Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Personal publishing will rule us all (like a tyrant!)

Hi gang, I am toying with retitling self-publishing to personal publishing, as it more correctly reflects what is happening in the world today. Not to worry, I am not about to don an ascot and consider myself part of the literati simply because I recognize that the trend of taking control of one's future publishing fate in the midst of a culture war. I simply believe this will help reset the way we think of books that are not pit out by one of the "major" (or "top 6") publishing houses.

Publishing feudalism is dying. The monarchies have cannibalized themselves over and again, buying, selling, being bought, and falling victim to the ultra-conservative "profit ├╝ber alles" mentality that strips all meaningful creative progress (and soul) from the marketplace over time. Short-term gain has replaced the dedication to presenting and preserving quality thought and fine literary expression. The response to this is natural.

The world breathes. Tides ebb and flow. Seasons rotate in an unending cycle. More dualistically, pendulums swing (back and froth, back and forth). The rise of the "self-publisher" is the rise of successful self-publishing that dates decades back to successful mail order. "How to Pick Up Girls" would never have made it in bookstores in the 19080's but found a huge market in mail order, with full page ads running in national magazines that appealed to guys. That one book has sold over 2 million copies (some to most copies at $20 a piece), making a nice pile of change for the self-published author. Let me reiterate. That is $40 million the author created off of just one book--on picking up girls. That is his money! It did not go to retailers and publishers and agents. he opened up the cash drawer and backed the dump truck in and piled money until the drawer was overflowing.

The story of the successful self-publisher is an American icon. The story is told again and again in endless names, some authors selling out to traditional publishers, and others remaining quietly famous and insanely wealthy from their efforts. Multi-millionaires you would not recognize because they are not on TV.

But self-publishing success has naturally led to a self-publishing support industry. Just as the vanity press industry's greed killed the goose that laid those wonderful eggs, the opening grew for low-cost assistance to self-publishers. "Need a book printed? We can do it cheap!" Or, "How about distribution?' The services available to today's "self-publishers," which now refer to small publishing start-ups, authors with one or two titles, authors who use the services of assistance publishing companies such as CreateSpace.com and BookSurge.com, lulu.com, and more intensive operations like OutSkirts Press, is a booming market. It has been said that during gold rush, the smartest way to wealth is to sell picks and shovels.

Well, someone is listening to that wisdom. If 80% of Americans want to write a book (statistically quoted time and again), then the market for book publishing assistance will end up overwhelming the efforts of "traditional publishing" to stem the tide. Brick and mortar bookstores become less and less integral to the distribution of books, and "self-publishers" become personal publishers, issuing one book or more, and of ever-increasing quality. This may be the best time in history to be an editor.

To survive the rising tide of personal publishing, brick and mortar booksellers MUST remain a viable entity by becoming havens for reading and discussion. They must replace the coffeehouse as the cultural melting pot. Less individual copies of more titles is the order of the day, and books must be able to be replaced in-stock faster than ever. Not having a title on a shelf spells the death of profit, but languishing titles means that marketing is not being done properly. Titles and authors must be presented to the reading public and in such a way as to help people find authors who they will enjoy, based on their highly individual needs and desires.

Nothing can stop the rise of the personal publisher. But even with millions of new books entering the market over the next few decades, few will ever be read by more than a dozen people. That removes the threat to both the intelligent publisher and the savvy bookstore owner. Titles that are important to the public will always have a demand. Titles being promoted by the author will reach similar sales. But titles written and abandoned can be left online to be ordered "on demand only" to preserve shelf space and sanity.

The current publishing industry is in disarray. The solution is to retain the hard-won wisdom of centuries of professional publishing and bring in new (internet and caffeine-fueled) blood to manage the operations under the guidance of wise leadership. As to the individual authors, we must provide the very best books we can conjure forth, and present them to our core readership. The rest is simply a matter of details. Death to "self-publishing," for "no man is an island unto himself." Long live personal publishing, and the global support-staff that comes with it.

I remain humbly, your typing monkey.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Astro post for March (can't sleep)

Hey kids, 

(disclaimer appears at end of post)

So this Saturn/Uranus oppo thing is affecting the world. Not to worry, I will speak in plain English from this point forward. Pardon the occasional term. 

We are in the blender, that just cannot be denied. The whole Uranus in Pisces era is like someone shaking the jello on a global scale, which has been molded into a pretty, and fairly stable art piece (pick your favorite jello mold). Uranus is weak in Pisces, as Pisces is all squishy and comfy, like a nice fluffy pillow, the same pillow that calls to me even now, like a siren. Shake the pillow. Who cares, right?

If you want to break something, shake something that is brittle or fragile, not a pillow, or a plate of molded jello. So that is what is happening. The economy stinks, but see how we (collectively--NOT individually) are all surviving. Sure, there are cracks in the jello, but the whole of it stays together, as long as no one keeps shaking it (thank you Bernie Madhoff, or whatever your real name is).

What is holding this mess together right now is Saturn in Virgo. Think "big boss from accounting" comes in and reviews everyone's job performance and starts dishing out employee efficiency reports.

(ugh!)

Don't underestimate the power of Satan (oops! I mean Saturn, but really, what’s the difference? Sorry pops :-)  in diminutive Virgo. This is the tyrant with a calculator. Instead of rampaging with an axe, cutting deadwood here and there, now we have a scalpel, a surgeon eviscerating cancerous tissue, cutting hair (and unwanted moles),  emptying bedpans. NOTHING  is safe. This force is unbiased and unfeeling. It is like the Terminator: It does not bargain. It does not feel pity--and it never, ever stops. It will find you.

So here is the classic "clash of the titans." Something about "interesting times" comes to mind. Well, welcome to the big leagues everyone. These are times when heroes and millionaires (heroes or not) are made, and opportunities are to be had, for better or worse. If you watch, you will find ways to change your life practically overnight. Here is how and why:

So the accountant boss is here to correct the massive SNAFU sh--- pile that is Uranus in Jello. This is not preordained; it just feels that way. Call it "luck," but in reality is you live long enough you will see monkeys fly (you will see everything). This clash is the backdrop to our picnic. Whatever we plan, this is the baseline algorithm, or weather pattern that is raining down on us, and I hope you brought an umbrella, because the sh-- is flying.

This will not change any time soon, and it will reach a head in late March and early April. For those who like details, it is not usually the compression (warning astro term ahead: "applying conjunction of two planets”) that causes the damage, it is the rending, or tearing apart the forced bond that was temporarily created. Smash two divergent energies together and hold them there while they struggle to find commonality (this is nature's way), and then slowly peel them apart, unleashing this new, discordant, raw energy, and you have an unpleasant effect on the status quo. Here’s a visual: slowly peel back the rind from a lemon and watch that acidic lemon juice fly outward, in search of eyes to sting and cuts to seep into. Here, the lemon juice is akin to that new discordant energy released when two planets smush together (astrologically) and then are torn apart.

So it will be a nice, slow taffy pull of energies released. During that time we will see all sorts of minor effects buzzing in and out, like flies after the yummy sugar, and that is what will make all of this fun. Faster moving planets will add their effects to this overarching time of pain—er, “change.” Ergo:

The sun is a fixed object (from our perspective). It is also "fixed" energy in astrology. It goes nowhere. It does nothing. It never changes. It burns, and it burns hot, and it doesn't take sh-- from insignificant little pisants like us. The sun is so big and so uncaring and so powerful than as a force we cannot ever stand up to it. The only thing that protects us from the sun is the rotation of the earth ("small doses") and the atmosphere that diffuses its direct-force energies. So the sun does not like to be shaken like a bowl of fiery jello. It does not like it in a box. It does not like it with a fox. It does not like it Sam I am.

But herr Sonne is "in" Pisces (by our standards of observation) at this time, and from our point of view, it is "conjunct" or right next to Uranus. We look up in the sky and see, well we see the sun because it is too big and too bright to see Uranus hiding behind it like a puppet-master. But unseen or not, that devil of change ("agent of chaos" is much more poetic) is there, shaking the jello (er, the sun in Pisces). Think of it like the sun is held next to a giant vibrating thing. The sun is vibrating now—which is does NOT like to do, so we see “unpleasant” results.

The sun (astrologically) represents things that are big and firm and solid and controlling. hmmm... like the global economy, and the government (although Saturn has his hands all over THAT one as well). Think sun=Mayor. Like Mayor Mc Cheese, or that funny mayor in the Nightmare Before Christmas. Now shake him all up like a snow globe.

The sun and Uranus are "twins" at the moment, and for the next week. As the sun moves away from Uranus, it sill be shaken less and less, but right now it is buzzing like a hive of bees—and the world is shaking. We are shaking the tree right now. Fruits (Opportunities) and dead leaves (waste) will fall this year. This is a time of massive benefit and massive pain, depending on what YOU do when your branch gets shaken. You may have to let go and fly. If your life is thrown upside down, consider meeting the change head on and deciding where YOU want to go rather than fighting change with every resource you have, until you have none left.

But back to this sun/Uranus buddy-cop movie thing. Separation anxiety will be brutal, because they are squared off (on the opposite side of the boxing ring from) Uranus in jello, who just happens to be visited by the moon in Pisces. Now THAT is a coincidence, or just really bad timing.

ruh roh!

Okay, so here we have (a long winded rant) Moon/Saturn versus Sun/Uranus. This is like one of those crazy (but so fun to watch!) Lucha Libre matches. This is the main event! Let’s get rrrrrrrready to rrrrrrrrrumble!! Sometimes in professional wrestling you have two "tag team" members who, every fan knows, hate each other. It’s part of the drama that sells (a LOT of) tickets. Half the fun is waiting for the moment when one guy backstabs his partner to win the title belt, and then starts smashing him with a chair. Oh, get over it. We all watch wrestling for the chair, and we all watch Nascar for the crashes, and hockey for the fights.

Well, get your favorite lawn chair (to relax and enjoy the view in, not to smash over someone’s head) and a nice cold beer, because we are all about to have ring-side seats for the first big fight of the century, and you can see it from your back yard. The show is playing out all around us. Did you think the biggest (U.S.) government welfare check in history was an accident? Or that the robber barons being outed is coincidence? For every Madhoff, there are a hundred who actually got away with the money he stole. It is gone and safely tucked away now. But we will see the fireworks, because the boss is here looking for accountability. It doesn't matter whether it is Obama, or some other public figure, or the voice of the masses, someone will be calling these thieves out, and the world will be shaken to its core.

Everything will hold together, like jello; the waves of force are absorbed, spread out omnidirectionally, and everyone gets rattled, and we may all end up speaking Chinese soon (if one subscribes to the theory that we have sold our country to them by borrowing every last dime we could), but that is simply a matter of form. The structure will remain intact, even if our entire system changes.

This is a time of revolution, of "change" (it's not just a slogan, this has been building long before any one election), and a time of great opportunity, IF you can let go of traditional beliefs and ride the cosmic wave. This summer will be a bit bumpy (not to mention how much fun we will have in Spring!) but we can all come out better if we focus on our individual goals and passions, and free ourselves from the limitations that we have been calling "security" all of this time. "Security" is about to get the smack down. I hope you have a set of bolt cutters handy before the hammer falls.

How will this affect you? Well, that all depends on your situation, in your corner of the pond. Waves ripple and spread, so you can't really hide from them (unless you have a nice, large rock to get behind and let that absorb the impact), but change is not always bad. The trick is to grab your board and watch for the wave. Know where you want to go before the wave comes along and pushes you out of your comfort zone. Then hold on tight (survival mode) and steer your course toward your goal, using the momentum of the force of change to do the heavy lifting for you.

If all of this sounds cryptic, just ignore it. Call me crazy, and let's hope that I am. Let's all wake up tomorrow (in 6 months) and sigh that "nothing really happened." But just in case, why not have a plan for what YOU would do if everything around you changed. Just for fun, you know?

Change is coming. Change that is bigger than the internet. What we are not seeing right now is that this is the time when the foundations of society are altered in ways the public will not fully realize for twenty years. Most people will be too busy watching American idol to realize their destiny is being erased and rewritten during this week, this month, and this summer, in that order of importance. You (and I) can hit the reset button on our lives right now, and decide where we want to be, in ways that most generations never get to see. Or you (and I) can ignore it, try to hide from the storm, and pretend that we are in control of our lives when really we are just trying to hide from discomfort. Ben Franklin said something about trading security for liberty once, and that quote has been making the rounds quite a bit last year. It was the cool thing to have on one’s lips. Now, well, we will all have to decide for ourselves what trades we are willing to make. See you in 6 months. Let’s see where we are then. I hope you use this time to grow your life—not just survive it.

(disclaimer) I am too lazy to get the astro blog set up right now, and the new Tarot book is in final editing, so I am just going to post this here, because the weather bothers me, and I need to reflect on what is happening to all of us because of it. I will get back to actual Tarot blogging soon.