More About My Book

So there’s a couple new things over the past few days.  One, there is a digital version of my book now available for those of you with a Kindle reader from Amazon.  There’s a link to the listing on Amazon under Buy My Book on the sidebar to the right.  Also, I’ve made three of the stories in the book readily available on the book’s website (click here to go there) for anyone who would like to check out a sample.  I also put links to the stories on the sidebar here, as well.  Feel free to save a copy, print one out for later perusal, or email them to your friends and family, or anyone you think might like them.  There are handy links to the book sales sites embedded into the files, so after you’ve finished reading and it has–hopefully–whetted your appetite for more, you can just click there to order up a copy of the full book.

I have to say that this experience has been pretty fun so far.  I’ve often dealt with people’s publications from the other side, having promotional material sent to me as an editor for various publications over the years, but this is the first time I’ve done that promotional stuff for something I am personally hocking.  I’m pretty amazed at the ample possibilities for drawing attention and finding prospective customers.  I knew that the internet had opened lots of doors, but even I hadn’t realized the full extent to which they’ve thrown them wide for just about anyone.  And I haven’t even scratched the surface yet.  I’ve got at least a handful of other things I’m working on to continue to promote the book, and every time I think I’ve got my bases covered, I run across something else I hadn’t considered before.  That happened just this morning as I was posting the story files.  What did I find, you might ask?  Well, just wait and see.

Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Alternatives Abound

So, I’ve been trying to drum up some interest in my book. I’ve sold a handful of copies to this point, which is more than I’d hoped for, but most importantly, I’ve experimented with a variety of platforms for getting content out there.  The book itself looks good.  I got the first copy off the presses, and I have to say that I’m thrilled with the quality.  But now, it’s on to different things.  First, I just converted a copy for sale through the Amazon Kindle store.  I know I’ve been somewhat questioning of the Kindle, and particularly their licensing agreements with regard to creator payments, but for me, in this situation, the cut isn’t all bad, especially when you consider that I have a grand total of zero production costs.

While I was there, I stumbled onto this little feature, as well, that allows a person to sell subscriptions to the Kindle to your blog.  So, to see what it was about, I listed The Watershed Chronicle there.  Anyone with a Kindle who would like a subscription can go here. For a simple $1.99 a month, you can have my wit and wisdom beamed into your Kindle for your personal perusal any time you like.   Do I think anyone will actually subscribe to this site?  Probably not.  Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free, and subscribers will get the same material anyone can get here for no cost.  So why do it?  I’m thinking about the future.  This website may not be a perfect candidate to drum up revenue, but it is a handy one to explore exactly how to set up systems necessary to generate paying customers.  And don’t think for a moment that I don’t have bunches of possibilities floating around in my head.

The more I delve into the issues that publishing as an industry are facing, the more I reach the conclusion that the advertising-based model is a dead and decaying corpse of what used to be.  I’m just not convinced that it will ever return to anywhere near the levels it once was.  And that means continued employment in that regard will be about perpetually cutting corners, doing much more work for less money, and bending over backwards to satisfy an ever-shrinking base of advertisers until they dry up completely.  Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.

So let’s look at what we have here.  One, I can sell subscriptions to a blog.  It may not generate anything with this one in particular, but get the right market, the right audience and the right content regularly, and it has definite possibilities.   Two, I can create book-length manuscripts, have them professionally published and sell them at market prices to anyone on the planet who has a credit card and an internet connection.  And on-demand magazine publishing is coming soon.  Right now, the pricing doesn’t make sense, but that’s only bound to come down as technology continues to improve.  Imagine, no upfront printing costs and 100% paying customers.  It’s a publisher’s wet dream.  And one person can do all this from his laptop without putting out a dime, perched in his home recliner while watching Sons of Anarchy.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Publishers are screwed.  The cost of the infrastructure they’ve developed to achieve the same thing that anyone with the skills and the software will soon be able to do at the same level will suffocate them.

But they’re still not thinking critically toward the future.  The proliferation of digital readers is nothing if not a potential boon for those of us who create content.  But Apple’s soon to be iPad comes with a little hitch; they don’t want to share subscriber data with the publishers.  For me, I never even considered why that would be a big deal, until it dawned on me that publishers are still thinking in terms of advertising first.  They want the detailed subscriber data to use to prop up ad rates and continue to play the “ad efficiency” game that internet-based ad networks have dragged them into, gutting their rates in the process.  Take the ads out of the equation, and it doesn’t really matter the demographics of your subscribers, only how many of them there are and what they’ve spent on your stuff.  Of course, to realize that, actual content would have to be important to these guys.  They’re fight with Apple over this is a sign that, no matter how much things change, these companies still can’t see beyond what they’re used to.  But remember, 99 cent downloads were a deal-breaker for the music industry, too, when the iPod came along and you see how long that position lasted.

For my money, the future doesn’t have anything to do with these juggernauts of a bygone era.  The tools to publish anything you want every bit as professionally as the long-standing industry, and the capability to access the exact same marketing channels they do is now virtually available to anyone who wants it.  What I don’t understand is why suffering journalists, graphic designers and the like continue to toil away under the ax of a failing industry when do-it-yourself has never been more readily available?

I read a bit recently on Alan Mutter’s website about disgruntled free-lancers trying to join together to better their circumstances and hopefully, get better rates out of publishers.  While I laud their initiative, this is a fools’ quest.  Publisher’s have been devaluing free-lance contributor work for as long as I’ve worked in this industry, and trust me, they are not shedding any tears from the fact that they can get more content for much less money today than they could have four or five years ago.  If you don’t like the pay, don’t work for them.  Someone else certainly will, but it doesn’t have to be you.  With the tools available today, you don’t need them anyway.  You really want to get reasonable rates out of these guys, prove that you’re worth it.  Free-lancers are a dime a dozen.  Established, professional writers with a following, not quite so prolific.  Don’t like the way the industry’s treating you?  Stop whining and do something about it.  It won’t be long before they not only don’t want to pay you good rates for your work, they won’t be able to, anyway.

Published in: on February 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

Okay, so I’ve refrained from commenting on Tiger Woods ever since a high-profile marital spat turned into a free-for-all where every third-rate bimbo with a story was fair game for a 60 Minutes interview and images of the wife taking a three wood to Tiger’s jaw became the new bad break up standard.  Tiger held a press conference today, as per standards George W. Bush would appreciate, in front of a select, hand-picked audience of family, press and assorted sycophants where he trotted out the usual celebrity apology chock full of contrition, humiliation and the ever-popular emotional duress.  Getting choked up’s the least he can do.

We’re not watching a human being here, it’s a highly refined marketing image in crisis management.  And the media is eating it all up.  I watched ESPN this morning right after the press conference, and it wall all Tiger, all the time.  The ticker at the bottom that lists the topics coming up all read Tiger, one after another, all the way across the screen.  Commentators were talking endlessly about the apology, whether it was enough to appease some undefined mass of people who are apparently angry at him because the guy who endorses the running shoes they own apparently cheated on his wife.  Like we don’t have enough to worry about that this guy’s philanderings are so important that we insist, no, demand that he publicly apologize to us?  That’s the top priority in our lives, huh?

So he slept around.  And around.  And around.  Who cares?  I can virtually guarantee you that 100% of the men on this planet, if put in Tiger Woods’ position, would do the exact same thing.  Well, maybe not exactly, some of those rumors seem a little out there, but similar.  And do you really think he wanted to get married in the first place?  Or is it more likely that it was pushed for by his handlers, the people who believed that if you get married, have a couple kids, we can broaden the scope of the products we can slap your face on and keep the money train rolling.

The reality is that Tiger Woods has been as much about marketing image as he has about exceptional golf right from the beginning.  The machine that Michael Jordan laid the foundations for picked up Tiger almost as soon as MJ hung up his sneakers for good, building him up into the next advertising iconic sports figure.  And unlike Jordan, who did a good job controlling and selecting the endorsements he pursued, Tiger has let the marketing icon go beyond his professional life, let it creep in and actually structure his personal life.  Of course he’s going to rebel from that at some point, any sane human being would.

So we have the media descending on a figure they themselves helped to build up, now heaping scorn on him for presenting a false image that was largely transmitted to the people by their own cameras for their own purposes.  A lot of people in the media have made a lot of money on the back of Tiger Woods’ image.  And does anyone out here really care, other than in that “It’s interesting to watch a train wreck” sort of way?  Was there anyone, anywhere who was so personally offended by Tiger’s behavior that you simply had to have a cathartic release by watching him publicly grovel?  Is anyone out there naive enough to believe a word of it?  It’s a reality TV soap opera cast with actual people instead of B-list actors, designed and executed to bring in the viewers.  This is the start of the second season.  By the third season, Tiger comes back to golf a changed man seeking redemption, breaks all the records and gets his face back on the Wheaties box.  And it’s not even original.

Michael Jordan did a much better job of crisis management.  His first retirement could have been a marketing disaster, regardless of what its cause (and there are some who would say it was about more than just a desire to be a baseball player), but it was expertly handled.  Jordan leaving basketball in a quest to play baseball to honor his father’s memory.  Then the triumphant return to basketball, bigger than ever.  If that was indeed a crisis of sorts, the handling of it was masterful beyond reason.  Tiger, on the other hand, is stuck playing the best of a lousy hand, having to play from a position of complete weakness to get back on top.  He needs better handlers.

In reality, Tiger Woods is just a guy.  An incredibly rich, gifted, powerful guy who could pretty much have whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it.  His flaw here, aside from being pushed into marriage in the first place, is in not appreciating discretion a bit more.  To me, it speaks of a guy who didn’t really have the control over his life that he thought he had.  Too many people making too many decisions for him, too many things being done for him and not enough doing it for himself.  It’s a danger we all face, obviously to lesser degrees, but we are all commonly susceptible to being led into decisions by those around us.  Tiger got burned.  Doesn’t mean we will.

Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 7:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Home Stretch

The NBA season is down to its last 25-30 games.  The trade deadline, a very active one, has just passed, and jockeying for playoff positioning is what these last few games are all about.  The top 2 teams in the league, the Lakers and the Cavs, both have sizable working margins for the top seed in their respective conferences.  The Cavs hold a 1-1/2 lead on L.A. for overall home court, should they meet in what seems like an inevitable NBA Finals, so basically, they’re playing against one another from this point forward.

For L.A., the only real question is will Kobe Bryant be 100% come playoff time?  An ankle injury can be particularly torublesome (just ask Manu Ginobli) and has the definite potential to recur at the worst possible time, like in the middle of the Western Conference Finals.  The Lakers should let him rest as much as possible, get the most out of the time they play without him thinking that they might have to do it again down the line in the playoffs.  Home Court advantage isn’t that important in the NBA.  You can lose it in the first game of a playoff series.  A healthy Kobe is the difference between winning another title and losing.  An extra game on the road isn’t.

The Cavs, on the other hand, just got even better with the addition of Antwan Jamison without losing anything except Zadrunas Ilgauskas for a month or so until Washington cuts him and he resigns in Cleveland.  They will cruise to the best record in the league, Lebron James will win another MVP award, and they will look like shoe-ins for the Finals.  Sound familiar?  The pressure once they get to the playoffs will be immense.  How they deal with adversity at that point could go a long way in establishing James’ long-term reputation.  Another upset loss, and things could get ugly.

The big fight in the East is for second place.  (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Superbowl Wrap-Up

Well, if it isn’t apparent by now, I’ll never earn a living picking the winners in football games.  I was a brisk 4-7 in calling the NFL playoffs this season, including 2-5 from the divisional round on.  I did correctly pick the Ravens upset in New England, and almost perfectly laid out the score of the Colts beating the Jets in the AFC Title Game, but other than that it was ugly.

Anyway, I’ll wrap up this season with a few thoughts.  One, my earlier criticism of the Colts and the Saints playing it safe down the stretch seems a bit unfounded as both reached the Superbowl anyway, but I stand by my criticism.  The Colts played two teams in the AFC playoffs that you would hardly call barn-burners on offense, the Jets and the Ravens, and as such probably looked much better than they actually were.  The Saints never should have won that game against Minnesota.  The Vikings, with a little late help in overtime from the refs, gave that game away.  But New Orleans did take the Superbowl fair and square.  I wasn’t left with the same undeserving feeling after watching them beat the Colts as I did after the NFC Title game.  Still, they shouldn’t have even been there.

The Colts lost the Superbowl in the last two minutes of the first half.  The Saints went for it on 4th and goal and got stuffed, giving the ball back to Indy with about 1:30 left.  The Colts, using some of the same logic that dictated shutting it down over the season’s last two games, played it safe, ran three straight-ahead runs and had to punt, which set up the Saints with good field position, handing them 3 points.  Then New Orleans came out in the second half with that now-legendary onside kick, and the rest is Saints history.  The Colts played it safe.  New Orleans was aggressive.  They deserved to win.  Indy may have gotten to the Superbowl, but you don’t win it being soft and playing not to make mistakes.

One thing that struck me was just how bad Reggie Wayne looked all game long.  It wasn’t even the lazy, telegraphed cut at the end of the game that virtually handed an interception to New Orleans, clinching the game.  He was a non-factor from the get-go.  And don’t forget, he wasn’t exactly a world beater in their first two playoff games, either.  In the three games, Wayne averaged about 5 catches and 55 yards with only 1 touchdown total.  If I was the Colts, I’d be very concerned about that.  Dallas Clark isn’t getting any younger, and Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie look like solid receivers but not the superstar Wayne has been, or Marvin Harrison before him.  If Wayne has lost a step, and he will turn 32 next season, Indy could have a problem.  Their running game is far from adequate (last in the league, in fact).  I smell a letdown in Indy next year.

For the Saints, this is a great moment.  Enjoy it while it lasts because they are so hard to come by and can be very fleeting.  My primary concern is with their defense.  They rely almost solely on takeaways, and that stat almost never carries over from season to season.  Take the Viking game, for instance.  They got torched to the tune of almost 500 yards of offense.  If it hadn’t been for the turnovers, they get blown out.  Will all those takeaways be there next year to save the day?  Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it.  They’d better learn to stop somebody, or this moment will be a memory very quickly.  Either way, I don’t see either team getting back to the big game again in 2011.  Just getting back to the playoffs will be tough.

So who will be there?  It’s too early to say, but I can tell you some teams who won’t.  The San Diego Chargers.  The Dallas Cowboys.  The Arizona Cardinals.  The New York Jets.  The New England Patriots.  All playoff teams this season, none of whom have the right makeup to get to the Superbowl.  Well, the Jets do have that makeup, but just ask Matt Ryan how difficult your second season as a starter can be, plus do you think they’ll be a little bit of pressure in New York after this year’s run?  And they still don’t score enough.

Some teams that could be there?  Here’s a short list of a few.  The Cincinnati Bengals.  Yes, I said the Bengals.  When healthy, they have a tough defense and a big running game.  If they can get the passing game back together again, watch out.  If Who Dat can do it, what’s stopping Who Dey next year?  The Miami Dolphins.  They will be overlooked by many with all the attention on the Jets and Pats, but don’t be surprised if this is the team to win that division next season.  The Houston Texans.  If they hadn’t gone through that lull in the middle of the season, the Jets might never have made the playoffs, and it would have been Houston playing Indy in the AFC Championship game.  The Atlanta Falcons.  When healthy, and if they can get a solid defensive presence, they’re as good as anybody.  Next season will be the record third straight winning season for the Falcons, count on it.  The Green Bay Packers.  They’re offense is good and getting better by the day.  The defense has some issues, but all the pieces are in place for a run.  And number one on my list, The Minnesota Vikings.  Make no mistake, Favre will be back.  And Adrian Peterson will have all offseason to stew over his fumbling problems.  Look for them to make some changes to improve the offensive line, and Peterson to pull an Ahman Green (a guy, coincidentally, who Brett Favre won a Superbowl with after overcoming some severe fumbling problems that ran him out of Seattle).  Watch out next season for a Green Bay-Minnesota NFC Title game.  And they think the Superbowl this year was the most watched game ever?

Published in: on February 13, 2010 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Buy My Book. Please.

So, anybody out there like to read?  Have I got a book for you!  The most important event in literature since King James re-released The Bible.  Okay, that may be an exaggeration.  But seriously, if you all need something to read, I could use some money and I get a couple bucks a book, so it would really help me out if you wanted to buy one or two or ten.  They make great gifts.

Actually, about a month ago, I ran across a friend of mine who had a book self-published on a site called Lulu.com.  I’d never really looked into such things, figuring that single, on-demand printing had to be cost-prohibitive.  The entire idea was somewhat counter-intuitive to what I was used to, with savings coming through bulk print runs.  And who was going to pay $20 for a regular paperback you could pick up in the store for $7 or $8?  It might be good for vanity stuff, but serious, wide-spread distribution?  Probably not.

Well, when I saw my friend’s book (or the book of his work with his name on it, anyway.  There are rights issues involved and I’m not really sure he’s getting a cut of the sales, which is why I’m not linking to it right now or mentioning his name.  If I do find out he’s getting a cut, I’ll be happy to promote the hell out of it.)  I looked into the site’s specifics, trying out some possibilities on their cost calculator.  I was pretty much shocked to discover that the price structure wasn’t all that bad, and it allowed for me to get a comfortable cut, Lulu to get theirs and still sell at a reasonable price in the regular established market range.  Pretty impressive.  And it does raise some possibilities I hadn’t considered before.

I started out as a fiction writer, back in the day.  Mostly cheesy horror stories like guys getting suffocated by the leaves on their front lawn cause they were sick of being raked up and burnt every year, that kind of stuff.  Eventually, I progressed to somewhat less-cheesy stuff with more of a point behind the weird stuff going on, and eventually reached the point where I could present actual emotional issues; fear, anger, laughter, heartbreak; and it not seem cheesy at all.  But I couldn’t earn a living at it.  Fiction, unless you’re one of the six top writers in the country, doesn’t pay worth a damn.  That’s why I got into editing and the like in the first place.  At least doing that, I could collect a paycheck.  Of course, recently, that paycheck is getting smaller and smaller as the industry is collapsing in on itself, but that’s another matter.

I’ve had a stack of short stories I’ve been banging around on for years, always meaning to do something with them, but never really finding the time.  About a week ago, I decided to put some of them together and give this thing a shot, just to see how it works, exactly.  So, while being snowed in last weekend, I put this collection of 20 stories together.  I picked out a format from their options (they have lots, just about everything), laid out my pages, dug up a cover image (get it? It’s a skeleton?  “dug up”?), laid out a cover, processed them all and sent it off.  Bang, now I’ve got a nearly 200 page paperback for open sale for $9 ($5 for a digital version; they have those, too).  I don’t know if I’ll sell any, but that’s not the point, really.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to sell bunches of them, and I’m going to spend the next couple months playing around with different online marketing ideas to drum up some interest.  But primarily, I’m thinking big picture.  If it’s reasonable to produce actual books without the need for massive overhead for up-front print runs, then this is indeed a whole new ball game.  In the meantime, I’ll have a copy for my personal book shelf, and I’ll get a pretty good feel for whether or not this Lulu thing is as useful as it might possibly be.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

And if, perchance, you would like to buy, check it out here.

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Superbowl Sunday

So I was one for two in conference championship games, almost perfectly nailing the Colts 10+ point win with the Jets scoring less than 20 points, and just missing on the Vikings pulling out a close game.  First, the Minnesota-New Orleans game.  For a conference championship, that was one sloppy game.  Neither team looked particularly worthy of a trip to the Superbowl.  The Vikings fumbled, fumbled and fumbled some more, and the Saints took advantage of Minnesota’s inability to hold on to the ball, but their offense, particularly in the second half, was far less than overwhelming.

One thing I don’t get, however, is why no outcry about how that game ended.  The Saints game winning overtime field goal was set up by not one, but two consecutive really bad calls.  Now they may have won the game anyway, but they hadn’t been moving the ball in the second half at all, so quite possibly the worst pass interference call I’ve ever seen and a “completed” catch that was bobbled and pretty clearly hit the ground before the receiver had control of it set them up nicely without actually having to make a play.  Nice clutch kick by a young kicker, by the way.  Both of those calls were really bad, yet I haven’t seen anyone out there questioning them.  Maybe it’s because the Saints are such a great story of redemption, and that’s more fun to write about that another Brett Favre gushing party; or maybe it’s because the Vikings didn’t really deserve to win with all the bad turnovers, I don’t know.  But come one.  Those were two really bad calls, back to back, that handed a win and a trip to the biggest game of all to the Saints.  It’s still a victory, but a somewhat hollow one in my mind.

And here’s another question I had while watching the game.  During Favre’s first interception in the third quarter, the Saints defender went low and hit Favre below the knees, hurting his ankle.  Favre had to have it re-taped and was hobbling around the rest of the game.  I was under the impression that this was supposed to be a 15-yard penalty.  In fact, here’s the rule:

“The fifth provision of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12 (roughing the passer) says that: “A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee.”

Go back and watch the replay and tell me the defender didn’t go low, directly at Favre’s knees.  But again, no call that would have nullified the interception, and set the Vikings up better for another score.  The announcers didn’t even address the play, even after Favre was clearly hurt during it, and I have yet to see one word written anywhere in the press about it.  I’m not suggesting anything untoward here, it’s just seems like the press is playing favorites, as in the great redemptive Saints rather than the annoying and self-indulgent Brett Favre.  Still, the Vikings gave up too many chances in a game that, without all the fumbles, they could have won by two touchdowns, at least.

Anyway, here’s my take on the Superbowl.

Indianapolis Colts vs New Orleans Saints

If the Saints don’t play much, much better than they did at home in the NFC Championship Game, they’re going to get steamrolled.  They won two playoff games that were essentially given to them by the opposition.  The Cardinals fell apart and played no defense whatsoever, just like the second half the week before against the Packers, and the Vikings put up nearly 500 yards of offense, but kept coughing up the ball.  The Colts on the other hand, basically shut down the Ravens completely, and did the same to New York in the second half.  They’ve allowed all of 20 points in two games combined, beating two of the best defenses in the league fairly handily.  Dwight Freeney’s injury may be a problem, maybe not, but I just don’t see the Colts losing this game.

But watch closely.  The before-mentioned bad calls that helped the Saints beat Minnesota may rear up again in the Superbowl, and if they do, and if they help the Saints win, I’ll be very interested in seeing the media’s response to them this time.  Winning one game set up by really bad calls is one thing, but for it to happen twice in two big games, if the press ignores that, then they will lose any and all credibility.  I like the Saints, it’s great to see this long-suffering franchise have some prime-time success for a change but they have to win legitimately.  Otherwise, it looks like a giveaway by the league.

Colts win in a blowout.  Two rings for Peyton Manning and a trip to the top echelon of the best QB of all time discussions.

Published in: on February 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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