Pre-news

Today on Facebook, I saw a post from a friend saying “tomorrow I’m going to say something about my upcoming novel.” I also saw several iterations of a post from Mensa’s Annual Gathering Chair saying “tomorrow I’m going to tell you who the gala speaker is.”

I know we’re all trying to grab as much publicity as we can, get people to notice whatever it is we’re doing, by doling out tidbits of information. In publishing, we send out pre-publication galleys in hopes of garnering reviews timed to the book’s release. Announcements in the trade journals of book sales are a staple. And now, “cover reveals” have also become a thing. (As an aside, I’m still not sure why “gender reveals” are a thing, so I’m just going to ignore them.)

But I’ve always been annoyed at politicians and business leaders announcing that they’ll be holding a press conference to announce thus-and-such. It seems to me that making the statement is making the statement. “I’m going to announce my support of this bill at a press conference tomorrow,” or “we’re going to announce this new product line next week.” So why do I have to go to the press conference? Aren’t you telling me now?

On the other side of that coin, of course, are the reporters asking those politicians or business leaders what they’re going to do or say or announce in the coming days when they don’t. “You’ve scheduled a press conference for tomorrow. What are you going to say at it?” Grr.

Do those things really work? Are you more engaged in the upcoming new book or movie or sponsorship when it’s hinted at and teased and pre-announced before it’s announced before it’s finished before it’s available for sale? Am I just failing in my job as publicist by not doing all of that, by not making up pre-news news to share with you constantly?

Why We Need Print

In a ongoing discussion of the Mensa Bulletin (the national publication of American Mensa), one topic that came up is members who don’t read it at all. One of those members commented “I realize part of it is my own fault. When I received the print edition, it would be on the kitchen table. I’d pick it up and read it over meals by myself. When I changed to the digital edition, I stopped reading the Bulletin.”

That, more than anything, is why I have spent years railing against the trend to all-digital publication. A physical magazine is there, in front of your eyes. You see it, even if you’re not going to read it. An electronic publication is so easy to ignore, to skip today because you’re busy, and then have it scroll down to the unnoticeable part of your unread in-box, that it won’t be many issues before you stop reading it altogether.

If the goal is to save money, to do everything as cheaply as possible, then by all means, we have to drop paper publication and shift to all-electronic.

But if the goal is to produce something that people notice, pay attention to, and read—and in the case of a membership organization, produce a regular reminder that readers are members of this organization, and may want to renew their membership regularly—then the printed magazine is a necessity.

HR842, the Pro Act

I’ve just sent the following letter to my Congressional representatives, expressing concern over a portion of this bill, which has already passed the House, and is currently in the Senate (if you’re interested in reading the bill for yourself, see this link):

I’m writing because I’m concerned about H.R. 842, titled “An act to amend the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, and for other purposes.”

I’m especially concerned about one of the definitions. It is in Title I, Section 101 Definitions, subsection (b) Employee, specification (B), which says “[an individual… shall be considered an employee… and not an independent contractor, unless] the service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer…”

This concerns me both as a freelance writer and as the owner of a small publishing company. As a writer, I write stories and articles for which I am paid as a freelancer and which appear in magazines and books. The companies which publish my work are in the business of publishing content like that which I write, which certainly sounds like “the usual course of the business.”

As a publisher, I hire freelance cover designers and freelance editors to help craft the books that I publish. Putting the books into publishable form is the usual course of my business (and of course, the writers themselves are not my employees). None of those writers, editors, or cover artists are tied only to my company: they can and do use their talents for many companies, which is as they and I want it.

This clause may not apply to me, but it’s not a stretch to read it as applying emphatically and specifically to my various endeavors. Can you please see about rewriting it or otherwise emphatically noting that those of us in the freelance writing, editing, and publishing fields will be explicitly exempted from any such burdens? Thank you.