General

Don’t Ask: “Would you consider?”

Often, a fan phrases a question towards a company in this manner: “Would you consider releasing this book as a hardback?” or “Have you considered releasing a fiction anthology?”

Please don’t ask questions in this manner. You’re trying to ask a question about the end results but the question you are actually asking is about process.

Some people would actually argue that someone can’t answer that question without quickly considering both possibilities, and so the answer to any “Would you consider?” question is always yes.

Let’s use an example: “Would you consider printing future books in hardcover?”

Before a publisher decides to print a book in hardcover, they have to look at the additional printing and shipping costs for doing so, compare that to the expected sales for the book, and ask some necessary sub-questions: will making this book hardcover sell more copies? Will making it hardcover make it possible to raise the price enough to cover the additional printing costs? Will this actually add value for the people buying the book? Does it conflict with the way that series of books has been published in the past?

It’s safe to say that if you see a book on the shelf, the publisher has considered all sorts of different things to try and make the book more attractive to buyers and more profitable to themselves. That is simply part of running a publishing business. Considering happens a lot.

If you want to ask a question about the process, do it:

“What factors most influence you when deciding if a book will be hardcover or softcover?”

or:

“Book X was hardcover, but Book Y and Z were softcover. Wasn’t Z similar enough to X to merit a hardcover? Why wasn’t it?”

If you want to ask questions about the end result, do it:

“I’m looking forward to Book A, but I really want it in hardcover. Is it going to be one?”

I understand that some people think that asking a “Would you consider?” question is a polite way of requesting that end result: but it’s better to just say “I would really like to see this book as a hardcover. I bought your other hardcover books and want more, please!” (“Please” is still a magic word, even when money and business is happening.)

Please don’t ask me if I’m considering things. Ask me what it took to get previous things done, or what it would take to get the things you want done.

Wired app for iPad

Not quite living in the future, but the Wired app for the iPad is really cool. There’s a few little tweaks that would make it even better. I hope that since each issues is an app on its own (or at least, that appears to be the model they’re going for) that it will be easy for them to incrementally improve it each issue perhaps until they feel they can release it as an app with in-app purchases for each new issue?

Custom Table of Contents

I want to tag some article as interesting, and I also want to mark an article as “Read and Not Wanting to Re-read,” essentially creating a second Table of Contents with just the stuff I want to re-read, the stuff I haven’t read, and none of the stuff I’ve already read. And yes, after I’ve looked at it, I’d like to be able to mark ads as “Not Wanting to Re-read.”

(In print magazines, I often rip out and throw away pages if they contain an ad on both the front and the back. I buy things to read, not to fetishize.)

Hop to Web Article

I want a quick way to get a hyperlink for the web version of any particular article, so I can send it to a friend.

Better Escaping from Animated Content

Invaders of Mars has a cool animation, but once it’s swirling the double-tap to stop it is kind of strange: it stops the animation and performs the “bring up menu items” action as well. I think I’d prefer a single tap on the same hot spot that started the animation.

Puzzle

I want to try and type the answer into the puzzle!

Life Hack: Remove your Headphones and Say Hello

I’m travelling today; the typical jaunt of 4 airports and 3 flights to get from my hometown to one of my usual destinations: Chicago, for some business meetings. It’s been a few years since I’ve spent any time in Chicago, and 5 full days in the city is simply too short.

But this post is about a life hack; one of those little things you can do to make everything just a little bit better. Many of us walk around with our nose buried in our cel phone or other portable electronic device, or attached to our MP3 player via headphones, or both. These devices are distracting and inhibit our ability to take in the outside world … which can be a good thing, but it makes dealing with people you need to deal with that much more difficult, and it irritates those that you deal with.

So when I’m plugged into my headphones or dickering around with my iPod touch or Sony Reader, and I make it to the front of the line at the airport or bank or whatever, here is what I do:

  1. At 5-10 feet away, I start to put the device away entirely, or take my headphones out of my eyes. Both headphones end up tucked into the front of my shirt.
  2. As I step up to the person I need to speak with, I look them in the eye, smile, and say “Hello.” If they ask me how I’m doing, I answer, and in turn, ask them how they are. After they tell me that how they’re doing, I offer the appropriate “That’s good to hear.” or “Ouch, that’s a pain. These lines do look brutal—hope that the rest of your shift is easier.”
  3. Profit! Or Good Service! Maybe both? Why? It’s easy: by putting away your electronic crap and taking off your headphones, you’ve acknowledged to the person that you need to be able to hear and pay attention to them, that they provide value to you. By greeting them nicely and having a short conversation, you’ve shown that they’re a human, you’re a human, and whatever business may happen next gets off on a better foot.

A side tip: If you’re in a situation where things have gone poorly (You’ve missed a connecting flight, your luggage has been lost, your waitress was distracted and forgot to bring you your delicious cheesesticks, etc.) I’ve found the following style of phrase works out really well: “Actually, things are kind of lousy right now, and I would really like your help figuring out what I should do next.” (or: “And this is what you can do to help fix it.” Tell the person that you’re in a bit of a bind, or a bad mood, but make it clear to them that it isn’t their fault (unless it is) and that they can help you. Someone who wants to be helped is, shockingly, easier to help, and most people do like helping others, even if it’s their job.

Dating Advice

This is a subject not normally broached on this blog, for sure!

David A. Hill Jr. busts out some “geek” dating advice, linking to one of the most widely-known articles about “Nice Guys”—No More Mr. Nice Guy. One of my friends wrote another great Why nice guys come last article a few years ago, and I’m going to chime in with a bit of dating—hell, life!—advice that applies whether you are a “geek” or not:

You don’t get to choose what disrespects someone else.

This flows in both directions: If you care enough about someone, don’t do or say things that they tell you is disrespectful to them; and if they tell you that something isn’t disrespectful to them, don’t try and insist that it is.

Yes, some things are stereotypically and generally offensive. There are things I won’t say or do because I consider them offensive—or at least, offensive in certain situations. But don’t ever hide behind “X is offensive to women” or “X is offensive to men” if a specific woman or man directly tells you that it’s not offensive to them—their personal opinion overrides the stereotype about their gender when you are dealing with them.

Similarly, “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes” does not mean “pretend the same event would happen to you”—unless that someone else is a clone of you, they are unlikely to react the exact same way! When you think about someone else, actually think about them and not about you!

Treat people like they want to be treated; treat people better than they deserve to be treated; don’t treat people like you want to be treated. They aren’t you.

Marco and Tiff on ebook readers

I love this post by Marco Arment about ebook readers, particularly this tidbit:

Tiff plowed through more than 20 books on the Kindle. At one point in the middle, she read a book on paper (because it wasn’t available on the Kindle) and absolutely hated it. Her commentary was priceless: she couldn’t easily look up word definitions, she couldn’t change the font size, it was awkward and lopsided to hold near the beginning and end, and it would lose her place if she fell asleep while reading.

My ebook reader [a Sony PRS505] is awesome. Not only is it useful for work-related reading [I often put manuscripts on it so I can read away from the computer and can’t fiddle with them as I read,] but it has increased the amount of overall leisure time I spend reading, as I’m more in the habit of reading—long form—than I have been in years, both electronic and print.

Further Piracy Thoughts

Here’s a few more bullet points from the Things I Think About Piracy department, as a followup to ICv2, Gaming Book Piracy, Quality of News. Most of this addresses “media” piracy; software piracy is a whole different kettle of fish, I think, as you can profit from using pirated software.

  • I don’t think piracy is a compliment. You like my stuff enough to use it, but not enough to pay for it? Ugh, that’s kind of crummy middle-of-the-road like, isn’t it?
  • I don’t think that anything you do with a file or physical media you’ve bought should be considered piracy or illegal unless you actually duplicate it for or make available copies to someone else. Make a half-dozen backups. Copy and paste the text into your own custom version of the file. Print out a copy that can be handed around the gaming table, and when that copy gets beaten up and ripped, shred it and print another copy. Rip that DVD to your hard drive and copy it to your iPod. Photocopy the book and paste all the pages onto your wall in some bizarre wallpaper homage to Shadowrun, Second Edition.
  • I try not to support DRM or other sort of restrictive publishing schemes, either as a publisher or a consumer. I’m afraid it’s not completely unavoidable—after all, commercial DVDs have DRM on them, and I’m not about to stop buying DVDs. And within the last year, I’ve accidentally bought a DRMed ebook or two, but I try to avoid it. As a publisher, I do not believe that restrictions that can impair paying customers are the right thing to do. That said, sometimes publishing partners, licensors, etc, demand or impose DRM; you can’t always blame the creator for it.
  • I think that piracy that is personal—giving some music or a copied DVD to a friend, for example—is far more acceptable than putting the exact same thing online to be downloaded by total strangers. When I share things, I want to share it with people who are going to help enrich my experience! (I still loan books that I enjoy to my friends, too. Fancy that!)
  • I think the library is an awesome place to get books, audiobooks, DVDs,and CDs that you don’t own. Enjoyed it? Maybe you should buy a copy. Didn’t like it? Hopefully the next person that takes it out does! Some libraries are even lending out ebooks and other modern formats, now!

ICv2, Gaming Book Piracy, Quality of News

ICv2 is one of the last sites that report on the hobby gaming industry in a general way. By general, I mean they don’t have a specific focus—they don’t cover just indie games, or just CCGs, etc.

This week, ICv2 published the following article:
Change Roiling Book Business
. The second part of this article talks about the Espresso Book Machine—an awesome print on demand [In the literal sense, not the “short run printing service” sense] machine that for only $100,000 + consumables can print softcover books in less than 4 minutes. This piece of machinery could have a positive impact on publishing, bringing backlist and rare titles back into print in bookstores and educational facilities.

The first part of the article is about ebook piracy, and it is entirely sourced from Randall Stross’ October 3rd article on NYTimes.com: Will Books Be Napsterized?

I am not going to talk about piracy yet. I am going to say one simple thing: when discussing piracy as it relates to the game industry, taking all your source material from one article which is not related to the game industry, and not adding any additional material that directly relates to the game industry [Such as, for example, talking to some publishers as to how they feel about the article and piracy trends] is lazy reporting. It’s even lazier when said article is the top article on ICv2 that day.

Briefly, to talk about Stross’ article: Yes, ebook piracy is going to increase as more devices are capable of electronically reading ebooks—and that means one thing for me in my publisher hat: there are also more reasons for people to buy ebooks. In the end, I care about how many units I can sell and how many dollars I can make, not how many copies are pirated. 10,000 sales and 100,000 pirated units is still better than 9,000 sales and 50,000 pirated units. There are exceptions to this (especially in the software/service market), but in the book/ebook publishing market, I think it’s pretty clear.

(Tangent: In Stross’ article, he also claims that the RIAA has said inflation-adjusted sales of music have dropped by more than 50% in the last 10 years, even accounting for digital sales. He doesn’t link to any proof of this RIAA claim—not even info directly from the RIAA. I googled a bit but couldn’t find a direct quote that backs that up, although I did find this page on the RIAA site, which links to a PDF that shows numbers that do not indicate a 50% drop, although the article doesn’t list the methodology or if it it’s adjusted for inflation.)

So now we’ll talk piracy a bit. When I say piracy, I mean “duplicating something you don’t own the rights to copy for noncommercial use;” I’m not speaking about people duplicating and selling commercially available products. And let’s remember that I am talking for myself—not anyone that employs me. I am not one of those creators that thinks piracy is some horrible awful thing. Rather, I think piracy is completely natural. We all want something for nothing, or for as little as possible, and we all like to share the things we like with people we like. I reckon there are very few people reading this who can say that they have never pirated anything. Before we had such easy digital copying solutions, we just had to work a bit harder to do it!

I also think there are situations where something may technically be piracy, but isn’t going to harm anyone. I’ll “‘fess up” with a personal example: I’m a professional wrestling fan. There is a great deal of wrestling material from the 70s and 80s that is not available in any commercial manner, but exists because fans at the time taped it from television or some of the people “rescued” the master tapes from the TV studio. I’d buy some of this stuff in a heartbeat if it was made commercially available, but even though World Wrestling Entertainment owns some of this material, it’s rarely available, especially as it was originally broadcast. So I don’t think I’m doing them harm by buying or trading for wrestling bootlegs … WWE, I assure you, if you ever release a Best of Stampede Wrestling box set, I am there.

There are books about wrestling, too. I buy those, too. I’m sure I could steal them, but when a book is $12 on Amazon, how much time do I want to spend looking for a pirated version, when I can have a nice version that I can read in my bathroom in the mail in only a week or so? (If that timeframe seems long, I’m in Canada and I mostly order from Amazon.com, not the Amazon.ca subsite. Better selection, and I prefer the American packaging on DVDs to the Canadian packaging, generally.) As a publisher, I have many conflicting opinions of Amazon. As a reader and a TV watcher and a player-of-games, I love Amazon; it does a notable good for me by providing a service that is easy enough to make it worth my money.

But I’m not going to sit here and deny that piracy does and can have an effect on the sales of new, modern media. That effect, however, isn’t always negative. Piracy can serve as a vector to introduce new people to a game, TV show, band, etc. And contrary to some opinions, many people introduced to something via piracy don’t just sit around and pirate it forever, as long as the product is worth buying. I know I sure don’t. I’ve had TV shows recommended to me, and before I’ve finished watching the first downloaded episode I’ve already ordered it online. Without piracy, I wouldn’t have even known these shows existed, or would have been otherwise ignorant about them. Is there a better way to learn if you like something than by actually seeing/reading/playing it?

Do you play a RPG regularly? And by that, I mean—do you play it more than once a month? Then you should be buying the stuff you use for it. If your character uses a bunch of the optional rules from Street Magic to kick magical butt, then you should own your own copy of Street Magic. I don’t see a good excuse not to. Whip out the “I’m a poor college kid.” line, and I’m just going to laugh: play the game without the cool stuff from Street Magic, then! Oh, is the game less fun without it? Then it’s worth owning! The same is true if you played a video game all the way through or read a book and learned from it.

If you regularly use a game, watch a movie, watch a TV series, read a book; and that media is available for sale from a legit source, you should buy it. If you loan your copies or make copies for friends, you should encourage them to buy it, too. If you regularly consume only pirated versions of media you enjoy, you don’t have the right to complain if that media takes a turn you don’t like, if their production schedule changes for the negative (fewer books, fewer episodes per season, etc), or is cancelled outright.

And, if you’re a pirate and haven’t actually gone out and bought a DVD lately, or a game, or a piece of software, let me tell you something else—the feeling of buying something you like that you could have pirated is pretty goddamned good.

Adam Jury at MechaCon, July 24th-26th

I’ll be the gaming guest of honor at MechaCon (site plays loud sound effects) in Lafayette, Louisiana, July 24th-26th. I’ll be doing a couple panels/seminars — about Shadowrun’s 20th Anniversary, cyberpunk gaming, and working in the game industry. I’ll also be spending some time relaxing and hanging out at the show, but I’d be totally happy to meet up with and hang out with any Shadowrun and Catalyst fans who are going to be at the convention.

There’s also some Shadowrun games being run at the show, of course!

I’ll post exact times to my official appearances at the show closer to the actual date.

Upgrade & Update

Just upgraded the blog to WordPress 2.7—I’ve been playing with the beta version on a site I have in development, and it’s really great.

Personal-work-wise, I’ve been pretty busy with that new site, and hope to launch it early next year … I was hoping for this month, but that’s just not going to happen, with all my work on Eclipse Phase and Shadowrun this month, plus some freelance work. The personal project is a totally new one for me, and has nothing [well, very little] to do with gaming, so that’s pretty exciting.

I took a vacation at the end of November. I don’t think I mentioned that here; I went to Washington, DC, for Thanksgiving. I had a great time chilling out for a week.

Oh, and I bought a copy of Klavika Condensed this week. Isn’t it gorgeous? Watch for it in some upcoming Shadowrun projects.

And that concludes this life update and test post!