Passive Guy Speaks

by | Aug 1, 2012

There’s no lack of information and news available about the ever-changing world of book publishing, is there? Yet there’s always room in the social media world for someone with a new take on things.

Whether it’s a new voice, a different way of delivering information or some combination that we’ve never seen before, there’s always room for more.

Last year The Passive Voice—a new blog about publishing—started amidst some secrecy, because the blogger chose to be anonymous.

Calling himself simply “The Passive Guy” (or “PG” for short), this blogger started strongly and just kept going. On February 26, 2011 he posted four articles based on curated content.

In this case, curating meant that he would find things he thought were interesting and use them as the basis for a blog post. In each case, Passive Guy would use a quote or a few paragraphs from the article with a link back to the original post for anyone who wants to read more.

Sometimes he would add his own commentary, sometimes not.

It turned out Passive Guy is an intellectual property attorney and soon there were lots of visitors and an amazing amount of discussion in the comments about publishing contracts, the state of the industry, ebook publishing and other subjects of interest to writers.

That first day PG linked to posts from Derek J. Canyon, Poets & Writers magazine, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and author Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

These days PG might post six, seven or eight times in a day with material from books, articles, press releases, blog posts and anything else that catches his eye. His range of sources is wide—you might find a quote from Anais Nin between blog articles—and the eclectic selection keeps it interesting.

A few months ago PG came “out from behind the curtain” and revealed his identity as David Vandagriff (@PassiveVoiceBlg).

Covering both traditional and independent publishing, The Passive Voice has amassed a large following very quickly and, in addition to the dozens of avid readers and commenters on the blog, the blog has over 23,000 followers on Twitter.

Although I haven’t seen any interviews with David, I asked him to sit down and tell readers of The Book Designer how he got started, how he produces so much content for his blog (over 3,000 posts as of today) and what he sees happening in publishing.

Here’s the interview:

Discussed in this 45:01 interview:

  • How David got started blogging while an active lawyer
  • Why book publishing today is like legal publishing was years ago
  • The tools David uses to track and find interesting content
  • How publishing contracts are evolving in the digital age
  • What disruptive technology does to existing business models
  • How today’s ebooks are similar to the original form of the internet
  • The book that David is thinking about writing and publishing for ebook authors
  • Four great things you should know about indie publishing

Here’s an audio version:

And here’s a download link for the audio MP3 file. Right click and “Save link as…” if you want to take it with you:

The Book Designer Interview: David Vandagriff

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Kayode Kazeem

    Reading article like PG’s makes me feel there is real hope for tomorrow in publishing and the internet generally,no matter what the other people do to send out negative messages about this medium.I loved what I heard in the audio.Thanks Joel and David

  2. Lin Cochran

    Thank you, Gentlemen. Sincerely.

  3. Joanna Penn

    Thanks for this interview Joel and David. I have been devouring the contract pages in the last few weeks as I have signed with an agent. It was certainly information gleaned from The Passive Voice as well as Kris Rusch that helped me avoid a contract that would have taken part of my indie revenue as well.

    You mentioned a book on contracts and said only lawyers would be interested – but David, I would immediately buy a book called “Agent & Publishing contracts: Clauses that will save your business” or something like that :) Some people don’t even know the basics of the ‘do not compete’. I’m interested in your KDP one though, and would like to start paying for your expertise!

    Thanks to both of you for this great interview.

    • Joel Friedlander


      David laughed at the idea of a book of contracts, but I’m not so sure there isn’t a pretty good niche market for a book that explained contracts in simple-to-understand terms. For a long time there was only one book with sample publishing contracts with explanation, it was an expensive hardcover, but I bought it anyway, so I’m with you!

  4. Jolea M. Harrison

    I read the Passive Voice every single day. I subscribe by email and won’t miss it, even if it means I have to squint at my phone to get it. I found his website last year just moments before the big reveal, and find it hugely informative and just plain fun. Thanks for all the great stuff you find for us. It’s very much appreciated.

  5. Suzan Harden

    Fabulous interview, guys! I’m constantly sending the links to both of your blogs to friends interested in indie publishing.

  6. Pamela

    Thanks for the info on the Passive Guy. I found him earlier during my internet ‘travels,’ and you have solidified what I thought – fascinating, helpful, educational blog. Like yours. THANKS.

  7. Jason Kristopher

    I’ve been reading Passive Voice for nearly its entire run, and have been edified and informed about so much of the publishing industry.

    Especially for someone who runs a small press, learning about all the stuff David has been teaching us about has been vital to our success thus far.

    I was so impressed with David that I actually hired him to draft our primary contract for our press. I couldn’t be happier with his work and his dedication to making sure the contract was as fair and author-centric as possible.

    Great guy, great knowledge, great site. Way to go, David!

    • Passive Guy

      Thanks for the kind words, Jason.

  8. Bridget McKenna

    Can’t view the video, but I’m eager to listen the the audio at least, while pretending to work.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Bridget, that’s why I love audios also, because I listen to them at the gym, while pretending to exercise.

  9. anne gallagher

    I also get the message “This video is private.”

  10. RD Meyer

    The Passive Guy is great! I stop by his blog multiple times each day.

  11. Russell Phillips

    There seems to be a problem with the video. When I click play, I just see a message saying “This video is private”



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