Internations Book Club discussed Toxic Capitalism

Internations Book Club

In the afternoon of Sunday 26 February 2017 the Internations Book Club discussed Toxic Capitalism, in the Tree Gallery and Café, a nice coffeeshop near Capital Mansion and Liangma River – now closed as many other venues.

It was a lively discussion I enjoyed personally, always well hosted by Kevin.
More about Internations: https://www.internations.org/

Intro by Kevin Paul Gouldmann, Activity Host

At our next activity, Gilbert has kindly agreed to give a brief talk and join our discussion about his book.

Short bio

Gilbert Van Kerckhove, is from Belgium and graduated as master in electronic engineering.
Since 1980 he has been working with China, where he spent over 30 years, mostly in Beijing but also in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
He is the president of a Beijing-based management consulting that provides strategy guidance to foreign and Chinese companies.
Since 2000 he has been assisting the Beijing Municipality in the areas of economic studies and foreign investment promotion. He has received the highest Chinese awards for his role in the 2008 Olympics, including the Chinese Green Card. He considers Beijing his home.
He is an avid reader of regional and international news and has built a large database on issues related to the environment, economy, public services, trade, labor markets, and more.

The book

Toxic Capitalism criticizes the overconsumption and wastage caused by questionable companies, financial institutions and governments, and leading to depletion of natural resources and to environmental destruction.
Living in China, Gilbert became alarmed by the dramatic pollution levels and the impact of Toxic Capitalism – an unwelcome strain of capitalism that thrives on overconsumption and indiscriminate wastage, promoted by the West with the help of questionable companies, financial institutions and governments.
China, as Factory of the World, is facing depletion of resources and roams the world to satisfy its voracious appetite for energy, raw materials, and food.
How serious is the environmental destruction? Is capitalism fundamentally wrong? How did we come to this madness?
What can we do to preserve the future of our children?

The giant of self-publishing

Why Amazon

There is little doubt that Amazon is the giant of self-publishing. One can hate the company, one can have so many complaints about them but in the end, one has to swallow pride and criticism as it has become difficult to avoid the giant. They can be arrogant, at times chaotic and messed up, their rules can be irrational and obscure.
They are difficult to ignore as they become bigger by the day. Yes there is Apple and some others but…

I considered my project of publishing my book of jokes as a learning curve: to produce the files for print and for the Kindle, to register as an author on Amazon and then publishing. I hit a series of walls, got desperate, persevered and finally succeeded. The book is out in Kindle and print, all through Amazon USA.
It was a frustrating experience… But in the end, success!

Sorry you cannot publish on Amazon

Here more details on the story, already mentioned in an earlier post.
Once I felt my e-book and my print file were ready I logged on the Amazon U.S. site to register as an author, the first step. 

See: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?topicID=200620850.

I had prepared all I thought I needed, the description of the book, the keywords, the categories, the book blurb and my American ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).

The registration process was pretty complicated. I did it all very carefully, including the “tax interview”. I gave my official address in Beijing as well as my ITIN, getting the message back I could take advantage of the USA-China tax agreement. Hitting the final FINISH button, the operation never succeeded. There was “an error”, I should try again or contact their service. After many attempts I had to give up and contacted the service. And they replied – simply stating Amazon did not accept authors “based in China”. Do note this “rule” is nowhere mentioned on Amazon! What the hell, I am a Belgian national, my banking is located in Belgium. No way. I saw my dreams of becoming an indie author shattered.

Finally I switched to my official postal address for my banking mail, an address I use in Belgium. That however implied I could not use my USA-China tax advantage and I was notified I would have to pay the full USA 30% withholding tax. Yes, you can be on the moon but you are subject to U.S. tax. Sigh. Well at least I succeeded registering myself as an author.
If you reside in the USA it is all much more easy.

Important to note: one could say, why not register on Amazon China and to submit your book there? Well, books submitted there are rarely if ever approved for publishing.
Clearly Amazon wants to cozy up to the bosses in Beijing.
Also, it is not possible to publish a book in Chinese on Amazon. See the supported languages:

Next frustrating step: uploading my Kindle e-book

That resulted in a painful rejection as Amazon (I guess their automated Internet robots) found out “some of the content of my book was (freely) available on the wide Internet”. Of course it was true, due to the nature of my book.
I replied and explained in detail the reasons and did change a little my foreword. After a few desperate emails came an enigmatic reply: “please upload again”. I thought it was a meaningless thing to do. Guess what, it worked and my e-book was soon online.
The same happened submitting my print file, it was rejected again but soon after explaining and reloading – online too.
So, while Amazon seemed draconian one must admit they do listen to your explanation and are flexible. Thanks.

My books are for sale

So, both Kindle and print are on Amazon USA, and then also on all other Amazon sites around the world – except Amazon China.
I also decided to opt for the KDP Select program, for at least 90 days. That means I cannot publish anywhere else during that period.
Another strange thing: on Amazon USA when I check my book it says “This item does not ship to Beijing”. Some friends had doubts about that. So I ignored that warning and ordered ten copies to be sent to Beijing. Guess what, they arrived well in my Beijing home… Of course only ten copies as this is the maximum allowed to be imported per book (Chinese customs regulations).

And yes, my two books are now on sale in the Beijing Bookworm! See the pic. Toxic Capitalism is sold for 200 RMB and the Jokes for 150 RMB.

 

More copies of my books are with my daughters in Belgium and in USA and are arriving in Beijing. See the former stock in Brussels.

The little brother is born!

A difficult delivery

As I commented earlier, finally the little brother is born!
I always looked at my second book as a learning curve on how to completely self-publish. As expected, I often hit the wall and for sure it will not be the last time.
First of all I got refused as author to publish on Amazon (Kindle, KDP) because I reside in China. Nowhere on their website or publishing media this is mentioned. Until you fill out all info then, the web page stops working. I had to contact the service to get the explanation. Why? WTF, I am Belgian. Oh well, I changed my profile to my Belgian contact address and launched my Kindle book.
But then I got shot down because “some of my content was on the Internet”. Yeah of course it is because it is in a way a study and compilation of what is going around on the Internet, in emails, in chat rooms.
I gave KDP all the explanations and clarified that better in the Foreword of the book. Well, thanks to Amazon staff who accepted it and approved the ebook.
I then launched the print version, same objections, same explanation, then approved. Whew!

I had a proof copy made of the printed version, sent to my daughter in Brussels who checked it and sent me pics back. All OK, online!

The little brother is born! What’s his name?

See here the links to Amazon USA. Both versions are on all the Amazon sites worldwide.

“LAUGH AND GET WISER! Jokes and witty wisdom for adults” is out! The Kindle version US$2.99: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H291Z61
ASIN: B07H291Z61
Leave a comment after reading!

“LAUGH AND GET WISER! Jokes and witty wisdom for adults” is out! The print version US$19.99
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1720004226
ISBN: 9781720004226
Leave a comment after reading!
If you buy the print you can get the Kindle for US$0.99!

More about the content later!

The pricing

As I am completely doing self-publishing, I can fix the price myself.
Some books and ebooks set a too high price, pretty unreasonable especially for ebooks. See here some examples, typical when you depend on a “real” publishing house such as Springer:

I opted for a pretty low price, so one has no reason to complain about the cost: the Kindle goes for less than the price for a cup of coffee!
As for now the ebook is on KDP Select, that means only available on Amazon.

My first book will soon have a little brother

No, not my new book

I posted a picture on Facebook of a shipment that arrived in my Beijing home forces me to clarify that my first book will soon have a little brother.

“Toxic Capitalism” was published in 2012, through AuthorHouse – a bad experience. I have been regularly importing 120 copies to Beijing, selling myself and through the well-known book shop “The Bookworm”. See: http://beijingbookworm.com/

The last shipment was a near disaster. Suddenly Chinese customs did not allow anymore shipments of foreign books of more than ten copies. There was no way around it and I had to send back the shipment to the publishing company in the UK, They then sent 120 copies to my daughter in Brussels and now we are slowly getting copies to Beijing. The picture shows a recent arrival of ten copies, celebrated with a Pussy. Yeah that was to wake up dirty minds. It is a passion fruit drink from The Netherlands, now distributed in Beijing.
So many of my Facebook friends thought it was my recent publication…
A friend posted this pic, yes it is still for sale in The Bookworm:

My next book

People talk about “writer’s block”. I think I have many more “blocks”. One is to upload my e-book to Amazon, supposed to be done this week. Please check the definition of “procrastination”! I must hold a PHD in that field.
So what is the book about? Well, you will have to wait till it is out, in e-book and in print, all through Amazon. Kindle will be first. Basically everything is done. I just need to do the electronic paperwork on Kindle website… A bit scary.

How I did it

My first book was done 100% on MS Word. It was a very complicated document. That went to the publishing company that made the e-book and the print version. The design of the (front) cover page was done by ourselves, with daughter Valerie being the final artist.
This time, 100% self-publishing and the second book is a bit of a learning curve on how to do it. Book number three is still a work in progress.
The second book was originally started using MS Word. Then I switched to Scrivener, a special software to write books and – produce the versions for e-book and print.
Learning Scrivener was OK but compiling for print and e-book was a real challenge. After many failed attempts I have now mastered the settings. The print output, in MS Word (exported from Scrivener) is done, for a format 6 x 9 inches paperback; page count is 359.
The e-book, Kindle version is also ready.
I did not use an third-party editor because of the special nature of the book (yeah, suspense), but my daughter Marianne suggested a few corrections. But after some searching I first hired a cartoonist to make a cartoon according to me ideas. Then the cartoon was used by a service company that makes the cover page for the e-book as well as the wrap-around cover for the print version (front, back, spine). All done.

Writing requires never giving up

Writing is really hard

And writing requires never giving up. The example of JK Rowling is so emotionally moving – and encouraging –  for a small writer that I am. I still can’t believe how the lady did it all. Impressive.

See: “This Animation Of JK Rowling’s Life Is Seriously Powerful”
Posted by Doireann Garrihy – 29 Mar 2017
An animation that follows the life of JK Rowling has gone viral.
Starting with her being rejected from college at the age of 17, it goes through the journey of her miscarriage, her marriage breakdown and her severe depression.
http://www.spin1038.com/entertainment/this-animation-of-jk-rowlings-life-is-seriously-powerful

See here the clip directly:

How I came to write my first book

See the story here: https://www.damulu.com/about/
The problem was first of all to start the real writing. Jotting down ideas is not enough, one must start “the real stuff”. The way I managed to start was disappearing from Beijing, getting away from office and home. The first escape was near the Western Ming Tombs (Yixian County, Hebei), in early August 2009.

Some pictures of the guesthouse, its fabulous view on the lake (I think called Wolongshan Natural Scenic Area), and the tombs: Western Qing Tombs (Qing Xi Ling, 清西陵) in Yixian County, Baoding, Hebei. Pretty close to the new Xiongan Zone…

The second escape was to a small village in the far north east side of Beijing in Pinggu County near Hebei Province (late August 2009). See the “main road” that leads to a dam. the simple guesthouse and the local food. During the week the place is empty but in the weekend people from Beijing come in great numbers to eat the, yes, delicious food.
Later I simply retreated regularly to a modest IBIS Hotel not very far from home. No contact with others.

Another long night in IBIS

When I started working on Toxic Capitalism I somehow managed to do it all at my home office, mostly late at night and burning the midnight oil.

writing and thinking at the home office

The next challenge

I am working on a couple of books. I have set the goal of finishing two completely different books this year. I have scribbled tons of notes and collected newspaper clippings, plus some files in the computer.
But nothing really written yet for the “most important book challenge”. So, after months of doubts and overloaded schedule, I have finally decided: in May I will disappear… Hopefully to start building the foundations for the “Manifesto”.
The other book will be more easy, the main challenge will be to first master the needed software: Scrivener. The topic? Jokes… Yep. No kidding.