Next Steps, Reinvention, and Opportunities in The New World

As I discussed in last week’s newsletter, I am in a transitional spot. The worst of the pandemic is over, so my kids are slowly getting back on track and requiring less help from me. However, I don’t think I can go back to cheerful education journalism any time soon, because schools and education have been permanently altered. Also, I can’t separate my own family’s experiences with schools during the pandemic to write something without bitterness and regret. So, what’s next?

One idea came out of last week’s experiment with smoothies.

On a morning walk with a buddy, she told me she started a 10-day smoothie detox to get rid of the pounds that she packed on during the pandemic. She said that she was using the recipes from a book — 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. When she went home, she texted me a picture of the book. I ran out and got the book, too, because my winter pounds are making me sad. Nestled on the sofa, looking out at our icy front lawn, I read the book.

Reading that book from cover to cover took about 20 minutes. The only essential part of the book was the ten pages that had the recipes for the smoothies — which are delicious, by the way. The rest of the book was filler: a story about how the author got into smoothies and changed her life, testimonials from friends who tried her smoothies, and various disclaimers.

With my academic background, I tend to think that books should take years, involve lots of research, interviews with experts, some graphs, and lots of footnotes. But most books aren’t like that. This book was a best seller, which made the author tons of money. And she probably pumped those words over a few weekends.

I could do that.

Over the past year, I’ve been slowly turning my kid with autism into a college student. I think I’m going to do a newsletter on that topic, and put it behind a paywall. This blog and newsletter, as I said last week, are simply for fun. But I might monetize some of the stuff that I write about.

Another advantage of putting this information in its own space is that I can go much geekier than I do here. Most of you aren’t autism parents, so I try really hard not to go into the weeds with details. But if I’m talking just to autism parents, then I won’t worry about boring people with details that are actually really important to folks like us.

But that’s just an easy-peasy afternoon of work. What else am I going to do?

In the short term, I’m still dealing books. I had Steve and Ian haul about 300 books out of an old house in a suburb outside of Newark this weekend. I got them all for $200, which is more than I usually spend. But there were large sets of antique books in there. All together, I’ll get at $3,000 for them, eventually. I’m turning my basement into a maze of bookshelves. It’s slightly insane, but fun.

During the pandemic, we did a lot of day trips together and had some marvelous adventures. Our weekend trips kept us sane and amused, when the world grew small. This past month, we’ve been more sedentary, because the weather sucked, and we’ve had a lot of family events. (Including my dad’s 85th birthday at a local Italian restaurant, shown in the picture above.) Soon, we’re going to return to our adventures.

Reinvention is fun, but it does require lots of thought to do it right.

13 thoughts on “Next Steps, Reinvention, and Opportunities in The New World

  1. I believe in normalization reinvention (and, I guess if smoothies help someone reinvent, that’s great, though I still don’t understand why they have to be green).

    I am never sure how books like the Green Smoothie book find a market, when there are so many versions of them and when one can find green smoothies on the internet. Insights? Why buy this particular book (even if you are already interested in green smoothies)?

    I guess the author has a fitness presence, not just the book, but also “liver focus” pills, national television appearances, and social media, and degrees — though they seem to have post-dated her popularity.


  2. bj said,

    “I am never sure how books like the Green Smoothie book find a market, when there are so many versions of them and when one can find green smoothies on the internet. Insights? Why buy this particular book (even if you are already interested in green smoothies)?”

    Pretty pictures! Inspiration!

    Also, a lot of internet recipes often have weird mistakes.


    1. It looks like my comment has been eaten by the Internet – so apologies if it appears again!

      AmyP said “A lot of internet recipes often have weird mistakes”

      Believe me, so do the ebooks and print on demand titles – we see them on a daily basis!

      There’s also a niche scam business, where people copy a whole lot of freely-available-on-the-Internet content (ignoring any copyright issues), slap on a title, format as an ebook and sell through Amazon (or Ingrams for the library market).
      And, frequently, use *the same content* with another title, to double the potential revenue.

      Minimal cost involved: time taken to copy the data and format into an ebook; any listing cost that Amazon/Ingrams charge (minimal – since they take a cut of sales).
      Potential reward: Who knows? But you only have to make a couple of sales to recoup the expenditure, and then you have a passive revenue stream:

      Title: Snow leopards picture book : the ghosts of the mountains.
      [cute fuzzy title with popular appeal]
      Content: 12 pages of very low quality, distorted in printing, black and white images stolen off the Internet.
      Price: $12.99

      And that’s setting aside the other scam. Actually stealing a whole book – still under copyright (usually from Google Books), changing the title, slapping your name on, and publishing it.


      1. Ann said, “There’s also a niche scam business, where people copy a whole lot of freely-available-on-the-Internet content (ignoring any copyright issues), slap on a title, format as an ebook and sell through Amazon (or Ingrams for the library market).”

        I know!

        We once bought a copy of a Polish classic (Sienkiewicz’s The Deluge) on Amazon only to discover that it was one of those. They’d botched a lot of the formatting and maps and printed it in phone book format. We were so outraged that (after checking if there was anything better available), my husband took the time to put together a better on-demand edition himself with a better cover.

        The covers deserve some outrage all by themselves. They’re often wildly inappropriate for the era of the book.


      2. I feel like you’ve told us about this kind of scam before, the poorly put together, internet book scam. I’ve gotten a couple of great books that seem like they could have been that kind of scam (but aren’t): Tulipana’s flower design book, as one example. It could have been a collection of instagram pictures, but it isn’t, carefully photographed with proper ingredient descriptions and ideas you can extend. I think I encountered the editor/formulator/don’t know the position of that book when I recommended it on a FB group. Her comment suggested that it’s hard to do a good book like that and have it sell for more value than the poorly prepared, but rapidly put together book that collates old content.


  3. Wish that the heritage book sales thing was a reality in NZ. I’d love that as a side gig!
    Sadly, it seems to be a US trend which has passed us by.
    There are 2nd hand book operations – but they pretty much need to be shop or warehouse sized in order to make any money.
    And there is zero demand for things like encyclopedias or sets.


    1. The encyclopedias and other sets are huge. They go to dumb people in big houses, who hire designers to put shit on their shelves. I am organizing my leftover books to sell by the foot, by color. People want their bookcases to be color coordinated.


      1. Ann said, “As a Librarian – that utterly horrifies me!”

        Wait till you hear about the people who gut old books to make decor!


    2. I’ve wondered how much availability depends on the history of the nation. For example, I think more of this kind of stuff is available on the east coast. Laura specializes in the books, but I think it’s hard to source some of the other stuff here (plates, glasses, etc, and that when it is found, maybe because someone drove a uhaul back from one of the sales Laura goes to).

      And, I am very sad about my inability to acquire any Constance Spry (flower designer and very interesting character from 20th century England) pottery of the style she used in flower arrangements. But, it seems like those vases are available in England (though not cheap, they cost 1/2 or 1/3 as much as they do to ship here).


  4. Amp P said “Wait till you hear about the people who gut old books to make decor!”

    Funnily enough, that doesn’t really bother me. Using an unwanted object (book in this case) as material for art, is just fine.

    What I hate at people who use books as a backdrop to enhance their literary pretensions – without ever actually cracking one open. People with the latest titles as coffee table enhancers are equally as awful.

    Wherever I go – I *always* look at people’s bookshelves. These days, there are a few people who read entirely online (though, rarely deeply, as so much backlist is simply not available in e-format yet – the situation is improving, but nowhere near universal)

    People with no books, are not likely to be or become close friends – we’re not going to have a lot in common. People with books-as-decor (colour co-ordinated shelves beloved of the interior designers) – are even further apart (no one is going to love my house for its interior design aesthetics)

    And, am particularly interested in the eclectic arrangement of titles: one person I know arranges non-fiction in date purchased order, and fiction in favourite order (when a new favourite arrives – the last one drops off the shelf and is disposed of). She knows where everything is – but god help anyone else trying to find a particular title on her shelves.


    1. I love looking at people’s bookshelves. It’s like an informal dossier.

      My sister and her family are not readers and I learned to bring my own books to their house. First time I slept there I could not fall asleep due to coming from Pacific time where they were in Eastern time. I ended up reading my sister’s copies of some clinical nursing journal, which was actually quite interesting.

      I always envied people who had interests in common with their siblings. My sister and I are as different as two people can be.


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