Prebreakfast rant

Go on, write  another blogpost about Peanut.

But I haven’t had my damned breakfast yet.

Just do it.

Oh, fine.

Well, much as I love to draw, I also love to write. So this book, Peanut, the first one I’ve published that’s all about the writing, is like my shy bookish child who generally doesn’t come out when company’s around but is rather in a corner, nose between the pages, building up a steamy head of potential and finally stepping into the limelight to get her due. Now, you might say, if she’s so great why is she appearing on Blurb rather than on the front table of your corner Barnes & Gobble? Is she somehow lesser? Does her picturelessness make her somehow less worthy of someone’s hard-earned pennies? Seriously, there are gazillions of paperbacks clawing at the  eyeballs of readers, jockeying to be read, and here you come with some sordid little manuscript and expect people to drop their kindles and snap it up? Be real, man, your illustrated books are being sold in Chinese bookstores, this is penny ante stuff. This little amusebouche isn’t gracing the front page of the Times Book Review. It’s not being chatted about on Morning Edition. Oprah hasn’t put her imprimatur on its cover.  You dont see Jonathan Franzen uploading his books to Blur, do you?

True, true and true. The fact is the publishing world has a mighty machine built over a couple of centuries for grinding out books and profits and making sure everyone everywhere gets to read the same stuff at the  same time. And the next fact is that self-publishing or ‘vanity publishing’ is a grimy little by-way a salon de refusés, full of conspiracy theorists and weekend poets that drizzles out awkwardly typeset drivel with badly designed cover art.

But here are some more relevant and freshly made facts. Thanks to the publishing colossus, it’s impossible for 99% of writers to survive as writers. Even really good ones end up spending most of their time teaching in creative writing departments of lesser-know midwestern colleges or cranking out reams of ad-copy or making half-caff lattes or flipping burgers or just giving up altogether. Now, no one owes writers a living as writers and the prevailing ethic in our society is that if you were any good you could make a living at your craft, but a glance at the Times Bestseller list shows that to do so you have to be James Patterson or Nora Roberts to make ends meet in the publishing world and that the majority of people who get to spend their-full time live making books are editors, publishers, printers, publicists, and agents — not writers.

Now, I love all of my editors and publishers and printers and such, but not so much that they deserve to get 92% of your money whenever you buy one of my books. I mean, I put up with it, but come on. 92%?

Writers have bitched about this inequity since Dickens’ day and finally we have an alternatives. In today’s Times, you can read about Susan Orleans venture into Amazon Singles where she gets 70 cents on every dollar. (She’s a big deal writer of course and is able to get a big article in a big paper to promote her little book so she’s hardly typical). E-books give writers a slightly larger bite of the pie. We get 25% royalties on all the books that publishers don’t need to print or  warehouse or ship or even lift a finger to reproduce.  But, as has happened in the music business, the real opportunity for writers is to short the chain that connects us to our readers. To make books available without all the middle men. That means readers get books faster (it can take over a year or more for a book to go from the author through the production machine and into your local bookstore) and cheaper (seriously, $30 for a new hardcover?) and more. More because when your favorite authors can focus on making books instead of burgers, you end up with more books you love.

It’s all up to authors to take more leaps into the new order of things and try their hand at self-promotion and self-production. And that is possible and fairly simple when you make a book that’s all text. Most of my books, illustrated, four-color, beautifully printed, are partnerships between me and a group of editors and designers who really add value and earn some (if not all) of their 92%. But when it comes to a straightforward book like Peanut, well, it’s not that hard to make it available to readers in an edition that is virtually the same as they’d find  in a  bookstore,

There are still a lot of things to be worked out. publishing on demand is still a fairly expensive model. And I have no idea if most of my readers have kindles  nooks and ipads and such. If they did it would be easier to make sand distribute electronic books that include color and even video demonstrations and commentary. That may be a few years away and frankly the publishing world doesn’t have that much incentive to make it happen. Instead, we, authors and readers can make that more common and available by supporting authors who show interest in inventing new ways of distribution.

I hope I haven’t created the impression that I am begging for your money here.

Believe me, I do fine toiling in the salt mines of advertising and will hopefully do so for some time.But it would be nice to think that an author who has a base of loyal readers might be able to connect with them directly and together they could provide an atmosphere in which writers could spend more time and effort making the books we all love.

I also realize that none of this is a particularly persuasive reason to buy and read Peanut in particular*. The fact that it’s self published on Blur (like many other books I probably wouldnt read), shouldnt make it a must buy. But if you like my writing, and the idea of the book, and have looked at a few pages in the free sample preview, then don’t let the fact that it is coming to you through this more untraditional venue hold you back from buying a copy.

You will be joining me at the barricades, striking another blow for creativity liberty, and breathing heavily down the hunched backs of the  capitalist running dogs. Vive la revolution!

Alright, now can we eat breakfast?

No, first, ask them nicely to buy a copy of  PEANUT here.

I think I’ll have marmite on toast….

—-

* Il’ll try to do a better job of selling you on  Peanut, in the days ahead.

22 thoughts on “Prebreakfast rant

  1. The only problem with this delivery method is the cost of shipping. I ran right over to look yesterday and thought, okay I love your writing and am willing to invest $13, but then the total of $20 with shipping somehow stopped me. When I realized that I would probably read and be done with the book in a day, that’s a lot for one day’s entertainment. Is it not possible to sell us a pdf file when there is no art involved?

    • You have a valid point. The cost of shipping from blurb is a bit much. I considered buying a bunch of books in bulk and then passing on the savings only to realize I’d have to reship them myself, jacking the price back up.
      I shall put together an e-version of the book next.
      I need to find out the best way to distribute the ebook (amazon, etc.) and handle the costs etc.
      It would be helpful to know if there are a lot of people who have the same reservation about the cost of Peanut you do. Personally, I got a lot of pleasure out of holding the physical book in my hands but that maybe because I am old and because my name was on the cover.
      What do you all think? Would you be more interested in an ebook? Let me know.

  2. Dear Danny,
    I took the leap and ordered on the first day. I’m expecting my first great-grandson in September and thought it might be a good gift for the new father. I admit that the postage and handling cost made my eyes open a bit wider, but you’re worth it and he’s worth it. I’m too old to be very interested in Kindle and the others, and there is something about “possessing” an in-hand book. How would I go about giving something like that as a gift? No, a hand held book is better for me. Maybe an ebook later? By then I may be convinced that the new technology would be better, but maybe not. Dee

  3. Well, your pre-breakfast rant worked. I just ordered 3 copies, effectively reducing the shipping ($7.99 for all three). I have friends with whom I will share. And another reason I want to support this effort is that I, too, love to write, and have a book churning in me. I will need a way to get it to the world…
    oh, and I love the way you write, Danny.

  4. I just got the message about the new post… so before i start reading i checked first, I scroll down…omg!!! …I do have a loooot to read!!! :0)

    Looking forward for the book to arrive!! I couldn’t believe it 265 pages (or so)…what a treat!!!:0) for just $13? …it got me suspicious …what is wrong with the book?… then i saw the shipping cost and realized that you cut into your price to make it affordable all together! Thanks!

    For me the single problem with self published books is that doesn’t count for the list of bestsellers …
    as per Wikipedia : “A bestseller is a book that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on lists of currently top selling titles that are based on publishing industry and book trade figures and published by newspapers, magazines, or bookstore chains…….it does not include sales from Internet retailers” ……so your books sold on Amazon doesn’t count…?

    A hand held book is better for me (for now)and can you just put on you tube the “video demonstrations and commentary”? You haven’t upload anything in years…

    • Yikes, sorry for my loggorhea!
      As for bestsellerhood, that ‘s not really on my radar. If I can just get my books into the hands of people who like them, Ill be happy. Of course, I will continue to publish with my various publishers so long as they are interested but to have this sideline of reasonably successful self published books that may not fit properly on their lists.
      Meanwhile, I am trying to work out the whole ebook thing and hope to have that up soon too. WIth no shipping!

  5. Danny,

    I’m an illustrator who lives about an hour north of San Francisco and have my own frustrations with the publishing world, like reduced rates, copyrights (work for hire), and offshoring. It’s a tough world out there but I’m managing.

    I think it’s great that you chose to self publish your book Peanut. It looks like a fun read and I’d like to purchase a copy. I bought Everyday Matters when it first came out and loved it. Your book inspired me to take to take on life’s challenges during a difficult in my life. It also taught me to not to judge my work so much and just get out and draw.

    I bought An Illustrated Life about two years ago. I thumbed through it twice and then read the book cover to cover, one artist profile a night, before bed. that’s where I got the idea to take a trip to Greece (the place I’ve wanted to visit most) and make a book out of my travels. My book, “The Artist on the Road: Impressions of Greece” is now available on Amazon. But at a retail price of $20, I too hear some people balk at the price and that is why I’m working on an ebook version. The purchase price of my ebook will be about one quarter of the printed book and yet my profits will still be higher that the print edition.

    You might check out CreateSpace.com for print on demand. I have found it to be less expensive than many other print on demand services. Two other advantages are free shipping for Prime members and that the book is available on Amazon.

    Thanks for the inspiration,

    Richard Sheppard
    TheArtistOnTheRoad.com

  6. Well, I just ordered it too. It came to 18 euros, which took me two days to (re)consider, but I loved all your other books, and I have two sons myself, so I might recognize some of your experiences, even though I’m their mother. I’m also counting on your proven humour and wisdom that will probably last longer than the one night of the first read…
    And I love books, the feel of paper and a smart cover too much to go for the e-version.
    But I’m counting on you returning the favour to order one of my books for crafting with children, if you ever need a present for a Dutch-speaking kid-friend…
    And by the way, my publisher takes 94%!! So I might just blurb my first novel too.
    I’ll take my seat in front of the mailbox now and will come back with the ratings.

  7. Danny;
    The library world is ready and waiting with open arms to embrace partnerships directly with authors, as soon as we can beef up infrastructure. Some have suggested a model whereby a library pays the author more than they would typically make on sales to that portion of their market (per capita tied to potential sales) to purchase an e-version and circulate it to their patrons. We recognize also that the industry is the industry and it has a role in editing books, but should not be the end-all vetting agent for what is read. I am a best-selling author of a published book and I have been in a quandary about whether I should take my next book to the publisher or market it direct as an ebook. I have been purchasing ebooks directly from authors such as Michael Nobbs (Sustainable Creativity) and LOVE it! I see this direct link as the most viable option for supporting art in the emerging economy. Much success! Kelli

  8. I really only want ebooks anymore unless they are art instruction books. I have a kindle and love it but hope to move to a tablet soon whether it’s an Ipad or Xoom I don’t know. Not everyone has these devices but who doesn’t have a computer? Kindle has apps so you can read books right on your computer. Here is an article about ebooks and although he’s talking real cheap he makes some good points for you to think about. This is on a blog called The Technium: http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2011/03/99_cent_books.php .
    I will go take a look at your book now but if it’s only in print, I don’t think I will be buying this version but will wait for your e-version.

    Another thing is that the readers have divided us into separate camps and I don’t know if that will affect your ebook version. If you have a Nook you shop Barnes and Nobles and if you have the Kindle you shop Amazon as their files are different and not yet interchangeable. This will probably change in the future but it’s another point to consider. Good luck.

    • Thanks, Timaree. I am an ebook fan too (though sometimes I like the feeling of woodpulp between my browsing fingers).
      Anyhoo, I have just uploaded an e-version of Peanut to Amazon. It may take a day or two to be available but I’ll announce it here when it’s available.
      I use the Kindle app on my ipad and my Droid phone, so hopefully this will be universal for most people.
      However, I will also look into the B&N store and see what their deal is.

  9. Your writings regarding the publishing industry are very interesting and current. Everyone interested in books – writers, publishers, printers, readers…libraries…will be paying attention as the publishing industry is restructuring for modern times. Magazines and newspapers are losing their readership and folding, bookshops are closing (at least here in Australia) as readers buy their books cheaper online. There goes a pleasure enjoyed by many – a browse around the bookstore to discover new authors and works, especially for an artist, checking out the cover graphics. Every time I look at the advertising junk mail there’s new technology forging its way and the e:reader is prominent. I can see how handy this gadget will be for many (maybe not for the eyesight), but there is still a place for the book to hold in your hands. It will just have to settle into a new niche as the world changes rapidly.

  10. My Saturday breakfast …i had to stop reading, i have to go to the pharmacy…as a teenager i used to love Asimov but… this one it makes me feel like i live in a “Matrix“…i`m dieting so i`m having nuts in small increments…my problem could be that i do have a very slow stomach…i need time to digest things…or it might be just my imagination
    …but in this way i can`t let loose(the weight) …and how do i explain…i`ve checked the trend reports…the red eye shadow is not in…in the morning i run out of puffers…:0( …so i had to

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