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Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest: Chet Baker Speaks

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mether thinks I am getting a little hard of hearing, because I sometimes do not hear the UPS truck come down the driveway. It is not that. It is that my dreams are getting better.

 So why would I stop a perfectly good dream about actually catching a squirtle, instead of waking up in real life, where I never catch a squirtle, to bark at the big brown truck?

This time, though, I heard her open the front door which is my cue to bark! And rush out in front of her! And greet Mr. Crum and then check his truck for bikkits!

She had been particularly alert this day, because there was a package coming she was very much looking forward to getting.  Perhaps full of home-made bikkits.

Instead, there was just a book. She seems very excited about this book, even though no one can eat it.

All I have heard for as long as I can remember is book bla bla bla bla book bla bla bla book bla bla bla bla. bookbookbookbookbeautifulbla bla bla heavybla bla bla gorgeousbla bla bla lovebla bla blaexquisite reproduction bla bla bla bla sohappy

One good thing about this book is it makes her happy to have it in her hands at last. I like her happy best.
Also, she is preparing to sign and send a LOT of these books out of her studio, and that means she will be there a lot. I get to lie in the middle of the floor where she would trip over me if she did not stop to kiss me.

Also, that means that every day for awhile, we go see Miss Cynni down at the Lower Salem Post Office. I love going to see Miss Cynni. Because she loves me and makes a fuss over me,

because I get to go behind the scenes and inspect the premises, and also because bikkits.

oncet there was a real cowboy there! With spurs!

And the good thing about that is that every package Mether sends through the Lower Salem Post Office, she says, helps convince the U.S. Postal Service to keep that tiny post office open. I loved going to Whipple Post Office, but they closed it down. Which upset Mether a lot. But then we found Lower Salem.
So we go out of our way to take boxes there so Miss Cynni still has a job. And bikkits.

Anyway. I understand that Amazon has Mether's book available now for pre-order.  Even though they will not send any copies out until April 12. And it is so easy to order it now, forget it and have the book just appear in your mailbox POOF when it is available. 


Mether will have her book available for pre-order on her website in mid-March.  

Which is not all that long from now.

When you order your book from Mether, she will write something nice in it and sign it to whomever you wish. She is the one who handles all the orders, boxes them up, addresses them and drives them down to Miss Cynni's Post Office. With me.

And each time she does that, she makes about $14.00. When she sells a lot of books, she can buy more bikkits, and maybe fix up a bathroom from 1978 that is now crumbling to pieces.  And I get to go to Lower Salem Post Office, where there are bikkits.

So that is a good deal. You get your book signed and personalized, and I get bikkits, and Mether gets $14.00 and maybe a bathroom.

But when you order it elsewhere, Mether does not make anything. *** And the first thing I am afraid she will stop buying when she is poor is bikkits. Then kibble. I could go hungry. We do not want that to happen.

This is Chet Baker, Boston Terrier, asking you to think before you order, and buy local.

Stay tuned for updates. Pre-order forms will appear here on this blog and at in mid-March. She'll let you know on her pages on Facebook and Instagram, too. Mether will time it so your signed book arrives on or a little before April 12.

Thank you very much. 


Chet Baker
Now for a message from Mether.

***How can it be that an author doesn't make a cent when you buy her book elsewhere? It's not that Amazon is somehow evil or denying me my rightful amount. When you buy my books anywhere but from me, I make nothing. This is how it works. Print book sales have plummeted so drastically in the last five years that even very popular books fail to "pay out," or earn back their advance. Paying out means enough books sell to pay the publisher back what they paid me to write it.

Letters from Eden, my first book of illustrated essays published in 2006, paid out very nicely, and I just got a small royalty check last week! The Bluebird Effect, my second book, published in 2012, was wildly popular, an Oprah pick, even! but has yet to "pay out," or earn back the advance Houghton Mifflin Harcourt paid me to write it.  The difference? Letters from Eden was published in 2006, when people were still buying a lot of books. The Bluebird Effect was published in 2012, when the Internet had almost completely grabbed everyone's attention, apparently for good. Until the publisher, through sales, makes back the amount I was advanced, neither The Bluebird Effect or Baby Birds will pay a royalty to me. So when a retail outlet, be it great big Amazon or your favorite bookstore sells my book, I don't make a cent unless and until the advance is paid out. Because people get most of what they want here on the Intertubes, lots of fabulous books will never sell enough copies to pay royalties to their authors.

 I'm not dumb. I see the writing on the wall. While the advance is a nice sum, and helps keep the lights on and the fridge stocked, it's spread out over as long as it takes me to write and illustrate the book. Which, in the case of my books, can be anywhere from 5 (The Bluebird Effect) to 13 
(Baby Birds) years.

 I've got to find other income streams; I can't make it on advances alone. The only realistic way I can make any money on this book is to sell it myself. That's why I speak and travel so much. I have to. Good thing I love public speaking and travel!


Seriously? When a book sells on Amazon the author gets nothing? I'm shocked, angry, and confused. Why is that?

You have sooo convinced me, Chet Baker! My click finger is itching to click on the link that will take me to the order form where I will order "Baby Birds..." sooo quickly, as soon as possible. All to keep you in bikkits and kibble, dear Chet.

Posted by Gail Spratley February 7, 2016 at 8:41 AM

The corporate types always find a way to get their bathrooms fixed on the backs of creative people. Can't wait to see this book!

I'm in! Can't wait for an autographed copy - maybe with a paw print from you, too?

Bravo, Julie. Thanks for posting this fabulous message by Chet. The public needs to know whether or not an artist receives compensation for their work.

I feel sure your new release is as wonderful as your previous book and your puzzle. Hopefully too these will be available in small boutique shops. Beautiful work.

I wish you much success with this new release of course so Chet can have a continued flow of "bikkits" and you may be able to revamp that 70s bath.

All the best for great success.

Excellent article! And it is absolutely true! The world is changing.

We also sell our books ourselves, and publish them as well. No Amazon for us, period. And to reiterate what you said earlier, it's not necessarily because Amazon is a big evil thing - it's for the same reasons you cite: we, a 3-woman owned art studio and indie book publishing company, make more money selling them directly, and we can then choose where we want the books carried. And we choose small, independent book stores and gift shops, and, since the Holly Wild books are a highly illustrated nature mystery for kids 7-12, full of science and history and cool outdoor explorer stuff, state and national parks and their visitor centers.
Like you, I pack and ship all the orders with our small, local post office.
Like you, Lori (the author/illustrator) travels around and does school programs and we sell the books and our artwork at art and craft fairs throughout the year.
Thank you for an excellent blog on the importance of supporting the little guys, all the way through the process!
P.S. Our newly adopted rescue beagles Stanley and Cooper would like to second Chet Baker's concerns about the lack of bikkits and kibble if people don't shop small and local. It's getting pretty rough out there!
P.P.S. We are in the middle of fixing our kitchen and then master bath as well - luckily I'm a woodworker and we are doing almost all of the work ourselves.
So many things in common! Marie is also (primarily) a bird artist, and we met Bill and Laura and Dawn at the Midwest Birding Symposium in Bay City, but you were off galavanting, in South Africa I believe :)
Best of luck with the book, and hopefully we'll run into you at a birding event this year!

Good for you, and thanks for explaining to folks how publishing is today. I don't sell my nature poetry through Amazon either for that reason. I published locally and want folks to buy it from the local publisher...or me. Good wishes for big sales and the bathroom of your dreams!

Dear Chet Baker,
Of course, we will be patient and wait for your mether's pre-order announcement. What else is family for but to watch out for one another?!

Posted by Kerry Reynard February 7, 2016 at 12:04 PM

I had no idea that's how it worked nowadays! From now on, I will be sure to order any & all books directly from authors whenever possible! Looking forward to pre-ordering @ your site next month!
Love your and Chet's posts on FB, as well as your great blog - thanks for all your hard work!

I greatly look forward to March. Can I also your other two?

Good grief. I was almost going to see if B & N would have it, then I finished your blog. Certainly will order from you, gladly so!! We need you and your input and help. You have answered so many questions for me. I just reminded my boss that we need more copies of "Enjoying Bluebirds More," in our little store. Esp. with bluebird season soon upon us. Will be placing my book order as soon as you have it up. Excited for you. Chet's picture with his eyes should sell lots of books.

Posted by Pat in GA February 7, 2016 at 2:01 PM


If we know a local place that we think might be willing to carry your books, what should we do? '

Hi Musicmom! Oh by all means talk them up, and have them order their books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I can't supply stores, and am not trying to. What I'm trying to do here is let my readers, who are people of great intellect and consideration, know how all this works, in the hope that some may choose to order from me. It's all the same to Houghton Mifflin, but it can make a big difference to me. This blogpost was born when a dear friend from college told me she already had my book pre-ordered on Amazon. I said "Great!" because I knew she meant it as "I'm so excited about your new book!" but at the same time I knew that there was no way she'd have done that if she knew that I could have made $14 on the sale instead of Amazon making it! I don't fault her in the least. It's perfectly natural to assume that an author somehow benefits from retail book sales. It's just that an author who is set up to fulfill orders from home can benefit ever so much more if books are ordered directly from her. So rather than keep saying "Great!" when people tell me they've pre-ordered my book from an outside outlet, I thought I'd let Chet Baker give y'all the straight poop. Dogs are ever truthful.

Wish me luck filling all these orders! Wahoo!


I had no idea that was how publishing worked. Thank you for explaining it. I will wait until I can order from you. I follow several bloggers who write books, and now that I know this, I will make sure to always order directly from the author, if they are set up for it. I always assumed that the author got a percentage of the profits besides the advance. I guess that makes writing like teaching or nursing: you have to love what you're doing, 'cause it's definitely not for the money.

Posted by Anonymous February 7, 2016 at 6:34 PM

Good to include this info!
I'll be putting my order in soon. Can't run out of kibble!
Love, Xxoom

Hi you still have copies of your 1st book for sale? That Means I could get the first and the last as I already have the middle one.

@storm1516, Letters from Eden, The Bluebird Effect, and soon Baby Birds are all available at Letters from Eden briefly went out of print, but my wonderful publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did a small reprint when asked nicely. I'm SO happy to have some now that Baby Birds is coming out, as that will rekindle interest in a book I dearly love.

I will so look forward to March - and ordering from you! Chet must have his Bikkits!

Gosh, thanks for cluing us in!

Eye opener.
Thanks Ch'et al.

Well worth the wait, thanks for the heads up. I took out the book "The Birding Life" by Laurence Sheehan from the library, and noticed when reading it last night that you are in it several times, including photos of your art and your beloved macaw.

Posted by Ruth Bergstrom February 11, 2016 at 8:57 AM

Good to know this. I had no idea.

Thank you sweet one for the scoop behind the "magic curtain of publishing" ~ I've cancelled my pre orders w/Amazon
and deliciously await your GO!

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