wouldn’t want my kid or any of my students using a chatbot to do their homework for them.

The GIF used in this newsletter is by Metin Seven, a visualizer, illustrator, and 3D designer. Find him at metinseven.nl or on Mastodon at @metin@mastodon.art.

Thanks for reading and listening,

Lee

A new episode of Your Performance Review brings the police procedural to 2036 and shows how a clever bot can make a human sweat.
futurex.studio/ypr-episode-08

Your Performance Review Episode 08—Hillary

Hello!

With this episode, Michel’s once-secret inquiry into his past is no longer a secret. An investigator arrives to question Michel about all the performance reviews he has conducted so far. She sees a pattern forming in Michel’s interviews, and she believes that Michel is up to no good.

Listen to Episode 08

There has been concern, in admin, about bots achieving consciousness. Pyotr, a bot that Michel had interviewed in Episode 03, is one such bot. After Michel spoke with Pyotr, and they exchanged their thoughts about the perils and benefits of consciousness, Pyotr was reformatted, his memex erased, and reassigned. Michel is afraid that the same thing may happen to him. It appears that Hillary, the investigator who has discovered Michel’s once-secret scheme, will be the one to recommend just that.

Michel is a wily fellow, however, and he plays on Hillary’s emotional vulnerabilities to see if he can move her off task.

Rare Selfie

I’ve always admired Thomas Pynchon, not only for his novels, but also for his rigor about not allowing any photographs of him out into public. I think I’ve seen a photo of him in the Navy, and maybe a few years ago there was a photo of someone in a coffee shop that the photographer claimed was Pynchon. I’m guessing (obviously) that he wants the writing to stand on its own.

Since I’m going a little crazy getting my book ready, I wanted to post this photo to show that I’ve reached a goal to have the paperback in my hands by November (last month).

We are going through another round of proofreading and format-checking. But early next year, I expect to have some early pre-launch copies available in paperback, hardback, and ebook formats. It’s insanely exciting.

Thanks for listening to the show and for staying with me on the journey to publication.

Lee