I recently wrote a post (on my very occasional blog) about the way theme gives depth to one’s reading experience regardless of how a novel is otherwise categorized. There are themes inherent in each category, of course, but in the better books there is something more, something that lends resonance.

In these dog days of August one can easily feel adrift. Emails go out and automated out-of-office replies come instantaneously. London burns. Wall Street is tanking. The bookstores seem empty. Unless you’re in the Hamptons, it requires monumental effort just to raise a tennis game.

Although I no longer live there, for most of the past twenty-five years I resided in the northern section of Westchester County, New York — first in Bedford Hills and then in North Salem. The main shopping and dining town of that area is Mt. Kisco, where nowadays, I’m told, New York’s current governor can at times be found strolling the sidewalk.

In the mail today I received a sample of the finished dust jacket of Primacy. After opening the package, I did what I suppose every author does upon receipt of such things.

First, I gaped at it in awe. Second, I studiously avoided reading the copy, for fear of finding an embarrassing typo. Third, I broke down and read the copy anyway, finding no embarrassing typos but at least one disconcerting hyphenation. (How did everyone miss that?!)

It has been said, with regard to the stock market, that Wall Street traders know the price of everything and the value of nothing. As I watch the price of e-books fall through the floor, I begin to wonder whether the traders have company.

Perhaps this is the loner or curmudgeon in me talking, but I have never felt much attraction to conferences. People droning on about theory has always seemed to me like a poor substitute for doing, and if you’re a writer-entrepreneur you’re paying for the big schmooze out of your own pocket, to boot. I think “conference” and I picture a roomful of middle managers debating how to move a stack of forms from one tray on their desk to another.

Dear Mystery Writers of America,

I am in receipt of your kind offer to renew my “affiliate” membership to your organization for the sum of ninety-five dollars. In consideration of this invitation, I took a moment to reflect on my status as a sort-of member of your organization who does not qualify for full membership under your standards (but apparently qualifies to pay full price — there being four levels of membership but only one level of dues). This brought back a few memories.

Of all parts of books publishing, there is no element that consistently causes more ambivalence than the publicity program. When we undertake marketing and it doesn’t achieve our goals, at least we have a pretty ad or some other sales material to show for our efforts. With publicity, however, all we’re paying for is someone else’s time and effort. If deployment of that time and effort results in zero publicity hits, the only evidence we have in the end is a lighter bank account.

Poker players will tell you that there’s a sucker at every table. If in the first few minutes you can’t figure out who the sucker is, you are the sucker.

One of the easiest mistakes one can make in business and in life is to assume that just because some big things are changing that means everything is changing. Every boom and bust cycle in history has affirmed this disconnect, but one need look no further than the second-to-last bubble — the Internet bubble — for a subject with relevance to the independent publisher boom.

My friend John Moore is an entrepreneur with an excellent record of picking successful companies and managers, investing in them, then nurturing the ones he controls and profiting from this activity. John is CEO of a small exchange-traded company called Acorn Energy that has absolutely nothing to do with book publishing, but if you have a few bucks lying around, I’d suggest that you buy the stock (ACFN: NASDAQ). (Full disclosure: I have bought shares and also received a few options for helping him out on some projects.)

What is a website good for? I don’t ask that as a rhetorical question. A website, we all “know,” is something every business — and every author aspiring to sell books — absolutely has to have. But before anyone throws up a website, it’s worth asking what exactly that website should be accomplishing.

When I was in college, we English majors used to learn a concept that is often expressed in the Latin epigram, ars celare artem — usually translated as, “true art conceals art.” (This phrase is often attributed to Ovid, but Wikipedia says it wasn’t him and The Yale Book of Quotations, which I normally take to be definitive, doesn’t mention it at all.)

Craft. If there is a concept in the arts more overlooked by novices, I don’t know what that concept is.

We non-architects look at a building by Lorenzo Piano, say, and note the play of light, the relationship of lines, the creation of space, the height or sprawl, the novel use of materials…but we rarely wonder about stress loads, geometric ratios, how he hid the plumbing, where he placed the fire exits. Yet without those things, too, the building doesn’t work.

Every year, my friend Ben DuPont and his colleagues gather fifty or sixty interesting people in a room for what they call the Non-Obvious Dinner. Participants eat for free, but there’s a catch: everyone has to bring along — and be prepared to defend — a prediction of something significant that they expect to happen within the next ten years. And that prediction can’t be something we can all see coming from miles away.