Enjoy our Blog


Here at Blacksmith, we’re all about addressing issues we think might be of interest to our readers. As you explore our Blog, you’ll notice Blacksmith is NOT crazy left or extreme right; we’re BOTH liberal and conservative. We engage in full spectrum thought and believe in freedom of speech and advocate for a constant, steady flow of ideas. Blacksmith is NOT politically correct; we don’t engage in corporate sissy-ism in hopes of earning a buck.

Our comments cover a wide range of topics to include; culture, education, faith, family, finance, news, nutrition, technology, the military, and yeah, we poke fun at politicians and the political class as often as possible. Of course, we’ll cover reading and writing books as well, since that is our passion. Feel free to leave comments located at the bottom of each post, and most of all, lighten up, have a healthy sense of humor and just enjoy the Blog. We don’t take ourselves that seriously.

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What Makes a Book a Bestseller?


top-10-most-read-books-in-the-world

According to Cathy Stucker’s, SellingBooks.com, a “bestseller” is usually determined either by:

  1. 1) Making the New York Times Bestseller list
  2. 2) Having a high Amazon sales ranking
  3. 3) Selling a large number of copies

 

Though well known, the New York Times bestseller list is rather arbitrary. The numbers don’t include internet sales, sales in department stores like Walmart, or sales in locally owned book stores/gift shops. Instead the numbers come exclusively from bookstores that have an established relationship with the NY Times. Other less known lists exist such as Publishers Weekly.

Amazon has also become a key player in determining a bestseller because it provides a sales rank for each book listed. A high sales ranking, for example, top 100, can also be used to claim bestseller status. According to Brent Sampson, to acquire a ranking of 1-10, a book must sell over 500 copies in a day.

Lastly, and probably the most accurate and profitable for all concerned, to achieve the coveted bestseller status, is simply to tally the total number sold. So just how many books do you need to sell to claim bestseller status? According to self-publishing guru, Dan Poynter, the magic number is 35,000. Since the popularity of a bestseller can be long or short, I think that’s a fair number. A book might come out and make a huge hit and sell a million copies in a year, and then be forgotten. Other books, like “A Tale of Two Cities” or “Pride and Prejudice” never appear on bestseller lists but they continue to sell steadily and have far outsold most books making the bestseller lists simply by their quality, word of mouth, and acceptance as great literature. The bible is a prime example of a bestseller!

In conclusion, your book may never make a bestseller list, but steady wins the race. Over time, you may sell more copies of your book than those books that make the bestseller lists. Authors dream of becoming famous over night, but producing a quality book is the best investment if you’re looking for longevity, and longevity, in my opinion, is the best indication of success.

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Finding your Niche – Advice for Authors


Young writer searching inspiration, with an old typewriter.

To current and future authors out there: Here’s a few things (for whatever they’re worth) to consider before writing your book:

1- Write about something that hasn’t been written about previously. There’s a topic out there that you can provide information about that hasn’t already been thoroughly covered by other authors. Let’s say you want to write a book about “losing weight” for instance. If you decide to proceed with that topic, you’ll be competing with hundreds of thousands of other books on the same subject. If you decide to go ahead and write about a topic like “weight loss”, make sure you have something unique, a niche; something special that hasn’t been covered previously, and market your book that way.

2- Keep it pithy. Most readers aren’t interested in 500+ page books. Younger readers like their information quick, and don’t like spending a lot of time on anything, especially an intimidating looking novel. Around 200 pages is a good target to start off with when writing your book. The larger it gets, the less interest readers will have in your book. Remember, a reader is buying a book as an investment of their time. Give them what they want!

3- Be willing to “grip and grin.” As the author, you are the best advertiser for your book! Be willing to do book signings and discuss your book with others. Readers love talking to authors and having their books signed. Nobody knows more about your book than you do, and feedback from readers in invaluable.

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Six Best Tips from “On Writing Well”


by James Altucher

My favorite writer on writing died. William Zinsser, author of “On Writing Well” died yesterday. He was 92 years old.

Was his book any good. I don’t know. It sold 1.5 million copies. His students and readers are practically every non-fiction writer I look up to.

Stephen Dubner, who wrote Freakonomics, first recommended him to me. I’ve always hated books like Strunk & White’s Elements of Style but I was looking for a good book on writing nonfiction and Stephen recommended Zinsser’s book.

Other great books that have been recommended to me by authors: “On Writing” by Stephen King, Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott although both Tucker Max and Claudia Azula Altucher violently disagree with me on the last one. I happen to love the book and stand by it.

What did Zinsser say? Why did everyone love and buy and emulate the principles in his book. You decide. Here is some of his top advice:

GET RID OF CLUTTER

“Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly. Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Re-examine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work? Can any thought be expressed with more economy? Is anything pompous or pretentious or faddish? Are you hanging on to something useless just because you think it’s beautiful? Simplify, simplify.”

WRITE FOR YOURSELF, NOT OTHERS

“You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for.”

STUDY THE GREATS – BUT ALSO YOUR CONTEMPORARIES

“Writing is learned by imitation. If anyone asked me how I learned to write, I’d say I learned by reading the men and women who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and trying to figure out how they did it.”

THINK OF WRITING AS A PROCESS, NOT A PRODUCT

Many authors “know what they want to write, but instead of writing they say ‘Well, my main problem is figuring out how to find an agent and get it published. I tell them, ‘The main problem is that you need to write the damn thing.'”

READ EVERYTHING YOU WRITE OUT LOUD FOR RHYTHM AND SOUND

“Good writers of prose must be part poet, always listening to what they write.”

HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF AS A WRITER

“I go around giving my students permission to be who they are, and there aren’t enough people doing that,” he said. “You learn to write by believing in who you are.”

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New Generation Buying Books


boy-on-books

A Publisher’s Association report earlier this month found physical book sales have enjoyed its first growth in four years, while ebook sales seem to have stalled.

According to Sion Hamilton with Foyles bookshop, “the bookshop is back,” adding, “I have to say, at some point book selling did feel a little bit like healthy eating. You know you should do it but fast food was convenient and quick. But I think people are returning to a healthier diet and they are indeed returning to bookshops.”

Personally, I think this is great news but would never have guessed it possible in today’s digitalized world. Evidently, according to an article by Hannah Furness, young folks comprising generation Z are expressing themselves with physical items such as ‘real’ books and vinyl records sitting on shelves rather than digital products and URLs.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/29/new-generation-buying-books-to-express-their-personalities/

Maybe I’m a little old fashioned, but I still enjoy a good hardback book over reading something on my Kindle. I also cherish the home bookshelf with my collection of ‘real’ books, and it appears the younger generation has discovered the same passion. Enjoy!

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The 10 Most Important Books to Expand Your Brain


The Ten Most Important Books To Expand Your Brain

http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2015/09/books-brain-expand/

(1) “MASTERY” by Robert Greene

This book is like a curated version of 1000 biographies all under the guise, “how to become a master at what you love”.

(2) “BOLD” by Peter Diamondis and Steven Kotler

Basically if you want to know the future, read this. Supplement it with “Abundance” by the same two and “Tomorrowland” by Steven Kotler” and even “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley. I feel “Abundance” is like a sequel to “The Rational Optimist”. So I’m giving you four books with one recommendation.

(3) “OUTLIERS” by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell is not the first person to come up with the 10,000 hour rule. Nor is he the first person to document what it takes to become the best in the world at something. But his stories are so great as he explains these deep concepts. How did the Beatles become the best? Why are professional hockey players born in January, February and March? And so on.

(4) “WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM” by Steven Johnson

Also add to this: “How We Got to Now” by Steven Johnson. Basically: don’t believe the myth of the lonely genius. Ideas come from a confluence of history, “the adjacent possible” specific geographic locations, etc. The connections Johnson makes are brilliant. For instance, The Gutenberg Press (which, in itself, was invented because of improvements in sewing looms), made everyone realize they had bad vision. So the science of lenses was created. So microscopes were eventually created. So germs were eventually discovered. So modern medical science was discovered. And so on. Johnson is a thinker and a linker and tells a good story.

(5) “MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING” by Victor Frankl

I’m at a loss for words here. Just read it. Don’t read it for the Holocaust. Or psychological theory. Read it because when you’re about halfway through you will realize your life is no longer the same. And next time you get a chance to whisper in the ear of someone about to kill himself, whisper words from this book.

(6) “BORN STANDING UP” by Steve Martin

And while you are at it, throw in “Bounce” by Mathew Syed, who was the UK Ping Pong champion when he was younger. I love any book where someone took their passion, documented it, and shared it with us. That’s when you can see the subleties, the hard work, the luck, the talent, the skill, all come together to form a champion. Heck, throw in, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Earth” by Commander Chris Hadfield.

(7) “ZERO TO ONE” by Peter Thiel

There’s a lot of business books out there. 99% of them are BS. Read this one. So many concepts really changed my attitude about not only business but capitalism. Thiel, the founder of PayPal, and first investor in Facebook, is brilliant in how he simply shares his theories on building a billion dollar business. I love his story on my podcast what exactly happened in the room when a 24 year old Mark Zuckerberg was offered $250,000,000 and refused it in two minutes.

(8) “QUIET” by Susan Cain

Probably half the world is introverts. Maybe more. It’s not an easy life to live. I sometimes have that feeling in a room full of people, “uh-oh. I just shut down. I can’t talk anymore and there’s a lock on my mouth and this crowd threw away the key.” Do you ever get that feeling? Please? I hope you do. Let’s try to lock eyes at the party. “Quiet” shows the reader how to unlock the secret powers that probably half the world needs to unlock. And, please Susan Cain come on my podcast.

(9) “ANTIFRAGILE” by Nassim Taleb

And throw in “The Black Swan” and “Fooled by Randomness”. “Fragile” means if you hit something might break. “Resilient” means if you hit something, it will stay the same. On my podcast Nassim discusses “Antifragility” – building a system, even on that works for you on a personal level, where you if you harm your self in some way it becomes stronger. That podcast changed my life. He discusses Antifragility throughout history, up to our current economic situation, and even in our personal situations.

(10) “MINDSET” by Carol Dweck

Again, I am fascinated by the field of mastery. Not self-improvement (eat well, sleep well, etc) but on how can you continue a path of improvement so that you can really enjoy the subtleties at a very deep level of whatever it is you love. Carol Dweck, through massive research and storytelling, shows the reader how to continue on the path of improvement and why so many people fall off that path.

In case you’re one of the few folks out there that’s never heard of James Altucher, let me briefly introduce you. According to Wikipedia, James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, and podcaster. He has founded or co-founded over 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr and claims to have failed at 17 of them. He has published 11 books, and is a frequent contributor to publications including the Financial Times, TheStreet.com, TechCrunch, Seeking Alpha, Thought Catalog, and the Huffington Post. USA Today named his book, “Choose Yourself” among the 12 Best Business Books of All Time, therefore another title to add to the Important Book list.

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Recommended Top 12 Special Operations Reading List


Daring to Win by David Eshel

Leaders and Battles by W. J. Wood

War of the Flea by Robert Taber

The Mission, the Men, and Me by Pete Blaber

US Army Small Unit Tactics Handbook by Paul LeFavor

The Raid by Benjamin F. Schemmer

Operation Jedburgh by Colin Beavan

On Guerrilla Warfare by Mao Tse Tung

White Tigers by Col. Ben S. Malcolm

From OSS to Green Berets by Col. Aaron Bank

Green Eyes and Black Rifles by Kyle E. Lamb

Spec Ops by Adm. William H. McRaven

 

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