N=0: Misapplication of the Drake Equation and Promotional Work

I received the following statement in an email yesterday – “N=0”.

This was from the friend of an author who was acting as intermediary and performing promotional work for the author in question.

It plays off of the Drake Equation (the equation we use to estimate the number of civilizations in the galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.). Its use here is to imply that there is “no intelligent life” over here at Amazing Stories and in particular is directed at me.

Of course N references the entire galaxy, which I think includes the ‘friend’, unless there is some special case I’m unaware of….

This message – semi-harassing in nature (and I hope not the harbinger of things to come) was the end result of an endless stream of emails stretched out over the course of nearly three weeks. The original point of the conversation was to arrange to serialize a novel that had previously been (favorably) reviewed on Amazing Stories.

Problems arose early on when it became apparent that Amazing’s policy regarding DRM & piracy – its strategy for dealing with those things – was not aligned with the publicist’s (and apparently not the authors, though no direct communication with the author was had). But the problems actually started a bit earlier when, rather than being asked what our policies were regarding serials, piracy concerns, DRM, watermarking, etc., I was told what their intentions were.

Seems to me, when you’re asking for some PR coverage – you ask, not tell (unless your profile is so high that outlets are begging you for something, anything, even sweat-dampened tissues). But I put that down to inexperience, perhaps things being poorly written.

What they wanted me to do was serialize the novel and do so in a way that would entirely protect it from being copied. I was asked to ‘age out’ earlier installments; I was asked to put a ‘watermark or something’ on the text and a few other suggestions. I explained in turn that aging out installments (removing earlier ones from the site after a set period of time) would only annoy those arriving later to the party and would probably negatively impact readership; I explained that no matter what I did on the site (and we don’t do DRM, watermarking etc) it would be impossible for me to prevent “pirates” from obtaining the material if they wanted to…

In response I was informed that (paraphrased) it was a good thing that the novel was an Ebook since this would help prevent pirating….(yes, you read that correctly)

It was at that point that I began to become uncomfortable and suspicious. I responded that given their strong concerns related to piracy and the fact that I could do nothing to prevent such, I was now uncomfortable with serializing the entire novel. Whether voiced or not, the first time a pirated copy of the novel showed up, an accusatory finger would be pointing in Amazing’s direction, and I didn’t need the additional aggravation of having people wondering if I was enabling piracy.

My (strong) suggestion that we move in the direction of an excerpt instead of serialization was essentially ignored. For three more email exchanges. At that point I’d finally had it and stated in response that I was no longer interested in moving forward in anyway with anything involving this particular novel. I offered to revisit the author when future work came out, feel free to contact me again then, etc. That’s when the semi-harassment began.

I call it semi-harassment because the intent is clear – to register the ‘publicists’ displeasure with me in a manner intended to upset me – but it is of the ham-handed and essentially clueless variety of such things. It rises almost to the level of amusement; like a six year old trying to give you the finger and using the wrong one….

I tried to be nice and hand-holdy thru the vast majority of the exchanges; I worked hard at crafting responses that said “you haven’t a clue” without invoking cluelessness; when finally forced to lay my cards bluntly on the table (as it seemed that nothing else would do) I suggested that people who are looking for promotional assistance usually do so in a manner that doesn’t monopolize the other party’s time; that they usually ask up-front what the terms and conditions are; that they usually try to accomplish their goal while causing as little grief and hardship for everyone concerned as possible. The first response was that they were not responsible for my lack of time management skills.

And I’m supposed to want to continue to work with this individual? Or have anything to do with the person (people) being represented?

Ummmm. I think not.  Brief thoughts of replacing the positive review with a negative one (it’s linked to from the author’s Amazon page, website, on twitter and on several Facebook accounts) flashed through the revenge fantasy portion of my brain – but that would be sinking to or below their level (and wouldn’t make anyone else engaging with Amazing Stories feel too comfortable).

Instead:  if you are a PR/publicist/promotional type person working for a creative type and trying to get some attention sent in their direction, try really, really hard to remember a few things:

1. It’s not you.  Guaranteed you will run into people you have to work with that you don’t like, rub you the wrong way, don’t do things the way you want them done.  Your personal response to that should never ever ever enter into the picture.  You represent your client.  Your client is not you.  Your client’s tasks, relationships come first.

2. If you are new to the game, don’t hesitate to let your contacts know that up front.  It will get you a lot of good information and advice, it will defray or excuse many faux pas,

3.  While it may be true that your client is the hottest thing since sliced bread and that everyone in the industry is falling all over themselves to get touched by magic, it never hurts to start out by ASKING what policies, programs and methods of handling promotional items are.  Never. Never. Never.  (It might also save everyone some time to look over their site/publication/packages/etc to see if that information just might not already be provided in a handy-dandy “here’s what you need to know” form.)  That’s usually referred to as “Read the Manual”.

4. Don’t attack people who are in the business you are working in and especially don’t do so when those people “control the microphone”.  If you are in the position of having to ask for promotional coverage, you are not in the position of telling someone what to do.  Which means they are in a position to endlessly discuss you in any manner they see fit, through a platform that has greater reach than your own.   If your clients achieve the kind of stature you are hoping to bring them, then you can extract your revenge by ignoring those outlets “what done you wrong” in future.  But even then – you might still have to use those outlets.  Something about not burning bridges springs to mind.


N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.
R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.
fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.
ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.
fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.
fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.
fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.
L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

A cursory glance at the terms of this equation will reveal that N does not equal zero.

*from .seti.org

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