For thousands of years print publishing has been the main way in which information has been passed down to the people for their consumption. Today, the publishing industry is in the process of being reinvented through innovative disruption and this 3rd Annual State of the (Indie) Publishing Union is a summary of the current state. Combining of the old with the new—where the author is the publisher, and where the reader can also be a publisher. The industry is in an Era of Convergence after being disrupted by the internet.
In science, it is said that galaxies, like the one we live in, are a result of some massive star explosion (supernova) that left debris randomly scattered in its radius of influence. The gravity of some big pieces begin to attract to one another and material begins to coalesce. Order begins to form from the mess and galaxies are thus born to the beautiful organized chaos within time as the particle’s gravities continue to converge. Today, publishing is in this state of convergence. The industry’s new energies are coalescing to form order where needed. Time is slower though at the galactic level, so the beauty will come later. It’s a bad news with a good news report that I am sharing this year. I had some doubts and worries about the industry but feel encouraged as I see energy forces gravitating and uniting. However, with all things in nature, we get flavors of everything, including the bad. Just like in Hollywood, the Jedi’s and the First Order forces of the world are natural and forever existing and are competing with each other. Without one we could not find and appreciate the other. So just as the dark side will always turn people over from the light, as long as the light is stronger the best will develop and survive.
So where exactly is there order being made amidst the chaos? Convergence in publishing is all about the combining of the old with the new—where the author is the publisher, and where the reader can also be a publisher. Here are some concepts that seem to be getting heavier in their gravitational pull:
Easability: The digital disruption has created a beautiful avenue to publish pieces of content easily: think Amazon, Lulu, Smashwords, Wattpad, social media, blogs, and email newsletters. Readers too can access what they want to read simply as well. Between RRS feeds, online magazines, content generators like Reddit, Medium, and promotion generators like Bookbub and Library Thing. Publishing and reading content has become convenient and quick.
Less is more: Smaller pieces of content are being published. Long gone are the days that a book has to be a certain number of pages with a specific look and feel to be authentic. Publishing can be anywhere from a 140-character text, to a long novel. Between webpages, blog posts and comments, people are able to express themselves with less words and can still be just as influential. Book series have become popular as a result, and alongside this our attention spans becoming smaller.
Mobile: Yes, there are still some that love to read with a physical book in their hands and enjoy the sound and feel from the turn of a page. But truth cannot deny that even those people have turned to their mobile phones for posting or reading on social media, commenting on blog posts or articles, or just simply reading their favorite authors and magazines on their phones while they wait in line, sit on the train or the toilet… Readers are able to consume published information anywhere because of mobile devices. Some companies are getting better at understanding this type of human behavior, but there is still a lot to learn. Humanity is still evolving to this shift in our way of life, as everything is mobile now—from working and paying bills to contacting friends and reading your favorite newspaper.
Data: Human data analytics are paving the way for research into everything about us. There is no longer an appropriate time for reading (at home in a comfy chair, at the library, outside feeling the wind blow) —anywhere and at any time we can read and consume published material electronically. Modern marketers are studying this and using technology and data to make sure content reaches the right people, which is the basis of current success in discoverability in publishing today. Therefore, it’s necessary for indie publishers to turn to content generators like Medium, LinkedIn Publishing, Goodreads blogs, Booksie, and the like for marketing their work and to tap into the data intelligence they are experiencing. Distributing content to different platforms is an important convergence in this new publishing era so that readers interested in your content can find you through use of their data analytics. At some point, discoverability in publishing won’t be the problem.
Everyone has then become a publisher: The most apparent and important part of this current publishing convergence. You, me, mom, your eleven-year-old cousin, grandma even. The digital disruption has allowed anyone who has an internet-capable device to publish anything: thoughts, feelings, to-dos, articles, expert advice, political commentary, bullying, what they cooked… Perhaps we are having an identity crisis? I guess that means anything that can be typed (or talked to text), or recorded for video, is considered eligible for publishing. Everyone now has a voice and we have yet to truly understand what that means to society. It’s truly empowering and liberating and we are all still getting used to it—where available. There are still some parts of the world where internet access is controlled and I am often reminded how many of us take for granted our easy access to it. For example, for free at your neighborhood library, or never if you live in North Korea as under 5% of their population has internet access, or Cuba where internet is only available at government controlled "access points” and Saudi Arabia were about 400,000 sites have been blocked, including any that discuss topics dissenting with the Islamic beliefs of it’s monarchy.
But before I digress too far, almost everyone, even those who do not consider themselves authors, writers, or artists, are publishing. Some experts believe that the number of books available on the internet in digital libraries will exceed that of the physical books in the Library of Congress. So then how does one distinguish themselves? That’s what’s up in the air. Discoverability and differentiation may slowly be converging, but there still isn’t yet a good mechanism for discovery and competitive advantage. Even though data analytics is paving the way, many creatives with real publishing talent are still lost in the dust, either not sure how to follow along the disruption wave, don’t have the financial resources to get there, or have yet to get that lucky or serendipic break seen by “Shades of Grey”. Thus, Darwin’s theory of evolution still wades on, churning away, allowing only those with skill, resources, and luck to pull through and survive.
Creative artists now have editorial independence if they want it and if they have access to what’s needed to evolve and survive. This entails some sort of branded content—they have to be business owners as well. What’s when one becomes an indie publisher—one that steps out on their own with self-conscious construction, creates their own message, their own style, their own passion, and has business sense of some sorts applied to their overall design, developing a competitive advantage and expressing passion to some extent. Unfortunately, not enough business schools have yet jumped on this opportunity to provide focused niche business classes to creatives, and many art and writing schools have yet to include business classes into their instruction. This convergence will come next. It’s the absolute only way creatives and writing schools can survive the intense Darwinism present in publishing (and well everywhere else for that matter). To digress a little more, countries like North Korea, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia will not see growth in their economy or people if they continue to censor internet use and will be the first to be eaten by proven Darwinian science.
This also means that many won’t survive to see the future of this publishing convergence. Now that anyone with access to the internet can publish anything at any time to everybody that uses the internet for anything–Amazon’s publishing and retail business should be scared. As society continues to be drawn to the internet to publish everything about their personal lives, imagination, and expertise, Amazon will eventually no longer be the main distribution channel for publishers, or main retail channel for readers. Every social media and content generation system will collectively bring Amazon down to its knees—potentially—unless Amazon puts the creative artists and writers first instead of their profits, and give us access to what publishers in the 2.0 world need: data, data, data. Companies that will survive this convergence will give data to their publisher, or they will find other ways to distribute their content, because we can publish anything, anywhere, at any time, and have an audience looking at it, whether that be cousin Joe, your old boss, or the audience your spouse organically built from his newest novel.
As an indie publisher living within this current environment, I have entered a renewal period, where out of it will be a breath of new life. A version 2.0 of TC Publishing will arise where I’ll take all the lessons learned from being an indie publisher over the last four years and re-strategize. The sea doesn’t like to be restrained, and neither do I, but indie publishers have many obstacles to overcome in these rapidly changing, chaotic, and converging waters. My galactic ship has scars, holes, and war wounds that it’s a must for TC Publishing’s survival. I must take some time to step back to build the ship stronger. I am going to re-think indie publishing by going back to design. This renewal period for TC Publishing will shed away the concepts of traditional publishing that no longer apply and are damaging. The sea, in its unrestrained form provided the environment that produced life on Earth, and it is with that spirit of experimentation and survival that I am eager to see what comes of this transformation.
One of the first lessons I have already learned during this renewal period is that I spend too much time on TC Publishing as a business and not on my writing. Therefore, my first strategic move is to go back to the reader and writer in me, and connecting with my own pains and needed gains from the perspective of a creative artist and not that of a business person—then build a business model around my needs as an artist—not just to patch holes to stay afloat in the raging sea. Instead, add a new spoiler wing, larger bullet-proof windshield, or flag claiming my allegiance to the indie empowerment movement to help build community and strength.
As today’s societies around the world experience uprooted governments—laws, standards, religion, traditions, lifestyles, medicine, and other conservative and traditional structures are being reinvented—or disrupted. There is more than just publishing being reformed in our modern world. Change is a sentiment being felt everywhere around the world and a more progressive movement where the new values of the majority need to be taken into consideration in order for people and companies to capitalize on these new convergent technologies. One recent addition to the publishing industry in this sense was the creation of the first “publishing startup incubators”. It is within these open innovation spaces that new structure in publishing will come that will give Amazon fair competition, force big traditional publishers to reduce their ebook costs, new models for discoverability tools from data analytics will be built, more distribution options, elimination of exclusivity, and lots more. Better cooperation between publishing and technology will emerge and as a result, finalize the convergence trends mentioned above and bring about more. The movement here is currently small, but as results begin to show positivity, more interest will emerge. Real value from the publishing convergence will not occur until these publishing incubators become more mature. Then, the gravitational pull that these incubators will generate will be hard to overcome. The Death Star was always destroyed, while the galactic pull from the center of formed galaxies continue to emit light and force beyond what anyone can fathom. Jump into the light my fellow creative friends and avoid being blown up in the Death Star, because you will if you continue to keep and follow the rules of the old game—they no longer apply.
See other reports on the State Of The (Indie) Publishing Union:
Every New Moon is a doorway to a fresh start allowing us to dream about what we want to accomplish and appreciate whats important to us. Before the times of electronics, humanity turned to nature to expand their consciousness. No matter what spiritual background you come from, participating in this monthly exercise can help you connect to your soul’s purpose and plan steps to get closer to it. Give yourself permission to dream once a month. Since we live in a Universe that is constantly moving, each month the New Moon is at a different place in our Cosmos allowing us a chance to plant different intentions throughout the year. A new cycle begins this time in Sagittarius which is about that light at the end of a dark tunnel.
Be a part of a collective event done by people all over the world! Write your list after 7:19 pm EST on November 29th, 2016.
WORD FOR THE MONTH
Optimism, faith, drive, exploration, adventure, cooperation, freedom, truth, education, and intuition.
We move out of the emotional waters of last month’s Scorpio New Moon into the fiery light of Sagittarius. Anything that ended in the Scorpio cycle can be invigorated by the fires of this Sagittarius New Moon. The Sagittarian energy is visionary. Are you ready to shoot your arrow somewhere? Are you on target, or have an aim that’s obtainable? If so, this is the time to shoot towards the goal wherever your focus is.
This Sagittarius New Moon is also philosophical. What are the central truths of your soul? What matters to you? What are you passionate about? The half-horse half-human archetype brings to light the primal animal nature we all have. Pay attention to your instinctual responses. Open all your pores, raise your antenna, and trust that your internal responses are meaningful and worthy of attention.
What you honor and protect is brought to the light for inspection. Is what comes up worthy of your time and energy? Does it include others? Be curious about your motivations. Why do you treat others the way you do? Where do they come from? Find your truth this month and how it involves others around you. Sagittarian energy is far from being self-centered and calls for higher collective understanding of our society and others in it. We are all connected whether we want to admit that or not. Protecting each other so that our ideals are protected too is the theme. Attempt to accept others who are different from you, or do not share the same ideas. Sagittarian energy holds itself to a high-standard, expecting others to be able to do the same — which is impossible. Take a moment this month to see where your standards may be too high, or too low.
Expand your mind somehow this cycle. Adventures always allow us to learn something. Be open into the possibilities of experiencing the unfamiliar by stepping out of routine. You can never go wrong when you invest in yourself. Don’t limit your experiences and make your life small. Obtain greater depth of understanding by living and experiencing life. Enlarge your life’s vision is the spirit of Sagittarius. Use that internal fire that is readily available to expand your awareness and knowledge and light up others to do the same.
As usual, pay particular close attention to your dreams. We are able to tap into the new elements being formed in the center of our planet and obtain guidance from the unconscious forces at work. The “everything happens for a reason” mantra makes sense this cycle, allowing us to look at any and all situations with optimism and purpose. There is a New Age beginning and your either connected with the new vibrations, or you’re not. Darwin’s survival of the fittest applies in today’s society as those swimming against the current can only do so for a short time. There is a movement of change coming through. Sagittarius energy is asking you to feel out the new current and see if you can tune in with its rhythms of forward movement. If not, seek to understand why — for your survival.
As always, a drop of wisdom - think of inclusion, instead of exclusivity. Everyone is essential in this world.
With light and love,
HOW TO MAKE A NEW MOON LIST:
Gather paper and a pen, pencil, marker or other type of writing utensil.
Review the focus areas for this month and begin to think about how they apply to your personal and professional life.
Write a list of what your hopes, dreams, goals, priorities, wishes, and prayers are for that moment. Typically no more than 10 is recommended. Be very specific, or extremely vague.
Review last month’s list and revise them on this month’s list, if necessary.
Place your notes somewhere safe and special to you. Some tape them to a window, under a lit candle, or leave them in their notebooks on their desks. Create the space that works for you. Leave it there all month until the next New Moon.
Allow and have faith in the power of inter-connectedness in our universe to manifest your list.
KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU WANT
Join my New Moon Club to get this reminder every month.
I made a human. I delivered him to this world a month ago. I stare at the intricacies of his little knuckles, how already complex. The curves of his nose resemble perfectly that of his father; how strong that DNA comes through. His eyes are grey so I won't know if he will have my color or not for a while. There is an emotional bond I have with him that makes me smile every day.
Oftentimes, we cannot help but come from the thought that with so many unknowns and possibilities for error, defects and disease, randomly and genetically induced, it’s a miracle every time a healthy full-term baby is born. A lot of things need to go right for this to happen! From a speck of cells to a 9-pound newborn, our human instructions for development produce diversity beyond our comprehension. It’s fascinating because two humans can never be the same. Diversity is our roots and the basis of who we are. It’s concerning that any form of life can deny that truth and be prejudice to anyone different from them.
The making of human beings, or anything that’s alive, is so scientifically complex. Some say we are born three months too early, others say twelve months too early. This is because we are not able to fend for ourselves at birth. Most other “higher animals” (that we are in direct ancestry with) are mature when they are born, in comparison to the “lesser animals”, such as rodent’s and cats who aren't. We humans have the need to bond with our parents. The cuddling, snuggling, and smelling of the baby scent that drives all women crazy to have more is an innate need for female humans. I was wondering why my son can’t see more than twelve inches away at birth. My theory is the need to develop the sound and touch senses, which apparently need more time for maturing. Some call this immediate maturing outside of the womb as exterior gestation. Others say it is culture that forces this bonding need, the teaching of what instincts cannot supply. Culture allows for more than just Mom interacting with the newborn, thus development of social skills immediately begins.
Some theorize that our early birth is necessary to accommodate our continually enlarging brains. The need to get out before our heads get too big for a woman’s pelvis is where this thought stems from. Therefore, it can be our brain that is the evolutionary push for us humans to be born too early. There are a lot of women who never go into labor and need to be medically induced. Could it be that they’re the ones that have the pelvic bones that can handle longer pregnancies? But then there is the issue with our placentas not having caught up yet either in evolutionary terms, as they lose functionality substantially after nine months. I could theorize that perhaps some of those women who do not go into labor naturally at nine months not only have larger pelvic muscles but also more matured placentas. If doctors are inducing at forty-two weeks and no longer (due to the placenta functionality slowing down), then will humans ever evolve to where we need to be to accommodate larger brains? Will our heads not get any bigger and our intelligence stalled? I postulate that the placenta is what is holding us back. Placentas need to become more “fit” then perhaps the larger pelvic bones will fall into place after.
On another note, later in life humans tend to have issues with disease, cancer, common colds, allergies, and headaches. Some doctors think these are side effects of humans being born early. Humans, like all life, are still evolving. As we increase our head sizes, the rest of our life needs to adjust and it just hasn't yet. Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory will get us to a point of balance at some point. Until then, it is possible that the price of conscious intellect is to blame.
It is interesting what we do know about human newborns. We know to suck, which is vital for existence providing the ability to eat. We know how to breathe, our lungs just kick right in, also vital. Thankfully, nature knew to get these right first before pushing us out into our environment with not being able to fend for ourselves. After all, our bodies are biological machines with motors that need to run. It’s most spectacular at the molecular level as those cells are the ones that have always been working since conception. Since these cells spend the most time functioning and living, they have evolved the most! There are so many different “species” of bacteria that it should make us proud to come from a lineage that produced such complex organs like mitochondria and DNA. Our biology will adjust, it’s our history.
Food for thought. When the time comes and our placentas and pelvic bones have adjusted, what then would our world be like? Would we have different intelligence because our brains are bigger? What type of skills and talents would we have? How would our goods and evils adjust?
Saramati Narasimhan was Thought Notebook Journal issue five’s Artist To Watch. We loved her organization Art For A Cause so much that we decided to make it issue five’s social change organization chosen as a part of our Thoughtful Project. Her nonprofit organization organizes public events, commissions art, and participates in community outreach programs benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Saramati donates 100% of money made and donated to this research hospital through her graffiti, henna, tattoo designs, sketches, cartoons, and more. Saramati is one that has turned something positive out of a negative. After battling a personal condition, it was heavy on her heart to give back in some way and provide to the greater good of society. She still wonders what would have happened if she never picked up her pencil to sketch again in that hospital. It was an unbelievable chain of events that led to Art For A Cause being born. We are privileged to tell her story and support her organization with 10% of all sales of Thought Notebook Journal issue five.
You had an epiphany one day that gave you inspiration to start Art For A Cause. What was it?
Art For A Cause was born from a hospital bed. Over five years ago, my entire world flipped upside down. I went from being a very physically active full-time student to being bed ridden within the span of a month. I was diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder, and I went from biking 20 miles a day to having someone roll me over in bed. To pass the time in the hospital and work through what I was going through, I began to sketch. To my surprise, the other patients started asking to buy the art I was creating, and that is when I had my epiphany. I could never ask cancer patients to pay for what was bringing me so much comfort, and I knew I wanted to help other young people like me who had found themselves in unexpected health situations. This is how Art For A Cause was born–drawing from my bed. Art For A Cause has given me the small opportunity to repay all the affection I was shown by my family, friends, and random people who showed so much compassion to me. Despite the tremendous difficulty and struggle of my condition, these circumstances have led me to where I am truly meant to be. It has transformed me into the person I am today. Starting Art For A Cause really has changed my life for the better.
Why St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital? Is there an affiliation or likeness towards this hospital? Do you have children of your own?
Some of my favorite interactions have been with former patients of the hospital. During my public events, I am always humbled when former patients and family members of survivors have come to thank me. While doing henna for them, they have shared amazing stories of survival and appreciation for the second chance they were given by St. Jude's Children's hospital. Hearing their stories and the stories of their loved ones have been some of the most memorable moments of this entire process.
Have you had the ability to see or meet any of the children you have helped due to the proceeds from Art For A Cause?
One large factor of why I felt so strongly about supporting St. Jude’s Children’s hospital was because I have met children who were patients there during my visits to the hospital. They showed more maturity, charisma, and bravery than I have seen in adults, including myself. They were really my inspiration and still are today.
What is the “Cause” in the name Art For A Cause?
The name of this organization has always been a source of pride for me. I left the ‘Cause’ open ended for a reason, because I feel that there are many causes in this organization. The first and primary is supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Every penny earned through art has been sent to this hospital, and the over-arching aim of Art For A Cause is to raise funds for those patients. The secondary cause is spreading happiness in the general public through art. I love doing public events because I know my participants, at least for a moment, are given a chance to enjoy the art they are exposed to, and relax. Not only is the art financially helping the patients at the hospital, it also brings joy into the lives of people who purchase the art or attend the events. I was shown so much kindness while I was battling my condition that it felt wrong not giving back in some way. Therefore, the most personal ‘Cause’ is the impact Art For A Cause has had on me personally. The organization has given me a chance to make something beautiful out of my pain, and every piece of artwork I make has helped me fight my disease and give me hope.
What kind of events do you organize through Art For A Cause?
When I rejoined the University of Miami after leaving due to my illness, Art For A Cause started growing in ways that I could not imagine. There was a variety of public events that helped spread the word about the organization and a large number of collaborators who have heard about what I was doing and contacted me. In one of the henna events I organized, volunteers and I set up a booth and provided people with unique henna based on their requests. I also have collaborated with other local charity organizations to help promote art to children, raise awareness for other causes, and just help the community in any way we can. My favorite event was also the largest one I organized in collaboration with many other University of Miami organizations and local artists. It was an evening of art for sale, dance, and live music performances. More people than I ever could have imagine attended. Seeing everyone come together to help diseased children was the most moving moment of my time running Art For A Cause. Working with other artists, whether they are visual artists, dancers, or musicians, is an amazing experience. They donate their time and inspiration, and I am forever grateful for all of their help. The combined man power fosters real creativity and allows us reach more people than I could have ever imagined on my own.
You create various types of artwork, from graffiti to cartoons. Which one is your favorite?
My favorite type of artwork is henna. My Mom taught me how to do henna and it has always held a special place with me for that reason. When I am drawing a henna tattoo on someone, I have the ability to talk with them and learn about the person supporting Art For A Cause through their purchase. There is something very personal about being able to make a piece of art on the person who requested it. One of my favorite moments doing henna was when I met a cancer survivor from St. Jude Children’s Hospital who heard about what I was doing. Seeing a survivor from that hospital and being able to make a piece for her personally was truly inspirational.
Art has transformed your life in many ways. What has been the biggest transformation yet?
My diagnosis has been the largest point of transformation for me. I had sketched before I had gotten sick, but I never had explored it further. Art had been in my peripheries before I developed my chronic pain condition, but now I cannot imagine my life without it. It provides me with a means to cope with my condition, to express what I am feeling, and to give back to the community. I do not honestly think I would have started Art For A Cause if I had not gone through what I did; I cannot fathom living without art now. I now attend Vanderbilt University, and bringing Art for A Cause to this new city has been a wonderful experience. I look forward to seeing how Art for A Cause will grow in future years."
What continues to fuel your spirit as you fight a chronic pain disorder and run a truly inspiration social change organization?
Helping others through art morphed a terrible moment in my life into something beautiful. I am inspired by all the other patients out there who walk amongst us and are fighting so bravely. I am inspired by the amazing potential of people to perform acts of kindness for strangers, and I am inspired by my family and friends who have made me who I am today. I am forever grateful to them, because I know I owe them everything. Additionally, all of the events Art For A Cause runs, or participates in, are made possible by the generosity of people looking to do a good deed. I am so thankful and inspired by all the volunteers and participants who have truly made Art For A Cause what it is today.
Support Art For A Cause by purchasing Thought Notebook Journal Issue 5. 10% of all sales gets donated to the organization.
Scientific randomness in the universe goes beyond particles at the molecular level and can extend to everything we encounter in our lives. Random Library Book is a series of my walks down different library aisles and I randomly pick out a book. I bring light to books that might otherwise get lost in the large repetitive physical aisles of a library.
The Fatal Friendship: Mary Antoinette, Count Ferson and the Flight to Varennes
By Stanley Loomis
Published in 1972 at 341 pages, this book is about the relationship between Mary Antoinette and Count Ferson as their intimacy had consequences that intrigues historians even today. Mary’s circumstances with fate has made her the most celebrated queen in the history of France. This book retells their romance turned into a fatal relationship.
This research story includes pictures of great paintings of the historic people involved. I got the impression that this story was meant to be told because the book had some wear to it. I was going through the images in the book and it really helped bring me back to a day that I'm unfamiliar with, as society and culture was very different back then than it is now.
Good read for those interested in a biography on Marie Antoinette and important events during the French Revolution.
It is becoming pretty well known nowadays that the traditional publishing industry has been disrupted. Disruption is a word that tends to have a negative vibe. However, its actually due to an innovation that comes around and because of its efficiency things get evolving that need to be. Therefore, in trusting nature to take care of the ever-cycling planet we live on, I cannot help but embrace the changes that disruptive forces such as Amazon and devices like the iPad, along with competitive pricing as a result, have brought upon the publishing industry. These disruptive platforms have provided an atmosphere that promotes self-reliance and self-service that led to self-publishing and self-printing (or otherwise called print-on-demand). They filled so many holes that were dragging down the industry with screaming opportunity. Its obvious that the “self” within publishing needed to have it’s say. In effect, the disruption has uprooted the monopoly that large and traditional publishers had. The ongoing technology revolution that has already disrupted other industries is finally getting underway in publishing. Clark Gilbert and Clayton M Christensen in their research on innovation in digitally disrupted markets found that “across industries, only 9% of disrupted organizations ever recover.” Which one of the top names will survive in publishing? Nine percent is not a large number. New York is no longer the top publishing hotspot now that the internet has provided a global marketplace. The publishing business is in the process of being reinvented through innovative disruption and this 2nd Annual State of the (Indie) Publishing Union is a summary of the current state. Trends are scaling quickly, while others are plummeting fast. Everyone in the game is playing catchup, even those that have matured a bit. The industry is in an Era of Entrepreneurship.
I came into the publishing industry three years ago on inspiration to share my writing with others, just as others have done for me. Initially I was a discouraged when I realized how disrupted it was, but as I learned more about the industry, the freedom became empowering within the mass chaos. The foundations were shaken by seismic change, the mess was still on the ground, and people have been since cleaning up and rebuilding after a storm that raised the stakes for all affected. As a newbie my objectivity and immaturity of the industry allowed me to begin building structure where it aligned with my soul and what I felt was right as an entrepreneur and passionate creative artist–instead of having to comply to norms. It was inspiring to be a part of a community where anything was up for grabs for anyone, they just needed to start picking up the fallen rocks and start building. Only this time mortar wouldn’t be the binding solution. Instead, electricity and connectivity through the world since the boarding walls have collapsed–a market never truly experienced before. Building a publishing company in today’s disrupted industry climate is a lofty goal, one not for the light hearted. It’s still rough out there in the streets even though some foundation is on its way to being rebuilt or new one’s are taking shape. Half of the roughness that exists is due to traditional thought and ways still lingering in the minds of those residing residents which had it conditioned into them. Even in today’s disruptive environment, every author or other content creator eventually learns that the publishing business is dreadfully exploitative of them and much of this stems from old perspectives pre-disruption.
I went to a handful of conferences and seminars over the last year and the topics are the same, ran by the same group of people conditioned with perspectives from the past attempting to keep alive these old traditions. The younger ones go to the seminars to be influenced by these ideals, guiding them to beliefs that are no longer valid. I spent some time last year parading the streets of Chicago’s publishing world and found that the literary scene sucks. There aren’t a lot of us evolving our thinking about publishing. In the summer I went to a panel series seminar and one of the panelists made a comment to an audience full of MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) grad students and local writers–that writing is now a hobby, not a career. So I wondered what the purpose of going to school to pursue an MFA was then? I also noticed a very big tendency for overall negativity about the industry, noting the need for lots of persistency and not to expect to make lots of money. Not motivational at all. Although it was reality, they weren’t doing anything about it, just gripes and complaints and continuing to do things the same way as before and telling a group of soon to be graduates that hope has been lost. But, go to school to further your hobby.
At another writer’s conference one publisher said she would never publish herself, completely disregarding the self-publishing movement. A few months after, I went to another that had a set of speakers giving advice on how to query publishers with your work. Several of the panelists noted that writers should be selling themselves and not the story in cover letters and pitch emails. As a small indie publisher I want the exact opposite: I am instead curious about the submitted work and how it connects with my projects and brand, not who the artist is and how I can exploit their contacts. This is how old traditional publishing found their next superstar, while missing out on amazing success of authors they didn’t even bother with just because that writer didn’t know someone. The quality of someone’s work isn’t necessarily tied to the connections they have, but of pure talent, and that’s what indies capitalize on.
I am often asked what indie publishers are looking for in authors? My answer is talent, passion, and an online presence. Talent and passion don’t need an explanation if you’re an artist, but online presence does. The importance, influence, and increasing presence of ebooks along with the usage of mobile devices for our everyday lives now requires artists to have an active blog and/or website and regular social media presence. So fellow artists–keep this in mind as you submit to publishers, journals, webzines, of indie publishers. However, I at least do consider everything submitted, whether they have an online presence or not and have published many that do not. However, the realization that discovery is done differently now is not yet understood by all creative artists as necessary, especially when schools aren’t teaching artists how to have blogs–yet.
The old school mentality of perfect pitches to university presses and the media are still deeply embedded in the industry. I am saddened that authors and artists, specifically those coming out of writing programs, have this immediate need to get published just to prove their worth. In the past this was a requirement with traditional publishing as many publishers didn’t want to bother with those who were not previously published. This traditional thought is now evolving yet schools are still teaching their students to find literary journals and just get published, published, published and build your resume. This is why literary journals were needed in the first place and a big part of their current existence. At some point literary journals will no longer be needed once schools have adjusted their thinking and the industry continues to evolve in the direction it is. Students can publish themselves.
This is why I have attempted to reinvent the literary journal with my personal research, eradicating the prior-needed university connection. I have found that many of the authors and artists that submit their work to my journal projects have no interest in what the message or concept behind the project is and have no interest in promoting the journal and their work in it either–all they want is to say they were published. Some bios are so long because at the tail end is a parade of journals they have been published in. It is really disappointing to see some creatives have no excitement in the acceptance and publishing of their work that they don’t care to promote it. This is not everyone, but it is the majority. I do my best to weed though submissions to see those that really attempt to connect to the core of my projects and practice thinking deeper about this world and our circumstances in it. This is difficult for some to do, as they are taught to produce, produce, and produce more, then leave everything else up to the publisher. To MFA students, times are a changing, and smart universities are now adding relevant programs to their lineup such as digital publishing and creative marketing on a global scale. Times are a-changing and Chicago hasn’t caught the drift–yet.
Evolution will begin to organize, and the Millennials (who are not-coincidentally named), have ideals that are vastly different and have begun to take places in the companies that are disrupting–the future is going to be very different. Therefore, any traditional thought that no longer has any real place in the developing energy will eventually not survive. However, until then, this battle ensues, and publishers, authors, artists, content creators, and any other who has decided to go on their own to define what it means to publish anything today, gets to ride the waves of independency through the wind of opportunity. Carl Sagan’s law of evolution states that “Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.” It’s not only old traditional mindsets that are eventually going to become extinct, but also newly formed ideas and experiments as we find new ways of building through the chaos. This is the basis of entrepreneurship and anyone who claims to be an indie is doing it–some with skill and others without, providing the diversity in which evolution is maximized.
Although disruption caused the entire structure of the industry to be dismantled, it created a leveled playing field between authors and publishers and between traditional and indie publishers (or more of reality, publishers of all sizes). Some early adopter companies and their platforms are getting more mature as widespread acceptance is taking shape, proving that some models are working, while others are not. What works this year may not work next year. Those who are gifted enough to appreciate flexibility are beginning to evolve and change into truly viable products to help bring value to the rebuilt town, at least for now. Things are still a-changing, nothing is stable yet–nothing. This means that the Penguins and Random Houses of the industry are competing directly with self-published authors and indie publishers, but are resistant to accept this fact. For example, many large traditional houses see digital books as an add-on to print, whereas innovative successful companies in today’s disrupted world see it the other way–print as an add-on to digital. This alone distinguishes the two very quickly to the consumer of content, also known as readers, when ebooks sold at $14.99 don’t have any better content than an ebook that goes for $2.99. Consumer demand will push the final buttons that will demolish what’s left of the foundational thought of traditional companies that still stand. That 9%, although small, will eventually be made known. As a response to the convergence between publisher and author, publishing houses are acquiring each other as a survival tactic, trying to use the notion of being bigger as the way to win. Again, a very different strategy from the Millennials that are the future of world society, running very successful businesses by small handfuls. As a professor that teaches ethics courses, I find that this situation is the opposite of John Rawls’ theory of a just society, one in which those who are advantaged take care of those who are not because there may be a day in which one can go from advantaged to not, so might as well cover all bases. This is not the ethical thought that resides in traditional publishing, thus everyone is now on the same level since no one looked out for anyone. Traditional publishing was not just.
Even though the very definition of what it means to be a publisher is changing and many successful self-published authors didn’t need to find a publisher to sign them, there is still a place for publishing companies and that is specifically for marketing and exposure of good books by talented authors in a very saturated market full of bad content. Good indie publishers have imprints, some financial resources, built-in quality control processes, and a brand to increase the chances that the books they publish will generate higher earnings for authors. There are a great number of books written that have never been found by readers because of discoverability issues. The biggest issue for any independent creator is being noticed by their market. There is so much information available, much of it free, that it has become a fierce battle for eyeball time. Content is literally like a needle in a haystack–difficult to discover. So how do fans find us? It’s obvious that first, good quality content is required, but that alone is not enough.
Discoverability is tied up with marketing and it’s a problem for both producers and consumers of content. How to find the segment of the global market for your content is tough work on a global stage. Publishing went from having a dozen customers (distributors) to a billion in this entirely new global economy and trying to get your fans to find you in the vast and crowded digital landscape takes a lot of time, energy and skill. The doors of the internet that opened up the world has proven to be much bigger than ever expected. To be noticed, authors of content need marketing and business sense to build a brand and many don’t want to bother with any of that, and meaningfully so. Instead, authors can still use publishers as an avenue for their work. There is still enormous opportunity for publishers to manage everything that comes with writing a book for those who don’t want to bother with these new requirements of authors. Regardless of what the definition of a publisher ends up being, there is still some value in publishing companies and it appears that those who are currently succeeding are scaling a loyal audience from scratch. However, starting from starch is intimidating and difficult to do–but proven not impossible. Organic growth is so important, but also so very hard. Again, not for the weary soldier.
Therefore, the most important thing an indie can do is focus on customer acquisition. Marketing becomes so important that even if self-publishing authors don’t want to, it’s necessary whether you do it yourself, pay someone to do it, or be picked up by a publisher that will do it for you. If you’re an author, you’re also a marketer, simple as that. This doesn’t make many self-publishing authors happy, and hey, I don’t blame them, as I would rather spend my time writing more too. It’s just the reality of the current convergent situation that leveled the playing field. Traditional publishers don't know how to do customer acquisition very well since their customers have always been bookstores and distributors, and self and indie publishers are still figuring it out. Content marketing uses data to understand an audience and it is in this marketing space that the current Era of Entrepreneurship in publishing has the most activity. This is because taking the time and money to invest in finding out who resonates with your ideas, writing, and thoughts is worth it, and necessary for survival. Then, continue building relationships with them virtually after you find them. Ultimately satisfied customers are what drives success in publishing right now, and how to do that as a publisher is constantly changing.
I do find it interesting that keywords are used as marketing tools and entrepreneurs are starting, albeit slowly, to understand Amazon’s technical logic with third-partyprograms to analyze keywords and understand demand better. Niche marketing involves using data of just a handful of words to describe a book so that people can search and find you more specifically. I have yet to have luck with this personally, as the saturation is so high of people using the same, or similar keywords, that other components, such as reviews, ratings, and even just a good book cover, is necessary. Having keywords that work is only one part of the equation. Although I am all about experimentation and entrepreneurship, I am not really sure how I feel about paying people for reviews, such as at readingdeals.com, or Fiverr. Reviews are so important to the indie and self-publisher for many reasons and to manipulate the technology system by paying someone makes it hard for organic reviews to differentiate the market properly. A new form of natural selection can result of this, and its favors those with money, instead of those with talent. It’s as if people in the industry are going at it in any direction possible just to make a sale, stripping away any passion in the pursuit of spreading a message, or story. It’s the starving artist’s battle for food still.
So how can self-publishers and indie publishing companies survive the leveling of the playing field in an environment that is full of armed soldiers protecting what they rebuilt among the rubble? Many are using the trendy word Publishing 3.0 which really means taking the lessons thus far learned, walking away from the armed war, and become professional. Yep, that means putting the business hat on, taking the “hobby” out of the equation, and thinking career. Most people invest thousands of dollars in education to get degrees and certifications in preparation for their career. The need to be, look, sound, and feel professional, along with having the needed marketing, the right edits and design inside and out–means taking the time to look at content as a work of art. The word self-published will eventually go away since indie has now become the industry norm. It will no longer be about whether something is self-published or traditionally published, it will be about a final professional product. Indies are now equal competitors with traditional publishers and the need for thinking in 3.0 terms is all about evolving with real business sense to actually compete. Self-published authors and indie publishers without established platforms and business sense will soon become quickly eliminated, and this is when competition will actually begin.
Another strong area of entrepreneurship in publishing is trying to find a way to not need, or rely less, on Amazon. Although Amazon has provided the platform for self-published authors and indies to compete with the big names, Amazon still needs competition. Someone or some company still needs to give Amazon a run for their money. It is this lack of competition that doesn’t force Amazon to provide indies with more value-added tools, a natural consequence of being a monopoly. Amazon provides tools for production such as templates and software for catching formatting errors to help with design, as well as distribution to the largest market of book consumers. It’s also free to sign up and publish in print and digital. Everything the 2.0 publishing community needs. The 3.0 publishing community doesn’t. Amazon is not yet ready to provide tools for being an actual professional career-oriented publisher in the convergence. Instead, professionals already have, or will, partner with who they need to get the production, design, and marketing aspects of their content since editors, designers, and marketers are no longer working at the big publishing houses but instead are striking out on their own. There is a real opportunity here for publishing entrepreneurs to take advantage of this unpreparedness by Amazon. For example, 3.0 publishers need emails and other demographic data of those who purchase their books, Amazon doesn’t provide any of this information. We need less complicated and easier digestible reporting than what Amazon currently provides. Lastly, Amazon’s exclusivity requirements are burdensome to publishers because it restricts growth for the publisher and is a form of exploitation that authors are tired of and is reminiscent of traditional publishing not innovation. Exclusivity is for old traditional publishing, certainly not for the 3.0 publisher because at some point publishers get very little benefits for exclusivity. If Amazon is going to keep their exclusivity requirements then a benefit should be provided such as insights and transparency to their logic so that choosing keywords and categories isn’t a nightmare and lengthy experiment for many. The perks that come with exclusivity have not recently proven to be beneficial for me. Amazon often forgets one thing–that they need happy authors to use their platform. Right now authors are using their site because they have to, not because they are happy. The monopoly will only last for so long.
Today’s convergence in publishing brings the need for cooperation and community. An example of this is the publishing industry’s first set of business incubators allowing for open creativity in a digital data driven world by connecting technology, investment, innovation, and publishing together. Incubators are great at experimentation and testing the waters and it’s about time they have entered publishing. Although I could argue that every indie or self-publisher is an incubator of their own, it’s quite a different story to have the financial and expert support to fund startups. Communities of indies are telling other indies what's working and what is not. Sharing without the fear of competition. I appreciate the likes of Self-Publishing Podcast and Book Journeys that have gravitated to this concept of community and sharing. The amount of competition is so enormous, that it cannot even be considered just yet because everyone has risk in the game. The Author & Artist Collective as well as my Online Marketplace is attempting to do just that, bringing together an aggregate of creatives working hard and sharing lessons learned, blurring the lines of competition through cooperation and opportunity sharing. Thomas Edison once said that “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” As long as indies are actively planning with one another, the opportunities that make sense will become obvious.
Start-ups that survived the change in infrastructure from brick and mortar to satellite and electricity are redefining the publishing industry’s values by asking questions like: What is a book? Who reads them? Where do they get them? What is their value? How will the future consume them? The definition of publishing is going to keep changing and be reimagined in preparation for the Millennials who appreciate initiative and risk taking. Disruption is not for the faint at heart, but the company of motivated and inspired contenders provides an exciting incentive to excel.
The 7 of Wands tarot card indicates a time when facing one of those momentous happenings in life, when we must grab our courage to go forward and tenacity to achieve long-term success. The card notes a position where you are forced to fight for what you believe in. The wands form a septenary; a triangle and a square, together creating an environment of uncertainty where rules and circumstances may change due to evolving energy, forcing unity amongst the two. Perseverance and strength is required.
Image is a reproduction of an authentic Genovean Tarot exhibited at the Fournier Playing Card Museum in Genova, Italy, 1887.
Ask Kat Advice Column
After many years of working in various disciplines and industry sectors, none as a therapist, Kat is willing to tackle life's biggest (and smallest) personal questions. Email Kat your questions.
When is it "TOO LONG" to wait on a relationship with someone you know and see all the time to actually begin?
Relationships do not begin until there is awareness and acknowledgement from both sides. Unless there is an understanding between you both that a relationship should begin, then it will never happen.
I am wondering if the question here is regarding a friendly relationship, or an intimate one. It is a different story to some degree depending on which one that is, but for the most part, a few things come to mind that can support both.
A few questions however…
Are you already friends? If so then this makes it easier to know if a mutual understanding exists.
Have you not talked with this person yet? If so, then you must initiate conversation. Depending on how that goes, you can deduce if a relationship should begin.
Talking with someone, either the first time or not, is a very special bond between two people. Cultures establish speech and language as a way to communicate and create that special connection. With that, you should be able to pick up body language, or tone, to know if someone wants to welcome you as a friend, or as intimate.
Typically, relationships that begin as friends are better in the long term because you know each other on a different level before getting intimate, allowing you to determine better if intimacy should occur.
If it never does, no need to worry, it’s either not time yet or never will be. So don’t wait around on someone and keep from experiencing life because of it. Instead trust it will happen if was meant to be. In the meantime, start a conversation if you haven’t already and spend some time with the other person with no expectations.
Addiction—a difficult word to digest—as it encapsulates just about anything we are incapable of controlling the urges and motivations for. The root of the word addiction in Latin connotes it with the act of surrendering to something we cannot control. Like a car stuck in mud requiring assistance to get out, this concept of surrender indicates a sense of causality requiring assistance. The Recovering With Pride substance use recovery program of the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago serves members of the LGBTQ community who may experience negative consequences resulting from substance use. The program’s mission is to provide high quality, culturally sensitive, outpatient treatment for substance abuse through multiple levels of outpatient care. Their program addresses not only alcohol use, but also prescription medications, marijuana, GHB, ecstasy, heroin, ketamine, methamphetamine, and cocaine. I had the privilege to speak with Stacy Agosto, Program Manager of Recovering With Pride, to learn more about this organization and the work associated with helping people who use substances discover freedom and willpower.
How long has the program been in existence?
We have been providing substance abuse care at Howard Brown for more than 21 years. We have received grants to treat specific drugs of choice in the LGBTQ community, but we assist people recovering from most substances. Over the years we have added staff and higher levels of care which offer us an opportunity to assist more people. The program began with one or two staff, now we have five people on staff dedicated substance abuse treatment.
Where is the treatment delivered?
All of the recovery related services we provide take place in our Chicago clinic located on Sheridan Road. In the future as we continue to expand, we may begin adding services in our other locations, such as the Rogers Park neighborhood.
Recovering With Pride provides several different behavioral health programming options. Which do you find people request or require the most?
Most people start with individual one-on-one therapy and add our group therapy options focused on emotional regulation, depression and anxiety, and specific drugs of choice. These groups are focused on a specific difficulty everyone shares and are facilitated by a licensed therapist. These groups are powerful as they are a sharing of stories that align with other people. This process is very effective. For example, someone comes in with concerns regarding their drinking or crystal meth use, they may attend the harm reduction group where they work out their substance use by discussing with others the cost and benefits of the use, why they are doing it, consideration for using differently, or stopping completely. It’s an open space to talk with others of similar struggles or questions.
How is success measured in the programming?
We are currently looking into how we get better at doing this. Customer satisfaction surveys are our current procedure, asking clients how they engaged with their therapist, how we are meeting their needs, is the program affordable, do they find it purposeful. We have started conducting after-care calls, reaching back out to clients once therapy ends to reassess where people are. Sometimes during these call backs we hear about positive paths they are on and other times people really need to come back into treatment. We find this an effective way to reengage if necessary. Overall, through the surveys and after-care calls, clients say they learn a lot about addiction and coping and feedback tends to be very positive.
What does culturally–sensitive mean in the program’s mission statement?
As a collective agency, everyone is passionate about the work we do and the LBGTQ community we serve. We have a big commitment to cultural competency and identify with the community as many of the workers live and breathe the work and understand the issues this specific community faces. For example, there is significant social stigma around substance abuse and within this community its effects and use is different.
What do you find is the biggest hurdle for those who are battling substance abuse?
There are many hurdles and it’s a long road–clients have made positive drastic changes but it can take a while all depending on factors such as age of onset, family history, unemployment or something else in their social situation that complicates things. People can be discouraged with progress and it can be slow and incremental. Relapse is psychologically and at times physically difficult and it can be hard not to get discouraged.
Is there a personal story of triumph that stemmed from the program you can share?
We have had clients that were deep into their drug use that had corresponding health consequences that were monumental, such as psychosis, being terrorized at night with nightmares, hearing voices and other distressing mental illness that made them feel as though they had lost their minds. Some lost their housing and employment. Many of these clients have been successful in turning their lives around for the best, resolving their psychosis, and some have started their own businesses or gone back to school. Often times we hear back from them on their own telling us about their recovery stories and the amazing impact we had on their lives. It’s inspirational to see them succeed in making positive changes.
How is the program funded? Does health insurance cover any of the expenses that clients may incur?
Recovering With Pride is funded in many different ways and we work hard to make our services accessible to the low income or the underinsured. The Chicago Department of Public Health helps us to provide free-of-charge counseling for members of the LGBTQ community struggling with substance abuse or dependence who have limited financial resources and are uninsured or underinsured. For some clients we provide a sliding scale, or small out of pocket fee up front when insurance is involved. Due to all the changes in insurance recently, our issues with insurance are being a part of the proper network and deductibles that people cannot afford. Additionally we apply for grants such as the Ryan White grant that covers services for people with HIV.
What is the biggest challenge that Recovering With Pride has in its administration?
It can be very difficult to watch addiction take its toll on people, which is why we take care of ourselves as clinicians in order to be able to do this work.
What do you consider to be true strength?
I think that from the perspective of the client, true strength is the ability to face yourself honestly. That means taking a hard look at yourself and being honest with what’s happened and take responsibility for it. Picking up the phone or walking through the door for help even when you cannot verbalize your thoughts as your life is falling apart–takes immense strength for anyone.
Consider donating to Recovering With Pride by visiting www.howardbrown.org or purchasing a copy of 30 Days Dry - 10% of sales go to support this organization.
I am a lot of things, but also a Winemaker.
One of my favorite steps in making wine is getting the opportunity to name it and create its personality. Since the gestation of wine can be quite long, there is an anticipation that grows in wanting to meet it. Creating labels for our wine allows me to stamp on the character and tells its story which most of the time is based on major events in our lives at the time. Time has a factor to it that is ingrained into our conscious minds. Like photographs, creating these labels also helped to tell our story. As our lives continue on, so will our labels and the wine we make. This page will be updated with new labels as time goes on.
Note: Some of the labels are completely original and others are partial original artwork manipulating public domain images.
Name - The Peacemaker
Ethnicity - Cabernet France/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
Named Peacemaker for its ability to calm the senses and make peace with even those you don’t want to be around. Being we are also from Chicago, a town of Old Italian mobs, we wanted to preserve the history of what they use to call the guns they used to make their own peace.
Name - The Surge
Ethnicity - Riesling
My Mom lives in Connecticut and was being hit hard by Hurricane Irene at the time we started bottling this wine for the first time. As we watched the news, they kept stating how it was the surge of the waters everyone was worried about creating the most damage. Thus, The Surge was born, in memory of all those left with Irene’s wreckage.
Name - Menehune on the Mainland
Ethnicity - Cranberry Cinnamon Vanilla
When we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii we knew when we got back it would be time to bottle our Holiday wine. So throughout our vacation we thought about ideas of what to call it. We learned that Menehune are the legendary Hawaiian elves that are said to be master craftsmen. They built structures, roads, houses, and more with great strength overnight. That’s only something Santa can do over here on the US Mainland, of course with the help of the Menehune on Christmas eve.
Name - Cupids Panty
Ethnicity - Chamblaise
The first time we bottled this wine it was around Valentine’s Day and we wanted to associate it with the holiday. We imagined Cupid, since its arrow always induced a love-like trance, sort of what enough wine can do to someone. We were curious why cupid always wore a diaper and decided we wanted to mature our cupid a bit. So cupid got a panty, and thus our Cupid’s Panty was born.
Name - Papa Smurf
Ethnicity - Blueberry Pomegranate Blackberry
We are both 80s babies and grew up in that generation. When we made this wine, it was very bluish and purplely due to the ingredients. At the same time, the Smurfs were coming out with their first movie and a commercial for it came on TV. We were reminded of all the episodes we watched as kids, and how much the blue reminded us of this wine. We called it Papa Smurf, since he was always the one that was mixing up concoctions to keep everyone happy. Many of our friends tell us we do the same thing when they come over and we pull out a bottle from our winery.
Name - Flungshot
Ethnicity - Pineapple Coconut
Our nephew had just gotten a new slingshot for his birthday. One day he came over and was playing with it. He said “look how far I flungshotted it.” It was at that moment the name of our next wine was born – Flungshot, in loving memory of its former name, Slingshot.
Name - Moonshock
Ethnicity - Zinfandel/Cabernet
The theme for our wedding was “Wine and Music Under the Stars.” Our daughter took a picture of us which we turned into a silhouette. This became our logo for all things having to do with our wedding. After, we decided to use the silhouette on the next batch of wine we bottled. The wine was named Moonshock, since it was the power of the stars that brought us together.
Name - Lahr Milk
Ethnicity - Liebfraumilch
We had a very hard time pronouncing the name of this varietal as it’s a very long German name with many consonants. In trying to pronounce, it sounded very close to Lahr milk. Since Lahr is our last name, we went with it. We talked about how milk cartons use to have missing people on the back. We made our dog Jackie the ‘missing’ in the back of the label for this wine, as she is so tiny, she can easily become missing.
Name - Serenade
Ethnicity - Apple Pear
This was our first fruit wine and when we bottled it, the taste was very light cool and refreshing when cold, yet very high in alcohol content. After 2 bottles we were signing, serenading each other under the stars in our hot tub. Then the name was born. Our apple pear became our classic Serenade.
Names - Last Call and Off The Grid
Ethnicity - Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir
We decided to move out of Chicago and into a neighboring suburb. During the home-selling and buying process we had to close up our winery in preparation for the move. These were our last two wines we were making at the time. Living in Chicago is typically referred to "living on the grid" because of how grid-like its streets are designed throughout the city. Thus, we named these last two wines made while living in Chicago, Last Call and Off The Grid to commemorate our move.
Names - Two Loaves Short of a Miracle
Ethnicity - Pinot Noir
We started this wine around Easter season, which is a holiday we no longer celebrate. Bothered by what religion has become, this play on words is the testament of a recovering Christian.
Name - Project X
Ethnicity - Triple White
This was our very first wine and label. It was certainly a lessons learned in many respects. We messed up and had to do it over again a few times until we figured it out. In the end we called this one Project X, as it was indeed a project where we learned the winemaking art and science.
Name - PayDay
Ethnicity - Chardonnay
We bottled this wine on a payday, and it was an exciting payday because we were going to order our next batches of wine. That evening we ended up bottling our Chardonnay and decided to call this PayDay Chardonnay from the events of that day.
Name - I Gotta Story To Tell
Ethnicity - Bergamais
We were in the process of bottling this wine and a friend came over to vent about some personal issues she was going through. We enjoyed a bottle of this wine and listened to her story that made her life difficult at that moment. She had a story to tell and the wine helped ease her pain. So we named it I Gotta Story To Tell since just about everyone does.
Name - Oceans Arrival
Ethnicity - Strawberry White Merlot
We bottled this wine two weeks after our son was born. We really did try to get to this done before he was born, but being nine months pregnant and bottling wine was not on the top of my list of things to do. Since it bulk aged longer than we planned, we decided to name the wine after the arrival of our little one Kai, whose name means ocean in Hawaiian.
Scientific randomness in the universe goes beyond particles at the molecular level and can extend to everything we encounter in our lives. Random Convo is a series of my random conversations with people, or my overhearing of one. This is an exercise of listening and being aware and mindful in the moment.
This past weekend while I was at a wedding I had a random conversation with a women who told me that she noticed how much her dogs were genderdized liked us humans and took the distinct personality of a male or female. She went on saying that her female dog is such a girl and their male dog such a boy, that they do things that are typical of these human genders. She postulated that this could mean that dogs are intellectual like us humans and that what’s innate is really encapsulated in our gender.
Environmental Works is a nonprofit Community Design Center that empowers the US State of Washington’s most vulnerable communities to create the spaces they need to succeed. Their commitment is to honor the dignity of all people, regardless of income, through their architectural and planning services to those underserved by the profession. Their services include site analysis, programming, evaluation of needs, budgeting, and more, which lead to quality design and high performing places to live, gather, and work. Their motto is People and Places Matter, by making buildings that make people feel good.
The organization was inspired by the power-to-the-people activism of the Vietnam War-era. Over forty years later, Environmental Works continues to practice architecture in the public interest and prides itself on doing the most they can to help society in establishing social equity and environmental stewardship.
Environmental Works has achieved national recognition for their work and are regarded as leaders in the field of sustainable architecture for low-income communities. We had the opportunity to connect with Executive Director Roger Tucker to learn more about this amazing organization whose core value is that everyone deserves resilient communities with decent, affordable housing and vibrant, enriching places to work and play.
What is the founding story for Environmental Works?
Environmental Works was founded on Earth Day in 1970 as a cooperative effort of 64 University of Washington students and others to “make the earth and the Northwest livable, through environment preservation and community development.” Initially located in the University of Washington Architecture School Annex Building, they relocated to the surplussed City of Seattle Fire Station No. 7 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. During the height of the Vietnam War and Urban Renewal, Environmental Works staff were known as "reasonable radicals" because they used their counterculture ideas and positive energy to make lasting change in low income communities. In the early days, the volunteers who worked hardest to bring Fire Station 7 (dubbed Earthstation 7 by the group) back to life and set Environmental Works on a path of sustainability were Dale Miller, Larry Goetz, Jerry Arbes, and a newcomer, non architect Brad Collins. Working with the Seattle King County Economic Opportunity Board, the four secured two one-year grants for the 1971-72 and 1972-73 fiscal years with HUD and HEW respectively. The primary purposes of the grants were to develop environmental awareness in low-income communities and environmental education curriculum for the Seattle Public School District. This early work set the tone for the organization and helped develop the core values that the organization still lives by.
What type of underserved organizations and communities has Environmental Works helped?
Environmental Works’ clients include nonprofit organizations that have limited financial resources and time to consider facilities improvements. We help them to determine facilities improvements so they can better serve their clients and help them leverage funds to make it happen. We also work with nonprofit housing providers, encouraging them to include potential residents, who wouldn't usually have access to architectural services or a voice in the planning process, in the design of their new homes. The organizations we work with typically serve people who make 30%-50% of median income.
We continue to work with organizations that we have partnered with throughout our 45-year history, and we are always engaging with new organizations. In the past decade our work has included:
· More than 40 new affordable housing projects, creating 1,200 homes for more than 2,500 individuals
· More than 40 childcare centers for low- and moderate-income children
· Dozens of public facilities including homeless shelters, food banks, clinics, and community center
How can proper design change people’s lives?
Here are some examples:
Noel House Women's Emergency Shelter - Formerly located in a converted basement parking garage, the new Noel House shelter in downtown Seattle provides a dignified space for chronically homeless women to get back on their feet. Indeed, 78% of clients now find permanent housing solutions within a year, up from just 43% in the old space.
El Centro de la Raza Community Center –Over more than 20 years, EW has worked with El Centro de la Raza to improve their historic former school building (now a community resource center). We provided a master plan of improvements such as energy, plumbing, and seismic systems, and then helping to implement the work over time with our services. El Centro de la Raza’s staff have been able to remain focused on their organization’s core values of inclusion, outreach, and community solidarity–not having to learn how to become facilities experts for an aging structure.
Unity Village Low Income Housing – Inclusive, hands on design workshops with residents led to a development that was welcomed by the neighborhood. Residents feel ownership of the place and continue to respect and maintain the homes that they helped design. With input from the workshops, we created flexible design features that allow people from 12 different cultures to adapt their apartments easily for their own cultural preferences. The design included outdoor recreation space, parking, bus lines, and easy access to a local park.
How can proper design make people feel good?
I would say it is twofold - providing a connection with the natural world and providing opportunities for community gathering. Many of our projects have central open spaces that provide a place for social activities in a secure natural setting. As an example, at One Community Commons, a low-income family housing project in West Seattle, all of the apartments are accessed through a central, south-facing courtyard that is planted with edible plants such as figs and strawberries. It provides a safe place for kids to play while parents do laundry, visit with neighbors or use the common meeting room. The project is located at a busy intersection and the courtyard, located above the street and surrounded on three sides by apartments, is a quiet and secure respite.
What is considered a high performing place?
To us a high performing place is both environmentally and socially resilient. Socially high performing fosters community and provides opportunities for social interaction and support. Environmentally high performing has minimal impact on the earth and reduces energy and operating costs for owners/residents.
What is sustainable design?
Sustainable design is a term that has been diluted by overuse. In its best meaning it refers to design that is resilient and relevant, having minimum long term and short term impact on our planet - a design that is a healthy and invigorating place to live and/or work and ideally has a symbiotic relationship with our ecosystem. Achievable? Yes! Easy? No!
What is a current project of Environmental Works?
We are happy to be working with a private nonprofit resource center for families who are at risk of becoming homeless. We worked together from the start to raise donations for design services and are currently working with the organization and contractor on donations of construction services, materials, and labor. The key project elements were defined through a hands on community design process in which all members of the organization were able to express their vision for the center with drawings, images, and words.
What is Environmental Works’ biggest issue in being able to meet their vision?
In the past grants have been available that allowed us to provide no cost design and planning services to local social service agencies. We are working to restore this funding so we can continue to provide low cost or no cost design services to nonprofit social service agencies. We would love to be able to provide free services for all of the communities and organizations that we serve.
If you could change one thing in this world, what would it be?
The current income inequality and over-demand for resources is leading to an imbalance in our world. A simpler, more equitable culture would lead to a happier and healthier society.
Consider donating to Environmental Works by visiting eworks.org or purchasing a copy of Thought Notebook Journal Issue 4 - 10% of sales go to support this organization.
Scientific randomness in the universe goes beyond particles at the molecular level and can extend to everything we encounter in our lives. Random Convo is a series of my random conversations with people, or my overhearing of one. This is an exercise of listening and being aware and mindful in the moment.
While at Monkey Island for a young family member's birthday party I overheard a fun conversation taking place between a mother and a son at a nearby table. The child was trying to feel his mother’s heartbeat but couldn't. After several minutes he said, "Mommy you don't have a heart because you have boobs, so there was no room for it."
There is a dark side to publishing, one that takes advantage of artists and writers leaving them starving even though they are doing the work they love. Many times they are forced to give up rights to their work, sign in-perpetuity clauses, follow rigid rules, and give up creative control in exchange for being published. However, we are living in a time when the rich, powerful, and traditional publishers that have built the foundations of the industry are getting weaker by the minute due to the advent of technology and the revolution of the Internet. The traditionally established publishing industry’s high barriers of entry and long history of tactics, processes, and perceptions are now outdated like yesterday’s iPhone. This current situation has provided a landscape of people pounding through the broken glass doors to make their point, proving the need for change, showing direct approval of the masses.
Can you feel a bit of tension in those words?
Yes, I’m kind of mad. I have a love-hate relationship with publishing right now and let me tell you why. I had some precursor thoughts about the publishing world before jumping full fledge into it. Then as I swam among what the tide brought after the dam was broken and experienced the masses walking within the rubble rebuilding where they could apply their talents and expertise. This has led to a complete lack of structure that is driving me crazy. As a former project manager that found planning very natural, this was immediately painful for me. As any successful human needs to do, I adapted, and this state of the union is my overview of what I have observed and reflected upon over the past two years as an indie publisher and literary artist.
This report comes from a very objective point of view. Although I went to college for quite a long period of my life, my degrees were not in English, I had never completed a full book, and all I knew about publishing was the top handful of names like Random, Hatchett, and Wiley. I was in for a shock as I entered this world of disarray with solely pure passion.
Let me begin with emphasizing that the industry is in a state of overflow leading to a primordial state of chaos. Those living in these new conditions have created a diverse array of options, products, and services in so many variations that it’s hard to keep track. There are hybrids upon hybrids of business models that are growing at a distressing rate. Some are sustainable, some are not. The testing of hundreds of different ideas are being done to see which ones have traction and can survive the climate change. It reminds me of the thoughts I have when I read about the asteroids that supposedly hit and killed the dinosaurs, wiping out and creating a new host of life in its ashes. The diverse spawn of life that reemerged was drastically different from what was there before.
The prior purpose of traditional publishing houses was to weed through the available work and publish what they thought would be bestsellers. Just like fine wine, however, reading tastes are very subjective. Consumers of reading material left it up to these houses to make decisions for them on what they should be reading. Now with thousands of indie publishing companies and a multitude of writers and artists self-publishing their own books through online vanity publishers like LuLu.com, readers have a brand new selection of reading material at their disposal like they never had before. Readers can finally choose for themselves what they do and don't like. This mass access has led to a saturated system, making discovery and marketing very difficult, for both the author and the reader.
One of the best things that the traditional publishers did was groom the books they published by removing errors and creating reputable book design by using internal expertise to polish and edit professionally. Many self-published authors and indie publishers do not get the privilege of having this grooming process to the extent that traditional publishers do. This creates a disadvantage to those who don't have the finances to obtain these pricey services on their own, or aren’t educated enough to have a personal process in place for decent edits and design completed. I can’t imagine any reader, especially a seasoned reader, wanting to read something that hasn't been polished. Yes, even traditionally edited books will have errors but some self-published books are beyond acceptable. I must admit it took me time to really understand the depth of this, but now I do wholeheartedly. Readers have now become their own quality control which is almost a foreign concept to them as well as a time-consuming task. At some point, readers will get tired of this and will shy away from new authors, stick to just a few, or continue to only follow books that are published from traditional houses. Thankfully, through kindness and mutual sharing of passion, volunteer editors and designers have kept the breath inside the lives of some indie publishers like me.
This leads us to ultimately the most difficult issue for any publisher, artist, and author: discoverability. The website is the new phone book and an absolute requirement for visual artists and writers. Like it or not, Google now determines which products do the best. We are now living in an era of tags, keywords, and search engine optimization (SEO), and books, art, and online magazines must fit into search algorithms. The Google brand is now a household name that everyone turns to daily. Google is our go to for everything in our life. Google is now not only a company name, it’s a verb. Google is the lifeblood of discoverability. Those who can afford expensive SEO for their websites will reach the top of Google and feed our attentions every time we turn to it. I find when I research on Google that the top front page list results aren’t always the best products, or articles I need. Instead, most of it are companies that can afford to be placed there. Those like me who have figured this out have been privy to experience the Page 3 and Page 10 of Google results. It’s there that I find a tremendous sea of diverse thought, products, and services… driven by passion, and not a lot of money. This ideal of second best has created a sub-culture that has not yet been tapped into. Passion and quality seem to have been removed from Google’s search equations. There is a large sea of creatures that live in the depths with content, community, and value if you swim deep enough. Google has yet to tap into the beauty of its later pages. How can those within the depths be discovered? It then becomes frustrating to grab the attention of those in the light from the darkness when the internet has created an impulsive urge to immediacy and impatience. How can indie publishers and artists find their readers and markets with Google then? Discoverability will remain a hurdle and limitation for quite a while.
Naturally we are then brought to competition, and a lot of it, all trying to successfully evolve out of the primordial pool and survive on land. Since the industry is in a diversity boom, taking the usual approach to competition is not sustainable. Society is used to a handful of competition within industries. Currently that is not the case in publishing, as there are hundreds of thousands of competitors, depending on how you look at what your competition is. The perception of competition needs to change, from one in battle, to that of survival. To that end, I have decided to take a different approach and encourage collaboration instead. Publishers, authors, and artists working together to share best practices, lessons learned, cross promotion, and motivating each other to keep moving along the flow of our passion. We were never meant to do things alone, as humanity in its entirety thrives on being in unison. I am a true believer that when we assist each other in surviving, everyone benefits. Everyone in the publishing industry should cheer each other on, instead of booing the other teams.
The traditional distribution chain is responsible for getting print books into the stores of neighborhood books shops and all the brick and mortar chains we are all familiar with such as Barnes & Noble,Tower, and Blackwell’s. It is nearly impossible for the small indie press and the self-published author to make successful strides in the traditional distribution chain, not to mention getting into libraries. Innovative technology has allowed the ability for books to be printed on demand (POD), removing the need for the traditional distribution and very large and expensive print runs. Although this is of great service to the needs of those who have troubles going the traditional distribution route, this has made book covers the wine labels of the publishing industry – as discoverability now includes the ability to catch an eye as they lie in thumbnail form in a row with the next. Though sales of physical books are still higher than ebooks, this is changing year after year. Further, with the rising inflationary symptoms of our global economy most consumers are saving money wherever they can. As the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen, this disturbing truth will make it even harder for print books and the shops they are bought in, to survive. Most of the time ebooks are cheaper (although not always) and consumers are jumping in. It is for these reasons I have vouched that every ebook published through Thought Collection Publishingwill be 2.99 cents, as I believe very strongly in equal access to art and literature. I will only spend very little energy and effort on physical book distribution and will stick to the POD until better opportunities exist in the traditional distribution model for indie publishers.
I know and respect the reasons why people and companies hate Amazon, as no one wants a monopoly whose power over prices and just about everything else, can turn into abuse, but none of the other online retailers are giving publishers the tools and access to the market we need like Amazon is. If other retailers worked as hard and thought as smartly about strategy and process like Amazon does, they would be better competitors, but they aren’t. Amazon is the epitome of everything I learned in business school. The company is truly the market leader in many industries, not just publishing. There are people and companies that hate this and I totally get it. I agree in healthy competition. To that end, I challenge Nook, Kobo, Google, Apple, Smashwords, and other up and coming retailers to give Amazon a fair fight. So far these retailers just have not yet figured out how to win. I recommend a book to all leaders and change agents in those organizations – The Art Of War by Sun Tsu. The issue I do have with Amazon is their need for exclusivity. As a writer I enjoy my rights and not having the right to place my ebooks on other retailer sites in order to take advantage of Amazon’s marketing tools really annoys me. This is one of moral aptitude that Amazon hasn't yet included into their guiding principles. The retailer Magzter is definitely doing a good job being innovative in providing free marketing services to their publishers as they understand that when they help their publishers, everyone wins.
Lastly, some other rants I must include in this specialized venting session on the state of the publishing union include:
• Authors and visual artists are now business owners. Gone are the days of just being a writer, photographer, or painter. We must also have some business sense. If you do not, or wish not to, being successful will be difficult.
• Unless you know someone or have the finances to use services that still aren’t guaranteed, press releases will never get published.
• Unless you know someone or have the finances to use a third party company, your books will never be reviewed as much as it needs to trigger online algorithms to make books discoverable to your market.
• Literary and visual artists must now accept the fact that taking time away from their writing and art for online marketing is absolutely necessary. Although many are opposed to this virtual living, embracing the personal online presence is now required. It is this digital revolution that has created the much needed change within the publishing industry, so it must be embraced by its participants. The problem of online marketing lies in where to market, as this is still changing daily. I have spent hours upon hours on marketing that didn’t work. This is wasted time I could have spent writing. It appears that relationship building on the internet is definitely harder than in person. Some of us are still adjusting to becoming social online as it feels almost science fiction, or unnatural, but the rise of social media and online social interactions is because of us; we embraced it wholeheartedly.
Since we are on the verge of a new era, and extreme change is happening within publishing, I propose some traits the newly evolved creatures that arise from the primordial pond should have: altruistic, inventive, clever, independent, original, progressive, visionary, and fun. So what happens in nature when there is disorder? Eventually gravity will make energy coalesce and order will spontaneously appear. I have no doubt that the future in publishing will hold amazing specimens of life, capable of great things. One thing is for certain, however, it will NOT be where it was ten years ago. One of the key laws and rules observed and proved in science is survival of the fittest. Those that can adapt and keep up will be the ones that survive. Traditional publishing companies will never truly accept this fate as they will hold tightly to their attributes and preconceptions that dominated their original form. It is now up to the Indies to rise. Self-publishers and “Indies” of all kinds, it’s now time to unite and spread a different cause. Thought Collection Publishing is building a community of new creatures growing from this global primordial publishing pond. Come visit my side of the publishing world as I attempt to build a community of those likeminded publishers, writers, artists, and consumers. Together in the Author & Artist Collective we can be more effective as a group as we collectively scan the latest developments in publishing, pass on tips, and share experiences. Visit our Marketplace and help us build our opportunity space, ridding competition and collaborating instead.
Community is the answer for now in the current state of the publishing union; strength in numbers.
Update Note: These communities no longer exist, however, Kat still believes in strength in numbers and is working on developing communities in the future.
See other reports on the State Of The (Indie) Publishing Union:
Scientific randomness in the universe goes beyond particles at the molecular level and can extend to everything we encounter in our lives. Random Library Book is a series of my walks down different library aisles and I randomly pick out a book. I bring light to books that might otherwise get lost in the large repetitive physical aisles of a library.
The Government Publications section of the library intrigued me today. Of all the books I went passed, I randomly picked up:
After Katrina: The Role of the Department of Justice Katrina Fraud Task Force and Agency Inspectors General in Preventing Waste, Fraud and Abuse
What a hefty title I first thought to myself. Browsing the pages, I began to think that if we need to have an agency that oversees fraud when dealing with disasters such as Katrina, then what a shame. It’s bad enough we have a natural disaster that changes many people’s lives forever, but then we are confronted with the perils of fraud as well, all while the government is trying to provide help to those in need. This is a perfect example of the balance that naturally comes when good is being done.
The US Government knowing this, formed a Committee on Government Reform to scope out the details of the fraud and abuse that took place during our response to Katrina. Some examples of fraud noted in the book include bribery, issues with debris removal contracts, FEMA hotel rooms not used for evacuees, and much more. This book goes into detail about their findings as its content is the hearing notes before the subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability in May of 2006.
An interesting read of 114 pages for those interested in political science and anyone curious about the type of fraud schemes that can be developed by man.
Ask Kat Advice Column
After many years of working in various disciplines and industry sectors, none as a therapist, Kat is willing to tackle life's biggest (and smallest) personal questions. Email Kat your questions.
My daughter’s doctor suggests birth control pills to assist with her acne and heavy periods. She is 16 years old and I am afraid that putting her on the pill will give her the “go ahead” to have sex. Although I want to help her with her medical issues, I am being a paranoid parent. What are your thoughts?
It seems to be very common for doctors to prescribe birth control to teens for these medical issues. I suggest calling the birth control pills by its medical name, Estrogen or Mestranol for example, instead of referring to them as “birth control pills.” Then when she is taking them daily, have conversations with her about the purpose of its treatment, asking her how she is feeling with her periods, comment on her acne clearing up, etc. Perhaps staying away from the contraception aspect of the drug and focusing on the medical necessity of it may help get her mind in the right place about its purpose for her at that moment.
However, having the “sex” conversation with your daughter regularly is extremely important to do when they become teens, and hopefully you have already opened that door. If you haven’t, do so as soon as possible and emphasize condoms, not birth control pills, as the most important aspect of a safe sexual relationship. I am personally not a fan of abstinence due to the fact that having sexual attraction to another human being is natural to our physiology, but if that is a big part of your culture, faith, and spirituality, by all means make that the most important part of the “sex” conversation. Hope she feels better soon!