Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Guild of America, Inc. interestingly enough has an article on Print on Demand while Books & Tales has a Print on Demand comparison.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Sarah Monette over at Storytellers Unplugged has an entry entitled (Thinking about) Thinking About Writing and here's an excerpt of what she has to say:
One of the first things I learned when I began reading books about creative writing (and even more so when I began hanging out with other writers) is that no two people understand their creativity in the same way. (This goes for other endeavors, too, not just writing; I'm sticking with what I know, but I'm not meaning to imply that writers have a corner on this particular market.) And the second thing I learned was that not all ways of thinking about creativity work for all people.
One person's muse, in other words, is another person's poison.
Doing layout for any kind of publication is a difficult task. In magazines for example, you have to be precise. When was the last time you opened a magazine and saw a blank page? Books, on the other hand, have more leeway. Have you ever wondered why at the end of a book, there are some pages that are blank, or worse, publishers try to cover up these "blank pages" by labeling "notes" above those supposed blank pages.
The answer is simple. If you're familiar with the publishing process, the page count of most books is usually divisible by four. The best way to illustrate why it's usually divisible by four is to grab a piece of bond paper and fold it in the middle. You instantly have four pages! Publishing for the most part involves several layers of4-page signatures (sometimes it's eight, twelve, or even sixteen). Depending on the word count and the layout, you might not have enough space to fill up all those pages. Hence the blank pages yet you similarly can't do away with them because the physical integrity of the book will sometimes suffer without those pages.
Of course books aren't as ad intensive as magazines, so figuring out what to do with those extra pages can be tricky. If it's just a few pages, the publisher might run an in-house ad promoting their selection of books. Others might show a preview or excerpt of the sequel.
If you were the publisher, what would you put on those "blank" pages?
Saturday, July 28, 2007
For example, I'm a science-fiction/fantasy fan--that genre is my so-called forte. Yet as a SF&F fan, I know my genre has various sub-genres that cater to different markets, so I already have my hands full catering to "my shelf". But what if I'm assigned to the philosophy section, a genre I know next to nothing about? Or the general fiction section? Or crime/suspense? I might have an inkling on what the children's book market and horror market is like but it's nowhere as comprehensive as SF&F. And unless you've spent your entire life doing nothing but reading all sorts of books (throw in speed-reading training in there), I think it's virtually impossible to cover all topics and genres.
The answer might seem simple: hire more book buyers, each of whom are specialized in a particular genre. The first problem there is looking for these so-called specialists. I mean I'm advertising my services for SF&F yet bookstores don't necessarily know that I exist, nor do they trust my judgment. Because there's a point where book buyer genre specialists (BBGS)--a term I'm coining now--have to ask, am I getting this book because I want it to be stocked, or am I getting this because it'll sell? If the latter isn't true, the bookstore shouldn't be hiring you. The second problem, of course, is the budget. I don't think bookstores have the budget to hire a lot of BBGS, especially if they're starting small. Yet the paradox there is most independent bookstores (which usually has one book buyer, namely the owner/manager) stock various genres of books. I have yet to see a successful independent bookstore that caters to one specific market, and then branch out to other genres as they expand. That, of course, is different from knowing your niche. Aeon Books, because it's situated opposite of two colleges, has had a boom in the philosophy genre. That doesn't mean they dumped all their other genres and start selling solely philosophy books. They know their niche and they're acquiring better selections of philosophy books, but that doesn't mean their other genres are withering either.
So how do individual book buyers determine what books their bookstore stocks? Well, if you're a veteran in the business, your records should show which books are selling and which aren't. Then sometimes, you acquire books that certain publishers are pushing, or the latest fad/popular book (i.e. The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter). For me, what's a more interesting question is how do starting bookstores determine their book selection.
That's where the power of lists comes from. As much as readers benefit from best-seller lists, book buyers benefit from them more. Lists such as the New York Times Best Seller List may be imperfect, but they're the closest thing a book buyer has to a starting guide. Another list that is important might be a list of "classic books" in specific genres (i.e. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for mystery, Ray Bradbury for fantasy, etc.).
Or a book buyer can trust his or her tastes. Which is fine when it's territory they're familiar with but doubt starts to creep in when it's a genre they haven't read a single book about yet has an entire shelf to fill up.
Then there'll be the nagging idea of am I getting this book because I like it or am I getting this book because I know it'll sell? This I think becomes a bigger problem when you're the owner--because you do want your inventory to sell. Or worse, if you're the owner and you confuse the two. If you're just a hired gun on the other hand, you might think to hell with the profits, as long as the bookstore stocks "good" books that the public should read.
That's also not taking into consideration your fickle market which you have no control of. You might acquire the books that are guaranteed to sell but if the public doesn't buy them anyway then you can't help but wonder whether you should restructure your book buying techniques or hire a new book buyer altogether (even if the cause for lack of sales isn't their fault).
So right now, there's no feasible solution that I can see, at least for physical stores. Online shops like Amazon.com are like Do-It-Yourself bookstores in the sense that consumers determine their own "shelf" because there is no actual shelf so to speak: we only browse the books we want to buy or are considering buying. Amazon tries to sway our choices by giving recommended reads or bargains if you buy this book along with that book, but at the end of the day, it's a proactive choice on our part what books we browse and what books we don't. But then again, online shops have less chances for serendipity than actual bookstores.
Over at Crusiemayer.com, authors Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer give their advice on publishing.
If God, the real God, the real thing, came down to day and said to you, “You will never be published,” would you quit writing? Remember, this is God, so there’s no escape clause; in this scenario you truly never will be published.
If you’d keep writing, then there’s no point in whining about it, you’re stuck. You’re a writer. If you’re smart, you’ll be Emily Dickinson and lead a happy, stress free life hiding in your dining room. But if you’re like most people, say Bob and me, you won’t be smart and you’ll go for it anyway. Which is what the next umpteen weeks is about, giving you the basics of how the industry works. But I’m telling you now, it won’t help you much. Once you’re published, you’re on the train and you are not driving.
I didn't watch the movie in the theater but I do remember seeing clips of it from TV (which means I didn't see it in its entirety and was watching a local broadcast of it). I was a big fan, however, of the animated series (and so far, a lot of friends loved it too).
It was only later on that I got to read the book. Now the differences between the novel and the movie are huge, they're worlds apart. As far as I'm concerned, they only have three things in common: the concept of super-powered armor for military use, the aliens (and not so much even then... the movie/cartoon showed a wider variety of alien scum), and the names of the characters.
In the novel, Johnny Rico is the only protagonist. The story is told from his point of view. The rest of the cast, really, are minor characters. Most of them either die or get transferred in a few chapters or so. Except for a few, their personalities don't even match. But coming from watching the animated series, it was nice seeing those names--I had mental images of the minor characters that helped me remember them (even if they weren't true) when I see their name pop up. And in many ways, I think that's what helped me enjoy the book more. But as I said, the two texts, the novel and the book, are entirely different animals that you could read/watch one and not get spoiled by what happens in the other.
Friday, July 27, 2007
For example, not only do I get email updates from A Different Bookstore and Booktopia but I also get text message updates when new stocks arrive (especially the latter, whose text message includes specific books I might be interested in... of course I'm seemingly unpredictable in terms of book purchases so I've stopped getting text messages from them simply because they don't know what to text me!) or when my orders are in their stores. The simple service of a text message isn't viable when you're a bookstore chain simply because you have too large of a customer base (whether it's costing you time or money).
Another strength of independent bookstores are their book ordering systems. While you can order books from bookstore chains, because they're larger and employ more staff, there's also more red tape to wade through. Ordering from independent bookstores is as simple as entering the front door and going to the counter to place your order.
Then there's also the familiarity of the shopkeepers/managers. I mean when I enter A Different Bookstore or Booktopia or Aeon Books, the ones manning the counter who know me can easily point me to newly stocked titles that I might be interested in. Or it's something as simple as knowing my name.
So, what are other benefits an independent bookstore might provide that will interest you in patronizing their shop rather than the bigger bookstore chains?
In many ways, I think the podcasts "piecemeal" mode sets it apart from say, audiobooks. Whereas you buy one whole package in the latter, podcasting lets you distribute your book chapter by chapter on a regular basis.
Lately, I haven't really read much of serial novels. The last popular serial novel I think was Stephen King's The Green Mile. Anyway, between online publishing, print-on-demand, and podcasts, we might be seeing the rebirth of the serial novel.
GMANews.TV has an article on the phenomenon and you know, it's not as preposterous as it sounds. I mean the big problem with being locked up in jail is that it's booooring. If I were locked up, I'd take any activity I can, even if it's -gasp- dancing. It's also a sign of the better programs that's available in Cebu. For example, you can read more about Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation at Sun.Star Cebu.
You can view more of their videos here.
Writer Craig Maizin (co-writer of Scary Movie 3) gives us an idea on how much screenwriters (should) get paid in Hollywood: The Economics of Screenwriting
There are a few basic ways to get paid as a screenwriter. You can option literary material, you can sell literary material, you can pitch an idea, or you can be hired on an assignment.
Options don’t technically fall under the WGA’s jurisdiction. Options are just rental agreements. The optioner pays the optionee a fee that grants the option the exclusive right to “set up” the project at a studio (typically as a producer). The writer will then sell the literary material to the studio.
If you sell a script, the studio has to pay you scale. “Scale” is just a term for the basic minimum amount. Right now, if you sell an original screenplay for a “big budget” film (a film that costs more than $5,000,000), scale is roughly $77,000 (including one additional rewrite step). You can learn about all of the various minimums here.
In the case of institutional customers, they dictate what books that gets into the curriculum. If you ever wondered who determines what books you should read in school (if it's on a campus-wide basis), the responsibility lies on the institutional book buyer. And in many ways, these people have a lot of clout. They're ordering books for the entire school after all and these are books that are guaranteed sells, especially since students will need to buy them. It's not necessarily the most glamorous profession, but it's a job that has far reaching consequences in the education sector.
The last two are the large book business buyers and independent book business buyers. For me, both entail the same duties and practices but what's important to distinguish them is the scope. A large book business buyer is buying books on the scale of thousands if not millions. An independent book business buyer merely needs to manage a handful of books. One example of the latter are souvenir shops with a small selection of books. It's usually just a rack or a shelf but at the end of the day, somebody needs to decide how to fill those racks and shelves. Another analogy I can think of are comic shops that stock a few books (but they're probably classified as comics inventory).
That distinction aside, what a book buyer does is decide what books to acquire to sell to the public, and, more importantly, in what quantities. If I was a book buyer with unlimited authority for example, I'd probably stock my bookstore with lots of fantasy and science fiction books. However, the problem there is that I'll have to take space into consideration. What if my shelf has only room for twenty books. Do I stock it with 10 Isaac Asimov novels and 10 Robert Heinlein? Or two books each from ten different authors? That might appear simple in the small scale but when you increase the scope, that's where it becomes more difficult. I mean managing one bookstore is hard enough but what if I'm the book buyer for two dozen branches?
Of course that example was assuming I have unlimited authority. If I'm a hired employee, I have to keep the bookstore's business in mind. And that means getting books that will sell. I may not like it but that usually means acquiring derivative books of best-sellers like Dan Brown, Stephen King, Anne Rice, or J.K. Rowling. In fact, that's a part of the job: doing research on books that sell well (or books that would sell well), read up on them, and order them for the bookstore to stock.
And at that point, it might truly become a job. Have you ever wondered why National Bookstore has tons of books yet little variety for its size (at least compared to something like Fully Booked)? You have to understand the book buyer's plight, choosing less books and buying them in huge quantities is easier than picking a wider variety of books and purchasing them in less quantities. For example, as a book buyer, it's probably easier for me to decide to order 1,000 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows instead of say, getting 100 copies of ten different, lesser-known books. In the case of the former, I just need to research one book. In the case of the latter, that's ten different case studies and I have to worry about distributing them.
Which brings me to my next point. Distributing the books. I'm not sure if this is the case with bookstores or if someone else is assigned this job but in comic stores, the book buyer also decides how to allocate the books. For example, if I have 50 copies of Book A, a typical distribution might be 30 copies of Book A goes to Shop A, the flagship store, then 10 copies goes to shop B, and 5 copies each to Shop C and Shop D. There's a lot of reasons why you distribute it in unequal quantities, everything from the market there to how much shelf space that particular bookstore has. And the wider your variety of books, the more distributing duties you have to do.
The ramifications can be seen in local bookstores. For example, the big bookstore chains like National Bookstore/Powerbooks and Goodwill Bookstore, you see a few titles imported in huge quantities (i.e. you see multiple copies of the same book on the shelf). And since they're operating on a huge level (i.e. dozens of branches, at least in the case of the former), this makes sense. Distributing a thousand different titles in varying quantities to several dozen shops can be a chore after all. The smaller, independent bookstores like Aeon Books and Booktopia, it's not that big of a problem as they only need to manage one or two shops, so they usually give you a wide variety of books for their size (i.e. usually only one or two copies of the same title on the shelf).
Presently, there are two exceptions to the rule. One is A Different Bookstore which has been slowly but steadily expanding. A Different Bookstore seems like an independent bookstore in terms of shop size (only one or two shelves at most is devoted to any particular genre) but they order books like a bookstore chain. That's why their stocks are more or less consistent across all their branches (i.e. if you see this book in Shop A, you'll probably see it in Shop B) and at the end of the day, give you little variety (that's why for a few years now, I've rarely bought a book from them... because I already own the books that they're displaying). But that business model works because their shelves are small compared to say, National Bookstore, and the "redundant books" (multiple copies of the same title) are more obvious in the latter rather than in the former. The second is Fully Booked, which is a big bookstore chain yet what ceases to amaze me is how they're acquiring a variety of books at small quantities (for example, I bought the book An Invisible Sign of My Own yet as far a I can tell, it's the only copy in all their branches) despite their scope (they have what, half a dozen branches by now?). It makes me wonder how many book buyers Fully Booked has or if they're really, really efficient and passionate about what they do.
Of course most bookstores will mix both practices of choosing variety over quantity and quantity over variety. For example, in the case of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I expect that most of the bookstores stocked that one title in huge quantities. As for the rest of their selections, they'll practice their standard business model, whether it's getting a diverse array of books but just having two or three copies of them or stocking a few titles with a huge volume.
One thing to bear in mind is that the book buyer isn't necessarily an official designation. In independent bookstores that are just starting up, this role is usually assumed by the owner or manager (they set up the bookstore in the first place after all). So the preference/taste of the owner will dictate the selection of books. Later, if their bookstore business expands, someone else must assume the role as managing the business side of things and managing the book buying side of things can be too much for any one person. In the case of Fully Booked, the owner's preference and hobbies also dictate the types of books his bookstore stocks, even if he's operating on a huge scale. Ever wondered why Fully Booked has a strong selection of comics? That's because Jaime Daez is a big fan of comics. It's even come to the point that certain do-not's of bookstores is being practiced by Fully Booked, such as the selling of comic singles (instead of trade paperbacks or graphic novels). And if there seems to be too many superhero busts or fantasy paraphernalia in that particular bookstore, it's a reflection of the owner's tastes and hobbies. That's not to say it's a bad business decision--it might actually pay off. I'm just using it as an example of how a book buyer with unlimited authority (i.e. you're the owner!) affects the inventory of the store.
So the book buyer position seems like such an influential job but at the end of the day it depends on how much authority you wield. In last year's book fair, I met a batchmate who's new job was to be Powerbooks's book buyer. I was asking her several questions about it and while it's evident she's been reading lots of books (for research), she was also similarly evading a couple of questions which I thought was relevant. In other words, I suspect she's not free to choose whatever books she wants but rather forced to look for Dan Brown derivatives and other books that would sell well to the same target market. And then there are times when I'm talking to the manager of a particular A Different Bookstore branch and I'll place a special order on a specific book, and I'm surprised that when my book finally arrives, they ordered a few additional copies to sell in their bookstore. For the most part, the book buying business isn't any different from other businesses. A lot of guessing is involved and even if you're good at it, it's not a guarantee that it'll make you a success. But to every bibliophile, isn't the next best thing to owning your own library/bookstore to be the person who gets to decide which books gets imported?
Flint Fireforge / Fewmaster Toede
Fizban The Fabulous
Riverwind & Gilthanas
Dee Bradley Baker
I have to say, although I’ve been at times, in the perceptions of others, associated with this movement? concept? what would you call it? I really still have no idea exactly what it means or is. There are a few things I’m pretty sure about, but these could also be wrong, so please correct me if you know better. I believe the term was coined by China Mieville to describe his own fiction. And I know that one of its precepts is the refusal to “break the fourth wall.” What I’ve taken this to mean (and here I may already be in over my head) is that it refuses metafictional devices, self-referential devices, a certain inherent cynicism about the fictional world. In other words, Mieville’s writing is not hedging its bets, but forthrightly presenting a fictional world that the reader can, for at least the time it takes to read the work, put full stock in. I think the desired effect is that it would allow the fiction to retain its vitality and not have it mitigated by an authorial wink or smirk or misdirection that might allow reality to poke holes in it and let that energy seep out. If that’s the case, then I think Mieville was to a large degree successful, because Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council were marked for me as a reader by their vitality, their incredible energy of creation both in image and idea. To add to that, I recall M. John Harrisson making the case that The New Weird would be a useful marketing tool, a label that might distinguish this fiction from among all the other fantastical fiction out there – a way for readers to locate it in the book store and a kind of slogan that could guide publishers in the marketing of these works.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I just read this funny blog entry on Speculative Fiction Authors Considered as High School Students and I'm wondering, how well-read do you have to be to get all of the references? I got around, what, half, but then again, I don't read much SF.
Names are signs of power and they signify ownership. Why do people name their children? In a way, such practice reinforces the idea of the parent-child relationship, that we are the scions of our parents, that we are a part of them and to some extent, they have power over us. Who else has the right to name us? No one but our parents (they need not be our blood parents). And more often than not, we take a part of our parent’s names, such as their surname or family name or clan name.
But the power of naming isn’t restricted to our parents. We sometimes go by different names, different aliases. In some cases, we determine what we should be called. That’s one way we partition our “self”, where we set our ego boundaries. Similarly, we attach nicknames to our friends and colleagues and even acquaintances. By doing so, we acknowledge and establish a relationship with them, whether communal or antagonistic. When we call our friend Mike instead of Michael, we’re saying “I’m calling you Mike and you’re my friend.” In certain ways, we’re leaving our mark on them, a sort of possessive identifier. The said friend might go by different nicknames in his life but to you, it’s Mike, and when you call out to him, he also knows it’s you who’s calling. At best, this is your private language, your silent acknowledgement of each other’s relationship. A worst, this can be two forces clashing together, which is the case when bullies attach unkind nicknames to those under them. The bullied resents the nickname you attach to him and will try to discard that name. Every utterance of the disdained nickname however reminds you of the hold he or she has over you, whether powerful or weak. And so names can become silent power struggles.
Names, however, don’t always grow to become the way we expect them to be. Those who accept their names, from whoever gave it to them, can subvert it to their own uses. If you call me a murderer, I will become a murderer. If you call me successful, I will develop the courage and confidence to become successful. In many ways, names signify our different personas and our relationship with other people. When your father calls you son, he views you from the paradigm of a parent. You might call yourself Michael and that Michael is certainly different from the Michael that everyone perceives you to be. When your friend calls you Mike, he views you from the paradigm of a friend. Your girlfriend might call you Mikey and she views you from the perspective of a love interest. Taken to the extreme, this can be seen in people with different personalities—each persona has a different name (or psychiatrists attaches different names to them) and behave differently.
If there’s any doubt to the power of names, one merely needs to observe why people strive for titles and designations. There’s a certain respect when we call someone sir or ma’am (and various cultures will have various ways of deferring respect, whether po or opo in Filipino, -san and –sama in Japanese, etc.). Or simply in the work place, why we value being called a boss or supervisor instead of simply being a rank-and-file employee. Your duties might be the same but the designation makes all the differences, and people usually attribute a higher income the more important-sounding your company title is. Yet at the end of the day, it’s all names. A maintenance supervisor’s duty might not be any different from that of a janitor yet the former elicits a certain aura, a certain presence. Or you can call yourself the C.E.O. of the company even if you’re the only employee yet that makes all the difference in how people perceive you, especially when you hand out your business cards.
In at atmosphere like the work place, most people don’t realize that by allowing the company to give them designations, they’re giving a sense of power over to the company. You’re saying “This is the work I do, you have the power to demote or promote me according to your will.” And the same mentality extends to society, especially in the voting process. Your current president is just a regular man yet you give him power by naming him president. His authority is commensurate with his title, which is given to him by society rather than something he bestows upon himself. And while as the president, it might seem you wield such power, the truth of the matter is that the only reason you have power is because society owns you and gave you that title. By rejecting society, you are stripped of your powers. If society rejects you, you are similarly feeble and powerless.
A name might be such a simple thing yet it holds so much power. No acknowledged individual goes without a name and most likely, every person has lots of names, each one representing a different facet of their personality. It is through names that we establish relationships with people much like some animals pee on certain places and buildings to mark their territory. Without names, whether true or false, we would not view the world as we see it today. That’s why names are valued and why we are quick to label our enemies. With every word we utter, we not only hope they come true, but we define what kind of interaction we plan to have with that person. The entities we acknowledge but refuse to name belong to one of two categories: we either fear them the most (and why in Harry Potter, Voldemort is he-who-must-not-be-named), or are in awe of them (and why in Christianity, it is blasphemy to utter God’s real name).
Thanks to continuous bombardment in television and movies, the idea of characters shimmying through air ducts has become not just a cliché, but almost a given. The moment a hero finds himself stuck someplace, we expect his eyes to drift north to that spot just below the ceiling, where an oversized grate is beckoning: “Just yank twice! I’m not screwed in or anything!”Maybe they can support... zombies?
- Elric of Melnibone ("Are you sure you're not a cloud giant with a sword?")
- Drizzt Do 'Urden ("So which dark elf are you?" "I am the dark elf, as my two scimitars will prove.")
- Raistlin Majere (your choice to pair him up with either the Caramon Majere action figure or Dalamar "What do magic-users wear beneath their clothes? Very little" the Dark)
- Polgara the Sorceress (complete with Harry Potter owl)
- Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (yes, they're considered as one entity)
- Tyrion Lannister (Gregor Clegane might be an alternative)
- The Shrike (haven't read Dan Simmons though)
- Cthulhu (how can you not have Cthulhu? And Nyarlathotep is not a bishonen!)
- The Galactic Patrol (sorry, haven't read E. E. Doc Smith either)
- Harley Quin (a.k.a. Mr Quin)
Online publishing is easier to edit that printed books. There's no plates or inks or paper stock to worry about in the former. But that doesn't mean the latter isn't any more morphic. Just as George Lucas strove to edit and change his Star Wars series, I think such a feat is possible when it comes to books, and it's been done before.
One way is to slightly alter and change the text with each edition. Michael Moorcock is guilty of this (and that's why you'll read several slightly different versions of the Elric story) and one of today's more mainstream titles, Raymond E. Feist's Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master, certainly fits this revisionist mold (Magician used to be one book you know, not two).
Then there are the short stories or novellas that get blown up into whole novels. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean Orson Scott Card outdid himself with the Ender's Game short story but the novel is equally as astounding. And he's not the only one who has succeeded in such a feat. We have the likes of Greg Bear for example or in mainstream fantasy, Robert Jordan.
A slightly different take would be the reissues of old publications. Like when H.P. Lovecraft's works were re-released by Del Rey, a variety of well-known authors wrote the introduction, such as Neil Gaiman. The actual text hasn't changed but there's some perceived "extra value" when you include features such as a new introduction, a new foreword, or even a study guide.
It's most evident, however, in nonfiction books. References books, text books, and history books are prime examples of publications that get continually revised and re-released on a regular basis to the point that you might not want to keep old copies of the books because they're outdated. In fiction, you'd treasure these "unmodified" manuscripts but in the case of nonfiction, the sooner they're replaced, the better.
Books have a feeling of permanence yet the text they contain are still susceptible to the winds of change. Writing changes, writing evolves, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
The beauty of the Internet is that there's the illusion of space although it's really several hard drives/servers linked together. That's not the case with physical bookstores where the books you're selling should be in the store itself, while excess stock might be in a small warehouse "at the back". However, when you have too much variety of books, you can only showcase so many of them on the shelves. Worse, some will even be competing for position--books that are in the front tend to get noticed than those on the back (that's why if you paid close attention to the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last week, the bookstore placed the Harry Potter books in front, to scream to passersby "buy me!"). And in several ways, that's also why the New Releases section is usually in front of the bookstore--they want to get rid of it as soon as possible and give it exposure while it's new. There'll eventually come a time though when a bookstore isn't selling enough books to make space for new ones. Of course chances are, the bookstore's management is thinking that hey, if these books weren't selling last year, they probably won't get bought this year, at least not at retail price. So one of three things happen: either the bookstore sells them at a discount (this is where book sales come in), returns them to the publisher, or sells them to another establishment at a discount, such as a secondhand bookstore (this is sometimes in conjunction with one of the other two options).
Selling books at a discount is a no-brainer. It's to recoup cost and to make space available for the newer books. However, at the end of the sale, not all of the books will be sold. It can either go to the bookstore's warehouse (taking up space), return them to the publisher (if still possible), or sell them somewhere else (i.e. secondhand bookstores).
Returning books to the publisher can be tricky. This is where shipping comes in. Shipping books costs time and money. It becomes even tricker when shipping is charging you by the weight or the volume. Take it from the point of view of the publisher: when I'm delivering books to a bookstore, it's costing me money. Of course I'll expect I'll earn some money from that endeavor. Now bookstore comes calling and they're telling me they can't sell these books. To maintain my publisher cred (or if I'm consigning), I have to take them back. Of course at the back of my mind, I'm thinking that these are books which don't give me profit--they're unsold after all. Worse, I have to pay the shipping costs again. So in many ways, that's a double whammy for publishers. Not only did I lose a possible revenue source, I have to spend more money just to have it "returned" to me. And shipping can be expensive. So what some big publishers do is that they ask the bookstore to "destroy" the book. This usually comes in one of two ways. One, they rip off the covers. The covers are then delivered to the publisher and marked as destroyed (it's cheaper to mail the covers instead of the whole book after all). At this point, technically, it becomes illegal to sell those books without covers. The second is to mark the books in some way, such as a black mark on the front or back page, a sign that it's a surplus stock or some thing. End of discussion, right?
These "destroyed" books however are some of the books that make its way to the secondhand book market. It's not necessarily revenue the publisher would have gotten, but it's a concealed income stream as the ones who profited from the endeavor are the bookstores (who sold it to the subsequent entity) and the secondhand bookstores (who re-sell them to consumers). So as far as publishers are concerned, the system is quite flawed. (Of course in order for this mechanism to work, the publisher must have shipped huge quantities of books to the bookstore. Unfortunately, the local publishing industry doesn't ship that many books or if they do, they're books that the bookstore is confident they can sell. So many local books get returned to the publisher as a whole and not you know, just hollow covers.)
Online bookstores seemed to have solved this problem. Amazon.com doesn't have an actual shelf to display the books that they can possibly order, but they do have a virtual one. Better yet, when they do stock books in their warehouse, it's a warehouse and doesn't need the ambiance most modern bookstores have, even if it's something as simple as a wooden shelf or couches. Second, on the side of the publishers, they only need to deliver books that Amazon.com orders, and that's usually an amount the latter is confident they can sell. Less returns means less redundant shipping expenses.
That's not to say an online model is perfect. Amazon.com is a success story, yet a few years ago, the reports were that their profits were only enough to break even. The imperfect model of buying from physical bookstores may be inefficient, but so far it's still the best way to sell books.
Or some group could dress up as Old Ones and drive everyone mad. Except they'll probably say "isn't that the dude from Pirates of the Carribean?" (Don't get me started with mysteries--I keep thinking of Nighthood for Arsene Lupin [not Richard Guitterez!] and Detective Hercule Poirot will be confused as Dr. Evil with a mustache.)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Copied from the Adarna House News:
The success of the previous years’ Teens Read, Too! (TR2) showed that the interest of teenagers in the written word is far from dead. And, the proponents of this literature campaign for young adults are back, with more support from institutions who believe that reading should be promoted among teens, that young writers and readers deserve attention, and that the young adult genre could be where the great literature of the future begins.
This year, the campaign kicks off with live band performances for the official campaign launch at the Filipinas Heritage Library. Different high schools will take part in a number of events geared toward a better appreciation of literature and a more active participation in literature production.
The Barlaya Workshop for Young Adult Literature will provide a venue for promising writers to share their creative pieces with experienced authors of the genre.
Another component of TR2 is the 20-Book Challenge. This event, where teen readers will be pitted against one another, is more than just a quiz bee as it addresses the need to highlight the availability of youth-oriented reading materials by Filipino authors in the market.
Having been witness to the power of competitions in sparking spirited interest, TR2 re-launches the Interschool Best Reading Campaign Contest, where participating high schools compete in the search for the most effective and most original reading campaign.
The Make-Your-Own Barkada Zine Contest aims to encourage teens to explore their creative and literary limits through zines, which can tackle topics ranging from education, reading habits, family issues, social concerns, and even politics.
Interested teens will have the chance to share their thoughts on reading and literature with the Teen Website which aims to provide a virtual, communal spot for teens all over the country.
Teens Read, Too! is a joint effort of Adarna House, Filipinas Heritage Library, National Book Development Board, Fudge Magazine, Powerbooks, and Junior Bright. All six proponents believe that teenagers who don’t read simply haven’t discovered the refreshing world of insight that lies beyond the shelves of their school textbooks.
Honestly, I expect people will answer something like The Little Prince. But then again, The Little Prince isn't renowned for its thickness and density but rather the beauty of its simplicity and charm.
So, what nonfiction titles (aside from text books) have you read lately? And why is it that when we try to promote reading, most of us have this idea that it's supposed to be works of fiction?
Personally, my nonfiction reading habits tend to lean towards business and self-help books. Any recommended readings?
When it comes to 90's CGI shows, it's either you love 'em or hate 'em. I was more of the latter, although I made an exception to ReBoot. Anyway, Rainmaker Animation will be developing a trilogy of feature films on ReBoot. Hopefully, it won't suck.
Time has this brief article on The House of Elsehwhere:
In 1976, French sci-fi buff Pierre Versin donated his collection of tens of thousands of science-fiction books to the Swiss spa town of Yverdon-les-Bains, just north of Lausanne, on the condition that it be made available for public viewing. The result was the launch of Europe's only public science-fiction museum. Since then, the House of Elsewhere has held two or three temporary exhibits a year that explore such staples of the genre as space travel, parallel worlds and alien life forms.On a side note, bibliophiles should check out this web comic.
In certain ways, flagship stores are the capital of their respective bookstores. They should be the best of all their shops and stock the most books. In the case of Fully Booked and A Different Bookstore, their flagship store should be where their target market is, and it's evidently in out-of-the-way, metropolitan Serendra. Of courses not so long ago, Powerbooks's flagship store, with three floors and an in-house cafe, was located in PB Arnaiz, Makati (close to the Fort but not so out-of-the-way). Powerbook's flagship store is now gone though and I don't know which of its branches has taken the mantle. But the location of all three bookstores would seem to suggest that those who purchase brand-new books are the AB class.
Of course National Bookstore's flagship shop is all the way in Cubao and a sharp contrast to the other flagship bookstore branches with couches and lounges. Rather than luxurious, it's more utilitarian with endless shelves of books, some looking spanking new, others that could pass for secondhand books. Yet National Bookstore's flagship store has weathered through the decades and is perhaps the symbol of the bookstore chain's dominance. It might not look luxurious or brand-new but it's certainly serviceable and apparently thriving.
As a bibliophile, that's what I want to ask readers. What do you expect from a flagship bookstore? Does it need to have a cafe? Comfortable couches? Or will National Bookstore's utilitarian appeal be enough for you--it might not have the best ambiance but it certainly delivers in terms of goods and prices.
Of course I'd like to clarify that the mainstream comic companies distribute through Diamond, so most of what they release do sell-out whether the market buys all of them or not. Second-printings are the exception and I expect that Diamond must have exhausted their comic stocks for a specific title to warrant a second printing.
I think an important part of comic sales is the fact that they're reaching more audiences nowadays, especially since they're making appearances in bookstores. The one qualifier, however, is that the comics must be compiled, usually in the graphic novel format (and for similar reasons, manga titles sell quite well and popular in bookstores). Locally, the same is true. Independent comics find it difficult to land in bookstores but those that are compiled in trades (Zsa Zsa Zatturnah, After Eden, Andong Agimat) do manage to make it to comic book shelves, assuming the publisher makes the effort to distribute them there and willing to shoulder the (expensive) consignment fees. Fully Booked is an exception as they do stock comic singles but I see that as a reflection of the business owner (he's a comic fan) rather than standard bookstore business policies.
While some people in the comic community might shy away from the term "graphic novel" (it's still a comic anyway, no matter what term you use), I think this marketing tactic has paid off and graphic novels are slowly being more accepted as "books" in various industries. I even find it interesting when comics do make it into books, such as one of the stories in China Mieville's collection of short stories, Looking for Jake and Other Stories which is a full-blown comic.
The answer is simple. Consumers aren't necessarily aware of this but for each credit card transaction, the credit card company charges the retailer. This is called the Interchange Fee and ranges anywhere from 2% to 3% usually. That's why bookstores, when on sale, give varying discounts depending on whether you're paying cash or via credit card. A typical scenario is that they're giving you 10% discount when you're paying with the former and 5% discount for the latter.
Some consumers might complain that retailers should already factor that charging fee in their retail price and they do--that's why this extra expense only applies to sales and discounts. The store is already giving you discounts, they shouldn't lose more money. Better an option to pay via cash and get more discounts rather than make it a flat-out 5% discount fee irregardless of whether you're paying via cash or credit card. It might seem retailers are the villains when pricing such discounts but they're not.
On a side note, how do you pay for your book purchases?
SATURDAY, JULY 28
- 10:30 -11:30AM -- Into the Fire Nation: Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 3 Sneak Peek – A first look at what's to come in the third season, including clips from new episodes. Creator Bryan Konietzko, director Joaquim Dos Santos, Head Writer Aaron Ehasz (Futurama) and a voice artist Dee Baker (The Fairly OddParents), who voices Appa and Momo. Moderated by Eric Coleman, Vice President/Executive Producer, Animation Production and Development. Room 6A
To answer the first question, I stopped dropping by bookstores every single day. Why? Because the books on shelf won't change. In fact, the variety will decrease as people pick up books, misplace them, or simply outright buy them. The question you should be asking is when should you visit your favorite bookstore. And the answer is the day after they ship their new stocks. It makes sense, right? But the answer to that question isn't obvious as most bookstores don't advertise. A Different Bookstore, for example, states in their book ordering information that their shipments arrives twice a month, on the 15th and the 30th (the same day as payday!). For the other bookstores, you're left in the dark. Well, here's some facts I discovered after stalking the bookstores (of course I can't guarantee this is 100% true but this is what I've observed):
Bookstores that ship twice every month:
- Fully Booked
- A Different Bookstore
- Booktopia (transitioning from twice-a-month schedule, or so I heard from Banzai Cat)
- National Bookstore
I'd also want to clarify that the day a bookstore's stocks arrive to their warehouse isn't the day that the books are stocked on shelf. If A Different Bookstore gets its new stocks on the 15th, you can expect it on their shelves on the 16th or 17th for example. From what I've observed at Fully Booked, back when the flagship store was in Rockwell (it's now the one in Serendra), new books would arrive on the weekend (a Saturday afternoon visit is good). Nonetheless, knowing when books ship is useful to know (so ask the bookstores when they expect their next shipment to arrive... the smaller bookstores are open about it while the bigger bookstore chains usually cryptically answer whether it's soon or not-so-soon.
Knowing the shipment of books helps you make an informed decision on the second part of the question. You don't need to order books via Amazon.com. Most bookstores accept book orders. So why funnel your income towards a big, online conglomerate when your money can instead go to local bookstores that provide you with the same services? Here's a quick summary Amazon's shipping rates to the Philippines, assuming we take the cheapest service:
- Amazon is charging $6.99 for any book shipment. That means whether we're getting one book or a dozen, there's the flat $6.99 fee to pay. It's a good thing to do bulk orders in this case, because the cost is more spread out among the various titles. If you're just ordering one book, an initial fee of $6.99 is easily the cost of the paperback book itself.
- Amazon is charging $4.99 for each item in the shipment. That means in addition to the $6.99 shipping charge, there's an additional $4.99 for each item. Buying in bulk doesn't help as this cost applies to each and every item. So the next time you think you're getting a book "cheap" at Amazon, remember to add $4.99 to the cost.
- 11 to 40 business days. Keep in mind, they're counting by business days. That usually excludes holidays and weekends.
I've talked enough about Amazon, let's talk about the local bookstores and why you should order from them. They may not be able to give you the huge discounts but at least shipping won't be such a huge burden on you as it's factored in to their daily shipment of books. I discussed in a previous blog entry about the various conversion rate of various bookstores. You can end up as cheaply as paying P40.00 against the dollar depending on which bookstore you shop. Those big discounts don't apply to ordered books. You'll most likely be paying more against the dollar, around P60.00 = $1.00 back when the local exchange rate was P55.00 = $1.00. And depending on which bookstore you shop, your discount card might not apply. Nonetheless, that's a great deal when you're ordering paperback books. Even assuming that it's costing you P60.00 = $1.00, Fahrenheit 451 will cost you roughly P420.00 (again, half the price it would have cost you to order from Amazon).
The second question when ordering from bookstores is how long it takes before they actually acquire the book. In Powerbooks, it took them anywhere from one to two months (personal experience, although their website has a new delivery date). A Different Bookstore gives me a better timetable, two weeks was the fastest (a fluke!) while four weeks is the norm. The key here is to place your order just after their shipment arrives. If you place your order in between shipments, the book order might only be processed once their next shipment arrives (or rather they might order it but it won't be in time for the next shipment). That means a longer wait for you.
The third question is availability. Thankfully, most bookstores can order whatever titles that Amazon can carry, barring used books. I'll give a summary of the various bookstores and their book ordering services:
Delivery Time: 3 - 5 weeks.
Selection: Books available at Amazon
Downpayment: 50% of the cost of the book
More Info: Powerbooks and National Bookstore
A Different Bookstore
Delivery Time: 2 - 8 weeks
Selection: Books available at Amazon
Downpayment: full downpayment of the cost of the book, and refund/change/additional charges on the books when they finally arrive, depending on the current exchange rate.
Delivery Time: 2 - 8 weeks.
Selection: No limit, but no guarantees on hard-to-find books. Also searches secondhand bookstore market. (They buy used books so if you don't mind secondhand books, especially for rare titles, they can try to acquire it.)
Downpayment: 50% of the cost of the book
Discount: If you ask nicely
More Info: Booktopia
Delivery Time: Unknown (but I assume anywhere from 2 - 8 weeks)
Selection: Books available at Amazon
Downpayment: Just ask nicely and they'll try to get the book.
Selection: Books available at Amazon (their stocks would suggest they can acquire European books and I tried ordering one but they never got back to me)
This is all based on my experiences two years ago so any information presented may not be as accurate as I want it to be. If you want to add a bookstore or update any information, feel free to comment with the appropriate corrections and I'll edit the post.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
For example, when we die and go to heaven, we're reborn as angels. And what exactly is it that angels do? Sing all day and praise God? Well, I have no plans of being a singer (I don't even enjoy karaoke!) so you know, eternity as a holy angel isn't for me (there's a reason why churches have choirs, and why cherubims singing is a symbol). It even gets more interesting when Jesus is asked by Sadducees who gets to be the wife of whom when the wife's husband dies and the deceased's siblings assume their duty of being the new husband of the wife (ad nauseam six more times). The reply? They're all angels? Does that mean no more sex in heaven? (I can hear the shrivel cry of males in the world.)
Similarly, hell isn't the dystopia it's cut out to be. Flaming hot? No problem, just send in the pyromaniac. Torture? Isn't that pleasure for the masochists?
Anyway, over the years, there's been a couple of literacy ads. My only qualm with most of those ads is that they're a bit stale. You know, always having a child in the background or mentioning about reading helping our kids. These days, I think we need something more upbeat. And please, no more children! Reading isn't just for kids and besides, even adults benefit from getting
So what's the Read-A-Book Meme about? Develop a catchphrase and a description of the accompanying image for the would-be ad.
Here are a couple of examples:
Early for a meeting? Read a book.
There's a huge conference room and all but the final seat is vacant. A man in a power suit is seated there with his hands on the table and his fingers touching each other (think of it as Mr. Burns' evil gesture).
Still waiting in line? Read a book.
People are waiting in line, most likely a campus registrar. The line is oriented vertically and at the bottom is the model facing the reader with a bored expression.
Waiting for a download to finish? Read a book.
If I had a peg for these ads, it'd be more like the following ads for Dungeons & Dragons, including the expressive faces of the models:
At least you'll know when the hot elf chick is a dude.
Your mighty band of heroes will never be defeated by a server crash.
So come up with your own ad ideas and tagline! And spread the word and hopefully you can comment here so I'll compile the results by next week. I'm counting on all three of you. =)
Taking a page from Problogger, now seems as good a time as any to write my About Me (beyond that I'm a bibliophile and a stalker).
Charles Tan's fiction has appeared in publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories and Philippine Speculative Fiction. He has contributed nonfiction to websites such as The Nebula Awards (http://nebulaawards.com/), The Shirley Jackson Awards (http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/), SF Crowsnest (http://www.sfcrowsnest.com/), SFScope (http://sfscope.com/), Fantasy Magazine (http://www.darkfantasy.org/fantasy/), Fantasy Literature (http://www.fantasyliterature.com/), BSC Review (http://www.bscreview.com/), The World SF News Blog (http://worldsf.wordpress.com/), and SF Signal (http://www.sfsignal.com). In 2009, he won the Last Drink Bird Head Award (http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/2009/10/04/the-first-annual-last-drink-bird-head-award-finalists/) for International Activism which is described as "In recognition of those who work to bring writers from other literary traditions and countries to the attention of readers in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia…" He is also a 2011 World Fantasy nominee for the Special Award, Non-Professional category. You can visit his blog, Bibliophile Stalker (http://charles-tan.blogspot.com/), the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler (http://philippinespeculativefiction.com/), or Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009 (http://bestphilippinesf.com/).
For my bibliography, you can check here.
You can email me at charlesatan [at] gmail [dot] com.
Those interested in my metrics can look at my tracker, my livejournal profile page, and my feed subscribers (right-hand side of this blog).
The following people have interviewed me at their corresponding websites:
- KS Augustin
- Matt Staggs
- Filipinas Magazine: Literature of the Fantastic
- Anna Tambour
- Rubber Dinosaur Podcast
- Redstone Science Fiction
- Erin Underwood
Wait, isn't writing and ideas part of the same package? Yes, they are. And I think the best writers are those who excel in both. But I think there's also room to differentiate between the two, so to speak. I believe there are good writers out there who excel in one of the two and put up a "good enough" talent in the other.
For example, I associate good writing with eloquence and charisma. You might not be saying anything new but you write it in such a way that readers simply fall in love with you, that's good writing per se. People might describe you as "reading poetry from prose" or "flowery words" or something similar. In Philosophy, we say that everyone philosophizes, it's just that not everyone is able to elucidate their thoughts or describe what they think or feel clearly. This ability to translate and make it understandable to other people, I call this good writing.
Then there's ideas. Ideas aren't limited to sci-fi novels or short stories. They can be something as seemingly simple as "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" to "All I Really Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten". It's our epiphanies, our challenges to the status quo, our thoughts on some matter. What attracts people to your writing so to speak isn't necessarily your technical skill in writing but in your opinions and point of view. It's the idea.
Don't get me wrong--you need both to come up with something readable. An idea without good writing isn't a story, it's just an idea. Similarly, good writing without an idea is just a couple of beautiful phrases. It might pass for poetry but it lacks a central "core". So you need both.
Some people, however, aren't those great writers who gets A's in both fields. One might have an A+ in writing and just a B in ideas. Personally, I think I'm more of an idea guy rather than a writing guy (and some would say that's where most of my stories lead to--the central idea rather than the characters or the story). Which is what I'm wondering when my friend praised me: does she love me for my writing or for my ideas?
To me, I think that's the relevant question. Not necessarily where you reading more or reading less compared to x amount of years, but whether you were reading more or reading less compared to when you were still in school.
Personally, I was reading less books. Did I have more time back then? Subjectively, yes (reading is about setting time for it after all). But then again, I was less interested in them. As children, we might have more time to read books but for me, it's only as an adult did I begin to appreciate books. And while I could spend most of my life reading children's books, lacking certain life experiences (be it romance, war, politics, higher sciences/math, etc.) also limits my understanding of several topics that a book or novel might tackle.
I've also said it a lot of times before, I'm a late bloomer. While I was reading some books in grade school, I wasn't reading a lot of them. I started building my library in high school (1996) and look, it's eleven years later and I have hundreds of books at home! (Sadly, I haven't read all of them.)
So, what are your experiences?
I think people tend to bend a lot although it's not obvious until you pay close attention. I was brushing my teeth and that's me leaning forward too much. So the other day I try squatting while brushing my teeth. It's difficult but I'm getting some squats in. The same goes for taking a bath because the shower is broken and I bathe using a pail.
In line with that, there's what I first heard from Dean as "magic bullets". Every person has a finite number of magic bullets that enable them to come up with great ideas/concepts/stories/inventions/etc. (If you're fan of the Supernatural TV series, think of it as every person is armed with The Colt.) Once we exhaust those supply of magic bullets, everything we come up with is shit. The thing is, every person's supply of magic bullets is different from the other person (some are blessed more, others less) and more importantly, we don't know how many we've got. Assuming you subscribe to this theory, that means whenever you come up with a masterpiece, that masterpieces counts against the total masterpieces in your lifetime.
It's an interesting theory albeit one I personally consider as outdated as the brain-container model yet it resonates with a lot of people's fears. For example, when we come up with a great business idea or this one terrific story, we try our best to protect it and immediately cry fowl when someone tries to "steal" our ideas (i.e. "The Matrix was our idea"). I think in many ways, we cause such a furor because whenever we come up with such masterpieces, we feel that we've just won the Lotto and that the chances of producing another similar work is nil. (Of course the other reason why you should press charges is because of the principle, that somebody stole something from you, especially if you're confident you'll come up with more masterworks in the future... you can't just let everyone who passes by steal your ideas.) In college, it's much like coming up with a good topic for your thesis. There's certainly a lot of topics that can be covered with any given subject but we feel that there's only a few good topics that we can come up with and reasonably write about.
The theory also resonates with the idea of inequality. Following this theory, people like Da Vinci or Thomas Edison had lots of magic bullets. Other inventors, not so much. And while I think most people hope for a world where the playing field is equal (which is why people have a love-hate relationship with monopolies, love them if you're the one holding the monopoly, otherwise hate it the rest of the time), a part of them also recognizes that the world is unequal (and conclude that because of that, the world is unfair). This is where the hoarding mentality comes in and why some people buy ideas from other people as they would commodities. Personally, as a writer, it also strikes a chord in me. I wonder that with every story idea I come up with, that's one less concept I can use so I'd better make good use of it (of course the fact of the matter is, stories aren't just ideas--execution and actual writing makes the story a winner or not). And in many ways, that extends to blogging. Every blog entry I write today is one entry I won't be writing tomorrow. Thankfully I don't believe in the theory so I simply overwhelm you with entries (honestly, if the magic bullet theory was true for me, I'd have stopped blogging several weeks ago...two hundred entries in two months is too much for most people I think).
Third is that it resonates with our fear of death. With death, we don't know when it'll happen. Sometimes we have an inkling of the end but seldom a specific time and day (unless you hired the hit-man yourself). The same goes with magic bullets--not only do we not know how many we've got, we also don't know when it'll run out. We certainly don't want to wake up on the day that the well has finally dried, so to speak. It's also compounded by the death factor. One of people's so-called regret is not doing everything they could have done before they die. Assuming you're born with lots of magic bullets, isn't it a waste if your die prematurely before exhausting them? I expect on a subconscious level, some people fear that.
Of course at the end of the day, I don't believe in the magic bullet theory. In many ways, living such a life can limit us. Instead of giving 100% into your work every single day, you're tempted to hold back a little just so you don't exhaust your supply of magic bullets (or worse, spend your magic bullets for someone else's benefit). But I think what we should remember that as humans, we create, we invent--we make new magic bullets. That's why we're gifted with intelligence and creativity, so we can use them. Being a writer or an inventor isn't about any one product, it's about our ability to consistently create new material (whether it's a piece of fiction or an actual invention). We might never hit it big but that doesn't mean our contributions to society isn't any less meaningful. Go create your own new magic bullets. It's been my experience that the more you create, the more refined those future magic bullets become.