What Your Grandpa Did in the Early 20th Century

work photo
Photo by Sean MacEntee

I just wrote an email describing what I do at my job, so I thought I’d post it here as well, since it might be vaguely interesting to my grandchildren, when they discover the internet again.

Basically, what I do is help people develop and execute their publishing plans. I think about half of my clients are self publishers, 25% are small/university presses, and 25% are businesses with catalogs, portfolios, gifts and the like.

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I Saw a Squirrel Eating a Nut

Yesterday I parked my car in my driveway and before I got out I saw this little monkey carry a fresh acorn onto the log next to my door. Right away s/he started eating it and before I could get my phone out to take a video, s/he’d chewed off the brown shell. I felt lucky to get to see the whole meal, and was especially impressed by the hygienic overture at the end, before it scurried away.

Some Thoughts on Author Websites at Hunger Mtn

My website, this one, AdamRobinson.ninja, is an author website, right?

What do I have on it? I have some links to publications, a bio (which I made available for anyone to use at their discretion, like editors or reading series hosts, as well as my photos), a way to get ahold of me, and a blog that I don’t update frequently enough. Simple.

At Hunger Mountain, I’ve published a long essay about how to build an author website, and why.

The key advice comes at the end:

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to fail, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Amazon Essay

For Real Pants, I’m working on an essay that seeks to resolve the tension in the small press world about working with Amazon to sell and buy books. My experience was awful at first, as I was losing about 30 cents every time someone bought a Publishing Genius book through Amazon. But books just have to be there, because that’s where people buy books.

The conflict there is obvious. If selling books through a retailer is bad for publishers, what will happen to books? It’s the publisher’s perspective that they shouldn’t be strong-armed (the way Amazon bullied competitors like Zappo’s and Diapers.com) because books are a unique product that convey our civic identity, our cultural ideas, and not just another consumer good, like shoes or baby wipes.

Along with this question of books as a consumer good, I want to explore, in an ontological way, the question of whether Amazon is bad, good, or an indifferent factor for literature. I’ll explore how their efficiencies (such as their numerous fulfillment centers, their powerful website that hosts reviews, recommendations, 1-click checkout etc, 2-day shipping and so on) promote book buying; I’ll report on their own attempts at being a meaningful traditional publisher and, relatedly, an ardent promoter of self-publishing; I’ll look at what Amazon’s affect on booksellers means for publishers.

Finally, as none of what Amazon does happens in a vacuum, I’ll consider ethical factors, like their treatment of employees and the ramifications of things like the combination of Prime and 1-hour shipping on the environment.

Formidable Women

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, Amy McDaniel has declared today “Formidable Women Day” and asked people to celebrate “by making your own list of the formidable women who are alive to you.” There’s even a hashtag, #formidablewomen.

I’m (almost too) scared to make a list because lists are exclusionary. Lists are hegemonic; order is patriarchal. But of course it’s fun to think about, and enriching, and I do want to take an opportunity to name some people I admire. So I’m limiting myself to ten, though I could go on and on. And these ten, of course, are in no order. They are also very personal, which is why I talk about myself so much in the annotations.


Amy McDaniel is not only the founder of F.W.D. but also she tops my list. She has been one of my favorite writers since I first read her posts at HTMLGiant, and she’s an easy but probing conversationalist. She talks through ideas with me for hours until, finally, I start to understand an ethical perspective that she seems to have arrived at automatically years ago. I’m lucky in love with her!



Bethany Hamann was one of my first female besties—so smart, adventurous, and snarky—and as I grew up without sisters or female friends (I was sheltered), just being around her helped me understand women as people, not just “other species.”


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One Week in Panama

In which Amy McDaniel and I visit Panama for a week.

Adam and Amy horseback riding in El Vallé de Anton
Adam and Amy horseback riding in El Vallé de Anton
Takeaway: For a country the size of South Carolina, Panama has a huge variety of place. Panama City is urban, towering, vibrant with history and culture. Just outside the city, the canal is popping with wildlife (and canal). The San Blas Islands, on the Caribbean side, are postcard paradises, and El Vallé de Anton is a verdant volcano.

We went because of frogs. Kind of. A month ago I sat down to read The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert, which begins with a look at the golden frogs going extinct in El Vallé de Anton. Unrelatedly, Amy said something about taking a trip. I said, “Let’s go see these frogs.”

And Amy’s dad served in Panama when he was in the Army, so she’d always wanted to go. She started putting together an itinerary.
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“Power Chord” Scratch Track

This is a song I recorded so I could share it with my old band, Sweatpants. It was a long time ago, so I feel like I can listen to it with some detachment. And objectively I can say it is fierce and shredding.

“Get up on the stage and fight
Behind the drums and flashing lights
We’ll rock

“Give big gifts to your friends,
you’ll find yourself with happy ends.
Bill burns me CDs,
he knows the songs that will please,