Monday, February 1, 2016

Sponsor Letter February 1st, 2016

Dear Sponsors,

It's been a good couple of weeks since I last wrote.  The total count of 2016 sponsors is over 500 (!), which is just damn wonderful.  The meet-and-greet with Pat Rothfuss went very well and we had a great time at the party on Thursday. The year is looking very, very good.

The Robert Parker Version

1)  Live-streaming of events will start on February 2nd.  Ustream channel link for live streaming is .  YouTube channel for archived video is "Borderlands Books" but we can't set up a link to it yet (we need more subscribers).

2)  A sponsor is looking for some real world experiences in distributed project management for the book he's writing for O'Riley.  Please read full details below.

3)  A month of presentations on Tuesdays in February at 7:00 PM for experienced and aspiring writers, along with anyone else who's curious how the book business works.  Though not required, RSVPs would be appreciated.
Feb. 2nd, Alan Beatts, "The Life-Cycle of a Book"
Feb. 9th, Jeremy Lassen, "Publishing Contracts: Good, Bad, and Ugly"
Feb. 16th, Scott Cox, "Public Reading, Tips and Tricks"
Feb. 23rd, Panel Discussion with authors Gail Carriger, Richard Kadrey and Pat Murphy: "Been There, Done That, Wish I Hadn't"

4)  March special event will be a tour of a 3D printing/prototyping company.

5)  Sponsors' General Meeting, Thursday, March 31st, 2016 at 7:00 pm.  A chance to talk about how we're doing, where we're going, and to give us your advice.

6)  Next sponsor social scheduled for April 2nd.

7)  Preliminary list of special events for 2016 is ready.  See all the details below.

8)  Despite almost universal support from our sponsors, the Precita Eyes loan is a dead issue. It changed from a straightforward loan to something almost completely _unlike_ a straightforward loan.  The risks associated with it were far too high, so I killed the deal.

The Herman Melville Version

1) Event Livestream
I've gotten the gear to live-stream our readings and other events (like the series of "Book Business" talks that we'll be doing this month).  We'll also be posting them on YouTube.  The live stream is at Ustream <> and the channel link for live streaming is <> .  Cross fingers and hope that this works . . . the first time.  We'll get it eventually for sure.  We already did a rough test on Saturday with Charlie Jane Anders and it seemed to work pretty well.

I have also set up a YouTube channel.  The name is Borderlands Books and I'll be posting videos there for archiving shortly.  We don't have a link to our channel yet because we need to have over 100 subscribers, and have had the channel for more than a week to do that.  You frequent YouTube users can help us out with that by subscribing, if you like. I'll be creating a page at our blog with a list of all the videos and links to them individually.  I've posted Charlie Jane's reading already but be warned, the quality is quite poor because we're still working out the microphone setup and video archiving <>.

2)  Author looking for experiences in distributed work environments
John O'Duinn, one of our sponsors (and the person who introduced me to the folks at Rickshaw Bagworks, who make the bags for our sponsors), is working on a book and he could use some help.  The following is from him --

"I'm a software engineer turned manager who has been managing distributed teams for 10+ years and now I'm writing my first ever book about this for O'Reilly. Unlike the typical advocacy books written from the perspective of the solo person who is already remote, my book is a more general work on the process and mechanics of distributed work.  The three sections are: 1) business and social benefits of distributed companies, 2) basic mechanics: video calls, effective meetings and 3) higher mechanics: how to hire/fire/promote remotely, dealing with conflict, group cohesion, mental sanity and so on.

I'm looking for real-world experiences with distributed teams.  If you have led or worked in that environment, I'd really like to hear from you.  What went well?  What didn't?  Anything you wished you knew before you started? While my background is in software, this book is not just for computer people.  I've helped distributed teams of lawyers, event organizers, biotech companies and non-profits so the more unusual the situation, the better!  You can email me at"

3)  The Business of Writing
This February we're doing a series of presentations for sponsors who are writers or who are just interested in how the book business works.  They'll take place each Tuesday night and start at seven pm.  Here's what I've got planned:

Feb. 2nd, Alan Beatts presenting "The Life-Cycle of a Book" - How do books get to stores? What happens after the author delivers a manuscript?  How do they "go out of print" and how do they come back?  Why are those little numbers on the copyright page?  What the hell is a "copyright" anyway?  I'll explain all that and more.

Feb. 9th, Jeremy Lassen, "Publishing Contracts: Good, Bad, and Ugly" - Publishing contracts are some very strange critters and, despite what you might hear, there is no such thing as a "standard" contract.  Jeremy has been purchasing publishing rights for over a decade and he'll share with you the things you should love in a contract . . . and the things you don't ever want to see.

Feb. 16th, Scott Cox, "Public Reading, Tips and Tricks" - A great reading can do more for a book's sales at an event than just about anything else.  But authors, understandably, tend to spend most of their time alone, writing; not practicing how to deliver their lines.  Scott's background as a professional stage actor makes him uniquely equipped to give pointers on how to present a reading that will "knock 'em dead" every time.

Feb. 23rd, Panel Discussion with Gail Carriger, Richard Kadrey, and Pat Murphy, "Been There, Done That, Wish I Hadn't" - Our guests will talk about lessons they learned in the course of their varied careers.  We're going to try to get them to share some of the worst mistakes they made, as well as asking about the advice they wish someone had given them at the start.

4)  3D Printing Tour
In March, we'll be inviting a group of sponsors to take a tour of a company that specializes in 3D printing/prototyping.  They do work in-house as well as sub-contracting to a variety of other companies. If you've never seen this technology at work, it's really mind-blowing.  I'll have the details and date in my next note.

5)  General Meeting
We're having a Sponsors' General Meeting on Thursday, March 31st, 2016 at 7:00 pm.  I'd really like to have a chance to talk with you about how things have gone through our first year as a sponsored store.  I want to know what we've done right, what we've done wrong, and what we can do better -- as well as answering any questions you have. Also, I need to talk with you about some ideas I have for the future.  What I have in mind is something much like the meeting we had last year, which was the genesis for what saved the store.  I'll outline where we're at and then ask for comments.  I hope to see as many of you there as possible because some of the topics on my mind are pretty important.  If you can't attend in person, feel free to email me with your comments.

6)  April Sponsor Social
The next sponsor social scheduled will be on Saturday, April 2nd at the usual 7 to 11 PM time. We're still sorting out the details but we expect to have a guest beverage company coming in to show off their products (and, of course, serve them to you) and some other fun things. Perhaps the basement will even be dry enough by then for me to give some "back stage" tours.

7)  2016 Special Events
The following is a very preliminary list of special events for 2016.  We may end up adding some and some of these may be rescheduled, but I thought it would be neat to show you some of what we have in mind.

April:  Blind Wine Tasting - Whether you know nothing about wine or run a vineyard, blind tastings are always fun. One of our wine-y sponsors has offered to host a tasting of easily accessible, reasonably price vintages and we'd be fools not to take him up on it.

May: Perfumery Demonstration - Megan O'Keefe, author of Steal The Sky, isn't just a great writer and wonderful speaker.  She's also a expert on blending perfume.  Last year she offered to host a participatory demonstration about perfume-making for our sponsors.  I'm very pleased that I'm finally able to take her up on that offer.

June: Locked Room Mystery event - A few months ago, Scott participated in a live puzzle game and had a great time.  He suggested that our sponsors might like it and, after reading about it, I think he's right.

July: Sponsor Social - Thursday, 14th

July: Whisky tasting with Mary Robinette Kowal - Last year Mary Robinette hosted a Scotch Whisky tasting that was a huge success.  The problem was we only had space for a third of the people who wanted to attend.  Thankfully, she's going to be back in town in July and said she'd love a return engagement.

August: Tour of The American Bookbinders Museum - This recently-opened attraction is right up our alley so we're going to arrange a group tour for our sponsors.

September: Dashiell Hammett Walking Tour - Don Herron has been giving a Dashiell Hammett walking tour since 1977.  When the World Fantasy Convention was in town in 2009, I arranged a special tour for a bunch of our guests. They said it was the high point of their visit to SF (after the bookstore, of course).  Don is also quite knowledgeable about Fritz Leiber's work and so I'm going to ask him to include some of that in the tour.  (If you don't know who Hammett was, I can help -- and you really want me to).

October: The Long Now Foundation - If you read Anathem by Neal Stephenson, the idea of a clock designed to keep time for 10,000 years isn't a shock.  But did you know that one is being built right now?  And that clock was the inspiration for Stephenson's book, not the other way around?  That is just one of the projects that The Long Now Foundation is working on. We'll take a visit to their office / cafe and hear about their current projects and long, long, long term plans.

November: Sponsor Social - Saturday, 12th

December: Japanese Whisky Tasting - My friend Rina and I were talking about whisky at one point.  She insisted that there are some great whiskies from Japan.  I doubted her.  As a result, we agreed that she'd have a chance to prove me wrong.  Rather that having that showdown in private, we thought that some of our sponsors might like to come along.

January, 2017: Sponsor Social - Thursday, 26th

8)  Precita Eyes Update
Thank you to everyone who wrote me to share their thoughts about the loan to Precita Eyes (if you haven't heard the back story on this, please read the last sponsor letter - ). It was really lovely to have a chance to "talk" to so many of you and, in case anyone was concerned, the entire discussion was pleasant and respectful (our sponsors are the best!). And, I was truly honored and touched by the most common recurring sentiment - that you were confident that I had the judgement to make a prudent decision about the matter at hand.

It makes me sad that the prudent decision was to decline to continue with the proposal. Something that was originally presented as a straightforward loan-with-interest turned into a deal that was predicated on Borderlands becoming a partner in a Limited Liability Company. Those of you in the legal, finance and business fields are probably sucking air through your teeth and wincing -- that's certainly what I did once I read the paperwork.  To put it in laymen's terms, the deal changed from Borderlands being owed a debt, to Borderlands being legally entangled with a bunch of other people all running a company that was going to make the loan.

Or, to put it even more in laymen's terms, not a deal that I would touch with someone else's ten-foot pole.

But, there was something marvelous that came out of it.  I had a discussion with you about how to deal with a situation like this and I learned a lot.  I'm still of the mind that my decision to make the loan was not really ethical (for reasons I discussed in my last note) but at least now I've a good idea what the "right" way to proceed will be, if something like this comes up again.

As always, my best regards,

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