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Jane Friedman's Electric Speed newsletter

A note from Jane

It’s always eye opening when I read materials I saved during my last year of corporate employment, in 2010. Existential angst surfaces in every snippet.

Back then, I was an avid reader of Kenny the Monk. (You can still find some of his posts if you look hard enough.) I felt like he was speaking directly and personally to me, about why my job was anxiety inducing. He wrote:

“In corporate life, if you’re good at solving problems, we promote you. Once this happens, you’re no longer dealing with problems; you’re now responsible for managing Predicaments. These are the imponderables of business life. The dilemmas of complexity and uncertainty. This is the realm of ambiguity and unintended consequences. There’s no ready answer, yet you must take action, knowing full well that no matter what course you choose, it’s not going to be sufficient. Yet, you’re still accountable for results and responsible for making decisions.”

I made any number of corporate decisions that were terrible and had life-long consequences for the people who worked with me or under me, that I will go to my grave regretting.

But at the time, it was easy for me and others to say these decisions were “just business.” Kind of like how agents and editors reject work all the time and say it’s not personal.

But of course it is personal, deeply personal, to whomever that decision affects.

Kenny again: “I used to believe that Mystery was the domain of the monastery. My 20 years in business taught me otherwise. Mystery takes place in the marketplace. That’s where Good and Evil get worked out. Just look at the business scandals that make headlines in our daily newspapers. It’s also where Life and Death take place. Not just of our commercial institutions, but of the workers as well. We now spend so much time at work that large numbers of us are dying there.”

While written more than 10 years ago, Kenny’s words obviously resonate today—maybe even more so. He doesn’t have answers to the Predicament we’re in, but he does say that moving forward involves asking the right questions.

This is a meditation I often return to in work and life that might help you as well: Am I asking the right questions?

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P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month:
US Book Publishing Remains Resilient: Print and Ebook Sales Are Growing
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Jane’s Electric Speed List

Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. (I have not been paid to mention any of these resources.)

Overwhelmed by the number of quality podcasts out there? Have limited time?

About the only time I have for podcast listening is when I’m in the car, on a long trip. So I’m pretty selective about the programs I queue up. I recently discovered a free newsletter, Podcast Review, that tells me about the week’s best podcast episodes. They also have curated lists, like 5 Podcasts to Listen to in July and The 20 Best Episodes of Planet Money. It’s by the folks at the Los Angeles Review of Books. 


Learn about the physical traits that define men and women in literature [sweet and slim, greasy and grim]

Over at The Pudding, Erin Davis selects 2,000 books, spanning Pulitzer-winning classics to pulpy bestsellers, and runs them through a software to extract physical descriptions of men and women. Unsurprisingly, writerly descriptions tend to be gendered. Hair is twice as likely to be mentioned for women characters, and for men, it’s the chest or jaw. Take a look.


Start a shared journal with family or friends

Waffle is a shared journal that you keep with others. While billed for “long-distance family” I see no reason why you can’t use it with anyone you care about, no matter where they live (especially during times of social distancing). Caveat: the app is still in beta, but it’s also free.

Lil Dumpster Fire Night Light

Just for fun: Lil Dumpster Fire Night Light

I already have a Lil Dumpster Fire enamel pin (which I haven’t been able to show off, due to lack of travel), and I’m now considering this battery-powered Lil Dumpster Fire night light—touch activated! The LED light features a flickering flame. It’s the small things.

Effective Book Marketing for Any Author with Jane Friedman. $25 class, August 12, 1–2:30pm Eastern

Next online class: Effective Book Marketing for Any Author with Jane Friedman

On Wednesday, August 12: Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, every author must give some thought to book marketing. But given how fast tools and techniques change, and how hard it is to attract attention (especially during a pandemic), it can be challenging to figure out what’s worthwhile to focus on. Few authors truly lack marketing opportunities; most lack sufficient focus and patience to pursue those opportunities, or feel overwhelmed by the task and end up doing nothing at all. This class helps authors first focus on the foundation of any book marketing campaign—the book itself and its target readership—and offers a framework for developing a strategy and approach that’s appropriate for your strengths and current abilities.
Learn more and register

Your turn: Organizing photos

In the last issue, I asked you to share your favorite resource for organizing and managing digital photos. Here’s what you said.
  • I’m a scrapbooker and the official family historian so I take my photos very seriously. I use Lightroom to organize, edit and print all my photos. —Vicki Tashman
  • For any photo shoots going forward, my plan is to connect my Google Photos account. —David W. Gates Jr.
  • I use Lightroom to organize my photographs which is probably the best photo organizing program available today. —Jeff Ross
  • I’ve found the Project Life phone app to be very useful (and user-friendly) for making yearly digital scrapbooks that I can then order in print at the end of the year. For those of us with kids, it’s an easy, organized way to capture those memories. —Jehanne Moharram
  • I have all my photos backed up in OneDrive, so I organize within folders, by year and then by event. I also use the Photo Organizer that comes with Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements, mostly because I already had it. It has facial recognition and a bunch of tagging features, but all that info stays on my computer. Not that Facebook doesn’t already know what I look like! —Abigail Welborn
Next question: How do you discover new music? Do you rely on a digital app or subscription service? Newsletters? Magazines? Hit reply and let me know.

Upcoming online classes

📩 August 9: Sunday Business Sermon: Paid Subscriptions with Jane Friedman (free)

🌟 August 12: Effective Book Marketing for Any Author with Jane Friedman

❓ August 23: Open Q&A with Jane Friedman (free)

💸 August 26: Becoming a Paid Writer and Speaker with Benjamin Vogt

📖 October 25: The Foundations of Getting Published with Jane Friedman

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Electric Speed is a free newsletter by Jane Friedman that launched in 2009. More than 34,000 subscribers receive it. You can support it by (1) sponsoring an issue or (2) sharing it with friends and colleagues.
“At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.” 
—Marshall McLuhan
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