Friday, November 08, 2013

Here's the way I play the self-publishing game, without kibitzing too much

I am making real progress on the commercial submission of my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book, and I expect to turn it in for publication early next week.  Veterans Day won’t be a holiday for me.  Yes, thankfully Halloween and High Heels are over.
  
I noted on a June 27, 2013 posting on my Books Blog that a few proposals that I had made in my 1997 “DADT I” book are indeed dated and have been outrun by history, more quickly than I would have expected.  This is particularly the case after the partial repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the matter of adult verification of website users that was vetted in the COPA litigation a few years ago.  I had covered the COPA issue somewhat in the “DADT II” book in 2002.  Another issue was that some of my ideas about less government (particularly those expressed in Chapter 5 of the first DADT book) morphed into the reckless brinkmanship that led to debt ceiling confrontations recently.  I can say, “Be careful what you wish for”, but this is not what I had in mind.
  
I had tried to cover some of these bases with an informal release of the DADT III book myself, as I explained on the Books Blog Oct. 1, 2011, but the issues have evolved “evermore”.  In the meantime, in 2012, I started getting phone calls pushing me to become more aggressive in selling copies of the earlier books, especially “DADT II”.  I finally concluded that I needed to complete the “Do Ask, Do Tell” series with a formal publication with a “supported self-publishing” company and formal presence in all the regular e-commerce markets, including Kindle and Nook download availability.

Publishing a book about policy is always like hitting a moving target, and it's necessary to keep the material up afterward with blogs and other online notes (as I have done for years).  But it's useful to see what you can fix between two dust covers of a book. 

But there are different reasons that books are published, even in the self-publishing world. 

For example, it is true that some books, even from newbie authors, lend themselves to some volume of transaction sales, more probably online today than in physical stores.  This would most notably true of fiction, or in some areas like “how-to” and “self-help” books.  (Cookbooks would be a good example – some ingredients need to stay secret.)  You would not expect to make the materials widely available online (despite Amazon “look inside the book” and Google book search); customers would normally have to pay for an “instance copy” to have the content.  It’s supposed to be like that for movies (where even spoilers leaked online can be perceived as a problem) and a lot of music – and here we get to the dominion of piracy problems, all the way back to the debate over SOPA.   In fact, Hollywood is so jealous of the potential per-transaction value of content that there is a “third party rule” for submitting screenplays and even loglines, and screenplays for expected blockbusters are developed under high security – a far cry from my own past practice of putting some of them on line which, like “The Sub”, got me into trouble once in 2005.

I do have a fiction novel manuscript and screenplays that I want to sell later.


Other books, in non-fiction areas like policy and particularly the historical de velopment of policy (involving legislation, litigation, and personal histories) lend themselves more to reference than necessarily cover-to-cover reading and volumes of sales.  They are published to create a “matter of record”.  That is certainly the case with my “Do Ask, Do Tell” series.  While it is reasonable to purchase some sales tools, perhaps, or even some Internet ad space on automated serving (when inexpensive), large scale “PR machines” don’t apply. 

I do hope that others will accept this fact about the DADT books.  I’m not putting them out for bean counters.  I am putting them out for a record, and them to work with specific others to develop into other media projects (like film), where I can develop the contacts (a sensitive matter now) on my own. And to develop the material with sufficient integrity, right now I must work alone. My content is not a democracy (a "timocracy" maybe).  
        
Some people would perhaps say that non-fiction should be published only by “experts” or only by people who have competed and prevailed in some kind of partisan endeavor (whether winning elections or selling life insurance). I cannot promise that kind of track record.  I do depend on the “free entry” mechanism on the Internet, which is predicated on downstream liability immunity for service providers (that’s the Section 230 issue) .  And because of my veneer of journalistic “objectivity” and “connecting the dots” (or “keeping them honest”), I cannot just sign on to one particular party’s cause (however compelling) in order to “pay my dues”.  I hope people get this.  Oh, yes, I get that “real people” have “real families” and have to sell things to support them.  By my insularity (when getting sales calls or visits) I know you think I’m not helping.  But that’s the way it has to be.

I suspect that future success, both with sales volumes in a usual sense, and with developing future media projects, will hinge on my getting into “the game” again on a more personal basis. Enter that chess tournament, don’t just kibitz.  One of the key concepts coming out of this whole “audit process” is that, for people who are “different”, participation and even risk staking in supporting the “common good” is a moral imperative.  We can take “inequality for all” personally (taking on one’s own risk, when it can really cost something), we can tackle it with public policy (requiring legislated shared sacrifice), or we can just let people go and die.  As a matter of logic, one or more of these things will happen.   A community or society decides what it wants to do.  So I will somehow have to practice what I have preached.  But I have to “get the homework done first.”  So I move with "all deliberate speed". 

See related posting Oct. 27, 2013.
  

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