Monthly Archives: April 2016

Becoming An Artist Without Going Broke

27 April 2016

From Co.Create:

It’s probably for the best that Sara Benincasa makes her living as a writer and comedian now, because she was a truly crappy janitor.

“I was terrible at it,” she says. “Very, very bad maintenance worker.”

. . . .

She also later spent some time working at a law firm that specialized in immigration for fashion models, helping to import Bulgarian teenagers for a life of catwalk-traipsing. (She lasted about six weeks.) But even though Benincasa didn’t have any books bearing her name or any appearances on TV shows behind her yet, she wasn’t harboring dreams of becoming an artist back then.

Because she already was an artist.

“You are an artist regardless of what you put down on your income tax form in April,” Benincasa says. “You are an artist no matter what, as long as you do your art. If you don’t do your art, you’re not an artist. It’s pretty simple.”

. . . .

“It’s really important to know that every successful person in this world has had to put in work, has had to put in time, and has had to do some things that they didn’t love along the way,” Benincasa says. “Real artists have day jobs. Many artistic legends have had jobs that had nothing to do with art. I mean briefly Maya Angelou was a cable car conductor. Sandra Cisneros, the author of The House on Mango Street, was an administrative assistant. J.K. Rowling was a secretary. There are so many great artists throughout history who have done other things because they didn’t have a patron, or if they did have a patron, that patron couldn’t cover all their expenses so they had to work. And some of them, it would seem, found a great deal of meaning in that work as well as in their artistic endeavors.”

. . . .

“I ask friends who are writers and have kids how they make the time to write, they say, ‘I just have to produce. I get a half hour while the kid is asleep and I sit down and I write—that’s what happens.’ And they just do it. There is very little romanticism about it. Being an artist of any kind generally isn’t romantic. It’s not a fairy tale. You have to do the work. If you don’t do your art, you’re not an artist: You’re a dabbler. And dabbling is fine. If you’re a dabbler, be a dabbler. I dabble in cooking. I’m terrible at it. I am not a chef.”

Link to the rest at Co.Create


27 April 2016

Genre is a bookstore problem, not a literary problem.

Rick Moody

Your Media Business Will Not Be Saved

27 April 2016

From Medium:

Video will not save your media business. Nor will bots, newsletters, a “morning briefing” app, a “lean back” iPad experience, Slack integration, a Snapchat channel, or a great partnership with Twitter. All of these things together might help, but even then, you will not be saved by the magical New Thing that everyone else in the media community is convinced will be the answer to The Problem.

I can tell you from personal experience over the last several months, having met with countless investors and leaders of media companies and editors and writers and technologists in the media world that there is a desperate belief that The Problem can be solved with the New Thing. And goddammit someone must have it in their pitch deck. A new kind of video app. The best news stories of the day, except all on video. Video, but with subtitles. Only 30 second videos, designed for vertical screens. A personalized Facebook bot that delivers only the video you want. Video on-demand, over-the-top, linear, succulent, meaningful, plentiful, attention-grabbing video!

. . . .

What’s The Problem, you ask? The Problem is that we used to have a really neat and tidy version of a media business where very large interests controlled vast swaths of the things we read, watched, and listened to. Because that system was built on the concept of scarcity and locality — the limits of what was physically possible — it was very easy to keep the gates and fill the coffers. Put simply, there were far fewer players in the game with far fewer outlets for their content, so audiences were easy to sell to and easy to come by.

Then digital. Then you and me. And all of a sudden all those old, fixed channels started falling apart. Papers didn’t sell. Magazines died. Networks scrambled. Local news meant a lot less. Local papers even less than that. Suddenly a lot more free stuff was available online, and anyone could start a blog! But the media industry is a hulking, stupid, slow moving beast that has little awareness about its threats and surrounding environs.

. . . .

Basically: it was really hard for them to figure out the internet, and all of the money (like subscriber dollars) were still going to traditional outlets. So magazine ads remained orders of magnitude more valuable than their digital counterparts (if said counterpart even existed). TV was not even in the same class. Pennies on the dollar doesn’t begin to describe it. It is still mostly this way today. A broken model that is aging badly.

A second thing happened alongside those foundational publishing challenges: this industry which had controlled its ability to reach a populace through ownership of things like printing presses began to cede its power in the delivery and distribution process to other people. People who didn’t care about or understand the media business. People who told them the answer wasn’t the best of something, it was the most of something.

. . . .

The media industry now largely thinks its only working business model is to reach as many people as possible, and sell — usually programmatically, but sometimes not — as many advertisements against that audience as it can. If they tell you otherwise, they are lying.

They are also wrong, I believe, in the long run.

And every few months — or let’s say annually — a technology, or idea, or person comes along and the very stupid and slow media industry thinks that New Thing will fix everything. Get them back to the good times. Make those pennies into actual dollars.

Link to the rest at Medium

Pioneering Barnes & Noble Leader to Step Down

27 April 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Book retailer Leonard Riggio said in an interview Tuesday that he will step down as executive chairman of Barnes & Noble Inc., following the company’s annual meeting scheduled for September.

“I’m no longer going to be in charge,” Mr. Riggio said. “I’m done with that. I’m done with being top banana.”

Mr. Riggio, who built Barnes & Noble into the nation’s largest bookstore chain, said he played an active role last fall in the hiring of the company’s current chief executive,Ronald Boire.

The 75-year-old Mr. Riggio began to pull back in January. “I found peace with my decision,” he said. “The whole identity crisis comes in. ‘Who am I? How do I leave here?’ All that stuff comes into your head after you spend so many years in one place.”

Mr. Riggio is the company’s largest individual shareholder with a 17.5% stake. He says he has no plans to sell or add to his stockholdings. Mr. Riggio, who resigned as the company’s CEO in 2002, will remain on the board after stepping down as executive chairman.

. . . .

Barnes & Noble, however, never duplicated its success with its online bookstore or its offering of Nook digital devices and e-books. Instead, rival Inc. today dominates the sale of physical books online as well as the sale of digital e-books.

. . . .

As Amazon’s share of the book business increased, Barnes & Noble’s store count decreased to 640 today from a peak of 726 for the fiscal year ended January 2009.

Sales at the retail segment, which includes the consumer stores and, have fallen 20% to $4.11 billion for the fiscal year ended May 2015 compared with the fiscal year ended January 2009, in part because of the impact of digital books.

Barnes & Noble’s big bet that it could compete as a high-powered technology company head-to-head with Amazon and Apple Inc. also proved a disappointment. Through the first nine months ended Jan. 31, Nook revenue fell 29% to $150 million.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to C. for the tip.

The Ultimate Collection of Book Marketing Examples

27 April 2016

BookBub has assembled a 173-page PDF of examples of good marketing materials for books and authors. It includes websites, author bios, Facebook page designs, etc., etc.

Link to the collection at BookBub

Prince’s Sister Says He Had No Will, So Gets His Millions?

27 April 2016

From The Daily Beast:

Prince’s sister said Tyka Nelson said in a court filing on Tuesday that he had no known will and asked Minnesota to “appoint a special administrator to oversee his estate,” according to the Associated Press. The news opens up the possibility of a drawn-out battle over his fortune, estimated at anything from $150 million to $800 million.

Prince, who reportedly worked 154 hours straight in the days leading up to his death, had eight brothers and sisters, and under Minnesota law, the six of them who are still alive, as his closest living relatives, would automatically share equally in his estate.

Only sister Tyka was a full sibling, and it had been assumed that she would take control of the empire; however, half-siblings have equal rights to the estate.

. . . .

TMZ sources say “various professionals raised the issue of a will with Prince but he never had an interest in drafting one.”

. . . .

Prince kept in his possession a treasure trove of unpublished music—approximately 26 albums worth of material—that he kept hidden in a vault in the basement of his Paisley Park mansion. “I’ve vaulted so much stuff, going way back to the ’80s, because I didn’t want people to hear it—it wasn’t ready,” he told the New York Post back in 2015.

The question of how much Prince’s estate will actually be valued at will be a fascinating case study for tax professionals, as his estate must now place a value both on his catalog of work and his “right of publicity’’—which is to say the future estimated earning power of his name and image.

. . . .

Writing on this morning, tax expert David J. Herzig of Valparaiso University Law School draws a parallel between the Prince and Michael Jackson estates on this matter.

In its federal estate tax return, he writes, “Jackson’s estate valued the right of publicity at just $2,105,” arguing that because Jackson’s image was so tarnished by allegations of child molestation his reputation was basically worthless.

The IRS asserted in response that the right of Jackson’s likeness was worth $434 million.

Link to the rest at The Daily Beast and thanks to Patrice for the tip.

For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way

27 April 2016

From The Guardian:

A few days ago, I wrote a piece on my blog exploding the myth of the rich writer, and laying out (in terms the Royal Literary Fund described as “ruthlessly mathematical”) what authors actually receive when you buy their books. The simple answer for many of us is nothing at all, after that heady advance in the case of my most recent novel, which was £5,000 for two years’ work.

. . . .

Now, I understand that “indie publishing” is all the rage, but you might as well be telling Luke Skywalker to go to the dark side. Despite royalty rates of 70%, I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists (by which I mean, novelists who take writing seriously, and love to write). Here’s why.

You have to forget writing for a living

If you self-publish your book, you are not going to be writing for a living. You are going to be marketing for a living. Self-published authors should expect to spend only 10% of their time writing and 90% of their time marketing. The self-published author who came to my blog to preach the virtues of his path, claiming to make five figures a month from Kindle sales of his 11 novels, puts his writing time percentage in single figures. If that sounds like fun to you, be my guest. But if your passion is creating worlds and characters, telling great stories, and/or revelling in language, you might want to aim for traditional publication.

. . . .

 Gatekeepers are saving you from your own ego

Imagine you are a cabinet-maker. You look at a few cabinets, you read a few books about how to make a cabinet, you practice the technicalities of things like dovetail joints. Then, with hope in your heart and breakfast in your sawing arm, you grab some wood and set to work. But because you are new at this, your tools are a starter set. In your ignorance, you chose wood that wasn’t properly seasoned. Wow, those dovetail joints take some precision, don’t they? This cabinet-making thing is hard! Nevertheless, with persistence and effort you complete your cabinet. It wobbles a bit. The drawers stick. The finish isn’t perfect. Buy hey, it’s a cabinet! You try to sell it to several furniture shops and they all politely decline. So are you going to sell it yourself? Or heave a sigh, make another cabinet, and see if you can make a better one?

. . . .

You risk looking like an amateur

Good writers need even better editors. They need brilliant cover designers. They need imaginative marketers and well-connected publicists. All these things are provided by a traditional publisher, and what’s more, it doesn’t cost you a penny. They pay you! If a self-published author wants to avoid looking like an amateur, they’d better be prepared to shell out some serious dosh to get professional help in all the areas where they don’t excel. And I mean serious. Paying some poor bugger in the Philippines a fiver, or bunging £50 to your PhotoShopping nephew will not result in a distinctive, professional-looking cover. And don’t get me started on the value of good editors, copy-editors and proof-readers, and how many times they have saved me from looking like a twonk. Providing these services to indie authors is a lucrative business. Indeed, many indie authors keep themselves afloat financially by offering these services to other indie authors: the new “authorpreneur” pyramid scheme. Which is all very well if what you’ve always wanted to do is start your own writing-related business. But if you’d rather be an author, why not practice your skill until you’ve written something a publisher will pay for? And enjoy the fact they’ll also foot the bill for everything else.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

PG says “£5,000 for two years’ work” sounds like an amateur.

UPDATE: PG didn’t notice that this was a double-post.

He’s alerted Mrs. PG that she will need to double-check his appearance before he goes out the door today. And maybe hide the car keys.

Paul McStay to self-publish his autobiography The Maestro

27 April 2016

From The Glasgow Evening Times:

Celtic legend Paul McStay’s revealed he’s turned down publishing deals to write his autobiography – because he wants to release it himself.

The former Hoops and Scotland captain is crowdfunding the book with a Kickstarter campaign and will use his graphic design skills to create it.

. . . .

McStay now runs a coaching software firm in Australia after retiring from football in 1997, and thinks he’s got the tech know-how to put out the book himself.

So far the 51 year old’s raised more than £9,000 of his £53,000 target by offering memorabilia from his career, and taking pledges in return for signed copies of the autobiography.

Link to the rest at Glasgow Evening Times

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