Wednesday, November 23, 2011

UC Davis Protest 101: The Power of the Citizen Witness

Dear Readers and Friends,

Here is my new Huffington Post commentary. Please post and pass around. If you have time, please go to this link and post it and pass around. In solidarity! Brenda

I have never been ashamed of my alma mater, UC Davis, until I watched the video of the police pepper spraying peaceful protesters -- young students who looked a lot like my peers in the 1960s when we protested the Vietnam War. Then, we sat on railroad tracks to stop munitions trains; we burned our draft cards; we buried our friends who died in a far-away land for what even we recognized as a shameful and cynical proxy war of super powers.

Now, the UC Davis Occupy students -- like so many disinherited young people all over the world -- are protesting not the loss of life in battlefields, but the loss of their future. Our kids are burdened by college loan debts, while Wall Street continues to give itself golden parachutes. Big banks hoard the very bailout monies Main Street lent them. And for the first time, statistics show that our next generation will not be better off than their parents. Our kids have every right to take to the streets and rebel against this kind of crooked deal. What use is a hard-won diploma if unemployment awaits the graduate? What use is our legacy if it is only to disinherit our young?

Watching the viral video of the UC Davis protesters not only made me ashamed and angry at my alma mater, it also brought back a vivid memory: It is the late Sixties and Ronald Reagan is governor. Our governor has dropped tear gas on the UC Berkeley campus where one of my best friends was studying in the library. Reagan has brutally attacked the Flower Power protests of People’s Park, and slashed the library budget of all UC universities. Outraged, about 300 students from UC Davis gather on campus to protest because Governor Reagan is coming to speak here. 

As we students mill around with our hand-made signs: “We Need Books” and “Keep Our Library Free from Politics,” we are suddenly herded into a small, rectangular courtyard. Our signs are forcibly taken from us. Many of the protesters are kept outside. Our numbers reduced, we feel corralled, our voices reduced.

Suddenly there is jostling as campus police move us back to allow Governor Reagan and his coterie to enter the courtyard. Everyone starts shouting. I notice a well-dressed older man next to me yell out profanities. I wonder why. He's obviously not with the protesters. Then I realize that his profane language has forced the news cameras to turn off all audio.

Into this muted crowd of young protesters strides Ronald Reagan with his movie star make-up and million-dollar smile. Even as we shout at him, he waves like a prom king to his court. It makes no sense to me, this disconnect between Reagan's royal entrance and the protesting peons. No sense, that is, until I watch the evening news and see my first experience with "the spin." On those brief video clips, our small gaggle of protesters looks like a cheering crowd. Our grimaces look like chimpanzee smiles, our signs are gone, our voices are silenced. It might as well be a promo or puff piece for the governor and his anti-intellectual policies.

I've never forgotten that 1960s media manipulation. The movie star governor who knew how to frame a scene and work the camera angles, if not the crowd. It got him all the way to the presidency.
But as I watched the UC Davis protesters I realized there was actually some hope -- and change since my protest days at UCD. Everyone was a camera and no one could spin it or cut it or censor it. That's because all the students were raising their smart phone cameras to witness and document the scene. So as the campus police doused the peaceful protesters, there was heart-breaking audio:

"Don't do it! Don't do it!"

"Do you have children?" a young man asked the cop as he sprayed students in the face with the blinding chemical pepper.

"Your children would be ashamed of you!" a young woman cried out.

And the uncut video showed the faces of the police as they stood by, refusing to help when students screamed out in pain, rubbing their eyes, coughing. It was so counter-intuitive to see these public servants causing the harm, not rescuing us. And their faces were not stoic masks. Some of the police looked very confused, even ashamed.

"Shame on you!" the crowd began chanting. "You can go!"

And the campus police began retreating slowly. There is no winning here in the video. But there is something quite profound and ground-breaking: The role of the citizen witness. Our sixties generation had no technology to document our revolution. We had to rely upon the mainstream media with its censors, editors, and gate-keepers to report on any protest.

Today's young are so media and tech-savvy that everyone with a smart phone is a reporter and a witness. The Internet's egalitarian social media has replaced the top-down reporting. YouTube can spark revolutions and organize protests. A wall of policemen is so 20th century with it show of force and dictatorial power. The 21st century is about relationship, not top-down authority. It's why all over the world dictators are falling.

It's why the big banks and crooked Wall Street brokers who have for so long dictated our finances, will also fall to the nimble and outraged young they have disenfranchised. One simple rule that every old animal knows is that at some point you must cede your power to the young. With their phones held high like antennae broadcasting to the whole world, our young people will not let us keep stealing from their future. They are watching us and witnessing.

"Do you have children?" they cry out.

And we must answer, yes. You are our children. It is our responsibility to leave you a better world.~

Also, take a look at the creative ways that people are using this image on the Internet to get the visual protests across!

What do you think of all of this? Please let me know!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

E-Books Outselling Print? What's ahead for authors and publishers and readers?

Really Strategies recently polled a select group of publishers to understand projections on the shifting revenue metrics around digital and print products. The results are within our own expectations:
When does your organization project digital revenue exceeding print revenue?
publishers' digital revenue v print revenueHaving worked with hundreds of publishing professionals during the past 10 years, we've observed that those organizations who implement a strategic content management initiative are the ones who are seeing digital revenue exceed print. In some cases, we've seen digital revenue actually drive print revenue!
Where is your organization on this timeline? Do you anticipate digital revenue to exceed print revenue in 2012?

In my continuing series on e-books and self-publishing, here is a very fascinating survey of publishers who are tracking their e-book vs. print book sales. 

As everyone probably already knows, Amazon has announced that their digital books are now outselling their print (hard and softbound books). What does this mean for authors?

At a recent SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) national conference in Los Angeles this summer, a prestigious editor predicted that by 2014, e-books would be the main revenue stream for publishers and authors. With print editions reduced to sub-rights. This is a huge shift with far-ranging effects. First of all, it shows how important it is to invest in e-books, whether self-publishing or going with a traditional publisher.

Several of my author friends and students have signed away their e-book rights without much discussion or representation. I have several out of print books for which I'm trying to get e-book rights returned to me so I can bring them out again myself. But the publisher is hanging on to these e-rights, yet not bringing them out in e-books. Many of my author friends are in the same situation. Waiting for traditional publishers to realize that the e-book revolution is here, not in the future.

If you are an author and have kept your e-book rights, never give them up -- unless you and your agent believe this is the best option. Or, they are offering a lot of money. If you are an author who is either very established or just starting out, consider doing a digital-only edition of your next book. Track it via Kindle, iBooks, and Nook and see how it does.

There are many advantages to the e-book revolution. The first is that there are no returns. The traditional publishing industry's old-fashioned and debilitating practice of allowing bookstores to buy large quantities, only to return them, is an impractical and dispiriting way to do business. The author believes his or her book is selling well -- only to hear that huge returns have happened. The book piles up in publishers' warehouses, space they have to rent, the book is then remaindered at a fraction of its cost. I know of no other business -- except perhaps Nordstrom's -- where merchandise is sold with the expectation of a 40% return rate!

I commented on this article: 21.
Seattle, WA
October 25th, 2011 12:31 pm

Having published 16 books with traditional publishers -- from Norton to Penguin, I'm fascinated with what some editors are calling "The Wild West of e-books and self-publishing." Many of us authors have watched our backlists languish, even though backlists are the life support of most publishers. I just brought out my New York Times "Notable Book of the Year," DUCK AND COVER, as an e-book. The process was laborious, but fulfilling. Finding an expert e-book formatter, hiring a new cover design, and professional proofreading -- all the stages that traditional publishers usually perform. 

Authors now have many more options. This is one of the most exciting and innovative times to be a writer. We still need critical first readers, editors, and advisors all along the way. Many experienced editors and designers are now free-lancing because corporate publishing was shortsighted enough to only focus on the bottom-line and not developing a relationship with their long-term editors, authors, or their readers over time. 

Will the proliferation of e-books and self-publishing become more sustainable and egalitarian? Will authors at last make a living wage as they receive 70% royalties? Or will we just see a glut of unprocessed and unedited prose? There will definitely be new voices and unexpected gems. The next decade for books will be what one of my favorite editors calls, “a bloody good story.”

Recommend Recommended by 14 Readers

And here is another fascinating article from Publishing Perspectives, one of the best free daily newsletters on the business of publishing.

Also try joining the Linked In discussions on Digital Book World and E-Pub Technologies.  The more education you have as a writer, the more options you'll discover available to you.

And stay tuned for more in my series e-books and self-publishing. Also for those of you who want to learn more about the craft of writing memoir, see my You Tube videos at this link:

Thanks for reading!