This is the tale of Ken and Barbie. The stories are true, although the names are not. It’s a cautionary tale. Let’s start with Ken.

A talented cartoonist, Ken created a popular Website that drew thousands of visitors every week. Eventually, he decided to self-publish a collection of his favorite cartoons. So far, so good. Like many authors, he was delighted to learn that his books could be sold on Amazon. He put a big banner on his Website announcing that the book could be purchased online. It appeared that he thought this was an endorsement for the book and refused to sell the books directly himself.

And sell they did. Ken’s fans snapped up the book the moment Amazon made it available. They sold thousands of copies. This could have been cause to celebrate, but let’s take a closer look.

Ken not only had production costs for the book, he also had to pay to ship them to the bookseller. When his costs were subtracted, his total profit from each Amazon sale was 76 cents. No amount of urging could convince him to sell directly. He didn’t want to be bothered shipping those thousands of books.

Had he sold directly to his customers, his profit from each book would have been closer to $8/book. In the first three months after publication, he would have cleared close to $20,0000–ten times what Amazon paid him. He could easily have hired someone to handle the clerical chores and still come out ahead.

Then there’s Barbie. She, too, is losing thousands of dollars. Sadly, she’s also spent thousands of dollars to have an exquisite Website built for her business. She, too, has self-published books and produced  DVDs. There’s a sign-up box on her Website for a mailing list, but no one who signs up ever hears from her again. Her site is mostly promotional so there’s not much reason for anyone to visit it more than once. While she travels around the country wowing audiences with her speeches, she refuses to connect with those fans once she leaves the auditorium. You won’t find her on Facebook or Twitter or blogging. She can’t be bothered. And while her products sell briskly at her events, she hasn’t made a trip to the post office in months to ship anything from those cartons filling her garage.

Question Ken and Barbie about their reasons for shortchanging themselves and they’re quick to say that they simply can’t be bothered with minutiae. They’ll even hint that their creativity precludes them from doing anything as routine as building a relationship with their customers. After all, they sniff, they’re on their way to becoming a star.

Or maybe not.