Cites & Insights Revisited

It’s now roughly three weeks since “When an essay falls in the forest…,” two weeks since “Cites & Insights: Any point in updating?” and a little more than a week since publishing Cites & Insights 11:6 (June/July 2011), including the lead Bibs & Blather “Where do we go from here?

As far as I can tell, 528 people have clicked through to the first post, 357 to the second, and 460 have encountered the Bibs & Blather (370 issue downloads, 90 pageviews for the essay itself). I received four responses to the first, three to the second and one to the issue & essay. Of those eight responses, two seemed to be unaware that I even provide HTML versions of C&I essays and one was Steve Lawson’s “nothing you do is worth paying for” response. So, in my Candide/Pollyanna mood (my usual preference), and adding in at least five or six others who’ve made their support for C&I clear (Mark L., Fred G., Angel R. and others who purchased the disContent collection or contributed to C&I), I can use the 99:1 rule and say “there could be 1,000100 people who get something worthwhile out of C&I, but 99% of them won’t bother saying so.”

I count four people basically saying I’m doing good stuff–and, in some cases, that timeliness isn’t what they expect from C&I. Since timeliness has never been a regular part of C&I’s operating procedure, that’s fine–it mostly says that the latest Zeitgeist essay was a waste of my time.

But then there are those who feel that C&I should be nothing more than a blog–or that it’s always been a blog. The latter assertion is, to me, nonsensical. The former…

C&I as a series of blog posts

One of my possible outcomes was to shift C&I to a “web-first” model. Here’s what I mean by that:

  • I’d write essays using a new, more robust, web-oriented Word template, tweaked from the current web template to be a little more native-friendly. Referenced web items would be links, which they aren’t now.
  • Then I’d combine those essays into the print template, retaining links (to the extent that PDF supports live links).
  • I’d still publish the PDF and the HTML separates at the same time, but the text might differ (since I’d be doing final trims & copyediting on the PDF, not the HTML). So the PDF would be the canonical text–but the HTML would also be fully edited, but frequently longer and with a few different words.
  • I might do a separate additional Walt at Random post for each essay in an issue, in addition to the overall issue announcement. But those posts would provide the title, the same summary as in the issue announcement, and maybe the first two paragraphs of an essay–not the entire essay.

That’s clearly not turning C&I into a blog, that is, a series of blog posts.

Could I do the latter? Sure–and here’s what I think would happen:

  • I wouldn’t start a Cites & Insights blog. The posts would appear in Walt at Random. I’m not about to pay even more for domains; given that donations to date don’t even cover hosting & domain fees for C&I (and W.a.R.), it doesn’t make sense.
  • The current issue might be fully represented–but probably as 44 posts, not seven.
  • The previous issue? Wouldn’t happen at all–I just wouldn’t write essays that long and involving that much labor as blog posts, which I (and, I think, most readers) think of as far more ephemeral and less likely to keep gaining readers over the long haul than C&I issues & essays do. The April issue? “Writing about Reading” probably wouldn’t happen (it could be five posts, but it’s wildly improbable that I’d put in the effort to make the connections); the others might, but as fifteen little posts instead of three longer essays. March? Certainly no Five Years Later essay (and there goes February in its entirety) and I probably wouldn’t put in the effort for the T&QT either. Did I mention that February would certainly not have happened at all? January: Maybe…but as 42 little posts, and not including the Liblog Landscape chapter.
  • In other words: Given not only no revenue but no realistic chance of revenue, and the overwhelming likelihood that most posts would receive about the same readership as C&I essays do in their first week, not the 90% or more of readership that comes later, big essays with loads of synthesis & organization just would not happen. I’d save that energy for books (through regular publishers), paid articles (if any), or other stuff. I think that would be the only reasonable course of action.

Let’s put it this way: If C&I became a series of blog posts, period, you could pretty much assume that anything currently carrying the label “Perspective” (except Offtopic Perspectives–those already appear as blog posts, one disc at a time) would disappear. So would anything beginning “On” and (accidentally) not carrying the Perspective label. So would Making it Work, Copyright Currents (in both cases, except for the occasional possible little tidbit) and more.

Is that the future that would best serve C&I readers? I’d like to think otherwise. I’d like to think that the long pieces–the ones that involve organization, analysis, synthesis and commentary–really do add value. I’m 99.9% certain that those long pieces will not work as blog posts–they’re too long and won’t get the long-term readership.

Next steps

I’ve already decided on a breather--but if I’m going to try for a Kickstarter campaign, I’d need to make that decision soon, so that it could be complete before the next likely issue date for C&I (that is, mid-July).

Part of me, the realist beneath the Candide surface, suspects that a Kickstarter campaign is a waste of energy and will result in my being metaphorically Kickteethed–that is, that it will be lucky to yield even high three digits of commitment. And that might be discouraging enough to make me give up entirely.


So I’m thinking about that. [See update at end of post] A modest sponsorship would save the day. A few more donations wouldn’t hurt.

[Paragraph removed here because it was stupid and hurtful. That happens at times, and I apologize.]


Meanwhile, it’s back to work on my next book–which meets all three of my standing criteria for big projects and the new, crucial, fourth criterion:

  1. The project has to be one I’m interested in.
  2. It has to be something where I’m certain I can add real value.
  3. It has to be something I believe will serve (or at least entertain) hundreds or thousands within the library field.
  4. A library publisher with whom I’d like to work has to agree with me, and demonstrate a commitment to the book through an advance.

Not including my recent, mostly-failed, experiments in self-publishing (I regard Balanced Libraries as a modest success, but even that might have reached five to ten times as many people via ALA Editions or Information Today, Inc.), I published seven books in the 1980s, six in the 1990s and one in the 2000s. I’ve already matched the record for the 2000s, with two more books under contract. Will I have six books (through real publishers) in the 2010s? Dunno, but I’ll certainly make it halfway there…and, in every case, I’m certain it will be a project I’m interested, something where I add real value, and something that will serve hundreds or thousands within the library field. Heck, the current project should serve tens or hundreds of thousands within library communities–but that’s another story.

Update, May 21, 2011:

After spending some extended time looking at Kickstarter, publishing-related projects, the kinds of rewards that appear to work, etc., etc.:

I’ve abandoned the idea of a Kickstarter campaign. Whatever it is, Cites & Insights is neither literary nor a zine nor handcrafted (in the sense it would need to be). The fit with the kind of publishing projects that seem to do well in Kickstarter is very poor.

Additionally, since I’m not an artist or in a position to offer special handcrafted rewards, the rewards I’d need to offer for a Kickstarter campaign to make any sense would wind up taking a substantial portion of any pledges. That assumes that there would be a significant number of pledges–that there’s a community out there I’m not aware of that’s eager to fund Cites & Insights if I just did the right little video explaining it all (did I mention that I’m not a videographer?)

So that’s off the table. Everything else is still on the table. Comments still welcome.

7 Responses to “Cites & Insights Revisited”

  1. Steve Lawson says:

    I’m sorry my previous comments have hurt your feelings. I respect you as a person and I respect your work. You have asked over and over again to comment on your publishing options and I have tried to tell you honestly what I think–thoughts that you have caricatured in this post.

    I’d ask you to ignore everything I have said on the matter except this: please do what you love, and what you feel is its own reward. Stop asking other people what you should do. Do what you want to do.

  2. walt says:

    Steve: You’re right. I was absolutely wrong to include the now-deleted and oversimplified comment. I’ve deleted it. My apologies.

    The problem with doing what I want to do as a universal rule is that there are lots of things I might want to do; there needs to be some balance between those possibilities and what makes some sense…serves some purpose, yields some reward (financial or otherwise), etc., etc. Thus, the fourth criterion for booklength projects.

    If C&I is no longer adding enough value to the field, then it’s no longer worth spending my time on. If doing a web-first (but not blog-post) version would add significant value to the field, it might be worth the (slight) extra effort. That’s the kind of thing I’m trying to feel out, apparently not very well. Which, in turn, suggests that I may be losing my touch as a writer & thinker, at least as regards C&I. (“Hell,” the small interior voice says, “you’re closing in on 66 years old. Why qualify the ‘losing your touch’ comment?”)

    This one’s tough. Frankly, if even one LIS instructor told me that they’d used Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” and found it of significant value to their class, that would help: that’s the kind of non-financial reward that keeps things going. (Hell, if even one of the “every library must/should blog” folks had recognized the existence of the Public Library and Academic Library blog books, much less said they were beneficial, that would count for something.)

    Again, sorry for taking some of my frustrations out on you. You deserve better.

  3. Steve Lawson says:

    It’s OK, though I do appreciate the apology. I know you and I rub each other the wrong way sometimes. No more advice from me, but please know that I wish you success.

  4. Walt, as I think you know, I do greatly value your writing and insights. (And that is why I really like the title!)

    I also believe that you are correct when you say this “I can use the 99:1 rule and say ‘there could be 1,000 people who get something worthwhile out of C&I, but 99% of them won’t bother saying so.'”

    I have not been blogging as much lately for a whole raft of reasons. At the same time I am constantly surprised at what people will say to me about what I have written…even though I rarely get comments on my blog posts.

    I hope you continue to produce the thoughtful writing which typifies C&I.

  5. walt says:

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the comment. And now I see that I did in fact say “1,000 people” when I meant “100 people”–I’m numerate enough to know that 99% and 99.9% are two different things. I believe a typical C&I issue has at least 800 readers over the first few months; while I could make the case that 124 articles have been viewed more than 8,000 times (if you add issue downloads and HTML pageviews–seven issues have been downloaded more than 8,000 times), my ego isn’t quite big enough to regard 8,000 as typical readership.

    I’ll keep hoping for comments and keep thinking about the future. I do have one trick up my sleeve that could yield extremely modest revenues, although that’s not the initial reason for it…more on that when it happens. (The initial reason is related to the “real book” I’m currently working on.)

  6. ash966 says:

    I’ve been reading the HTML version lately, because when I print out the PDF I never seem to get back to reading it. I am OK with a blog version of C & I and would like live links. I am also happy to keep making donations.

  7. walt says:

    Thanks for the comment. Blog version still unlikely, live links under consideration.