By the way, another bit of establishment publishing propaganda is the notion that the publisher is losing money until the author earns out. This bit of bullshit is intended to make authors feel guilty and beholden about their advances. But it isn’t true, and here’s a quick logic experiment to prove it:
Imagine a scenario in which the author receives a 99 percent royalty. The author would earn out her advance very quickly, right? But the publisher would make almost no money and remain in the red long after the earn-out.
Conversely, imagine a scenario in which the author receives a 1 percent royalty. The author would probably never earn out the advance, but the publisher would quickly recoup its investment and make bank after that.
And in fact, superstar authors typically receive advances so large they’re designed not to be earned out, but function instead as a de facto higher-than-normal digital royalty rate (the technique is a way of evading the digital royalty “most favored customer” clauses that are common in publishing contracts). And even though these huge advances never earn out, the publisher still makes money.
So while there might be some loose correlation between the author earning out and the publisher making money, the notion that they’re one and the same is false and misleading. Publishers typically start to make money on a book before the author earns out, and even if the author never earns out at all.
Last week, while on tour promoting The God's Eye View, it was a thrill and an honor to appearonDemocracy Now! and The Young Turks, two great shows that have had a huge influence on my political outlook. We talked about the Apple/FBI standoff; why abolishing the CIA isn't a radical position;why Clinton's rhetoric, votes, and policies qualify her as a Neocon; and why subsequent events so often prove my novels (depressingly) prescient.
A Martian Tries to Understand Why Our Violence is Good
Yesterday, I gave
a talk to the San Francisco chapter of the Former Intelligence Officers Association.
In front of about a hundred former CIA, FBI, and NSA operatives, including former
head of the CIA and NSA Michael Hayden, I talked about bulk surveillance, whistleblowing,
and why intelligence professionals need to take especially great care not to let
propaganda pervert their intelligence. I think the crowd was initially skeptical,
but warmed as I went along. In the end, quite a few people came up afterward to
thank me for my candor. The whole thing was fun and a little surreal, and if I got
a few people to look at these issues in a somewhat different light, I’m glad. You
can read the basis for my remarks at Freedom of the Press Foundation and Boing Boing.
the format was such that no real debate with Hayden was possible. Which was frustrating,
because, for example, at one point during his Q&A, Hayden opined that Iran
is the world’s greatest purveyor of terrorism. If I could have responded, I would
have wondered aloud, as I like to do from time to time, how I’d explain an assertion
like that to a Martian:
Martian: We on Mars are confused by your General Hayden’s
comment. He is speaking of Iran, is that correct? A country with the GDP of Finland?
Martian: Did you not kill at least 100,000 civilians in your latest war in Iraq, and
turn four million people in that war into refugees?
Me: We did.
Martian: And did not your former Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright declare that a half million Iraqi children starved to death because
of American sanctions was “worth it”?
Me: She did say that, though she took it back
Martian: And is it not the case that—
Me: Okay, look, I get it. America does more wars
and violence than anyone else. But it’s not about terrorizing people, okay?
Martian: But are not the people you kill terrorized?
And what about the parents of dead children, the children of dead parents, and the
burned, blinded, brain-damaged, crippled, maimed, and mutilated by your weapons?
Our understanding of humans is that you are terrorized by such things.
Me: I guess so. But it’s not like we’re trying
Martian: But did you not call your own tactics in
your second war in Iraq “Shock and Awe”?
Me: Well, yeah. We were trying to, you know,
shock and awe them.
Martian: Perhaps the problem is our imperfect renderings
of Earth languages. In Martian, we cannot distinguish between terrorizing with bombs,
and shocking and awing with them.
Me: Look, I see where you’re trying to go with
this, okay? But we’re not like ISIS and other terrorist groups. I mean, you know
what ISIS does? ISIS burns people alive. That’s terrorism.
Martian: It is derived from two Greek words meaning
“heat” and “pressure.” In English, it refers to a type of explosive that produces
an exceptionally hot and powerful blast. The lucky victims are obliterated. The
less lucky suffer terrible agonies before they die.
Me: Well, I’m sure that isn’t our intent.
Martian: But you have named one such weapon the “Hellfire”
missile. Does this not mean you are well aware that the missile burns
your fellow humans with fire? Was it not in fact designed to do so?
Me: I guess it just comes down to that terrorists
want to kill innocent people. But America doesn’t. When we kill innocent people,
we call it “collateral damage.” Do you know that phrase?
Martian: We do, but our translators have struggled
with it. For a long time, we failed to understand why a people who are ordinarily
so plain-spoken would devise such a vague phrase. Then we realized, you Americans
find such a phrase preferable to something like, “the burning to death of innocent
human beings, the blowing into tiny scraps of meat and bone ordinary people just
trying to live their lives, the ripping asunder of the limbs of children, the blinding
and mutilation of baby humans—”
Me: Right, I get it. But, yes, it’s not like
we want those things to happen. When we do them, they’re tragic accidents.
That’s the difference.
Martian: This is interesting. You mean terrorists
want to kill innocents, while you Americans are mere willing to kill
Me: Something like that, I think. Yes.
Martian: Perhaps we Martians are simply dense. It
seems that terrorists have goals for which they will kill. Is that not also true
for your country?
Me: Yes, but again, the terrorists want
to kill innocent people.
Martian: It is difficult for we Martians to understand
the difference. Presumably these people you call terrorists simply want to achieve
certain geopolitical goals that they believe require killing innocent people. Presumably
if they believed they had another way to achieve these goals, they would not feel the need to
kill innocent people.
Me: I don’t understand.
Martian: I mean, perhaps terrorists are killing people
pragmatically. In other words, for terrorists, killing people is a means, not an
Me: So what?
Martian: I am trying how to understand how it is different
for you, given that you are the “good guys,” to use your Earth phrase. Do you not
also, in all your wars, kill people as a means?
Me: But we don’t want to.
Martian: In such circumstances, it is sometimes difficult
for we Martians to distinguish between the concept of “want” and the concept of
“willing.” For in the service of the geopolitical goals you seek to achieve through
the means of violence, is it not an empirical and historical fact that inevitably
you will kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, inflict the most horrific
injuries on hundreds of thousands more, and turn millions of people into stateless
refugees, with all the terrorizing that such events necessarily entail?
Me: I guess.
Martian: But this is not terrorism.
Me: No. Not when we do it.
Martian: I confess I am more perplexed now than when
we started. I do not understand how the nation that commits the most violence and
causes the most terror can claim other nations are the most terroristic. We Martians
will have to study this question more closely.
Well, maybe they’ll
invite General Hayden and me back. But we’d probably need a Martian to translate.
There are a lot of terrific blogs out there on the world of writing, but Heart of the Matter isn't one of them. HOTM primarily covers politics, language as it influences politics, and politics as an exercise in branding and marketing, with the occasional post on some miscellaneous subject that catches my attention.
HOTM has a comments section. Sounds simple enough, but as even a cursory glance at the comments of most political blogs will show, many people would benefit from some guidelines. Here are a few I hope will help.
1. The most important guideline when it comes to argument is the golden rule. If someone were addressing your point, what tone, what overall approach would you find persuasive and want her to use? Whatever that is, do it yourself. If you find this simple guideline difficult, I'll explain it slightly differently in #2.
2. Argue for persuasion, not masturbation. If you follow the golden rule above, it's because you're trying to persuade someone. If you instead choose sarcasm and other insults, you can't be trying to persuade (have you ever seen someone's opinion changed by an insult?). If you're not trying to persuade, what you're doing instead is stroking yourself. Now, stroking yourself is fine in private, but I think we can all agree it's a pretty pathetic to do so in public. So unless you like to come across as pathetic, argue to persuade.
3. Compared to the two above, this is just commentary, but: no one cares about your opinion (or mine, for that matter). It would be awesome to be so impressive that we could sway people to our way of thinking just by declaiming our thoughts, but probably most of us lack such gravitas. Luckily, there's something even better: evidence, logic, and argument. Think about it: when was the last time someone persuaded you of the rightness of his opinion just by declaring what it was? Probably it was the same time someone changed your mind with an insult, right? And like insults, naked declarations of opinion, because they can't persuade, are fundamentally masturbatory. And masturbation, again, is not a very polite thing to do on a blog.
Argue with others the way you'd like them to argue with you. Argue with intent to persuade. Argue with evidence and logic. That shouldn't be so hard, should it? Let's give it a try.