Thankful, angry, sad, confused, and embarrassed

Thanks everyone!
The launch party for Uncommon Stock last Friday went fabulously and it was wonderful to see so many friends and readers. In my view, book launch parties have a single purpose: a big thank you for all the people close to the author who made the book possible. In Uncommon Stock's case that's a big list: from the folks at Techstars who have been such allies and supporters throughout the launch, to my dear friends and editor, to my new publisher FG Press, to my parents and fiancee who were my backbone throughout the creative process. It was touching and deeply empowering for me to have everyone there.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came, wanted to come, or helped out.

It's a truism among authors that all press is good press. A recent development has convinced me that's not the case. Susan Mernit with Oakland Local, a wonderful community news resource in my hometown, just published an extremely disrespectful and disheartening piece on our launch party. Go read it right now. Then come back and finish reading this post.

I was shocked. 

Just to give you some background, Susan reached out to me and FG Press during our launch week to express her enthusiasm and to do a local author story. FG Press and I immediately followed up. I offered to make time for an interview at her convenience and sent her a free review copy. She never responded.

But any author knows that journalists are often hot and cold. My perspective is that I'm always grateful for anyone's interest, even if it never leads anywhere. So I included Susan on my personal invite list for the launch party even though we'd never met.

Susan attended the launch party on Friday and then proceeded to write and publish an article packed to the gills with lies and misinformation. Her chief complaint seems to be that despite her self-proclaimed "strong social skills" she didn't have a good time. Also despite those skills, she never approached me at the event or introduced herself and I had no idea she was there despite the fact that I was spending the entire time thanking friends and meeting new supporters. This from someone who had previously requested an interview and never followed up. Interesting.

Then she stepped it up a notch and compared our guests to invading technocrati:

And I thought about the growing network of Google and Yahoo buses picking up their workers in West Oakland and on Market Street, and I started to feel like I had to say something to these mostly white, mostly male, clearly privileged start-up folks who were now starting to show up in Oakland.

The "clearly privileged" folks she's describing have no first-class busses ferrying them to work everyday. They are entrepreneurs that are putting their lives and livelihoods on the line to make a difference. These comments, sprinkled throughout the article, are baseless and crass. Susan simultaneously demeans them and counts herself among Techstars alumni as a media entrepreneur herself. I hope this article doesn't indicate the quality of journalism to which her team aspires.

And most importantly,  I’d like these young dudes coming to my town to actually see ALL the people coming up in tech in Oakland around me–the many Black, Latino, queer, female, and trans folks who, like all of us, show up in so many different ages, styles, and sizes, but who have a place, just like the white bros do.
And  if these new folks coming into Oakland can’t see the folks who are already here, can’t change, I’d like them to just get the F* out of the way and take one of those corporate buses right back to where they came from .
Again, despite Susan's "strong social skills" she seemed to have neglected the multiple female founders at the event. She didn't reach out to the women-of-color entrepreneurs either. She also appears to have never read Uncommon Stock. Inequality in the tech world is one of the major themes and the protagonist is an African American female CEO. I cofounded my first company with three women, one from Mexico and one from Colombia. My female entrepreneur friends are an ongoing source of inspiration for all my writing. I wish I could count Susan among them instead of against them.

But apparently it wasn't enough to insult the guests at large, she wanted to make it personal:


So I made my way across the room, through the bustling crowd, to this mature lady who looked friendly. ”So what brings you here?” I said when I got to her, after we exchanged greetings.
“Oh I’m Eliot’s mother,” she replied. “The author.”
And then I got it.  The Mom thing.
I was at a book party for Tech Stars founders and friends in Emeryville and because I was over 50 and didn’t look like the young ones, I’d been profiled by them as a Mom, a Mom  just like their Moms.
It was the “Mom wouldn’t possibly get it “ thing young male founders do when they talk about making their products easy to understand, but they were applying it to me while I was right in the room –based on how I looked to them I was seen as a person who was not cool and would not get what they were talking about.
I also realized that now that I’d moved into the Mom corner of the party and was chatting with the real mom of the author/Tech Stars alum, my chances of talking to anyone there about their company,  their experience at Tech Stars, or any of the other things I’d gone there thinking I’d talk about (like finding founders to profile for Live Work Oakland)  had likely dropped to zero.
Seriously? She actually just found a roundabout way to insult my mother. This was a book launch party. It's all about saying thank you to friends and family. My mom had a wonderful time meeting all the guests. And I was honored that she was there to support me. Hell, all the bedtime stories she read to me as a kid sparked my love for books. If anything, my mom was the most important person at the launch party and Susan was lucky to have met her.

Mom, thanks again for all your help and support along the way. It turns out that there are still people out there who could use your lessons on kindness and respect.

Ironically, I completely agree with some of Susan's comments:

Yes, the Oakland tech scene is starting to take off, but that doesn’t mean we want to swap out what we have begun to create for the bad behaviors of bigger tech communities.  Rockbot co-founder Garrett Dodge–whose company is expanding in Oakland- recently told a reporter, ”the sense of place here isn’t about tech–it’s a sense of  community with our friends,” and that’s the way I hope the growing Oakland tech ecosystem rolls. 
As a city with a history of supporting labor, strong African-American leadership, an amazingly diverse workforce (170 different languages spoken here!), and one of the largest queer women’s communities in the Bay, Oakland can meet the need for accessible real estate and offer a talent pool for growing software and advanced manufacturing companies without becoming as insular as Silicon Valley or as arrogant as parts of San Francisco.
I love Oakland with all its magic and its quirks and I've been an evangelist for the city for years. I was born here. I grew up around 51st and Telegraph. I now live over in Gaskill. Oakland is packed with the most interesting people on Earth. There's a feeling of creativity and momentum that has been building for decades. Small business owners are changing the ways things get done. Residents are cleaning up neighborhoods. Artists are pushing the boundaries of design. History and diversity are two of Oakland's most valuable resources and are serving the city incredibly well. I'm proud to be a local author born-and-bred. It's not a satellite of San Francisco in any way. It's a metropolis in itself and the most exciting one in America at that. 

At the party, Susan happily snacked on pizza from Arizmendi, a local coop three blocks from our home. She sipped on beer from Linden St. Brewery, a down-to-earth joint near the Port in West Oakland. This launch party was as Oakland as they come. They fact that Susan tries to alienate us from our roots here makes me question her credentials at "Oakland Local."

Reading the story made me angry but finishing it left me sad, confused, and embarrassed.

Sad because I deeply believe in Oakland Local's mission and a story with this many lies and misinformation woven through it devalues their platform and all the hard work of true Oakland locals everywhere.

Confused because Susan never actually talked to me despite the free copy we sent her and the invitation she accepted and instead chose to write an article based on profound ignorance that seems try to play off every opportunistic buzzword in the book.

Embarrassed because my dearest friends, family, and readers, the very people I threw the event to thank, were publicly insulted as a result of attending a Uncommon Stock's book launch.

Susan, I'm a writer. I get negative reviews all the time and have to grow thick skin to work past them and draft the next book. So don't apologize to me.

But as a journalist and a human being, please apologize to my mom and to everyone at last Friday's event. It's the least you can do.

Party time!

This Friday March 28th we're throwing a launch party for Uncommon Stock from 6-9PM and you're invited!

Given that the book is a thriller about tech startups, I'm excited that a real-life tech startup, Elihuu, is hosting the event in Emeryville. Their CEO, Dorian Ferlauto, is a nonfiction Mara Winkel. Not only that, but this will be an official event for world-leading startup accelerator, Techstars, so we'll have the next generation of top entrepreneurs in attendance. Cool, right?

To sweeten the pot, we'll have delicious craft beer from Oakland's beloved Linden St. Brewery and gourmet pizzas from Arizmendi. We'll also have a few fun surprises and competitions so you really don't want to miss out. All of you, my friends and readers, have been instrumental in Uncommon Stock's success so far and this is one of the many ways I plan to thank you for all your continued support. You guys rock! And a party where we all get to sip on brews and shoot the breeze? Who can say no to that?

So how can you get on the exclusive list for this red-carpet, VIP-only gathering?

Invite: http://uncommonstockparty.eventbrite.com
Password: uncommonstock

RSVP ASAP and make sure to register as "FG Press" guests. Can't wait to see you on Friday!

Naked in every way

Last night I had the pleasure to attend a FutureCast interview between bestselling author Andrew Keen of TechCrunch fame and entrepreneur/filmmaker/Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain. For Tiffany, it was the final global premier of the day for her fantastic new short film The Science of Character (super cool and only 8 minutes long). The event focused on the future of collaborative media and Andrew was kind enough to include me in the conversation with some fun questions about what we're doing with Uncommon Stock. The entire discussion was filmed and I'll post a link to watch it once it goes live on the FutureCast site.

The conversation centered on how technology is changing storytelling. Tiffany's been at the cutting edge of these trends for years and there were a few powerful takeaways:
  1. Intimacy. Technology is bridging the gap between storytellers and story lovers. You can follow your favorite authors on Twitter and see what they eat for breakfast. You can interact with your favorite musicians and comment on their blog posts. My favorite example was Tiffany's practice of always looking directly at the camera instead of over-the-shoulder shots. It makes it feel like she's talking directly to you. The flip side of this newfound intimacy is that it's so easy for people to sniff out anything that's not authentic. So be yourself and share you art, don't spin it.
  2. Blurred lines. Storytellers and story lovers aren't just getting more intimate, sometimes its not even clear who is who. Amazon's Kindle Worlds program allows readers to publish official fan fiction and reap direct royalties off of it. Mara, Uncommon Stock's protagonist, has had numerous Twitter conversations with real-life venture capitalists about investing in her fictional startup. Tiffany coined the term "cloud filmmaking." Many of her films incorporate content from hundreds of people she's invited to contribute from around the world, truly collaborative productions. 
  3. Transmedia. Technology is transforming the shape of content. Is a Kindle ebook still a book? Is a Youtube clip a film? What if a fictional character has a social media presence or a book has a teaser trailer? Artists of all stripes are leveraging technology to express themselves through channels nobody could have imagined before.
The event was about the future of media. But I think the trend is the reverse. Technology isn't creating some wholly new future. Instead, it's returning storytelling to its roots: tales woven around campfires. It's an art that's being re-democratized by the Internet. Now nobody can stand in the way of your relationship with your fans. The best storytellers are naked in every way: they're intimate, authentic, and use every tool at their disposal to realize imagination.

Launch highlight reel: week one

For all of you who have been following Uncommon Stock's launch this past week, here's the highlight reel of updates:

All of our success so far (and any to come) has been based solely on one thing: the support of friends and readers. We have yet to spend a single dollar on marketing. The path to publication is lined with a thousand favors and I need your help. 

Do you have ideas for a guerrilla marketing stunt? Have a friend who might want to review the book on their blog? Know someone at Google who can set up a book talk? Need content for your next newsletter? Want a review copy? Email me (elpeper [at] gmail [dot] com).

The three most important things are (1) buy the book, (2) read it and review it, and (3) share it with your friends (social media, word of mouth, etc.).

I've been completely blown away by the response so far and I know it's all thanks to you. I deeply appreciate your help and enthusiasm and I find it deeply cool that you're finally enjoying the story alongside me. Now, back to writing the next book...

My fiancee Drea treats me to dinner on launch day!


The heart of the start

What's going on inside the heads of top tech CEOs? Leading venture investor Brad Feld was kind enough to host a guest article of mine on using the power of Startup Fiction to illuminate the inner lives of entrepreneurs. You can read the full story on his blog, here's a brief excerpt from Brad:

It’s been a blast to get to know and work with Eliot Peper. His book, Uncommon Stock, is the first one that we published at FG Press. If you want to read – and comment – along with me, grab a copy of Uncommon Stock on BookShout.

I asked Eliot to write a short post about how he’s feeling and thinking about the category of “startup fiction” now that the book is out in the wild and he’s getting some great feedback.

Following are his thoughts.

Business case studies have wrestled through many different components of entrepreneurship. Bloggers and Quora have picked up the slack for the situations those case studies miss. Management books delve into every nook and cranny of strategy and tactics. Talking heads discuss the ins and outs of everything from product development to investment theory. Gurus wax lyrical about vision and lean, focused execution.

But there’s one critical piece of entrepreneurship that these experts miss. Their analyses emphasize the rational. They draw out lessons-learned from business experiences and try to share best practice with aspiring entrepreneurs. Knowledge is important and many experts are happy to share their thoughts (whether you want to hear them or not!). But they too often focus on the brain at the expense of the heart...

Read the full story here.

Learn the most important business lessons from… novels?

A couple of weeks ago Brad Feld forwarded me an email from Orr Ben-Zvy. Orr was frustrated because he couldn’t seem to find any business fiction books that explore the internal drama of startups. His email resonated with me because it was the exact problem that I had emailed Brad about a year and a half before. It was the problem that inspired Uncommon Stock. I'm a huge fan of giving readers a voice and Orr was kind enough to agree to share the story of his search.

Tucker Max is one of the most influential people in my life only I have never spoken to him, I don’t admire most of his life choices, and I have a completely different personality type. But he wrote an article that contained the single most important piece of advice I have ever read. The article was simple and thoughtfully laid out but the message can be whittled down to two words: READ BOOKS.

While in college, I took those words to heart and have since consumed hundreds of books. As an entrepreneur, books are an invaluable resource and guide through the journey of starting a business. I have read almost every book on Amazon’s 50 best sellers for business and the next 50 for entrepreneurship. That’s when I discovered something counterintuitive: fiction was much more useful than nonfiction.

The reason isn’t that business nonfiction books are bad. It’s how we consume the story. In nonfiction, the solution is presented and then an example is shown on how to solve the problem but (at least in my case) the reaction is almost always “Ya, but my issue is unique!” That’s why I love fiction. The characters struggle. The solution is vague and they fumble around searching for a light switch in the dark. As the reader, I get a secret window into their issues and thought processes. Whether or not it’s intentional, the author creates a business mentor who can share their story in a way that I will never forget.

Unfortunately, finding business fiction is incredibly difficult. People love to listen, read, and watch stories. We love drama. Starting or running a business is all drama. I never understood why so many people shy away from the subject. My frustration led me to cold emailing Brad Feld, who I’m pretty sure had one of his companies implant a book processing device. I wanted a recommendation for a fiction book with a positive outlook on business. He could only think of one, Uncommon Stock, and it hadn’t even been released yet.

I’m grateful to Eliot for sending me an early version of the manuscript and I highly encourage everyone to read it themselves. It was a fun and refreshing story that I have been searching for a long time. I often caught myself smiling along the way as the characters experienced some of the frustrations that I have endured and enjoyed learning a new perspective on how to solve a few issues I am struggling with today.

Lastly, I’m always looking for book recommendations (on any topic) and, if you’re looking for a few yourself, feel free to email me at obenzvy@gmail.com

Uncommon Stock debuts at #8 in its category on Amazon

All I can say is, WOW! You guys rock my world. Yesterday, Uncommon Stock debuted at #8 in its category on Amazon. That's insane.

And you know what? We didn't spend a single dollar on marketing. What does that mean? It means that you guys are the most incredible group of friends and readers that an indie author could hope for. That's right, it's all thanks to YOU.

#8 on day one! Hi there, Mr. Penumbra.
Writing a book means a lot of time by yourself but launching a book is all about community. Brad, Dane, Eugene, and the authors at FG Press blew my mind with their support. You guys, my friends, family, and readers took it to a level I never thought was possible. Together our voices can sing above the cacophony. Yesterday was an Olympic sprint and we killed it, tag team style.

But book launches are marathons, and we're only now starting our journey. It's time to turn up the volume and create momentum that amplifies our success so far. This is super important because we want Amazon's algorithms to peg us as a snowball title and start cross-listing for recommendations which creates a positive feedback loop.

I can't do it alone but, luckily, I've got best group of friends on Earth on my team. Everyone's been asking what they can do to help. How ridiculously cool is that?! It blows me away every time.

Here's what you can do:
  1. Purchase a copy, gift a copy, and share this Amazon link as far and wide as possible, nothing is more important than driving sales here right now: http://amzn.to/1i9KtoS
  2. Leave a review on Amazon/Goodreads/your own channels and share your thoughts on the book with your friends over a coffee or craft beer.
  3. Keep the magic flowing. Write about it on your blog, amplify posts, comments, articles, etc. through social media (ammunition content below). For you reference: #UncommonSTOCK, @eliotpeper, @MaraWinkel, @FGPress.
  4. Think outside the box. Going to SXSW? Can you give Uncommon Stock a call out in a presentation or pull a fun stunt? Do you need a speaker for an event on startups/tech/entrepreneurship/publishing, etc.? Would your company/organization/club/school like to do a bulk purchase, event, or feature in their newsletter? 
  5. Explore new channels. We're building a killer track record (see below) that should help us generate additional press coverage (another positive feedback loop). Can you introduce me to any bloggers/media folks/influencers who might be interested in doing a story? My press kit is available here.
  6. Share this post with anyone who might be willing to help or who's dreamed of writing a book.
Thank you for all of your amazing efforts. It's unreal to have such an accomplished and supportive groups of helping hands. Let's go get 'em!

Here's the quick and dirty update on Uncommon Stock's first day out of the gate:
  • Uncommon Stock debuted at #8 in Technothriller books, #9 in Technothriller ebooks, and #25 in Thriller ebooks overall, and #1196 in the entire Kindle store. Holy shit. That is ridiculously awesome.
  • We are currently on Amazon's list for "Hot New Releases" in Technothrillers. FYI, this is one of the reasons we have to keep the good mojo flowing. The further, faster, and harder we push, the more that Amazon's algorithms start to snowball and take on a life of their own.
  • Uncommon Stock currently has an average 4.9 star Amazon rating on a base of 28 reviews. It also has a Goodreads rating of 5 stars on a base of 4 reviews.
  • Amazon link (again): http://amzn.to/1i9KtoS
  • Book landing page with free excerpt: http://bit.ly/1gRTfXz
  • FG Press store link (currently the only place to order print copies): http://bit.ly/1fbFLmY
  • My press kit: http://bit.ly/1dwM5ZZ
  • "Startups get the 'John Grisham' treatment in entrepreneur-turned-author's new novel": http://bit.ly/P2SZ0D
  • "Meet the 'Lara Croft' of startup founders": http://bit.ly/1ieTOfd
  • World leading startup accelerator Techstars announces giving the book to all current and future founders: http://bit.ly/1fHrncj
  • "Uncommon Stock - The First Book From FG Press": http://bit.ly/1icEB2w
  • "Introducing FG Press & Uncommon Stock - a new Startup Thriller": http://bit.ly/1dsAATf
  • "Uncommon Stock: a (fiction) E-book About a Tech Startup": http://bit.ly/1mZS13X
  • My launch day blog post: http://bit.ly/P0wPvP
  • Uncommon Stock received shout-outs yesterday from bestselling authors William Hertling, Ramez Naam, David Kadavy, Victor Hwang, Jason Gurley, and Phil Simon
  • David Cohen invited Mara, the protagonist of the story, to apply for Techstars and Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson agreed to consider investing in her startup :). Her voice was compared to Scarlett Johansson and FAKEGRIMLOCK live-tweeted his reading experience of the book.
  • Seriously, check out the Twitter battle from yesterday between Mara and Brad Feld. It was epic (#UncommonSTOCK, @MaraWinkel, @eliotpeper, @bfeld, @jasonmendelson, etc.).
  • We have received inquiries for interviews, voice acting for the audiobook, and writers/marketers wanting to know the secret of how we're orchestrating PR.
Ready for it? Here's the secret: this post + you guys = UNSTOPPABLE. Break out your sneakers, we've got a marathon to run.

All thanks to YOU!




Uncommon Stock launches today!

Available now!
Wow! It's been quite the twisty road getting here but Uncommon Stock is finally shipping. You can order it now from Amazon and other major retailers (if you want a print copy, please order through FG Press for the moment). You can even download a free excerpt here.

Now, I need five minutes of your help.

To be honest, I can't really believe this is happening. I keep pinching myself to make sure I'm not stuck in some backchannel of The Matrix. But somehow it is real. And readers are already getting to know Mara, James, and the other characters.

I started writing Uncommon Stock because I couldn't seem to find much startup fiction to read. Working with entrepreneurs and venture investors everyday, I experienced first-hand all the courage, despair, loyalty, ambition, and betrayal in the world of tech startups and wanted to help people get an entertaining sneak peak behind the curtain.

Uncommon Stock isn't the Next Great American Novel by any means. That wasn't and isn't my goal for the book. But at some point during the writing process, Mara started making decisions I hadn't anticipated and the story started to really come together. My grandest hope is that at least a few readers connect with the characters, engage with the story, and get an entertaining glimpse of the magical emotional kernel at the center of entrepreneurship.

Many people think of writing as a solo affair but I've experienced the complete opposite. Brad Feld, the leading venture capital investor, read countless early drafts and provided suggestions and encouragement along the way. The team at FG Press shocked me by requesting that Uncommon Stock be the lead title for their groundbreaking new publishing company. Many friends and colleagues helped shape the story as beta readers, Jason Gurley crafted an absolutely kickass cover, and my editors helped keep me in line with Track Changes. My beautiful fiancee Drea kept me sane, supported me every moment, and spurred me to new heights. Bestselling authors William Hertling, Robin Sloan, Daniel Suarez, Ramez Naam, and Hugh Howey have even provided occasional encouragement along the way.

But today is launch day. Today is the day I need YOUR help. As a first-time author without a traditional New York publishing company at my back, I unfortunately don't get champagne-soaked Gulfstream rides between my appearances on The Daily Show and Oprah (I'm actually convinced that nobody gets this kind of treatment but we can all dream, right?). Instead, all of my "PR" efforts are driven by one person: you.

Books live or die based on a single question: are they good enough that people recommend them to their friends? At the end of the day, readers are the only people that matter. I would rather have one happy reader than a hundred marketing directors. Authors launch books along a path of a thousand favors, but I'll start with five. This is what you can do to help:

  1. Buy a copy on Amazon right now. Amazon's sales algorithms favor titles that start strong and snowball. Your order will help build that momentum. Consider gifting it to friends/family/colleagues. It costs $4.99, just a tad more than that fancy cappuccino you're sipping on.
  2. Write a review on Amazon and Goodreads. This is critical. Reviews make a massive impact on readers browsing for their next book. I know it's how I make many of my purchase decisions! Longer reviews are better and the best reviewers detail how the story impacted them and what it made them think about. I read every single review and take them extremely seriously.
  3. MAKE SOME NOISE! Capital letters really are loud, aren't they? It's launch day and I want the neighbors to call the police on this party. Share through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. (#UncommonSTOCK). Email everyone you know with the landing page and free excerpt. Mention the book at happy hour. Tell your office you're buddies with the author. I've included some links at the end of this post to help.
  4. Hook it up. Introduce me to bloggers/media folks/speaking events/influencers/etc. These kinds of people can really help amplify the message so that more readers get the chance to connect. Know someone in a book club? Have a friend who works for Techrunch? Are you an alumni of a university or startup incubator? Have a friend with a Gulfstream? Is Ashton Kutcher your cousin? We all have many more networks at our disposal than we realize and any introductions here would be incredible, no venue is too grand or humble for reviews/interviews/speaking events/etc. Anyone can access my press kit here.
  5. Take a deep breath. Sandy Grason, a bestselling author herself, gave me some great advise yesterday: celebrate those perfect moments. It's so easy to get sucked into the rigors and thrills of life and sometimes you just have to step back and bask in a sense of wonder at it all. I'm launching my first book today. This is a perfect moment for me. So, please, raise a proverbial glass and think about all the people and magic that you're grateful for in your own life. It's an amazing day to be alive!
Hopefully, that didn't take you more than five minutes. It's simultaneously humbling and empowering to have you at my back. Nobody knows when or whether Uncommon Stock will find commercial success. But that's not the success I'm after anyway. If one reader connects with the story and characters, that alone will make it all worth it. Writing is a joy in itself and a constant reminder that the path is much more important than the summit. Hell, I'm already hard at work on my next book. Look for it later this year.

Thank you for all your help and generosity. You are the inspiration that keeps me writing.


As promised, here are some links to help with sharing:

Book landing page (with free excerpt!): https://fgpress.leadpages.net/uncommon-stock/
Mara's handle: @MaraWinkel https://twitter.com/MaraWinkel
My handle: @eliotpeper https://twitter.com/eliotpeper
FG Press' handle: @fgpress https://twitter.com/fgpress
Launch hashtag: #UncommonSTOCK