What can I say about the “book shot?” It is intended to be exactly what it sounds like – a short, bare-bones bit of fiction to read in a single sitting.You know, just like any shot – it works quickly, in a single dose.Tastes change…but what was wrong with “novella?” Novella is a perfectly good, in fact, mellifluous word to describe a short novel. Many people continue to use it, and it works quite well.Serials also work for this kind of thing. That’s sort of the point…get a dose of fiction, with an enforced break. Pick it back up with the next release.There are, in fact, dozens of different ways we consume content in short bursts without concocting phrases that feel, well, gimmicky. Here are just a few avenues:

  • Wattpad and similar platforms
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter – people have actually tweeted whole stories!
  • Self-hosted blogs (hello?!)
  • Novellas (ahem)
  • Serials – either published individually or purchased through subscription
  • Graphic novels
  • Comics
  • Anthologies
  • Single short stories (read: One Story’s literary zine format but also things like individually published ebooks)
  • Literary magazines
  • Chapbooks (usually for poetry, but often consumable within a single sitting!)
  • Vlogs – another way to share story!
  • Podcasts – of course! And the benefit of this is you can listen while doing other things!
  • Plays – this is date material for the social story consumer!
  • Live storytelling – also date material, and totally awesome!

When we line up all these different ways we consume story, it seems strange to rename one. It just feels commercial as opposed to authentic. I don’t doubt this was intentional, which begs the question, why?I’ve read a LOT of things about storytelling because it’s important to who I am. I read a lot about word usage because likewise, that’s important – not just to what I do, but to anyone who uses language.Santa Barbara wine, strawberries, and fudge torte are more my speed than jello shots.Words shape reality. They also have cultural connotations. What does “book shot” say to me? What comes to mind?

  • Alcohol
  • Jello shots
  • Consumption
  • Carelessness
  • Over-indulgence
  • Superficiality
  • Pulp

That’s what comes to mind for me. I literally see people throwing back jello shots and licking alcohol out of one another’s navels when I hear “book shot.”What’s the big deal?It’s not…necessarily. It’s not necessarily a big deal if someone wants to use different words to describe something. If that feels like something to increase their relevancy, they should do it. I can see it appealing to some people, and frankly, everyone needs a little escape now and then.I know part of the goal was to get new people interested in reading (an untapped market!). It was to increase relevancy… but in that light it feels like desperation. Gimmicks work on some people… especially those who haven’t developed critical thought or media literacy. They may hear “book shot,” think it’s funny, and pick one up. Some may even pick up such a book because they know it’s a gimmick and they’re curious. I can see all these things happening.It’s the whole, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” deal. Let the haters hate – it will still point people my way.In fact, for some time, I thought I shouldn’t write about this because it just raises attention on something that appears, superficially, as something based in desperation.Why It Does MatterThe “book shot” does matter for a few reasons, especially for those of us who live with intention. It’s an indicator. That someone would use a phrase that conjures pictures of jello shots and navel licking substance binges to “rebrand” an old idea is an indicator not only of the person doing this, but the culture at large. I’m not against physical pleasure by any means (in fact, quite the opposite), but excessive indulgence can be extremely harmful to the self and others. Clearly James Patterson thought there were enough hurting people filling a void and familiar with the concept that it would hit home.It’s also indicates problems with our culture’s management of time and attention (or at least our perception of it). If we moved slowly in life, we’d have no problem reading a book of any length. In fact, we could break it up (as I’ve been doing with Harriet Levin Millan’s novel) using a bookmark (or in a pinch, an old receipt would do).In these matters, I think James Patterson is wrong. Younger people do fewer drugs than they did in the past, and people enjoy things like serials, blogs, and all manner of storytelling forms. They keep coming back. Long form pieces actually perform BETTER than shorter posts, as a general rule. People tend to read the WHOLE thing, and often click to another post afterwards (I do this EVERY time I read a blog post I like).As for reaching new demographics, we can’t please everyone all the time. There are some people who will never enjoy reading. That’s a thing. While I don’t understand it, I know it is possible and likely. There are others who will overcome incredible obstacles in order to read, including dyslexia on the one end, and access to school on the other.But the implications of the book shot don’t stop there – nor does James Patterson’s potential issues. And this is where intentional humans should take heed.I don’t know why Mr. Patterson felt the need to do this. I don’t know him personally, nor am I familiar with his work (except that he has scores of readers who devour his mystery novels). I can only respond to what I see from the outside, and how it feels.The intention behind rebranding novellas feels motivated by desperate fear, specifically greed. Desperation doesn’t attract people – it repels them. Anyone who’s been desperate for a romantic partner knows this. People smell desperation and run the opposite direction. This is because desperation is a feeling based in fear. In this case, fear of scarcity.For someone who has been as prolific and traditionally successful as James Patterson, it seems strange for him to make this kind of move. Why would such a person feel desperate to reach another market? He’s probably set for life financially. He doesn’t NEED to reach anyone else. And as far as I can tell, his reputation with many authors is – well, let’s just say that ship has sailed.This rebranding is the mark of old-school capitalist thought – sell them on something. Spin it. Create a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.I’ve got images of slicked back hair and gold chains in a used car lot. It feels inauthentic.And this is the final lesson of the book shot: be courageously authentic. Be real.If you’re like me and want a dose of authenticity, here are three newsletters I read regularly (Note: I’m not an affiliate or anything – I just really like them!):

  • Morgana Rae – This intuitive money guru is very genuine and I love how much her heart comes through her emails and posts. I actually look for her emails in my inbox because of how much I appreciate her heart-centeredness and honesty in her personal journey.
  • Bryan Harris – I love his newsletters because he breaks them up into parts and always gives you action items at the end. It’s a heavy dose of practical guidance, funny stories, and business tips. Also, I hear his Alabama accent in every word.
  • Mensah Demary – is a literary editor and writer, whose letters are elegant and poetic. They’re snapshots of writerly observation, and an attempt to grapple with the line between the creative mind and worldly practicality. I love his writing voice – he feels like a friend.

There’s more than enough space to be authentic. There’s genuine value in it and readers appreciate it. There’s more than enough space to be real because capitalism has been around long enough that selling converts people into commodities. I am not a commodity. I am a human being. I want relationship. I want a meal, not a jello shot.What do you think about the “book shot?” About authenticity in work you read and or write? Leave a comment!

Money, Intention, & Jello Shots
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