Monday, May 19, 2014

Konrants

Had a few thoughts over the past few days, none of which are worthy of a whole blog post. But I've strung a few together and I'm putting them out there as both personal observations and advice for authors and the publishing industry.

First, the legacy industry seems to be keen to keep reassuring itself that ebooks sales growth has slowed or plateaued.

Frankly, I don't care what the legacy industry believes. If it sleeps better at night thinking that paper sales will still be hearty in the year 2020, that's fine by me. Whatever gets you through the night. I gave up on trying to convince people to give up delusions when I had a long talk with my parish priest at the age of 18, asking him repeatedly how he could defend faith (faith based on a millenia-old book written by a bunch of nobodies with no historical gravitas and vetted multiple times through multiple translations by those seeking power) in the face of science. He chose to remain blind to what was happening around him, willfully ignorant of easily provable facts, and I gave up God for Lent, and every day since.

If the Big 5 think that ebook sales aren't continuing to eat away at paper sales, or that more and more authors are choosing to self-publish, or that Barnes & Noble will be around forever, or that they can relax because the tech revolution is over, they are whistling past the graveyard, and I don't give a shit.

What I do give a shit about is newbies buying into the continued nonsense that finding a publisher is the only way to succeed. The religion parallel applies here as well. There are a bunch of fat cats happy with the status quo, and they keep recruiting the naive, the hopeful, the uneducated, much like missionaries bringing bibles to the third world, getting the savages to kneel at the altar. Savages who wind up no better off (or even worse off) once they convert.

Legacy publishers NEED authors to feel that they're the only way to succeed. Because without authors, the Ponzi scheme of publishing (the few successful writers supporting the entire infrastructure, including authors who aren't successful) collapses.

So we have publishers continuing to act like they alone have the keys to heaven with their holy gatekeeping system. Many of them also offer dubious services to indie authors (David Gaughran has been crucifying Author Solutions for years now as just one example). So it doesn't matter if authors accept a shitty contract from the Big 5, or sign over their rights in some vanity deal, they get screwed either way.

Let me make this crystal clear:


AUTHORS DO NOT NEED PUBLISHERS.

It is 2014. All the forms of distribution open to legacy publishers are open to indies. We can reach as many ebook retail outlets as the biggest legacy publisher, and we can reach them faster and better. We can control our prices. We can control our titles, cover art, and content. We can also get into bookstores (Dean Wesley Smith has a great blog post about this.)

Now if we want to be able to get into Costco, or airports, or Wal-Mart, we still need publishers to do so. But even if you sign with a major publisher, the chance of you getting into Wal-Mart is very slim, and you'll be giving up a lot of royalties in order for that small chance.

PUBLISHERS ARE OPTIONAL. 

If you happen to be a huge bestseller, and legacy publishers come knocking, worry about signing with them when that happens. And find an agent first. And also try to find ANY author who went from indie to legacy and has nice things to say about the experience. If you do find any who says nice things in public, try to talk to them privately and witness the completely-warranted bitchfest that commences.

Publishers keep looking at indie success as a slush pile where they can scoop up the best. They'll keep doing that until indies learn better. But very few indies who sign with a legacy publisher and hate the experience will speak publicly about it, because their books are being held hostage and playing nice with their new corporate masters is essential if they want to continue to make money. Because legacy publishers do enough to unintentionally hurt book sales--making them angry so they intentionally hurt sales is not wise.

So you won't see many authors bashing their publishers. But how many who signed indie deals sing their publishers' praises? Isn't it odd we don't see a lot of that?

As for the meme that ebook growth is slowing or has plateaued, that's a gigantic fallacy.

1. Growth slowing sounds bad, but it's still growth. Let's use a bodybuilder analogy. When you start working out, you quickly drop fat and gain muscle. After a year of hard work, it might take longer to gain ten more pounds in muscle mass, but you're still a long way from reaching your limit.

2. The numbers quoted in relation to ebook growth slowing don't include indies. Sticking with the bodybuilder motif, if everyone at Gold's Gym is training, and collectively it is taking longer for the group to gain more mass, that result is hardly indicative of the rest of the world.

Maybe legacy ebook growth is slowing down. But that doesn't mean indie ebook growth is slowing down. It doesn't count all of those authors (some of who are former legacy authors) who continue to increase their unit sales and monetary take. Check out the latest Author Earnings, which showed that for the data tracked indie authors are out-earning Big 5 authors by 27%.

Now, what Hugh and Data Guy are doing--quite brilliantly I may add--is shedding light on something that legacy publishers would prefer everyone remain in the dark about: how authors don't need them.

Whenever I see an "us vs. them" debate I roll my eyes. I've repeatedly said, there is no "us vs. them". There are only authors trying to find readers. Some do it solo. Some use publishers. The story isn't "indie authors vs. legacy authors" or "indie publishing vs. legacy publishing". There is only "what's best for the author". And what's best is a personal decision, hopefully determined by careful analysis, experimentation, and goals specific to that individual author.

So the whole idea of labeling authors "indie" or "legacy" or "hybrid" is much more important to the publishing world than it is to us authors. While the concept of identity is probably essential, I don't care how I'm labeled as long as I can continue to reach readers with my words.

Over the weekend, thousands of authors--several of them good friends--attended the Romantic Times convention in New Orleans. Many I've corresponded with seemed to have had a lot of fun, though no one has been able to point out the business purpose for the convention.

I gave up on public appearances a few years ago, because of diminishing returns. They were indeed fun, but the cost and time away from writing wasn't worth it to me. When I had legacy publishers, I felt I had to connect with readers and peers and legacy professionals in order to keep a foot in the game and keep my name out there. In the past, I met editors I later sold to, met authors who I got blurbs from (or gave blurbs to), tracked down leads for anthology submissions, and sold books. Now I no longer feel a need to do any of that, and I don't see why so many authors feel so compelled to continue to go to conferences because they think it will further their careers.

Conferences are fun. You can meet people, and learn things, and even sell a few titles (though never enough to cover your expenses). But long gone are the days of needing to pitch to agents or editors, or join organizations (Writers Guild, MWA, HWA, SFWA, RWA), or do mass booksignings.

Now, I've done more booksignings than, well, anyone. Over 1200 of them. I recognized their value. Some were mass signings with huge crowds. Some were just popping into a store and signing a single book on the shelf. But I felt they were necessary in order to maintain relationships with booksellers and readers, and to keep my books in print.

I no longer feel that way. The vast majority of my sales are digital. Paper books are wasteful, take up space, cost too much, are a pain to track down, and from a personal standpoint I no longer get a kick out of meeting authors and getting their signature. But I do respect and understand readers and authors who dig it, and I understand why conferences, conventions, and book fairs remain popular.

That said, when I read posts like Hugh Howey's latest, about indie authors being treated differently than legacy authors at the RT booksigning, I have to wonder why indie authors continue to spend money and time, and to invest emotionally, in the grade-school notion of being accepted.

Newsflash:

We're adults. We're now allowed to label ourselves rather than live with the labels others assign us. 

And when others label us something we don't agree with, we can choose not to waste any more of our time, money, and emotion on them.

Have you been made to feel like a second class citizen for being an indie author? Non illegitimi carborundum.

Stop trying to be accepted by the cool kids (who are earning 27% less than you are), and you won't get your feelings hurt. We've all been disparaged. We've all been marginalized. We've all had bad booksignings. We've all felt like outsiders. We've all watched others succeed while we didn't. Welcome to authordom.

The only one who can make you feel bad about yourself is you. So get over yourself. One of life's greatest journeys is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.

We no longer need the approval of editors and agents, and we certainly don't need the approval of conferences or our peers.

If you feel marginalized at conferences because of your chosen career path, stop going to conferences. Or start your own conference. Or your own organization. Or your own awards.

Personally, I think we'd all be better off spending more time writing. Treat conferences like vacations you can write off on taxes, don't take any of it seriously, and stop worrying if the world accepts you or not.

This brings me to my last rant, which is for my wife, who always gets a kick out of me going off on some pinhead.

An anonymous tool commented on my previous blog post about piracy, and I wanted to show my generosity by giving them the attention they are so desperately, obviously craving.

"When you write posts such as this one, it throws every opinion you've ever expressed into the 'probably nuts' bucket. Well, I stop by here every year or two, just to be sure you're still ranting happily, and irrationally, along. Congrats! You're doing fine."

Congrats right back at you, Anon! I'm proud that someone as apparently developmentally disabled as you are was able to figure out how to use the Internet. Mommy and Daddy much be very proud.

Welcome to the world of blogging, and allow me to give you some pointers.

1. When you disagree with something someone says, the correct thing to do is to point out what you disagree with, and then counter it with logic and facts. Simply stating an opinion, with no evidence to back it up, makes you look like a pinhead. It isn't deductive reasoning. It isn't debate. It isn't persuasive. It's just stupid.

Looking stupid is bad, especially on my blog, because I do not suffer fools kindly.

You brought a sackful of nothing to the discussion, and while it may have given you a fleeting masturbatory thrill to express your opinions about me and my post, I suggest you take a long, hard look in the mirror and try to come up with something you like about yourself to keep from eating a gun, because it isn't your sharp mind or keen wit.

2. Thanks for stopping by every year or two, but we both know it is more frequently than that. When I get bored with some pinhead, I quit. I don't check back later. Ever. The fact that you keep checking back is obsessive, and unhealthy. The crush you have on me isn't reciprocated, especially since you aren't engaging on a single point I've made. When I disagree with someone, I fisk them. Why don't you try fisking me? You made the minimal effort to post, why not actually take it a step further and try to say something, anything, substantive?

3. I allow anonymous comments on my blog so celebrities, professionals, and those who wish to spout controversial or contrary views may do so without any fear of repercussion. But I frown on chickenshit morons who think they're clever but don't say anything worth reading. This hurts society in the long run. We need anonymity for important free speech. Trolling and flaming and typing one-handed is not what our forefathers had in mind when they drafted the Constitution, and it only serves to irritate those who actually come here to learn, share, and engage in meaningful conversation.

As a result of your post, my readers and are are left with the unavoidable impression that you are a pinhead, a coward, and a waste of carbon who self-loathes for cathecting me, but can't resist it.

See what I did there? I took what you said, and showed how you shouldn't be allowed in public because you're contributing to the overall dumbing-down of Internet interactions. I pointed out how you avoided debate in favor of ad hominem fallacy, how you can't get me out of your head, and how you lack the balls to sign your name to your post.

Try attacking the argument and keeping the sarcasm relevant. That's how discourse works, both on this blog and in real-life adult situations.

And I apologize for calling you developmentally disabled, as there are millions of developmentally disabled individuals who are smarter, have more courage, and are more considerate than you are.

On the other hand, if you are a dog or monkey and you somehow learned to read and use a computer, I take it all back. Kudos to you.

184 comments:

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"Over the weekend, thousands of authors--several of them good friends--attended the Romantic Times convention in New Orleans. Many I've corresponded with seemed to have had a lot of fun, though no one has been able to point out the business purpose for the convention."

The business purpose is meeting other writers and seeing good friends. Nothing has helped my career more than meeting like-minded people, helping each other out, and sometimes even working together. Nothing.

D. C. Chester said...

Dear Joe,
Remind me to never do anything that gets me on your pinhead list. :)

Joe Konrath said...

Remind me to never do anything that gets me on your pinhead list

I only get harsh when people are anonymous, attack me first, or are an industry leader saying harmful things.

I wish more people would disagree with me and present opposing arguments. My goal for this blog has always been civil debate. That's how I learn.

If you can't articulate why I'm wrong, and back it up with logic and facts, don't bother saying I'm wrong.

Or tell me I'm wrong without backing it up, and I'll call you a pinhead. And a coward, if you're anonymous.

Of course, being intentionally provocative never hurts traffic...

Joe Konrath said...

That's great, Ann.

How many new people did you meet and forge close bonds with where you'll help each other out forever?

No sarcasm there. We met each other at a conference, and it has been mutually beneficial. I've met about ten friends at conferences who have helped me out over the years.

But I've gone to over 60 conferences.

So I should hope 1 out of 6 is beneficial? Or perhaps, like I said, treat it like a vacation and visit old friends, but if I make a new friend, it's a bonus.

My take is that after a decade of conferences, I've met enough people to have my needs met.

Jana DeLeon said...

I finally got to meet Ann in person at the conference. As we are soul sisters in telling the brutal truth to other authors, I feel the cost of the conference was well worth it just to see her face to face. :)

Ann Voss Peterson said...

I love you, Jana. :)

As far as I'm concerned the main benefit of conferences has ALWAYS been meeting other authors. Maybe not all will become close friends, but that doesn't mean you can't help each other out. And finding close friends is always tough, but always worth it.

I do agree with a lot of the other things you said in this post, though, Joe. But the best way to not care what the masses think of you is to find people you do care about. :)

Shel Delisle said...

I think you should trademark KONRANTS. It's good. Really, really good.

Evie Love said...

Whoah. Do you think you went maybe a little too far there? It's one thing to be mad at someone and quite another to tell them to shoot themselves. (Then again, this is a sensitive subject for me right now, so maybe it's just me.)

While I agreed with everything you were saying while I was reading your post, you have now made me angry so I'm going to try to argue against it.

1. Print will die a quick and brutal death. (I'm not even going to touch ebook sales are plateauing, because basic math would be against me.)

Refute: Much as we talk about living in a digital world, the fact is, our bodies are still physical, therefore physical object have value. People still perceive physical books as being more valuable then ebooks because physical books can be sold and lent until the spine falls to pieces (then duct taped and lent some more). Physical books can also make pretty decorations and show off pieces.

2. Legacy is a Ponzi scheme. (This one makes me chuckle.)

Refute: The very numbers you quote from Author Earnings are against you. As His Hughness pointed out, 30% of trad pub revenue is from backlist. As long as big publishing is clever and cruel enough to hold onto this backlist as writers fight for it back, they can keep bringing in money even as authors flee from them in droves.

3. Authors do not need publishers.

Refute: Wait. I’m thinking.
….

Publishers can pay upfront costs for writers who can’t afford to hit that free publish button on their own. Wait, let me think some more.
….
Egads, I’ve got nothing. I concede, you win this round.

4. Looking only at big publishing numbers is ignoring too much of the market.

Refute: Most surveys project extrapolated conclusions based on surveying a small section of the market. The big 5 still hold about 30-40% of the market. That’s not too bad when you consider most studies are based on less then 10%. Of course, most studies also use cross sections instead of the entirety of one part of the market, but…

5. There are only authors and more authors, not ‘us’ versus ‘them’.

Refute: Some authors are really smelly from skipping showers when they write and have terrible people skills. No one wants to be in the same group as the smelly authors. You’d have to coat your nose in Vaseline or something, and that’s just unpleasant. When we say ‘us’ versus ‘them’ we mean ‘us’ the really smelly authors versus ‘them’ the stupid hygienic authors with their fancy youtube channels and sold out stadiums. This is a very important distinction because without it all of society will crumble. Don’t try to fight it with bars of soap and books about how not to terrify other people. Just accept it. It’ll be easier that way.

Carlos Cooper said...

The Ann vs. Joe thread is interesting. I can't tell you how many writers have asked me if I go to conferences. When I say no they ask "Why not?" I, in turn, ask them what they get accomplished at said conferences.

Many have no clue, saying it's something they think they're supposed to do. Some say they're "networking" (although they have no idea what that means). Others just want to party. The truly focused of the bunch go with a purpose, whether that's to meet up with a collaborator and work on an on-going project, or finalize plans with a new agent.

I'm with Joe. Unless you've got a firm agenda to actually do "business", new writers are better off writing and networking via the Intrawebs.

My two cents...

Thanks for another great rant, Josef.

Jude Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JKBrown said...

Another "mostly good" post, Joe!

You talk about disagreements making for civilized debate, so I'll bring up a couple. I am a man of faith that always tries to seek out truth and a unique perspective. I took to disagreement to the following quote:

asking [my parish priest] repeatedly how he could defend faith (faith based on a millenia-old book written by a bunch of nobodies with no historical gravitas and vetted multiple times through multiple translations by those seeking power) in the face of science.

1) The books weren't written by nobodies, but a cult-like group of people dedicated to reproducing books perfectly (See Dead Sea Scrolls). These people as I understand it, were well-known in their time. Some authors of The Bible's books DO have historical gravitas, such as King David (See Tel-Dal Inscription). I remain optimistic more references will be dug up as time passes.

2) Not all Christians seek power. You, like quite a few of my friends, were disenfranchised by the Catholic church. I know a wiccan that went to great detail of how her church sought to promote its power over her, sometimes without any reason behind it. Like you, she too couldn't get answers to her questions and gave it up.
This seems more like a governing problem than a Christian problem, which is why I tend to avoid establishment hierarchies. Check out non-denominational churches or denominations that lack a hierarchy. They tend to have much fewer "established" viewpoints and often seek answers to questions they don't know (like yours). Even if you aren't seeking religion, that's still a great way to find opposing viewpoints that back up what they say, because again, there's no distant hierarchy dictating to them what they should teach about their faith.

(If you haven't caught the reference yet, I'm challenging to you look into "INDIE" churches, not "LEGACY" churches)

3) I strongly disagree with you on what missionaries do. Often the third-world countries they visit are devoid of food, have little-to-no medicine, water, power, etc, and are sometimes dangerous to visit. Every missionary I've met tries to help their communities by helping the sick (via shipping in food and supplies through sponsoring churches), educating the people, exchanging culture, all the while teaching about God. This is what makes missionaries so effective that most people don't know about.

Onto the writing part of your post!

I'm a newbie author that fortunately found you while my college professors were still trying to push me into legacy publishing. I agree with you about conventions. I barely have the money to publish my books, so conventions are out of the question. Fortunately, I've found so many amazing people through Twitter, an ongoing social convention full of many authors, experienced to new, sharing their tidbits on the writing world just as you do. The number of legit services you can find on twitter is also astounding. Thus far I'm using most of the severices you promoted on your blog, but it's clear just how easy finding others can be. I wish I had a Twitter account sooner.

To wrap things up I have one more disagreement since you brought the pirating post. You mention how there's no reason children should inherit money from your hard work. Yet, did you not make a post a while back encouraging people to make wills about what to do with their intellectual property and who gets to own it? Is this another one of your changed opinions, or is there rationale that fits both posts?

Even when I disagree, your posts are always interesting and informative.

Thanks for your time,
J.K. Brown

Joshua Simcox said...

You make some interesting, worthwhile points, J.K., though I'd discourage you from engaging Joe in a spiritual debate. You won't change his mind, and I'm betting he won't change yours either. And that's totally fine.

But as a fellow Christian, I applaud you for conducting yourself in a polite, rational, articulate fashion. And for having intelligent things to say. Good on you. Sadly, there's just too many people that believe what we believe sitting in the opposite corner.

As for the third point you made, well, I kind of see it both ways. I was briefly a seasonal employee with a Christian relief organization spearheaded by a massive celebrity in the Christian world with a highly recognizable last name, and it was ultimately a disheartening experience. Helping the sick, feeding the hungry, providing clean drinking water to impoverished villages...all of that happened. And that's great. But there was also a manipulative element to the whole thing, and the people pulling the strings made more than a few ethically shaky, highly self-serving decisions.

It was sad. And nauseating.

Didn't change my faith. But it has made me quite cautious about the type of "Christian" I associate with.

Kelly S. Bishop said...

Faith is only incompatible with science if you are a fundamentalist - which I am not. To me, the Bible is the result of an attempt made by a number of people over hundreds of years to answer 2 basic questions: 1. Who is God? 2. What does he want from us? Some of the initial answers I would say were wrong, in the OT there is an awful lot of smiting going on for instance.

But for all of their mistakes (acceptance of slavery, view of women as property of men, intolerance of anyone who wasn't part of the group, ignorance of modern science, etc.), in the NT they did come to a final conclusion to those 2 basic questions that has always worked for me.

1. God is Love.
2. To love God and love one another.

That is really all there is to Christianity. Everything else is embellishment.

Joe Konrath said...

our bodies are still physical, therefore physical object have value

Which is why I still have all of my 8 track and cassette and VHS tapes, and my RCA Selectivision discs, and my Betamax, and my vinyl.

Oh... wait a sec. I got rid of all that for digital. Just like I got rid of many of my paper books. And I'm not the only one.

While I agree that some people will always want the physical object, the cloud, iTunes, streaming, and ebooks suggest many don't.

The very numbers you quote from Author Earnings are against you. 30% of trad pub revenue is from backlist.

You mean some successful backlist books pay for the ones that fail? Like a Ponzi scheme?

No one wants to be in the same group as the smelly authors.

I concede that one. :)

Joe Konrath said...

But the best way to not care what the masses think of you is to find people you do care about.

I agree. But do you need to pay $1500 in expenses, waste 5 writing days, attend unnecessary booksignings, boring panels, and terrible hotel banquet food, in order to possibly (maybe, hopefully) find a soulmate?

That's like recommending you go back to college to find a spouse because many couples meet in college.

I like conferences and I like writers and they're fun. But they aren't worthwhile from a business perspective (for me at least).

But I'm an old fuck. If I were a newbie, meeting likeminded authors at a conference is a good way to network. Just don't expect to sell a lot of books, or get well-attended panels, or track down Nora Roberts for a blurb. Treat it like a vacation and don't take anything seriously.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

Hey, I met you at a conference. :P

And there is no such thing as a soul mate. Double :P

The value of conferences for the author is to meet other authors. The book sales, industry connections, and all the rest have never been significant enough to justify the cost. The connections with other authors are the only things that have ever benefited my career.

And in these times, and for indie authors, those connections with other authors are not just valuable; they're necessary.

But then, I'm a woman, and we tend to be better at building support networks than you individualist, hunter-type males. ;)

Ann Voss Peterson said...

And by other authors, I don't mean you should demand blurbs from Nora. Networking has to benefit both parties, as does friendship.

Joe Konrath said...

The books weren't written by nobodies

Do you really want to debate the bible? Okay...

From a historical perspective, they were nobodies. Where are the non-canon accounts of Matt, Mark, Luke, and John? Last names? Lineage?

What about the other gospels? Pseudopigrapha and apocrypha? Why did those four make the cut and not others?

Where is Jesus's gospel, in his own words? Why is writing the history of Christ, 70 to 100 years after his death by people who never met him, considered accurate? Why is Jesus, the most important man in history, not mentioned outside the bible except in passing in Josephus and Tacticus? Certainly there would be a LOT of people writing about God's son.

The historicity of David is also questionable. Dinosaurs we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. David, not so much.

And any transcription or translation makes mistakes and takes creative liberties. Christianity has swallowed up and appropriated the myths and rituals of so many religions that the world has lost count.

Not all Christians seek power

I suppose all fascists don't, either. I was born and raised Catholic. There's a precedent for power mongering there.

However, I don't have questions. I'm a skeptic. I believe in the scientific method. No church, indie or legacy, is going to persuade me, because their answers always devolve to "faith" which by definition is belief without proof.

I have no problem with anyone who has faith. Whatever helps make life easier is a good thing. But believing in an imaginary creator (who is at best, and absentee father and at worst a vicious sadist) in order to make children feel guilty for masturbating, condemn same sex marriage, and take my donations that they get tax-free, makes me sad.

Joe Konrath said...

Often the third-world countries they visit are devoid of food, have little-to-no medicine, water, power, etc, and are sometimes dangerous to visit.

Then they need food, medicine, power, and water, not bibles.

Sorry, but teaching guilt and fear to poor people is distasteful, and making them believe there is a God that they've obviously displeased somehow to make them poor, sick, and starving, is downright criminal.

If you want to help, join the Red Cross. You can help humanity without spreading nonsense.

Joe Konrath said...

Yet, did you not make a post a while back encouraging people to make wills about what to do with their intellectual property and who gets to own it? Is this another one of your changed opinions, or is there rationale that fits both posts?

My lawyer finally finished my literary trust, which I'll share here soon.

Right now the laws say IPs are transferable after death, so that's what my will is going to follow. When copyright law changes, my will shall change.

The trouble I'm having is even if I don't want to leave my IP to heirs, leaving it to a bank or a charity means I'm supporting an infrastructure of people I don't know as opposed to people I do know. Perhaps a fund or a grant of some kind. My wife and I are still discussing it. But in the meantime, the IP rights had to go somewhere, and it isn't to our children. At least, most of it isn't. They will have education, medical, and cost of living needs covers.

Joe Konrath said...

Didn't change my faith. But it has made me quite cautious about the type of "Christian" I associate with.

What would make you change your faith? What would it take?

As a skeptic, it would be easy for me. If God came down and proved he existed I'd be the first one on my knees.

It's worrisome that the majority of people on this planet believe superstitions and fairy tales from old books. I understand that death is scary, and much in life is uncertain, and life itself has no scientific explanation yet, but to reach for things that were written when he world was thought to be flat and the sun revolved around the earth seems, I dunno, unwise.

Joe Konrath said...

1. God is Love.
2. To love God and love one another.

That is really all there is to Christianity. Everything else is embellishment.


Kelly, why do we need an old book, or the god it describes, to understand it's a good idea to love one another? I love a lot of people, no god needed.

Here's a fun list of all the people god killed in the bible.

http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2010/04/drunk-with-blood-gods-killings-in-bible.html

Love one another is a good message. Killing fig trees, not so much...

Joe Konrath said...

And there is no such thing as a soul mate.

Don't tell that to my wife. :)

And in these times, and for indie authors, those connections with other authors are not just valuable; they're necessary.

I can't argue against that, because you're right.

But I can argue that there has to be a better way to connect with authors other than conferences. Spending $600 to be on a single panel and then get segregated from the "real" writers during the group signing would have irritated me.

John Ellsworth said...

I care a lot about what yoou people on here have to say about publishing, book sales, and writing, and I should, I'm a Newbie and this blog announces it''s made for me. But I don't give a damn what any of you think about the bible, God, Jesus, the Catholic Church, Josephus,Tacitus, David, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John UNLESS these happen to be the names of your characters in your latest work. Then I care. Short of that, please leave religion and belief systems off of my Newbie site. I didn't come here for that and I certainly am not gonna be beat over the head with it. I love myself way too much to allow that to happen. Adios.

Joe Konrath said...

I love myself way too much to allow that to happen.

You love yourself too much to question your beliefs?

Interesting.

I question my beliefs all the time. All of my beliefs. Every single one of them.

If I find myself too comfortable with something I believe, I test it. I just raised my ebook prices from $5.99 to $3.99 for two weeks, because I was so sure that $3.99 was the better price point. When that happens, it's time to start experimenting. That way I never get complacent.

I'm not sure how discussing dissenting points of view, whether they be religion or politics or publishing, is so taboo it can't be discussed.

Once you stop questioning, and stop listening to dissenting ideas, you stop learning.

The whole point of being deliberate is knowing why you do what you do and think what you think. Questioning your own ideas should empower you, because it makes you defend your rationale.

BTW, some ebooks lost money when I went to $3.99. But others, oddly, made more money.

I'll blog about it soon. I need more data.

And I usually do avoid religious debate on this blog, but the parallel between blind faith in god and the fixation by some authors with getting a legacy contract is strong. There are a lot of self-delusional overlaps, a lot of emotion and feelings overcoming logic and common sense, and a lot of serving idealistic, imaginary Kool-Ade.

But I'm happy to stop discussing religion, provided no one else brings it up in the comments. This blog is about publishing, not religion.

Megan Bryce said...

Love it.

My only rebuttal is against this part. "Now if we want to be able to get into Costco, or airports, or Wal-Mart, we still need publishers to do so. But even if you sign with a major publisher, the chance of you getting into Wal-Mart is very slim, and you'll be giving up a lot of royalties in order for that small chance."

Last month on kboards, Joe_Nobody calmly wrote that his books were sold in Walmart through Createspace expanded distribution.
http://www.kboards.com/index.php?topic=182963.0

I about wet my pants when I read that. And I feel like I've heard someone, somewhere, say they'd got their books into a Costco... But I can't remember where or who so maybe that was one of those it-was-only-a-bad-burrito, go-back-to-bed nights

Silas Payton said...

Another great post. This one made me laugh. The title Konrants is classic. I hope to see more of it.

The religious arguments are fantastic. I used to read a ton of books on the subject, partly for interest and partly so I could debate with people. I decided to live and let be delusional. This was refreshing.

Anyway, I have been to a few conferences for my main career and, like you say, if you think you might enjoy some time away, go ahead. If that style of networking isn't for you, try something else.

I love the rant on the pinhead. I picked up a bit of Jack Kilborn there. Do you have anything in the works?

P.S. I just read a post of a blogger who's server went belly up and they hadn't backed up the data since mid 2013. All comments were lost. The comments on your blog are too priceless to lose. Something to look into.

Joe Konrath said...

Last month on kboards, Joe_Nobody calmly wrote that his books were sold in Walmart through Createspace expanded distribution.

When you see one of his titles on the shelf at your local Walmart, let us know. As it stands, his books aren't for sale at www.walmart.com. My audiobooks are, and my A-pub are, but not my CS, even though I'm in extended distribution.

Hachette got my book Afraid into Walmart for about seven seconds. I still outsold it in ebook--and this was in 2010. Now that I own the rights, I've made far more money than I did with Hachette. But if I wanted big box distro, I'd go with one of the Big 5. But that would be cutting off my ears to improve my sense of smell by a fraction.

Greg Strandberg said...

I haven't seen you respond this much in awhile.

We had the Festival of the Book here in Missoula last fall and there was nothing for or about self-publishing.

It wasn't real surprising but it did tick me off a bit at the time. Now I don't even think about it.

Who cares? Screw them. Screw me. Screw you. Go write. As long as you keep putting stuff out it doesn't really matter. The clock's still ticking. More can be done.

Joe Konrath said...

All comments were lost. The comments on your blog are too priceless to lose.

I back up monthly, but thanks for the reminder.

I used to argue religion a lot on listserv, way way back during my early days on the Internet, before I was published. Ultimately, I really think that people can believe whatever they want to believe, as long as they aren't trying to recruit me, or pass laws based on their gods.

Also, I think we should tax churches. Freedom of religion shouldn't mean they get a free pass.

I love the idea of a flat tax, one which would encompass churches.

Also, drugs, gambling, and prostitution should be legal, regulated, and taxed. Political terms should be restricted to four years. We should abolish the electoral college and have a true democracy. We should open our borders and give citizenship to all aliens int he country. We should legalize same sex marriage. Lobbyists should be illegal. And while I'm getting crazy, let's finally adopt the metric system and get rid of daylight savings time, which is no longer needed because we have something called electricity. Also, pardon Manning and Snowden.

But then, this blog isn't a place for politics any more than it is a place for religion, so I'll shut up now and stick to pub talk. The messenger shouldn't get mixed up with the message.

The Other Stephen King said...

Joe, I thank you more times than I ever give voice to, for the words of wisdom I've been reading for the past several years. What you've said about what will happen in the future is nothing anybody (like me) who's earned an MBA in part by studying case studies of maturing marketplaces wouldn't already know. That said, your blogging on the topic shows that you get it, that you know more business about business than many of the pinheads who post rebuttals here. For that, I thank you, and I also point out that I so enjoy your posts.

Silas Payton said...

The metric system? No, you're going too far. That's just crazy talk. I've been following your blog since 2010 and I now realize you are just nuts. Everything you've said...it must just be rambling from an madman.

Ruth Barringham said...

I love Konrants. Can't argue with anything you said. I even agree that the US should go metric and ditch daylight savings. We have daylight savings in parts of Australia which really annoys me when other states go onto 'pretend' time.

I hope you do more Konrants. Haven't had such a laugh in ages. Hilarious.

I agree with The Other Stephen King that "your blogging on the topic shows that you get it, that you know more business about business than many of the pinheads who post rebuttals here."

Joe Konrath said...

I've been following your blog since 2010 and I now realize you are just nuts.

It took you four years to realize that?

Most people get it within two years. Maybe I'm slipping...

Joshua Simcox said...

"What would make you change your faith? What would it take?"

I've given that some thought. I suppose if I die and nothing happens, then I'll believe in something else. :)

Sure, that's a little facetious and it's sounds more arrogant than I actually feel. If you choose to believe in a god, you'll likely question that choice at some point. I have. I probably will again. I don't use spirituality as a platform for bigotry and self-serving agendas, but it's done some good in my life. So I plan to hold on to it. And, contrary to what Bill Maher would have me believe, it hasn't stunted my intellectual growth one bit.

"Then I care. Short of that, please leave religion and belief systems off of my Newbie site. I didn't come here for that and I certainly am not gonna be beat over the head with it."

I agree that this isn't really the best forum for religious debate. I'm against religious debates in general because those are arguments NO ONE wins; it usually comes down to little more than each side trying to score more "hits" against the other. I don't need that. Atheists don't need that. Lovecraftians that worship Cthulu and other unspeakable horrors from the deep don't need it, either.

But Joe did open that door and he seemed willing to engage a bit, so why not? This is a blog dedicated to publishing, sure, but there can be diversions from time to time. Those little detours keep things interesting. But if you're not cool with that, well, why not spend some time elsewhere and then tune in again next week?

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered if you were atheist, Joe. It's good to know that you are because I am too. I know the word 'atheist' presumes a lot, but it's just an easier way of describing someone with a rational mind. Knowing you challenge beliefs adds even more credence to your opinions and experiences in publishing. I'm listening to you, have been for years and now there's no reason to stop doing so, ever.

Please make 'Konrants' as a new blog post meme. It's the start of something that really could get people thinking. Well, people who bother to think for themselves.

JK Brown said...

Honored to get your feedback, Joe!

Joshua, even though I was not about to sway Joe, I still wanted his take on what I found to be conclusive points. Him being a skeptic would help me see potential faults that I can explore. As he rightfully said:

Once you stop questioning, and stop listening to dissenting ideas, you stop learning.

The whole point of being deliberate is knowing why you do what you do and think what you think. Questioning your own ideas should empower you, because it makes you defend your rationale.


If you want to take a writing equivalent, I basically just asked Joe to edit my short story for errors (after making a reference on his blog), and he politely obliged on his own blog comments section. That takes character. I don't agree with them all, but that's ok. I'd be happy to discuss more in private (which I don't see happening).

Joe, you were looking for a writer that supports the legacy industry yet converted over to indie publishing. I'm "cheating" a bit, but I think Jonathan Gunson fits your bill. He's from Britain rather than the US, But he gave me a free publishing ebook that goes into his positive time spent in legacy publishing there. He does however throw his support behind ebooks and what they can do for authors (he even referenced you as a "millionaire" success story in the epub world).

He also attributes most of his success in legacy to "word-of-mouth", though he does give credit to the publishers for getting behind his unique idea and making an honest effort to support him. The book that made him huge was "The Merlin Mystery".

Walter Knight said...

I'm making money, but it's never enough.

Joe Konrath said...

The book that made him huge was "The Merlin Mystery".

That was published in 1998, and I can't find anything he's done since on Amazon.com, other than a book called Fallen Angel which has no reviews and was self-pubbed in print in 2007 by Lulu.

I'm looking for indie ebook authors who were given a big legacy deal, who then sing legacies praises.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I must admit I am coming around to your way of thinking with each passing month, but the one problem I've always had with some of your posts, and I still come back to read more so I'm not trying to attack but rather to discuss the issue with you. You come across as having an axe to grind regarding traditional publishing, and often seem to be on the attack. Now undoubtedly you are correct that eBooks are the future and that self publishing is now no longer looked down upon, and many bestsellers have started out in self publishing. It's a way to go but don't you feel that eventually things must slow down, that there will be so much rubbish out there that the self publishing industry may sink under its own weight? These are just some of the concerns I have and I've been traditionally published and not made a lot of money out of it - in fact if I'm honest I've made more from my self publishing, but money is not my motivating factor. Just some thoughts there and I'm not attacking you so don't feel that I am, but I'm at odds with some of your views.

BD Crowell said...

That last bit started my morning off with a laugh. Thanks, Joe! I always enjoy your posts.

Stephen Leather said...

Hi Joe - There is at least one Indie writer who went the legacy route and is doing very well. His name's Kerry Wilkinson and he went from being one of the UK's bestselling Indie writers to one of Pan McMillan's top sellers, too. You can read about Kerry here - http://www.futurebook.net/content/publishings-hits-and-misses/ - and on his blog at http://kerrywilkinson.com. Lovely bloke, too.

You're right though, Kerry is a rarity.

Stephen Leather said...

PS - Kerry in his own words here - http://www.futurebook.net/content/self-publishing-changed-my-life-my-publisher-grew-my-sales

JT Bock said...

Hi, Joe!

Having attended RT for the first time and did my first ever book signing at their book fair, I agree that conferences are expensive but can be worth it for some writers--not all. And, as you pointed out, writing more books is by far more important. I suggest that anyone spending money on a conference have a clear agenda as to why they are attending and what they want to accomplish. I did have several authors say that the main reason they attended RT was for a tax write off.

Writers who speak at our romance conferences and romance writer organizations have time and again commented that romance writers and our writing groups are different than other writing organizations and far more supportive. (Having not been involved in many other writing groups, I have to take their word on it.) I wanted to attend this conference to network other writers, do a book signing (a goal of mine), help other indie authors (I spoke on a panel), and speak with readers about my book. As a debut author, it was another way to get my name out there to readers and writers who didn't know me. Some of the writers I met immediately started sharing my book with their fans and fellow writers. There is nothing like creating personal connections with readers and other writers by sharing food and a few drinks at a conference, sitting next to each other at a signing, or making fun of a drunk man singing Angel of the Morning at your cleavage.

I learned a lot at the workshops. I heard authors speak about their craft and was inspired by the journey of other writers.

I wasn't there to get publishers to notice me. I wanted to represent debut indies, seek collaborations with other authors, and talk directly to readers--all of whom didn't care whether the author was self-pubbed or traditional. They cared about the story.

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

Pseudopigrapha and apocrypha are not curable, but they are treatable with antibiotics. One wonders if the ebook version of the Bible is outselling the hardcover. Of course, the Gideon Society has helped hardcover distribution in short stay motels, which is why one hears "O God!" so often in the other room. Missionaries are the divinely provided food for cannibals, who get religious from eating them, because after all, "You are who you eat." Is it possible that God is a legacy publisher? So many of them aspire to godhood. These are the questions that try men's souls, or they would if souls existed. But heels certainly exist, along with filets of sole, so one never knows do one? On another note, I remember one fine book signing, while promoting my magnum o'piss for St. Martins (there's that religious stuff again),when the only person who showed up was not a cougar, but a woman old enough to be a saber tooth tiger. Her insightful comment will stay with me always, when she, referring to my book said, "Oh what an interesting topic, what's it about?" It was then that I converted to alcoholism.

Libbie Hawker said...

I gave up on trying to convince people to give up delusions when I had a long talk with my parish priest at the age of 18, asking him repeatedly how he could defend faith (faith based on a millenia-old book written by a bunch of nobodies with no historical gravitas and vetted multiple times through multiple translations by those seeking power) in the face of science. He chose to remain blind to what was happening around him, willfully ignorant of easily provable facts, and I gave up God for Lent, and every day since.

I love you, Joe.

C. Glen Williams said...

I remember in 2003 — four years before the Kindle revolution — walking into the office of my (legacy-published) favorite creative writing professor and handing her a Print-On-Demand copy of my play, which included her name in the dedication. She asked about my publisher, and I told her how the system worked -- I didn't have to pay them anything (as opposed to vanity publishers), they set a base price for the book, I set the retail price and kept the difference, and I had control over the cover and the interior layout.

She said, "That's a better deal than I'm getting from my publisher! Give me the URL for that site. My students might like to hear about it." Then she went on to wax eloquent about how amazing the new technology for self-publishing was, and how it was going to change the structure of the industry very soon.

I should check in with her and see what she thinks now that we're in a post-Kindle world.

Anonymous said...

Yes, start your own writers' conference. Then open your own publishing company with your own marketing and publicity departments. You'll earn 27% more than traditional authors.

But also spend more time writing.

Dan DeWitt said...

"Konrants?" Pffffft.

KONWRATH.

I don't know why you gave that chump the time of day, though.

Brian said...

I read part of this thread, then I took your advice and went back to writing.

York Lord said...

Ebooks aren't diminishing (wth!? publishers) Paper books will last beyond 2020. There will always be a need to read Dracula and Frankenstein on paper in 2100.

Marc Cabot said...

"If God came down and proved he existed I'd be the first one on my knees."

Would you?

There's a scene in one of the older runs of Supergirl where Supergirl is confronted by a young boy who claims to be God. He's established that he at least deserves to be taken seriously by swinging his baseball bat at her... and launching her several miles through the air.

However, after she gets her breath back, she asks him to prove that he's God, and he says, "Can't. There's nothing I could do that you couldn't point to some metahuman/alien/other being and say, 'Hey, they can do that too.' Believe me or don't, I don't care. What I care about is that you listen to what I have to say. Because it's important."

Granted, we don't have superheroes in our universe, but the point remains. Is there really any way God could logically and physically prove that He was God to you, and not just an extremely accomplished hypnotist, a super-advanced alien, etc? At what point would respect and wonder turn into worship?

Joe Konrath said...

You come across as having an axe to grind regarding traditional publishing, and often seem to be on the attack.

Have you heard the saying that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?

That doesn't apply to blogs. People come to see vinegar. My tone is calculated to maximize traffic and polarize people, who then discuss it here and elsewhere.

that there will be so much rubbish out there that the self publishing industry may sink under its own weight?

That's the tsunami of crap meme. I debunked that years ago.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/07/tsunami-of-crap.html

In a nutshell, how much on the Internet is crap? 99.9%? Yet you and I still find worthwhile sites to visit, and do it quickly and easily.

It is the same with ebooks. There will always be crap. But the cream will be discoverable, as long as Amazon's algorithms stay solid.

As long as you don't write crap you've got a shot at success.

Joe Konrath said...

Kerry seems like a smart guy, Stephen. Thanks for the link.

I admit to curiosity about his numbers, though. How many units did he sell, and how much was he earning, prior to Macmillan and after Macmillan?

I think the best thing to do is talk to him again after his 14th Macmillan title comes out, and see if he has regrets.

I know that if I signed a 14 book deal for anything less than a gazillion dollars, it wouldn't be worth it to me. Even if, by some chance, I made more money than I do know, dealing with a publisher just isn't worth the extra stress.

But if he's happy, more power to him, and it shows there are multiple paths to happiness.

Ken Lindsey said...

Really, am I the only one who can't believe Joe brought up RCA Selectivision discs? How dare you, Mr. Konrath.

How dare you.

Joe Konrath said...

It was then that I converted to alcoholism.

LOL.

I never converted. It has been my calling since birth.

Joe Konrath said...

I love you, Joe.

And Jesus loves us both, Libbie.

So do Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

Joe Konrath said...

I don't know why you gave that chump the time of day, though.

My wife is extremely amused by it. She reads everyday, hoping someone will step out of line.

What can I say? I love her.

I'd guess part of it stems from the fact that we're all so vulnerable, and also impotent, on the world wide web. People can say the meanest shit about you, which they do, and you can't do anything about it.

But when you run a blog, you get to answer in kind, have the last word, and not get kicked out by moderators with agendas (hear that, Absolute Write? Your forum sucks, your moderators suck, and you're hurting writers with your censorship, disinformation, and negativity).

If I ruled the world, I wouldn't be a benevolent ruler. But hopefully I'd be fair, and entertaining. One of the first things I'd do is send all the Internet pinheads to a secluded island and force them to play teambuilding games until they learned how to comport themselves publicwise.

Joe Konrath said...

There will always be a need to read Dracula and Frankenstein on paper in 2100.

Don't confuse "need" with "desire".

I have no doubts paper will always be around. Like vinyl is still around. But it will be a niche market. Paper is expensive, wasteful, inconvenient, cumbersome, involves shipping, and grows fragile with age.

A good test of new technology is this: if we always had ebooks, and paper came along, what would its advantage be?

I see no advantages to paper. It is nostalgia.

I opined on this 4 years ago:

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/02/you-can-pry-my-paper-books-from-my-cold.html

Joe Konrath said...

"Can't. There's nothing I could do that you couldn't point to some metahuman/alien/other being and say, 'Hey, they can do that too.'

Well, I'd also get on my knees and worship Supergirl, so the question is unfair.

If a being claimed to be God, performed miracles, and created life before my eyes, I'd accept that being as God. Just as any technology that is suitably advanced gets viewed as magic.

My point it, the scientific method requires proof, not blind faith.

If the god of the bible exists, where has he been for 2000 years? How can he justify all of the terrible things he's done? What sort of god creates earthquakes and ebola and birth defects? What sort of all loving father asks you to kill your own son? What kind of loving deity sends a flood and kills all of humanity expect for some old dude and a few family members?

One of my favorite atheist arguments is that if god is all known and all loving why did he create me to be an atheist? He wants me to burn in hell? What's he trying to prove with that?

My children love me because I care for them, nurture them, support them, help them. Not because they fear my wrath. That ain't love, it's abuse.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe brought up RCA Selectivision discs?

We had a bunch. Some, like The Godfather or Thunderball, we double disc sets because they were over two hours long.

I love how they scratched and skipped just like vinyl. How can I not want to go back to that?

Joseph said...

There are personal truths, historical truths and scientific truths. It's important to know which is which. I got that from Star Trek.

William Ockham said...

Here's a little secret about the rate of growth in the amount of money spent on ebooks each year. It doesn't matter to you. How that growth occurs and who is spending the money matters a lot. Let me explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up.
If the growth comes from a million more Divergent fans buying ebooks instead of pbooks, that matters a lot to Veronica Roth's publisher, but not to Roth herself. And it doesn't matter at all to anyone reading this (unless they work for Roth's publisher, then their bonus might be affected, but probably not).

On the other hand, if the growth in ebook spending comes about because 10,000 people who read 100 or more novels a year convert from physical books to ebooks, it matters enormously to the people who read this blog.

If you think about that for a minute, you will realize that the overall dollar impact would likely be greater in the first case because Divergent ebooks cost more than the average ebook. In fact, in a lot of measurements, the second scenario would be almost invisible. But the second scenario is far more important to you. Seriously.

A million more Divergent fans buying ebooks won't really impact legacy publishing much. They would update their planning spreadsheets for next years books and go merrily on their way.

They won't have much of an impact on indie writers either. Even if you write for the same demographic as Roth, those million ebook buyers represent a very limited market for you, mostly because it's impossible to know which ones would be valuable customers for you.

Those 10,000 reading addicts, on the other hand, are worth courting one on one, if you have to. They are your future. And nobody in the industry (except Amazon) knows anything about them.

Burton said...

The reason so many indie authors are hung up on this "us vs them" mentality is because many of them self-published as a fallback position. They've been turned down by every agent and publisher they approached, and this is their last resort. Despite what they say, there will always be a nagging "Please approve of me!" need that comes out as righteous indignation against every perceived slight, no matter how trivial or wrong like the recent RT incident.

Most indie writers will agree with the above ... if they're honest with themselves, even if they won't say so publicly on places like this.

Those of us who self-published because we WANTED to could care less about what happened at RT in NOLA. I read that KB thread with amusement at all the over-the-top responses. Even though I read Hugh Howey's Author Reports with great interest (as a businessman), it doesn't make me feel any better or worse after reading it, because I like where I'm at and I couldn't be happier.

(I recently turned down two straight-up offers of representation from two pretty well-known lit agencies. You would think I told them I had a horn and a tail by their responses. They couldn't grasp the idea of a self-pubber not biting.)

John Brown said...

I know the word 'atheist' presumes a lot, but it's just an easier way of describing someone with a rational mind.

Right. The rest of us run around eating socks and wondering if there really are gerbils under the hood in that big black metal box.

Geez, I wonder where I can get one of them rational minds.

What? They don't exist? All our brains have this big emotional elephant running the show?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinking,_Fast_and_Slow

Dang.

Joe Konrath said...

Those 10,000 reading addicts, on the other hand, are worth courting one on one, if you have to. They are your future. And nobody in the industry (except Amazon) knows anything about them.

If you want to be super duper rich, you need to attract the casual readers who buy two books a year.

But you can make a very nice living catering to power users.

S.A. Hunter said...

Regarding Walmart.com, they've made it near impossible to find my Createspace edition of Scary Mary. It only came up today by searching with the ISBN. http://www.walmart.com/ip/26924422

But I know at one time my book came up by searching by title at least: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,162131.msg2329237.html#msg2329237

I'm sure someone with more knowledge than me can hopefully explain why.

I tried searching by ISBN for your books, Joe, but didn't find them. I don't know why my book is listed and yours are not. (And none of my other books appear to be listed either.)

John Ellsworth said...

Joe and all:

Probably three months before I began self-pubbing I one Sunday (laboriously!) sent out 37 query letters to agents I found on P&W and one of those high-priced book-o-agents. Nobody responded back, but two, who said let us see the first five pages? Five pages?! What?! Of a novel?! 35 others totally ignored me, didn't even have the decency to reject my advances (like even the least desperate woman I ever approached managed to do). So, I self-pubbed. I am astonished at my sales after just 3.5 months. And, some people write that they even like the books. Some hate it, but hey, that's ok too. But the upshot is I love hiring my own book covers, setting my own prices, tracking my sales during the day, and getting ready to publish my third book of the series I've started. This is the most fun I've ever had and I'm an old guy.

But your blog is what did it for me, and still does. Like you suggested somewhere, go back to 2009 and read forward. It took me all of one weekend, but I did that, and I learned so so much. I can only say thank you for this blog and for opening your records so that the rest of us can actually see that yes, this thing is very possible. It gives me a lot of hope, just at a time in my life when I really needed that. Thanks again. John

Alan Spade said...

I think Amanda Hocking wrote a blog explaining she was perfectly happy with her deal with St Martin and with her numbers.

Authors are to be wary of the tree masking the forest, though. A big publisher can perfectly make one author happy and screw hundred others.

To be perfectly right, authors have to be equally wary of self-pub success. What should matter most is the treatment of midlist or low-selling authors from both sides.

Compare them, and make your choice.

Alan Spade said...

And what should matter, of course, is not only the treatment, but the perspectives.

Jean Joachim said...

Great blog! You make a lot of sense.

Brandon Berntson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brandon Berntson said...

The other thing, in case someone doesn't mention it is inspiration. This blog is inspiring for us independent authors who finally have a means of being heard. When publishers and agents are nowhere around to believe in us, what choice do we have? We believe in our vision and or creativity and we want to share it with the world. We now have means to share that with the world without having to go about the traditional channels. This blog inspires us to keep doing that and to keep going, no matter what. Peace to all and have a happy Spring!
bberntson22.wordpress.com

Larry Nocella said...

Crush 'em Joe! Everytime I'm feelin' blue (awwwww) along comes one of your posts to remind me of the important work of being indie. Love it, love it, love it!

For so many years I queried the beautiful people and I hated it. I'm not setting the world on fire with sales necessarily - but I'm having a blast!

Rock on my friend!

Larry Nocella

Michael Kingswood said...

"to reach for things that were written when he world was thought to be flat and the sun revolved around the earth seems, I dunno, unwise. "

Point of order - they didn't believe the world was flat back then. Scholars at Alexandria calculated the Earth's radius pretty accurately, and no one who's gone out to sea or travelled a fair distance over flatland thinks the world's flat; the horizon puts the lie to that notion.

Immaterial to your point I know, but I feel like being pedantic today.

:)

Nice rants, Joe. Always a pleasure to read them.

Joe Konrath said...

All our brains have this big emotional elephant running the show?

Deluding ourselves can make us happy. And what's more important, happiness or truth?

I'd vote happiness is. Yet this search for truth thing keeps messing with my head.

Ultimately, knowing things makes me happy, which is why faith does not.

Would you like to be half as smart and twice as happy? It's really tempting...

Scout Dakota said...

"One of life's greatest journeys is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit."

Preach.

Kirk Alex said...

We love you, Joe, and think the world of you. Amazing post as usual. Got a real kick at the way you handled the pinhead. Some people simply aren't bright enough to get what's going on, or else are in denial––or both. Having said that, I realize you didn't choose to be, but certainly are a hero to so many of us! Keep this in mind whenever the anonymous attacks appear. Kirk Alex, author of Lustmord: Anatomy of a Serial Butcher

Anonymous said...

As the parent of an autistic son, the developmentally disabled bit was over the top, Joe.

You're a bright guy - successful guy. You've helped a lot of people along the way to your success (myself included).

Smart people say dumb things and apologizing a few lines later doesn't help. It just smacks of knowing better and wanting to say it anyway.

I don;t know you, but my sense of things is that you are not some asshole who likes making fun of people at the expense of the disabled.

I am also conscious of instant reaction my response can get of 'oh lighten up'!

A bad joke doesn't invalidate your point. It does make fun of something that anyone living with it can tell you is not funny.

I know, because I used to say dumb shit like that too. To say my son changed my thinking is an understatement.

No body thinks calling someone a homosexual slur is funny. Calling someone 'retarded' isn't either.

Preach on Joe, but stick with calling people idiots, or assholes or whatever...

Norma Beishir said...

I'm amazed that anyone still goes to Kathryn Falk's annual monster rally. She still manages to suck writers in and convince them they can't have a future in publishing without her support.Wow!

Anonymous said...

Joe, I think in terms of the conference thing, you're a guy and you see conferences like a guy.

For the romance writing community, conferences ARE an opportunity to hold hands and make friends. 99% of the attendees are women, and it's a lot like going back to high school for a weekend. You have all the same cliques and groups, from the super nice people to the stuck up people to the nerdy chicks. But regardless of type, they're all there to see or find friends within their subtype. I don't think men operate the same way when it comes to finding friendships. :)

John Brown said...

Ultimately, knowing things makes me happy, which is why faith does not.

Alas, you must be sad all day long, exercising faith in the fact that doctors, mechanics, electricians, etc. know things you don't; that Amazon will pay; and that it's impossible for something to exist that has more knowledge and power than humans currently have.

That blasted faith. Always wrecking our joys.

Joseph said...

To anonymous...not sure men typically find friends that way. But you've given me a good idea of where I can find a woman...:-)

Joe Konrath said...

Alas, you must be sad all day long, exercising faith in the fact that...

Nope, I'm pretty happy.

I don't have faith that doctors or mechanics know things I don't. I know, for a fact, that they know things I don't, which makes them doctors or mechanics. Because they've learned provable things.

Faith isn't a strength. It's a weakness. Believing in something that doesn't exist is not the path to enlightenment. To still have superstitions and belief in the supernatural, when science has provided so many answers, is frightening.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Rant on, Joe! Someone has to speak up.

John Brown said...

Joe,

Of course you're happy. That was the point. And you do live by faith. Just not faith in any god.

You don't know scientists know what they claim to know. Have you gone and verified every experiment ever created? No. You trust that the other scientists are vetting them. That the science isn't getting mixed with politics or ambition or business.

Boy, that never happens, does it? And we never find out anything new that controverts what we believed before. That never happens because we know.

You don't know that doctors know the things they claim to know. You hear about their reputation, you see the trappings of "expertise," you see a certificate on the wall, your neighbor tells you about this great drug.

And yet hundreds of thousands of people die at the hands of doctors (doctor mistakes and malpractice and plain ignorance) every year because the remedy is worse than the cure, because folks believed the doctors could do what they clearly couldn't.

Hundreds of thousands are damaged by prescriptions. Remember Fen-phen, Vioxx, and dozens of other drug recalls?

But, boy, we know the doctors know, don't we.

Sloppy, stupid, or conniving mechanics rip folks off. People are poisoned with bad meat purchased from the best super markets.

Why?

Because people exercised trust. You can't live without exercising trust.

The question isn't about exercising trust and the belief that accompanies it.

It's about what you exercise your belief in and why. And what evidence you have to support those beliefs.

Yes, I know. Here comes Science.

Science is an awesome practice. But we don't use it for most of our daily decisions. We can't.

First, you can't do science on every question. You have to first be able to detect and measure and then set up experiments. But you can't detect everything (black matter, anyone) or measure everything.

Second, you don't have the time or money to set up experiments. Nor do you have the expertise.

So you have to trust that others have done it or just dispense with the science altogether.

You drive without a care through green lights because you trust other drivers.

You live by trust just like everyone else.

The real question is what is the evidence for the trust in this specific thing people call god?

But even that's not right because just as it would be knuckle-headed to lump all the claims ever made by all the scientists together, so also is it knuckle-headed to lump all the claims about god together.

There is no evidence for god? Which god? Which attributes? Which claims about how divine intervention does or doesn't work? Which specific miracles and communications?

You've examined every one of the different claims and the evidence for them?

Some claims will be fabrications, some post hoc fallacies, some hearsay, some tradition, some the result of drugs, some brain dysfunctions, some pranks. And some, well, dang it, some are hard to explain away.

We don’t live by faith or by reason. We live by both. And we are affected by the specific limitations of both.

Kit Power said...

This one's for Burton, regarding validation and self-publishing. Where I've got to on this (and Joe has helped me evolve my thinking on this a lot, so thanks, Joe) is that validation (if any) will come from reader response (if any) and your own internal quality control, which needs to be as rigorous and critical as you can make it. I'm going to self pub my first e-novella in August (my previous one was released by an indie publisher) and unless the process is disastrous or utterly horrible, I'm going to bring out my novel sometime in the fall/winter.

However, I also write a lot of short fiction, and I'm going to continue to try getting that published in pro markets, for a number of reasons: Amazon self publishing just doesn't work for short stories, IMO - the 30% royalty for worked priced under $1.99 is, to use the technical term, a piss-take, and good as my shorts are, they're not $1.99 a pop good. Sure, when I've got enough, I can anthologize, but i'm not there yet.

Also, having my short stories appear in various publications will hopefully get my name out to more readers, demonstrate my mad writing skillz, and yes, provide validation for me that I can write at a 'professional' level. Whether or not that should matter to me is kind of immaterial - it does, so I might as well acknowledge that and see how I can fit it into my overall strategy in a way that makes sense. I believe I have done so, by treating my short fiction as a shop window for my writing which will hopefully attract more readers to my self published longer work. Time will tell.

Luke Wintersen said...

Joe, regarding the question of whether it is better to be ignorant and happy vs. informed and unhappy: Voltaire addressed it in a very short story called "The Good Brahmin." It's one of his best. The subtitle is "Does happiness result from ignorance or from knowledge?"

Charmaine T. Davis said...

"I gave up God for Lent, and every day since."

Some of us have trouble believing in God because we expect God to play by our rules, possess our sensibilities, operate under our limited intelligence and act through our jacked-up sense of justice and righteousness. We can’t stand the idea of an omnipotent being independent of our human agency and control who can do what He wants, when He wants and how He wants. When we get over the notion that we have a say-so over God, then we can humble ourselves, submit to His authority and then we can thrive beneath the shadow of His wings.

Marc Cabot said...

@Kit Power: Actually, it's 35% for works priced under $2.99.

And it's not a "piss-take:" it's honest money. I price my 5,000 word erotica shorts at $.99. (Which is too cheap.) I have yet to have one be up for a year and not make at least as much money as I could reasonably have expected a short of similar length to get as an advance from any traditional market. Because 35% of cover is still way, way more than they are going to pay on that.

kimmullican said...

I've followed you for years, linked back to you in blog posts and I've read most of your books. Some free, some I paid for. So yeah..."fangirl."

I've been writing and publishing for almost a decade as a self-pubbie. And...sales sucked.

Then, I wrote smut under a pen name, signed on with a small house and sales are - eh better - but I'm not buying a mansion or paying cash for cars. Still poor. Still writing. Still dreaming.

Even my small publishing house only publishes eBooks. Even in their words, paper is a waste of time and money, though they do allow their authors to put the eBook to print if they wish.

I'm busting my ass marketing and getting nowhere but you make me hope, dream and continue to write. For that, I thank you.

KONRANTS should definitely be a "thing." Oh, and you should give out asshat awards annually. Now that... that would be funny.

I digress. Thank you for talking me out of spending hard earned money on a conference I cannot afford.

Kit Power said...

@Marc - thanks for the reply - YMM and clearly does V, and that's fine. I see zero justification for the 35% on sales below $1.99, but of course if you've found it to me profitable, more power to you. I've yet to actually take the plunge and self-pub, so I know less than nothing right now - it just looks like a crappy deal to me, on the surface.

Kelly Faunce said...

For what it's worth, I'm a newbie who sells about three paper copies for every one ebook. Even my first foreign sale--to the UK--was a trade paperback. This despite costing three times more than the ebook version (and who know what that reader paid in shipping?).

I think genre has a lot to do with reader preferences, as well as whether or not the book is considered 'disposable' by the audience. For myself, I look for new books in the library. If I want to read it again, I buy the ebook. If I find myself going back to it multiple times, I'll look for it in paper.

I guess I would be more swayed by the 'paper is dead' argument if I wasn't old enough to remember that we were supposed to have moon colonies and flying cars by the year 2000. So I take it all with a grain of salt. :)

Kit Power said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeramy Goble said...

"Believing in something that doesn't exist is not the path to enlightenment."

There's a difference between thinking there probably isn't a god, and flat out saying god doesn't exist. That's equivalent to faith. Sure, you can throw the flying spaghetti monster, tooth fairy and santa comments around all you like, but you can't rail on those of faith for not having proof, and then say something so absolute as, "Believing in something that doesn't exist."

It all comes down to how people interact and treat each other within the context of faith, or lack of faith. Does that make faith superfluous? I don't think so. To me, a religious faith, deism, is simply the thought that there may be something intelligent behind existence. I think that's perfectly acceptable to believe, and hoping some day we have the means to test that within the scientific method. But there's quite a jump between those thoughts and Biblical literalism and religious fundamentalism... which, I have to say, does not, (I don't think), represent the majority of the faithful.

Joe Konrath said...

You don't know scientists know what they claim to know.

Not always. But what I don't know, I can verify. That's the point of science. It's repeatable, consistent, and anyone can learn enough to re-prove what has already been proven. Or they prove something else, and new laws are adopted.

Hundreds of thousands are damaged by prescriptions.

And we know why they died. An overdoes of Phen-Fen makes sense.

Believing that Noah put two of every species on a big boat does not make sense.

You drive without a care through green lights because you trust other drivers.

I just taught my 16 year old how to drive. One of the things I drilled into his head is that green lights mean "proceed with caution". They don't mean "go".

I don't trust other drivers anymore than I trust preachers. That;s also why, in crowds, I put my wallet in my front pocket, and why I lock my doors. Even though I've never been pick-pocketed or robbed.

While I can concede living in society (or simply living anywhere) requires a certain amount of trust. We trust gravity will remain constant. We trust that heavy clouds mean raid. We trust that we can buy canned food and not get poisoned.

These are learned behaviors, and part of how our minds work. We recognize patterns, which help with decision-making.

Incidentally, that's why so many people believe prayer works. They confuse correlation and causality. Which is why we're such a superstitious species. Our brains have hacks that can be exploited.

But there is a big difference between trusting gravity--which is provable--and trusting a 2000 year old book--which is not provable at all.

I don't just have faith gravity works. I have equations, and science experiments, to prove it.

Faith in a supernatural being, by definition, is faith without proof. And it's silly at best, harmful at worst.

Joe Konrath said...

Some of us have trouble believing in God because we expect God to play by our rules, possess our sensibilities, operate under our limited intelligence and act through our jacked-up sense of justice and righteousness.

Some of us have trouble believing in god because there is no proof he exists. Not a single shred.

"Not being able to know the mind of god" is a nice excuse made up by the human race to justify god's lack of doing anything at all.

The idea of god served a purpose when we didn't know how the world worked, and we were frightened by everything.

It still serves a purpose for billions who seek answers, comfort, or control.

Yet no one prays for amputees, because we know it doesn't work. We can beg god to help our sick child get cured of a disease, but everyone seems to know that god won't grow back a missing leg.

Humbling myself to an imaginary being is ridiculous. And if god exists, he doesn't need people making excuses for him. The mystery of faith is child-like justification for lack of evidence.

Try Buddhism if you want to be religious, or yoga if you want to meditate, or weed if you want to take the edge off. And if you want to figure out how the world works, try science.

Joe Konrath said...

Oh, and you should give out asshat awards annually. Now that... that would be funny.

I thought about doing that a while ago, but it would be mean.

This blog is popular enough that if I signaled out someone for being a pinhead, it would likely be the first Google result if someone searched for that person. That would hurt the sales of any small-fry asshat, and I'm not cool with that.

I can call out Turow, or Patterson, because I won't effect their sales at all. But if I start picking on people smaller than I am, I could really damage their careers, and I don't go there.

Joe Konrath said...

I guess I would be more swayed by the 'paper is dead' argument if I wasn't old enough to remember that we were supposed to have moon colonies and flying cars by the year 2000.

Wait a sec... we don't have moon colonies or flying cars?!? What a rip off!!!

But seriously, I don't believe paper will ever be dead. I just think it will become niche.

B&N will close, stores will devote smaller and smaller spaces to paper books, and even laggards will have to adopt ebooks because the alternative will be too expensive and inconvenient.

Plus we're raising a whole generation of children who are learning to read on electronic devises.

Paper will always be around. But the days of paper outselling ebooks are numbered.

Joe Konrath said...

There's a difference between thinking there probably isn't a god, and flat out saying god doesn't exist. That's equivalent to faith.

Actually, it's equivalent to empiricism.

It isn't up to me to prove god doesn't exist. The burden of proof falls on those claiming experience, not non-experience.

When there is a trial, they call eye-witnesses and experts, not the millions who don't know anything.

To me, a religious faith, deism, is simply the thought that there may be something intelligent behind existence.

Do you pray to that something? :)

There is no evidence that something intelligent is behind the universe, or life. There is ample evidence of physics, randomness, and math proving science (and vice versa).

The universe is incredible, and life is amazing. We can believe both exist, because we have evidence for it. Why do we need to create an imaginary being that is incredible and amazing? Why can't we accept things as is, and instead require supernatural explanations?

Also, if you're waiting for the scientific method will someday prove your faith, that isn't faith. It's hope. They're different.

Jeramy Goble said...

Sure, I understand everything you're saying. That's why I have no trouble acknowledging my own faith as faith, and not fact. I know the difference. I interact with people as such. I have trouble with fellow folks of faith who treat their beliefs as fact.

Anyway, I point to existence and the universe as possible signs of an intelligent catalyst. Sure, I can't prove that, and may never be able to. I'm cool with that. I could be wrong. But just as I can't prove there is a god, (despite that existence exists), a non-believer shouldn't say god *doesn't* exist.

It's actually a very cyclic conversation and is full of semantics on both sides of the coin. I honestly dig enjoy talking with folks who have thoughts all over the spectrum. It's just when I run into assholes that makes the conversation suck. You're not an asshole, and hopefully there aren't too many folks that think of me as one ;-) Your point about people being encouraged to discuss stuff is a BIG time part of my personal philosophy. Religion, politics, clam chowder recipes, whatever.. It's fun to talk about anything, and with those who think differently on any host of topics. I'm tired of being told by this or that person over the years, that it's not "polite" to talk about any particular topic. Fuck that.

Anyway, outside of the religious discussion, I totally agree with all of your points on the slipping influence of the gatekeepers, (despite the religion comparison, hehe). Their grip is loosening and they're getting desperate. Oh well!

Jeramy Goble said...

Also, I'm not hoping the scientific method will prove my faith, I'm just saying it'll be neat if we get to that point someday. Until then, we each choose whether or not to believe in a deity, with only gut instinct to go on. Despite what Stephen Hawking says about god not being necessary, or the awesome awesomeness of theoretical physics, there are so many frickin' variables and assumptions, it's silly to present non-belief as fact, just as some of my fellow believers try to present their belief as fact.

Joe Konrath said...

But just as I can't prove there is a god, (despite that existence exists), a non-believer shouldn't say god *doesn't* exist.

If I say I have an elf in my drawer, it isn't your job to prove I don't.

Without getting into Hume vs. Kant and the a priori, what we can prove exists is based on sensory experience. Without the sensory experience, or the math, what is there to base you hypothesis on that there may be a creator? A feeling? A need to have a nagging question answered? Jumping to conclusions by applying the workings of the human mind to the universe?

It's fun to talk about anything, and with those who think differently on any host of topics. I'm tired of being told by this or that person over the years, that it's not "polite" to talk about any particular topic. Fuck that.

Agree 100%.

I know I can come off as brusque, and that I offend people. Since when did we become so PC that we have to worry about someone being bothered by something we say?

Let people be bothered and offended. Let people disagree with me and dislike me. It makes things more interesting.

Sarcasm, insults, satire, hyperbole, and ultimately tone can help punctuate facts and logic, and are part of debate. If anyone takes something personally that they read on the Internet, they should lighten up.

Jude Hardin said...

My girlfriend and I were having a discussion the other day, and we quickly came to the conclusion that anyone who goes around happy all the time just isn't thinking.

That said, some of the most intelligent people I've ever met believe in a higher power. Faith and science don't have to be mutually exclusive.

And you can study The Bible for its lessons rather than its historical accuracy. It has influenced western culture and literature more than any other single source, so I think it would behoove anyone interested in the written word to be familiar with it.

As for knowledge, and truth, I've noticed a common theme among the the most brilliant members of our species: the more they learn, the more they realize that they don't really know very much at all.

Joe Konrath said...

No body thinks calling someone a homosexual slur is funny. Calling someone 'retarded' isn't either.

I'm a fat, loud mouthed atheist who does drugs, drinks too much, and watches porn, I have a child on disability and a grandchild with special needs, my father was gay, my wife was abused by her ex-husband, and half my family has died of cancer.

I also joke about fat people, drug abusers, alcoholics, porn addicts, people with disabilities and special needs, homosexuals, abuse victims, and cancer. And I don't get offended by those who do the same, or make jokes about anyone else who is different.

While sensitivity varies person to person, I learned a long time ago to not be offended by words. Especially words by people I don't know.

I think it would be a tragedy if our world became so PC that no one could joke about the less fortunate, or the different. I also think, if we took care not to offend any particular group of people, we would not only lose a lot of humor, but all of our best insults.

If you haven't read Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon, there is a wonderful chapter about autism, (among many other things, many of which really hit home with me). It should be required reading by everyone in the world, in order to better understand tolerance and identity.

Jeramy Goble said...

It's been a pleasure to hang out and chat with you a bit, Joe! If you ever want to talk about booze, porn, oh, or even books, over at my fairly new blog, pop on over! I'm at the link under my name.

Joe Konrath said...

it's silly to present non-belief as fact

I'm saying you should only believe in what is provable.

Can something exist without our knowledge of it? We can assume it does, but without sensory proof (or a math theorem) there is no reason to believe it does.

Higgs believed there was a boson that explained the mass or particles. But he had a whole shitload of math to back-up this belief. He postulated that, for Standard Model of particle physics to work, it needed something yet to be discovered. So science spent decades searching for it, and found it last year.

But we don't need a creator to prove existence. That's hubris, applying reason to laws of physics. Just because we build things is no reason to belief the universe was built, or life was created by someone.

You can believe something exists if the science points to it, and then prove it exists when you can experience it with your senses. You can't do either with god.

John Brown said...

Incidentally, that's why so many people believe prayer works. They confuse correlation and causality. Which is why we're such a superstitious species. Our brains have hacks that can be exploited.

I totally agree with that.

Some of us have trouble believing in god because there is no proof he exists. Not a single shred.

This is not accurate.

There are some things you can't prove with the scientific method for reasons I mentioned above. And yet we act anyway because for all intents and purposes we assume they are true or likely to be true.

We do this with history, for example. By this I mean you can't go back and recreate the event, e.g., yup, every time I run the experiment, Booth shoots Lincoln in the head; he did it! But we do gather the evidence we can, the bits we think are part of the puzzle, and then invent a story to explain how they fit. And then we judge how reasonable it is.

Scholars do this with general history. Courts do this with the specific type of history they practice.

We routinely use different standards of proof to authorize different actions in our personal life. We do the same in the justice system. We require reasonable suspicion to detain, probable cause to arrest, beyond a reasonable doubt to convict criminals, etc.

And what do we use as evidence of the truth or what's likely to be true?

Let's look at court cases where we try to vet the evidence. Eye-witnesses. Expert testimony. DNA. Photos. Recordings. Journals. Telephone logs. Fingerprints. Etc.

Do we have eye-witnesses? Folks who claim to have seen god?

Some make the claim that the Bible reflects the statements of eye-witnesses of the god Jesus. I'm not going to argue for or against that claim or the various versions of Jesus folks use it to support. It would be better if we had someone more recent. Better still, someone living. Someone we could question and do research on. Do we have that?

We do.

Of course, just as we would in a court, we'd have to vet them. Do they seem trustworthy? Are they sane? Some will be weeded out in that vetting. Others won't be.

Is there any other evidence?

Sure. There are claims of communication, help, etc. But they all have to be vetted. There are claims that give folks a way to test it for themselves.

For the reasons you state, some of those claims won't meet a reasonable standard for evidence. But some of it will.

Will those bits of evidence then meet your personal standard of what's likely to be true in this matter? Don't know. But there is evidence of the kind we use to establish what's likely to be true in many other arenas of life.

More on history and courts here: http://johndbrown.com/2014/04/murder-courts-and-bart-d-ehrman/

John Brown said...

I'm saying you should only believe in what is provable

Do you mean something that meets a reasonable standard of proof? That there's some reasonable evidence for it?

If so, I agree.

I think the fairies in your drawer are a good example. I suppose anything could be possible, and fairies certainly would be cool, but there's really not much evidence to suggest it's likely.

But I don't think that's the case with some claims about god. It seems to me there's a good amount of evidence to be had, even if it's not the same amount that we might have for other things.

Anonymous said...

I also joke about fat people, drug abusers, alcoholics, porn addicts, people with disabilities and special needs, homosexuals, abuse victims, and cancer. And I don't get offended by those who do the same, or make jokes about anyone else who is different.

Hi, Joe. I'm not the same Anonymous who wrote the original comment. I'm different parent of a different child with developmental disabilities.

I'd like to offer a few points to consider. I would argue that your use of “developmentally disabled” in this instance was not meant as humor but as a straight-up, stereotype-based insult. Name calling can be funny if it’s done with ingenuity and inventiveness, but going for the low-hanging fruit of a stereotype is neither ingenious nor inventive. If you want examples of how to name-call with verve and punch, watch The Colbert Report.

Second, any insult thrown with the intent to belittle the receiver also insults and belittles the members of the group being stereotyped. You can say it’s “humor,” that we should get over it, and that it wasn’t meant for my daughter or the son the original poster, but you still used the words, and you still insulted two children you have never met and who have done nothing to you to deserve to be belittled.

I would also like to point out that a good portion of the developmentally disabled community cannot defend themselves against the insults hurled at them, my daughter included. I’m happy for you if the individuals in your life who live with disabilities can. I’m sure they throw humorous insults right back at you and your family gets a good laugh out of it. That’s nice. Good for you and good for them.

In the context of your family, they are the sum total of the group in question, and they can defend themselves. But understanding your life does not excuse you from understanding the lives of other people. And it is not going to stop me or other family and friends pointing out that using “developmentally disabled” as an insult in a general, open context is a seriously dickish thing to do.

Broken Yogi said...

"I'm looking for indie ebook authors who were given a big legacy deal, who then sing legacies praises."

How about Amanda Hocking? Didn't she sing praises to legacy publishing after she got $2 million for a series? I don't think she went legacy-only after that, but $2 million can buy a whole lot of praise from just about anyone.

Broken Yogi said...

I don't want to extend any irrelevant debate about religion, but I think some aspects of it are particularly important for writers. And this has to do with the importance of mythic story-telling as a way of getting across primal feelings and subjective truths about life.

I can agree with a fair amount of your criticism of religion's vices, but I think you are also ignoring its virtues, and especially its importance to story-tellers. We can argue day and night over the historical truths about Jesus, but we can't argue that the story told in the Gospels isn't incredibly compelling and important and appealing to so many people around the world, and in different cultures and epochs.

Does a story-teller's story have to be "true" in some literal sense to be important, meaningful, and even bring about good results? Calling religious stories "myths" is not a way of disparaging them, in my view, but a way of praising them. And while these myths can be used for all sorts of purposes, some of the suppressive or even nefarious, they can also be used to bring people together within a shared story, which is what has occurred with the popular ones.

When you ask why the Four Gospels are the stories that were accepted, it's a good question, and the answer has to do with the emotive appeal and gripping power of those stories, as opposed to the competition from other early Christian sources. That appeal may not have made them more "true", but it did make them more powerful. The story of their adoption is really one of popular literature crowding out the more esoteric material of its time.

I think it's very important for writers to understand why certain stories, whether mythical or historical or a combination of the two, become popular, and why others don't. Those principles apply as much today as they did 2,000+ years ago.

You don't actually have to believe in the literal story to understand the importance of mythic religion or its appeal. Certain characters and plots come alive of their own power. That's the magic that makes story-telling so important to culture. Does it matter that Hamlet or Darth Vader are fictional characters? They are more alive today than they were when first dreamed up. And that makes them real, in way that authors must understand if they are to successfully create their own living characters and stories. So I think writers have a lot to learn from religion, whether they believe in it or not. Even belief itself is essential to the readers of stories. If you don't believe in the book you are reading, will you even finish it? Or buy another from the same author? Probably not. It's the magic that gets the reader to willingly suspend his disbelief that is essential to all good story-telling. Let's not knock all of that as a bad thing, because it isn't.

Sarah Stegall said...

I think we should tax churches

Dude. No taxation without representation. If you tax churches, you have to let them vote. It's bad enough we have corporations doing that, now you want churches, synagogues and covens in the mix? I'm happy to leave them out of the tax system if it means they have no official vote. And I say that as a person of faith who is a member of an old and well organized religion.

As for conventions, I have to reluctantly disagree with Joe on one aspect. I go to (local) cons because I love to meet and greet fans, readers, authors, what have you. Three or four days out of a whole year isn't that much strain on my writing schedule; I could probably make that up by giving up Starbucks for a week. But the energy boost I get from interacting with people who know what the Dune books are about, or who can recite Boromir's lineage back to the First Age, is worth it to me. I don't kid myself that I'm networking or any of that (though a little of that happens). I'm there to have FUN. Which we writers need all we can get. :)

Broken Yogi said...

"No taxation without representation. If you tax churches, you have to let them vote."

Uh, no you don't. We tax real estate, companies, corporations, and every kind of money-making enterprise. They don't get to vote (yet). Only individuals get to vote. Church goers would continue to get to vote, but not Churches. Just the way owners and employees of corporations get to vote, but not the organizations themselves.

Since a lot of Churches don't make a profit anyway, the largest tax they'd have to pay is probably real estate taxes. Which they ought to pay anyway, since they use local services just like everyone else.

Joe Konrath said...

How about Amanda Hocking?

I'd be very curious to hear how she feels about her publisher. What has she said lately?

Joe Konrath said...

There are some things you can't prove with the scientific method for reasons I mentioned above. And yet we act anyway because for all intents and purposes we assume they are true or likely to be true.

Because we have experience, John. Not faith.

I can drive down the road and not be hit by other cars, because I've done it a zillion times.

How often has god performed a miracle for you? Or been proven mathematically?

Joe Konrath said...

Second, any insult thrown with the intent to belittle the receiver also insults and belittles the members of the group being stereotyped.

Don't you mean it hurts the parents of the group being sterotyped?

Because it is doubtful those with learning disabilities are reading my blog. Except for that anonymous pinhead I blogged about.

As I mentioned, as the father of a child on disability and a grandparent of a child with special needs, I don't see how oversensitivity to what strangers say on the Internet is productive.

And if you don't understand the humor behind insults, I can't help you there. Humor is subjective. You smile at it, or you don't. If it offends you, you're probably not going to be amused. I contend I insulted that pinhead in a humorous way. You don't agree. That's fine.

I would also like to point out that a good portion of the developmentally disabled community cannot defend themselves against the insults hurled at them, my daughter included.

I would like to point out that I didn't hurl any insult at your daughter.

But understanding your life does not excuse you from understanding the lives of other people.

And when did it become required for me to understand the lives of other people? Is that what you do? Try to understand every person you encounter, and when someone does something that displeases you, you try to correct them?

And it is not going to stop me or other family and friends pointing out that using “developmentally disabled” as an insult in a general, open context is a seriously dickish thing to do.

What's with the sexism? Half the population has a penis. It is used to procreate, and without it there would be no more people. Many men are sensitive about their private parts, and referring negatively to those parts by using the slur "dickish" is offensive. Why does having a Y chromosome automatically mean a person is a jerk? Why couldn't you just say it was a mean thing to do?

Now, do you see how retarded that sounds?

That, by the way, is humor again. It is also being used to emphasize my point. A point you will think is dickish.

Should we ban Something About Mary because it pokes fun at the mentally disabled? Should we ban Blazing Saddles for all of its racism? Repeating a gay joke doesn't make a person a homophobe. Picketing funerals and voting against gay marriage and going fag bashing makes them homophobes, along with making them ignorant and evil.

Honestly, I'd rather be thought of as a dick than worry about if I offend somebody. Being tolerant and accepting of others different than you doesn't preclude joking about others different than you. And being tolerant also means being tolerant of those who offend you.

One of the reasons we developed humor as a species is because of differences. We laugh at them, often as a stress reliever to counteract fear. Why is someone tripping funny? Because we're relieved it didn't happen to us. It's why, whenever a celebrity dies, there is a rash of dead celebrity jokes. And why, when there is some tragedy, jokes follow. Gilbert Godfrey's "too soon" comment after 9/11 springs to mind.

One of my pet peeves is holier than thou types to try to shame others into being more like them. Society does this a lot. Someone says something potentially offensive, and the moral mob pounces.

We don't know one another. And your opinion of me doesn't matter. My insult wasn't directed at you, and shouldn't matter to you.

But good for you for standing up for what you believe in. I mean that. I would bet big money you're an excellent parent, and that your daughter is lucky to have you. I'd want my parents to do the same. :)

Joe Konrath said...

You don't actually have to believe in the literal story to understand the importance of mythic religion or its appeal.

Agreed. The biblical Jesus said a lot of smart things.

But that doesn't mean we should actually believe we're eating his body via transubstantiation. WTF is up with that anyway? Christ rose from the dead, and prior to that asked his followers to eat his flesh. Am I the only one thinking "zombie" here?

Praying, donating to churches, confessing sins, hating others who have different beliefs--these are all negative aspects of religion above and beyond the myths being shared.

The bible has stolen so many myths and stories from other religions that it's comical. It's true that we have something to learn from these stories. But what we should learn should not involve dropping to our knees and begging forgiveness of our sins.

Jeramy Goble said...

Seems Joe, most of your views on anti-theism, are directed towards Christianity, like most atheists from what I can tell. I get that, given its role in the west over the past 1500ish years. That, and your issues with particular human behavior, human literal interpretations. But personal issues with humans and their interpretations of any arbitrary topic don't make part or all of said topic, false.

I just don't understand the justification for atheism. I guess my brain is too little. Seriously though. There's a difference believing there *may* not be a god, and actively speaking *in absolutes* that there isn't. Everything you back those absolutes up with point to your issues with Christianity. You have issues with Christianity and/or Christians. Cool. That doesn't have anything to do with why there may or may not be a god of *any* kind.

Agnosticism. I get the logic of that philosophy all day. It's a "who knows?" type of mindset.

And like I've said before, those of faith point to *everything* as *possible* evidence of a creator.

All atheists can do is go, "nuh uh." Science is glorious, but it can't and shouldn't be mixed with philosophy and religion. Science is only how we understand the things that happen. Religion can be thought of as the why.

Broken Yogi said...

Joe,

Yeah, all those things are certainly bad things to be forced to believe in. But to willingly suspend disbelief to get into the story and actually feel the power of these symbols awaken in our psyche? That's not a bad thing, or if it is, so is writing fiction.

As for transubstantiation, I'm not a Christian by any modern measure of the word, but I think it's a misunderstanding to call it a mental belief. In practice, for many faithful Christians, it's an exercise in empathy, of allowing oneself to feel the inner power of the ritual and its symbolism.

You have to remember that Christianity arose in a pagan world in which sacrificial offerings of meat and blood to the Gods was a standard practice throughout the Middle East. And those offerings were then shared with those present as a binding force of community. The Eucharist was a ceremony in the same pattern, that pagans could relate to because it's such a deep human psychological force, but modified, such that no actual blood needs to be shed, no flesh eaten, but merely these symbols used to create an even more powerful religious experience, and to create a community based on that symbolic bond rather than the literal one. The theology is that by Jesus making an offering of himself to the Gods, those literal sacrifices, and the violence that goes along with them, is made unnecessary. Instead, a symbolic sacrifice is made, and the result is a more peaceful society.

Did it eliminate violence from Christian communities? No, it didn't. But it did reduce it significantly. Early Christian communities became so popular precisely because they were far more peaceful, communally-oriented, and morally sane than most pagan ones of that time. People wanted to join them because of the alternative lifestyle they offered. And the rituals were a part of that whole package. Believing in them was necessary to make a full commitment to that moral life. And so in the progressive sense of the word, things did get better under Christianity.

But that doesn't mean that can't get even better under a different set of morals and beliefs about how the world works. Just don't underestimate the positive power of religion just because its full of tragic stupidity and evil. So is everything else, when you look at things objectively.

As a writer, it's important to recognize the power of symbols in human life and community. We work with words, after all, which are purely symbolic. Fashioning a powerful story means you have to believe that the power of words has real value in the world, even if people will disagree about what truth and true values really are.

Joe Konrath said...

Seems Joe, most of your views on anti-theism, are directed towards Christianity,

I was born and raised catholic, so that's where my experience lies.

There's a difference believing there *may* not be a god, and actively speaking *in absolutes* that there isn't.

At what point does stupidity kick in?

Do aliens exist? Are there any here on earth? Do they abduct people? Do we need to be cleared of thetans?

Do unicorns exist? Should we put "In Unicorns We Trust" on our currency? Should we tell unicorns our secret shames and ask for forgiveness?

Bigfoot is real, and controlling the government. Elvis is still alive, and he controls the weather. Jews use the blood of christian children for their passover matzos.

Surely we can't rule all of that out, right? It could be real, couldn't it?

Science is glorious, but it can't and shouldn't be mixed with philosophy and religion.

Philosophy and religion were created to deal with things science couldn't (yet) explain.

Religion nowadays serves zero purpose. It's Santa Claus for adults who should know better.

Philosophy is great masturbation for the mind, and can even help us to lead better lives, but it can exist alongside science, and doesn't require any imaginary beings.

Joe Konrath said...

In practice, for many faithful Christians, it's an exercise in empathy, of allowing oneself to feel the inner power of the ritual and its symbolism.

Try explaining that to the pope. :)

Early Christian communities became so popular precisely because they were far more peaceful, communally-oriented, and morally sane than most pagan ones of that time.

And then it evolved into something more barbaric and hateful than any recorded pagan religion. The crusades, the inquisition, witch burning, wars, persecution, etc.

Just don't underestimate the positive power of religion just because its full of tragic stupidity and evil.

Let's say there is a drug that prevents cancer, but kills 30% of those who receive it. Is that a good thing?

I understand your points, and agree to an extent, but I can't look at religion as benign when it is still doing so much harm.

500 years from now, when religion is gone, we can treat it like the mythos it is. But right now too many people treat it as real, so the beauty or meaning in symbolism, ritual, ceremony, pageantry, et al is lost among all the bullshit.

Jeramy Goble said...

At what point does stupidity kick in? Um, what? You're using your beefs with religion to explain atheism. That doesn't work.

See, I know atheists like to fall back on the unicorn, flying spaghetti monster line of thinking, etc. I addressed that a few posts ago.

The point is, no one is suggesting those exist. Some people like me, suggest simply that something may have caused existence to come into being. Like pretty much anything else, existence may have required a catalyst. It's actually a pretty scientific hypothesis to have. You're putting specific religious baggage on that... which again, doesn't allow for one to speak in such absolutes.

"I understand your points, and agree to an extent, but I can't look at religion as benign when it is still doing so much harm."

You have a problem with religion, and people who use it to hurt others. That still doesn't logically justify your absolute statements that god doesn't exist.

Please tell me you're starting to see these false equivalencies. Your beef with Pat Robertson (or whoever) doesn't mean there is no god.

"500 years from now, when religion is gone, we can treat it like the mythos it is."

That is a very egotistical assumption to make. Wouldn't it be funny if in 200 years, science proves there is a god?

Well, no, because as someone suggested earlier, there are people who wouldn't believe, regardless of whatever demonstration they may observe... because some people just don't want that to be true... because of their baggage.

Anyhoo...

Joe Konrath said...

You're using your beefs with religion to explain atheism.

Not at all. I'm stating that those who think "why discount the possibility of..." are on a slippery slope. Because then, why not believe in everything?

When we can prove something exists, that's when it exists. Guessing something may exist is fine, but it's silly to for the possibility of god to dictate your thoughts, actions, and behavior.

I'm not saying you do, but that seems to be where the debate has gone.

I don't discount the possibility of anything. Anything can happen, and in certain branches of theoretical physics, everything does happen. But I'm not going to let other dimensions or parallel worlds or time splits dictate what I'm doing here and now, even though they might exist.

Like pretty much anything else, existence may have required a catalyst. It's actually a pretty scientific hypothesis to have.

If we both agree existence is real, and we both believe it had a catalyst, and we wonder what that catalyst is, why would we create something to create existence when that creator would also have a catalyst?

That still doesn't logically justify your absolute statements that god doesn't exist.

Simply put, god cannot exist until it is proven he does. That's the point behind faith: belief without proof.

Please tell me you're starting to see these false equivalencies. Your beef with Pat Robertson (or whoever) doesn't mean there is no god.

These aren't false equivalencies. They're two different arguments. The first is that religion is harmful. The second is that god doesn't exist. There is some overlap, but one does not prove the other.

Wouldn't it be funny if in 200 years, science proves there is a god?

Funny? I think it would be awesome. But I'm not holding my breath.

The ultimate point of argument for theists is, "I believe."

I don't believe in gravity. It exists. I can prove it. Proof doesn't require belief.

I'm fine with anyone believing whatever the want to. Placebos have been shown to work, countless times.

Just don't tell me the sugar pills cured you.

Jeramy Goble said...

I hear ya, Joe. I see where you're coming from, and again, dig the conversation.

Word.

Joe Konrath said...

I hear ya, Joe. I see where you're coming from, and again, dig the conversation.

Back atcha, and to everyone who has commented. This has been different, but enjoyable.

Terrence OBrien said...

We could look at the inverse. eBooks are the future because paper is the past. Look at all the paper we no longer use. Telephone books, utility bills, letters, airline tickets, magazines, newspapers, bank statements, checks. When is the last time a student passed a note in class? Books aren't special. They are just like widgets, widgets with words.

Broken Yogi said...

Joe,

In practice, for many faithful Christians, it's an exercise in empathy, of allowing oneself to feel the inner power of the ritual and its symbolism.

"Try explaining that to the pope. :)"


You mean the same guy who recently said that even atheists can get into heaven? The one who says it doesn't much matter what people know about doctrine, it's more important what they practice and how they live? He may understand more about this than you think.

And then it evolved into something more barbaric and hateful than any recorded pagan religion. The crusades, the inquisition, witch burning, wars, persecution, etc.

There were certainly some very terrible things done and periods under Christianity. But overall, their record is still a lot better than what you find in comparable civilizations. They aren't the best - that's probably Buddhism - but they aren't the worst either. Atheist nations and empires don't have a great track record either.

Let's say there is a drug that prevents cancer, but kills 30% of those who receive it. Is that a good thing?

That pretty much describes present day chemotherapy. Sometimes you need a poison to fight an even worse threat. Religion can be like that. As are most things in life. Remember, life kills 100% of us. Does that make it a bad thing?

I understand your points, and agree to an extent, but I can't look at religion as benign when it is still doing so much harm.

I would never say that religion is benign. It has benign aspects, and it has harmful aspects. It depends on how you do it, like anything. Emphasize the benign, eschew and be wary of the harmful. Nothing is all good or all bad.

500 years from now, when religion is gone, we can treat it like the mythos it is.

I think like most self-interested religious prophecies, this prediction will also fall flat. I think human beings are hard-wired to be religious. Even atheists present themselves with many of the same characteristics as religious people. It's human nature. Religion may certainly be very different in 500 years, but I would bet that it will still be with us.

But right now too many people treat it as real, so the beauty or meaning in symbolism, ritual, ceremony, pageantry, et al is lost among all the bullshit.

It may be lost to you, which is probably why you aren't religious, or even respectful of religion, but for most religious people, it isn't lost. It's just not the dominant force in many people's religious lives.

You have to remember that today's loud-mouthed fundamentalists are something of an aberration. Most of religion for most people throughout history has been about practical things, communities, and emotional feelings, not dogma or belief. Not that this can't produce lots of bad crap also, but as an historical trend even today's Christian fundamentalists show basic progress towards a more peaceful life.

Joe Konrath said...

You mean the same guy who recently said that even atheists can get into heaven?

Yes. That guy. Last I checked, he still believed in transubstantiation. That at communion the host and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Christ. Did you find evidence otherwise?

That pretty much describes present day chemotherapy.

Recheck my wording. I said "prevents cancer" not curing or treating it via chemotherapy. I'm talking about a vaccine that kills 30% of all people while preventing cancer. Is that an acceptable vaccine? I would think not.

Illinois stopped the death penalty, because DNA test exonerated several men on death row. If you kill a single innocent man, the death penalty isn't an effective deterrent or punishment.

I view religion the same way. It has hurt too many people for me to overlook that and focus on whatever good it does.

Nothing is all good or all bad.

I agree. It's all shades of gray. But there is nothing good in religion that can't exist without religion. And the bad that religion does is inexcusable. You don't see suicide bombers dying for Unicef or Amnesty International. There has been no Christian Crusade to end the world of poverty.

I think human beings are hard-wired to be religious. Even atheists present themselves with many of the same characteristics as religious people. It's human nature.

Decades ago I had a hunch that belief in god was genetic. And science has found a so-called god gene. So I agree we're wired that way.

But atheism is growing quickly. As we become more enlightened as a culture, thanks to the expose to new ides via the Internet, I expect fewer and fewer people to accept god as real.

But then, what do I know about predicting the future?

but as an historical trend even today's Christian fundamentalists show basic progress towards a more peaceful life.

Religion isn't required to lead a more peaceful life. According to Wikipedia, the only two religions that are growing are Islam and Christianity. I'm guessing that will last a few more generations, and then there will be dropoff. Too many kids learning for themselves, and not passing on religious traditions to their children.

Religion will likely trickle down until it is fringe.

Within my lifetime, I expect to see god off of US currency.

John Brown said...

Because we have experience, John. Not faith.

Many people have experiences in this area, me included. I believe because of my experiences (many very quiet and personal) and those of others that seem credible. In fact, even though there are other types of supporting evidence, without those experiences, I would be very hard pressed to believe. Just as I would be hard pressed to believe anything without some sort of evidence to suggest it might be right.

In fact, I think personal experience is critical. One of the best ways to find out is to test it ourselves.

There are a lot of religious claims that I've had to reject for various reasons. Some are howlers. I've rejected things I previously espoused as more evidence came to light. And vice versa. I don't imagine that I know it all or have it all correct.

It's true there are indeed folks who are willing to believe almost anything based on hearsay and rumor. There are folks quick to ascribe causality to just about anything.

But there are others of us who are not.

Anyway, I agree with you that many religious claims are misguided and that it's important to look at the evidence, some of which is scientific. I also think it's critical not to gloss over things and conflate claims.

I can also see how someone can throw up their hands when looking at the issues, the bombast, and variety of belief. I get that.

Ultimately though, I want to suggest to you that religious faith isn't anything special. Strip the jargon away and faith is nothing more than trust or belief based on some type of evidence, which may or may not be reasonable to the average bear. Which is exactly how it works in all other aspects of our lives.

Joe Konrath said...

I believe because of my experiences (many very quiet and personal) and those of others that seem credible.

If they are credible, they are repeatable, and subject to the scientific method. Or else you're confusing correlation and causality, which is something we're programmed for as human beings because we're predisposed to pattern recognition.

Ultimately though, I want to suggest to you that religious faith isn't anything special.

We tend to believe things because we want to. The only difference between Jesus and Santa is that kids have some proof Santa exists: they get presents every Xmas. But, eventually, many kids begin to question the implausibility of a man visiting every child on earth in a single night, with a sleigh filled with billions of toys, pulled by flying reindeer.

Of course, just as preposterous is a man who walked on water, cured lepers, raised someone from the dead, then came back from the dead himself.

Why do children see the silliness of Santa, but 1.6 billion Christians don't consider their beliefs silly?

Possibly because, as you said, faith isn't anything special. It's comforting to think that we have a creator watching over us, someone who answers prayers, someplace to live for eternity after we die. We take solace in these ideas, even though there is no shred of evidence for the existence of god, or of Jesus, whose historicity I question.

Strip the jargon away and faith is nothing more than trust or belief based on some type of evidence, which may or may not be reasonable to the average bear.

You hit the nail on the head here. The test is what you require as evidence. If you pray and a prayer comes true, if you see something wonderful that you consider miraculous, if you have that deep rooted feeling that there is more to life and the universe, that can be enough evidence. So can growing up in a religious household where parents, family, and community drill it into your head (which, by the way, is how racism is taught).

I'm sure you have faith, and I'm sure you have reasons for your faith. That doesn't mean you're right.

I have reasons for being an atheist. And I am right, until someone proves otherwise. The burden of proof falls on the one claiming experience. I don't have to prove god doesn't exist. Those who believe in god have to prove he does.

That said, as I mentioned earlier in the thread, whatever gets your through the night is fine. As long as no one is being persecuted, or having their freedoms restricted, or trying to do stupid things like teach intelligent design in the classroom, I'm fine with believers. One of my best friends is a devout Catholic.

He also believes in psychics.

Of the two, the psychic belief pains me more (holy cold reading Batman!), but I love him just the same, don't fault him for his beliefs, and will defend his right to believe whatever he wants to. He's a smart, successful guy, one of the kindest people I ever met, and when we discuss these things it's always with mutual respect and even tempers.

I happen to be the kind of guy who points out that the emperor isn't wearing clothes when he says he is. That doesn't mean I hate the emperor.

Interesting discussion.

Jeramy Goble said...

I have reasons for being an atheist. And I am right, until someone proves otherwise.

See, I don't think that statement is correct. Until there is proof one way or the other, of god, then atheism and deism are simultaneously right, and simultaneously wrong.

That's what I was getting at in an earlier post... I don't present my faith as fact, because I can't (yet). Atheists can't say they're right, because they can't prove there is no god (yet).

Schrodinger's cat.
Schrodinger's god.

John Brown said...

If they are credible, they are repeatable, and subject to the scientific method.

Some credible evidence is repeatable. Some is not. Think about evidence used in court. Lots of credible evidence can't be repeated.

With stuff that is repeatable, if you can actually measure the right inputs and outputs AND control enough variables, then yes, I agree you could subject it to the scientific method.

Some parts of religious activity have been studied with the scientific method.

But you can't do science on everything. There are a lot of phenomena scientist want to study but they can't yet. Think about long-term weather forecasting. They just can't measure all the factors yet. They just can't model it.

There's also the fact that if you imagine god has free will, then you may do exactly what someone did before but because it's not a mechanical system, you don't get the same result. Does god have free will, or is god some big vending machine in the sky?

It's not been my experience that god is a vending machine. But it's also been my experience that there is communication. Sometimes quiet and sometimes dramatic. There are people I know who have experienced things that are hard to explain away as indigestion.

However, my goal in these posts has not been to convince you that god exists, only that there are religious folks who are not checking their brains at the door, who are examining the evidence and finding reason to believe.

I think you're right that those making claims, about god or the health benefits of Swedish Fish, need to provide some type of evidence.

I don't think it's all proven at once. A certain level of evidence warrants investigation. As the person investigates the claim, they may find too many issues, or they may find a more robust level that merits serious study. An even higher level would merit a conclusion that it's very probably true. And other evidence would allow you to say you are beyond a reasonable doubt.

Can you get beyond the level required for investigation?

Many have. And have found strong evidence. But I think each person has to find that evidence for themselves. And shine a bright light on it and consider various angles.

Finally, you say "I'm right." Would it be more accurate to say "I don't know of any evidence that would suggest any other conclusion at this time?"

BTW, for those who say you rant against dissenters, I think this conversation proves otherwise.

John Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Konrath said...

Until there is proof one way or the other, of god, then atheism and deism are simultaneously right, and simultaneously wrong.

No. Everything doesn't exist until it is proven that it doesn't. It's the opposite: nothing exists until it is proven to exist.

But you're free to try to prove the existence of something that hasn't been proven yet. Good luck.

We have no guarantees the sun will rise tomorrow, until it does. We have precedent for it, and I'd wager a lot that it will, but we won't know for sure until it actually happens.

The person claiming god exists has the burden of proof. I don't have to prove non-existence of anything. Things simply don't exist until they're proven to.

That may sound odd, but perception is reality, for there is no reality without it.

John Brown said...

no shred of evidence for the existence of god, or of Jesus, whose historicity I question

I modified this comment. I think I made the first point of it well enough in my previous post and don't want to belabor it.

As for the historicity of Jesus, Bart Ehrman, a religious scholar who doesn't think god exists and has a number of American ministers up in arms, has written a fabulous book called DID JESUS EXIST? In it he shares the evidence that shows we have as much or more evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth than we do many other historical figures. As well as that he was a preacher and crucified by the Romans in Judea around 30 AD for sedition. All of the leading secular scholars in the field feel they have more than enough evidence to conclude he existed.

Of course, they don't feel that way about his divinity. But his existence, yes. If that kind of stuff interests you, the book is worth a read.

Joe Konrath said...

Some parts of religious activity have been studied with the scientific method.

Nothing religious, or supernatural, has ever been proven with science. If you can cite some sources, I'd be eager to see them. But then James Randi would be out a million bucks, and last I checked he still has the money.

As the person investigates the claim, they may find too many issues, or they may find a more robust level that merits serious study.

There is nothing about the supernatural (religion included) that merits serious study. You can't apply the scientific method to any of the nonsense spouted by any religion that worships a deity.

But I think each person has to find that evidence for themselves.

That's how faith works, not science. Science allows us both to find the same evidence.

We can be fooled by magic acts and slight of hand. We can also be fooled by religion. Which is why personal feelings meaningless when trying to prove things.

Hence the scientific method.

Bart Ehrman, a religious scholar who doesn't think god exists and has a number of American ministers up in arms, has written a fabulous book called DID JESUS EXIST? All of the leading secular scholars in the field feel they have more than enough evidence to conclude he existed.


I read it. I've read a lot of books, pro and con. You should read the rebuttal from many of the secular scholars Ehrman cited.

http://www.amazon.com/Ehrman-Quest-Historical-Jesus-Nazareth-ebook/dp/B00C9N0WBI

However, my goal in these posts has not been to convince you that god exists, only that there are religious folks who are not checking their brains at the door, who are examining the evidence and finding reason to believe.

Once of the symptoms of delusion is believing you aren't checking your brain at the door. :)

Of course no one religious believes they're delusional, even though they are. Belief in something that doesn't exist is the very definition of delusional.

It is not delusional to claim something doesn't exist when there is no evidence to prove it does.

As I mentioned earlier, if you claim you have an elf in your house, you'd be considered delusional until you showed proof. I wouldn't be considered delusional for telling you that elves don't exist and you don't have one in your house.

We all justify our thoughts and behaviors. Being able to justify a delusion doesn't make it real; it only makes you very good at fooling yourself.

Let's not use the example of god or Jesus. Let's use bigfoot. There's probably more evidence for bigfoot existing than there is for Jesus. I could read about bigfoot, watch documentaries, touch plaster casts of his footprints, even go bigfoot hunting and maybe get a picture. I could believe with my entire being that bigfoot exists.

But bigfoot won't exist until there is irrefutable proof. Not feelings. Not hope. Not faith. Not sketchy evidence. Not eyewitness testimony. But real, tangible evidence that proves it beyond any doubt.

There has never been such evidence for bigfoot. Or for Jesus, or god. The evidence might be good enough for you, but it isn't good enough for the scientific community.

So much of the christ mythos, and the bible, was stolen from other tales. They are considered a monomyth. Have you read Joseph Campbell? Or Lord Raglan's hero pattern? Krishna, Buddha, Odysseus, Zarathustra, Dionysis, Heracles, Horus, Mithradates, Mohammad, Beowulf, Zeus, Samson, Perseus, Romulus, and on and on, all cut from the same cloth, all venerated depending on where and when people lived.

You can believe what you want to, John. But it comes down to faith, not facts. Those who go looking for facts wind up losing their faith.

Broken Yogi said...

Joe,

Last I checked, he still believed in transubstantiation.

I agree, but my point is that what he probably really values in the Eucharist is the enpathetic feeling the whole ceremony gives him, of feeling connected to God, connected to his fellow worshipers, the Church, the community, even the whole of humanity. He's a pastoral Pope, not a doctrinaire Pope like Benedict. And that's why he's so popular.

I'm talking about a vaccine that kills 30% of all people while preventing cancer.

Okay, in that case, the numbers don't add up to make that a worthwhile vaccine. But that's where the comparison to religion doesn't work. If religion really did have a 30% mortality rate, very few people would stick with it. It doesn't, not even remotely close. In fact, the simple facts of nature tell us that it's had a net positive effect, or it would have died out long ago.

It's a numbers game. That's how both biological and cultural evolution work. Things that increase the net reproductive and survival rate get passed on and thrive, those that don't tend to fall away and even die out, or at least only survive in marginal populations where conditions allow them to persist.

The simple fact of religion's long-standing survival and even dominance over the culture tell us that it's been a strong net positive. It's fair to say that without religion there would be no civilization at all, or at least not nearly as strong a one. It's also good to remember that without Christianity and it's particular rationalistic stance towards both theology and the natural world. we wouldn't have science either. Not yet at least.

If you kill a single innocent man, the death penalty isn't an effective deterrent or punishment.

While that doesn't sound true to me (extremely harsh penalties enforced so broadly are probably more effective than cautious ones), I'm against the death penalty for all sorts of reasons, but not that one.

It has hurt too many people for me to overlook that and focus on whatever good it does.

Well, that's your numbers game. Everyone makes their own calculations, and acts accordingly. It's probably very much true for you, but it may not add up the same way for other people. Obviously several billion people calculate otherwise than you. And until they see good reason in their lives not to be religious, they will continue to be religious.

If the balance shifts against religious participation and belief because conditions in the world have changed (as they have in much of the first world), and the benefits of religion are outweighed by their negatives, then fewer people will be religious.

there is nothing good in religion that can't exist without religion.

Again, that depends on both the individual and the cultural community. A lot of people really don't experience their lives that way. It may certainly be true both in the abstract, and for some specific people, but that doesn't make it universally true for everyone. In fact, one of my beefs with religion is that it tends to think exactly as you do, that these kinds of truths are universal and apply exactly the same to everyone and everything, like gravity. I believe in the power of the individual, and the distinctiveness of individuals. If God created them so differently, they should be free to act and live differently as well. And if he didn't, then all the more so.

Broken Yogi said...


the bad that religion does is inexcusable. You don't see suicide bombers dying for Unicef or Amnesty International. There has been no Christian Crusade to end the world of poverty.

You should actually read the Pope's latest on ending world poverty and capitalistic exploitation. Love 'em or hate 'em, but Christians do a lot of charitable work aimed at ending poverty around the world.

All concepts of good and bad are fundamentally religious in nature, and if you believe in them, that makes you religious, whether of the theistic type or not. The reality is that nature doesn't see the things as good or bad, just successful at adaptation or not. Religion at least tries to look beyond such brutal realities, and offer people something else to live by.

Most of what people kill or die for are material advantages in life. Even most religious wars were simply masks for cruder aspirations of the leadership of both Church and State. On the other hand, lots of religious people participate in Unicef and Amnesty International and many, many other charities. MLK was a highly religious man motivated to give his life for racial justice because of his religious beliefs. The same goes for Wilberforce and slavery. John Brown also. The whole notion of charitable work and sacrificing oneself for the lives and welfare of others comes from religion.

Decades ago I had a hunch that belief in god was genetic. And science has found a so-called god gene. So I agree we're wired that way.

Okay, then you're pretty much contradicting aspects of your own argument. If we are hard-wired for religion, it's there because it conferred evolutionary advantages to us, and it's not going to go away, unless it no longer does, or we engage in some pretty radical genetic cleansing.

But atheism is growing quickly. As we become more enlightened as a culture, thanks to the expose to new ides via the Internet, I expect fewer and fewer people to accept god as real.

I think that's generally true, but not for precisely the same reasons you do. Genes that are hard-wired into our system don't go away quickly. Selection takes many generations. But because we are highly adaptive creatures, there's probably more leeway.

You seem to be arguing that it's information that will change the ratio of religious to conservative, whereas I'd say it something much more tangible in the human environment that would have to change religion's previous advantages into disadvantages, and vice-versa for atheism. Now, maybe the modern secular democratic capitalistic scientific cultural climate that's been developing for a while now is that kind of environment, creating a feedback mechanism which may at some point reach a tipping point.

But maybe not. Maybe adaptation will produce more functional religions suited to the modern age, that can confer benefits even in this new environment. Or more individualist religions, such as are seen in the growing "spiritual-but-not-religious" category.

Broken Yogi said...

Religion isn't required to lead a more peaceful life.

Probably not, but that just means that peace may not be what people are after. What people seem to value more than peace is a sense of personal identity, community, and security. Religion does give them that. Those may not be high on your list of values, and that may explain why you're not religious. But until those primal issues are actually handled by secularism, religion will remain popular, even if it produces conflict you might consider unnecessary. Again, it's a numbers game, and the odds have to change for new winners to emerge.

According to Wikipedia, the only two religions that are growing are Islam and Christianity.

I thought Mormonism and a few other newer religions are growing also. And of course the new age spiritual movement, and the unaffiliated religious people who believe in God but don't identify with any particular religion. Where those people end up is even harder to predict. Some will undoubtedly become atheists, or at least indifferent agnostics. But I tend to think atheism is sort of like asexuality. About 5% of the population are wired that way. Most people tends toward some kind of religious or spiritual view. Even Sam Harris is like that.

I'm guessing that will last a few more generations, and then there will be dropoff.

Maybe, maybe not. The world is changing fast, so anything is possible. The only prediction I can make is that you could write a really interesting novel out of all this. I really enjoyed "Origins", by the way.

Religion will likely trickle down until it is fringe.

I think that will depend on what one calls religion in a few centuries. It's going to be such a different world, we can't say too much with any confidence. People have this nasty habit of not becoming like us.

Within my lifetime, I expect to see god off of US currency.

That's the best kind of prediction to make, one that requires you to die for it to be disproven.

Btw, enjoying the exchange. Hope you are too.

Jeramy Goble said...

The person claiming god exists has the burden of proof. I don't have to prove non-existence of anything. Things simply don't exist until they're proven to.

Yes, I know that. You've said this a few times now, and I haven't disagreed with it.

What I have said, is that for the exact same reasons, you can't say you are "right," about being an atheist. Again, saying you don't think there is a god, is one thing... But to say you are right then requires the same requirement of proof.

Again, I can't prove there is a god, so I do/can not say I'm right.

If you claim you are right, well then, show me the proof that you are right.

Or, we can just individually say we think there may be a god or may not be a god.

Joe Konrath said...

my point is that what he probably really values in the Eucharist is the enpathetic feeling the whole ceremony gives him, of feeling connected to God, connected to his fellow worshipers, the Church, the community, even the whole of humanity

I'd say he values controlling others, which is what his actions dictate.

If religion really did have a 30% mortality rate, very few people would stick with it.

If we totalled up all the people throughout history that were killed because of religion, I bet the mortality rate would be higher than you think.

But my point was that religion has harmed enough people that whatever good it has done has been negated.

Making someone feel a little better about their life isn't worth a jihad that kills hundreds.

Things that increase the net reproductive and survival rate get passed on and thrive, those that don't tend to fall away and even die out, or at least only survive in marginal populations where conditions allow them to persist.

That would be nice if it were true. But racism, sexism, discrimination, abuse, the sex trade, slavery, war, torture, and the ongoing stripping of peoples' rights continues to go on, worldwide.

We just happen to like to fuck, so we can reproduce faster than we can destroy ourselves.

Social evolution in the United States has led us to this point where the Constitution is optional. If our forefathers were still alive today we'd be having another revolution. And the USA is better than most countries when it comes to human rights violations.

The simple fact of religion's long-standing survival and even dominance over the culture tell us that it's been a strong net positive.

Ok, you're an optimist. And you're not remembering a lot of world history.

Things that persist throughout history don't guarantee they are a net positive. I'd cite every war, every genocide, every murder, every rape, every instance of abuse. How many hundreds of years did Rome operate the Colosseum? Was public torture and execution a net positive?

extremely harsh penalties enforced so broadly are probably more effective than cautious ones

Let's bring back caning in schools and torture in state prisons. Because all the murderers on death row were so deterred by the concept of it they never killed anybody.

Oh, wait a sec. They did. hence them being on Death Row.

In fact, one of my beefs with religion is that it tends to think exactly as you do, that these kinds of truths are universal and apply exactly the same to everyone and everything, like gravity.

That's a good point.

I don't doubt human beings need something to cling to. I do not, but I don't expect the world to be like me.

However, I would bet they could cling to something other than an imaginary galactic easter bunny.

Joe Konrath said...

Love 'em or hate 'em, but Christians do a lot of charitable work aimed at ending poverty around the world.

Giving away sandwiches wrapped in the New Testament is a smart way to ensure the religion keeps growing.

All concepts of good and bad are fundamentally religious in nature

Wrong. Morality exists beyond any religious affiliation. It has been witnessed in children who have no religious background. Sharing, fair play, mutual respect, and on and on.

I define social morality as what is accepted by the greatest number of any given society at any given point in history. That's why it was acceptable to throw Christians to lions, or to build death camps, to those societies.

But there is something in human nature that understands fairness, love, and cooperation, because without those things we'd die as a species. This isn't religious. It's genetic.

The whole notion of charitable work and sacrificing oneself for the lives and welfare of others comes from religion.

Which is why Snowden keeps preaching about Jesus. And Thomas Paine died for god.

Sacrifice for a religious cause is what gives us suicide bombers.

We can have ideals willing to die for beyond anything supernatural. The charitable things I do have nothing to do with religion.

If we are hard-wired for religion, it's there because it conferred evolutionary advantages to us, and it's not going to go away, unless it no longer does, or we engage in some pretty radical genetic cleansing.

We're hardwired to believe in something, and born into societies that cram religion down our throats to fill that gap.

World religions appeared separately, because different groups of people had the same questions that needed answers.

Many of those questions have been answered by science. If we had a reset button and could erase religion, I think we'd discover things to replace it. Real things, not imaginary ones. And humanitarianism would persist, while violence decreased. Hate is taught, and a lot of it is cloaked in religion.

Maybe adaptation will produce more functional religions suited to the modern age, that can confer benefits even in this new environment

"Functional religion"? Is that like a functional psychic or a functional tin foil hat that prevents the aliens from reading minds?

We keep teaching our children nonsense, and we always will. But, finally, children are able to see the world for themselves, thanks to worldwide communications.

There is a reason police states restrict the Internet. That reason holds true for religion. If you grow up thinking Jesus is your savior, and you have no one to tell you otherwise, you're likely to believe it.

Slowly but surely the world is waking up. They best way to fight terrorists isn't war. It's air-dropping laptops with free wifi.

Joe Konrath said...

What people seem to value more than peace is a sense of personal identity, community, and security. Religion does give them that.

Religion is one of many things that can give them that. But it also causes harm. Hence my killer vaccine analogy. If we understand human nature, let's give people something to latch on to that isn't imaginary and potentially harmful.

About 5% of the population are wired that way. Most people tends toward some kind of religious or spiritual view.

I think you're right. But maybe as a species we can learn to be spiritual about science.

That's the best kind of prediction to make, one that requires you to die for it to be disproven.

LOL. I'm enjoying this, too. It's an interesting departure from publishing talk.

Jeramy Goble said...

Having a problem with what people have done in the name of religion, doesn't mean there isn't a god. It simply means you have a problem with what people have done in the name of religion. I'm a person of faith and I too have a problem with what people have done in the name of religion. Heh!

I'm pretty sure that if religion were wiped off the face of the planet, we'd still find plenty of reasons to be hateful and violent over anyway. It'd be careless to think otherwise. Would there be less violence? Nope. Land, oil, geo-political conflicts, genocide a crazy leader.. you name it. The countless other reasons we're already still hateful and violent.

Slowly but surely the world is waking up.

Ehh, I don't think atheism is "growing" as you've alluded to before. I just think those who are or would be atheists are simply becoming more vocal.

I think most people have no problem considering faith alongside logic and reason. It's all about how people consider their faith. Most people distinguish between faith and fact and don't misrepresent themselves or the distinction. Because of that, faith will be around for a long time to come. Sorry!

Most people don't care for "all or nothing" types of approaches to this topic, because people don't have to choose. That's why people like Richard Dawkins and Pat Robertson are equally disliked. Religious fundamentalists, and militant atheists/anti-theists are disregarded for the same reasons. They're pompous and uncompromising and hypocritically condescend and patronize those who think differently than they do. That's why the flying spaghetti monster, santa, easter bunny-type comments don't do the atheism argument any service. Thinking something intelligent might be behind all that we know as existence is not the same thing as thinking (as an adult) that a bunny brings me chocolate every Easter.

There are countless discussions, such as this one, talking about the possibility of a deity.. there are none about easter bunnies, flying spaghetti monsters, unicorns or santa. Does that mean there is a god? NOPE! It just means the comparisons don't make sense.

Joe Konrath said...

If you claim you are right, well then, show me the proof that you are right.

I don't have to. I can't claim non-experience.

Here's the simplest way to break it down:

You believe in something. I don't. It doesn't exist until you prove it does. I don't have to prove it doesn't.

The burden of proof falls on the person claiming experience. You believe in god, so you have to prove he exists. Until then, in lieu of any proof, I can confidently say god doesn't exist, because you can't prove he does.

I don't have to prove a negative. That doesn't make sense.

I don't have to prove leprechauns aren't real. The one who believes in leprechauns has to prove they are.

Let's say I spent my free time at the Keck 1 telescope in Hawaii, looking for new galaxies, because I believe there are galaxies shaped like Mickey Mouse.

It isn't up to other astronomers to prove that no Mickey Mouse galaxy exists. It's up to me to prove it does.

Therefore, the Mickey Mouse galaxy doesn't exist until it is proven to exist.

That last step may seem illogical, but it isn't. We base our knowledge on sensory input. We test this knowledge using science.

We can assume, and even prove, the prior existence of things after they are proven in the present. But we can't prove what we haven't proven yet. Anything might exist. But the one who claims something might exist has to prove it, or else it doesn't because there is no proof.

Now if you want to argue this point, study Kant and the a priori. Is there anything inherent in objects beyond our sensory perception of them? Is math an invention or a discovery?

Then we could take this debate to the next level, and you could attempt to prove that things exist without our sensory awareness of them.

Kant knew you can't guarantee a sunrise until the happens and we experience it. But he believed there is knowledge independent of experience, like the concept of round, or the number 2, or god.

I disagree with Kant, but it's an interesting argument.

Jeramy Goble said...

I agree with everything you said last... and have been.

...which is why agnosticism is as far as you can go logically towards a disbelief in god.

Saying "there is no god" makes as much logical sense as saying "there are no unicorns."

Do I think there are no unicorns? Yes. Do I know there are no unicorns? No.

Joe Konrath said...

Having a problem with what people have done in the name of religion, doesn't mean there isn't a god.

Two separate points. I addressed this earlier in the thread.

I'm pretty sure that if religion were wiped off the face of the planet, we'd still find plenty of reasons to be hateful and violent over anyway.

Perhaps. But we couldn't hide behind imaginary beings and dogma. having a holy order to kill infidels, preventing birth control because it is against biblical teachings, condemning euthanasia and abortion and gay marriage--religion is behind a lot of this, and it hurts people.

That's why people like Richard Dawkins and Pat Robertson are equally disliked.

Dawkins is disliked because he challenges peoples' ideas. Robertson is disliked because he's a hateful idiot.

They're pompous and uncompromising and hypocritically condescend and patronize those who think differently than they do.

I don't find Dawkins pompous, and he isn't a hypocrite. But the main difference between the two is Dawkins is right about there being no god, and Robertson is wrong and uses religion to justify his hate.

Thinking something intelligent might be behind all that we know as existence is not the same thing as thinking (as an adult) that a bunny brings me chocolate every Easter.

Defend that statement. Because that's exactly what it is. You believe in something unprovable. Until it is proven, it is imaginary.

What if we all lived life according to what "might" exist?

We did. In the past. We said "bless you" when people sneeze because an evil spirit might enter the nose otherwise. We went to soothsayers to check the crop forecast. We buried the dead with things to take to the afterlife with them.

It just means the comparisons don't make sense.

They do make sense. It's called empiricism, and it basically says that the only knowledge we can acquire is through sensory experience and empirical evidence.

Something that "might" exist isn't empirical evidence. It is no evidence at all. Therefore it does not exist.

As I said, if you want to argue this point, you need to stop negating what I've said and take a broader stand, by stating theory and pure logic exist outside the realm of man's experience.

I'll counter that with the statement that there is nothing inherent in anything, only what we ascribe to things via language (and math is a language). Since it is impossible to ascribe without sensory experience, we only have perception to rely on.

Much of what occurs on a quantum level is effected by perception, therefore wouldn't happen without it. Perception equals reality, not pure thought.

Ergo, god doesn't exist until you show him to me.

Joe Konrath said...

Do I think there are no unicorns? Yes. Do I know there are no unicorns? No.

Opening yourself up to the possibility that things may exist is why we have the scientific method.

If we believe that things exist but we don't bother to explore that belief far enough to test it, we're right back in the dark ages believing in everything. Every superstition is possible. Every wild accusation is true.

That's not a very enlightened way to live.

My mind is open to the possibility of god, but that doesn't mean god might exist. It means if he is ever proven to exist, I'll believe it. There's a difference.

Jeramy Goble said...

My mind is open to the possibility of god

That's called being an agnostic. Your own words. You just typed them. Atheism doesn't allow for that. I don't really know what to say anymore, because you're contradicting yourself when you say Richard Dawkins is "right" when he says there is no god.

I knowwwwwwww the burden is on believers to "prove" there is a god. I/we can't yet, and we may never be able to. Because of that, I do not present what I believe as fact.

But the point I've been making, and which I've illustrated with your contradiction, is that agnosticism is as far as one can go towards their opinion that there is no god.

Joe Konrath said...

That's called being an agnostic. Your own words. You just typed them. Atheism doesn't allow for that.

Reread what I said after that, Jeremy. My mind is open to the possibility of anything. So is Richard Dawkins' mind.

Keeping an open mind isn't the same as believing something might exist.

I don't believe that god exists. At all. But if he's ever proven to exist, I'll accept it. That isn't nearly the same thing as saying god might exist, or I don't know if he does or doesn't.

Dragons don't exist. Elves don't exist. Faeries don't exist. God doesn't exist. But if any of these things are proven to exist, I'll change my mind because this isn't about being right for me, its about accepting truths. Only an idiot would deny something provable.

But god will never be provable, because he doesn't exist.

If someone proves he does, I'll admit being wrong. Won't happen, but that's the way scientists think.

Jeramy Goble said...

(I spell my name, Jeramy)

"But god will never be provable, because he doesn't exist.

If someone proves he does...
"

This contradiction makes logic sad.

Joe Konrath said...

Let me put it a different way.

2+2=5 is false. But if someone ever proves 2+3=5, I'll accept it.

That doesn't mean 2+2 might equal 5. It won't ever equal five.

I'm not closed minded. I simply require proof. If proof changes--as it does in science--I'll accept it.

Which brings up the concept of universal truths. I don't believe in those, I believe in relativism, because that's all that can be provable.

Jeramy Goble said...

That "if" means you're an agnostic. ;-)

Joe Konrath said...

This contradiction makes logic sad.

Not at all, Jeramy.

Nothing exists until it is proven to exist. That means accepting things that are proven to exist.

If I didn't accept things that are proven to exist, I'd be contradicting myself.

God does not exist, because he hasn't been proven to exist. If he is proven to exist, he does exist.

That doesn't mean he might exist.

Being an empiricist and relativist doesn't mean I have a closed-mind. or that I believe everything is possible. It means I accept provable facts as truths.

Jeramy Goble said...

Cool. I understand. But you must understand that by using "if," then your absolute statements of "do not exist" are rendered invalid, and makes you an agnostic.

Joe Konrath said...

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/if

"If" defintion: used to say that something must happen before another thing can happen.

There is no "might" in the way I used the word "if". There is "must".

"If God is proven to exist, I'll believe in him" is the same as "God must be proven to exist before I believe in him" which is completely compatible with "God doesn't exist."

I'm an atheist, not an agnostic. God does not exist. When I used "if" is doesn't mean god might exist. It means god must be proven.

Capisce?

Jeramy Goble said...

No, you're contradicting yourself.

Let's go back 700 years and overhear a conversation.

"The earth is not round. But, if it's ever proven that it is, then I'll believe it's round," says Dudeman.

"So, you're saying absolutely that the earth is not round?" Dudelady asks with intense intrigue.

"Correct," answers Dudeman, with a snappy confidence.

200 years later, the earth is then accepted scientifically as being round.

So, Dudeman's absolute statement 200 years prior was false.

Is not/does not is an absolute and is not compatible with if/then statements. That's just the way logic works.

It's kind of interesting. Some day, we may think of atheists as flatearthers!

Joe Konrath said...

So, Dudeman's absolute statement 200 years prior was false.

No. It was true. In the past the earth was, indeed, flat, because all we have to explain things is sensory perception.

That may seem like an illogical concept, but then so is quantum particles existing in two places at once.

We only have our own subjective sensory experience to describe reality. This is provable.

Therefor, reality exists based on what we can prove.

In the past, we could only prove the earth was flat. Ergo, the earth was flat.

You can't apply future hindsight to the present. So were stuck believing in everything, or believing only what is provable.

Believing in everything--which includes, but is not limited to, unprovable concepts like god--is the opposite of observation and science, which is the very thing that showed us the earth was flat, and then round.

So, either we are able to prove things, or everything is unprovable and must exist.

Since things are provable, I'm going with that one. But you're welcome to believe in absolutely everything if you like. Because once you open yourself up to the possibility of believing everything, you lose all sense of what we perceive as reality.

Jeramy Goble said...

If I ever meet you in person, I'm going to buy you a drink or 10.

That shit is empirical fact!

Joe Konrath said...

That shit is empirical fact!

I'll believe that when it happens. :)

Jeramy Goble said...

LOL! ;)

Jude Hardin said...

Is there anything inherent in objects beyond our sensory perception of them?

We know (through science) that the universe existed long before human beings existed; therefore, if perception is the key to existence, then the only logical conclusion is that a continuous omniscient presence capable of perception must have witnessed the universe before we arrived.

Joe Konrath said...

a continuous omniscient presence capable of perception must have witnessed the universe before we arrived.

No. The conclusion is the universe didn't exist until there was someone to witness it. Only our perception allows us to prove something existed prior to our perception of it. Without that perception, nothing exists.

But you're welcome to try to prove something exists that we are unable to perceive.

We can assume the Higgs boson has existed for millenia because we finally found one. Prior to that, it was a very agreed-upon scientific expectation, but it wasn't proven to exist.

Besides, if we continue your argument, something must have witnessed the origin of the creator of the universe. And then something must have witnessed the creator of the creator, and so on.

We base what we know on sensory observation. Science tests sensory observation according to the scientific method. Without senses, nothing exists.

But, again, you are welcome to try to prove otherwise. Many have tried.

Jude Hardin said...

No. The conclusion is the universe didn't exist until there was someone to witness it. Only our perception allows us to prove something existed prior to our perception of it. Without that perception, nothing exists.

That's where empiricism sort of breaks down for me. No person ever saw a dinosaur, yet we know they existed.

If every current and future human being on the planet lost the ability to see, would the moon and the stars cease to exist? Or would stories about those celestial objects, passed down from generation to generation, be enough to sustain their reality?

Joe Konrath said...

No person ever saw a dinosaur, yet we know they existed.

Why do we know the dinosaurs existed?

Empiricism runs counter to human expectations, because our brains are wired to accept things.

But quantum mechanics shows us how relevant simple observation is. Particle physics, life as both particle and wave, schrodinger's cat, heisenberg uncertainty, quantum entanglement, particles in two places at once--it all requires someone to see it.

Our reality is our subjective observances. Nothing else exists.

If we were all blind, colors wouldn't exist. We can only prove what we can witness.

Jude Hardin said...

If we were all blind, colors wouldn't exist.

What if one person could see, and she taught the rest of the population about colors? Wouldn't colors then exist for everyone?

Joe Konrath said...

Jude, that requires sensory experience.

Jude Hardin said...

Jude, that requires sensory experience.

Exactly. And I'm sure a percentage of the population would never believe that colors existed, no matter what that one sighted person told them. :)

Joe Konrath said...

Jude, check out Berkley on Primary and Secondary quality distinction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary/secondary_quality_distinction

Broken Yogi said...

I'd say he values controlling others, which is what his actions dictate.

I'd say that like virtually all human leaders, he values that. But that's not the particular thing I think he values in the Eucharist.

If we totalled up all the people throughout history that were killed because of religion, I bet the mortality rate would be higher than you think.

That's not what historians have found. They've done studies on this sort of thing, and it turns out that most wars are fought over simple human concerns like greed, territorial dominance, and nationalism. It would certainly be great to eliminate all religious wars, but if your primary concern is the elimination of wars, it would be better to target greed and nationalism than religion. And maybe take a look at psychopathy while you're at it. And if you want to get down to something a bit more esoteric, look at abusive child-rearing practices.

The terrible reputation Christianity has gotten on this issue is mostly confined to the Crusades and the Reformation wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. The latter helped spawn the Enlightenment in reaction/response, but even that came out of the Christian rationalist movement, which had been going on in monasteries for centuries. It became a popular meme to paint most wars as being religious in nature, but that's an historical falsehood based on selection bias.

But my point was that religion has harmed enough people that whatever good it has done has been negated.

And that's an anti-historical point that has more emotion to it than empirical rationality. Which you are of course entitled to, but don't claim to be the rationalist here.

Let's be clear: science and technology has harmed more people than religion, by creating such ingenious ways of killing people. The genius of science has been used for some truly terrible ends, and much more effectively than religion. Does that negate the value of science? I think not, but you can make your own calculations.

Nationalism has driven most wars, and employed the most soldiers and scientists to come up with ever more effective ways of killing people. So if you really want to go after the great evil in our time, go after national boundaries and ethnic and national identity, and go after scientists and engineers who devise weapons, and the governments who fund armies. In only a few nations is religion a major part of that, and mostly in Islam, not Christianity.

Making someone feel a little better about their life isn't worth a jihad that kills hundreds.

Except that very few religious people mount jihadist attacks. Billions of people are in evidence today who are religious and don't mount jihadist attacks, or who don't even approve of such things. So the empirical evidence is in: religion doesn't have any necessary association with such things. But as with secular atheism, it's always an option.

Broken Yogi said...



That would be nice if it were true. But racism, sexism, discrimination, abuse, the sex trade, slavery, war, torture, and the ongoing stripping of peoples' rights continues to go on, worldwide.

Yes, they do continue on, and the fact that they do shows that they have advantages to those who engage in such things. Where do you think those advantages come from? Religion? Please. Human beings from time immemorial have been violent creatures driven by hunger, greed, avarice, sexual desire, territorial dominance, and the sheer enjoyment of victory over one's enemies. You confuse evolutionary advantages with some abstract notion of “moral good”, as if the rule were “the good will triumph in the end” rather than “the strong and well-adapted will triumph in the present”.

Where do you get the notion that “racism, sexism, discrimination, abuse, the sex trade, slavery, war, torture, and the ongoing stripping of peoples' rights” are bad things? They certainly weren't considered bad until very recently in human history. In the old, pagan days, these things were generally considered good. The root of the the very word “good” comes from the old Latin word for war. The almost universal pre-Christian morality was that those who were strong and victorious in battle were good, and deserved to rule over the weak.

Where did that come from? From human nature, from the evolution of our species over time. Nature does not take a moral stand against these things you consider evil. It doesn't have anything bad to say about rape, for example. To nature, it's just another way of reproducing. It doesn't have anything bad to say about killing one's competition. It rewards such deeds. Natural selection is a brutal process with no sentimentality for the weak or ill-adapted.

The better question is, where did this notion that such things are evil come from? The answer is primarily found in religion. Judeo-Christianity in particular focused its morality on an inversion of the ancient, natural morality of war and dominance, making heroes of the underdog, and making grand claims that the meek, the poor, and the weak were actually the good guys, and that the strong people were the evil ones, and that in the end, God would ensure the victory of the good guys. It's a genius invention, pulled out of the imaginative desperation of slaves to preserve at least in their own minds their own higher status, and it led to all sorts of revolutions in human thinking – Christianity itself, even.

So for you to be espousing such notions yourself indicates that you are essentially a Christian moralist, who simply no longer believes in any metaphysical God. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, only that it's amusing to hear you rant against religion as some categorical evil, when your own morality is derived from it, even if you've lost the conscious historical connection. It's still a huge part of our secular culture.

John Brown said...

You can't apply the scientific method to any of the nonsense spouted by any religion that worships a deity.

You keep going back to science as if it's the only way to create credible evidence. It is not.

You also seem to continue to insist the scientific method has no limitations. That too is incorrect.

And you continue to generalize all claims into one. There is, for example, a huge difference in what you would test with prayer when you claimed that God is a vending machine versus one where you claimed God is an agent with free will.

If someone claims to have seen Billy Bob kill Mary Joe, how do you establish the truth of that? You cannot practice the scientific method on that. You can practice science on things you might want to use as corroborating evidence, but not on that central fact. It's the same with many parts of religion.

You're right to point out that such studies do not prove. What they do is supply corroboration for a claim that you would then have to judge for reasonableness.

But just as it's a mistake to turn such studies into proof beyond a shadow of a doubt, so too is it a mistake to ascribe to the scientific method things it does not claim for itself.

We can be fooled by magic acts and slight of hand. We can also be fooled by religion. Which is why personal feelings meaningless when trying to prove things.

Hence the scientific method.


Hence, indeed! The scientific method helps us avoid many errors. But it is NOT iron-clad. And just because these things can happen when not applying the method does not mean they always do.

Once of the symptoms of delusion is believing you aren't checking your brain at the door. :)

Back at you :)

And yet another example of assuming that because something can happen in some cases it must therefore happen in all.

It is not delusional to claim something doesn't exist when there is no evidence to prove it does.

True. And I haven't provided evidence in this exchange to do that. I think I'm going to write up my own post where I make the case that there is enough evidence to investigate and study. And why I would conclude what I do.

The evidence might be good enough for you, but it isn't good enough for the scientific community.

Again, I have not provided any evidence here of what leads me to believe.

Furthermore, there are a host of no-nonsense scientists who believe in a god. There are others who don't believe in god. Currently more of them do believe. But whether something is popular is no basis for truth, as I'm sure you would agree.

But bigfoot won't exist until there is irrefutable proof. Not feelings. Not hope. Not faith. Not sketchy evidence. Not eyewitness testimony. But real, tangible evidence that proves it beyond any doubt.

And we're back to what constitutes evidence. And what standard of proof we need to meet.

Do we require ourselves to meet the standard of "beyond any shadow of a doubt" in history, our courts, or even science?

No, we don't.

A great deal of science is about proceeding with tentativity.

At the same time, I do agree that it's a good thing to base religious beliefs on evidence that meets a reasonable standard of proof. And some personal experience meets that standard easily, regardless of whether a scientific study might corroborate it or not. I also think it's important to recognize where it's appropriate to proceed with tentativity in religious matters.

This has been an interesting discussion for me. And I'm motivated now to write that post.

Jude Hardin said...

Jude, check out Berkley on Primary and Secondary quality distinction.

Fair enough. But then I investigated further, and found this:

"Berkeley believed that God is not the distant engineer of Newtonian machinery that in the fullness of time led to the growth of a tree in the university quadrangle. Rather, the perception of the tree is an idea that God's mind has produced in the mind, and the tree continues to exist in the quadrangle when "nobody" is there, simply because God is an infinite mind that perceives all."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Berkeley

Kind of sounds like what I said in a previous comment: We know (through science) that the universe existed long before human beings existed; therefore, if perception is the key to existence, then the only logical conclusion is that a continuous omniscient presence capable of perception must have witnessed the universe before we arrived.

:)

Broken Yogi said...

Giving away sandwiches wrapped in the New Testament is a smart way to ensure the religion keeps growing.

It sure is. Christianity's growth has, for the most part, been not through war and violence, but through attraction, through making itself attractive to other people. And it worked for a long time. Now it's having problems being attractive in the modern secular world, but it continues to grow in the third world, where it still seems to offer a lot of advantages over the alternatives.

Morality exists beyond any religious affiliation. It has been witnessed in children who have no religious background. Sharing, fair play, mutual respect, and on and on.

But since you've already admitted that religious instincts are hard-wired into us, this only demonstrates that these instincts appear in young children, even when they are not conditioned by their culture. It has simply been a part of nature that these instincts have evolved into religion and spirituality when the children grow up and become adults.

Where do you think religion comes from, after all? If there really is no God, as you say, then religion is purely the product of nature itself. So it's a natural instinct that has evolved over time along with the rest of the human psyche and culture. To posit that religion is unnatural or “wrong”, suggests that it must have some other-worldly origin that goes against your very presumption of a materialistic world. So being religious isn't wrong or evil, it's human and natural. Maybe we will evolve in a different direction at some point, but only because evolutionary forces render religion obsolete, not because there's something inherently wrong with it.

I define social morality as what is accepted by the greatest number of any given society at any given point in history. That's why it was acceptable to throw Christians to lions, or to build death camps, to those societies.

But there is something in human nature that understands fairness, love, and cooperation, because without those things we'd die as a species. This isn't religious. It's genetic.


The lack of these hasn't condemned any animals or insects or birds or microbes to extinction. Why would it condemn human beings?

Now, I agree that there's something different in human beings from the natural order of life on earth. Hmmm, what do you think that could be? Maybe it's that they are religious? By which I mean, that they have the ability to imagine a different order of life than nature has marked out, and a different set of values than is defined by nature. What you seem to be against is not religion itself, but only certain historical limitations in religion. You seem pretty much on board with the general religious inclination to redefine morals and values according to a whole new set of ideals. You just disagree on a few specifics.

Which is why Snowden keeps preaching about Jesus. And Thomas Paine died for god.

Snowden's enemy is not religion, but the national security state. And while Paine was an atheist, his real quarrel was with political tyranny. They had their eyes on the real threat out there. I suggest you listen more closely to their message.

Sacrifice for a religious cause is what gives us suicide bombers.

Suicide bombers are a very small threat to the world. The biggest threats come from national armies, and the technology that science has developed to arm them. Religion didn't invent the nuclear bomb, or chemical and biological warfare, or guns and bombs. Who do you think did?

Broken Yogi said...


We can have ideals willing to die for beyond anything supernatural. The charitable things I do have nothing to do with religion.

Or so you think. But charity in itself, apart from helping one's own kin, is hardly natural. It takes a stand against nature to become genuinely charitable towards distant, unrelated others. Anthropologists have found that primitive societies, when they meet on the fringes of their territory, will first try to find some kind of blood relationships between their groups, and failing that, they will kill each other. Religion provides that universal sense of brotherhood and connection that allows people to imagine themselves related to everyone, even when they aren't really. Except in a spiritual sense. And that helps reduce violence among strangers.

We're hardwired to believe in something, and born into societies that cram religion down our throats to fill that gap.

But why did religion become the thing that societies cram down our throats? Why did human nature and human history evolve in such a way that religion became virtually universal? Why is it that religion came to dominate the things people believe in?

I think it's obvious that this came about because religion worked, and provided people with advantages that other things couldn't give them. It created civilization. No secular atheist society every created a civilization on its own, these only evolved out of religious societies that had already done the hard work of building civilizations out of the raw material of the human being.

World religions appeared separately, because different groups of people had the same questions that needed answers.

This is one of the problems with atheists who try to figure out religion. They think it evolved to provide answers to questions, as if the biggest problems man faced were intellectual issues of curiosity about why the sky is blue or something. Not at all, not even close. Religion evolved to deal with human insecurity and instability, facing a brutal world of indifferent nature that will snuff you out without a thought. Religion means “to bind together”, and it evolved to help bind human communities together, to give them a feeling of connection and significance in relation to the natural world, and as a literal firewall against the brutality of nature. It allowed people to cooperate and build cultures and societies that could survive in the face of nature's indifference to their survival. It allowed them to create an unnatural world, a world in which they had a psychic relationship to the powers of the universe, and one that could allow them to build a human culture that protected them from it.

Religion is a survival mechanism. You may say it's outlived its usefulness, and there are certainly arguments to be made in favor of that proposition, but basically it comes down to what survives and gets passed on because it continues to work. If it doesn't continue to work, it won't survive. It's really that simple.

Many of those questions have been answered by science. If we had a reset button and could erase religion, I think we'd discover things to replace it. Real things, not imaginary ones. And humanitarianism would persist, while violence decreased. Hate is taught, and a lot of it is cloaked in religion.

But of course we can't reset history. We are not blank slates. Things certainly can replace religion, as you are testament to. But even those things tend to resemble religion, and take from religion many things that worked. All religion of course is basically syncretic, composed of all sorts of things that may have worked before from various sources. And all religion evolves over time as conditions change and new ideas are generated. The question is always about whether something can evolve and adapt quickly enough to survive.

Broken Yogi said...

"Functional religion"? Is that like a functional psychic or a functional tin foil hat that prevents the aliens from reading minds?

Religious communities are highly functional cultures. That's why so many people continue to join Churches, because of all the connections and help and community they find in them. Secular atheism don't provide much of that, which is why it's just not terribly popular. I'm not sure it ever will, but that's an open question I'm very much interested in seeing how it works out.

We keep teaching our children nonsense, and we always will. But, finally, children are able to see the world for themselves, thanks to worldwide communications.

Nobody sees the world as it is, everyone has their illusions. You think the truth is out there in the media? Not bloody likely.

There is a reason police states restrict the Internet. That reason holds true for religion. If you grow up thinking Jesus is your savior, and you have no one to tell you otherwise, you're likely to believe it.

Lots of people continue to believe Jesus is their savior, regardless of how much access they have to the internet or modern media. So it's not as if that's the answer. And the people you need to worry about restricting the Internet aren't Christians, it's the national security state and big business. You know, the people who employ all the scientists. The NSA is not a Christian organization, in case you didn't know.

Slowly but surely the world is waking up. They best way to fight terrorists isn't war. It's air-dropping laptops with free wifi.

In your dreams. As if Al Qaeda doesn't use the internet to promote its agenda. The bigger problem is that you can't fight terrorism until you identify who the terrorists actually are. Snowden could help you with that.

Religion is one of many things that can give them that. But it also causes harm. Hence my killer vaccine analogy. If we understand human nature, let's give people something to latch on to that isn't imaginary and potentially harmful.

Really, and what exactly would that be, this miraculous thing that only does good, and can't do any harm? Science? Are you out of your mind? Atheism? Need I remind you of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot? Democracy? You mean like the one that invaded Iraq and Afghanistan? I'm not about to defend religion's many downsides, but the existence of downsides doesn't mean much in a world where most everything anyone considers good also has serious downsides.

Likewise, I find it very odd that someone who makes a very good living selling made up stories thinks it's best if we don't give people imaginary things to latch onto. Aren't you biting the hand that feeds you? Do you really think imaginary=bad? Do you think the human imagination should be gotten rid of, simply because some of the things it comes up with turn out badly? What exactly are you saying here?

maybe as a species we can learn to be spiritual about science.

I'm not sure what you mean by this, but I think I'm in favor of it. But what exactly is spirituality if you don't believe there's anything real outside of material, physical things? If the imagination is unreal and so potentially harmful we should eliminate it, what's left to be spiritual about?

Stephen Goss said...

Joe, Joe, Joe…

It's a bummer--a BIG bummer--that you "gave up God for lent, and every day since." Especially if you made that decision based on an 18-year-old's understanding of science and what you call "a millenia-old book written by a bunch of nobodies with no historical gravitas and vetted multiple times through multiple translations by those seeking power."

Imagine if your current take on the publishing industry was based on your thinking back in the days when you touted the traditional ways and means that you now speak out against.

I was UNDER the age of 18 when I turned my back on religion, due in part to my, ahem, deep teen-aged understanding of science and the world. Since I figured mankind was going to solve all its problems through technology, I went off to study engineering at the University of Illinois. And while studying engineering, I was drawn to faith.

Now, armed with two engineering degrees and years of experience with IBM and Bell Labs, my understanding of theoretical science and APPLIED science is far beyond what I knew (or thought I knew) when I was a teenager.

One of the more interesting things I realize now is that "science" has always been in a state of confusion. While we understand enough to invent useful (and harmful) things, "learned scientists" are still in disagreement (as they've always been) about the underlying workings of the universe.

Fortunately, I know both traditional and so-called "rogue" physicists, so I get some balance. Beyond that, I've come to realize that humankind has only simple, metaphorical understandings of reality. Just as a dog can not understand practical applications of analytic chemistry—they can't even think the thoughts—similarly we can not think the thoughts sufficient to fully grasp the very reality in which we exist.

But again, fortunately, we can manipulate what we know (i.e. engineer) to produce some pretty neat stuff--like Air Conditioning, one of my personal favorites!

As for my faith, it continues to flourish, under no threat by my so-called grasp of science which, while perhaps more in-depth than most folk's, is nonetheless deeply simplistic and probably wrong.

Hey! Let's do lunch! Maybe we can help each other in each other's "delusion". I live in Wheaton. There's a good Chinese place here, unless you know a better place around your neck of the woods.

I enjoy your blog, by the way...

Stephen Goss said...
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Stephen Goss said...
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Jeff Ezell said...

Thanks for your blog efforts Joe, entertaining and thought provoking as always.

Jude said:
“We know (through science) that the universe existed long before human beings existed; therefore, if perception is the key to existence, then the only logical conclusion is that a continuous omniscient presence capable of perception must have witnessed the universe before we arrived.”

Joe, from what I perceived from your statements is that once a (earthly) human observed the universe then it existed. Omniscient observation doesn’t play in your view. Science has expanded our understanding that other galaxies exist.

Maybe we earthly humans are just an ongoing lab experiment conducted by advanced beings (not a God) from another galaxy. They can tune in to our progress remotely through modern communications (hack NSA’s collection), watch Fox News and see how it’s going. They send observers occasionally in UFOs to get a close-up feel (and maybe to see if we’re catching on). They even abduct a few humans occasionally for observation and testing and return them, dazed but with memories. These people have observed and been interviewed. Think about all the missing person’s that are never found. Have they become “seedlings” for another earth-type “human experiment” in another galaxy?”

These advanced beings would have observed the universe before earthly humans existed, therefore it existed. (Right, Joe?) Maybe they have “controlled” our development of different religions to study interactions.

These advanced beings would most certainly be sophisticated scientists, with no interest in God(s). Hopefully, they’ll continue the experiment until we earthly humans can perfect our coexistence. But would life on earth without conflict be like a novel without conflict? Boring!

What say you?

Walter Knight said...

Patterson is right about one thing, it's not just economic, it's also cultural. The Big Five liberal New York publishing establishment used to control what you were allowed to read, and now they don't. The socialist gatekeepers have fallen.

Now they want the government to intervene. Of course they do. That's the Left's answer to most pesky freedom problems.

Walter Knight said...

Oops, wrong article, but still a true comment.

Anita Diggs said...

You're right. Self-publishing is still growing, and authors are more capable of doing things for themselves. Things are changing. Promoting, for example, the new way that people are doing it now is to give talks before specific groups. If your book is a survivors of cancer book, then what you need to do is to get a copy of that book to the head of every group that focuses on that in the country and say that you are available for speeches or whatever, or you would like to give a Skype interview to their membership, or in some way offer to be affiliated with them. I think you may have to just narrow down your book a little bit more than it used to be more, than the general author tour.