Brussels, October 12, 2006

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Dear Friend and Reader:

I must thank you personally for the many replies we've received to Chelsea's inquiry earlier in the week about your thoughts on our subscription service. They are all insightful and we will be using the data well. Honestly, we have a distaste for dealing with marketing related functions, but we are not in denial about being in business. If we run our house well, you get a quality set of services.

Photo by Gerard Gueniot.
Here's something I'm still working on. Among those who commented on the amount of content provided by Planet Waves, opinion was evenly divided between, "I write so much it's intimidating," to, "I wish you would go back to writing daily and doing those political analysis articles like you used to do on Cainer's site."

Well, we cannot do both at once, but I'm doing my best to keep the content balanced and diverse.

I do feel some obligation to comment on why I've had to cut back my writing load (very little of which affects subscribers, as core services remain the same), which is, mainly, because it was becoming a load. Since nobody but me sees all of what I write (I divide proofreading between two assistants, Rachael and Jessica), nobody else knows how much it really is. There are many reasons for this work flow, including the fact that I support myself as a freelance writer (mostly of horoscopes), and let your subscription fees pay the bills at Planet Waves.

If you figure that I was writing daily blogs, and then weekly at Cainer (and sometimes daily), and weekly Planet Waves (horoscope, birthday report, weekly article), and the various monthly horoscopes I do under contract, and then reprint at Planet Waves -- well, there is a limit.

I got there. We shall not discuss the word counts involved.

Working with some loving, dedicated, hard-working people, I also get to manage the company, the one and only Planet Waves, Inc. And a company it is, which I founded as a means of addressing the fact that it's extremely difficult to get those horoscope gigs, of which I now have a few. People often suggest that I should "get more horoscope gigs" and I say yeah! True!

I've been at that 12 years! You don't find them under rocks (I check). So after seven years in the business, I took it to you -- my readers -- and explained (back in the summer of 2002) that for Planet Waves to continue, we needed your subscriptions. You subscribed. I paid a lot of bills and began the modern era in PW history, the era with cash flow. This paid for the Web hosting, and later someone to do the pages, and a new assistant called Chelsea who slowly brought the whole flea circus under control.

I remember what I promised you at the time. I promised that the weekly service would grow into something worthwhile, something worth paying for (a dollar a week then, a dollar a week now), and that the proceeds (creative and otherwise) would go into the public version of Planet Waves. I basically promised that if we had subscribers, it would all get better. I can do a lot with a small budget. So the modern Planet Waves you see today was built over the past four years using your subscription revenues. And it's currently supported by them (and I still donate a little to the cause myself). At that time, my "day job" was working as a consulting astrologer. I kept my day job, so as not to put economic stress on the business. And indeed, we were able to grow, and experiment with new projects, and turn the annual edition from basically a glorified monthly horoscope, into a real annual publication -- a kind of cosmic annual report.

How do we do it all? Well, I'll tell you, Chelsea functions on love, competence and efficiency. She has a knack for handling funds. Anatoly is Buddha with a Bulldozer; he gets to follow approximately two thousand of my directions per day on design and programming changes to Planet Waves. Other friends invest untold hours and truly brilliant talent, sometimes for a check, often as a gift, always with love -- all of which goes straight to you. I personally have this knack for inspiring people to get involved (and organizing the casa nostra of astrology, I am Sicilian). Friends, I am obsessed with building community, however I can. I am also very, very blessed to be a professionally trained editor going back to when I used to shave once a month. I put that talent to work. Believe me, please.

One comment that came in stuck with me, among many I took notice of and am eager to read again. The reader wrote that she finds it amazing that we subsist at all, given how much competition there is out there in the Internet horoscope business, and how many people give their stuff away for free.

Here, I'll show you. I just Googled the word "horoscope" and I got 66,000,000 returns:

Results 1 - 30 of about 66,000,000 for horoscope [definition]. (0.07 seconds)

Is that hilarious? Damn, Google, I want the exact tally, none of this rounding to the nearest million. I actually think there are more astrology sites than porno sites.

Therefore, how do we do it? How do we make it on subscriptions when you can just go running off to the nearest of 66 million free astrology sites? Hmmm. Maybe because we do it well. We have a very good ratio of free-to-pay visitors and a satisfaction rate of about 98% (based on a survey earlier in the year). Man, a lot of us work our butts off and are up till all hours of the morning doing it.

We also distinguish ourselves with real journalism, artwork, and photography, including the picture galleries, really, libraries, which we offer free. We publish two other blogs, Psychsound and Political Waves, written by writers who have a unique grip on their subject matter. We refuse to publish ads, because they are ugly and clutter your mind. And I write the very best horoscopes I can write, and I personally, for what it's worth, think that in the past three months I've done some awesome Friday essays, stuff I can still feel in my body.

But speaking of body, you know, at my ancient age you have to take care of that. So we trimmed the sails a little and I'm back, mostly, to a twice weekly writing schedule, which along with being Mr. Publisher, keeps me busy. I still write plenty. To get much of what I now write, you have to be on our subscription list. To get on that list, it's either pay, as in subscribe, or ask for it free, as in comp. They are the same service. Obviously, I appreciate money. But I appreciate my readers more. The paying subscribers are very cool about the fact that there are a bunch of people they are supporting. But it's in the spirit of the project. Nobody has complained -- once.

The comp part has several motives behind it, but the main one is so that we don't break the delicate threads of community because of the seriously fucked up economic times we're going through. I know how it is to live on very little money and have things you want and need but not be able to experience them. Contrary to what many people wrote in, I don't feel it's devaluing my work to give it to as a gift. It is, after all, mine to give. (And I do believe that food should be free.) Our comp program is also designed to take away the notion of an "elite service," and make all the writing available to anyone who asks, without question. Very few people ask for comps. We have to push the issue, or be sneaky about it. Every person who responded this week and who said they cannot afford Planet Waves but would love to have it will be added to the comp list for six months, renewable (it may take a week or two, please be patient).

What I'm getting at here is that the point of Planet Waves is not to sell horoscopes. It's to build a world of ideas, ideas that can be used now and in the future, and ideas that tell something of the story of the world we live in. I am aware that we are doing this work at a time when the planet is changing very fast, not exactly for the better, when I and many other people don't quite feel all that secure, where we are really having to use all our spiritual training and experience and faith to get through life. A time when we are running out of options except to trust love, as in the people who love us and those we love, because at the end of the day, that's all there is.

So, I want to encourage you to think of Planet Waves as something a little beyond an astrology website. As something more than the horoscopes, but with the horoscopes and respect for the cosmos built right into the DNA of what we're about. In a word, Planet Waves is about dharma: acting as if to hold the world together.

I don't consider this grandiose because I'm aware you hold the world together one hand at a time.

Thanks for reading. It's good to be with you.

Yours & truly,

Eric Francis

PS, here is what you have written about Planet Waves over the past two years, not including what we got this week.

PPS, you can see some of our recent editions here.