May’s Moderate Sausage

Each month, I write a blog post for my Patronizers. I want to say it provides unique insight into my process and business, but “See the Sausage Being Made” has turned into more of a monthly summary combined with my usual on-brand ranting. With my Patronizers’ kind permission, a month after they see the posts I’ll be sharing them here. If you find this of any interest, please check out my Patronizer benefits.

Greetings and felicitations to my esteemed Patronizers.

Been working solely on “Run Your Own Mail Server.” I think I finally have an order for the content, which makes the actual writing possible. I’ll have cycle back and backfill facts, but the skeleton should hold.

This part of the process always surprises me. Who thought I would need to explain the message-id header before installing Postfix? Not me, until now.

My muse smacked me with a special edition of this book. Not as special as the Networknomicon, but nothing is. Fortunately. I can’t afford to do that again. It’ll need some special art and a bit of writing, but my focus group laughed themselves silly so I think it’ll work. It’ll only be in print, and only for print-level Patronizers, print sponsors, and high-level Kickstarter backers. I’m contemplating making the Kickstarter version maybe $120, so that the sponsors feel like they got a deal. Print-level Patronizers already know they’re getting a bad deal.

I can promise that the special edition is not a silly Mail/Male pun, however.

Fortunately, my covid aftereffects are minimal. A brush of fatigue and a touch of vertigo. I’m back at the dojo two nights a week, with occasional forms at home. I’m pretty darn sure I escaped long covid this time, but am being cautious in restarting.

A few months ago, I proposed making these posts public on my blog a few weeks after you see them. I received no negative comments and a few positive ones, so I’ll be doing that. When I remember.

Since recovering, I’ve spent a bunch of time on the book manuscript and a little organizing the free stuff on my web site and adding most of it to my e-bookstore. I didn’t bother with the freebies on my store for years, until I was working on my publishing talk for Penguicon. My first Patronizer tier says you will “See the Sausage Being Made,” so here’s a particularly solid chunk of sausage.

My goal is to spend my life doing work I enjoy. That means I’ve had to learn some things I would rather remain ignorant of, and apply them to my trade. Disintermediation is one of those concepts. I want you to pay for my books with as few middlemen as possible. How do I accomplish this? Marketing experts have a Customer Acquisition Funnel, and I have a similar Reader Acquisition Funnel.

  1. Read my free or discounted samples (articles in magazines, free first in series, sample pages in bookstore, library check-out)
  2. Buy my books through retail channels
  3. Social media follow
  4. Sign up for my mailing list
  5. Buy books directly from me
  6. Kickstarter
  7. Sponsor
  8. Regular monthly contributor (you folks!)
  9. You do all my chores so I can write more

I just realized this funnel has nine rings, exactly like a famous legendary funnel. I promise that my ninth ring is not eternally frozen. I live in Michigan, it’s only frozen for half of the year.

My goal is to make the mouth of the funnel as broad as reasonably possible. With fiction, that’s straightforward. Now that the Prohibition Orcs books are out, I’m working on making the first orc story free everywhere. If someone reads the tale, gets to the end, and wants more, they’ll see the friendly note at the end of the tale inviting them to check out the full-length books. Nonfiction is less blatant, but that’s why you’ll see articles in places like the FreeBSD Journal. I also give mailing list subscribers a copy of Tarsnap Mastery to give them a taste of what my books are like.

A business school graduate would say that the readers at the bottom of the funnel are more likely to buy more of my books. I acknowledge that’s true on the spreadsheet, but the only way I can guide people to back me the way you folks do is by providing a quality emotional and educational experience. Yes, my nonfiction is emotional as well as educational. The emotion is why certain folks hate my writing.

Anyway. Someone encounters my work, buys a few books, perhaps follows me on the fediverse, signs up for my mailing list, and eventually starts paying me to exist. Like you wonderful people do. At each stage, I gently make them aware of the next level.

I was spelling this out for my Penguicon publishing talk when it hit me: people who get my free things from my e-bookstore? They are in the funnel’s first ring, and if they like the sample are willing to immediately leap down to the River Styx — uh, my fifth ring. MY fifth ring. Not Dante’s. By providing the freebies from my store, I make that leap easy.

The lesson? If you’re wondering what to do, review the basics.

I leave for BSDCan in a few days. I enjoy BSDCan, but the reason I’m attending is one, we have a fierce mask policy, and two, I can drive. The pandemic’s still on. If you’re there, do say hello. If you’re not there, see if you’ve read my free stuff. It would be a shame if you folks down in Malebolge never visited Limbo.

And now I want to write a book on the business of publishing, themed after the Inferno. Dammit Muse, I don’t have that kind of time! This mail book needs finishing!