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An interesting experiment in Twitter led to Michael Charney’s ‘Chasing Glenn Beck’

By Dorothy Thompson
Posted Feb 14, 2012 in Politics
Chasing Glenn Beck
Chasing Glenn Beck
Michael Charney has an interesting book out called Chasing Glenn Beck: A Personal Experiment in Reclaiming Our Hijacked Political Conversation. What makes it most interesting is the fact that the idea for the book came to Michael after an experiment in which he would make ridiculous statements in Twitter to see if anyone was buying into them. He wondered how people can convince others so easily; thus, the book was written and published and now we get to read how this was done.
The decision to even write the book surprised Michael himself. “I’ve never before felt the need to become involved,” he says. “However—and I write about this in the book’s introduction—Glenn Beck had just recently made some comments about how the disasters in Japan were our fault—that somehow God was punishing us because we weren’t taking the Ten Commandments seriously enough. Imagine: God angry because we sometimes go to the mall on Sundays or covet our neighbor’s Lexus! And people were buying it. Here was a guy who had no special expertise or standing, was, in fact, just an entertainer, yet people were eating it up and rebroadcasting his ideas in blogs, tweets and Facebook postings. I wanted to know why, to know how these ideas take root and eventually grow like kudzu across the political landscape.”
Charney’s original idea was to go out on Twitter and drop some equally insane ideas out there, only this time they would be about Beck: about how he loved the environment, or didn’t like Sarah Palin, or thought the bank bailouts were a good idea. “I tried to convince people that Glenn Beck was a liberal,” he says. Pretty soon people were calling me names, things like “moron” or “scumsucker…” It got pretty interesting there at the start.”
Michael put these ideas into motion and after the book was written, he decided to self-publish. “My original plan was to publish through more conventional methods, but I quickly realized two things. First, as “just a writer,” I had no built in “platform,” or base of buyers who would come rushing to read whatever I wrote. Second, my material had a certain time-sensitivity (given the fact that we’re now in election season and political conversation is particularly relevant). So even though I had some interest from agents and publishers, I realized that it would be a long and difficult road, one that, if I were going to take, I might as well take myself.”
Charney established Riddle Brook Publishing to not only publish his own book but also other writers from New England where he lives who have the same kinds of struggles and to give them a place from which to launch their careers. “I hope to bring out two or three books this year,” he says. “My preference is for narrative non-fiction. If you’re a “new” New England writer and are interested, I invite you to visit [url=] for submission guidelines.”
Charney isn’t alone; more authors than ever are going the self-published route and I was interested to find out what he thought about that.
“It’s largely about control and opportunity. Writers want to retain creative control over their own works and want to latch onto the opportunities provided by the changing technical landscape that sees ebooks now outselling print books. Having said that, I still believe there’s a stigma attached to self-publishing that may take a long time to overcome. Agents and traditional publishers still offer valuable advice and service, and those are not easily replaced just because there’s a new e-reader on the market. The self-publishing landscape is a bit like the Wild West right now, particularly when it comes to quality.”
So how does Charney get the word out about his book?
“I’m very active on social networks, and see them as my primary marketing tool. I have personal and business accounts, as well as my account as @BeckIsALib, the one I created for the book. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, and probably spend an average of three hours per day on the networks. For those starting out in the social media world, though, I offer this advice: it’s not about how much you tweet or post, but about what you tweet or post. If you’re going to use social media to blast advertisements for your book or blog, then you’ll quickly lose any audience you might have built for yourself. Remember: Converse, don’t just offer one-way communications.”
Charney also believes in blogging. “I blog every Tuesday at [url=], and those entries are almost entirely oriented to politics and current events. On Fridays I do my “Follow Friday Blogs,” in which I recommend three blogs that I find particularly interesting and want to share, and on Sundays I do a “Tweep of the Week” entry, where I single out someone on Twitter that I enjoy conversing with and encourage others to follow. I always post my entries on the various social media sites so that people can find them easily.”
Between the social networks and blogging, authors sometimes feel overwhelmed. After all, their main focus should be on writing their book but it goes without saying that the author must play the publicist role also if they want to draw attention to their book. I asked Charney what he felt authors should focus on more in regards to promoting their books or was it a combination of things?
“Tough question, and I think I’ll answer it sideways. Focus on realizing that you don’t know everything you need to know, and get as much assistance as you can, whether from professionals or from other writers willing to share their experiences. Marketing and promotion—particularly in today’s digital world—is a bit like playing chess: it might be easy to learn the moves, but it’s a complex geography with a constantly shifting strategy.
I’ll also pass on a piece of good advice given to me: find your tribe. Know who is likely to want your book, and participate in that community.”
Finding your tribe is perhaps the best advice for new authors. Know your book inside out and see which audience would make a good fit and go after them. Seduce them. Make them want every single thing you put out. Making your book stand out from all the other books in your genre takes a lot of skill, hard work and good old-fashioned luck. I asked Charney what made his book, Chasing Glenn Beck, stand out from the pack.
“Chasing Glenn Beck is different because it’s about me, not about politics. Unlike many books that sit on the shelf next to mine, Chasing Glenn Beck is neither rant nor academic discourse. It’s the story of one guy and his experiences tweeting with a bunch of other people about politics—and it’s about how that guy changed….
“I actually had one person compare the book to Julie and Julia! I realized, though, that she was right in one sense: like that book, Chasing Glenn Beck traces a single person’s experiment over a specific time period and, just like Julie and Julia, which isn’t really about cooking or about Julia Child, Chasing Glenn Beck isn’t really about politics or Glenn Beck. It’s about me.
“I’d like to remind people of two things. First, every political message you here is a marketing message, and just because the message is delivered at full volume, that doesn’t mean it’s right. Examine it, distill it to its truth, and then decide if that message is meaningful to you. The second thing is simple: please vote.”

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