Category Archives: Publicity

Profiles in Publishing #1: Why On Earth Would I Want a Book Contract?


Profiles in Publishing is a continuing investigation into the brave new world of publishing at JS Media Blog by Judy Sandra.  PIP will be a series of articles and interviews about methods and movers, reporting on who is exploring, who is inhabiting and who is succeeding in the new publishing landscape.
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We live in a whole new publishing world. I released my independently published book The Metal Girl (JSM Books) last month. Naturally, I sent an announcement to a personal mailing list. The first sale that I know about is a new acquaintance who excitedly emailed me, “I just bought your book on Kindle!”

Sale #1 = Kindle. I was more stunned that the first sale was on a Kindle, than I was that there was a sale. What to think.

This post began as an email to a writer/publishing industry colleague about an article we both read concerning the current state of the publishing industry and included several observations about self-publishing. From the writer’s point of view, the argument rested on, what seemed to me, the not so accurate conclusion that the ultimate “prize” of self-publishing is to land a book contract by a traditional publishing house. Really?

To be fair, this may be the goal for some. But it’s not mine. Why on earth would I want to sign such a bad contract, based on every outdated business model there is and extremely exploitive and non-remunerative to the owner/holder of the intellectual property? The author.

One wonders how many of those who say they want a book contract have actually read one. I have. I spent 23 years living in New York City, working in and around the publishing/media/arts business and have a number of writer and traditionally published author friends.

Let’s leave celebrities and huge commercial blockbusters out of the mix. Publishers didn’t market or promote the average author much in the past and now they do less than ever. Secondly, I’m a literary author, and major publishers abandoned us go a long time ago.

I published my book myself. I am now going to use my own language, because I find the phrase “self-published” cumbersome at best and mis-directed. I am going to call it “independent publishing”, or, if you like, “indie publishing”. As I’m also an indie musician and have been working with independent filmmakers, this feels about right. I’m an indie.

I created JSM Books as an imprint, so I am the “publisher” and am using  Outskirts Press as my printer/distributor. They are a hybrid company and act like a real sales/distribution company. I have an ISBN number and  barcode, I’m listed in Books in Print, books are available to the trade through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and I’m POD on Amazon.com worldwide and Barnes & Noble.com. Through Outskirts I have the option to be represented in Frankfurt and other book fairs, if I want.

My great advantage, of course, is that I’m also a professional
brand strategist/marketer/promoter and had a client last year, who was the author of a non-fiction book about filmmaking. So I am probably one of the best people to promote my book that I know. I have the savvy of both old school and new media promotion.

About that experience, let me count the ways that my client’s major traditional publisher did not spend any money on marketing. The author had a huge platform to stand on, an enormous mailing list, was well known within her field, yet they would not give us any money to launch the book. Nada. And we asked. Not a penny, not a cupcake. They sent one large poster stuck to poster board. I set up the book signing/launch, begged the indie book store manager to order 50 books instead of the 25 she wanted to order, and we had an almost sellout event–sold 40 books in three hours.

I won’t say anything untoward about the in-house publicist who was assigned to the book, because I think she did a very good job, was great with the client and helpful and generous to me, but she had ten other books to promote and, again, no marketing budget. I got most of the high profile press for the client, and wrote all of her promotional materials. She paid for this out of her own pocket. Because of her established reputation, the good press (it’s an excellent book) and her speaking opportunities, which she created for herself, the book is now a bestseller in the film category on Amazon.com.

Fresh out of this experience, I had a miraculous encounter with my second  novel. You can read the whole account here, but the short version is that the original manuscript was discovered by a wonderful reader, who loved the book and found me on Facebook, which encouraged me to publish it myself. At this point, there are so many reasons why I don’t want a contract that it’s hard to categorize them but let me start with eight big reasons, that have to do with bookstores, readers and buying habits.

1. Bookstores don’t matter.
I hear the chorus of people defending indie bookstores now, and I love them too, but this is not where the bulk of book buying happens. It’s just a fact. People are going to bookstores less and less and buying online more and more. I don’t know why this news item got little play in the U.S. but fact is, Borders went out of business in the UK. Read The Guardian story here:

2. Critics don’t matter. Bloggers and readers do.
Step away from the Manhattan island. Outside of that little crowd of
incestuous literary criticism (come on, you know what I’m talking about), these days people care less and less about critics. In fact, many newspapers and publications have let go of their book review sections and book reviewers. Indeed, there was a comment on a Galleycat post the other day by a Goodreads reader that said, “I don’t read reviews. I only buy and read what my friends post on Goodreads”. Huh. So, I joined Goodreads and wrote to another reader/reviewer. This woman, a librarian in Illinois, is now reading and reviewing my book.

I have connected with a professional, more mainstream and new media kind of person who has also agreed to review my book. I was surfing the blogs and discovered her. I now follow her on Twitter. Bloggers do matter, a lot these days. Like the Goodreads member, readers seem more interested in not just professional bloggers but average book reading bloggers, their peers and such.

The Internet has democratized culture, for better or worse, and sometimes I think for much better. Certainly there are more voices with a global reach. Most people gather their information online, and to them–a website, is a website is a website.

3.  U.S. book publishers are local, and I’m connected to the world.
Ever hear of social networking, say, Facebook? My Facebook page, just from my professional acquaintances, is rather international, from South Africa to Ramallah to Brazil. My novel’s Facebook Fan Page, for some odd reason, has been attracting young people from the Middle East and Eastern Europe. We live in a global culture now, not just an “American” culture. It was very fun to tell my UK Facebookers that the book is available on Amazon.co.uk.

4. Stop cutting down the trees.
POD, electronic formats and selective wholesaling of books is more ecological. The paper industry is a huge polluter. Does anyone NEED a hardback book?

5. Yes, they are reading on their mobiles and e-readers.
In spite of all the controversy, I’ve noticed that people who actually have a Kindle tend to like them. Nook is finally here, and the iPad will be bought. I have to tell you, my next door neighbor (a 40-year-old TV producer) is addicted to his iPhone and loves his Stanza, which lets him download books for free. He was annoyed when I said he would have to buy the e-version of my book. The Stanza has a very handy function of allowing you to enlarge the font size for easier reading. He gave me a demonstration, he went on for ten minutes.

6. The new companies, services and inventions are coming.
Do media people have amnesia? Do they think this or that device is the last one. There will be new companies, new inventions, new ways to do things. That’s life. Twitter didn’t exist 2 years ago, now it does, now I find it useful. The company I used for my book, Outskirts Press, is one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. They are a huge success, and that means more companies like them will pop up and/or others will evolve from them. There is an army of editorial freelancers–editors, copywriters, graphic designers. Popping up everywhere are new media book promoters, marketers, tools and so on. One of the reasons I’m writing this series is to discover what’s next. Life is change. This is a good thing.

7. The terms “vanity publishing” and “self-publishing” are so last century.
See above, even the term “self-publishing” is awkward and meaningless. Give it up already. Call it indie publishing and leave it at that. No one cares who published the book these days. When I tell people recently that “my book is out”. Their eyes light up; they’re so excited for me. “Great!” They say. “Well, I published it myself,” I say honestly enough. “Great, that’s even better!” No questions asked. They don’t care. “What’s it about?” is the only question. Is it good? Do I want to read it?  

8. Indie publishing is now a choice, not to be dismissed with snarky condescension.
I’m an indie musician, and no one snarks about that. I am connected to
Mediabistro in Los Angeles, and lately have been talking to writers about
their book projects. A lot of them are just going for the indie publishing
route. They’re professionals, they have a platform, and they don’t have to
wait for anyone to get their book out. Why should they?
Repeat, #7.

OK, that’s a start. There is more to this, but it begins to cross over
into the whole communications climate at this point. My main argument is that we communicate differently, we consume differently, and we have a different and more active relationship to culture. We live in a global culture and multi-platform artistic/cultural universe. The idea of a “book industry” is, in itself, rather dated.

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Best Campaign Website: Presidential Candidate Susie Flynn


Surfing the late night Tube last evening, I paused at Tavis Smiley, who was in the midst of an onscreen interview with one of my favorite Americans, the inimitable  and articulate Marian Wright Edelman,  head of the Children’s Defense Fund, or as I like to call her, “the smartest woman in Washington”.   Not only is the CDF behind the children’s health insurance initiative, I discovered they are running their own candidate for President.  Her name is Susie Flynn, a bright young woman who is running on the issue of universal health care for children.  However, her name will never make it to the ballot. Presidential candidate Susie Flynn is 10-years-old. 

This doesn’t stop me from giving her my vote–for the Best Campaign Website and, most importantly, Best Use of New Media in the 2008 presidential campaign, so far.  Candidates, take notes.

I don’t know who is responsible for the creation and execution of this brilliant idea, but you have to hand it to the CDF team for getting it all right.  At this point, it is clear that the 2008 campaign will be made on the Internet, and may the best web developers win.  Political TV commercials are so last century.

Here’s what they’re up to on the electsusie.com website:

HOME page:
As they say in their campaign slogan, there are 9 million uninsured children in this country, so they are trying to collect 9 million signatures on their petition. The platform is laid out simply on the Home page, where you  sign and click your name onto the petition.  The petition counter is right there, so you see that your name has been added and counted. The left hand column is a blog where you can leave a comment, and you also see Susie’s latest campaign videos, posted on YouTube.

Click on “GET INVOLVED” and you see a map with icon push pins of how many have signed the petition where.  On “Supporter Pics”  you get two options:  1) download the PDF of Susie’s campaign yard sign and 2) upload photos of you and your clan with your campaign yard sign to Susie’s–you guessed it–Flickr page.  “My Banners” gives you the html code to paste the campaign banners on your website or blog. “Tell A Friend” sends a message to your contacts with all the appropriate links.  And that’s just the beginning.

LINKS” is where the real fun begins.  Not only will you find, finally, the links to CDF’s fund and issue topics, you are also linked to Susie’s MySpace page, Facebook page, and Care2 page.

See below my favorite campaign video called “My attempt to get a Susie Flynn yard sign at the White House”.  Then directly after that watch part two in that series called, “Susie Flynn takes her campaign to the White House”.

The mystery remains, who is this charming gap-toothed girl. Talk about fresh faces in Washington. Finally, candidates might also be wise to take some cues from Hollywood:  cute kids will always upstage you.

Does Viacom Suck or Rock?


Sucks, evidently, according to the people’s Internet, Yahoo Search API search engine and an amusing new website called sucks-rocks.com

As noted in my previous post on piracy, the Viacom v. YouTube controversy is doing a lot to damage the public image of both companies in the eyes of its customers and audience. When you take a boardroom fight to the streets, this is what you can expect. 

Sucks-rocks.com allows you to search any number of keywords to see how much they “suck” or “rock”.  The website gets its results from a formula worked out from the occurrence of negative and positive phrases regarding each keyword and reduces the results to a scale of 10-1, in which 10 Rocks and 1 Sucks.

According to info on the website, the phrases they measure by are: 
Negative:  “X sucks, X is lame, X is crap, I hate X”.
Positive:    “X rocks, X is sweet, X is awesome, I love X”.

Seems clear enough. So, I couldn’t resist applying this to the Viacom/YouTube controversy.  In my own personal campaign to prove that there really is such a thing as bad publicity, here are my search results for the following keywords:

My Search Term:

10 -1  rating 
Illegal Download 9.0 (Rocks)
Pirates 8.7  
Google 7.2  
YouTube 6.4  
Piracy 4.2  
MySpace 4.1  
Viacom 1.2  
GooTube 0.5 (Sucks)

                                           
 

Pirates of the Millennium I


Pirates of the Millennium I: IPR vs. CRM vs. DRM …vs. CPR (Oops, sorry, that’s about people. But we’ll get to them…eventually.)

Last year we loved “Pirates” — global blockbuster film franchise. Yay. This year we hate “pirates” — antichrist of the entertainment business. Boo.

We’re talking Intellectual Property Rights, baby. Yeah, sexy. Wink. Just want to hear Mike Meyers say that once. Oh, please, just once to make me laugh and lift me out of the mucky digital intellectual property drama that I’m currently watching.

It’s big, it’s global and it’s nasty. Everyone is hopping mad. It’s turning into a battle of the pirates vs. the good guys, but a battle in which it’s sometimes hard to know exactly who the good guys are. Was Jack Sparrow the bad guy or the good guy? Quickly–Yes or No. Didn’t we like him? We know that creepy Davy Jones is the real bad guy pirate, and those ghost thieves are, too. OK, got that part. Wait, don’t we feel sorry for them?

Here’s the cast of this year’s saga Pirates of the Millennium I:IPR vs.CRM vs. DRM:

The U.S. ship – a crew of sword brandishing TV, film and radio interests:  Entertainment conglomerate Viacom advances with a major strong arm lawsuit against YouTube (or as Mark Cuban loves to call them GooTube) for $1 billion in losses over copyright infringements. While in Radio, the RIAA [aka big label mouthpiece) finally and successfully explodes small and independent Internet radio stations out of the water by regulation and exorbitant royalty fees. Casualties: thousands of small, local independent internet stations and unsigned independent artists.

The European ship – a disparate but vocal band of music institutions:  The European Parliament, meeting in Brussels, voted on March 14 to regulate the online music market with “binding legislation” and gradual new regulation, trying to keep a straight course and avoid what they deemed an abrupt and unfair disruption of current regional CRMS [Collective Rights Management Societies] agreements. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter by Leo Cendrowicz of Billboard.biz:

The European members of parliament said that a “big bang” opening of online licensing would hurt the wider European music sector, as it would lead to market domination by just a handful of major rights holders.” (See THR article here.)

You mean like in the U.S.? … As I understand the issues, one of the EP’s concerns was about not squeezing out regional [read smaller] cultures and losing whole sections of European music.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast, Jack. As soon as the paper was signed, the English CRMs delivered another round of cannon fire [again from Leo Cendrowiz]:

Rights bodies immediately expressed concern at the Parliament vote. In a joint-statement issued at midday, U.K. trade association British Music Rights, the umbrella body which represents the interests of British music writers and publishers, suggested the adopted report was confused and contradictory…The European Parliament’s document, says BMR’s London-based CEO Emma Pike, represented a “hotchpotch of conflicting provisions that will neither help nor hinder market developments in online music licensing”.

See Jack in the ocean, frantically running away from angry cannibals.  Run, Jack, run!

Wait, who am I rooting for?

So if the IP rights are a complicated issue that the institutions and even the lawyers can’t agree on, it certainly doesn’t look like it’s an issue that will get resolved anytime soon. As if IP wasn’t always a difficult issue, sometimes more or less clear, it’s now sunk into the murky depths of an ever expanding, more complex ocean of digital technology that is changing as quickly as I can type this.  Because, like in the movie, justice will prevail. Right?

Wait, there are more real pirates. No, I mean it. I’m not making light of the situation. Even LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has gotten involved, appointing an anti-piracy task force. A Los Angeles economic study found that entertainment companies lost $5.2 billion in income and 106,000 jobs in 2005 from piracy. I believe that there is real DVD and other bootlegging. Even if the numbers aren’t totally accurate, there is a tangible loss going on. (See original story by Carl DiOrio in The Hollywood Reporter. )

But wait, there’s yet another ship, the swashbuckling maverick Mark Cubanwho subpoenas GooTube to talk to the user pirates [aren’t they the bad guys?] who are uploading the clearly stolen TV shows on the website. Egads! He just wants to know why, as he backs up the ensuing lawsuit with GooTube, crying out “You Go, Viacom!” (See here.)

OK, now I know who to root for: Sir Mark. He’s finally going to try to understand what’s going on with the users without killing anyone. He’s using his head. I like that. I am also starting to agree with his take on the Tuber [my personal nickname for YouTube]. The position of the Tuber ranges between merely specious –“we didn’t do anything wrong, our users did”– and egregiously irresponsible–“we don’t even know who they are”.  Is this simply negligence? If not, then villainous? Felon-is? What are they thinking? Entire TV episodes? No, no, this is not good practice.

CUT TO

Off-screen, a voice of truth rises above the din.  In his ReelPop blog, Steve Bryant reminds us that “In Viacom v. Google, ignorance is not bliss” and lays out the facts for us in plain English. You can see the info here, but one notable fact is that Viacom’s total revenues in 2006 were $11.5 billion. Viacom’s lawsuit is asking $1 billion of Tuber. Claiming, in essence, that it’s losing 10% of its income to YouTube.  Arrgh.

Welcome to Hollywood, where we sink pirate ships with lawsuits.

Is there a sequel somewhere, anywhere? Can we slay the many tentacled Davy Jones piracy issue and get on with our lives and our entertainments?

My questions are these: Why, at this late date, are content producers still not providing DRM protection for their properties? Why should protection and rights management be the domain of distributors? Besides filters, why can’t YouTube limit the size of uploaded files? Won’t the audience decide ultimately where they will go for content? 

CUT TO

Millions of audience/participants of this adventure swirling in a storm of controversy and bad publicity for all the major players. So now the customers are the bad guys?…Does anyone know CPR?….Please, help, we’re drowning…

See my sequel post Pirates of the Millennium II: The Brazilian Solution.

Meanwhile, read the Glossary below.

GLOSSARY : Pirates of the Millennium, Part I: IPR vs. CRM vs. DRM

IPR – Intellectual Property Rights. An issue that is hard for most people to understand.

CRM-Collective Rights Managers. Europe’s ASCAP/BMI type organizations who can’t agree on much.

DRM – Digital Rights Management. Built-in technology for internal protection of creative content, hardly used by producers.

DMCA – The Digital Millennium Act of 1998. International digital copyright laws that were written in 1996 and passed in 1998, which must be kind of out of date by now, don’t you think. Comments by expert lawyers most welcome.

Viacom– an entertainment conglomerate that wishes in its wildest dreams it was losing 10% of its income to YouTube.

YouTube(aka GooTube, aka Tuber) – a video sharing social networking site that was originally started so kids could have some fun and is now a place where big corporations can fight over how many billions they are going to get out of it.

Millennium– A hoped-for period of joy, serenity, prosperity, and justice (third meaning, source: yourdictionary.com);  also, something we are not going to see anytime too soon.