Member Rara Avis
Hey, ya'll were supposed to remind me of this after I get caught up on our other big projects! LOL
Okay, lest confusion run rampant (more so than usual, I mean), I'll try to briefly answer some of these questions. As I indicated before, virtually all of the publishing details have been worked out to my satisfaction (which still doesn't mean they're necessarily carved in stone), and it's the other very time-consuming details that have put the project on temporary hold. Once the web site and forums are running smoothly again with new updates, then I can devote some time to ironing out those problems. And knowing I have so many wonderful offers of help makes that seem a much less daunting task!
Rather than take all the questions in order, let's start with the hard one. My middle name isn't Phil, Sunshine, it's Alex. But those who've been around since the beginning, or even those who've spent a lot of time at the main site, will tell you I didn't start Passions to make money, nor have I ever really put a lot of effort into making money. Which is probably just as well because poetry isn't a real big market, either on the Internet or in real life. On the other hands, I am a businessman from way back and if the web site can produce enough income to at least cover its own costs, I'll certainly try to do that. Okay, it hasn't happened yet, and the new server makes it even tougher (Ceres, or more accurately the bandwidth she uses, costs more per month than my mortgage). The main site has been running banner ads for a few months, and that helps some. The new update of the main site will include a User Survey (and free poetry screen savers to entice visitors to participate), because we'll be able to charge more for those banner ads if we have some demographics (right now, we're making about .00075 cents per banner). And, yea, the new forums software is also going to include banner ads - and I'm hoping we get a lot more click-thrus here than we do on the main site.
So why do I do it? Tough question! And I'm not sure I have any real answer, not one that would make sense to everyone. Why do you do it? Why do you spend hours every day writing poetry and returning to Passions to share it with your friends? Hidden deeply within the bowels of Passions is a page I put up shortly after Passions started that, maybe, makes some attempt to explain my motivations. It's a year out of date, but you might find some small answers here.
Okay, let's talk about the book and some of the easier questions asked.
What makes the best the best? Who gets to contribute?
The genesis of the book idea came about before the forums were even a glint in anyone's eye, so obviously the original intent was to use poetry from the main site. And being very much a coward, I didn't want the criteria of "what makes the best the best" to be subjective. Fortunately, I have thousands and thousands of visitor votes that tell me, without any doubts, what the most popular poems are at Passions. PdV's poem, "Lover's Dance," is number one, and Michael has two of his in the top five, just as examples of what I mean. That doesn't mean that I like those poems (though I do), but rather that there are thousands of Internet visitors that have liked them enough to vote and write comments about them. Popularity isn't the only criteria, but it's the main one. (My own "When Best Friends Love" is popular, but much too long for the book).
Again, this was decided long before the forums and our family became a reality. It might change. But it might not need to change either. I'll give away a bit of a secret: one of the features of the new forum software is the ability to click and automatically submit your forum poetry to the main site. That's one of the reasons I'm struggling to get the main site updated even before we start running the new software.
What is everyone's individual expense?
Nada. Zip. Ziltch. I wouldn't and won't do the book unless I think it can pay for itself. In fact, I'll carry that a step farther: I won't do the book unless I'm convinced the poets can make money on the book. Most of the cost in printing is labor and setup, not paper and ink. That means the more copies that are printed, the lower the per-book cost. We need to be able to sell X copies of the books at a price of Y dollars to be able to break even. My goal has always been to keep X and Y as low as possible, especially on the first book. And, yea, when I say the "first" book I am definitely inferring there will be more than one. We have a lot of poets and a ton of great poetry. Quarterly would be easy, and monthly would not be out of the question.
Is there a copyright attached?
Yea - yours! All of the poems at Passions are copyrighted by the authors, not by Passions. The book will be no different. What we will have is perpetual publication rights, which simply means you can't force us to take the book of the market because your poem is in it. If you want to sell your poetry elsewhere, that's fine. If you want to print your own books, that's fine, too. In fact, I'll be more than happy to help you market it through Passions.
Or, do all dollars coming in on sales go into purchasing an even bigger server, one that will "take over the world?"
But, more seriously, the marketing is, uh, a bit convoluted. Remember that the goal is for the poets to make money and Passions not to lose money. One of the first problems that surfaced when this idea took hold was how to distribute royalties if it was successful. Again, I would not consider the book if it was going to be simple vanity publishing, with the poets getting nothing beyond seeing their names in print. To be honest, I don't think that does anyone any good. Being a "published author" is meaningless if you bought your way into publication. The only way it has validity is if, one, inclusion is based on merit, and two, the book is successful.
The whole concept of royalties, however, was a problem because I really don't want to become a full-time publisher. Royalties meant all sales and costs had to be meticulously tracked, profits divided between all the authors by some arcane system, hundreds of royalty checks cut every quarter and mailed, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Sorry, but life is too short for that!
So, I came up with the idea of cooperative marketing. Yes, Passions will market the book, both through the main site where we get thousands of visitors a day and through amazon.com (though our agreement with them is tentative, based on the quality of the book, I see no real problem with making it happen). If Passions can make any money from that (and amazon require a STEEP discount), the profit will go towards the next book - when perhaps sales don't quite cover costs.
But the bulk of the selling will be done by the authors. Being willing and able to sell the books is not a prerequisite for participation - but if too many authors are unwilling to help sell it, we're gonna fall on our face. Any author can buy copies of the book at printer's cost, then sell it for retail. Any author who can't sell the copies they purchase gets a guaranteed return, minus shipping (and if that happens too often, there simply won't be future books ). Depending on volume, the authors should be able to make between $5 to $10 per copy.
How do they sell the book? Some, I'm sure, will never go beyond friends and relatives. But I've come up with two other venues that perhaps offer a bit more opportunity. And, of course, a bit more work.
1. Every author will get their own web site at Passions (unless they already have one and prefer to use it). I'll set up the web site and the e-commerce solution to accept payments. What the author will do it take care of shipping. Perhaps most importantly, what the author will be selling is a personally autographed copy of the book. That's why I don't expect to sell a lot of the books at the main site. When one of our thousands of visitors is interested in purchasing the book, they'll have the opportunity to select the author they'd like to have sign the book and be directed to their web site.
2. I have a database of every newspaper and book store in the United States (those outside the US will have to provide me with those details). When the book is published, a press release will be sent to your home town newspaper. And trust me, having been in that business I can practically guarantee you that 99 percent of the newspapers will print it (even the largest papers love hometown news). The author's web site, of course, will be prominently mentioned. Following on the heels of that publicity, all the bookstores in your immediate and surrounding area will get an invitation to participate in a book signing. I intend to push this hard and hope the authors will help with follow-up. Again, even the large book chains love to have local celebrities. And as with the concept of the web sites, the whole key is personalization: a book signed by one of the authors is worth much more to the public than the book alone.
Okay, guys, I hope that answers some of your questions and give you something to ponder. You can see that I've given this more than a little thought and already done more than a bit of research. I think it's a workable idea, and more importantly, I think it's a worthwhile idea.
[This message has been edited by Ron (edited 10-24-1999).]