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Friday, April 17, 2009

A brief on self-publishing

Over the years, I have commented to more than a few friends that they had a story to tell and that telling their story would be a contribution. Contribution to "what" I never declared, I simply meant that every one of us is a hero and has a hero's story to tell.

Years later, about two years ago as I type, I realized that I had a story to tell and set about telling that story. I am and have been for 14 years now, a divorced dad of two great kiddos. They became divorced kids when they were 'wee ones" and are now "semi-adults."

I wont go into the "story that I had to tell" as it has now been told and is, (happy to say) available on amazon.com, but I will go a bit into the whole self-publishing dynamic.

Now I cut my teeth, business wise, in technology (primarily software sales) and have been at it for 20 plus years. I have made a living off selling and reselling Intellectual Property (IP) and have strong opinions about "giving up" my IP. Once it is gone, it is hard to get back. For these reasons, and a few others that border on pride of ownership; it simply did not seem like the traditional publisher-to-distributor-to-bookstore route of selling and marketing a book was fit for me. I chose to go the self-publishing (i.e. bootstrap) route.

I did not want to sign off my IP to a publisher with no hope of regaining control. To be honest, I did not have great visions of my book being transformed into a blockbuster movie (but I guess Brad Pitt would have to suffice as playing my role in that film) but you never know exactly how tall a tree will grow by looking at the seed, so I wanted some "go forward" control. Self publishing is pretty much the only route for a new writer to maintain any IP control.

Years ago, this was called "vanity publishing" and was the turf of the "well heeled" (moneyed). In that process a "writer" would lay down their ideas or stories or poetry and have a ghost writer make them look smart. Then the "writer" would pay the publisher for the entire cost, and profit, associated with the fits print run. The publisher was then assured to make a profit off the book, albeit modest, and the writer had holiday gifts to give to all of their loved ones and business associates. (Perhaps vanity publishing hasn't come all that far when you consider some of the tomes recently written by Hollywood Glitterati )

This process was cost prohibitive for a serious bootstrap writer as the cost associated with that first print run was thousands of dollars then you were stuck with "how to get these little books to market." The following article from the Houston Chronicle speaks a bit more about the whole self publishing game.

As a self-published writer you are now able to escape the burden of paying for all of the first run set up and printing fees as technology allows for "print on demand" approach. Print on demand is exactly what it sounds like; the publisher does not print the book until someone buys it.

So what does this look like you ask? It looks like every other book sold online. Here is the deal, you pay a publisher a few hundred dollars (seriously it is only like $300 or so) and send them two .pdf files. Why two you ask? Well one is the cover (front/back) and the other is the contents of the book. The publisher has pretty strict parameters around what these .pdf files should look like in terms of margins, headers, etc. They have, pretty much, NO parameters around what you actually write (content) in your book. They then load the pdf's on a server somewhere and some (most) have relationships with amazon.com (or other large online distributor) and the publisher connects the big online folks to your little pdf files. So when somebody searches for your book on amazon.com they see what looks like every other book on amazon.com. But these books a bit virtual in that they are not sitting collecting dust on a warehouse somewhere, instead they are tiny 1's and 0's sitting on a server - the book is bought and the "printing press" rolls out one copy. Technology in printing has obviously come a heckuva a long way to allow this process to be so fast and so cheap. Guttenberg is rolling over in his grave.

Now, in the "pre-print on demand" world you had a publisher who got you in touch with their "house" distributor or connected you to another distributor. All of these "middlemen" had a hand out to collect a percentage of your book's sales price and you collected a "royalty" and by the time they were all done, it was not so "royal" of a fee.

In today's world you can get on amazon.com through one of the on-line print on demand publishers and amazon.com still gets a hefty fee as does the publisher. You will still not be in the big box book stores (Barnes n Noble and others----uh, are there others?...seems to be a dwindling list). To get into those bookstores, and pretty much any other bookstores takes the work of a distributor---and there goes another cut of your profits.

What did I learn about this process? It is actually easy to get the book out there.
  1. select on demand publisher (there are a bunch available)
  2. pay small fee
  3. load two pdf files
  4. re-load and re-load pdf files as it takes a few iterations to get it inside all margins but I understand that in the last year these publishers are making it even easier by giving out templates for covers/back (great idea)
  5. price the book
  6. wait for it to appear on amazon.com or others (target.com uses amazon.com as distributor so you will also be available for ALL those book buyers who go to target's online store - I can only imagine!)
Oh, I forgot to mention, you have to write THE book! But writing is easy….as they say, "simply take out a pencil and open a vein"

enjoy the journey------

Patrick Talley is a bootstrap photographer and author of DIVORCED DADS’ RULES FOR RAISING RELATIVELY STABLE KIDS.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Fog

Monday. Monday morning 6am. I get up, make coffee, brush teeth, get into jeans. It's dimly lit in the house, skin shrinks slightly from the cold air of the ac. Outside it is completely dark, humid, quiet not yet interrupted. I leave the house, blinking, with water money fuel, and drive: Mopac, Bee Caves, 71 to Spicewood - stop for food, it's now 8am- pass 281, 12 miles, right on 2233, another 15 minutes, gate code, park, start. I'm here, the only place I'm sure to make some money, doing what I know how to do better than anything else in my life.

My Monday morning, unlike those of so many other people, is not some dreadful stuffy warren of infinite despair, rather a self-fulfilling few hours of tactile focus and conspicuous accomplishment; starting off on the back of a horse- a gorgeous, young, mouthy, well-bred warmblood mare we call Rappy, or "the star." She is an angel, untrained and out-of-shape, but an absolute angel to ride: bucks constantly, yet preferable to the gaits of so many other horses. Anyway, this is how my week begins, a few horses get taught a lesson or two from me, and at the end of the morning my drive home is accompanied by my satisfaction and a few checks that add up to about 200 dollars. These are the only checks that will be deposited into my checking account this week.

I feel very human today. Most days around now actually, though there are the creepy ones where all I can do is think about a gross lack of money. Meg and I have no money to speak of, nothing coming in the mail from family, no checks for gigs or deposits, no tax returns, nada. It's just us, some expensive equipment, and wit. The horizon of all of this is not even visible, it's as if we're trudging along through a thick forest or fog, we cannot see more than a foot or two in front of our faces, we do not see the ground before we take a step, we do not see the end of the situation in which we exist, we are just here: Fully, wholly, completely immersed without a clue of what to expect, and it's beautiful. I know the horizon exists, I know there will be some end to whatever this is at some point, but it does not occur to me when, where, and how it might be, because it does not matter. It's a wonderfully strange and exciting feeling, having no clue what happens next week, or next month, or next year, or when the break comes and what form it will be in. The only thing I really think about is a few tasks at a time, immediate things to do that may or may not pay off.

Every day, every effort is being fueled by some strange and utter faith I have in myself, I guess, to try different things - like calling event planners and venues and companies who know nothing about us, and see if they are willing to sit down with Meg and myself for a half hour, drink some coffee, and basically listen to our story. We have no idea how this will help us, or them, but it's the only thing we know to do. So every task begins because I decide it must, for whatever random reason I chose to justify my action, and then it goes in some way that cannot be predicted, and we kind of just roll along, feeding off the love and excitement and support we see in the eyes of strangers, people who have just met us but for some reason believe in us and want us to succeed, are willing to work with us and promote our little espresso gig.

Occasionally panic strikes, the reality of my dire monetary constraints consumes my attention and the most desperate feelings rise within me, sometimes I don't sleep. The most common question seems to be how I will pay my rent next month, this month, last month? And then again, if I am able to objectively witness it all, it's clear that it still doesn't matter - I can move out, I can stay with friends, I can split a smaller rent with someone else. Moving isn't scary, or even burdensome, it's just a bit more unanticipated work. I don't think this will happen, I drive to Kingsland Texas every Monday to ride the horses - they pay my rent - but the thoughts are still present and the questions asked and the reality is that there is no money and it's strange and beautiful, fun, scary, and a bit crazy but way less crazy than sitting in an office waiting for a predictable paycheck while not having any fun.

We're definitely having fun. I'm having fun, the most fun, and still I wonder, what if my car breaks down? It is 20 years old...

Lucy Matulich and Meg Hartig, are cofounders of Hallowed Grounds Coffee.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

What Darwin can teach us about Bootstrapping

BANG!!!!

Just like that in a flash of an eye great companies are created and industries are established full grown and mature, profitable and leaders in their field.

Really? People tend to forget that great companies like Southwest Airlines, The Virgin Group, Greenling Organic or SweetLeaf Tea where not created full grown by a big bang or pop out mature from the founders head in Zeus like fashion.

It all seems so pre-determined as people look a successful company and think in one swift moment the idea, concept and fully matured plan and practice came together and in an act of spontaneous generation these innovative companies came to be at the advanced stage they discovered them at. That's where the false myths appear and debilitate potential entrepreneurs who think they also must birth an institution straight from their head to reality with a flick of the wrist.

Very few notice the work of Ideation and the entry into Valley of Death to even figure out which direction one should walk in to start the journey, the constant stumbling around in the fog of try, fail, retry, succeed, try, fail, retry, succeed...

Evolution and bootstrapping are very similar.

It all starts with ammonia and phosphoric salts, lights, heat, electricity, etc. in the primordial soup of Ideation. Then out of chaos innovation evolves when a protein compound is chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes. Until homosapien the entrepreneur arrives at the growth stage of his business mature and profitable but only after his journey through the valley of death where things not needed by his evolving venture disappear and the mental models that keep him from the needed adaptations to come to life.

The other types of entrepreneurship can be compared to cloning (cookie cutter) or genetic engineering (funded) Both which are attempts to accelerate the evolutionary process. Both methods are done with some measure of success how ever there can be some very dangerous side effects and unintended consequences.

Such as with the funding driven model the intent of injecting cash to support the effort through valley of death to growth can insulate the nascent organization and allow it to persist when it should fail, or if not fail, be taking harder knocks than might be the case when it's protected by funding. Both the genetic engineering and cloning processes interfere with the natural order- which in this case would be the natural creative process of the founder. Bootstrapping lives in
the world of natural selection, the other approaches try to defy it.

In the end we have seen the healthier more sustainable path is organic growth which allows the fertile soil of innovation to be the driving force and customer demand the fresh water and sunlight that all truly great companies need to remain innovative, grown at a healthy organic and sustainable rate and bear the rich, delicious and abundant fruits of profit!

ps-Oh yeah in case your are wondering... The gasses in the Primordial Ideation soup come from the beer and nachos during the youPlusU conversation ;)

Friday, April 03, 2009

RE: Bootstrap Austin Partners with RART Investments

April Fools!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bootstrap Austin partners with RART Investments

Bootstrap Austin announces a strategic alliance with RART Investments (RARTi). The partnership includes an undisclosed investment and will expand Bootstrap into other cities in the US and around the world.

Bootstrap Austin founder, Bijoy Goswami said, "Given our adherence to Bootstrap principles, we normally would not consider any kind of external investment. However, we felt it was the right action to take at this time as we look to expand Bootstrap. I am particularly looking forward to joining the newly-formed Bootstrap Board and stepping down from day-to-day operations of the community."

Goswami will be moving to Bodenwerder, Germany, to join the RARTi board. Bootstrap headquarters will also be relocated there. "I am saddened to leave Austin, my home for almost 14 years, but the chapter will continue and always have a special place in the global Bootstrap community." said Goswami. Bootstrap Austin's Leadership Council will take over operations of Bootstrap Austin on April 15, 2009.

The secretive RARTi founded on July 2, 1776, and considered the world's first VC, rarely makes public announcements of its investments. Partner, Karl Friedrich Munchhausen V said, "The alignment between our two organizations warrants a special exception. Ever since our founding, we have sought to follow the precepts of our founder, Baron Karl Munchhausen, to support bootstrap adventurers."

"I have been a longtime fan of RARTi and its founder. His adventures, particularly in the swamp, inspired me to found Bootstrap Austin on July 14, 2003." said Goswami.

Press inquires directed to CCI Marketing, a partnership between ABD Magazine and Bumperactive.


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