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Thread: New Author, New Book, Need Help!

  1. #1
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    New Author, New Book, Need Help!

    My name is Kyle Ezell, A.I.C.P, new to Cyburbia, and even new to these kinds of Web forums. OK, I'm ready to go-- just spent the past three years traveling to 50 cities and spending every (and I really do mean "every") dull moment writing a book called "GET URBAN! THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO CITY LIVING. www.geturban.com
    and now I'm ready for a test run before I'm fed to the wolves. As a fellow planner, I'm inviting you to help, and although it is selfish, and yes, before anyone says it, I am indeed hawking my book, I think this would be a great thread topic. Let me give you some background before you start slinging the questions, but please read!! And then sock it to me-- why is this a great idea-- why does it suck? I'm looking for sucker-punches, undercuts, hateful comments, or glory. Bring it on! I've got a 35-city book tour beginning in Apirl and I need lots of practice.

    Brief Background:
    I am an urban planner for Downtown Columbus, Ohio. My job duties include administering RFPs to developers, including mom and pop operations that agree to buy non-productive properties like brownfields and turn them around. Columbus is a downtown that is really a big parking lot, but worse than that, it is a city full of people who discount it as a "real city." After all, they say, "This is not Chicago, and certainly not Manhattan." Columbus is "growing" but that is because it annexes huge chunks of suburban subdivisions and farmlands, while the downtown is 27% vacant. It closes up at night. It is sad, but I LOVE IT. I love all downtowns in all cities. I am an extreme city lover who considers city life as much fun as downhill skiing or parachuting.

    I wrote Get Urban! as a way to help second- and third-tier cities like Columbus get exctied about the possibility of what it could be a locally vibrant place full of energy and urban opportunities. Also wrote it for "shrinking" cities, 1/3 of American cities are shrinking and need serious attention. In fact, most places between the coasts need higher demand for urban living-- have you ever been to TULSA? Back in Columbus, I long for the day when a developer would annouce a 5000-unit downtown mixed-use/mixed income housing development (5000 unit subdivsions are always announced in the 'burbs). I hate being the only one on the sidewalk and am constantly fighting the urge to move to Vancouver, BC or Manhattan (yeah, right, like I could afford it) to experience full-time, vibrant downtown life NOW. What could a planner do to help my beloved, overlooked, dead little downtown Columbus? One thing was for sure--sitting in my cube at the city hall annex wasn't doing the trick.

    So, I started writing a planner's book, but realized that another boring-ass book about planning and just for planners would not be very effective. It occurred to me that the masses, in other words, most people in metro Columbus, the state of Ohio and most of America really don't understand what it means to be "urban" or to live an urban life. If they did, then the demand would be apparent in Downtown Columbus through increased development. So I wrote the first self-help book for people who want to help themselves to "get urban." It is full of planning topics that we planners all talk about everyday, but is without the technical zoning and development stuff we talk about every day. I had to make sure that Joe and Gina suburbanites and anyone else would at least take a look, and get Barnes&Noble to "get it," instead of just our industry's Planners Press. It is a very unusual format, weird indeed, and I think it will be highly effective.

    The book targets young people who are ready to start out in life, and empty nest baby boomers who want to engage in an adventure and surely don't want to move to a retirement home or cabin somewhere and play shuffleboard. Most people in both groups were incubated in suburbia or elsewhere, but not in the city, and have the greatest potential of any group to actually become "weirdos" and move downtown. The book focuses on these two groups who may be thinking about contributing to the health of cities, and, unlike most families with kids, are willing to move to the places with the most deplorable school systems. They are prompted to "match their personality with their urban lifestyle." That's the hook. But throughout, they learn a host of planning topics like density, mixed-use development, alternative transportation and many others.

    [EDIT THE DAY AFTER-- I realize that it is truly hard to ask questions about a book that isn't even out yet. Kind of ridiculous, actually. So, it you'd like to debate or ask questions, look at these terms on this stie-- they'll start the ball rolling]

    http://www.geturban.com/Getting%20Urban%20101.htm

    As a fellow planner, I appreciate the help, and do apologize if it seem hawky. (What else can you do?)
    Last edited by KyleEzellGetUrban; 08 Mar 2004 at 10:53 AM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    First, I would respectfully suggest: Don't ever again, for so long as you live, say that your book is "dumbed down" so that your target audience can understand it. (How many people do you think will buy your book after you call them 'stupid' point blank? lol) Find a nicer way to say that and I hope the nicer way is Truthful and you didn't REALLY "dumb down" the topic.

    I homeschool gifted kids (who also have some learning disabilities) and a huge issue that homeschoolers of gifted kids face is the need to find materials which are sufficiently intellectually demanding/interesting but which are also "kid friendly". When you have kids who are still just "little kids" but they have a love of a subject like physics, it can be very hard to get materials that are a match for "all of them" -- a college textbook is not likely to cut it. The Cartoon Guide to Physics is one such book and it is NOT 'dumbed down'. (There is a whole series of "cartoon guides" and they are all excellent.) It is a conceptual approach which touches on the formulas but does not belabor them.

    A book does not need to be "dumbed down" to be made accessible to a general audience lacking highly specialized knowledge. It takes real skill to explain a topic well in simple terms that just about anyone can follow. People with such skills often become very popular in some area. Stephen Hawking put out some of his most popular stuff a second time with pictures and illustrations so that even a "dummy" like me (physics dummy) can follow along when I read to my kids. I assure you, it isn't "dumbed down".

    I have a hot bath calling and I have probably talked to you more than you cared to hear from me already. Good luck with both this thread and your book tour.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    First, I would respectfully suggest: Don't ever again, for so long as you live, say that your book is "dumbed down" so that your target audience can understand it. (How many people do you think will buy your book after you call them 'stupid' point blank? lol) Find a nicer way to say that and I hope the nicer way is Truthful and you didn't REALLY "dumb down" the topic.

    I homeschool gifted kids (who also have some learning disabilities) and a huge issue that homeschoolers of gifted kids face is the need to find materials which are sufficiently intellectually demanding/interesting but which are also "kid friendly". When you have kids who are still just "little kids" but they have a love of a subject like physics, it can be very hard to get materials that are a match for "all of them" -- a college textbook is not likely to cut it. The Cartoon Guide to Physics is one such book and it is NOT 'dumbed down'. (There is a whole series of "cartoon guides" and they are all excellent.) It is a conceptual approach which touches on the formulas but does not belabor them.

    A book does not need to be "dumbed down" to be made accessible to a general audience lacking highly specialized knowledge. It takes real skill to explain a topic well in simple terms that just about anyone can follow. People with such skills often become very popular in some area. Stephen Hawking put out some of his most popular stuff a second time with pictures and illustrations so that even a "dummy" like me (physics dummy) can follow along when I read to my kids. I assure you, it isn't "dumbed down".

    I have a hot bath calling and I have probably talked to you more than you cared to hear from me already. Good luck with both this thread and your book tour.
    Do you see the words "dumbed down" anywhere in the above? I don't think so. Indeed, this book isn't dumbed down, but writing it I had to re-think my plan-ese language.
    Last edited by KyleEzellGetUrban; 08 Mar 2004 at 3:51 AM.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by KyleEzellGetUrban
    Do you see the words "dumbed down" anywhere in the above? I don't think so. Indeed, this book isn't dumbed down, but writing it I had to re-think my plan-ese language.
    Well, nice move but you have just alienated me. Editing out the words "dumbed down" and then acting like I made it up only proves that you don't have much respect for people. I am well aware that people sometimes use terms that aren't precise because it is the first thing that comes to mind and they need practice in how to say what they really mean. I was kindly giving you the chance to rethink it so you would be prepared for your booktour. I find your response to be pretty offensive.

    Enjoy your book tour. Don't count on any more feedback from me.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Well, nice move but you have just alienated me. Editing out the words "dumbed down" and then acting like I made it up only proves that you don't have much respect for people. I am well aware that people sometimes use terms that aren't precise because it is the first thing that comes to mind and they need practice in how to say what they really mean. I was kindly giving you the chance to rethink it so you would be prepared for your booktour. I find your response to be pretty offensive.

    Enjoy your book tour. Don't count on any more feedback from me.
    Thanks, I appreciate your comments, and I didn't mean to alienate you. I was in the process of editing and resending that piece, but before I had the chance to press "save changes," your comment was already waiting-- kind of frustrating-- and at 2 a.m. it was supposed to be sarcasm. Being new to this kind of chat/forum on the Web, I am not used to this strange "way of life" and realize that you can't see my face, can't understand my humor or lack thereof, and have no idea who I am, and I find this a bit hard to get used to. Regardless, I am going to unitentionally piss more than a few people off in this process, and I guess you are the fifth just since I've joined last night. Thanks again for your interest. Now, I really wish I could answer a question about the content and idea of this book and get on with it.
    Last edited by KyleEzellGetUrban; 08 Mar 2004 at 10:08 AM.

  6. #6
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    Will look tonight

    What no sock it questions? I will look again tonight and will respond then (because I can't do this from work). Thanks!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I haven't had time to really look into your site but here are some uninformed comments anyway:

    I think its a good idea that you're not just preaching to the choir with your book.

    Some sort of preface explaining why you're writing the book would help, so people won't wonder "what's in it for this guy if I move to the city?"

    Be honest about the negatives - schools, crime in some areas, etc. and how to deal with them.

    Try not to be condescending about suburbanites, many of whom may be reading your book.

    Maybe a section about media perceptions of urban living (gangsta rap, crime shows) vs. reality would be good.

    Like I said, you may have adressed all these things already, they're just some thoughts.

  8. #8
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    Thanks--

    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop
    I haven't had time to really look into your site but here are some uninformed comments anyway:

    I think its a good idea that you're not just preaching to the choir with your book.

    Some sort of preface explaining why you're writing the book would help, so people won't wonder "what's in it for this guy if I move to the city?"

    Be honest about the negatives - schools, crime in some areas, etc. and how to deal with them.

    Try not to be condescending about suburbanites, many of whom may be reading your book.

    Maybe a section about media perceptions of urban living (gangsta rap, crime shows) vs. reality would be good.

    Like I said, you may have adressed all these things already, they're just some thoughts.
    Well, the book is in print, so I won't be able to change anything, but I am honest about schools and crime (although on FBI crime stats, I show that small towns in the middle of nowhere have truly unreal stats-- small numbers of crimes--astronomical percentages/rates!). I don't condemn suburbanites in the book either--that's been done before, and we have more suburbs than ever-- I believe that suburbs are great for people who like them, but I know too many people who would like to live in the city, but they just don't think it's "normal" out here in the Midwest. Thanks for your comments. (Oh yeah-- (and by the way, I edited this and then resent it in case you read it and have already asked a question that I'm typing!) the Preface heading is "Why I wrote this book." It explains it (and I am a poor $ planner with nothing to gain by people moving downtown, i.e., I have no development interest, real estate business, etc.)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by KyleEzellGetUrban
    Thanks, I appreciate your comments, and I didn't mean to alienate you. I was in the process of editing and resending that piece, but before I had the chance to press "save changes," your comment was already waiting-- kind of frustrating-- and at 2 a.m. it was supposed to be sarcasm. Being new to this kind of chat/forum on the Web, I am not used to this strange "way of life" and realize that you can't see my face, can't understand my humor or lack thereof, and have no idea who I am, and I find this a bit hard to get used to. Regardless, I am going to unitentionally piss more than a few people off in this process, and I guess you are the fifth just since I've joined last night. Thanks again for your interest. Now, I really wish I could answer a question about the content and idea of this book and get on with it.
    Hey, I am pretty easy going. And I generally cut newbies slack. I tried to warn you that you are setting yourself up as a target. Sigh. I set myself up as a target when I joined but I did so with "eyes wide open", knowing I could fairly deftly handle the fall out. Long story and I need to crawl off to bed.

    For future reference, when it is 2am and you are irritable and someone says something that irks you, DON'T reply. lol. Sleep on it and try again later. That is a fairly standard practice and was taught to me a long time ago by someone who pioneered some online forums in the "early days" of the Internet, and whom I was privileged to work with and learn from 4 years ago.

    Quit hawking so hard. Go talk to people -- about something OTHER than your book. Let them get to know you. When you are making a fool of yourself/going down in flames/stirring up controversy/whatever, the best "remedy" is to go around talking about normal, non-controversial subjects and sounding like a sane human being. It may take a month but it is the only thing I have found that actually works to convince people you aren't some NUT. (I completed about 13 months of drug withdrawal in November. I have lots of practice with convincing people I am Nuts and learning how to then convince them I am really NOT nuts, I was just having a really, really, really, really bad day while awake for 40 hours straight and I am ever so sorry, truly. lol)

    Just let it go for now. Go mix, chat, shake hands. You have real potential. I don't impress too easily. Take that as high praise.

    Now I will crawl off to bed and, when I wake up, I can regret not taking my own advice and feel foolish for saying nice things to a total stranger when I am so tired I really shouldn't reply, thereby utterly destroying my reputation as a horrid, rabid B*tch. Darn it!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone
    Hey, I am pretty easy going. And I generally cut newbies slack. I tried to warn you that you are setting yourself up as a target. Sigh. I set myself up as a target when I joined but I did so with "eyes wide open", knowing I could fairly deftly handle the fall out. Long story and I need to crawl off to bed.

    For future reference, when it is 2am and you are irritable and someone says something that irks you, DON'T reply. lol. Sleep on it and try again later. That is a fairly standard practice and was taught to me a long time ago by someone who pioneered some online forums in the "early days" of the Internet, and whom I was privileged to work with and learn from 4 years ago.

    Quit hawking so hard. Go talk to people -- about something OTHER than your book. Let them get to know you. When you are making a fool of yourself/going down in flames/stirring up controversy/whatever, the best "remedy" is to go around talking about normal, non-controversial subjects and sounding like a sane human being. It may take a month but it is the only thing I have found that actually works to convince people you aren't some NUT. (I completed about 13 months of drug withdrawal in November. I have lots of practice with convincing people I am Nuts and learning how to then convince them I am really NOT nuts, I was just having a really, really, really, really bad day while awake for 40 hours straight and I am ever so sorry, truly. lol)

    Just let it go for now. Go mix, chat, shake hands. You have real potential. I don't impress too easily. Take that as high praise.

    Now I will crawl off to bed and, when I wake up, I can regret not taking my own advice and feel foolish for saying nice things to a total stranger when I am so tired I really shouldn't reply, thereby utterly destroying my reputation as a horrid, rabid B*tch. Darn it!
    OK. One strange phenomenon about these "threads" is that they never really stay on the subject? I don't use the computer to shake hands with people, I have my coffeeshop, gym, church, my people, etc. [ I ADDED/EDITED THIS...Your advice is good after a rethink-- I will indeed go round the cyburbia and say hi. But you know what, regardless, I'm always going to be considered a book-hawker on this site, no matter what happens!

  11. #11
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by KyleEzellGetUrban
    But you know what, regardless, I'm always going to be considered a book-hawker on this site, no matter what happens!
    Not if you jump in on one of the many threads regarding cities, with insightful comments and no mention of the book.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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