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24 posts from June 2008

My craigslist Experience

Craigslist I'm not a horse person but my wife and youngest daughter are.  So once you get a horse it's not too long before you need a truck to move it from point A to point B.  After many visits to local dealers I pretty much gave up on buying a used truck the traditional way; I'm pretty sure none of them are willing to acknowledge gas is already north of $4 a gallon and quickly heading to $5 or more.  Who's looking to buy a truck in these conditions?!  Me, unfortunately.

The newspaper ads and classifieds were pretty much worthless.  Those just featured more dealers hyping their overpriced "bargains" and loads of junk from individuals, most of which were in far away locations and not worth the drive.

Craigslist still hasn't become a phenomenon in central Indiana.  You'll find several new vehicles added each day but nowhere near the volume found in the local paper.  I find that odd since it's free to place a vehicle ad on craigslist, so why wouldn't you?  The biggest problem seems to be awareness.  Most people around here still don't know what craigslist is.  In fact, when I told my wife I think I may have found a great truck deal on craiglist, her response was, "why is our son Craig maintaining a list of trucks?".  I love her dearly but she's not the most tech savvy member of the Wikert clan.

Speaking of that great deal...  It turns out there's a guy on the south side of Indianapolis who specializes in repo vehicles.  He got one recently where the owner missed a few payments, got tired of being nagged and voluntarily took the truck and the keys back to the bank.  Mr. Repo keeps a fairly low profile and only advertises on craigslist.  Smart guy.  He works with virtually no overhead and generally flip his vehicles within 60 days of acquiring them.

This guy is reselling used trucks for about half the price you'd pay at a dealership.  Think of the middlemen he's cutting out: The vehicles don't go to auction, they're not advertised in the paper and they don't ever enter the dealership pipeline.

I used to think craigslist's impact was limited to the newspaper industry, but when you stop and think about it, craigslist's ecomonic effect extends well beyond the classifieds.

Heaven and Hell, by Don Felder

Heaven and hell I always figured Don Henley and Glenn Frey were egomaniacs...Don Felder's tell-all book called Heaven and Hell not only confirmed my assumption but provided loads of details to back it up.  Wow.  I know the money was great and all but I still can't understand how Felder survived all those years with these guys.

When I first opened this book I assumed I would skip whatever pre-Eagles coverage Felder offered and jump right in to the Hotel California era.  I also thought I'd cut it short and not bother reading much beyond the band's first breakup.  Much to my surprise, I started reading about Felder's childhood on page one and was immediately hooked.  The guy has led a fascinating life and it's remarkable how many other well-known musicians he's stumbled across over the years.  Growing up in Gainesville gave him access to bands like The Allman Brothers and he was even Tom Petty's first guitar teacher.

While the early years of Felder's life were more interesting than I originally figured, the book really shines when he hooks up with The Eagles after they've had a taste of success in 1974.  Hotel California is one of my favorite albums and probably the only one I care much about from The Eagles.  The story of how that album was made, and how that song was written, is riveting.  Felder takes you behind the scenes of tours, studio sessions and traveling with the band.  You get the impression you're right there in the same room with these guys.  The book is exceptionally well-written.

I finished reading it last night and I'm still marvelling at how Henley, Frey and the band's manager (Irving Azoff) railroaded Felder into a much smaller cut of the proceeds towards the end.  And yes, I realize Henley and Frey were the two "faces" of the band and they had much more successful solo careers than Felder, but still...I'll bet Paul and John never hosed George and Ringo like that.  When you see these mega-bands from the '70's reuniting for "one final farewell tour" and ticket prices are well north of $100 it's hard to look at it as anything other than greed.  Heaven and Hell will reinforce that notion, particularly when it comes to Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Irving Azoff.  No matter how much you liked (or even disliked) The Eagles, Heaven and Hell is a very worthwhile read and sheds much light on the '70's music scene.

Book Business Magazine

Book Biz Mag--6-08 I always look forward to receiving the next issue of Book Business magazine and the June issue didn't disappoint. In it you'll find this insightful interview with Wiley's very own Christine Dunn.  Christine is a marketing director based out of our Chichester office in the U.K.  She's also been involved in some very cool community initiatives including Wiley Nautical.  (And I hear she was quite the college basketball player back in her Vanderbilt days...)

The best part of a Book Business magazine?  The subscription is free.  If you haven't already signed up, just go here for your own free subscription.

Booksquare Strikes a Nerve...In a Good Way


Kassia Krozser does an excellent job with the Booksquare blog.  It's one of my favorites.  So when I saw the title of one of her recent posts, Why Publishers Should Blog, my antenna went up.  Now that I've finished reading it, I'm both disappointed and inspired.  No, I'm not disappointed by what Kassia has to say -- I think she's absolutely right.  I'm just concerned that my blogging efforts for the past 3+ years have been misguided.  But there's hope.

Kassia's post talks about the similarities between publisher catalogs and publisher websites.  Unfortunately, most publisher websites aren't much more than the catalog in HTML format.  Where's the personality?  Who are the people behind the scenes making these books?  Where's their passion and vision?  And yes, while most readers probably care more about the author's passion, vision, etc., what's wrong with the publishers, editors, marketers, etc., participating as well?

My blog isn't connected in any way with a Wiley website/catalog.  That's true for most publishers and publisher blogs out there.  Even the ones with links to their blogs from their publisher websites are nothing more than that...simple links.

I don't want to read too much into what Kassia is saying, but I got inspired by interpreting her message as, "hey, you've got the catalog site, and maybe you've got a blog or two; why not integrate them better so that visitors get a real feel for who you are and how that ties into these books?"

Btw, if my blog magically wound up getting integrated with the imprint websites my group publishes into (highly unlikely), that's not going to change a thing.  One blog and one point of view won't make a difference.  What we really need are for representatives from all the various departments of a publishing house (e.g., publisher, acq editor, dev editor, marketer, etc.) to come together on this, and that's like moving heaven and earth.

Nevertheless, when I think about a publisher's website that not only features the usual catalog content but also a high likelihood that I'll bump into the publisher, editor or other people associated with the book I'm interested in, well, that would be be highly appealing to me.  I could see a site like that evolving into more of a social network for the publisher, their authors and customers.  One central location where all the players could have meaningful discussion and debate about a book.  How fun would that be?

Any publisher thinking about overhauling their website ought to give serious consideration to the social networking aspects of what Kassia is suggesting.  Nobody's there yet, but the first publisher or two to create a model like this will be the envy of the industry.

P.S. -- Speaking of publisher blogs...  I recently stumbled across a fine one called Books on the Nightstand.  It's written by a couple of Random House employees and should be on any booklover's RSS feed list.

The Power (and Future) of Free

Free I've been meaning to write a follow-up post to John Caddell's well thought-out article called Must We Give away Digital Creative Works? but I wanted to let it sink in a bit longer.  I think I'm ready now, and I think the best approach is to take excerpts (italicized) and insert my thoughts:

...creative artists will have to make their money from "ancillary" projects, such as touring, personal appearances, licensing, etc.

I think this has been happening for a long time in the book publishing world.  How many full-time authors do you know?  Does writing provide 100% of their income, or even the majority of it?  If so, you know someone in the minority.  Most of the authors I know use writing as a way to get consulting gigs, speaking engagements and other jobs that generally produce more income than their books.

...if creating a work of art cannot in itself make money, it will then be difficult to invest much in that creation.

True, to some extent, but I'm not convinced it's this black and white.  There are quite a few bloggers out there, for example, who earn nothing for their efforts.  And yes, for many of them, that's precisely the value of the content they produce.  But, how about the truly good ones?  The ones where the passion is oozing out of every post?  Will they continue indefinitely even if they don't make a nickel from their work?  Probably not.  But what if that blog helps them get discovered and results in the consulting, speaking and other money-earning endeavors noted above?

If the world immediately and exclusively switched to this model it would be insanely disruptive, no doubt.  But what if we evolved to it over the course of a few years?  Most people spewing worthless content in search of a quick buck would abandon the blogosphere pretty quickly, leaving only those with passion and appreciation for the new model.  Would that be such a bad thing? doesn't bode well for musicians or moviemakers, and, soon, book authors.

If this were true I think it would bring an end to garage bands and self-published authors.  I would argue that new technologies and operations like AuthorHouse and Lulu are only helping to expand the base of musians, moviemakers and book authors.  Do these new writers and creators need to look at the opportunity differently than musicians/moviemakers/book authors of 10 years ago?  You bet.  Although they'd all love to be the next Stephen King, my guess is most self-published authors these days are pretty happy just getting their work into print, especially if they were previously rejected by one or more "big publishers".  Those expectations might change over time, but I think the future for content creators is incredibly bright and the barriers to entry have never been lower.

If a band can make money touring but not through selling CDs, they will be unlikely to spend much time in the recording studio, or to spend money on studio effects or gear.

But what's going to drive excitement for next year's tour?  I don't think very many bands would be successful traveling the country and playing the same songs every year, with nothing new to add to the mix.  New songs are a key ingredient in this formula, so I have a hard time believing bands could continue milking the old stuff forever; this would exclude the top 3 or 4 groups like The Who and The Rolling Stones who apparently have at least another 30 or 40 years left in their '70's hits.

I think we're in the midst of a transformation.  Five or ten years from now, creative types will be quite comfortable giving away even more of their content than ever before.  New models will emerge that make today's sponsorships and ancillary opportunities look tiny by comparison.  There will still be the Stephen King's of the world, but more of them will have their roots in self-publishing, which means they may never have broken through in the old system.  Shouldn't we consider all that a good thing?