A Matter of Opinion

Not to knock housewives from Utah, except for Ms. Foster  who judges books by their title, or cover, or heaven knows, and pretty much killed sales of my CUBA book.  Maybe she thought it was a romance novel, or a cruise travel books with hints how to pour vodka into plastic water bottles and try to smuggle it on board, or how to travel around Cuba on $5 a day using US money, I don’t know.  I did do a little research on Amazon about her, her background, and what other books she had reviewed.  I promise, I did not judge her by her picture, nor that she reviewed the movie BAYWATCH and called it “A great movie!”  I’m sure if we’d met under different circumstances I would like her, which is the same way I felt about the woman who back ended my car, if you could forget about the damage.

I wrote this book primarily for the guests who travel with me on 10-day cruises around Cuba, so folks who’ve come to know Cuba.  I’ve never purchased my book on Amazon, but I have purchased a few hundred on Amazon’s Create Space company which I sell on board.  Uniformly the guests LOVE the book, judging it not just by the title or cover, but on the basis of their experiences in Cuba.

Ralph de la PortillaSo rather than just fret about Ms. Foster’s, in my humble opinion, warped review, I asked someone who really does know Cuba and know Cuba travel.  Ralph de la Portilla  describes himself as an “A B C” or an American-born Cuban.”  He is a professional travel guide, conducts gastronomic tours and other tours working with Little Havana Tours in Miami,  organizes group tours to Cuba, and has led tours for Collette, Classic Journeys and Road Scholar.  He holds a Master of Science degree from Florida International University School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

So here’s what Ralph had to say about the CUBA book …

Detrich’s publication on Cuba, “Cuba: A Guide For Cruising Around Cuba,” is required reading for the modern American traveler planning on visiting the island nation via cruise ship. It really is concise and delivers a realistic perspective of what one can expect of the ports of call that are frequented by cruise lines that circumnavigate the country. The book also offers a unique take on other destinations within Cuba that are certainly off the beaten path. The historical background and the various onshore activities are expertly delineated in this easy-to-read piece, and considering the fact that Cuba is one of the most complicated touristic destinations on Earth, it’s that simplicity which readers will truly appreciate.  Not just “worth-the-read,” but compulsory if considering a cruise to Cuba…

Back to Boston

family-vacations-bostons-public-gardensWhen I was five, we moved from Altoona, Pennsylvania to Boston so my dad could attend Gordon College.  We lived in a student apartment in the basement of the college which was located beside the park in front of the Isabella Gardner Museum.   I played in the park, went to Farragut School, and got to go to Saturday morning art programs for kids down the way at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  We’d attend church at Park Street Church and, when I was lucky, after church I’d get to ride the famous Swan Boats across the street in the Public Garden.

Four years later, when we moved to Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, I got teased unmercifully because of my Bostonian accent.  As if people from Philadelphia area talk normal!

My first year of college I went back to Boston.  By that time Gordon College had moved out to Wenham and among other discoveries developed a taste for steamer clams.  That and lobster … and I enjoyed more than my fair share.  So eventually I developed a shellfish allergy … I guess too much of a good thing.

One of the things I love about doing Canada/New England cruises is that it gets me back to Boston and usually a stop in Gloucester which is just down the road from Wenham. And this year once again I get to sail out of Boston on a Grand New England cruise to some of the best ports on the coast of Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  I’ve had fun working on my talks including a fun, new one “Cockroach of the Sea” which isn’t about another new RCCL mega ship but lobster which, way back when, because of its abundance and low-class reputation, was known as cockroach of the sea.  This is a “Lobster” cruise featuring, among other things, a down east lobster bake … and me allergic to lobster.

 

 

 

The Perils of Publishing

In some ways writing a book is like having a baby.  You think about it, conceive an idea, slog through gestation, then deliver the finished product … and wait, hoping everyone will ooh and aah.  Producing a book, unlike a baby, can be a DIY experience.  And frankly, I’ve always enjoyed do-it-yourself projects.  I like to learn and DIY is a great way to do it,  Doesn’t work for babies, and with other things sometimes it works better than other times.

Cuba_CoverAmazon’s Create Space operation allows would-be writers to create their own stuff: books, CDs, whatever.  It’s a more-or-less understandable program that works pretty well.  When finished,  your book can be almost instantly available on Amazon.  Unlike most self-publishing, you don’t have to buy a whole lot of copies that you will foist on your friends, try and sell at garage sales, and finally dump in the recycle bin.  Create Space prints books on demand.  So there is no inventory, and you’re never going to see books produced through Create Space piled up on remainders tables in book stores.  You order my book, it is printed then and there and shipped out immediately in one smooth operation.  For the writer this makes it possible to add information, change, and update your book easily.

So when you finally produce your book it’s out there.  Out there in public for everyone to see, adore or dispise … it’s out there.  As my gay friends remind me, “When you are out you are out.”  And as I’ve discovered in life, the only way not to be out there is to do nothing.  Writers, producers, actors, speakers, artists, cooks, politicians, celebrities, presidents and princes … anyone who produces anything, says anything, does anything outside of their own little shell … you are out there.

So, I happily produce my book on Cuba.  And I take a bunch with me PEARL SEAS on our voyages around Cuba and they sell like hot cakes.  People love the book!  They really do.  They tell me how much it adds to their Cuban adventure.

Then I get my first … and so far only … review on Amazon.  One star from a gal from Utah known only as D. Foster and the review is headlined, bold and it caps, “SAVE YOUR MONEY AND DON’T BUY THIS BOOK!”  Wow!  Talk about the kiss of death!!

Here’s what she says,

Don’t buy this book. This is terrible. I bought this book because of it title! I can go to the library anytime for a history lesson on Cuba for goodness sakes! The writer and editor have done a terrible job here, they repeat the same line verbatim of information throughout this book. There are numerous misspellings, problems with context and more.There are just a few pages out of 208 pages of pertinent information regarding what a person on a cruise to Cuba can actually use!  I have never been so disappointed in a travel book. SAVE YOUR MONEY!

She didn’t like it.

So I comment on her review, as you or anyone else can do.  I know that nobody is ever going to read the comments, but I just had to explain!

Wow! What a way to start! 

Seriously, thank you Ms. Foster for buying the book, carefully editing it, and taking the time to write a review. Granted, you should not judge a book its cover, or the title, which is why Amazon has wisely included the LOOK INSIDE feature which lets the reader take a look at what is inside the book, including the Introduction. Reading it, you see this is not a quote travel book close quote but a background book for a specific group of people, people who are cruising around the island of Cuba (which is about the size of Pennsylvania!) and not just doing a quickie 6-hour stop in Havana to be able to check Cuba off their country list. More specifically, it is primarily for U.S. citizens who are visiting Cuba under the restrictive and specific parameters of the Trump Cuba Presidential Order. Many U.S. visitors, unlike yourself, are unaware of the long and at times confusing history of the U.S. and Cuba and, to get the most out of their experience, need to understand that history. 

Amazon and their Create Space publishing arm is a great tool for writers, but it is possible, as happened in the case of the first few copies of CUBA, to hit a button and find out your book is published, out there for sale, before you are finished with it! Fortunately, books are printed on demand as they are ordered, which makes it possible to make changes, as I have on this book, now including [sorry, more history] about the new President, for the first time not a Castro. 

I am sorry the book did not live up to your expectations. Thank you for taking the time to read it and review it. The way Amazon works all reviews count, even ones that are not very enthusiastic. Enjoy your trip to Cuba! Regards, Richard

I thought it was a pretty gracious response.

Yep, I think she just bought the book without ever taking a look at what it was about.  Her bad.  My bad is that editing is tough for me and takes soooo much time, and so many read-throughs, and yes, I did press the wrong button and the book was out there before I was finished.  But since the book first suffered premature publication, Raul Castro has retired and Miquel Diaz-Canel is the new President of Cuba.  The Create Space DIY method made it possible for me to update the content of the book and include information about the “transfer of power,” which, being it’s Cuba doesn’t mean a whole lot, and correct those editorial problems which, in a manuscript, are crawling around everywhere like ants in Panama.

New Picture (3)So, corrections have been made, and the book is updated to include the current history, understanding that Ms. Foster doesn’t understand why a U.S. citizen visiting Cuba would have any interest in the history!

If you haven’t yet bought the book, please do so and then me and the rest of the world know what you think!  Yes, it’s true, the way Amazon positions books, even negative reviews help, not that I’m asking for negative reviews!

And if you bought the book from me on the ship, please write a review on Amazon!  Same page.  Don’t worry that you didn’t buy the book through Amazon, in fact just say up front that you bought it from me on the ship.  You can still review it.  Like it or hate it: I wrote it and I’m out there and eager to hear.

My book on the Great Lakes is also available, and I’m busy working on Canada/New England which should be available this summer.