Read The Future of Publishing? by Dan AllossoDan Allosso (History4Today.com)
I got a note from the senior executive editor at Yale, who has been my main contact throughout the process of getting my book published. Peppermint Kings has not been flying out of the warehouse so…
Sorry to hear this Dan, but I might be able to help in terms of providing some perspective for moving forward.

These days the idea of bestseller means selling in the range of 10,000 books. The average book released these days sells only 250 copies, so if you’re over that, you’re doing well.

It’s also incredibly uncommon for any publishers to put any serious money behind promoting their titles unless PR opportunities are falling off the trees for them. (This means that unless you’ve been selling a million copies of everything you write, they probably don’t care.) Many publishers will assign you a pro-forma publicist to help when they can, but don’t expect much from them. Most publishers will tell you to hire your own book publicist (usually for about $1,500-3,000 a month).

My guess is that the first run of your book was probably 1,000 to 2,000 books, which will bring the cost of raw printing down to $2 a copy. If you need copies of your book and they’re remaindering them, you might offer the publisher $1-2 a copy plus shipping to get 50 or 100 copies for yourself for hand sales over the next decade (for speaking engagements, etc.) or selling a few copies from your own stash on platforms like Amazon, Abebooks, Alibris, etc. The cost of keeping a book in print these days is usually around $12 a year and then they print them on demand.

Some of the methods you mentioned, talks, online readings, etc. can be useful marketing for both you and your book(s). Look around your local community/state for book events, fairs, bookstores that invite authors, etc to supplement this.

Depending on your next title, it might be worth hiring a publicist if you’re going the route of a text accessible to a broader public.Often this can be a reasonable risk but getting copies into reviewers’ hands can be helpful, as can radio or print appearances. Another option is to pay for adds in appropriate print magazine outlets related to your material.

It’s an uphill slog, but getting a publisher to take most of the risk and offering you all the free amenities of editing, proofreading, typesetting and distribution can be worth it in the end to get your material out.

When choosing your next publisher/editor, have a bit of this conversation with them at the outset to see what expectations they have for themselves. Don’t tip your hand though by letting them know prior sales numbers.

Since you’ve got your own website/newsletter/social media presence, you should also look into affiliate accounts with the bigger online platforms. Chances are you’re actually selling most of your own copies, you may as well get a 4% or larger cut of the referrals you’re giving. Your link on this page alone could give you a reasonable little return on top of the boilerplate 7% you’re probably getting from the publisher.

Read Podcasting, RSS, Openness, and Choice by Michael MignanoMichael Mignano (Medium)
In the coming months and years, we’ll be working to further enable choice for creators, including giving them the power to choose not only how someone wants to create or monetize audio, but also where specific content is able to be consumed, ensuring creators have an opportunity to decide if they are aligned with the platforms distributing their content.

The open RSS standard has provided immense value to the growth of the podcasting ecosystem over the past few decades. 

Why do I get the sinking feeling that the remainder of this article will be maniacally saying, “and all of that ends today!”
Annotated on April 19, 2021 at 09:34AM

We also believe that in order to democratize audio and achieve Spotify’s mission of enabling a million creators to live off of their art, we must work to enable greater choice for creators. This choice becomes increasingly important as audio becomes even easier to create and share. 

Dear Anchor/Spotify, please remember that “democratize” DOES NOT equal surveillance capitalism. In fact, Facebook and others have shown that doing what you’re probably currently planning for the podcasting space will most likely work against democracy.
Annotated on April 19, 2021 at 09:13AM

In the coming months and years, we’ll be working to further enable choice for creators, including giving them the power to choose not only how someone wants to create or monetize audio, but also where specific content is able to be consumed, ensuring creators have an opportunity to decide if they are aligned with the platforms distributing their content. 

So this means you’re going to use simple, open standards and tooling so that not only Anchor and Spotify will benefit?

Or are you going to build closed systems that require the use of proprietary software and thus force subscriptions?

Are you going to Balkanize the audio space to force consumers into your product and only your product? Or will producers be able to have a broad selection of platforms to which they could easily export and distribute their content?
Annotated on April 19, 2021 at 08:57AM

Thus, the creative freedom of creators is limited. 

And thus draconian methods for making the distribution unnecessarily complicated, siloed, surveillance capitalized, and over-monitized beyond all comprehension are beyond the reach of one or two for profit companies who want to own the entire market like monopolistic giants are similarly limited. (But let’s just stick with the creators we’re pretending to champion, shall we?)
Annotated on April 19, 2021 at 09:07AM

tl;dr: Anchor: We’re doing this not so much because creators say they want it, but because we really, really want it. P.S.: We don’t care at all what our listeners think, and so have nothing to say about their freedom.

Watched "McMillions" Episode 1 from HBO Max
Directed by James Lee Hernandez, Brian Lazarte. With Tim Adams, Mark Devereaux, Jan Garvin, Chris Graham. An anonymous tip to FBI agent Doug Mathews speaks of a con surrounding the much beloved McDonald's Monopoly game and its mysterious mastermind; a man going by the moniker of "Uncle Jerry."
I remember reading the sprawling article this documentary was roughly based on. While this first episode is generally entertaining, it feels a bit over-the-top in terms of its presentation. The main FBI agent is definitely a character and is entertaining, but it feels like this would have been better served as a three part thing rather than the six that I can see available. There’s almost too much re-enactment and the directing is a bit on-the-nose.

I’ll give the rest of it a shot, but for those who don’t have time, read the article instead.

I’ll also note that this documentary is a separate effort from the feature film that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are developing.

Listened to Unlearning White Jesus from On the Media | WNYC Studios

Examining the consequences of 'White Jesus' in America.

In a time where monuments are being toppled, institutions and icons reconsidered, we turn to a portrait encountered by every American: "White Jesus." You know, that guy with sandy blond hair and upcast blue eyes. For On the Media, Eloise Blondiau traces the history of how the historically inaccurate image became canon, and why it matters.

In this segment, Eloise talks to Mbiyu Chui, pastor at the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit, about unlearning Jesus's whiteness. She also hears from Edward Blum, author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, about how the image came dominate in the U.S., and psychologist Simon Howard on how White Jesus has infiltrated our subconsciouses. Lastly, Eloise speaks to Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, womanist theologian and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, about the theology of the Black Christ.

This is a segment from our October 1st, 2020 program, God Bless.

Replied to a post by Patrick Rhone (patrickrhone.net)
I created a shop on Bookshop.org for all the books I read this year for easier browsing and, if interested, purchase.
I like this idea Patrick. I’d recently used Bookshop to create a list of books I’m currently reading. Having finished one or two, perhaps it’s time to start a read shelf like you have?

It might be interesting to see them build out some UI to make a less corporate Goodreads-esque site as well.

Read Why I’m no longer linking to Amazon for books… by Patrick Rhone (patrickrhone.net)
For a long time now, I’ve linked to Amazon when linking to books, especially on my /reading page. The reasons: It was an easy default and I always knew that if something existed at all there would be a greater than 99% chance one could find it there. As an author, I know from direct experience tha...
Read Back to Bollywood - Jottings (jot.pratikmhatre.com)
I watched 25 Bollywood movies this year. That’s almost a movie every two weeks. Only 4 of them were re-watches. Considering that I’m an Indian, you may think that doesn’t seem to be a lot. Admittedly, I watched many Bollywood movies when I lived in India (duh!), and even as a grad student in India, my roommates and I watched a ton, sometimes three movies in a night. But we were watching everything and anything. As I got older, my tolerance for bad movies declined, and I was no longer willing to put up with crap that Bollywood had started dishing out in the late aughts and early teens of this century.

An interesting take on the evolution of Bollywood.

Some thoughts on the HBO Max day-and-date streaming releases during the pandemic

Earlier today Keith Calder asked a intriguing question about the Warner Bros. announcement to release their upcoming slate on HBO Max date-and-date with movie theaters.

So let’s give it a whirl then, shall we?

Warner Bros. is a primarily a distribution company and to some extent acts like a bank. 

Generally most of their contracts are written to protect themselves and their financial interests at the highest end, not the interests of the producers or production companies that work for them. 

Usually they’re acquiring content from production companies and the acquisition doesn’t tie them down to particular release patterns, marketing dollars, or other preconditions. Producers can consult on some of the decisions, but usually the studio is going to do what it wants.

This is done, in part, because it’s in everyone’s general interest that the picture makes the maximum amount of money. Usually the studio is putting (at least some of) their own money up in advance, so it doesn’t behoove them not to maximize their return.

Production companies, directors, writers, and actors all rely on them having skin in the game. In this case, they’re the ones left physically holding the bag.

With this move, the studio is covering its (and everyone else’s) best interest by attempting to recoup as much as they can. Since they control the release from top to bottom on their own platform all the money goes into their own pockets instead of giving a sliding percentage of it away to so many of the popcorn and carbonated sugar syrup grocery stores that masquerade as movie theaters these days. 

One also needs to keep in mind that it’s quite common for talent contracts to fester for long after the start of principal photography and some never get to the point of receiving wet signatures. I’ve seen dozens of contracts get wet signatures long after their films’ theatrical releases.

So it’s entirely possible that they could be waiting until now to drop the bomb. But what is the talent going to do? They’re not going to fail to show up and support their work, that’s for sure. Everyone knows the business is in the hole and not coming back any time soon.

The finance costs of some of these movies would completely eat the studios alive if they don’t do something. What else can they do? The best they can. Grin, bear it, and keep the gears turning.

And let’s not forget about the total turkeys which can be illustrative. There are many movies that get made and acquired and don’t get a release at all. Sometimes the studio makes the determination that it’s in their interest to sit on a film and never release it because the cost of prints and advertising is just too great.

Here’s a great example. Do you remember the 2000 blockbuster hit The Third Wheel starring Ben Affleck and Luke Wilson?

What?! Never heard of it? Affleck shot it between Reindeer Games and Bounce while starting talks for doing Pearl Harbor for Bruckheimer at Disney.

His star was on the rise after Good Will Hunting and Armageddon and it was generally obvious to Mirimax and the producers (which included Matt Damon and Ben Affleck), that an incredibly mediocre film starring him might potentially end his career or the pairs’ producing careers.

So, what the heck? We only spent a few million on it, so we’ll eat the cost of production and maybe release it in a handful of foreign territories in a cheap dub a few years down the road and no harm, no foul. Right?

But what about all the other crappy movies that come out and tank at the box office? It’s often not until your film has had a test audience screening that the studio truly slots its release date. Any dates prior to that are just flexing to scare the competition. 

After a test screening, the last thing you want to hear is that it’s coming out in late August or February. Studios don’t release movies in those time periods—they escape! Those slots are the kiss-of-death because no one goes to the movies then.

The studio knows that but generally needs to recoup some money. Typically they’re also paying interest on production loans or bridge financing which they can’t sit on forever.

So in an effort to clear the books, they push the movie out with the least amount of P&A so that they can begin bundling their films into all the follow up release windows in hopes that those will at least cover their cost.

If there are law suits after-the-fact, they’ll likely be over the back end deal segments that provide bonuses for talent for box office performance. But guess what? Usually creative finance on the studio’s part is done to prevent these bonuses from being paid out in the first place.

And shame on the agents and attorneys of the talent for not adding in bonus payouts for performance of releases in each window segment of the pictures lifespan. You can bet those clauses will be baked into contracts going forward.

I’ve got some first look and producing deals as well as some acquisition paperwork kicking around the office here, but without looking through them, I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing in those contracts that requires the studio(s) to actually release anything.

Of course it only hurts the studio to buy material and just sit on it, so can you fault them for doing the best they can? 

My guess is that with the givens, they’ll get a massive bump in (recurring–everyone’s favorite) subscription income and it will either mostly or completely cover a large part of the gap. And likely better for their part, it’s harder for talent to audit internal numbers and machinations within a studio to prove that the movie made it to profit levels necessary to pay off points on the back end.

If there is a contractual obligation lurking around somewhere, they’ve always got a force majeure clause in there somewhere that would certainly cover the issues they’re living with.

Some of the more interesting questions relate to the studios’ relationships with exhibitors which generally aren’t owned by them. That may be a slightly harder question, but what are theater owners really going to do? They can’t guarantee the box office turn out that they might have before, and a poor box office turn out is more likely to do irreparable damage to a film’s release in all the subsequent windows. 

Generally with a sliding scale of box office receipts going to the exhibitors, they’re really in the business of selling popcorn which is where they make all their profits, but as we all know, that’s not doing very well for them right now either.

It’s actually more likely in the studio’s interest to pull their films. Their smaller budget releases in January and February are far more likely to overperform by being released during the pandemic to audiences who can pay a premium for them and who may feel a dearth of new entertainment options.

Meanwhile all the parents who couldn’t afford the $100+ for the babysitter and incidentals are likely to appreciate their HBO Max subscription all the more.

But wait! There’s more! I’ve completely buried the lede! Peter Kafka alludes to it in his interview with WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar earlier today, but I suspect he is completely unaware of it. (This is likely why Vox gets the interview in a soft presser and not a senior legal journalist with The Hollywood Reporter or Variety.) For the careful viewers at home, let’s not forget that the 1948 Paramount Consent Decree died quietly earlier in August this year. This essentially makes it much easier for studios to become vertically integrated again. The studios can now own the entirety of the finance, production, distribution, and exhibition chain like they could in the “Golden Era” of Hollywood. If you want to ask questions about something, this is the area to focus on! 

Give it another couple of years and studios will eventually own talent agencies again… Who’s going to be the next Lew Wasserman?

If only we had a President who was also in the entertainment business who could monkey around with this arrangement the way Reagan did…

Read Chevy Chase is 74, sober and ready to work. The problem? Nobody wants to work with him. (Washington Post)
The man who helped revolutionize TV comedy with SNL in the ’70s is a tangle of contradictions.
I remember him being pretty grumpy during my CAA years… The world has moved past him and now he’s the penultimate grumpy old man. Maybe we should have that movie? Grumpy Old Men 5: Chevy Chase!
Watched Judy (2019) from Amazon Prime
Directed by Rupert Goold. With Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell. Legendary performer Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.

Rating: ★★★
What a lovely ending for such a tragedy…