Jan 9, 2013

Mitt Romney, A Stroke Patient, and Facebook, aka The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Not Necessarily in That Order)

"What's this mean?" I asked my friend. "I don't get it." It was a cartoon.

First frame: One dog asks another dog, "Do you think Romney will win the election?"
Second frame: "Nah," the second dog says.
Third frame: "Why not?" asks the first dog.
Fourth frame: "Where have you been!?! He hates dogs! That's why!"

As the story goes, in 1983, Seamus, the Romneys' family dog, was transported on the roof of the family's car, windguard and all, to vacation in Ontario, a 12-hour trip from Massachusetts. The Governor and his wife were interviewed about that experience by Chris Wallace, Diane Sawyer, and so many others in the months before the election.

The Romneys said the story was overblown, emphasizing the trip on the roof was just as if Seamus were riding a motorcycle or on the flatbed of a truck. In August 2012, three months before the election, Devo, a band, released a single called "Don't Roof Rack Me, Bro (Seamus Unleashed)," to keep the high-profile story in the news.

And all the while, through the still-talked-about, 30-year-old Romney incident and updates on issues like KONY 2012, YOLO, Pinterest, Whitney Houston, and more, I missed it, because for close to a year, I was writing my book, "The Tales of a Stroke Patient," intently pouring over the laptop like the book was a mission to end all missions. After the book was published on September 26, 2012, I tried to find readers to buy my book. I don't know yet how many books were sold. A handful? Just shy of the Best Sellers List? Really, I have no clue, but most likely somewhere in between handful and humungous.

Writing a book and typing with one hand is no small feat, but concentrating on my disability, how it took me twice as long to type, feeling sorry for myself, crying in my soup, had to stop, and it did. Originally, the book started out as a blog to give stroke patients fond, but more not-so-fond, memories of their respective stays in rehabilitation hospitals and nursing homes all across the globe. Around the 10th post, I decided to turn the blog into a book.

The world seems small now, with people writing to me for copies from all corners of the globe--literally, except Antarctica. But I can't blame those Antarcticans. Maybe when global warning hikes the temperature a little bit higher, the Antarcticans will come, when their fog-filled, collective breath isn't hampering them from writing me an email.

I wrote to publishing houses for about six months, telling them why a biography about strokes was so important. I told them, coming right out of the World Health Organization's literature, "15 million people suffer stroke worldwide each year. Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are permanently disabled. High blood pressure contributes to more than 12.7 million strokes worldwide. Europe averages approximately 650,000 stroke deaths each year." Still, no one was interested.

Then I heard about self-publishing. So I went to the "do-it-yourself" houses. That's how I found Xlibris, one of the originators of print-on-demand (POD). POD means they print the books as they're requested, helping Xlibris from storing books that can't be sold and keeping customers, and in turn authors, happy as their book orders come right away. It's a win-win situation, all the way around.

The one requirement I wanted the most was total control over my work. Fortunately, that requirement was familiar to Xlibris because, as they say, "we help hundreds of authors every month publish their work in the manner and form that they envision."

Xlibris started sending email attachments around July 2012. The attachments were arranged in the order expected, telling me the "next steps" I needed to take for the final step--publishing. I designed the cover, telling them that I wanted a pink brain and, on it, black letters that spelled out the title of
my book and my name on the front and spine. I chose the color, format, and style.

I designed the back cover, relating all the reactions from my blog and advance copies of the book. The people were all grateful that I was forthright with them. Many told me about the service I was providing, to educate people about strokes everywhere around the world.

I sent them three successive drafts of the entire book. When I was satisfied there were no more errors, at least none that I noticed, I sent in the final paperwork saying, "Yahoo. It's finished" (to myself), and then I was done. My package came with extra books, a press release, and a host of resellers that would advertise my book like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. 

Then I got the quirky idea to advertise the book on Facebook. If 15 million get strokes every year, it stands to reason that some stroke survivors would be on FB. So often, I put out a post on my book. That's when the ugly--and in my opinion, jealous--emails and just-plain-nasty posts arrived. There were 12 altogether and they hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. They posts weren't threatening; they were just unnecessary and annoying, and the comments all used the second person "you" which adds a hint of animosity. Here is what some of them said (and my reactions in parentheses):

You obviously don't know how to market a book. I have an agent that does all that for me. (Big deal. You're rich enough to afford an agent).

You wanna sell your book? Give me three reasons to buy it. (I'll give you a lot of reasons, starting with "you might learn something").

You didn't even greet me before you posted on my personal page. (Oops. Where are my manners?)

 You can't advertise on Facebook. (Actually, you can).

(And this was the last one:) If you wanted to make a real difference, you would try to make an audio version for those people who can't f**king read because of their damned stroke. (Language, language).

Most--maybe all--of those 12 people reported me to Facebook as sending spam and I received a 7, then a 14, then a 30-day suspension from either acquiring new "friends" or from messaging new people. Facebook said that I can only write to people I know. What if you want to make new friends? Shame on you, Facebook and Mark Zukerberg, its founder.

I couldn't do anything about all the naysayers, but to make a audio version that works with the I-pad, I converted the book from a manuscript document into an Adobe .pdf version (remember, I had technical skills once?) and it worked. I had a "friend" whose name was Nicole test it. The I-pad now delivers an audio version of "The Tales of a Stroke Patient." So now how do you feel, saying I don't help the ones with poor vision from brain impairment. I think his name was Pat from Ireland. Or maybe Bob from Africa. No. That's not right.

Anyway, people can be petty, and you sometimes see that phenomenon in Facebook--and everywhere else, for that matter. Hey, Mitt Romney is a member of Facebook. He must get a slew of unnecessary and annoying posts, more than I do. From dog lovers, for example. Maybe I'll learn how he handles it.