Posts Tagged ‘small business’

Kurt R.A. GiambastianiI heard back from Fairwood Press, yesterday. As publisher of Dreams of the Desert Wind (my genre-mashup of speculative fiction, thriller, and corporate espionage), I wanted to give them the “right of first refusal” on the new FC:V. The good news is that Fairwood is doing very well; the bad news is that their docket is filled for 2013, and they couldn’t entertain this title until 2014.

That’s too long a wait. So, I’m moving ahead; Beneath a Wounded Sky will be published by Mouse Road Press (i.e., me) as part of a full, five-book release of The Fallen Cloud Saga.

Which means that everything is now on my plate. Including cover art.

I have an advantage here. I don’t care if this project makes money. In fact, I assume it won’t. So, if I have covers that don’t tick all the boxes on the marketing strategy checklist, no worries. But I do want to have good-looking covers.

However, I do not want to have the standard-style, heavy-detail, photo-realistic cover of men and machines that you see on almost every alternate history title on the shelf. I want something different.

I’m thinking: minimalist.

There’s a new meme out there. Do a Google search on “minimalist movie poster” and you’ll see what I mean. These are evocative but very stylized images. Most of them play on a previous knowledge of the movie, but they needn’t. They’re eye-catching, they’re clean and easy to understand, and they tell a little story all on their own.

So, I’m reaching out to some of my friends who have graphic art experience, to get their input on the process. I already have concept art for each of the five covers. Three of them are pretty much final product, in fact (yes, I was working on this ahead of time, having predicted the Fairwood response).

These covers will be unusual, setting them apart from the standard cover art for the genre. They will have a uniform “look and feel” to them, identifying them as a set. And since I won’t have to use any stock photo images (bonus), they will also be completely free of royalty costs.

I’m not an artist—I’m saving that learning curve for my retirement—but I understand the basics of design. With some educated guidance, I hope I can come up with a set of covers that will do my series proud.


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Alas, despite my new diet, some memes are unavoidable. This new one, with POTUS supposedly dissing businesses, has come at me from all angles. News, Facebook, emails, workplace chitchat…this argument has been carried into my personal sphere by almost every vector available.

Whenever I am faced with a diatribe, I first like to look into the source a little more. Then I like to give it a little think.

By looking into the source, the first thing I found was that, true to form, the anti-POTUS rank has snipped and clipped the video like an Elizabethan coin. They’ve taken the 5 seconds they want, the 5-second sound-bite they could really give a good spin, and tossed the rest. POTUS says: If you have a business…you didn’t build that.

Well, first, that’s not the exact quote, and second, if you back the clip up by just 2-3 seconds, you see that he’s talking about something else. Watch the whole clip and see if you don’t agree. What POTUS is saying is that hey, all these roads and bridges, if you own a business, all that infrastructure? You didn’t build that. But, of course, that doesn’t take a right-hand spin as well, so it was dropped.

So, all the arguments you hear are not about something POTUS meant, but about a segment of the idea he was presenting. Typical.

Second, by listening to the arguments that were made and giving it all a think, it was clear that what all the furor boils down to is a difference in how we perceive the individual.

Some people see individuals as an island, a rock standing up against the world. For these folks, a person who starts a business is solely responsible for its success or failure. Devil take the man who says otherwise, and to Hell with him who tries to chisel away at the financial gains because they sure as hell don’t share in the financial ruin. For these folks, it’s about the money, and that’s an end to it. They put up the money, therefore they get all the glory or all the notoriety. The math is simple.

Others (like myself), see individuals as part of a larger whole, a member of a society. For me, a person who starts a business is the impetus, but shares responsibility for success and failure with employees, regulatory bodies, and whatever customer base the business targets. And there is a different calculus that separates financial gain/loss with social gain/loss. A good business builds both financial gain and social benefit, grows with the help of the relationships it makes, and succeeds or fails depending on the value it provides. The math is complex.

I used to work for a man who, at the beginning of the “mission statement” era, said to us, “Our mission, our purpose here, is to be in business next year. Our goal is to keep us all employed.” He understood that, despite being the man who had the idea, the man who put up the money, we were all part of a team, a team that included his employees and his customers. We were a small society, providing mutual benefit. He recognized that though his financial risk was higher, we all shared in it. Employees trusted that their paychecks would clear, that the benefits would come through when needed, and that the pension funds wouldn’t be raided. He, in turn, trusted in us to do a good job, to work hard, and to give him value for our exchange. We all worked for the combined benefit. For his entrepreneurship, and for his higher risk, he got more of the gains, and none of us begrudged him that gain.

His goal wasn’t to make a pile of money and bail out with a golden parachute. His goal wasn’t to build his portfolio, or do whatever it took to ensure the dividends his investors demanded, even if it meant stripping companies or firing his domestic workforce. His goal was, simply, to provide income for himself and his family, to provide employment for others, and to provide a marketable service for his customers.

He was not working for himself. He was the owner, but he was not working for himself. We were all working together.

He was my Mr. Fezziwig, and I haven’t seen his like since.

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Laphroaig Cask StrengthI hate being right, sometimes.

Last month, the Washington voters’ decision to put down the state-run liquor stores went into effect. Yesterday, we went to Costco—not the smartest move on the Friday before the Fourth of July, I’ll grant you—and I took the opportunity to cruise their “liquor aisle.” What I saw was sad, depressing, and infuriating. It was also totally predictable. I know this, because I predicted it.

First (and foremost, I’ll say), as a fan of single malt whisky, it was a desert. A massive aisle of liquor and only one single malt. A good one, as it turns out (Macallan), but it had been re-branded with the Costco Kirkland label and was $75/bottle. This told me that the days of going into my local liquor store, chatting with the staff, getting advice on varieties, and selecting from at least a dozen Islay single malts alone, were truly dead and buried. I was standing the Henry Ford version of Single Malt Hell: You can have any brand of whisky you want, as long as it’s ours. Our state-run liquor stores had variety in spades: 50 tequilas, 25 rums, and dozens of single malts from highland and low. Costco, Safeway, and their ilk carry perhaps 50 different types of liquor, period. Selection, and therefore choice, are gone.

As a fan of small businesses and keeping my local dollars in local hands, it was just another example of an abject failure by the voting public. Due to a particularly convoluted rhetoric, when we got rid of the small, neighborhood (state-run) liquor stores, we said that only big stores could sell liquor. As a result, there isn’t a small business in the state that can sell liquor. Only Costco, Safeway, and other giants with the requisite square footage are allowed to purvey liquor. (Ironically, those mega-stores dedicate less square footage to liquor than we originally had in the state-run stores.) So now, not only do my liquor dollars fail to fill state coffers, they often don’t even stay in the state, and they certainly don’t go to bolster small local business. And in smaller towns, you now may have to travel miles to find a store large enough. The law has some provisions for “specialty” stores, but I haven’t seen or heard of any yet.

Of course, the final part in this debacle is the state’s loss of revenue. We won’t know for a while if the taxes Costco and Safeway must now collect on liquor will offset the government’s loss, but I predict we’ll come up losing there, too, and remember that so far I’m 2 for 2. And though that bottle of vodka looks good at $29, it doesn’t look as good when you get to the checkout and find it also has $12 worth of taxes on it.

What was so bad about the government running our liquor stores?

  • We didn’t have choice? Balderdash; we certainly did, much more so than we do now.
  • We didn’t have competition? True, but competition also means prices will be as high as the market allows, which won’t necessarily be lower than it was. And, when you add up your total bill, your savings probably amount to a buck or two. I’d pay the extra to see my Laphroaig single malt back on the shelf!
  • The government shouldn’t be in the business of making money? Why the hell not? The public demands a lot from the government and as far as I’m concerned they can sell WA.GOV mousepads if it’ll help build a revenue stream to support essential services.

Overall, it’s a cock-up. We voted for it, and we got it, but it’s a cock-up.


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