Daily Archives: May 22, 2003

Café Press

My friend Charles Keagle, who is an artist and animator, dropped me a note today about his site, fluffballs.com, devoted to the cute, cottony little creatures he’s been drawing since we were in high school. Charles, full of the gumption that Makes America Great, has started his own line of fluffball clothing, designed to swaddle you and/or a small child you know in fluffball softness, all the better to help him segue into a lucrative Nickelodeon series. Or something like that. To which one has to say: Go Charles! Ride those fluffballs to unfathomable riches. And remember I want a cut.

Charles is able to start his own line of clothing not because he’s filthy stinkin’ rich but because he’s got one of those Café Press shops; the idea here is that Café Press supplies the t-shirts (and fleece sweaters, and baby bibs, and coffee mugs, and so on), and all Charles or anyone has to do is supply some artwork. When someone orders a shirt, or whatever, they screen it on and ship it out, and Charles gets his cut. There’s little or no cost for Charles. And of course, no sooner than Charles mentions his shop, than I note other people I know with their own little Café Press shops: My pal Joe Rybicki is flogging hats and t-shirts with his band on them, for example. And it also occurs to me that the coffee mug I bought last week was also a Café Press product. These guys are everywhere.

I realize I’m coming late to the Café Press party, since every second blogger has his or her own Café Press shop, but now that I have, I’m thinking it’s not a bad idea at all — another example of someone actually using the Web to do something it would have been impractical to do before. Café Press items are a touch more expensive, but I guess popping out stuff in runs of one isn’t as cost-effective as it could be. But I now have a cool inflammatory mug I wouldn’t have had before, and Charles can sell his fluffballs. So there you have it.

Will I start making t-shirts and trinkets? You never know.

Vanity, Vanity

Teresa Nielsen Hayden and a couple of published writers are going to town on a PC Magazine article on print-on-demand vanity presses here; their basic point is that these things are mostly a pretty good way to separate money from a desperate wanna-be writer and that’s about it (Teresa also talks about it on her own site). They are assailed for their position by a number of people, including staff members from those self-same POD vanity presses and a bunch of would-be writers. I find it amusing that people who have never been published are somewhat snittily implying Teresa and the others, who have a number of decades publishing experience between them, have no idea what they’re talking about. This is one those “hope spring eternal” sort of situations on the part of the would-be writers.

I don’t personally have an issue with vanity publishing, online or otherwise — I mean, I do it — but I think the main point, and the point Teresa and the others are making, is that putting out your own book is not the same as having it professionally published. As I continually note, Agent has brought in a nice tidy sum for being published online (and for relying on people’s good will to pay), but it is a mere fraction of what I’ve made in advances for the books published by professional publishers. Agent pays for pizza now and then. My actual books contribute significantly to my mortgage.

The reasons for this are pretty simple; aside from issues and questions about stuff that is self-published being any good (which I’ve covered before), there’s the reason that Agent just sits on my Web site and waits for people to come by. I’ve only advertised it once, on Penny Arcade, and while that did pretty well for me (“pretty well” meaning I made more because I advertised than it cost to pay for the ad), I don’t have the time, inclination or cash to advertise it over and over. When my pro books come out, on the other hand, entire marketing departments are on hand to sell the things. That’s their job, and I’m glad it’s them and not me, because clearly I’d do a bad job of it. The reason I write is because I don’t like to work, you know.

Having said that, I do think there’s a place for vanity publishing, even for those of us fortunate enough to be published professionally. For example, I am giving considerable thought to putting together a collection of Whatever columns and some selected non-Whatever material as well. This collection would be, shall we say, of specialized interest and really unlikely to be of interest to anyone but myself, a few friends, and regular readers of this site. Therefore, it’s not at all a good candidate for professional publication. That being the case, no harm and no foul in having it whipped up as a POD vanity thing.

The difference here is that I have no illusions what I’ll be doing, or what vanity publication represents. That’s the point Teresa’s trying to make, I think, and what most vanity publishers would just as rather have would-be writers not notice.

Spooky Eye and Etc.

One of the things I learned about myself after moving here to Ohio is that if you put me on a lawn tractor for about an hour, and I am mowing the lawn all the while, for about 20 minutes afterwards I will do nothing but sneeze. Another thing I learned is that if you sneeze for about 20 minutes, the blood vessels in your eyes pop and you end up looking like Evander Holyfield has been using you as his punch monkey. Yet another thing I learned is that you can have fun with a bloodshot eye if you have a digital camera and the willingness to make yourself look like the proverbial Creepy Dude Down the Block Parents Tell Their Kids to Stay Away From. Thus the collage to the right. Note to parents: I’m not really this creepy. Of course, isn’t that just what a creepy guy would say.

I was particularly enamored of the picture that had me looking up at the camera, bloodshot eye glowering angrily — it’s like the perfect album cover pose for angry goth rocker, provided it is suitably artied up, as I have done here. Should I ever have my sense of personal equanimity surgically removed and replaced with a desire to write lyrics about writhing in glorious pain while demons feast on my roasting flesh, this is picture I’m going to use. It’s so Clockwork Orange-y! All the young droogs will be lining up for it, I’m sure.

Photoshop fun aside, the whole bloodshot eye incident was a great big bag of no fun, since 20 minutes of sneezing also gives you strained muscles, constant tearing and the general feeling that with the next violent spasm, your head will detach at the neck and fling itself violently into the wall. It also makes your kid come up, give you a hug and tell you she’s sorry you are dying. Well, I’m sorry, too.

Speaking of the kid, I mentioned the other day that she was learning her way around Photoshop; here’s the photodocumentation. I should note that at this point, her facility with Photoshop is largely constrained to coloring and a few simple editing tricks like fiddling with the brightness and contrast and changing hues and color balance. But on the other hand, when I was four, I was busy eating crayons, so I hope you don’t mind if I’m just a little impressed with the kid for getting this far.

Mmmm… crayons.