(This post went to Patronizers at the beginning of January, and to the public at the beginning of February.)
The beginning of the year. Time to not only contemplate last year’s failures, but to select next year’s failures. Not that I’m cynical. Truly, what’s the point of setting goals you know you will accomplish? The trick is to pick goals that are fail-forward. If you decide to lose a hundred pounds but only lose thirty–you still lost thirty!
In that spirit, I’m planning to publish eight books next year: two nonfiction, six fiction. Chunks of five are already written, I just have to clean them up. If I fail, I will have published something. It will require stability and certainty, however. In 2024, I will focus not on making words, but on maintaining the conditions needed to make words. That means taking the time for exercising regularly, preparing large meals that leave lots of leftovers, and stepping back from things I can’t change. It’s an election year here in the US, but we already know which candidates we get to choose between and I’ve already decided who I’m voting against. I don’t need to know about the latest stupidity there. I need to work on things only I can do, because ain’t nobody else in the world mad enough to write a book on email or the novels I’ve had in-progress since 2019. I need to settle back into the writing pattern I know works well: write fiction for two hours in the morning, write nonfiction all afternoon, relax on weekends. The pandemic made all of this difficult, especially as my wife is a nurse practitioner and is regularly exposed to idiots.
I just did the annual accounting, and: despite all that, I managed to keep my 2023 income flat with 2022 and 2019. 2021 and 2022 were “fever years,” where my income spiked for reasons beyond my control. Having everyone locked inside with nothing to do but read is great for my business, but not so much for civilization. I achieved Enough, so I’m good. All I have to do is keep publishing.
Speaking of publishing: I’m debating how to publish Run Your Own Mail Server.
For OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems, I did direct pre-orders from my web store. It worked. People were happy. I could do that again, or I could run it through Kickstarter. Kickstarter gave me great results for my wildly niche nonfiction. I don’t want to do both, however. Many of y’all will get the ebook free through your Patronizer benefits or through sponsorships, or even print copies, so I don’t expect you to take either route. If I do direct sales, I control the whole process. That’s nice. Kickstarter is not a sales platform, though. It is a discovery platform, the Sixth Circle of the nine-circle Customer Acquisition Funnel. You know, the outermost district of Dis, on the banks of the River Styx. Okay, fine, if I ever write “How I Make a Living Writing” I’ll use a “Dante’s Inferno” theme. Where was I? Oh, right. Discovery platform. Every time I run a Kickstarter, a few folks sign up for my mailing lists and buy other books. On the other hand, RYOMS is my best-sponsored book ever. How much crowdfunding do I really want to drag people through?
So, do I want solid money now, or less money and the chance of a broader readership?
Put that way, the answer’s obvious. Kickstarter it is. I’ll start to assemble that once I get the book to tech edit. The book is written with a Star Wars motif, so it’s tempting to try to do a promo video with actual production values. I need to resist that temptation, however. Mind you, if I ever do a book with a John Carpenter theme, I might revisit that decision. “This is not a dream. We are warning you of this book in hope that you can prevent it from being published” seems on-brand.
I guess that’s the secret to “How I Make A Living Writing.” I beg for money, but in a slightly entertaining manner.
So in 2024 that’s one Kickstarter for RYOMS, one for the giant fiction thing, perhaps a second edition of Networking for Systems Administrators if I can identify out a reasonable cross-platform netcat-alike with a consistent command line and TLS support, another nonfiction Secret Project, plus some classic art with mushrooms that could be parodied with Beastie and Tux, a small Kickstarter for the new Letters to ed(1). The FreeBSD Journal column will hit six years old this summer, so I’ll probably pull the years 1-3 book from print and replace it with years 1-6. I’ll probably keep that up for four more years, and let it die at ten. I can’t see the gag lasting much longer than that. Maybe the ten-year omnibus Kickstarter will feature a back-exclusive edition where I restore all the obscenity. Don’t worry, Patronizers are always considered backers, you’ll get the appropriate edition for your tier. I’m not going to offer a special edition of N4SA bound in Cisco salesman spleen and not send copies to my print-level Patronizers!
If all works out well, in 2024 I’ll be slamming out a big non-BSD book for a trad publisher. I’ve said before that I love win-win deals, and I think we’ve negotiated one. More details as events warrant.
This is the plan. Reality has its own plans. Those plans involve phrases like “monomolecular tripwires” and “release the hounds.” We’ll see who wins. I put $20 on reality.
But this month, I plan to finish the first draft of RYOMS. All that’s left is DMARC, webmail, touching on rspamd, and detritus like nolisting. I have the greatest of all gifts, which is hope!
Which means I’m gonna quit writing this now. Take care, y’all.