Archive | July, 2013

a generous author

25 Jul

mark as readChange layout and filteringRefreshBack to topJump to next

All No unread articles  //  keyboard shortcuts

 Title Only View (Google Reader)Magazine ViewCards ViewFull Article  mark as readChange layout and filteringRefreshJump to next


No unread articles  //  keyboard shortcuts

NYC James Altucher by James Altucher  /  2h  //  keep unread  //  preview

How to Self-Publish a Bestseller: Publishing 3.0

 Evernote Instapaper Add to Pocket Delicious

 TwitterLinkedInFacebookBufferMail save for later +TAG


(the most popular self-published book in history)


[a slightly revised version of an article I published last week on TechCrunch]




My most recent book, “Choose Yourself!” sold 53,000 copies since it’s release on June 3, hit the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list, was No. 1 on Amazon for all non-fiction books for a few days and is still flirting with No. 1 in its various categories. This post is about what I did differently, why I did it differently, and how I think anyone can do this to self-publish a bestseller. I describe all the numbers, who I hired and why, and how I made the various choices I did.


I strongly believe everyone reading this blog has the content inside of them to write a book. If you want to stand out in a world of content, you need to underline your expertise. Publishing a book is not just putting your thoughts on a blog post. It’s an event. It shows your best curated thoughts and it shows customers, clients, investors, friends and lovers what the most important things on your mind are right now.


Unfortunately, most people suck at it. I’ve largely sucked at it. I’ve published 11 books — five with traditional publishers and six that are self-published.b


I’ve written before about publishing and self-publishing. But mostly it’s been how I lost money on every book I’ve written. This is the first time I can say I’ve published a good selling book and here is what I did.


The distinction now is no longer between “traditional publishing” versus “self-publishing.” The distinction now is between professional versus unprofessional publishing. My first 10 books were done unprofessionally. Even the ones with the big publishing houses. They will probably hate me now. I hope not. I really like the people I worked with at these publishers.


I hope that everyone self-publishes. The benefits are enormous:


More money. Unless you are a John Grisham or E L James you will make much more money by professionally self-publishing. It’s not just money on sales but also foreign rights and special packages that you can offer if you control all the rights to your work. Packages that the traditional publishers almost never go for.


Incidentally, both of those authors self-published their first books. EL James, in fact, sold 250,000 copies of “50 Shades” via Createspace/Amazon before publishers even noticed her.


[See, “Why 50 Shades of Grey is Great Literature”]


Control over design. Traditional publishers usually keep that control.


Speed. You will probably speed up your publication date by over a year or more if you self-publish.


Content control. My bet is close to 100 percent of the people reading this post have content in them strong enough for a book. But 22-year-old interns at publishing companies won’t recognize that content. Even the editors, the publishers, the marketing guys — most of them — will not recognize the message you have to offer. Which leads me to…


Avoiding bad things in life. I hate getting that feeling of, “I hope he or she chooses me for X.” Where “X” could be love, or an investment, an acquisition, publishing a book, buying my product, whatever. I try to limit this feeling in my life whenever possible. I HATE when I have to depend on other people choosing me.


DOODY: I care enough to ask what is said here


When you have to deal with more and more layers of people who have to choose you, you don’t get the opportunity to choose yourself (!), which is infinitely more valuable.


nationalbestsellerEnter Publishing 3.0: How To Professionally Self-Publish Your Next Book


Here’s what I did step-by-step with my latest book for the first month since publication.


1) Build your platform


A traditional publisher is not even going to look at you unless you have your own platform, which means a Twitter following, Facebook following and/or a significant blog following. But if you already can hand-deliver the customers, what do you need the traditional publisher for?


Wasn’t that supposed to be what the publishers would get for you? Don’t they get you in bookstores? The answer is “no.”


Bookstores take very few of the books published by publishers. And whenever you see a book facing forward, or on the front table, or a “staff pick” that means the publisher usually paid to have that special placement. Most books don’t get this. And if you don’t get that, chances are your books won’t sell.


2) How do you build your platform?


Have an honest voice. Don’t be afraid to say things about either yourself or your industry. Provide unique perspective. If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead. Make sure every post or video you do bleeds from the heart, entertains, and educates. In that order.


How do you get traffic? Blog on bigger sites that aggregate bloggers or podcasts or whatever. It takes time to build up. But sincere voices will always rise to the top.


DOODY: amen alelujia asalam alaikum mazel tov


3) Write


This is not a post about writing or how to write a good book. The assumption is that you will write a good book. BUT, two tips: write 500-2000 words every day to keep exercising the writing muscle. And read good writers every day. Then you will write an even better book.


A typical book is anywhere from 40,000-80,000 words. So if you can average 1,000 words a day, seven days a week, you can write four to eight books a year. Or one very very good, edited, revised, professional one. Or 10! Knock yourself out!


I also wanted a high-quality foreword for the book. I was really grateful that Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, agreed to do mine. I realize why he used to be an improv comedian when I read what he wrote.


4) Know What You Want


If you are self-publishing then you can publish your book right now without any other effort. Go to CreateSpace (owned by Amazon), check the box that you want to be both paperback and Kindle, pick a cover, upload your manuscript, and in a few days you will be published on Amazon and people can start buying your book.


If your goal is to have a published book and use it to get customers, consulting gigs, speaking gigs, etc., or a beginning set of readers for your next book, then by all means publish this way. It’s the fastest way to do it. I highly recommend it.


But if your goal is to put out the best possible product, maximize the money you make, and get the most readers, then follow the next steps, what I call “Publishing 3.0.”


1.0 was publishing with a traditional publisher.

2.0 was when the stigma of self-publishing went away and an entire new artistic outlet was open to millions of people (15 million books published last year versus 300,000 10 years ago). It’s cheap, quick, and easy to get your book published.

3.0 is starting right now — where you can self-publish better, more successfully, better edited, better designed, better marketed, and make more money than if you go any other route. The reason this is possible only now is because for the first time, the best editors, designers, marketers are no longer working at the big publishing houses. Instead, they are striking out on their own and independently charging for their services. The demand is there. This route is more expensive than “publishing 2.0″ but is much more lucrative.

5) Editing


Previously my editing was just a spell check. And that was more than some of my mainstream publishers did. My wife asked me if I was kidding on this. But I told her to read my second book and she stopped questioning it. In other words, it was awful.


With my latest book, I went all out. I hired two copy editors to go through the basics on spelling and grammar. Then I hired Command Z Editing, run by Nils Parker, to help me structurally edit, i.e. do the job that editors used to do (example: Maxwell Perkins in the 1930s) but have been sorely lacking in the past 20 years from traditional publishers. Nils has previously edited bestsellers from Tucker Max, Kamal Ravikant, Ryan Holiday, and a dozen writers, as well as written screenplays, books, etc.


I am not saying “hire Nils” by the way. I’m just saying this is who I used (and paid). Make sure who you use is among the best in the world, or else you aren’t taking advantage of what the Publishing 3.0 world has to offer. Nils and I went back and forth on more than 15 different rewrites for my book. The difference between the original version and the final version is like the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad.


DOODY: reading this phrase is a first for me — bravo


And yes, publishers have editors. Some very good ones. But I specifically wanted to choose my own editor and use an editor that has worked on books that have sold millions of copies. The entire idea of “Publishing 3.0″ is that I am not limited to who is on the publisher’s staff but I can pick the absolute best people in the industry. With millions of books out there, the competition is incredible.


Hiring the best editor, design firm, marketing firm, and audio firms were all part of that. Not just the best around but who I felt were the best in the world.


6) Design


I never liked any of the designs on my traditionally published books, but I had no control over them. I don’t mean this to sound so anti-publisher. But they were busier with bigger authors, and I don’t think they were always able to devote resources to me.


I made sure I put out a product I could be proud of. I used Erin Tyler Design who helped me find the right cover designer, and she also managed the interior design process, which was a lot trickier than I thought.


She designed the spine, picked the fonts, the inside flaps, the back cover, and all the quirks — tables, pictures, asides, etc. — inside the book and then helped format for when I uploaded to Kindle Direct on Amazon.


7) Audiobook


I was at a dinner that Amazon had for self-published authors last October.


One guy who was making a solid living self-publishing science fiction novels told me that he always made an audiobook. I thought that was a horrible idea, and told him so.


But two things about audiobooks:


He said, “When people see you have an audiobook, they see your book as even more credible.


DOODY: audo book is for show?


It stands out from the average self-published book when you have an e-book, a print version, and an audiobook. Plus, the audio book is more expensive, so even though there are fewer sales, it’s decent money.” By the way, if you self-publish, always do a print book at the very least. Even if 99 percent of your sales are going to be e-book.

I asked the head of an ad agency what marketing tips he had for my upcoming book. He said, first thing, “Make an audiobook. For your kind of book, people will love listening to it while they drive into work.”

So Claudia, my wife who has been supportive of every aspect of this effort, set up her office in our house to be a mini-recording studio. I wrote to Tucker Max that I was going to make an audiobook. He wrote back:


“James, where are you doing the audio, and who’s editing it? Please tell me you aren’t just doing it yourself with your Mac and a mic you bought online.”


DOODY: Apparent conflict with the aforementioned idea that an audio book is for show.


We looked at our Mac and a mic that we had just bought online and decided to go to a professional studio. Tucker suggested John Marshall Media. They had done audiobooks ranging from President Clinton’s autobiography to the Harry Potter books to Freakonomics.


It was a thoroughly annoying experience but it was worth it.


I felt uncomfortable just sitting there for eight hours reading words I had written. For one thing, it hurt. Reading for eight straight hours was killing my throat.


Second, I didn’t want to just read stories I had already written. So I did it totally unabridged and improvised quite a bit, making it somewhat original compared to the book.


But the best reason for doing the audiobook is it forces you to really look at your writing and hear what works and what doesn’t. I rewrote about 20 percent of the book after reading things that didn’t quite sound right out loud.


It meant another round of edits (with the help of Nils) to improve the book, a process I never would have gone through if I hadn’t done the audio version.


8) Title


This deserves its own category. I had total control over the title. My first choice for the book was “The Choose Yourself Era.” But whenever anyone asked me to say the title I had trouble saying it. “Era” sounds like “Error.” One person asked me if it was going to a book about archaeology. So somehow it wasn’t working.


So I picked 10 titles that I liked, combined them with the cover and created Facebook ads that I sent out to all my friends and friends of friends in the U.S. Then I sat back and watched the click-throughs. After a few days and thousands of click-throughs I had my title.


“The Choose Yourself Era” came in a distant third place. “Pick Yourself!” was right above it in second place. And “Choose Yourself!” came in first by far.


I then took the same Facebook approach to pick the subtitle and the final version of the cover design.


Results of the Facebook Title test:






9) Marketing


I used Ryan Holiday’s company Brasscheck. Ryan is the head of marketing for American Apparel, and has marketed many bestsellers, including books by Tim Ferriss (“The Four Hour Chef”), Robert Greene (“Mastery”), Tucker Max (“I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell”), and others.


I had never before used an outside agency, always trusting either my own basic platform or a publisher. What Ryan provided was unbelievable. Between his Rolodex and mine we scheduled about 60 podcasts, radio interviews, speaking engagements and guest posts on popular blogs and websites.


There were also some other things that I would not have been able to coordinate: A Reddit AMA that got over 3,000 comments and probably close to a million views over the past month. His company created a SlideShare presentation that became the most viewed SlideShare on the site the week of the launch with over 300,000 views. My schedule the month after launch was non-stop marketing. I was burnt out by the end of the month.


I had also become a fan of Bitcoin. So I set up a month before I released the book and became the first book ever pre-released solely on bitcoin. Ryan then got several key media sources to cover this. Then, early buyers of the book were able to publish a reviews as soon as the book came out on Amazon.


I also wanted to market an offer in the beginning of the book. My goal was not to necessarily make the most money but to make sure the message reached as many people as possible. So on the very first page, before the editorial information and dedication, there is “the offer.”


I offer to pay people back for the book if they could prove to me that they bought it and read it. Then I would pay them back completely for the book (losing money on each transaction because of the cut Amazon takes plus shipping). The idea was I would be happy to give the book for free, but I know people don’t value things they get for free. And I also know most people don’t read the books they buy. Hence the offer.


DOODY: Why would they read the one bought with your pledge?


Ryan was successful at making sure that the offer itself was covered in various media outlets.


Brasscheck also scripted the video trailer that was produced and animated by Simplifilm. I describe the results of the marketing below.


10) Foreign Rights


I found with my prior books that the traditional publishers would more or less wait for foreign publishers to call and then they would sell the rights and my split would be minimal. Typically the split was 50-50, but out of my 50 would come my agent’s split. I was competing with too many of the other authors in the publisher’s stable to get any attention from foreign publishers.


Now I own all the rights to my book. Most people who self-publish aren’t thinking foreign rights. You still have to have someone who is going to be your advocate with the foreign publishers. So I got a foreign rights agency, 2 Seas Agency, to handle all of the foreign rights on a commission basis. They go to book conferences all over the world and have connections in each country.


In June, the first month the book was out, Marleen Seegers from 2 Seas sold rights to: Brazil (USD 2500), China (USD 4300), Korea (USD 5000). She is currently in negotiations with publishers from 10 other countries. The three mentioned above are where  the contracts were finished blindingly fast.


11) Other Merchandise


Since I own the rights I can do whatever I want. Below in the “Numbers” section I describe a bundle I put together combining a hardcover version of the book with three earlier books plus some original writing that was sent out by an e-newsletter company that did all of the fulfillment and split the proceeds with me.


With the help of The Social Pages and Litographs I also made a poster that is designed like the cover of the book when you look from afar but when you get close to it you see clearly all 67,000 words of the book.  I’m also making that into a shirt. What will I do with it? I have no idea. But it’s fun and I wanted to do it.


In the below photos you can see the far away version and the words when you are standing about an inch from the poster.




12) The Numbers


First off, what were my prior numbers? Here are my advances on my first mainstream-published, five books in order: $5,000, $7,500, $30,000, $100,000 and $30,000. Advances are coming down quickly!


My first book made back my advance and with about a 10 percent royalty I probably made another few thousand dollars on it. None of my other books came close to making back their advances.


I don’t have all the numbers on my first five self-published books, but I gave an enormous number of books away for free in order to build up my readership. Almost all of those books I produced for free but my revenues were minimal even though I had many readers for them.


In the first week “Choose Yourself!” was out I made the WSJ Bestsellers List with about 10,000 copies sold. To hit the New York Times bestseller list I can tell you anecdotally (and it depends on the week) that you need about 2,500-3,000 copies sold in your first week. I couldn’t get on the NYT Bestsellers List because they do not look at books that do not appear in bookstores. I’m not in any bookstores at the moment, although I’m working on ways that can change. Suffice to say I would have hit that list as well as the WSJ list.


In the first month I sold 44,294 copies between my paperback, audio, e-book, and even hardcover versions. In the second month so far, almost another 10,000 books.


The hardcover version was sold via an email newsletter, run by Porter Stansberry, that bundled the hardcover with three free versions of my past books plus an original report written by me. He split the proceeds 50-50 with me after the cost of the hardcover was recovered. I sold about 20,000 through this method in the first month. Email marketing is almost never attempted by mainstream publishers.


Of the remaining 24,000, close to 50 percent was Kindle, 45 percent was CreateSpace and 5 percent was Audible. On all the Amazon Kindle sales, the royalty is 70 percent of the $4.99 cost. On the Audible version the royalty is approximately 52 percent, give or take a few percentage points. On CreateSpace the royalty given my pricing was about 26 percent.


In terms of costs, pick and choose what you think you need. If you need an editor, but no marketing, no audio, and no video trailer, then your costs will be cheaper. Without the video trailer and audio, my costs would’ve been about $20,000. Without an editor and marketing, my costs would’ve been closer to $5000. If I used Createspace to make my cover and if I had done the design on my own, my costs would’ve been $0.


I am happy to answer questions about the process in the comments below.




 Evernote Instapaper Add to Pocket Delicious

 TwitterLinkedInFacebookBufferMail save for later +TAG

Mark category as read



22 Jul

case number: SC-13-06-20-5129

Murdoch 2.0, The Economist 6/22 – 6/28

22 Jul

The News Corp split
Murdoch 2.0

no writer credited in print or online

The media mogul promises to “do it all over again”
Jun 22nd 2013 | NEW YORK |From the print edition
“DIE HARD”, an action-film series starring a brawny Bruce Willis, has been a lucrative franchise for 20th Century Fox, a film studio owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. It also sums up what people predicted News Corp’s fate could be, after allegations of phone-hacking and police bribery rocked the company’s British newspapers two years ago. To the dismay of Mr Murdoch’s critics, however, News Corp has survived the crisis—and the Murdoch family, which controls the majority of voting shares, is notably richer. The firm’s share price has nearly doubled in the past two years.

Mr Murdoch’s decision a year ago to split his company into two, which will happen on June 28th, has thrilled shareholders. The new 21st Century Fox (analysts call it “good co”) will house News Corp’s more profitable entertainment assets, such as its television networks and stake in BSkyB, a British satellite broadcaster. The new News Corp (unkindly referred to as “crap co”) will consist of around 130 newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London, an education business and other odds and sods.

Mr Murdoch has said the split will give him “the chance to do it all over again”. The new company will have around $2.6 billion in cash and no debt. Yet for all the shares’ recent surge, the thought of reliving the past few decades might make investors queasy. Mr Murdoch has a record of making big, showy deals that turn sour. These include News Corp’s purchases of MySpace, a social-networking firm bought for $580m in 2005, and IGN, an entertainment website bought for $650m in the same year, both of which were later sold for a small fraction of the purchase price.

Two years and $389m in legal and other costs later, News Corp is a different company in several ways. Many executives have left, either voluntarily or as a result of the scandal. What used to be a family-run firm, lacking a formal reporting chain, has become more professional, says Claire Enders, a media analyst. While Mr Murdoch was busy containing fallout from the News of the World saga, Chase Carey, the firm’s well-respected chief operating officer, has strengthened his role. Although Mr Murdoch will serve as the titular chief executive and chairman of 21st Century Fox, and chairman of the new News Corp, Mr Carey is really running the entertainment business. “Every important decision has to go through Chase, so I don’t lose sleep at night,” says an upbeat shareholder.

Robert Thomson, a former editor of the Times and Wall Street Journal, will serve as chief executive of the new News Corp. Mr Murdoch has said he may buy more newspapers if the price is right. There is speculation that he might bid for the Los Angeles Times, which is being put up for sale by the Tribune Company. As for 21st Century Fox, it might try to buy the 61% of BSkyB that it does not currently own: the group was forced to drop an earlier bid during the phone-hacking scandal.

Should the new News Corp’s publishing business crumble, it has been given a safety net. For no other apparent reason, it has been left with some of the old News Corp’s profitable Australian assets, including Foxtel, a successful pay-TV operator, and REA, an online property-advertising group. However, it will also be left with Amplify, a struggling education group, which News Corp expects to lose $180m before tax in the year to June 30th.

Whatever criticisms people lob at Mr Murdoch, no one can call him unsentimental. The new publishing company’s logo will be “News Corp” written in a combination of his and his father’s handwriting. Many think both companies have “Murdoch” written all over them. James, Mr Murdoch’s younger son, has moved to New York and tried to keep a low profile since the News International scandal (he oversaw News Corp’s British papers at the time), but he is slowly reclaiming power. Lachlan, Mr Murdoch’s eldest son, who left the company abruptly and mysteriously in 2005, is in Australia, but could come back at some point to run the publishing side. As Mr Willis shows in his “Die Hard” films, it is possible to escape death by a whisker, only to return triumphantly for another blood-curdling sequel.

internet bourdaries

20 Jul

Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new “Graphic app”, any person in Facebook anywhere in the world can see our photos, our “likes” and our “comments”. During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following and comment “DONE”. Those of my friends who do not maintain my information in private will be eliminated from my list of friends, because I want the information I share with you, my friends, to remain among my friends and not be available to the whole world. I want to be able to publish photos of my friends and family without strangers being able to see them which is what happens now when you choose “like” or “comment”.
Unfortunately we cannot change this configuration because Facebook has made it like this. So, please, place your cursor over my photo that appears in this box (without clicking) and a window will open. Now move the cursor to the word “Friends”, again without clicking and then on “Settings”. Uncheck “Life Events” and “Comments and Like”. This way my activity with my family and friends will no longer be made public. Now, copy and paste this text on your own wall (do not “share” it!). Once I see it published on your page, I will un-check the same for you. Seems to work I just did it for a friend

Zimmerman conflicting textimony

15 Jul

Six anonymous female jurors considered nearly three weeks of often wildly conflicting testimony over who was the aggressor on the rainy night the 17-year-old was shot while walking through the gated townhouse community where he was staying and where Zimmerman lived.

Spitzer on Zimmerman

15 Jul

An innocent, young man was walking down a street, was confronted by a stranger with a gun and that innocent, young man was shot. The criminal justice system should be able to deal with situations like that. It didn’t.

The Economist deluded bosses

9 Jul

The Economist June 8 – 14 2013
Deluded bosses
Who’s behind me?
The powerful overestimate the support of underlings
Jun 8th 2013

Et tu, Brut?
HISTORY is littered with powerful people undone by hubris. Julius Caesar should have ignored the cheers of the Roman crowd and paid heed to the soothsayer. The late Steve Jobs overplayed his hand at Apple as a young man and was kicked out of the company he founded. And then there was Jimmy Cayne.

When Mr Cayne walked out of Bear Stearns for the last time, having been eased out as boss of the ailing bank, he claimed there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Through the tears, he wistfully recalls, heart-broken bankers sent him on his way with a standing ovation. This is not how his staff remember it. So disliked was he that according to “House of Cards”, a book by William Cohan, underlings would ask in meetings: “Is Jimmy staying on? [Because] we’re not coming back for another year of this shit.”

After reading Mr Cayne’s tale Sebastien Brion, a professor at IESE, a business school, decided to test whether the powerful overestimate the strength of their bonds with subordinates. The results, published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, will come as a shock to business big cheeses, but to no one else. In one experiment, he randomly assigned people in work groups with positions of high or low power, or to a control group. Questioned afterwards, those primed with high power were convinced the others were on their side; a view not shared by those being bossed. In another he found that lowly participants would form alliances against the powerful, even when it was not in their financial interest to do so. The mighty were blissfully unaware of the forces working against them.

So not only do bosses set too much store by their strengths, as our Schumpeter column notes, they also habitually overestimate their ability to win respect and support from their underlings. Somehow, on reaching the corner office, they lose the knack of reading subtle cues in others’ behaviour: in a further experiment Mr Brion found that when a boss tells a joke to a subordinate, he loses his innate ability to distinguish between a real and fake smile.

At the very least, bosses might improve their chances of staying on top by being aware of this bias. Some might feel that it just goes to show how Andy Grove, a founder of Intel, was right to say that “only the paranoid survive”. However, besides watching his back Mr Grove also instituted a scheme in which employees stood nose-to-nose with bosses and shouted their honest advice into their faces. Maybe that is going too far, but some sort of mechanism for letting underlings speak truth unto power may be sensible, even if Mr Cayne might not have relished it.

US President ranking

3 Jul

James Buchanan: Worst US president?
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News, Washington

James Buchanan is often saddled with the title of “the worst US president”, blamed for not averting the Civil War – but efforts are being made
to reassess his legacy. How bad was he really?

“My dear sir, if you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to [my home ] Wheatland, you are a happy man

Buchanan made this remark to his successor, Abraham Lincoln in 1861, as he led him to the podium where he would be inaugurated as US
president. Buchanan was leaving Washington with his reputation in tatters and was looking forward to a peaceful retirement at his
Pennsylvania home. Yet it was anything but.

Such was the animosity directed towards him in public, he could no longer drink in his favourite local taverns and spent much of his
post-presidency holed up at home. Outside, the nation tore itself apart in a bloody conflict that became known as “Buchanan’s War”.

The intervening years have not been any kinder. Buchanan consistently ranks bottom in lists of “best presidents”.

In January, Nate Silver, the star statistician whose election predictions have gained mythical status, revealed a poll of polls that placed
Buchanan 43rd out of 43 presidents.

For his critics, who say he caused both his country and the Democratic Party to fall apart, that’s where he belongs.

Continue reading the main story
Who was James Buchanan?

Nicknamed “Doughface” for being a Northerner with Southern sympathies
The only president from Pennsylvania
And the only one to be a lifelong bachelor
Engaged to Anne Coleman in his 20s but she broke it off and later died
In retirement, his friend William R King, later vice-president, lived with him at Wheatland, the two known as “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy”
Buchanan defended his presidency in his memoir, published in 1866
Two years later, he died, aged 77
But a new book, James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War, hopes to reignite the debate.

It’s not an attempt to contradict the standard portrayal of Buchanan as one of the least effective presidents, says co-author Michael Birkner.
But it does try to get people to argue about him a bit more, and reassess what he did well and did badly.

“You have to bear in mind that popular history in the late 19th and early 20th Century was written by conservative nationalists like James Ford
Rhodes, James Schouler, and Theodore Roosevelt.

“Buchanan failed as president in their view because he did not head off secession by taking strong measures against the southern fire-eaters
who backed it.”

The other point of view is that he exercised prudence in not provoking war, because like Lincoln he understood it would be easier to rouse the
North to fight if the South started it.

Buchanan was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, in 1791, but aged 18 settled in Lancaster, where the city still takes great pride in his

Some of his possessions, including his presidential desk, were recently returned to Wheatland, just outside Lancaster, where Buchanan lived
before and after his single-term presidency.
“It is time to reassess him, absolutely,” says Patrick Clarke, director of Wheatland. “We don’t only learn from the victorious and successful.”

Buchanan made his fair share of mistakes but Congress and the judiciary did too, says Clarke, who nominates Warren G Harding as the worst
US president, because of the corruption scandals that plagued his term of office.

One of the main criticisms of Buchanan concerns his attitude to slavery. He supported a Supreme Court decision that denied citizenship to
slaves, and he backed the admittance of Kansas to the Union with a pro-slavery constitution, to the disgust of many Democratic colleagues..

We don’t have any convincing evidence that he and William Rufus King were sexually intimate, says Professor Michael Birkner.

They were emotionally intimate and lived together for a number of years, although not consecutively. I would be sceptical that he had a sexual
relationship with anyone, let alone King. I think he was asexual. He tried to make his early relationship with Anne Coleman into more than it
really was because it gave him the doomed love story.

He was undoubtedly our only bachelor president but I’d hold the argument about our only gay president.

Civil War was inevitable, says Birkner, professor of history at Gettysburg College. But the blunders of politicians like Buchanan – and Kansas
was his biggest – made it happen sooner.

Lincoln, whose election triggered the break-up of the Union, would not have been elected if Buchanan had not split his own party, he adds. But
Andrew Johnson, who followed Lincoln, was a worse president than Buchanan, Birkner says, because he squandered the opportunity to take
the country forward after the war.

The majority view, that Lincoln was the best and Buchanan was the worst, results from shortcomings in the way US historians rate presidents,
says Ivan Eland, author of Recarving Rushmore.

Eland thinks presidential ratings are too easily swayed by charisma, activism and service during a crisis. In his book, he ranks the White House
occupants according to how much they fulfilled the aims of the Founding Fathers to bring peace, prosperity and liberty to the country.

At the top he puts the relatively unknown John Tyler, for ending the longest Indian war in US history and avoiding one with Britain over Canada.

But Woodrow Wilson is at the bottom for taking the US into World War I, an action that Eland thinks was avoidable.

“I don’t think [Buchanan] was a great president but he’s probably better than people give him credit for. He was trying to avoid the war and it
ended up being a catastrophe,” says Eland.

“Buchanan was right in that he thought it was illegal for the South to secede but illegal to do anything militarily unless the South started the

Top and bottom presidents
Poll of polls Peace, prosperity, liberty UK academics

by Erin Carlyle, Forbes plastic insights

2 Jul

by Erin Caryle
Swipely’s Big Data Machine Brings Customer Insights To Merchants On Main Street
This story appears in the May 27, 2013 issue of Forbes.

Angus Davis Swipely’s tracks how online marketing affects offline stores // credit: David Yellen for Forbes

Angus Davis is kicking off Swipely ‘s weekly management meeting, and he wants to hear just one thing: Quick wins. “Matt?” Davis gestures at the startup’s VP of sales, Matt Oley, who doesn’t miss a beat. The sales team is on track to meet this month’s goal, Oley reports. “Raise the goal!” Davis shouts hoarsely. The five department heads laugh.

Davis points his rolled-up piece of paper quickly around the square table, at the heads of business development, engineering, products and finance. One by one they tell him about the smooth deployment of a product feature, new partnership opportunities, a promising potential hire. “Do you need us to do our show-the-love e-mail?” Davis asks about the candidate, who’s on the fence about taking the job. That’s the all-hands-on-deck e-mail bomb that Swipely employees lob at potential hires to get them to accept. “It’s actually surprisingly effective,” Davis says, grinning broadly.

So is starting each meeting with quick wins, a move he borrowed from LinkedIn LNKD -0.44% CEO Jeff Weiner. Setting the right tone matters immensely to the 35-year-old founder because Swipely, which processes credit card transactions for shops and businesses, will need every ounce of optimism it can muster to meet its ambitious goal of reaching $1 billion in annualized transactions by the third quarter of this year, up from a run rate of $500 million now.

There are lots of payment services out there, but Swipely’s selling point is helping merchants better understand their customers. Its cloud servers crunch the data left by card swipes, strip out personally identifying factors for security, and turn the data into nicely designed customer dashboards showing which card numbers bought what and when and insights such as how a rainy Tuesday affects profits. Swipely synchs with a merchant’s social accounts so that owners can see how campaigns on Facebook FB -1.65% or reviews on Yelp YELP +1.44% affect business in their restaurants or stores.

Swipely gets really good if customers are willing to give merchants their name and e-mail, but only 20% typically are. With this extra data the dashboards add in marketing histories such as responses to e-mail or coupon offers. This kind of customer management software can cost hundreds of dollars per month, and Swipely adds it free. “We’re trying to connect online marketing with the offline sales in a tighter way,” Davis says.

About 500 have signed up since Swipely launched this product (its third iteration since Davis founded the company in 2009) last summer. The startup has more than doubled its transaction volume since December and is now processing an annualized $500 million, up from $250 million at the end of last year. To get to his $1 billion number he’ll have to more than double the sales force to 40 by year-end and will absolutely need more than the $8.5 million in venture funds he’s collected from Index Ventures, First Round Capital and Greylock Partners. Operating cash flow is not going to pay for growth: Swipely takes an average of 2.65% of its customers’ transactions but keeps only about a quarter of that, putting its annualized take on that $500 million at a mere $3 million.

That’s why it’s critical Davis build a brand and grab market share as quickly as possible in what has become a very crowded field. A host of companies is going after payment processing for one simple reason: Information about your spending habits is very valuable. Jack Dorsey‘s Square is quickly making inroads into the same group of customers Swipely is targeting (Blue Bottle Coffee Co., which has 11 locations, recently switched its registers to Square), and it would be a small step for Square to offer analytics on customers.

Swipely’s edge over Square, for now, is price. Its average charge is ten basis points less per swipe and, because it is a cloud-based service that can communicate with more than 50 register systems, merchants don’t have to toss away the equipment they’ve been trained on and paid for already.

Davis knows that the big incumbent processors like Heartland and Chase Paymentech could turn around and start offering business intelligence the way Swipely does, but they have a long way to go, judging by the utility of the reports they send merchants today. “Imagine a cellphone bill, but an order of magnitude worse,” says Davis.

Just to be safe, Davis is ramping up sales as fast as he can. His goal, he says, is to eventually build a large company that provides hundreds of jobs in his perpetually underemployed home state of Rhode Island and maybe even go public. The other option (although one not as motivating to employees, of course) is acquisition–a route Davis has been through before.

At the height of the first tech boom Davis and fellow Netscape veteran Mike McCue founded Tellme, a voice-recognition technology for automating call centers. The duo originally envisioned Tellme as an over-the-phone Yahoo service. But the product flopped. With $238 million in venture money and their reputations as entrepreneurs on the line, the duo scrapped their work and started over, rebuilding Tellme to serve businesses rather than consumers. Eventually they built a significant enough client base–AmEx, Verizon, FedEx, Merrill Lynch–that they were able to sell the company to Microsoft for about $900 million. But only after laying off a third of their 200 employees and going through a painful, and total, reboot.

This time Davis has been more nimble. When he moved back to Providence in 2009 and founded Swipely, he positioned it as a product-review site where consumers could share their shopping histories. Not surprisingly, customers weren’t too enthused. “To Angus’ credit, he realized after a million bucks that it was a terrible idea,” says investor Danny Rimer of Index Ventures, who also wrote the first check funding Tellme. Davis shifted, first to a loyalty program that tacked on to merchants’ cash registers (that product couldn’t attract enough data to lead to meaningful insights), then to Swipely’s current form: processing credit cards as a way to get at the data.

Swipely is working hard to push out new features because its insights are only as good as the actions customers can take with them. Davis’ product designers and developers are coming up with automated ways for retailers to gin up more business. The startup will soon launch a publishing feature that streamlines the process for merchants who want to market themselves on Twitter and Facebook. “The goal is to get to that $1 billion mark on the platform pretty quickly,” Davis says. “We know our product is a winner. Now we’ve got to pour gasoline on that fire.” Quick wins, everyone, quick wins.