Alaska schedule update

Here is the latest schedule of public appearances and media events next week in Alaska.

At least some things are likely to change. It might be tough to update this blog (making this trip iPad-only) but I will keep updates at the
Write Hard, Die Free Facebook page.

4/16 (Mon) TV Show Taping Shannyn Moore Anchorage 6-9PM

4/17 (Tue) Talk of AK call in radio show APRN/Steve Heimel Anchorage 10AM

4/17 (Tue)  Radio: Tom Anderson Show    Anchorage      5-6PM

4/17 (Tue) Reading/Book Signing Anchorage Museum Anchorage 7-9PM

4/18 (Wed) Radio Interview by Phone Radio Free Palmer Palmer 815AM

4/18 (Wed) Lecture Alaska Comm. Fdn. Anchorage 2-245PM

4/18 (Wed) Reading/Book Signing Fireside Books Palmer 4-6PM

4/19 (Thu) Reading/Book Signing Cyrano’s Anchorage 11AM-1PM

4/19 (Thu) Radio Show Taping Shannyn Moore Show Anchorage 5 PM

4/20 (Fri) Presentation/Book Signing UAA Bookstore Anchorage 4-6PM

4/23 (Mon) classroom visits UAF Fairbanks varied

4/23 (Mon) Snedden Lecture Noel Wien Library Fairbanks 7-845PM

4/24 (Tue) classroom visits UAF Fairbanks varied

4/25 (Wed) Radio Interview KTOO Juneau 3PM

4/25 (Wed) Alaska Identity Project KTOO/Adrien Lopez Juneau tbd

4/25 (Wed) Lecture Juneau World Affairs Juneau 5-615PM

4/25 (Wed) Reading/Book Signing Hearthside Books Juneau 630-8PM

Alaska tour events

Here’s our schedule for Write Hard, Die Free events in Alaska as it stands now.

Anchorage area
 —April 16 (arrive late afternoon) until April 20

• Tuesday April 17: APRN interview (morning) and museum talk/signing (evening)
• Wednesday April 18: interview on Radio Free Palmer (morning), evening event at Fireside Books in Palmer
• Thursday April 19: a mid-day event at Cyrano’s and an evening taping with Shannyn Moore
• Friday April 20: the tour’s marquee event with the Alaska Press Club at UAA Bookstore—an onstage interview by Julia O’Malley

Fairbanks — April 23-24

• Monday April 23:
events at UAF Department of Journalism; C.W. Snedden Lecture at Noel Wien Library (evening)
• Tuesday April 24:
events at UAF Department of Journalism

Juneau — April 25-26

• Wednesday April 25: radio interviews, reading and signing at Hearthside Books (early evening)

Podcast: Love at first sight


New photos from a masterful photographer

My friend Carl Costas ( has made some terrific photos of me for use in promoting Write Hard, Die Free.

Here are three I’ve picked for various uses. Comments, as always, welcomed.

This one will probably be used for general distribution.

I like this one with the iPad and books together
as a visual testament to symmetry.

This one offers some variety.


Countdown to book release

Counting down …

Things are still on track for the release of
Write Hard, Die Free as planned in Anchorage April 20.

As things stand now, the debut event will be an onstage interview with
Anchorage Daily News columnist Julia O’Malley followed by a Q&A. Since the event is part of the annual statewide Alaska Press Club conference, I’m expecting knowledgeable questions—including the prospect of hearing from folks who lived through the era with me.

Preliminary plans also include an appearance on the “Talk of Alaska” program on the Alaska Public Radio Network and a lecture or reading at the Loussac, Anchorage’s central city library. Other radio shows are possible, too. We’re likely to take the show on the road to
Fireside Books in Palmer (be sure to note their url) and to a location TBD in Homer.

I’m more than open to suggestions, too: ideas for locations, house parties, Dunk the Author carnivals and the like.

Plans are still being made for Fairbanks and Juneau. I expect we’ll find opportunities in both towns. Seattle is on the docket, too, owing to its long historical ties with Alaska, and I believe the California State Library will host an event here on account of my residency.

Some details I’ve enjoyed learning:

  • The publisher says the book likely will be printed at McNaughton & Gunn in Saline, Michigan
  • The book is set in Minion Pro 11.5pt type. Chapter headings and titles are Helvetica. It looks great.
  • I think the book comes in right around 250 pages long counting 16 pages of photos.

Sample typeset page (not actual size):



Yes, more covers

We’re still wrestling with what cover to use on the paperback debut of Write Hard, Die Free. We’ll have to decide soon, though.

Here are a couple more:


What should the cover of the eBook edition do?

Here’s another cover question I could use your consultation on: Should the eBook cover be designed differently than the print cover? If so, how?

write hardvar2

My assumption is that it should. EBooks first chance to make an impression often is on screen, usually at a size not much bigger than a postage stamp. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for visual information.
My friend
Peter Dunlap-Shohl agreed to try designing a few concepts, and we both liked this one best.
How do you think it works? What does it lose by having no photo or other image?
Is the title sufficiently engaging to get you to click it for more information?
One other aspect: I assume the eBook version will be the typical choice for one audience I’m aiming to interest, namely people involved in thinking and talking about journalism transformation in the emerging new media world. That’s why I’m considering a different subtitle for this version, one that makes it clear there’s more than history and war stories in this book.
I’d appreciate hearing what you think about any of this, or anything else related to the subject.


Another not to judge the book by

Yes, it’s another cover concept. I for one am kind of tired of looking at them, but I suppose that will end soon enough.

Meanwhile, here’s the latest.


An early prototype cover


This prototype cover was done to meet an early deadline for inclusion in catalogs sent to booksellers. The final print cover may not look anything like this.

I am uncertain about using a photo of myself (or, really, anybody who isn’t a celebrity) as the dominant cover graphic. Thus far we haven’t had much inspiration about other possibilities. Suggestions welcomed.

My inclination is to design a cover specifically for the eBook edition. It seems to me the small size at which one usuallys sees an eBook would demand an especially graphic treatment.

Do you have any experience or advice about that?


Picking a subtitle, planning a campaign

An interesting issue arose recently as the publisher and I pondered subtitles, promotional ideas and catalog descriptions for Write Hard, Die Free: did we want to emphasize what I think are the most significant aspects of the book, or the things that make it most appealing and entertaining to read?

As you’d expect, I think it offers both, but “Good and good for you” isn’t much of a book marketing slogan.

The title, cover and description obviously offer the most important elements. Luckily for me there are also a number of other venues for letting people know more about the book as well.

I settled pretty firmly on the main title some time ago.
Write Hard, Die Free was for a long time the motto of our feisty newsroom, genuinely descriptive of the approach we took to journalism and also of our aspirations. As a friend pointed out much later, the two elements of the slogan work in tension to form a relationship: passionate struggle leading to liberation.

Deep, I know. But true.

We’ve opted for one of the most customer-friendly choices amongst subtitles:
Dispatches from the battlefields & barrooms of the Great Alaska Newspaper War. Given the combination of “newspaper” and “war” in the book, “dispatches” has always seemed like a good word. I initially wanted something more substantive in the subtitle; my longtime favorite was Battling corruption, Big Oil and bad journalism to win the Alaska Newspaper War (and two Pulitzers). That described the part of the story I am most proud of—beating the odds in a quest for truth-telling—but doesn’t offer much to potential readers who might simply like the colorful and unusual tales I tell.

One of the book’s subsidiary themes is missing from all the subtitles we considered: how the lessons we learned during the war provide a kind of blueprint that remains valuable to those involved in journalism’s transformation.

I hope to engage both those missing themes (battling big foes, learning big lessons) elsewhere: on the back cover of the printed book, in social media promotions, by targeting tailored messages to different potential audiences. If we can do this right, you can expect to see a different pitch if you’re a journalism school dean than if you’re a longtime Alaska political activist.

Write Hard, Die Free will be released simultaneously as an eBook, which offers additional and different marketing opportunities. I expect one of the predictable audiences—journalists scattered around the country—may be more likely to purchase an inexpensive eBook than to order or look for a printed copy. If that’s true it will make sense to emphasize the “lessons learned” and reflections on journalism transformation in the electronic edition.

More on that as we get close to launch in early spring 2012.

What should the book jacket say?

My publisher has asked for a description of Write Hard, Die Free that can be used in marketing, book catalogs and (in some form) on the back jacket.

I’ve taken a couple of runs at this and thought I’d see what you thought. You’ll see two rather different approaches. For lack of better characterization, I’d call the first one more a serious description and the second more focused on selling potential readers on the book.

I, of course, would love to convince a lot of readers that
Write Hard, Die Free is an entertaining book they’re likely to enjoy. But I also think there’s reason to think the first approach might intrigue a different kind of potential reader, perhaps especially those whose interest isn’t primarily Alaska.

What do you think:

My first version:

The history a newspaper and a blueprint
for tomorrow’s journalism

Write Hard, Die Free
is the memoir of an era—a time when Alaska struggled to define its modern personality and two fiercely competitive newspapers fought for the right to tell that story. Though populated with a dozen characters worthy of Jack London or Robert Service, the real hero of this story is the quest for honest journalism in the face of opposition from politicians, advertisers and the oil industry.

Anchorage Daily News should not have been able defeat the Anchorage Times, its older, richer, more successful rival. In telling how it did, longtime editor Howard Weaver also describes a distinctive style and philosophy that anticipated much about today’s journalism. The book offers a blueprint for producing tomorrow’s news discovered on the battlefields of a legendary newspaper war.

The paper’s distinctive playbook recognized that readers were the only lasting friends of it’s ferocious truth-telling style: advertisers, politicians and even publishers would sometimes flinch, but a loyal growing readership supported the newsroom and sustained the business.

This proved true even when a coalition of major oil companies launched a covert effort to boost their reliable allies at the
Times, leading to one of the most unpredictable David and Goliath endings in newspaper history.

My second version:

The ultimate insider tells all about
the Great Alaska Newspaper War

Across two crucial decades of the battle for Alaska’s future, Howard Weaver “climbed from foot solider to field marshal, from insurgent to incumbent, from underdog to victor” but never left the fight. Along the way he partied with small time hoodlums and big time politicians, crossed swords with Big Oil and Big Labor and piloted the Anchorage Daily News to the most unlikely David and Goliath upset in American journalism history.

The future of the young state of Alaska was still a closely fought contest in the 1970s and 1980s when Weaver and a cadre of talented young journalists began uncovering the union wrongdoing, oil company duplicity and political corruption that had long been left to fester out of sight. Along the way they would twice win journalism’s biggest prize—the Pulitzer Gold Medal for Public Service—and one of America’s last classic newspaper wars.

Alaska-born, Weaver cared passionately and fought fiercely in every political struggle of the era, from oil development to Native sovereignty, from park land designations to environmental activism. He also found time to explore the night clubs and after hours card rooms of Anchorage’s demimonde, where people like Freddy the Fix and Put Your Hat On Brown were earning spots in the knaves gallery of the last frontier.
Anchorage Daily News pulled no punches in telling Alaska’s story, and Weaver has pulled none in telling his own here.


Well, this is embarrassing

I sent an email about my book to a number of folks today with the following subject line:

Subject: I'm asking for your help me with my book

Damn. I proofed the email pretty carefully. Too bad I didn’t also pay attention to that.

Name this book: your chance to help pick our subtitle

It’s all but certain my book title will be Write Hard, Die Free. (Titles, you may not know, generally are a negotiation between author and publisher. Fortunately, my publisher is a former newspaperman.)

It needs a subtitle, too. I’ve thought of many and boiled them down to this list. I’d like to know which you like best, and whether maybe you have a better idea of your own.

To vote on these, pick your top three favorites and send them to me ranked First, Second, Third. (If you have three ideas that all better than mine, great. Send ‘em all.) You can send them in with
the feedback form here, or email me by clicking the Contact Me link below.

Write Hard, Die Free

1. How we won the Alaska Newspaper War
— and had some fun along the way

2. Dispatches from the front lines of
one of America’s last newspaper wars

3. Dispatches from the Alaska Newspaper War

4. Dispatches from the front lines
of Alaska’s great newspaper War

5. Battling corruption, Big Oil and bad journalism
to win the Great Alaska Newspaper War

6. Battling corruption, Big Oil & bad journalism
to win the Alaska Newspaper War

7. Battling corruption and Big Oil
to win the Alaska Newspaper War

8. [Insert your better idea here]