Posts filed under 'Observation & Musing'

My year of adventure in pain

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up the blog this last week. I said I would have some articles to put up on it, but life got in the way. Work and illness.

2009 has been, without doubt, the second worst year of my life. I haven’t said much about it during the year, because I don’t like to complain, and it would be tiresome to hear it too. But I always look for meaning in even the bad things that happen to us. This year, I have learned to be sympathetic to those in pain, in a way that you can only when you’ve experienced pain. I hope to bring that sympathy with me through to 2010 and beyond.

As much as I can find purpose in this dire year, I really want a better one for next year. Come January, I plan to set about making it just that.

This year I learned something about my writing too. I’m not as talented a writer as I thought I was. Actually, it’s not that I thought I was hugely talented (in some vain way), it’s that I just always assumed I had what it takes to “make it”. In the end, despite what anyone will tell you, publishing, like life, is a bloody lottery, even though you do your best. What I do about that in 2010, we’ll see.

For now 2009 is limping to a close, and me right along with it. I’m exhausted. Blindsided by a bad year that came out of nowhere. And a stomach bug over Christmas too, just to see out the year consistently! But I’m looking forward to the new year of hope.

I won’t wish you all a happy new year, because we can’t know what will come our way. However, I wish that you learn to have a good 2010, in all its sorrows or joys.

Add comment December 26th, 2009

What’s Amazon up to?

Dealing with corporate clients, handling their last minute rush requirements that absolutely have to be done by Christmas (happens every year!) got me thinking about the megacorps of publishing. The megacorp of publishing – Amazon. Ok, so bear with me. I’m have a suspicious mind. It comes from reading and writing all those thrillers.

When I first considered self-publication a year ago, BookSurge was the candidate. In the meantime, it has been subsumed into the great belly of the Amazon beast. Not long after, Amazon stated that the only vanity press they would list on their site was … BookSurge (CreateSpace as it has recently been renamed).

There’s the rub. And a portent of the future. That was a clear case of Amazon leveraging it’s online market dominance to push out other vanity presses, and so maximize its profits from that sector of the market. It is a common strategy of all megacorps, like Tesco and Walmart. Suppliers are so glad to get into chainstores like those, that they will take a financial hit for the sake of wide exposure. And the megacorp will squeeze them financially, because they know they will take it.

In the Internet age, if we are not vigilant, we will live in an age of monopolization of the distribution channels. The companies who control the distribution channels set the rules of the game, and can squeeze suppliers.

So who are Amazon’s book suppliers? The publishers? Yes and no. Mostly no. Because it is the authors who actually make the product. Amazon knows this. This is why CreateSpace makes such sense for them, especially in the long term, as I will explain shortly. If they capture the huge volume of vanity published authors, it doesn’t matter if they sell only a few books on each. Amazon aren’t fussy, because one person’s buck is as good as any other. Multiply a few book sales out by the volume of vanity authors they can capture (remember, they control the main distribution channel). And they can charge the author for the privilege of using their vanity services too (the willing supplier will be squeezed gladly for access to the distribution channel).

Publishers aren’t really the suppliers. They are the middle men in Amazon’s paradigm. Amazon need publishers for now, of course, because Dan Brown’s latest will drive browsers to Amazon in droves. But in the future … who knows. Apart from squeezing supplier’s profit margins, the other strategy megacorps use to maximise profits is shortening the supply chain. On the Internet, this is known as disintermediation. The middle men are kicked out, because the distribution costs are kept low, and the Internet company can connect supplier directly to customer. Authors linked directly to customer, by Amazon alone. Internet companies will use and tolerate any intermediary only so long as it makes financial sense for them. With Borders bookstores closing daily, will Amazon grab some high street pick-up points for their consignments on the cheap in a recession? If Amazon become the distribution channel for books, what’s to stop them signing contracts with Dan Brown once his contract with his publisher expires? What’s to stop them from setting up an X-Factor book site to crowd-source the next Dan Brown from the ranks of all the CreateSpace authors?

Publishers beware. And watch what Amazon is up to. Gradually, Amazon’s interests may be to push the publishers out of the chain and deal with authors directly. Small shifts, inexhorably, over time. Too suspicious for you? It’s not just me: Publishers need Amazon – but do Amazon need publishers?

The big worry, in such a doomsday scenario for publishing, is who would be left to fight back against the megacorp in the author’s interest?

But, for now, we’ll all happily use them. They’ve got the biggest, best distribution on the Internet. Right?

Add comment December 14th, 2009

Novelist(s) required

Here at Optimistic Future Publishing Enterprises we are always on the look-out for excellent candidates to fill our job opportunities as fiction novelists.

The successful candidate must have the following:

  • An original manuscript, already completed, to our satisfaction.

The successful candidate should also display some (but not necessarily all) of the following:

  • Work well alone
  • Work well in a publishing team
  • Self-starter
  • Self-finisher
  • Imaginative
  • Observant
  • Attentive to detail
  • Patient
  • Persistent
  • Ambitious
  • Withstand criticism
  • Self-motivated
  • Can work to a deadline
  • Deliver long-running projects with no management intervention
  • Avid reader (hundreds of novels in your genre ideal)
  • Mastery of at least one major international language
  • Word processing skills
  • Proof-reading skills
  • Editorial skills
  • Research ability
  • Psychologist
  • Philosopher
  • Good people interaction skills
  • A large social network of friends
  • Tireless self-promoter
  • Knowledge of the latest marketing strategies
  • An active blogger (a back catalogue of many years worth of blog posts is ideal)
  • Frequent twitterer
  • A keen observer of publishing trends
  • A keen observer of social trends
  • Media savvy (some training preferred)
  • Knowledge of libel & slander laws
  • A high public profile (celebrities preferred)
  • Public-speaking experience
  • Loves to travel
  • Young
  • Attractive
  • Interesting
  • G.S.O.H.
  • A strong arm (whichever one you sign with)

If this sounds like you, we want to hear from you! For the right candidate, renumeration is negotiable(*).

* Renumeration is on sales commission basis only. No salary provided. Overtime will be required. Second income recommended.

Add comment November 16th, 2009

The end of sin?

I thought this was interesting, given my interest in all things genetic. A court has reduced a murderer’s sentence because he tested positive for genes believed linked to agression.

Is this yet another potential change in society that genetic knowledge will foist on us? Will we no longer be responsible for our actions, but merely considered slaves to our genes? A society built on lesser personal responsibility does not bode well.

If science has killed God … now sin is shortly to follow. Broken evolution indeed.

Add comment November 5th, 2009

Snake Oil and Salesmen

I’ve been searching reviews for a natural dietary supplement to see what it does and if it’s any good. The process brings me face-to-face with the real nature of the internet, and a lesson in marketing, during the very week I’ve been planning my own internet marketing strategy.

Snake Oil Remedies
Image by inky

Upon searching for this particular supplement, I find that the reviews on the first couple of Google pages of links were all very positive. Nothing is so perfect. Perfection makes me suspicious. The reviews were similar in their wording. My guess is the marketing man (who shall remain nameless) from the company who make the supplement has entered into as many blog and review sites as he could find. SEO at its best … and worst. Manipulating search engines and saturating the bandwidth for those searching on the efficacy of a product is very shrewd marketing strategy, but I find it a little sad, because it erodes the internet’s usefulness as a resource for impartial, genuine, user reviews of a product.

Ah well, moral of the tale: if you want the genuine stuff, click straight to page 20 of the search results; if you want to sell stuff, get it into pages 1 and 2!

Add comment October 26th, 2009

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