The end of the year brings a flood of lists purporting to sum up the the year we’re leaving or to make bold predictions about the year to come. Far too many of them predict exponential growth of something. I understand that, to most people, “exponential growth” is really just an expression which loosely translates to “really freaking fast”, but come on. It’s math.

Being cavalier with math never pays off in the long run.

So, I have produced a handy guide to growth rate taxonomy.

Linear Growth

Linear Growth

Linear growth occurs at a constant interval. If it went up by one over the last period, it will go up by one over the next period. If it went up by 1,000,000 last time, it’ll go up by 1,000,000 next time. The size of the steps is constant.

Here, the blue line grows at a rate of +1, the red line at a rate of +5. Both are linear. They will each always increase by +1 and +5 per step.

Geometric Growth

Cubic GrowthIn geometric growth, size of the steps increases by a constant multiple. So in linear growth, the same number was added with each step. In geometric growth, the same number is multiplied with each step.

Here, the blue line is our linear +5. The red line is *2 (doubling with every step).

Exponential Growth

In exponential growth, the steps increase by a constant exponent. So the rate of growth increases with each step. In geometric growth, we multiplied by 2. In exponential growth, we raise to a power of 2 (or whatever), so we multiply by an ever increasing amount.

Here, the blue line is geometric growth of *10, the red line is exponential growth of *2. You might notice that the scale on this one only goes out five steps, instead of the ten the other graphs covered. That’s because exponential growth increases so quickly in the “out years” that everything else looked flat.

Like this.

Say what you want. I’m all for colorful language. I’ll grind my teeth and smile when I hear it.

But you’re not talking about exponential growth.

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Google Bookstore – Now With Engineering

by Rich on November 1, 2011

Google’s launched its online bookstore. It’s a storefront inside Google Books, so much of it should be familiar to the three people who use Google Books.

Steve Jobs Details from Google BooksThe bookstore is clearly commercial, with new titles and prices which look roughly comparable to Amazon’s for electronic editions. What struck me was what Google included in the ebook descriptions (this taken from their listing for Steve Jobs). I’m glad to no what devices can handle their ebook file, but the explicit disclaiming of scanned pages is something new to me.

It’s a really nice piece of information. Too many ebooks are scanned from print and read terribly because of it. Print books are fallible on their own, and scanning/OCR inevitably introduces errors.

This is a nice mark of quality for the product from Google, presented in a way that someone who knows how ebooks work will understand. I have no idea if mainline ebook consumers will get the significance of non-scanned pages. My hunch is that it’s a key details which most people will miss. Had Google described it as “Clean copy” or “Print Quality” or something, it likely would have been more helpful and successful for them.

It’s a microcosm of what makes Google wonderful and sad at the same time.

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Apple Made Siri for Minnesotans

by Rich on October 26, 2011

I own many pairs of gloves. With so many weeks of winter, most Minnesotans do. Only one of them allows me to use my iPhone. It’s a really nice pair with a conductive thread pad at the fingertip lets me do basic things when it’s cold: answer a call, start a playlist, launch an app. It’s not fine enough to type, but it beats freezing.

It hit me today, though. Siri was built for me.

Gloves don’t prevent me from hitting the home button. Without the touch gloves, it never mattered. I couldn’t work the unlock slider. (OK, I could work it with my nose, but it looks goofy.)

With Siri, though, I hit the button, I raise the phone, and I’m on fire.

“When’s my next meeting?”

“Where’s the nearest Panera?”

“How much does a ferret weigh?”

All winter long. It’s better than a car with heated seats.

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Pick Three Words from my Hat

by Rich on September 16, 2011

I tackle another Chuck Wendig challenge: The Numbers Game. My entry is Final Round. Enjoy.

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Amazon Goes Netflix on Books

by Rich on September 12, 2011

It looks like Amazon plans to launch a Netflix-like service for books.  Nobody has details about it yet, but it could shake up all of publishing.

The effect on indies is likely to be pretty complicated, with some significant benefits and some potentially serious hardships.

Will indie publishers be able to participate? Amazon appears to be working out expensive deals with large publishers to include their books in the program. Complicated and expensive deals don’t work on a small scale, so Amazon will need a simple one-size approach for indie. That may not be easy to define (or easy to define favorably) depending on Amazon’s revenue expectations.

If they can participate, indie publishers gain a significant benefit: No incremental cost to readers to try out their books. Your entire book becomes a sample, and the discovery-risk new readers face approaches zero. They risk their reading time, which they can stop giving bad books whenever they want. Potential for discovery and new readers goes way up.

Revenue and royalties, though, could get complicated. Sell a copy, receive royalties on a copy is a simple model. Sell a subscription and receive a portion of the monthly fee is much harder to do. This is where the one-size deal Amazon would have to offer indie pub is difficult. Big publishers need Amazon because Amazon sells so many books, but to launch a new service, Amazon needs big publishers more than indie. Traditional publishers will have a lot more negotiating weight at the start of this arrangement, and there’s no trade group to represent all of the independent authors at the table.

Without details, nobody can say how good or bad the service will be financially for indies. The thing to watch at this stage is who Amazon considers important stakeholders. The subscription pie will get divided. How big a slice Amazon gives indies will show how important Amazon thinks indie publishers are.

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Revenge of the Revenge Tales

by Rich on September 2, 2011

I threw a flash piece at Chuck Wendig’s 100 Words on the Subject of Revenge. You can see it here.

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The First Rule of Juggling

by Rich on August 12, 2011

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a great piece on making comparisons between writers, and Passive Guy highlights the important meat of it. At the core, writers are story tellers and they need to engage their audience. I learned this lesson through the rough and tumble world of juggling.

Early in my adult life, I had dreams of working full time as a juggler. It’s a harmless hobby, a great challenge, and (as I learned soon enough to prevent any life-altering disasters) a terrible way to try to make a living. What it lacks in marketability, though, it makes up in teaching you how to work with an audience. Nobody looks stupider than a juggler losing control to a bunch of hecklers.

At my first juggling convention, I learned an eye-popping lesson while in the audience at the big show. A great duo was on stage performing a passing routine. There tricks were solid, their patter hysterical. One of the jokes they unveiled that night has become juggling lore that persists twenty years later. They had the audience wrapped up. And then, without realizing it, they lost it.

One of them said, “Now this one is a real juggler’s trick.” It was a fiddly little move which was hard to throw correctly. It made his partner’s catch perilous.  The jugglers in the seats gasped at the sight. And the rest of the audience was lost.

They lost the crowd because the crowd couldn’t tell the trick was special.

Beautiful technique is good to have. If you can pull off amazing feats, they can be a killer ingredient to a show. But if you don’t put them in a package that touches your audience, you’re wasting your energy. Critics care about technique. Other professionals care about technique. Your audience? They want to have a great time.

A few successful jugglers (yes, there are successful jugglers out there, and no, I’m not one) are able to amaze a crowd with stunning technical work. When they do, though, it’s generally wrapped in some kind of gimmick that pulls the trick so far out of a recognizable context that the audience is forced to see the amazing technique. So even the flawless technicians know they have to put on a show to succeed.

Make something perfect and people will nod approvingly. Make it beautiful and they’ll smile. Make something that excites them, and it won’t matter if it’s flawed, they’ll come back to see it again.

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Self Publishing on Self Publishing

by Rich on July 20, 2011

David Gaughran has released his new book on self publishing, Let’s Get Digital. I’ve started through it, and it looks like David has produced a very worthwhile book for those pursuing or considering self publishing.

In addition to embracing self publishing, David has released the PDF under a Creative Commons license (Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives, 3.0, for you Creative Commons savvy folks out there). I think this is a very interesting approach, and is likely to turn out to be a smart move.

His book is now available on Amazon and Smashwords, with B&N and Kobo to follow shortly. David is also accepting donations through his site. I’ve donated. You should do so too.

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Cover Me

by Rich on July 13, 2011

All Indie Publishing has a great interview with Joel Friedlander on book cover design. Anything with Joel is a must read for indie publishers. In this interview, the point which punching the air shouting “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” was

If an author sees the design of their book as a personal expression of their values, or an indication of their creativity, they will run into trouble with a designer who is, in essence, attempting to create a consumer product package for the book. These two approaches just don’t blend well.

Joel perfectly captures the need to understand indie publishing as a business, not artistic expression, and the need to find the balance between developing and hiring expertise.

There’s no question writing is at least part art. When you decide to publish, though, you’re firmly in the business world. Your art may be the bulk of the product, but no one will get to it if they don’t get past the cover. Your cover isn’t your story, it’s the ad which helps sell your story.

How much of your writing time have you spent researching cover design? It took you a long time to learn to write a great book. Your cover may be smaller than your manuscript, but if you slap it together like spackle in your bathroom, you aren’t giving your art the launch it needs to reach your readers.

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Indie is a Startup: Zuck it up

by Rich on July 13, 2011

For someone starting a business, it’s possible to do it alone, but it’s easier with help. There are limits to what you know, limits to how much you can get done, and limits to where it’s valuable to spend your time.

Tech companies typically start with someone who knows how to make the product (i.e., Wozniak) and someone who knows how to sell it (i.e., Jobs).

In traditional publishing, the co-founder is similar to the agent or acquiring editor. You, the author, create the product, the others know how to sell it. They’re more than just a hired sales force because they sign on to the potential of what your book can be, and they succeed or fail based on your ability to bring it off together as a finished product.

In indie publishing, you’re out there alone. You don’t have someone to do the half of the work that you don’t want to do. You’re the creative department, the engineer, the suit, the artist, and the capitalist pig. You can (and probably should) hire some of that work out, but an employee is not a co-founder. You can always proceed without his say so, decide the book’s ready, or decide he’s full of it and hire a different editor, or artist, or, formatter.

Founders, as a team, are 100% responsible for success. When you have a co-founder, you share that load. Jobs and Wozniak got to share. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t. He may not have built Facebook by himself, but in a sense he did it alone, because he was the only one success depended on.

Independent success is challenging because it requires you to execute on your weaknesses as often as your strengths. You need to do the part of the job you love, and you need to do it very well. But you also need to be ruthless about requiring yourself to do the part of the job you hate. No one else will do it for you.


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