Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It's time to cheat on your publisher

With the current generation of high-speed digital printers, print-on-demand [POD] publishers are making aspiring authors feel wanted like they've never been wanted before. It seems like everywhere you look there's another slick come-on ... free ISBN numbers, your own storefront, listings on

For someone getting propositioned for the first time, it's easy to fall into a deep relationship with whoever offers the nicest package. The smart ones make it really easy to say "yes". It's just so simple and comfortable, let them take care of everything for you.

I bet you can see this coming

Then something goes wrong and you realize how dependent you've become. All those links on your blog pointing to the order page. All the people you've told where to find you. The PayPal account you set up to take the payments.

It sure was easier to get into this relationship that it seems to be to get out. You tell yourself the problem -- whatever it is -- isn't really that bad, come to think of it. At least it's not bad enough to be worth the pain of finding someone new.

You don't think that time is going to come? Well, you may be right. Through some combination of luck, work and compatibility you may have found the perfect partner for the rest of your publishing life. But do you really want to jump into things that deeply without seeing what else the world has to offer you?

So what's the alternative?

The great thing about all these options is that you can try lots of them without guilt. You realize, if think about it, that they're hooking up with every other writer on the planet just as fast as they can. You're nothing special to them, so why should they be anything special to you?

So play the field. Sign up everywhere you can find that doesn't have setup fees. Upload, test, experiment, enjoy the thrill of it all. And see who actually gives you what you really want: sales.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Are you wasting your time being productive?

Most people think that wasting time means you're not doing anything. Maybe they include not doing anything productive. But can you be doing something productive and still wasting time?

To answer the question, let's go back several years to a time before optical mice were common. I was working the helpdesk at a law firm. I got a call from an attorney that his cursor was skipping around the screen erratically. It was pretty obvious from his description that there was gunk in his mouse.

I had just started explaining to him how to remove the mouse ball to clean it out, when my supervisor tapped me on the shoulder and told me to bring him up a new mouse. I said, "But it only takes five minutes to clean it out."

She replied, "He bills $600 an hour. Bring him a new mouse."

I didn't know the term at the time, but she had just taught me a lesson in opportunity cost. If whatever you're doing is less valuable than what you could be working on instead, you are wasting time.

How corporations spin a risk into a benefit

James Maguire, managing editor of Datamation, wrote in Indian IT Firms: Is the Future Theirs?

"In the past, companies used to award IT outsourcing contracts that were longer, 7-10 years. They would hire one firm to do it, and that firm would have subcontractors," Ford-Taggart says. Now, big clients split up major projects and request bids on individual components. "Then they'll say, "Look, we can have this portion done in India for 30% less.'"

This might cause more managerial headaches for the client company, but in fact it's less risk: clients have fewer eggs in a basket with any one IT firm, so if a projects goes bad or creates cost overruns, the entire project won't take such a big hit.
Emphasis added.

I hate this corporate executive definition of "risk". And before you think I don't get it, I understand what they mean but I think they're wrong.

When I talk about reducing risk, I mean that I'm making problems less likely to occur. What the execs mean when they take this position is that they're diversifying the accountability. They want to be able to report that while 20% of the project is at risk, the other 80% is on track.

Well sure, the other 80% can't be used without the 20% that's missing. But the focus here should be that we've got 80% of the project on time and on budget!

If you admit up front that your process is increasing management headaches, you should realize you're increasing the likelihood of problems. You may be mitigating the potential impact, but that's not a given.

Any mitigation strategy that seeks to minimize the impact of a failure, and does so by increasing the liklihood of failure, is probably a bad idea.