Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The publisher is named Concord Free Press. Located in New England, their "About" page maintains that "... our books don’t generate traditional profits, they create real value." Of course, publishing for profit creates real value, too But this approach allows writers to get their work out without depending on a judgement of whether the market will welcome it. However, some judgment as to quality must be exercised, because the company can publish only so many books.
Concorde cites foreign and film rights and other sub-rights as potential sources of income for writers who donate their books. I can't see this, unless an author can engage a foreign rights or film specialist. (Out of 43 books I've seen 11 foreign-language sales, for which I'm grateful. Plus three foreign pirate editions. Flattery. I think I'm in a minority.)
In any event, Concord Free Press may be a way for new (unpublished) writers to validate their work and encourage themselves. And established writers might want to have a book to give away as a means of publicizing other books.
--Mike On the Way to the Web
A quarter-century ago, the venues were CompuServe and other dialup online services that provided realtime chat services--what people call IMs or IRC today, we called “chat” or “CB” back in 1983. The medium inspired quite a few marriages, the first one that was documented took place in ’83. But, divorces were probably inspired by online sex before that.
It went down in the 80s pretty much the same as today, sans graphics. Either someone got caught, or the typing whizzes decided run off together. The only difference was who would be the first to realize divorce was on the horizon.
Oh, man--think how difficult online sex was back in those days! Uphill both ways, and all you had were typed words on a monochrome screen. Imagination was important. Literacy was vital, although at the penultimate point it was often crippled by fading concentration and the temporary loss of one typing hand.
--Mike, still On the Way to the Web
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
(I still figure that the "biggest" reason for books not being reviewed is the lack of advertising support, as discussed in the preceding post.)
A tactic I use before a new book comes out is to contact everyone who might receive or want a copy for review. It's obvious, but some people don't use it. And, perhaps as evidenced by the preceding post, it doesn't always work--which may be a result of the "too many books" problem. Even though an editor or reviewer knows a book is on the way, she may be deluged by so many books (and accompanying announcements, email, etcetera) that the idea of the book is displaced from her thoughts.
At the same time, those operating in the more popular review venues (say, the New York Times) may rely on a rigid system or may have their review choices dictated to them.
Same-same with On the Way to the Web. I have excellent reviews from readers at booksellers' sites and on blogs. But no magazine or newspaper reviews. It's not that magazine reviewers didn't receive copies; they did--nearly 100 were sent out for one book, and I've sent out more. Come to think of it, while my book Crosley got several print media reviews, I had to work hard to encourage editors to review the book.
What's up? There are always magazines and newspapers who don't notice a book coming in because they get so many of them. A Certain Midestern Daily is bad for that; in fact, one staffer told me they pretty much lose all the books they receive because they're just tossed into a closet, out of the way. Presumably the closet gets cleaned out periodically, and staffers who like to read get bonuses. (Drop me a line if you want to know the name of the paper.)
But that doesn't answer to the majority of instances. I think what's happening is something I've seen occur in the past: magazines and newspapers aren't reviewing books because book reviews don't generate advertising. The attitude appears to be "Forget the readers who might be interested in these books; we're not mentioning a product unless we get paid!"
This is nothing new. Elsewhere in this blog, I've related the story of the magazine editor who pressured me to write a negative review of a product because the advertiser reduced the frequency of his full-page ads. Obvious cause-and-effect. Yeah, "We'll punish them because they are not giving us enough money" sounds childish (or like interntational politics). But it happens all the time.
It happened back in the 1920s and 1930s; newspapers refused to run stories about radio unless radio manufacturers, retailers, or broadcasters bought advertising. When industrialist Powel Crosley, Jr. bought a Lockheed Vega and put WLW and Crosley Radio on the wings, and then hired Ruth Nichols to set records in it, every newspaper in the country covered the big stories. But nearly every one ran tight, cropped shots of the Crosley airplane and did not mention Crosley as the sponsor--because they weren't getting advertising money from Crosley and, besides, radio was the enemy, stealing advertising from honest newspapers--so there!
Granted, print magazines and newspapers are hurting nowadays. Advertising revenue is declining. But there's a good possibility that some quality editorial matter of interest to readers and not tied directly to advertiser topics could attract more readers--and advertisers.
So, much good information do we miss because of various media policies (informal or not) that bar or admit coverage of facts based on whether money is paid for advertising? A lot. Read Crosley or my upcoming biography of Ruth Lyons for some examples. (As the Lyons book will illustrate, some advertisers play the same game. "Say something about a competitor, and we'll cut you off!")
It even makes one wonder how much we can trust the information that magazines, newspapers, and electronic media provide. In additional to personal bias getting in the way of straightforward coverage (and it always does), economic bias both shapes and forces out facts. (If you can review One the Way to the Web or Blogging Heroes for a magazine, drop me a line at bookrevs overat aol dot com.)
(Addenda: I've done a guest editorial for the "Classics Rock" topic at Tech Republic, on the subject of cloud computing. For those of you who have books out or on the way, note that this is a promotional, unpaid contribution to TechRepublic. It's not material from the book, but it is closely related. The posting carries a tagline and link to On the Way to the Web at Amazon.)
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks
Sunday, November 23, 2008
What do they pay? Right now, Analog is at less than 10 cents per word. Which comes to $250 for an average short story. The most I've been paid by the magazine was 15 cents per word, well over a decade ago, when print magazines were still selling well.
Why write for low-paying magazines? Having written for both Analog and Asimov's SF (first story in 1978), and served as assistant editor for Baen's New Destinies in the early 1980s, I can answer that question.
Getting published in Analog, Asimov's, F&SF, the late Galaxy and other "pro" SF/F magazines yields all sorts of benefits beyond the money, if you're a social person. Free drinks and free dinners at cons, maybe romantic companionship at cons if that's what you seek, watching people who ignored you before at cons sidling up to get in on your conversation--and all sorts of other egoboo. (SF fan lingo for "ego boost.")
You'll never get those fringes with literary mags that pay 5 or 10 cents per word. (And if you're an editor--look out! It's a whole new level.)
Besides, where else are you going to get those weird (though professional) stories published? And then there's the fact that published short fiction gets you noticed and can help sell novels.
There's lots of comeradship on tap, too--again, if you're a social person. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA--it was too hard to pronounce with effs) is a grand ol' club of well over 1,000 members that provides newsletter-type publications, selected author services, contact with other writers who can't stop, and venues for endless argument and other entertainment. Check it out!
Oh, yeah: Sometimes you get money for years after a story is published. My second short story in Asimov's was reprinted four times, earning twice as much in reprint as the original sale. And all I had ot do was sign the checks.
--Mike On the Way to the Web
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Meanwhile, the artists aren't consulted and often some potential for just compensation for their work is destroyed.
The specific (or interpreted) limitations on Fair Use weren't intended to stifle free expression. Rather, the intent was to ensure against diluting the value of a book or other work to the point where no one would need or want to consult it.
Postscript: One wonders why Lessig's and McCleod's books even have copyright notices. For that matter, perhaps they ought to be free downloads, or given away by the Concord Free Press, which makes books available to bookstores and other outlets at no cost, to give away.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Copyright © Michael A. Banks, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
I've been wondering whether some new material or form will make books uncopyable. There was a time that the price for copy equipment (and, for that matter) printing equipment discouraged copytheft. The labor that had to go into the effort also dissuaded potential book thieves (imagine standing at a photocopier to copy a 500-page book).
Perhaps a material that degrades over time will be tried in lieu of paper.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
A few years later, re-reading the book inspired me to write to Carl Sagan to query about the possibility of microbiotic life that might live in Mars' upper atmosphere being carried to the planet's surface by the Viking I Mars lander. Sagan wrote back with a term for what I was asking about: "back-contamination." His response to the question was to tell me in effect that nothing could be done to prevent it, so they'd just have to take the chance.
There continues to be speculation about microscopic life forms from elsewhere making it to the Earth's surface. Lots of scenarios are offered--there's even a theory that life on Earth might have evolved from microscopic life forms or the spores thereof that arrived inside meteorites. (Or maybe there was some "back-contamination" from the Earth's upper atmosphere.)
In any event, I was looking forward to what Crichton would write next. I remember reading that he maintained his medical practice in New York, and whenever he worked out an idea for a book he traveled to a condo in Florida and wrote the book in six weeks. I envied that! (He gave up medical practice in the Seventies.)
Crichton’s most recent novel was not well-received. I enjoyed it, though the technique was bothersome. It was a good book, though I believe that some reviewers panned it in knee-jerk fashion; they couldn't get past their feelings that anything that didn't toe the so-called "politically correct' line had to be bad. Some felt obligated to toe the line, themselves. Perhaps Crichton knew that global warming was a reality, in which case he took on the more difficult path in writing Next. (I hope there is at least one more novel waiting in the wings.)
Re-read Next. Suspend your belief in the tenets of global warming, and I think you'll find it an entertaining read.
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks
Monday, November 10, 2008
Lugging a forty-pound electric typewriter wasn’t easy, but technology would soon change that. In the early 1980s I bought a TRS-80 Model 100. It was an excellent companion, lightweight and requiring 80 percent less space than the typewriter. The keyboard was as good any you can find today, and it was easy to adjust to working on a 40-character wide display with 8 lines.
The Model 100 came with built-in firmware applications: text editor, calendar/scheduler with an alarm clock function, BASIC, an address book, and terminal program. It required little in the way of support; four AA cells powered it for about 20 hours. 8 extra batteries would see me through most any trip.
The Model 100’s only shortcoming was storage. Mine had just the basic 8K of memory, which didn't quite hold 12 pages of text. So I needed external storage. A cassette interface made tape storage possible, but it wasn't always perfect. Besides, that would have meant hauling along a tape player that weighed more than the computer. Being me, I would have lost or damaged at least one tape on every trip. A Model 100 disk drive presented the same lug-along problems as the cassette, and it was too expensive anyway.
But I didn't need any kind of portable storage, not with the Model 100's built-in modem and an online service account. I used DELPHI (and later CompuServe) as a virtual hard drive. For all practical purposes it provided an infinite amount of storage space.
Such was cloud computing, circa 1984.
Granted, the programs weren’t on a server, but they were fast, and I needed only minimal hardware on my end. If I shut down the computer while working, the document would be available exactly as I had left it the next time I turned the computer on. It was possible to buy additional apps, such as spreadsheets, and of course email and FAX service waited on DELPHI and CompuServe, along with news, encyclopedias, and other resources.
The combination of the little slab computer with online services wasn’t quite Google Apps. But it offered everything a writer could want. And its minimalist requirements of cheap batteries and a common telephone line made it possible to get to work in seconds no matter where you were.
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks
Sunday, November 09, 2008
These are all covered in On the Way to the Web: The Secret History of the Internet and Its Founders. Along with these are services such as Eunet, Telset Finland, CIX in England, Japan's Junet and NHK, NABU in Canada, T-Net from Deutsch Telekom, and several more. You'll also learn about regional and often obscure online services around the U.S., such as INDAX, Electra, Covidea, California's Gateway, Keycom, and a bunch of others. Check out the book and see everything that was happening online during the Micro Decade.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
"It's a new approach to sell our old computers to small businesses. Your money enables it," Schuyler explained, "leaving ours to power other investments. You will, of course, receive a larger share than otherwise."
"I got a great idea: We can sell the old shit to idiots desperate for computers, and," Schuyler laughed, "we use your money to do it! If we make anything, you get half."
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks
Sunday, November 02, 2008
We frequently see historical and contemporary figures as "the father of" this or that. "The father of our country," "The father of television," "The father of the telephone," and so on.
A few years back, it occurred to me that when anyone or anything is fathered, someone gets screwed.
Definitely a literal truth if it involves business.