Listen to the “What Doesn’t Kill Us” audiobook

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What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength is officially out as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon and iBooks. It has been featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and in Men’s Journal and debuted at the #112 spot on Amazon in January 2017.  I recorded the audiobook myself with the help of Marcello Lessa, one of the top audio engineers in the Denver area.  It runs just shy of 10 hours and is exactly the sort of inspiration that you need to reach your highest potential.  Come with me on an evolutionary journey to understand how the comforts of the modern age are making us weak, and what we can do to get a little of our ancestral strength back.

Download your copy today:

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Here is what some of the early reviewers are saying:

Climbing a mountain in nothing but a pair of shorts seems idiotic to most, but for Wim Hof and his companions, it’s just another day. When investigative journalist and anthropologist Carney heard about Hof’s mind boggling methods and claims that he could “hack” the human body, he knew he had to venture to Poland to expose this fraud. But in just a few days, Hof changed Carney’s mind, and so began a friendship and a new adventure. Carney now chronicles his journey to push himself mentally and physically using Wim Hof’s method of cold exposure, breath-holding, and meditation to tap into our primal selves. Our ancestors survived harsh conditions without modern technology, while we live in comfortable bubbles with little to struggle against and wonder how they survived.The question is, What happens when we push our bodies to the limit? Carney calls on evolutionary biology and other modern scientific disciplines to explore and explain Hof’s unconventional methods. Fresh and exciting, this book has wide appeal for readers interested in health, sports, self-improvement, and extreme challenges.
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“Damn fun and extremely well-researched, What Doesn’t Kill Us is a great addition to the canon of high performance literature!”
Steven Kotler, New York Times bestselling author of Abundance and The Rise of Superman

“As a Navy SEAL, you live by the mantra, ‘what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.’ We would hear this phrase and repeat it, but we never had any proof that it was factual. Yet through comprehensive study, ScottCarney has brilliantly documented how engaging in environmental conditioning, breathing, meditation, and other techniques can actually make us physically and mentally stronger. What Doesn’t Kill Us is a fascinating book that will captivate all who read it and that will be of immense value to those in the military, those who are active in sports, and those who seek an alternate means of developing greater mental and physical strength.”
―Don D. Mann, New York Times bestselling author, Inside SEAL Team SIX

If you’re willing to buy a kidney, you’re willing to exploit the poor

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 8.28.39 AMWhat would happen if the United States legalized the sale of human organs? Economists will note the seductive market logic: with regulation, proponents of legalization suggest the organ shortage will disappear, the market will arrive at a fair price for human tissue and new laws will regulate away criminal elements.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that the U.S. would be able to create its own equitable system. What would happen in the rest of the world? Whether we like it or not, we live in the era of globalization, and if the U.S. legalizes the market for body parts, there is no reason to think that international economies won’t play a role in how a patient decides to procure transplant organs.

According to the National Foundation for Transplants, a kidney transplant costs about $260,000. In the illegal organ markets in India, Egypt and Pakistan, the same procedure rings in at just shy of $20,000 — certified organ included.

Immunosuppressant drugs have come so far that a broker can arrange a transplant in as little as 30 days. The only thing stopping the typical American transplant patient from going abroad and buying an organ is the difficulty of making contact with a broker and the threat of what might happen if they get caught.

In the real world, kidneys don’t have a fixed price. Instead, the market for human body parts is a lot like the one for used cars: They’re only worth what someone is willing to sell them for. In the age of cheap international travel, where state-of-the-art hospitals abut the most impoverished slums on earth, hundreds of thousands of people are available and willing to sell their flesh for pennies on the dollar. Some of these areas are so well known among organ traffickers and brokers that they’ve earned the name “kidneyvilles” for their plentiful supply of willing “donors.”

Between 2006 and 2010, I made India my home while researching the global trade in human body parts. India is notable in the organ trafficking world because of its advanced hospitals and plentiful supply of extreme poverty. In 2004, after a tsunami ripped across South Asia and slammed into the eastern coast of the country, hundreds of thousands of people wound up in refugee camps. These desperately poor people had few options for work or making a livelihood, a perfect opportunity for organ brokers. It was a buyer’s market, and everyone sold.

Typically, the brokers promised $2,000 per organ, but only delivered the advance, always finding one excuse or another not to pay the rest of the money. Even so, husbands sold their kidneys and then pressured their wives to sell theirs. The price for a kidney fell to as low as $600.

When I visited one camp called Ernavoor outside the bustling metropolis of Chennai, I met 80 women with foot long scars across their abdomens. These were not the equitable arrangements that proponents of organ markets advocate for. This was a symptom of extreme poverty. Of course, none of the people in that camp could ever expect to receive an organ should one of their own fail. The one rule with organ markets is that human tissue always moves up — and never down — the social hierarchy.

Still, that was an illegal market. What would happen if the trade were well regulated abroad? To answer this, it’s helpful to review what happened in the market for human surrogate babies. In the U.S., it is legal to pay a woman to carry a child, so long as the money is called “compensation” and not coercion. Even so, an American surrogate might cost as much as $100,000 in such arrangements.

Once the market was clearly defined in America, other countries, with looser definitions of human rights, fought for their share of the market. In 2002, India became the go-to destination for procuring a budget surrogate womb. To the surprise of no one, the Indian industry soon began to cut corners. Women were housed under lock and key in houses known to the press as “baby factories.” Because U.S. patient demanded to know the condition of their child during the entire course of the pregnancy, surrogates became virtual slaves under the doctor’s perpetual surveillance.

The factories multiplied and soon tens of thousands of international customers reasoned that if it was legal to hire a surrogate at home, why not save money abroad? In some cases, when a pregnancy didn’t go as planned and the doctor had to choose between the life of an unborn surrogate baby and the life of mother, the mother did not always survive. Late last year, India finally outlawed surrogacy tourism after non-stop incidents and official inquiries into the surrogates’ wellbeing. Now the commercial surrogacy boomseems to be moving to Cambodia where regulations are still loose.

Still, the rise of surrogacy scandals is a warning about what might happen if we legalize organ sales in America. Even if the trade appears to work at home, there is no way to ensure that American customers won’t look for better deals abroad. We cannot solve our own organ shortage by exploiting the poor and helpless people on the other side of the world.

Explore these other perspectives from the Washington Post’s In Theory blog which, this week was talking about government compensation for organ donors. 

Sally Satel: Generosity won’t fix our shortage of organs for transplants

Francis Delmonico and Alexander Capron: Our body parts shouldn’t be for sale

Scott Sumner: The moral case for paying kidney donors

Benjamin Humphreys: Will lab-grown kidneys fix our transplant waiting lists?

Josh Morrison: It’s time to treat organ donors with the respect they deserve

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Should Writers Dream of Being Middle Class?

I have the audacity to believe that writers should be able to make a middle class living. I began writing about the difficulties that writers have negotiating for the value of their work amidst increasingly hostile market conditions back in January. I asked “How much are words worth?” and since then I’ve received almost a hundred emails from writers around the country who are fed up with their inability to make a living off.

This in part explains why the first three days of the Kickstarter campaign to create a new platform for writers to share market information and pitch stories have been so amazing.  As of right now when I’m typing this blog post Wordrates and Pitch Lab is 29% funded!

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 8.49.52 AMI’m incredibly grateful to the community of writers and journalists out there who see this as a worthwhile project, and your continuing efforts to get the word out about it.  Even so, there is still a lot of work left to do to get over the finish line. We just need $4,590 more so that I can hire a web designer to start banging out the code.  However, since Kickstarter is all-or-nothing funding, if I’m even one dollar short the campaign will fail and all the pledges will go unfulfilled.

So, If you haven’t pledged yet, please consider it. Even a modest donation of $25 will get you a six months of membership and access to editorial contact information and inside market data.  There are a lot of other cool rewards, too.  If you have already pledged there are other things you can do to help out. Fundraising campaigns like these live and die by social media so please keep tweeting and posting updates on Facebook.  Post about it on Reddit (r/writing might be a good place), Digg and get your local writers groups involved.

Share this link (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/767033302/wordrates-and-pitchlab-fixing-journalism-since-mid) and maybe one day the dream of writers making a middle class living will be one step closer to reality.

Help Kickstart Wordrates & Pitchlab

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I am proud to announce that this morning I’m going to do more than just write about the problems in the publishing industry. I’m going to do something about them. I’m launching a Kickstarter campaign that I hope will shift the ways that writers think about and market their work. I’m only asking for enough money to design the website. Please share this widely and lets make some great journalism together.

Here’s a link to the project:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/767033302/wordrates-and-pitchlab-fixing-journalism-since-mid

 

The Problem:

Freelance journalism is dying. For the last 20 years, word rates have stagnated. Every year publishers grab more reprint, book and film rights and it is harder than it ever has been to make a living as an independent journalist. This is an important problem that deeply impacts the quality of the news you read. According to a survey by ProjectWord this year, almost half of stories that journalists thought were important to produce were never written because of lack of funding. Along with declining payments, boilerplate contracts weaken copyright and take away valuable ancillary revenue streams.

The dirty secret of the publishing business is that there is still a lot of money in the media. It’s just that writers aren’t getting any of it. Publishing empires like Conde Nast pay less than 1% of their gross revenue to writers and instead buy billions of dollars worth of real estate in Manhattan. VICE, a company that has been valued as high as $2.5 billion, pays a mere $250 for a reported piece. And let’s not forget that its CEO was willing to blow $300,000 on a dinnerwith 30 of his closest friends.

Antitrust laws make it illegal for freelancers to unionize so the only practical solution is to rely on the principles of the free market. It is time for a disruptive website that will change the playing field for freelance writers and photographers. By sharing information and promoting a business model that has been successful in both the book publishing and film industries it will be possible to get a bigger piece of the overall publishing revenue.

 

 

A Disruptive Solution:

WordRates solves two interconnected problems:

1) The inability of journalists to assess a market for their work before they pitch a story. And, 2) Our general reluctance to negotiate for favorable rates and contracts.

To address these issues, WordRates provides user-submitted ratings of editors and publications with Yelp-style reviews. The public submissions will allow writers to easily gather contact information for editors, compare boilerplate contracts, and submit comments about their experience working with a particular publication. Ratings will carry weight with the community and put pressure on editors and magazines to get better reviews. Journalists will be able to use the power of the community to increase the competition between magazines, create upward pressure on word rates, get better terms on contracts and hold magazines accountable for bad business practices. Except for contact details, these profiles will be freely available online in order to facilitate writers to become the best possible negotiators of their own work.

The second role of WordRates, a section of the website that I’m calling Pitchlab, is perhaps even more revolutionary. It’s a new way to get promising material into the hands of decision makers who assign stories.

PitchLab

“PitchLab” will be a space for both journalists to workshop their pitches with seasoned mentors. Not only will the mentors help polish a story idea into a work of art, they will take on the role of a literary agent and use our contacts in the media industry to shop for the best possible deal for the story. After a piece is accepted, WordRates will issue a standard writer friendly contract to magazines as a negotiating counterpoint to increasingly hostile magazine boilerplates. Just like literary agents, we will pitch to multiple publications at once so that the writer’s ideas can get market rates for their work instead of silo rates that are invariably uncompetitive.

Book authors sometimes receive six or even seven figure advances for their work and it isn’t a secret why: competition. Literary agents take ideas out to multiple potential buyers at once and ask them to bid. Book publishers have to bid well on great ideas because they want to publish the best possible material. Every term of the contract is up for negotiation and great ideas can make significant money. There is no reason that this couldn’t work in the magazine business. Great stories sell more issues, which in turn means higher advertising rates.

Magazine pieces that might sell for $5000 in today’s uncompetitive market, could get double or triple that with the right sales strategy. Indeed, with ancillary rights attached, it could be much much more. Here’s an example: Once, a story that Wired commissioned me for $4500 sold for more than $20,000 in foreign markets. If my contract had been the one that Conde Nast offers now, they would have gotten most of that money.

With PitchLab the mentor has a financial interest in selling the pitch for highest possible price and earning a commission in the process. PitchLab will split that commission with the mentor in a way that is industry standard among literary agencies.

PitchLab will be more than a way to allow seasoned journalists to have a real stake in developing new talent. In time, it could turn into an entire payment ecosystem. In practice, it is easier to negotiate for the value of someone else’s creative work than your own because an agent isn’t afraid to say no to a bad deal. Not to mention, seasoned writers could well use PitchLab to take advantage of mentors who have particularly good negotiating records.

Development

I already have the URL (wordrates.com) and the basic architecture in the works, but I will still need to hire a developer to get this off the ground. Based on extensive conversations with a developer in Boulder, CO it seems that it will cost several thousand dollars for all the bells and whistles—a cool fresh look, a secure pitch lab and rating system. I’ll also need to have some money on hand for legal challenges (this is America after all) and a budget for data entry and secure servers.

Rewards:

What better way to celebrate the power of the written word then with books and membership into this program.

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Why “Cult” is the Wrong Word

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The early 1960s saw a flourishing of fringe religious groups that the press had no other word for than “cults”. It was a simpler time, and the word was meant to describe religious movements that didn’t easily fit into the established religions. The word encompassed hippies experimenting with alternative ideologies, Christian evangelicals, crystal energy healers, and back to the earth types who, might be a little odd, but basically harmless. It was hard to identify exactly what a cult was, except that there were millions of people searching for a personal connection with God. Then, in 1969 everything changed when followers of Charles Mason murdered Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of the director Roman Polanski. They coated the walls in her blood and inked the words “Helter Skelter” above the crime scene. Nine years later 800 followers of the People’s Temple killed a US congressman in Guyana and then took their own lives with cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

After that bloody introduction the world took a new perspective on the word “cult”.  Cults weren’t harmless. They were dangerous.  They stole people from their families, brainwashed them with false ideologies and sometimes even took their lives. Today, the word brings to mind the Branch-Davidians in Waco, Texas and the exploitive practices of the Church of Scientology. There is a burgeoning field of anti-cult literature, support groups for former cult members and exit counselors whose main job is to bring people out of these groups and back to their families. It is clear that many of these groups prey on their members, take their money, and often leave them in dire straights with no one to turn to except for their charismatic leader.

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Editors weigh in on market pitching

A few weeks ago I posted about the relative merits of market versus silo pitching and the post kicked up a lot of conversation around the internet. Yesterday Lesley Evans Ogden reached out to a few editors to see what they thought of the practice. Her piece “Simultaneous Pitching: Views from the Other Side of the Desk” has responses from seven editors, including one that I have known for four or five years (who somehow got my name wrong).

Of course, there’s no reason for editors to like the fact that they might have to compete for particular ideas. So I was happily surprised to see how open most of them were to the fact that the notion that simultaneous pitching is just a fact of the industry. While one or two bristled at the idea that not every pitch they receive might be truly exclusive, they also grudgingly admitted that it could take weeks to even read an idea. One wrote  that the ten minutes that they have to dedicate to reading a pitch can be a burden to an already packed work day. This of course assumes that it isn’t a burden to freelancer to wait in some sort of queue, possibly weeks, for an up or down answer that should only take minutes. What happens to that freelancer if the editor says no? There are only 52 weeks in a year, how many chances can an idea get at bat before it is stale?

All the editors did seem to agree that even if a pitch does get accepted into a magazine, it usually changes as writer and editor work together. And, from this perspective, you could say that there is no such thing as multi-pitching, anyway, since the final product will always adapt to the specific publication.

Tracy Hyatt, Editor, WestworldBC Magazine, notes:

“Back when I started 15 years ago, it [simultaneous pitching] was a no-no because every publication wanted to have exclusive content… Nowadays, we’re seeing a lot of the content repeated all over the place. So you don’t really have any exclusivity on any content, or any ideas for that matter.”

It’s definitely a worthwhile read. It also seems to clear the way for an idea that I’ve been working on to transform the way that ideas get to the market. Keep an eye on this website. Big things are going to happen in April.

An (almost) Deadly Journey on Diamond Mountain

In 2012 Ian Thorson and his wife Lama Christie McNally attempted to find spiritual perfection on a mountain top in Arizona. Only a few loyal followers knew where they were and the supply drops were increasingly sporadic. Water was scarce, but they collected what they could of it in a tarp and a plastic jug after a lucky snowfall. They lived there for almost a month before Christie and then Ian fell sick with dysentery. At first Ian was filled with rage by his plight–going as far as hitting himself on the head with a piece of hard plastic in the cave. They packed an emergency locator beacon and a cell phone with them, but Christie waited three days before she sent out a call for help. It was too late for Ian.

Two months after Ian Thorson died her the arms I traveled to Arizona to try to understand the world through his eyes. I wanted to know why she hadn’t pushed the button that would have saved his life earlier. I wanted to see the place where it happened and feel desolate climate of this part of the world. Most importantly, I wanted to see the cave where Ian spent the last month of his life.

The journey could have killed me.

People at Diamond Mountain all told me that even though they knew where the cave was, no one wanted to visit it. Bad things had happened there and no one wanted to tempt fate.  The sheriff Larry Noland implored me waive off my expedition. He tried to scare me with storiesof poisonous cacti, impossible heat, bears and rattlesnakes in every rocky crevasse. But I was adamant and convinced a local rancher to escort me at least part of the way.

It was only a mile and a half, but it was the hardest hike of my life.  It also turned out that Noland was right on almost every scary story that he told me. I heard rattle snakes, got stuck by a poisonous cacti. Luckily there were no bears.

What I did discover, though, was that McNally and Thorson spent their last days together in a small cave that offered magnificent views the retreat valley below, but very few amenities to support them. At one point the cave had been home to a Hohokom Indian who had stashed, but never recovered, a giant pot of grain on the dirt floor. I also learned that merely visiting the spot was dangerous enough to almost kill me. The rancher, Jerry, turned back after I pushed up a steep gravel slope. He was out of water and thought it too risky to continue.  I pushed on and found the cave. Getting back, however, was even more difficult than coming up.

This is a video I shot on my way back down. I think the pain in my voice explains much more than I ever could with with a keyboard.

This was the beginning of a project that would take me almost two years to complete. First with a story in Playboy magazine, and later as a book “A Death on Diamond Mountain

Inside Pacific Standard Interview where I swear like a sailor

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A week or so ago Noah Davis, who writes a column for Pacific Standard called How Do You Make a Living, noticed the posts that I’d been doing about the broken model for freelance writing in this country. The series explores career paths as diverse as taxidermy to puzzle makers, but very few industries are as coercive or just plainly unfair as freelance writing.

One thing, however, did surprise me when I read this interview. Apparently when someone asks me about the freelance business I can’t help but to swear like a sailor. It’s not something that I realize that I’m doing, but I guess this really does get under my skin.  Below are a few excerpts. Or hell, just read the full interview here.

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How kill fees ruin writers, hurt magazines and destroy journalism

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Just about every journalism contract contains a clause called a “kill fee” that states that if the magazine decides not to run a particular story then it will pay out only a fraction of the agreed upon rate. The writer is then free to sell the story to another publication. The logic behind this policy is that the clause is insurance so that a writer won’t simply accept a contract and then write a half-baked and poorly reported story and then run off with the full payment. Unfortunately the kill fee serves a much more diabolical role in the modern magazine industry. Not only it is bad for writers, it also exposes magazines to potential libel suits and degrades the overall quality of journalism in America.

Last week I had a conversation with a former editor at the New York Times Magazine who told me that they kill between 1/4 and 1/3 all assignments they issued to their on-contract writers. The magazine killed a much higher percentage of stories that they assigned to freelancers who weren’t already on the masthead.

While a kill fee is supposed to be insurance against bad writing, the NYT magazine was using it in a different way. A story can be killed for literally any reason: not only because of poor quality, but because an editor no longer thinks an idea is fresh, or that a character doesn’t “pop” on the page, or the piece was covered in another magazine between the time it was assigned and then scheduled to be published. (Those are three reasons that I’ve had stories killed over the years). Instead publications now routinely use the kill fee system as a way to increase the overall pool of material they can choose from to publish.  They intentionally over-assign and account for a certain percentage of killed pieces in advance.  Stories that are on the bottom of their list don’t make the cut.  This policy has nothing to do with the quality of what a writer submits, rather a business model that intentionally transfers risks reporting onto the backs of their authors.

Anyone who has written for a major publication knows that there is a wide gap between what a writer pitches to a magazine and what they encounter when they are actually reporting a piece in the field. This is the basic  disconnect between any proposal and the reality on which that proposal hangs. There is no guarantee that when a reporter gets out into the field that they will find the juicy narrative anecdotes that will make a piece sing on the page. Still, the only way to find out what is happening in the world is to actually do the work, travel to the locations, report the hell out of what you find and then try to write it up.

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Are you Pitching to a Silo or to a Market?

At this point it’s no secret that writers get a pretty lousy deal in the publishing business. Every day someone asks me if there’s a way to fight back. In fact, there’s one common practice that writers take on that hobbles them from the very start, and it’s our fault that the problem exists at all. Most journalism schools, editors, and old-time-freelancers advise new writers to only pitch one magazine at a time when they are trying to sell a story. In turn, most editors assume that pitches are exclusive material and will go as far as to say that they wont even consider an idea if another publication is reviewing it as well. This is called “silo pitching”, and it’s the surest route to penury for a writer.

 

That silo pitching is the standard method to market story ideas to publications is indicative of just how scared writers are of the people they work for. Most writers tell me that they would never take their ideas out to multiple publications because they worry they might be blacklisted and never find work again. Loyalty, they say, also has its perks because a good editorial relationship might secure future assignments. Unfortunately the loyalty that writers feel to their editors is rarely reciprocated. At the mainstream magazines editors almost always take a very long time to respond to pitches. Even after an initial expression of interest, an assignment can take months—yes months–to finally receive a green light. Sometimes editors don’t even bother to respond in the first place which means that a good idea that might have found a home at another magazine could malinger and die in the inbox of the first editor you sent it to.

 

A more serious problem with silo pitching is that by extending exclusivity to a single magazine in advance means the the writer has effectively given up any ability to negotiate the contract when it comes time to sign. There’s never a chance to allow the market to value a writers’ work by getting input from multiple potential buyers. Instead the writer has almost no option than accept whatever deal the magazine puts up. This is why bad deals are now the industry standard. Forget the lamentable payment terms, most magazines now also suck away film and reprint rights, offer low kill fees, and won’t pay their writers until months, and in some cases, years after the magazine has appeared in print.

 

Silo pitching completely violates any attempt for a writer to receive a market value for their work.

 

In Hollywood and in book publishing exclusivity deals are well compensated. A good script writer might make upwards of $50,000 a year from a single studio just so that they have the right of first refusal on whatever they come up with. That journalists give away this right by default shows just how sick this business actually is.

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