Archive for the ‘books’ Category
Looking for insight into the informal economy, the relationship between a lack of jobs and criminal activity, or ethnographic methods? UToronto sociologist (and CCNY and Graduate Center sociology alum!) Randol Contreras has agreed to do a virtual question and answer session here, at orgtheory, about his book The Stick Up Kids: Race, Drugs, Violence, and the American Dream (University of California Press 2012). Read the book (ch. 1 excerpt is available here). Check back with orgtheory to post your questions during the week of April 6!
A blurb about the book:
Randol Contreras came of age in the South Bronx during the 1980s, a time when the community was devastated by cuts in social services, a rise in arson and abandonment, and the rise of crack-cocaine. For this riveting book, he returns to the South Bronx with a sociological eye and provides an unprecedented insider’s look at the workings of a group of Dominican drug robbers. Known on the streets as “Stickup Kids,” these men raided and brutally tortured drug dealers storing large amounts of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and cash.
As a participant observer, Randol Contreras offers both a personal and theoretical account for the rise of the Stickup Kids and their violence. He mainly focuses on the lives of neighborhood friends, who went from being crack dealers to drug robbers once their lucrative crack market opportunities disappeared. The result is a stunning, vivid, on-the-ground ethnographic description of a drug robbery’s violence, the drug market high life, the criminal life course, and the eventual pain and suffering experienced by the casualties of the Crack Era.
Provocative and eye-opening, The Stickup Kids urges us to explore the ravages of the drug trade through weaving history, biography, social structure, and drug market forces. It offers a revelatory explanation for drug market violence by masterfully uncovering the hidden social forces that produce violent and self-destructive individuals. Part memoir, part penetrating analysis, this book is engaging, personal, deeply informed, and entirely absorbing.
A colleague emailed me to ask whether I thought hiring a PR specialist would be helpful for getting the word out about a forthcoming university press book. While a university press will send books to venues at the author’s request and place ads in academic venues like the Chronicle of Higher Ed, the author may consider doing more, usually using his/her own resources. Looking at the book publicist’s webpage, buying this person’s services would mean access to radio talk shows.
Based on conversations with book authors over the years, I know that opinions vary about how much effort authors should expend to publicize their work:
At one end, one colleague thought that the “work should stand on its own.” While it’s possible that an audience will flock to an unpublicized book, not doing anything to announce the arrival of a book could effectively consign years of work to the remainders shelf of a bookstore basement or warehouse.
At another end, a few colleagues might go on the radio talk show circuit, give talks at universities, book stores, and other venues, do interviews with high profile magazines (possibly in exchange for a pricy ad placed), and have ads on public transit stations. The trade-off here is emotional energy expended and the opportunity cost of working on other projects, spending time with family/friends, etc.
For my book, I adopted a middle route:
– made a webpage
– joined facebook
– made postcards of the book cover and handed these out to colleagues at ASA and Burning Man attendees
– bought books (at author’s discount) to gift and share
– asked colleagues at universities to order the book for their libraries (note: this was during the financial meltdown, so some libraries were unable to order)
– said yes to invitations to give talks for classes
– guest-blogged on orgtheory and other venues
– did “author meets critics” sessions at regional association meetings
Colleagues have also noted that depending on a professional association’s rules, authors can self-nominate books for section or professional association awards.
So, orgtheory readers, soliciting your experiences and thoughts here:
What’s the sweet spot?
Is it worth a couple $K to hire someone to do publicity?
What tangibles and intangibles does an author get with this extra effort?
Please do share in the comments.
My former colleague Elizabeth Armstrong and IU alum Laura Hamilton have won the ASA Distinguished publication award for Paying for the Party, their much discussed book on the effects of the party scene on college students. Their book use ethnographic data to describe how the party scene disproportionately affects working class students and mitigates the returns on education. A must read for anyone interested in higher education.
My friend and co-author Michael Heaney will be speaking about Party in the Street this week. Here is the info:
- On Monday, Michael will be in Washington, will be at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. 6:30 pm, catch it if you can.
- On Tuesday, Michael will be in Chicago at the Seminary Coop bookstore. They will be starting a series called “Fresh Ayers” where Chicago activist Bill Ayers will host a series of book talks. Michael will be is the first guest.
- On Wednesday, Michael will be in New York (yes, I know, he’s a busy guy) at Books and Culture. He will be hosted by Dan Wang of the Columbia Business School.
Come out and support the book. We’d love to see you there!