On Books and Selling and Tycoons- an Open Letter to Everybody

Recently, Epicstream.com published a piece relaying the frustration of Author Fonda Lee who noticed that certain authors occupied a lot of space on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, space that could be used, in her opinion, to promote other authors. I am paraphrasing her tweets there a bit.

The articles tilts against her, with comments like “Just in case you’ve been living on another planet…” & “Lee goes on to decry that these popular books…” and pointing out that her picture posted with the tweet doesn’t display the correct amount of shelf space that she asserts. All of which are pointless to the discussion Lee looks to initiate and serve only to be petty distractions from her argument.

There is A LOT to unpack, on both sides of this issue, and there are opportunities to point fingers at just about everyone in any way connected to reading and publishing here.

Let’s Open This Up With a Leveling Statement:
Fonda Lee is more than welcome to her thoughts and frustrations. She doesn’t need content trolls spinning her social media for the purposes of click bait. She had written well enough to nab herself a Nebula Nomination, and she has caught the eye of Scholastic and Orbit, so let’s just set aside the pretense that she is not a professional, working writer posting from a place of “I want to have” lament.

We don’t need media painting content creators as negative and spiteful for the sake of creates page views. This article should have asked WHY she posted that, and Jake Vyper should be ashamed of the tone he took in the article.

Now, there is a much wider view than the one Fonda takes in suggesting people forgo B&N for local bookstores- because Barnes and Noble? Not the problem. Not. Even. Close.

B&N is Beholden to No One Except the People Willing to Open Their Wallets

This was a hard one for me to swallow, because I have seen what I believe are some tremendous opportunities for Barnes and Noble to not JUST even the scales with Amazon, but actually pull ahead.

People say retail is dead. Far from it. Amazon wouldn’t be buying retail grocery chains, wouldn’t be opening 4 star stores or 50+ book stores at this point if retail were truly “dead”.

By combining the tools Barnes and Noble have in the shed (Real Estate, Digital and Coverage), they could put the pinch on Amazon through speedy delivery, wider variety and that always important- personal customer service.

Knowledge gained through their eBook store should drive their POD engines to put physical copies of their best selling indie works into regionally identified hot spots and pull in the indie author for a signing with the eBook customer.

But I don’t run B&N, I don’t sit in the accounting office and look at the receipts coming in from each store’s daily sales. I don’t have a Monday morning meeting with analytics to get updates on what’s selling.  I’m not in Marketing to know what’s worked and what hasn’t.

In short, as much as it pains me- not my monkeys, not my circus.

Your Local Bookseller is No More Sympathetic to Indies Than B&N

This was bitter pill Number 2. You want that locally owned bookstore to be your ally, your champion, your cheerleader. You want them to be that home base where you know you can always come and sell a stack of books. They’re your neighbors, your friends. They would never betray you…

Rent doesn’t pay itself. Nether does electricity, internet, insurance, a myriad of other expenses or even the books themselves. That super kind employee they have that’s been with them for so many years and loves you? Well, he or she needs to eat. The store cat needs to be fed, and litter for the box. I could go on, but you get my point.

None of this is evil, and none of this is personal to you or your book. All of this is risk. Every day, the indies are risking their financial future- in most cases it’s one store, one location that has to cover the expenses for any number of employees. They don’t get the privilege of averaging out the receipts across the region to make up for one struggling store. It literally is, ALL OR NOTHING.

Every day, managers and owners are faced with decisions to put something on the shelf that people will be willing to pay for. In many cases, they WANT to do more, and be more for Indies, but the stark reality is that a book can be great- it can be well written and well edited. It can have a stunning cover. I know this- I believe I make these books. If people don’t walk in to the bookstore and buy it- it’s time there is limited, if it gets any at all.

The Indie Author Market is Flooded with Crap

One of the greatest benefits of the web 2.0 revolution was the disruption and diversification of the publishing industry. One of the worst side effects of the web 2.0 revolution was the disruption and diversification of the publishing industry. It has both freed the masses that were yoked by industry middle men and released a torrent of work not competently worked or edited.

The freedom afforded the writers and wanna be writers changed the gatekeepers of the industry from the Big 5 Publishers (at the time) to the retailers (at the time). That Amazon has both understood and capitalized on that is not evil- Amazon killed no one- ignorance and and unwillingness to embrace a new paradigm has killed plenty in the retail space.

The negative side effect of this great shift was that now, there were a infinite number of books written and published by a ton of previously unheard of authors and small presses, all banging on doors of retailers large and small like an army of zombies repeating Ad nauseam- “I’ve written a book- sell it.”

AND- there are a infinite number of authors that have felt entitled to be on that shelf space SOLELY because they had written a book. THIS begins to drive to the heart of this issue.

Today’s Culture Doesn’t Care About You, Your Books, or Your Well Being

If the Napster Wars should have signaled one glaring, in-your-face red flag, it’s that our culture has been trained to expect access to what we want, when we want it, at the minimum cost possible. As a First World country, and THE First World Country, we have the biggest case of Entitlement Blues since guys named Augustus and Romulus rolled heads for fun. We make the British Empire at it’s height look HUMBLE.

We are under the delusion that because there is so MUCH Content out there, we deserve access to it all for free, or as close to free as the NEW Gatekeepers, the Digital Tycoons, want to provide it for.

Nothing denotes that status more than Subscription Services. Subscriptions in software, music, books and food? We DESERVE to pay less for more. Our content is meaningless, the sheer volume of it overflowing server farms the size of small villages. Stream something on Spotify today? The Artist should be thanking you for that $0.0001223 per play you afforded them.

What that means? No, people are not going to pay “Full Price” for your book that just came out- not unless you sign it, bleed on it and maybe leave an organ between pages 10-11 that I can show my friends so they know it’s not like a book THEY could buy.

It means, that we have been trained by Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, and the rest of the “New Generation”of Tycoons is that our carefully created story is a commodity, nothing more than something to be consumed and tossed aside for the next one.

What people are paying for is not the product, people are paying for the access to the product- they expect the product to be free.

It means that as the number of people that read for pleasure continues to erode- those that do still read, look for content that is worth their time, and in the end, gravitate to … “The Classics”- which are still in the bookstores because, well, people will pay for them.

 

The Campaign for Styx to the Rock Hall- Part I: My Intro

I promised at the end of 2018, more specifically, when the 2019 inductees for the Rock Hall were announces, that I would be beginning in earnest my own campaign to have Styx considered in 2020 induction.

I hold to that promise and begin my campaign with a simple introduction of my strategy to lay out Styx’s credentials to be considered for the Rock Hall- in line with the Hall’s own published guidelines, located online at: https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/induction-process

“Ballots are then sent to more than 1,000 historians, members of the music industry and artists—including every living Rock Hall inductee—and the five performers receiving the most votes become that year’s induction class. Beginning in 2012, fans were given the chance to vote for the nominees they’d like to see inducted into the Rock Hall. The top five vote-getters in the public poll form one ballot, which is weighted the same as the rest of the submitted ballots. “

This means I/we have 2 avenues of influence, either the popular vote or by raising awareness of the band among the “institutional voters”. We shall try and move the dial on both counts.

Meeting the Eligibility

According to the same page at rockhall.com:

“Artists—a group encompassing performers, composers and/or musicians—become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock & roll.”

We’ll put aside the first point as obvious, Styx (1972). This leaves us with:

  • Unquestionable musical excellence and talent
  • Significant impact on the development,
  • Significant impact on the evolution and
  • Significant impact on the preservation of rock & roll.

Keep each of these bullets in mind as we weave through the year, and analyze Styx at a very granular level to demonstrate how they have more than earned the right to be inducted.

What this is not:

This is not a “Styx deserves this more than…’X'”. There will be comparisons, to be sure, but in no way would I want to suggest that the ONLY reason Styx should be inducted is bause of another less qualifies inductee- those are others arguments- this body of work is to demonstarte that Styx deserves entry based on their own merits, and how those merits have met the four bullet points above.

Who should get in?

While I would have a pretty clear vision of which band members should be included in the induction- I feel like that’s putting the cart before the horse- you’ll see whom I think should be included- at the conclusion of this series of posts

What are we going to learn about Styx?

Alot. You. me. everybody. If we can build momentum for the effort, perhaps we can get band members, former band members and others to share their insights on some of the topics that are covered in this effort. It’s a long road to December, so we will pace ourselves.

What’s Next?

Well, probably a Facebook Page is he start- maybe a Twitter account. we’ll see. I’ll continue to post here, and share the posts out to social media. But, regardless- get ready to explore one of the great bands from the edge of last century…

In Which I Discuss the Second Godzilla Trailer…

The second Godzilla: King of the Monsters trailer has dropped.

This trailer gives us some addition information, not all of it good.

We clearly see the emergence of Rodan, King Ghidorah and Mothra. Of the three, Mothra is the clear beneficiary of the Legendary CGI treatment, Rodan looks actually less likely to be able to fly than his Toho predecessor, more like an inflatable pool toy. King Ghidorah, meanwhile looks like, well, a CGI King Ghidorah- which is not to say he is bad, but how do you improve on arguably the fiercest monster design of all time? Less head flailing I suppose, but that kind of made him endearing in a Kermit the Frog sort of way.

For the record, the official tag from Legendary and Warner calls him “King Ghidorah”- perhaps as a result of the licensing agreement, but I prefer just calling him Ghidorah.

There appears to potentially be some additional monsters (I might have seen that wrong)- possibly red shirt MUTO monsters that will be tossed aside in some sort of Mortal Kombat (or dare I say Godzilla: Final Wars) style march to the boss (Godzilla himself).

So far, this movie is dutifully following the Godzilla mythology, movie 1: Nebulous Possibly Bad Guy. Following movies, let’s juxtapose him in a twist and make him the Good Guy- no one will expect THAT.

The premise of this film is suspect (which, ironically, allows it to fit nicely into the Franchise), in that “Oh, we found a couple. OH MY GOD,  now it’s RAINING MONSTERS!”

MUTOS are apparently sayonara (except for the aforementioned glimpses) as Legendary was able to secure the rights to Toho’s additional monsters. Let’s be honest, I could be off with that- after all, this is a trailer, and MUTOS won’t sell tickets. Not a bad thing, but clearly telegraphed and comical. Gareth Edwards is also sayonara as he was working on Rogue One and apparently decided he was too whatever to work on the sequel movies.

The REAL problem so far with these movies for me (admittedly a selfish observation), is that I already own them, from each of the ’60’s, ’80’s and ’90’s. Add in the “Young person apparently emotionally attached to Godzilla” and I imagine I could edit this movie together from 3-4 of Godzilla’s past adventures. The CGI is not so far improved from the special effects employed by Toho’s last set of movies that it makes up for the sheer repetitiveness.

Ken Watanabe again get’s the zinger line, which is a good thing.

And finally, the last scene, of Godzilla “sprinting” at Ghidorah- I admittedly was a critic of lethargic over-the-hill Godzilla that seemed ready to check out- this made me think Godzilla was that pet lizard that you prod along with your finger to get him to move… oh boy.

Pacific Rim: Uprising, a Review

Just watched Pacific Rim: Uprising. The twists are competent, and the physics respected (enough). It’s not the first movie, but it’s also not fair to ask it to be the first movie.

(Minor Spoilers)

Continue reading “Pacific Rim: Uprising, a Review”