Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Should I Hedge in Linden Dollars?

A couple friends and I thought of hedging with Linden dollars at lunch the other day. The Second Life currency may be too thinly traded, but it represents a blend of several economies since its users are from all over the world.

Exchange rates for Linden dollars look like they have low volatility. On the other hand, one blogger claims that L$ look like either a Ponzi scheme, where early players are rewarded by economic inputs from later players, or like a High-Yield Investment Scheme, rather than a virtual economy.
More on this as I research it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Talking with Kemble Scott about Publishing

Since I'll be looking for an agent and publisher later this year for my book Delux, I spoke with the writer Kemble Scott (aka Scott James) about the state of the publishing industry. Kemble has penned SoMa and The Sower. Here are some highlights of the publishing process for first time writers.
  • Only 1 in 20 published books are successful. Venture capitalists expect 1 in 10 investments to pay off. Publishing is twice as risky as start-ups.
  • You can't get published unless you submit to agents and publishers, and most will reject you. In fact, you can expect to get rejection letters written by people who have an opinion about your book even if they haven't read it. In one case, an author got a rejection letter from an agent who asked the author for a manuscript. That's how bad the submission process is.
  • If you don't get an agent or publisher, consider self-publishing, especially electronic versions of your book. At least for now, getting a publisher is still the best way to get sales. Publishers continue to keep the gates to retail book stores, New York Times best-seller list, etc. But the rules of gate-keeping and distribution are in flux, and you don't destroy your chances of a publishing deal anymore when you self-publish.
  • Publishers have sales forces whose job is to get retail bookstores to buy books. A publisher's sales force typically specializes in a genre, and publishers may make their "green light" decisions based on the opinion of their respective sales forces about marketability. Sometimes this means a publisher will categorize your book in a far-flung genre that its sales force understands how to sell.
The validation of a publishing deal still adds value to a title from an unknown author. However, with return rates hovering around 40% through the bookstore channel (those sales reps are good at getting bookstores to buy inventory they can't sell!), print-on-demand and electronic distribution, both of which have no returns, have a built-in profit advantage that will force the industry to new distribution models with new gate-keepers.

The biggest problem facing new authors, of course, is marketing. Kemble caught a lucky break when scribd included The Sower in its first online bookstore, one of those lucky breaks that happened because someone at scribd remembered talking to Kemble about SoMa at a cocktail party. The press frenzy covering scribd's innovative online store drove traffic to scribd which, in turn, drove sales of The Sower. Be the first to try a new marketing technique that the press can write a story about, and you may sell more copies of your book because of your marketing creativity than your writing creativity (this is not a negative comment about the literary merits of The Sower, by the way).

Getting a publishing deal creates a specific marketing problem for an author. If you self-publish, you will get nearly instantaneous reports on unit sales. If you work with a publisher, you probably will receive an annual sales report without much detail. With instantaneous reporting, you can determine which marketing effort paid off in sales. Did the review in The Daily Podunk drive sales of those last 20 units, or the talk at Podunk University a week later? Do you spend your marketing time getting more reviews, or interviews, or bookstore visits, or blog posts? If you can see timely sales reports, you can make better marketing decisions.

I'm reading up on literary agents and getting ready to submit. I know it's a long-shot. Maybe I'm crazy. It's just that I like writing and telling stories, and this business of finding a publisher seems like a small price to pay to get my work out there.

Friday, February 5, 2010


I'm sure the etiquette books will take years to catch up on all the new technology.

texting while driving
Here are some textiquette tips, etiquette guidance for you texters out there:
  • First off, you do have a choice to text. Consider the consequences of waiting ten minutes to read and respond to text messages. Does your business or personal relationship depend on instantaneous, on-the-spot decisions? Really? Your life may be better with different relationships.
  • Don't text and drive. Don't even use your phone. Don't believe me? Here's what Car and Driver had to say: "... the next time you’re tempted to text, tweet, e-mail, or otherwise type while driving, either ignore the urge or pull over. We don’t want you rear-ending us." If you need to text on the move, hire a driver.
  • If you're walking, the same advice applies, either ignore the urge or pull over. Today a woman stopped to text in the middle of a narrow sidewalk. That annoyed those of us who were left to find a way around her. That wasn't as bad as the guy I saw walk into a street pole while typing. I know I'll see a texter walk into traffic soon.
  • If you're shopping, shop. It's also annoying to navigate around shopping carts in the middle of aisles while a shopper writes an urgent love poem. It's even worse to wait on queue to check out while someone saves the world with a text message.
  • Don't text during a conversation. There is no simpler way to show that you don't respect the other person's attention or time. If you expect an urgent text, make an agreement before you start the conversation that you'll only interrupt your friend for a text from your best friend who's expecting quadruplets any second.

Your need for information that speeds up your life may end up slowing down everyone else. For instance, access to a phone in a car is great. A conversation with a friend (while someone else drives) makes the trip less tedious, and smart phones can help us navigate through bad traffic with alerts and navigation maps. Unfortunately, drivers who talk on cell phones also increase traffic congestion.

Mobile communications have freed us to find each other spontaneously, to update each other instantaneously, and to find answers to movie quizzes before any of our friends. Good etiquette means taking advantage of this information safely and courteously. The first decision you should make when you get a text message is whether you can wait until later to read it.

Took a Walk in Upstate New York Today

I was fact-checking a scene where my characters walk from the Lake Placid Airport (LKP) to the Olympic Ski Jump Complex. Luckily, I could let me fingers to the walking.

View Larger Map
Amazing how easy it was to get there.