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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Securely Ranting -- For the World to See

Just to get on my high horse again about the ludicrousness of our allowing our government to waste so much money spying on us, bringing it back a little to the business of JABberwocky...

We at JABberwocky believe in information.  We rigorously spreadsheet pretty much every piece of royalty statement paperwork that comes our way, in varying detail.

Just like the NSA wants to vacuum up information because it may not know until after the fact which e-mails or which phone call metadata it may need at some future point, we can't predict exactly which information we might need at some future point.  Since modern spreadsheets allow information to flow upwards very easily, it just seems better to start out having everything in a nice spreadsheet that can flow up.  The first statement for your hardcover will flow upwards into a summary for the hardcover.  The paperback and e-book will flow upward.  They will merge with the hardcover information to give you the total sales for your book, and from there to your series, and from there to your work with a particular publisher and then a particular territory. We do that in all major territories for your work, we try and have basic information in smaller territories in spreadsheets.  If your career takes off after your fifth book, or Hollywood decides to take an option on your eighth book and some hotshot writer needs information on your sales to help get financing for the movie, we have your global sales information ready at hand.  If we need to gather that information after your eighth book is published when that call from Hollywood calls, it is a lot harder to gather all the information retrospectively.

Sounds great, doesn't it!

Who wouldn't want the government to do just that, so if in two years or four years some evildoer is involved in some terrorist plot, we've got all the data to find him, and find his co-conspirators, and save us all!!

However, we face real world constraints which apparently our government doesn't feel it needs to confront on our behalf.

Simply put, as our business grows and we have more clients selling more books in more places in more formats, the information we have to process keeps growing and growing.

We must make compromises.

We sold 200 books to Audible last year and are starting to get audio royalty statements for some of those.  Some of those books are titles that haven't been in print since ten years ago or more.  Suffice to say the spreadsheets we put together for those titles cannot and should not be as detailed as when we had only 30 books with Audible to keep track of.

As more information floods in, we have a harder time prioritizing it.  Do we do the big pile of Audible statements first because those still come in on paper and make a visible dent on the desk, while we delay processing Random House royalty statements for major agency clients like Peter Brett and Elizabeth Moon that have come in as PDFs?  Well, it is tempting to deal with the visible pile of paper first.

We also have a harder time doing all of it correctly.  Who is going to look over the person who does the basic entry work as we have more and more clients taking up more and more of our time?  Two years ago I could do that and it wasn't too big a hassle, but now it's kind of impossible for me to give the same quality time to absolutely everything.

I am running a business.  I have to justify expenses.  I can't just hire more and more and more people to deal with every last bit of data that can theoretically be processed.

Maybe you can see where this is going.

The NSA isn't worried about money.  It isn't worried about cost-benefit analysis.  Its budget is secret.  We don't debate it.  If we did, we'd be told that we should never for a moment think that our security can be valued that way.

Which is balderdash.

The NSA is no different from JABberwocky.  The more information it decides it must have, the less good it can be at dealing with all of that information, even with the ability to hire infinitely, and build office space and server farms and everything else infinitely.  And when it makes mistakes, those have serious consequences, way more than if JABberwocky screws something up.

It's not just wrong constitutionally and morally for the government to collect all of this information on us, but it's a bad investment for our country.

And just to make clear:

Yes, your information is being collected.

If you write "hey, what about Bad Guy X" in an email and the government is interested in Bad Guy X, it will start digging deeper in what you say and do just because you put the words "Bad Guy X" into your e-mail.

Oh, sure, there are procedures in place to be sure that they don't go too far, that they dig just deep enough to determine that you are a US citizen, or that you didn't actually conspire with Bad Guy X but really did just say "hey, what about Bad Guy X" in an innocent way in an e-mail.

But of course those procedures don't work perfectly.  The government admits to thousands of times when its procedures don't work.

No, thank you!  I'd rather you not be spending my money on this.

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