Saturday, July 01, 2006

Returns, Lists, and Why We Do What We Do!

[Note: much of this Rant is about the Pub-Forum listserv. You can join (free) or get info about Pub-Forum here.]

It's been almost ten years since I received a return on a book. That's because we don't sell to the trade through Ingram or B&T. We don't accept returns... which is why we don't get them!!

So I've really forgotten the feeling of what it's like to get a couple of cartons of books back. For those who have been there, it's not the "fun part" of publishing. It's a sinking, depressing feeling.

In my consulting business, I've never lost or been canned by a client (although I once quit one company when I couldn't get along with one of the VPs).

Well, today I lost my first Jaya123 victim. She'd only been on the system for three weeks and decided it was too expensive and that it didn't meet her needs and decided to get Quickbooks. In the 3 years that Jaya123 has been going, not one person had left.

That old "returns" feeling came right back to me in a flash. Depressing as hell. But it got me to thinking (an activity I've not had much time for the past several weeks due to an ill wife... [has anyone noticed the absence of the Saturday Rant since the 2006 BEA Diary?])

Being in business is hard... and oftentimes it is lonely. Pub-Forum (P-F) helps to fill a void for many. I know a lot of folks hate the OT posts but I NOW think that they are needed, if for nothing else, to help us all be part of a community. I used to rant otherwise (as the Harry Pariser keeps reminding us) but I've come full-circle.

On the Self-Publishing (S-P) list, Marion and John and JC enforce an On Topic rule with ruthless fervor, and they frown on any humor, or feeling." It's a "biz-only" list. It's a cold house there, but lots of people like it cold. The list is three-times as large as P-F.

P-F is different. Maybe not better, but different. You're' "part of something" here. Sometimes that "something" is not what you want to be a part of... but that's how families go sometimes! (What a horribly constructed sentence!)

The big difference between P-F and the other lists is that here people really care. Yes, they get on their soap box and preach their brand of politics or religion because they really WANT YOU to join them. Harry really WANTS you to join his cause. Feel free to do so... although I'd like to know if Harry is ever FOR something instead of being AGAINST everything!. On the other lists, no one really gives a damn about anyone else. It's all business, all the time.

But more than that, I'll tell you one huge difference between the cold, gray, "on-topic only" S-P list and the sometimes "white hot" P-F list is that if someone you know dies, or if you're sick, or something bad happens, you're going to get flowers, cards, good wishes, phone calls, emails, and one hell of a lot of personal support. When my dad died a few months ago I got a beautiful set of potted herbs from V3 in the name of P-F. (I doubt Harry contributed to it... but the gift touched my heart nonetheless.)

So yes, P-F may not be the "best" list to discuss publishing issues. But I think it's the best list for a publisher to be on. There is a lot more to being in this business than black and white "publishing" issues.

You could not write this lament-of-a-post on Gundry's list and have anyone really care, and you could not write it on S-P at all. And I'm positive that guys like G. Heard and Mr. Pariser would rather not see posts like this here... but they don't run the place (much to their lament, I'm sure.)

I read the posts of people like Pam who came out of the ether to stand up against the Pariser diatribes of this week... but you don't see too many like her. You just have to LOVE Pam. And Marion as well... who had the guts to tell Harry to "deal with it." Even the mild-mannered Maya came out to set the record straight. You just know that all these folks are on Harry's hate-list... although there is no doubt that my name heads the list... a badge of honor I wear with great pride! I think people are afraid to get in the cross-hairs of Harrys rifle... and I don't blame them. He is a dead-on shot... and has no mercy.

But protest Harry is something people need to do. This list was founded on the principle that it would be a self administering list with the list-moms guarding the gates from spam and taking care of technical issues. So I hope that people WILL speak up when others (or myself) go "too far." The "system" has almost worked... but we still see that Parisar can hijack this list.

The majority should rise up and say to the neo-pols (i.e. Pariser) on the list "we've had enough, shut the fuck up Harry, ...STFUH." Maybe we should make STFUH a Pub-Forum "cultural icon" to be used whenever someone goes off the deep end, as Harry does almost every day. (Any of you remember the term "folfs" from years and years ago? It too became a cultural icon... but for humor.)

Of course I get accused of being the cause that people leave P-F. It might be true. But I think Harry has caused far more people to leave after he has beaten the hell out of them with his mean-spirited, indictive postings. But that's OK.

Huh, you say?

Unlike others, I don't mind people leaving P-F. It's not for everyone. And while I applaud the people (most of whom I've never seen post before) for standing up, I caution that we don't want to go to an extreme. We don't need to be S-P. S-P is already there, as is the Gundry list and Bob Goodman's "civil" list.

Harry is here and will stay here. And Mr. Kubica is a newcomer in Harry's tradition.... or maybe MY tradition. And we still have G. Heard to harass us. So be it. Maybe it's all good. Or maybe we need to just post: STFUH !!! I'm not sure... but I know that people need to stop being afraid of Harry and if they disagree with him they should stand up and say so. To allow one person to hijack this list is simply absurd. We're publishers. We KNOW how to be PUBLIC with our concerns... and so WE SHOULD with Harry, with me, with Heard and with anyone else. This is what this list was founded upon.

We are what we are, we will continue to evolve, change, and progress. And we're one thing that the other lists are not. We're a community, a family if you will, that is struggling to survive in a very difficult and constantly changing business climate.

I believe that those who have risen to the level of experience that P-F attracts from, are the survivors, the tough ones, the few who really know the oft-quoted thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

I look at the newbies on the S-P list and I wonder how many of them will survive to where a list like P-F attracts them? I used to wonder what makes "us" out of all of the "thems". I used to wonder what it really takes to survive in business.

After all these years, I've learned the answer.

The answer is one word. Dedication. You simply have to want to be here, in this industry, more than any other you could be in. If you can meet that challenge, and you can hold out long enough, I believe success will arrive. Look at Pam S. She's the prototype you all want to follow... because she's done everything right... and is now making good money (sorry Harry that she is Christian... and a capitalist... just another bad day for a communist like you, I guess.)

It's not today's returns, but tomorrows new titles that are important. We must always keep our eye on that prize (just as Pam does). We need to strive for innovation and understand trends. We not only serve the public, we also lead it. Indeed, we are the keepers of the culture.

We are important.

We have purpose.

We are needed.

It's a hard industry, a hard business. We work long hours, we do our best, we get tired, we take large risks, and some days are diamonds and others are rust. But through it all we trudge on, in the firm belief that the journey is the reward.

And today, after losing a Jaya123 client, I feel as if I know a lot of you just a little bit better.

Al Canton
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.
http://www.adams-blake com

Copyright 2006 by A. Canton and Adams-Blake Company, Inc. This piece may be freely copied and published in any media with proper attribution to the author and including his company and URLs.