Is Hybrid Publishing Ethical?

PG Note: He published this post prior to the one just following it chronologically. The UK study was talking about what are known in the US as vanity presses.

Vanity presses are shady operators who say they will “publish” an author’s book if he/she/they pay the vanity press a fixed upfront fee, which may sometimes be increased by additional “services” that cost more money.

In return, the typical vanity publisher will print up a few hundred books, list them for sale online, wholesale and retail, send out a canned press release, and provide the author with a number of copies of the book.

Typically, the vanity publisher only orders a short run of books because they know very few copies will sell. When the book doesn’t sell, the vanity press typically contacts the author to ask if the author wants to have the unsold books destroyed or shipped to the author.

It’s not unusual for people connected with traditional publishing to conflate vanity publishing and self-publishing, but, if the self-publishing author wants to make money, she/he/they need to spend some time learning how to do it reasonably well. All the information necessary to understand and execute the process is available online.

Although PG thinks some serious competitors to Amazon would help indie authors as well as encouraging Amazon to up its game a bit, at the moment, Amazon is, effectively, the place the indie author must be successful and the company provides financial incentives for an author to sell exclusively through them.

From Jane Friedman:

The publishing industry has been arguing for a long time about traditional vs. hybrid vs. self-publishing and which of these avenues are legitimate, and which are not, but a recent UK study that decries hybrid publishing as unethical has ruffled a lot of feathers.

Here’s the basic problem, in my view: these arguments ultimately conflate “ethical publishing” with positive ROI on a per-book basis. I’d like to take a closer look at that foundational premise, its inherent cracks, and offer a different paradigm.

Regardless of who pays for it, this is the cost to produce a book

My operating assumption is that you want to create a quality book—a book that will be on par with the quality of every other book on the shelf next to it. Regardless of who is fronting the investment (the publisher, in the case of a traditional publishing, or an author, in the case of hybrid or self-publishing), it can easily cost upward of $20,000 to create the thing.

Yes, there is variance based on the book’s contents (if you need a fact-check or an index or photo permissions clearance, for example), word count, or printing specifications. There is also a great deal of variance in terms of the pricing you can find these services for—but generally speaking, you’re going to get what you pay for. Good designers and editors have fairly standard rates, so I’m using those here to illustrate what I call the actual cost of producing a high-quality book. If you cross-check these numbers with a traditional publisher, you’ll find they expect to outlay about the same amount when such responsibilities are handled by freelancers.

Three-pass editing (Developmental, Copyediting, Proofreading): $7,500
Cover and custom interior design: $3,000

Finding great editors and designers is an important task—one that many self-publishers have no interest, ability, or time to do. Partnering with a reputable hybrid publisher or a publishing services firm who continually vet their creative partners removes the onus of team curation from the author.

Project management and back cover copywriting: $5,000

Self-publishers can and often do take on their own project management. It takes around 120 hours of professional project management to produce a book, more for the inexperienced. A lot of authors decide this is not how they would like to spend their time and hire out project management accordingly.

Offset print run (let’s assume a relatively small run of 3,500 copies, for example): $8,750

Total creative investment: ~$24,250

These costs do not include marketing and publicity. A full-scale publicity campaign, for example, starts around $10,000. The vast majority of traditionally published authors receive limited marketing and publicity support from their publisher, so regardless of publishing route, the bulk of a book’s marketing and promotion responsibility falls squarely on the author.

The earning potential from a single book

Publishers, as well as many individuals deciding on a hybrid publisher or on self-publishing, are concerned with turning a profit on the project. So, let’s look at how many copies a book needs to sell to earn out the creative investment alone on a paperback with a list price of $18.95.

  • From $18.95, we subtract the wholesale discount. If the book is being sold into bookstores, 40-55% is standard.
  • Then we subtract the distributor’s cut (18-20%).
  • The hybrid publisher and author split the net revenue (let’s call that $9.23 in this case) along the lines of their specific deal, and these vary widely. Sometimes hybrids take 15%, others take 50% of net revenues. We’ll use 30% for this example, making author earnings ~$6.46/book.

What this means is that, if all your books are sold through the brick-and-mortar channel, you would need to sell around 3,700 copies to break even on your up-front creative and printing investment. (Direct, non-retail-distribution-dependent sales channels earn more per copy.)

This sketch should shed some light on why traditional publishers are increasingly looking to acquire books that will sell more than 5,000 copies. It also suggests why publishers stress the importance of author platform: the author’s direct relationship with readers reduces the need to pile on marketing spend to reach sales goals.

Traditional publishers face ever-increasing printing costs and relatively stagnant retail prices (the market simply will not bear a $30 paperback novel, or even a $20 one). So they have little choice but to recover their margin with bulk rates for larger print runs. In other words, the sales projection threshold for a traditional publishing deal continues to move up, yoking publication to commercialization.

Is producing a book worth doing if it in and of itself is not a profitable project?

There is not a single right answer to this. For some people it is, and for some people it isn’t. A book does not always need to be an ROI-positive event to be worthwhile. Many thought leaders and entrepreneurs write book-production costs off as a marketing expense, since they recognize the legitimizing value of a byline to their authority. A book can function as a lead-gen tool to drive conversion to contract sales; a book can act as a compelling business card that helps net new clients or speaking engagements; a book can drive an individual’s community engagement and retention. Many authors prefer to work in a hybrid or fully assisted self-publishing model because those avenues offer them more control over their work and rights, greater speed to market, and increased potential for return on their intellectual property.

I echo Jane Friedman in saying that “Most writers, regardless of how they publish, are motivated not by money, but some other reason. Prestige, Infamy. Status. Visibility. A million other things.”

This insight applies not only to nonfiction writers, but to novelists, children’s book authors, and memoirists as well, for many of whom producing a high-quality book is a lifelong dream. The value writers get from publishing their book often has little to do with the royalties it generates. As Jane describes in great detail in the aforementioned article, “The writer who makes a living from book sales alone is the exception and not the rule in traditional publishing . . . what most frustrates me, year after year, is why we believe or assume that authors have ever earned a reasonable full-time living from publisher advances or book sales.”

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG was very interested in the costs estimates in the OP. He assumes that these are the costs that major traditional publishers accrue when they publish a book.

He also suspects that many of these costs are associated with getting printed books into physical bookstores – persuading the bookstore buyers to purchase a bunch of printed books (with the ability to return unsold books to the publisher for full credit) by touting all the money spent on publicity, taking book review editors to expensive Manhattan restaurants, etc., etc.

PG thinks that serious self-publishing authors are happy to get status, visibility, etc., but their primary objective is to make money from their writing via book sales through online bookstores, Amazon being the big dog.

Because indie authors sell their books online, they focus most of their efforts at gaining visibility for their books online via social media, websites, email lists, etc.

For PG, the last quote from Jane Friedman in the OP is the killer:

What most frustrates me, year after year, is why we believe or assume that authors have ever earned a reasonable full-time living from publisher advances or book sales.

So, are we to assume that everybody else in the traditional book business — publishers, employees of publishers, editors, agents, publicists, book distributors and wholesalers, traditional bookstores, Amazon — has a reasonable expectation of being able to earn “a reasonable full-time living,” while authors must have side jobs, wealthy spouses, inherited wealth, etc., in order to survive?

The author belongs at the bottom of the publishing heap?

The author is a peon and agents, editors, publisher gofers, book stores, etc., are the aristos?

32 thoughts on “Is Hybrid Publishing Ethical?”

  1. If trad pub is paying that much per book (e.g. $3k for cover design), they’re not getting their money’s worth.

    • In the 90s it was typical for the cover artist to be paid more than the author. Basically you were buying a Michael Whelan cover with a story attached.

      I’m sure that applies today.

      • I dunno.
        A lot of books are shipping with stock photo covers. Often tbe exact same cover.

        Even factoring how little authors get, those covers don’t look terribly expensive. Or original.

        • You get my point. For $3K, I’d be wanting some 1950’s style original, artistic, enthralling, and creative artwork, not stock, abstract splashes, or modern flat-blah crap. (I’ve been having fun looking on eBay to see how Erle Stanley Gardner covers have evolved; the 50’s and 60’s covers are often just awesome (including some hardcover photo covers), the later photo covers are, with a few exceptions, just blah, and some recent covers are double blah. And, yes, I do know about updating covers to match the zeitgeist, but when the current trends are awful, someone needs to lead not follow).

  2. Thinking through some rough math, the person going the traditional route, we’ll assume no advance, and making $1 per book, would make $25,000 after the sale of 25,000 books. The hybrid author starts earning that $6.46 at approximately sold book number 3,701, will have made $138,000 by book sale 25,000. I’d suggest some are motivated by that math.

  3. The only part of the process that I feel is problematic is the “editing” costs.

    Let’s say that I am a freelance editor. (Sadly this is possible since there are many online sites that want me to be a freelance editor through their site. Yikes!)

    Let’s say I offer my services for a flat fee of $4k, for the entire book. You agree to my terms, sign the contract, and we proceed. You send me your book, and I start work.

    I read the book and it is beautiful, perfect, ready to go, that I recommend that you don’t change a thing, and I tell you that, along with my final bill.

    – Would you pay me the $4k as contracted?

    The answer, of course, is, “No”.

    Which is why as freelance editor I would make extensive suggestions to change a perfectly good book that is ready to go. It would only take a bit of my time to mark everything up so I would make a nice hunk of change.

    Of course if your book were a total nightmare I would spend even less time marking up your book and making suggested changes, adding that I will be happy to look at your book again once you have made all of the suggested revisions, for a nice discount of course. I would only charge $1k each pass, for three more passes, before I’d sadly have to drop you as a client.

    Strangely, that would actually produce an acceptable book, and you would feel that everything I did was worth the cost, since it was all tax deductible and thus would actually cost you nothing.

    – I would have a never ending supply of clients demanding my services. Word of mouth and five star ratings would drive my success.

    When I write the above, I’m not even being cynical. It’s a valid business model.

    Why would this work? Because the secret of editing is “time” between each pass, and “acknowledging” that things are “wrong”.

    “I know I’m wrong, I want to be less wrong”

    — Robert Anton Wilson

      • One should not make blanket statements.

        You are both right – and you are both wrong. A tax “deduction” is any expense that reduces your taxable income (contrast to a tax “credit” which reduces your tax owed).

        Whether an expense IS a tax deduction depends on several things – whether you are considered to be in business (with the intent to make a profit), or are pursuing a hobby, by the IRS rules – also the form of business makes a difference there (a regular corporation can declare a loss for many years, and carry it forward into a profitable year if it has one (under some circumstances) – but that loss does not reduce any individual’s taxable income.)

        It’s just as bad as the various contracts involved in publishing (with the added spice that a publisher can’t empty your bank accounts on a whim, or fit you for an orange jumpsuit, like the IRS). Which is why, if you are writing for profit, you should have both a lawyer AND a tax-savvy Certified Public Accountant a phone call away.

  4. A few thoughts on overgeneralization:

    1- Every book is literally a story unto itself from conception to its published life. Even legacy authors (or at least the better informed ones) use *all* available channels; tradpub (if available to them), honest service providers, agent-assisted publishing, and full self-pub. The project determines the path. And each path has its pros and cons. One size doesn’t for all.

    2- Not every author puts out every single book expecting a profit per unit. In this, Friedman is right. Some books are labors of love, put out to get the narratives or ideas out into the world. Some are building a series, a brand, or an experiment. Different expectations, different definitions of success. Lucre is just one.

    3- Not every publisher spends the same amount on every book. The cited numbers are most likely both high and low. Patterson definitely doesn’t get the same stock picture cover as John C. Lately.

    Care is necessary when discussing the *businesses* of book creation. The blind men and the elephant comes to mind. Which has its own story:

    As to the OP, paid publishing can be both ethical and unetgical, depending on the conditions and the players involved. Plenty of tradpubs are as unethical as outright vanity presses. (Harlequin self-dealing, anyone?) As with everything else involved with publishing (on any path) the only universal rule is “Do the homework.”

    Or don’t. Just don’t be surprised at what follows.

    • #2 is the reason we have vanity publishers. They sell something to people who have tastes and values that differ from mine. The premier package includes a Manhattan lunch with a real agent where the author discusses American literature since Hemingway and engages in witty exchange reserved for real authors. The platinum package includes a weekend at Cabot Cove…

      • Sort-of.
        Some might sign up with such expectations but what they usually get is a boiler room operation working out of the Philipines. Ends in neither lucre nor exposure, but rather expensive obscurity. Usually the ones that don’t do homework.

        Sometimes you do have to blame the victim.

  5. “It’s not unusual for people connected with traditional publishing to conflate vanity publishing and self-publishing”

    Citation needed. I have literally not once seen this.

    “So, are we to assume that everybody else in the traditional book business — publishers, employees of publishers, editors, agents, publicists, book distributors and wholesalers, traditional bookstores, Amazon — has a reasonable expectation of being able to earn “a reasonable full-time living,” while authors must have side jobs, wealthy spouses, inherited wealth, etc., in order to survive?”

    Quite the contrary, many of those jobs in publishing are notoriously underpaid. This is not an obscure factoid but rarely discussed within the industry.

    • We have.
      All over the establishment press, especially the UK.
      Mostly in articles bemoaning how they spent $25K or thereabouts in self publishing.

  6. Even for hard-core indies, there are simple problems and complicated ones, financially. Indies tend to treat this as a craft, not as art, and that helps — you expect to get better as you produce more.

    Easy: After a while, you should be able to predict exactly what your covers are likely to cost (having formed relationships with suppliers) and ditto for format/layout/conversion (if you farm that out). And (on a self-labor front, if you track that as a cost) you will get better at predicting how many hours it takes to write your wordcount, and how that translates into the basic material for a book. This gives you a basic estimate of inescapable fundamental costs pretty quickly. [Distribution falls into this category, too, but it doesn’t usually have a service cost (time), just a slice of earnings.]

    Middling: Edit- Refining prose, copyedit – fairly predictable if farmed out. There are tools out there to help you get through this part of the later edit process, and you will get better on your own with practice. So you can track this cost and predict its reduction over time.

    Harder: Structural edit, story construction, actual writing, etc. If you can’t come up to speed on this after the first book or two (the “craft” concept), I suspect that may never happen. If you have to pay for it, well… An endless money-pit vs no problem at all. For one-offs (book to accompany a business’s marketing, parish cookbook, etc.), it doesn’t matter, but for career writers…

    Hardest: Marketing. Moving target, complex, out of many authors’ comfort zones, money-sink, absolutely necessary. An endless money-pit, with temporary solutions that need constant attention. Takes special attention to make it financially effective. The most unpredictable financially, re: making a profit. (What works today stops working tomorrow.)

    IMHO, the biggest money-sink for non-professionals is fundamental story production, i.e., becoming a writer. You can waste a lot of time & money on denial in that area.

    The biggest money-sink for professionals is surely Marketing. So much experimental spending, so few long-term arrangements, so little to show for it. All the other categories are about quality, but Marketing is about effectiveness. The best books in the world won’t sell without it.

  7. “… you would need to sell around 3,700 copies to break even on your up-front creative and printing investment.”

    Hm … but:

    “let’s assume a relatively small run of 3,500 copies”

    So you need to sell more than you printed. Wait, I think I see the problem:

    “The hybrid publisher and author split the net revenue”

    If you paid someone to edit, design, and print your book, then you should be getting all the revenue. They have already been paid up front.

    There are two costs in making a book: the time spent writing it and the time spent to turn that writing into a product. In traditional publishing, the publisher pays for everyone’s time up front and hopes to take in money when the book sells. (The writer gets paid up front and realistically can’t expect to earn any more unless the book does much better than expected.) In hybrid publishing, the publisher only pays the people who did publishing work; the writer has not yet been paid, so the writer and publisher split revenue from every sale right from the beginning — each has an investment that they are hoping to recover.

    If the writer is paying publishing, printing, and distribution costs, this is not hybrid publishing, it’s self-publishing. If the writer is paying publishing costs to someone who is then also taking a cut of the sale … well, that sounds like a scam.

    • AKA, vanity publishing.
      Some scammers not onoy demand cash upfront, but also part or all the copyright.
      Author Beware.

    • “Hybrid” can mean so many things from almost total self-publishing to full-blown vanity. There’s no official definition. It’s like “best seller.”

      I do contract work for a hybrid that keeps 5% of sales in perpetuity. Here’s why I’m happy to do some book coaching and ghostwriting for them. Following are some things they tell potential clients, and I’ve seen this played out:

      We don’t promise you a best seller or any number of sales.
      We don’t take all clients.
      All costs are listed by line item. No surprise charges later.
      You can do any of these services on your own.
      You can choose these a la carte.

      So, they’re essentially operating as a general contractor.

      • I am interested in how the “We don’t take all clients” part works. I have long held that the key distinction between traditional publishing and everything else from the reader’s perspective is the approval process. In this take, a publisher is traditional whether it is Random House or it puts out one book a year. I as a reader don’t really care about the financial arrangement between the author and the publisher, but I do care about the book having been vetted at some point in the process. A publisher’s acquisitions process is not the only way this vetting can happen, but it is the most generalized for the reader.

        • Why does it matter that it has somebody else’s “seal of approval”?
          Is your taste always in line with them? Are the gatekeepers infallible? Do they even see everything coming to market? (That latter is by their own words a hard no.)

          The tradpub publishers’ criteria are about *their* ability to convince (or bribe) B&M stores to carry the book. Quality isn’t their prime criterion. Marketability is, hence their habit of chasing every last 10 minute wonder and ignoring established markets.

          If the rise of Indies has proven anything, is that tradpub leaves vast amounts of money on the table with their “vetting”. Entire subgenres like superhero fantasies, urban litfic, gay romance, etc have been and still are massively underserving. Ditto for the classic genres.

          Limitting oneself to the vetted gilded ghettos is ignoring the broader world of creatives. And I’m not talking just about books; music and video have long realized there is more money in going direct to consumers than in filtering output through expensive middlemen.

        • For that particular hybrid, they decline books for a few reasons. They mostly publish in the military (fiction and non-fiction) and business genres so refuse steampunk, for example. They don’t publish authors that write below their standards or refuse editing. Their charge for editing is in line with what self-publishers pay so it’s not about forcing a service on the author. A tell-tale sign for vanity is they’ll take anyone’s money. Their typical author is someone who knows they have options but would rather pay for someone else to handle all the details and coach them through a polish.

  8. Quick rejoinder (after teh interwebs ate my much longer takedown yesterday): Can anyone spot the conflict of interest presented by the OP? Before even getting into the “NYC echobox” and “misuse of technical terms” problems in its substance?

    Here’s one example: “Developmental editing” does not mean what the OP implies it means. It is a specific species/path/subset of the pre-copyediting process, but also includes supervision of some aspects of copyediting… and (a) it seldom applies to fiction and general nonfiction, being reserved for more “serious” books, (b) it’s a long, drawn-out, multiple-rounds process that ordinarily increases the first-touch-of-the-completed-draft-manuscript-to-print time from 9–12 months to 15–18 months (shorter at smaller, more-nimble publishers), and (c) involves integrating nontextual materials that have substantive meaning — not just “pretty chapter headings” but photographs of historical events whose provenance has been established and permission obtained, carefully redrawn to professional quality anatomical diagrams, carefully checked for errors of all kinds data tables, and so on. The OP is either vastly overstating the “request for revision plus send it to a copyeditor” process or understating the effort of developmental editing that’s required, when it is, for only a distinct subset of books that is highly unlikely to use a “hybrid” publishing model in the first place.†

    And the OP owes me a new keyboard for snorting coffee over the “custom interior design” for each book (yeah, a straight-text narrative really, really needs a “unique design,” especially if it is book n in a series); for blithely accepting the “most books don’t show a profit” meme that assumes — wrongly — that a commercial advance bears a strong relationship to the publisher’s “profitability point”; for, more than anything else, assuming that authors are better off than lower-level workers in publishing (ever seen an EA’s compensation package, and wondered whether that constitutes “a living” in NYC?).

    The OP’s description of processes and costs is very much like asserting that a university’s per-athlete costs are $X, lumping the football players in with the cross-country team. Just the equipment budgets make them noncomparable, before getting into the “in-state versus out-of-state tuition” issues…

    Since it’s the end of the semester and I’m feeling unduly generous, I’m giving the OP an I and sending it back to be completed, rather than the failing grade its conflict of interest and just plain incorrect/indefensible warrants and data merit.

    † Yes, I know the “budget system” intimately… and the shenanigans used to ensure that a given book does, or does not, meet the budget, like billing out all of the EA’s hours at the EIC’s rates in prepared-long-after-the-fact timesheets (right, H__?).

  9. Think of a publishing house as a casino.

    – The house always wins

    The Book P&L: How Publishers Make Decisions About What to Publish

    An interesting note:

    – When the publisher “pays” the author an advance, that is a “cost” that is deducted from their taxes, so it doesn’t really cost them anything.

    They will balance the P&L, one way or the other, so that everything is covered and they can pay salaries, the lease on the building, etc…, spread over many books, just like a casino makes money by playing against many people.

    BTW, When Stephen King made his “profit-sharing deal” with Simon & Schuster, he “split” the “profit” made by the book with the publisher, 50-50.

    – Right, they saw him comin’ a mile away.

    Stephen King Signs 3-Book Deal
    November 7, 1997

    – Think of how much King would actually make on each book if he wasn’t subsidizing the publisher’s overhead.

    King has about 33m readers who will buy his books new. There are as many readers who only buy his books used. He would only see “big money” for his effort from new titles. His old titles would only start making money once the used market realized that the ebooks were cheaper. The “penny sites” that sell used books make their money on the “shipping and handling”, so people are paying 5 bucks for each used mass market. If he priced the ebook $2.99, then people will stop buying used.

    But I digress.

    • Allyn, it’s even worse than that. The very name “P&L” is inherently misleading. Individual products that are part of a product line don’t have “profits” or “losses”; the math to demonstrate this is fairly involved, but over a century old and well-established. (A better name for this analysis is “Cost-Sales.”) The allocation of both costs and, surprisingly, revenues, to an individual product in a broad product line is at best illusory, and is often subconsciously intended to force a kind of internal competition among staff members that helps “validate” later post hoc rationalizations for promotion decisions. And that was true even before the rise of “employment discrimination” lawsuits made management at commercial publishers slightly — just slightly — less dominated by The Right Kind of People.

      Consider, for example, the charge for “overhead” that is built into each and every C-S worksheet.† Fine — someone has to account for the rent on the office space. Says so right in the Tax Code and the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, if not necessarily in reality (or considering synergistic cost savings elsewhere caused by having a slightly more-comfortable-and-expansive facility). But should this be as a percentage of sales? Of staff person-hours expended? Per capita per title? And should, or must, it be consistent… especially when certain functions are frequently outsourced to freelancers, but the overhead charge for office space remains the same? And your example of Stephen King has other, more insidious, implications, which anyone who has ever had to prepare for an IG inspection can probably figure out…

      There’s an old saying that politics isn’t a dirty game — it’s just full of dirty players. But in the grand tradition of Bob’s Country Bunker, commercial publishing has both kinds of corruption: Dirty players and a dirty game. Which is not to say that some of the purported “alternatives” aren’t worse; it’s only to point out that as long as “profit motive” is the sole determinant of “utility,” the assumption of frictionless, linear, scalar translation between “profit” and “utility” leads to serious distortions and self-defeating positive feedback loops.

      † Most of which are still based on memes written essentially in stone by 1968 or so. I could go on for hours on this, even without getting into anything that’s behind a confidentiality screen — and the material that I’ve learned examining publishers’ books behind those screens is substantially worse. And, of course, it assumes honest data entry… what’s that whisper of “Harlequin’s corporate structure” I hear in the background?

      • Not just for publishing businesses… I’ve always found it a better practice to separate the actual product-sales/product-costs as the core of the business model, and treat all the additional overheads in their own separate accounting area. The utility is obvious (if the proposed “deal” doesn’t make sense without the overhead, why proceed?), and the exposed overheads are better capable of business management if everyone can see them hanging out with all their nasty waste exposed to view. It takes two different classes of management anyway: those for the core business, and those for the overhead cost areas. Trying to make one manager responsible for both when they don’t report to him is pointless.

        Where I’m from, senior management first looks at the “engine” of the business (the core model), and scrutinizes all the “friction” overhead components to see what can be reduced, and only then takes on opportunistic spending outside the core (such as new marketing, etc.), once the rest is under reasonably firm control (or spends opportunistically to better control it).

        So I don’t like apportioning both fundamental and overhead costs to the core components — that buries way too many bad decisions in dusty obscurity. People are understandably used to that sort of “cost per unit” as a shorthand rule of thumb for evaluation, but if you never deal with the overheads because they’re buried in the unit cost, your business will eventually become untenable.

      • I have this “joy” reading these posts. I’m not sure why. I think that it’s an “I told you so” from discussion that I had decades ago with people who could not hear what I was trying to explain.

        Over the decades I’ve assembled the bits and pieces that leak out from the industry and what you and Karen are “not” saying matches what I understand.

        I used to have great fun using a roll of pennies to demonstrate paying out royalties.

        – a penny for you, a penny for me. A penny set aside to give you in case of “returns”, etc…

        All the while they were focused on the pennies being handed out, the dollars the publisher were pocketing went unseen.

        This was after the collapse of the distribution network in the late 90s when people could not understand how they had been left high and dry.

        They wanted “simple” answers[1], when “complex” was the rule.


        [1] Answers

          • INTP here.
            Shocking, right?

            For a non-scientific system, Myers-Brigg pigeonholes are often pretty accurate.

            • Meyers-Briggs is actively antiintellectual and I reject its foundational assumptions because I’m a nerd/outlier and pay attention to context. It is, itself, a paradigmatic example of oversimplification leading to incorrect inferences — or at least misleadingly simplistic conclusions without regard to the diversity of humanity and human experience. There are a lot more than sixteen types of human behavior patterns… <vbeg>

              • All true.
                But in the world it was created for it is *very* accurate.
                Which is the STEM world. (Business a bit less.)
                When at the day job they brought in a consultant on the matter there were nodding heads all over among both the tech staff and the managers. Actually useful to bridge between the tech staff and the non-techies brought in for…reasons. (Long story.)

                It is, of course, a reductive system, but the STEM world is reductive in itself. The other kinds of human out there don’t fit in the STEM playground with the INTJs and INTPs.

                Can’t personally speak to other businesses but in our world it was helpful to understand why the (insert adjective of choice) non-techs were getting in the way of us getting the job done right.

          • I kibitz. I’ve always been ambivalent about that. I always wondered if it was a good thing to be paid to kibitz/solve problems when I was basically compelled to kibitz anyway.

            – A nudge here, a nudge there, and things run smoother without making a fuss.

            – They love you when you solve their problems, but can’t understand you unless they see that the problem exists.

            – They can’t promote you because they need you to solve their problems.

            When I retired, the bureau that I worked for was dissolved because they dumped everything that I did back on to the sections that I supported division wide. The Head of the Highway Department showed up one day and asked them what they actually did, because I wasn’t there to do the work any more, the work was not getting done.

            I knew that I was tired near the end, I just didn’t realize that I was literally carrying 26 people — on top of doing my job — until I set them down and walked away.

            • For the latter half of my career, I ran the small(-ish) businesses and we did, indeed, understand and work our pertinent numbers. Because I insisted on it.

              Unfortunately, I’m an Operations guy, not a Visionary/Growth/Sales guy, (COO not CEO), and in my Tech industry, experienced execs age out of demand very, very quickly. (“Ooh – shiny!”)

              • There’s a few places that value your skill set and experience.

                Look up Gwynne Shotwell and Amy Hood. Nobody is going to replace them for any reason anytime soon. When they *choose* to move on the company will hurt.

Comments are closed.