DYB Auction for Clarion 2020 Students

A “Domesticate Your Badgers” reader had this to say

Forty-odd books ago and in a previous millennium, I attended the Clarion writing workshop. I had the privilege of spending six weeks locked in a Michigan State University graduate dorm with half a dozen pro writers and about thirty wannabes like myself. It was my first taste of what it was like to live as a working writer, down to and including immediate abject humiliation. Many of my classmates have gone on to win awards, be voted in as science-fiction grand masters, and routinely terrify otherwise hardened adults with a freaking village of Stoker awards. Meanwhile, I became best known as an author of satirical Linux erotica. A few have returned to Clarion to teach. I won’t be doing that — the kind of writer I’ve turned out to be isn’t exactly what they teach at Clarion — but the education I received was vital and the social connections even more so. Clarion was such a formative experience that I still call them my “Alma madder.”

And now, I have a chance to give back.

The Clarion class of 2020 never really happened, thanks to COVID. They’re hoping to gather this year, and are running a fundraiser to support students suffering from hardship.

I happen to have a printed proof of my brand-new first (and probably last) book on writing.

The only difference between this proof and the final book is the banner printed across the front. (Print proofs are a traditional publishing item that were handed out to early readers in the days before e-books, and publishers didn’t want them appearing on bookstore shelves, hence the banner.) That makes this a unique artifact, and a good piece of charity auction bait.

I want Clarion to continue. I want a future generation of speculative fiction writers take on the world’s problems, and do better than we did. Plus, when my brain finally gives out and I stop writing, I want good new books to read while I eagerly await my inevitable death from Not Writing. Please help these youngsters embark on the glorious, horrific, delightfully appalling literary life and bid on this auction.

The auction rules are:

Comment on this post to bid. All bids in US dollars. I advise bidders to click the “notify me of new comments by email” button, so they can see when they are outbid.

The auction runs from now until 5PM EST 28 March. If the bidding goes nuts in the last few minutes, I’ll leave it open until it settles down. There’s no sniping this auction at the last moment, as I want the bids to escalate beyond all sensible limits.

Once the auction closes, send your donation to the Clarion 2020 fundraiser within two days. (They offer many writing-related rewards, but you don’t need to take any.) Send me your receipt. Once I have the receipt, I will sign the book and mail it to you.

If you don’t donate within a few days, or don’t send me your receipt, the number two winner is declared the winner.

Remember that you don’t need to win a silly auction to donate. Many of you are perfectly capable of being a generous and worthwhile person without any bribes from me.

New Sponsorships Open, and More Crowdfunding

The subject says the exciting bit. Now that I have shipped out the print sponsor gifts for the new DNSSEC Mastery, I can open sponsorships for the next tech book–OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems. I expect this to be large for a Mastery book, so the e-book sponsorship is an extra five dollars. Sorry, folks, the price of gelato keeps going up. I know this isn’t real inflation, it’s the gelato oligarchs pushing for even greater profit, but a writer needs his delicious cold dairy fix.

Print sponsorship pricing hasn’t changed, except that it has. When I first started doing sponsorships several years ago, I thought that nobody would buy them. I also thought shipping costs would be negligible. How much time and money would mailing books to one or two radical fans take? I was wrong — not once, not twice, but three times simultaneously. (That’s not a record. I once managed to be wrong in five ways at once, but three is still decent.) I’m delighted and grateful that so many of you want to make it easier for me to write these books.

I’m now budgeting $10 on postage for each sponsor gift, and am asking overseas readers to pick up the overage. It costs me about $20 to ship into Canada, so those sponsorships are $110. Sorry.

Some of you have requested an option for faster shipping. That’s now a choice.

If all you want is this news, you can stop reading now.

Still here? Sorry. I’m going to talk crowdfunding for a moment.

I appreciate everyone who buys my books or supports me writing them. It doesn’t matter if you just bought one or two of my books from your favorite store, if you’ve methodically collected every word I have ever put in public, or if you send me money every month even when I released nothing. If you give me money for my work, I am grateful.

This post is not about you individual readers. It is especially not about extracting more money from individual readers. (The way to get more money from individual readers is “write more and better books.”) I’m looking at crowdfunding to expand my readership.

Today I have two crowdfunding channels. There’s my Patronizers program, both through Patreon and direct to me via my e-bookstore, where people send me money every month for no good reason. Sure, there are Patronizers levels where I send you every book I write, but it’s still a terrible deal. For every month where I released three or four books, there are several months where nothing comes out. Patronizers are the hard core Lucas Loonies.

Then there sponsorships. Sponsors, wisely, want an actual reason to send me money. If I’m writing a book that interests them, or that they believe should exist, they pay me to work on it.

Recently, I tried Kickstarter. And here is where things get complicated.

Kickstarter works, dang it. I tried it on an off–brand book, something that didn’t fit into any category I’m known for. I needed to write this book, mostly so I had something to give to people who asked about the topic, but it’s not a field I intend to become known in. I have no desire to build a career writing books about writing; I just want to write books. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of Domesticate Your Badgers. I think it’s a decent book. I did the best I could on it. But it’s decidedly off-brand.

Badgers also had the most successful launch of any book I’ve published independently.

Forget the $8843 Kickstarter. Forget that I had to learn how to produce freaking shipping manifests to mail the hundreds of books. It’s my best-selling title on every platform, from Amazon to my e-bookstore. In February, DYB print pre-orders outside of Amazon were greater than non-Amazon print sales of all other books combined. I am not the only author who has experienced this. I’ve talked with a bunch of them, and my working hypothesis is that Kickstarter builds word-of-mouth. I could babble on about social proof and so on, but it all boils down to word-of-mouth.

When I started the Kickstarter, I guessed that most of the backers would be people who had directly sponsored me previously. I saw several familiar names on the list of backers, but most of them were people I had never heard of. The social aspect of Kickstarter brought new readers to me. Many of them went on to pick up other books I had written. If I want to keep making a living, bringing in new readers is everything.

I need to add Kickstarter to my crowdfunding strategy.

I must also keep my Patronizers and sponsors happy. I cannot offer unreasonable benefits only for Kickstarter users, leaving early backers and longtime supporters out in the cold. I have some thoughts on how to do this, and I’m putting them out so that Patronizers, sponsors, and Kickstarter fans alike can poke holes in them.

Patronizers and sponsors get credit in books. That’s a benefit often added in a Kickstarter. I will put sponsors and Patronizers in the acknowledgments in the front of the book, and list Kickstarter supporters in the back.

Some folks support me to get signed books. Sponsors and Patronizers will get books made out to them by name. Kickstarter books, I will sign but not personalize.

Any backer – exclusive benefits will go to everyone who helped crowdfunding the book. If I hit a Kickstarter stretch goal that says I will write an exclusive article, that article will go to Kickstarter backers, book sponsors, and Patronizers alike. If a campaign hits a goal where everyone gets another book free, everyone who normally gets books will get that bonus book as well.

I use patronage and sponsorships to support me as I write the book. I will use Kickstarter funds to improve the book. I would love to have chapter header art in the Mastery books, but that has been cost-prohibitive. I would like to offer slipcases and fancy binding but, again, that’s expensive. If Kickstarter expands my readership, expensive projects become doable.

For folks who don’t want to send me a hundred dollars months ahead of time, Kickstarter will offer a more modestly-priced way to get me to sign a book and mail it to you. It’ll even have your name in it — in the back, but there.

I can’t see Kickstarter replacing either Patronizers or sponsorship. One of my business goals is disintermediation, and Kickstarter is another middleman. It’s an effective middleman so I will use it, but I will also be doing my best to convert readers who discover me through Kickstarter into sponsors and Patronizers. Will it work? Dunno. But finding out is gonna be a trip.

Before I run a Kickstarter for this book, I’ll be running a couple of small fiction Kickstarters. I need to learn more about the platform before I rely on it.

If you are a regular sponsor or Patronizer, do let me know if you have any concerns or things you’d like to see. I have many thousands of words left to write on this book, and a Kickstarter is months away at best. And with that I better go write.

DNSSEC, Badgers, and Orcs, Oh My!

Talk about one weeeird mass escape.

DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd edition hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks should now be available everywhere, so that book’s officially out.

Today is the official release date for Domesticate Your Badgers. I made this a pre-order, so it’s available in all formats everywhere. I don’t bother with preorders for tech books, but I wanted the Kickstarter backers to get a chance to have theirs in-hand before the general public could order it. It didn’t quite work that way–backer books have started to arrive in the last day or two–but they’re on their way so it’s not a complete failure.

Last, the Fiction River anthology Broken Dreams comes out today. The author list includes my name. The book description says something about alternate history, in Detroit, with orcs. It’s at all major retailers, and a bunch of minor ones.

If I had pushed, I could have released “Letters to ed(1)” today, but that’s too much even for me. A couple more weeks on that one. Consider yourself warned.

“DNSSEC Mastery 2/e” Auction Winners

The auction for the print proof of DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd edition is over. Bob Beck won, with a bid of $667.

Kate Ebneter, perhaps my most notorious Patronizer, offered to match the winning bid.

That’s a total of $1334 for Black Girls Code. I’m sure they can do something worthwhile with that.

Posting this tonight because tomorrow, I have not one but two books coming out…

Charity Auction: DNSSEC Mastery proof for Black Girls Code

I have another unique physical artifact, which means it’s time for another charity auction.

I’ve run auctions for the Soroptimists, the Ottawa Mission, and multiple ones for the FreeBSD and OpenBSD foundations. I’m a writer so I can’t give as much to charities as I would like, but I seem to have developed a knack for persuading other people to give to charity and that’s the same thing, right?

I’m auctioning off the print proof of DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd edition.

A proof is a prepublication version of a book, printed so the publisher can double check that the spine text is actually on the spine and the cover art is right side up and the correct words are on the proper pages and that the typesetter didn’t forget the commas. It’s stamped with a Not For Resale banner so unscrupulous folks can’t sell it ahead of time. Only one print proof of DNSSEC Mastery exists.

I’ll sign this book, add a personalized note declaring that this tome was won at charity auction and thus demonstrates the winner’s sound moral and ethical character, and ship it by the best means available for $15 or less.

This time, you’ll be supporting Black Girl Code. They do good work and have chapters all over the US, including here in Detroit, as well as South Africa.

The auction rules are:

Comment on this post to bid. All bids in US dollars. I advise bidders to click the “notify me of new comments by email” button, so they can see when they’re outbid.

The auction runs from now until 5PM EST 28 February. If the bidding goes nuts in the last few minutes, I’ll leave it open until it settles down. There’s no sniping this auction at the last moment, as I want the bids to escalate.

Once the auction closes, send your donation to BGC within two days.

Send me your receipt. Once I have the receipt, I mail you the book.

If you don’t donate within a few days, or don’t send me your receipt, the number two winner has their chance.

As always, I must remind you that you don’t need to win a silly book to donate. You can be of sound character without a reward from me.

Another auction will follow this one: the Domesticate your Badgers proof, for my alma madder the Clarion Foundation.

DNSSEC Mastery, second edition, creeping out

The e-book of the new edition of DNSSEC Mastery is starting to appear in stores. The print book will be delayed a couple of weeks, as I need to redesign my print textbooks to compensate for changes in the business.

I’ll update the book’s entry on my website with new stores as they list the book.

Sponsors and Patronizers should have already received their e-books. I’ll be sending print copies as soon as possible I chain allows it.

The best place to buy this book, of course, is in my store. I have also updated the Total Mastery bundle that contains all of the Mastery titles to include this one and exclude the obsolete edition. I never expected anyone to buy that Total Mastery bundle, but people do so I guess I should keep it up-to-date?

New book: “Domesticate Your Badgers”

The Kickstarter is over, backers and Patronizers have their ebooks, so I can now offer Domesticate Your Badgers: Become a Better Writer through Deliberate Practice to the rest of the world.

Sort of.

If you want to read it today, you can buy it directly from me at my bookstore. At all other stores, the ebook is on pre-order and will be released on 1 March 2022. The print book will be on pre-order shortly.

Is this a lame scheme to steer readers to purchase directly from me? No. That’s merely a super convenient side effect.

I want a chance to get Patronizers and Kickstarter backers who elected for print editions their copies before the book is broadly available. While the supply chain is still fubar and printers are backed up, I hope that I can get my print copies by March. That’s realistic but, you know, plague changes everything.

If you’d rather pre-order from a big ebookstore, that’s fine. The DYB page has links for your convenience.

I will say that of all the books I’ve released, this might be the prettiest. I wanted illustrations that ranged from “OMG adorable!” to “joyful WTF,” and Pamela Mosiejczuk knocked it out of the park.

So: if you ask how I write all these books, I’ll point you at Domesticate Your Badgers.

If you ask how I make a living writing books, I’ll point you at Cash Flow for Creators.

Save yourself some trouble, and buy them both.

Domesticate Your Badgers

2021 Income Sources

In 2019 and 2020, I published posts on where folks buy my books. People seem interested, so I’m doing it again for 2021. I suspect that covid is skewing the data, but perhaps this is simply the new normal.

My income still comes from writing books. I don’t consult. I don’t generally accept speaking fees. (I did make a couple hundred bucks speaking to a lunchtime crowd at a big tech firm this year, but that was a rare event and I have no particular desire to do it again.) I desire to make my living as an author, creating and licensing intellectual property. For the writers out there, I’m a hybrid wide author. I want my books available in every channel that offers reasonable terms.

How did 2021 look?

  • Amazon – 33.94%
  • Royalties – 17.74%
  • Direct sales – 15.63%
  • Ingramspark – 8.15%
  • Kickstarter – 6.38%
  • Patreon – 4.68%
  • Sponsorships – 4.42%
  • Direct patronizers – 4.24%
  • Gumroad – 1.91%
  • Apple – 1.05%
  • Kobo – 0.61%
  • Aerio – 0.57%
  • Google – 0.32%
  • Draft2Digital – 0.27%
  • tips – 0.13%
  • Barnes & Noble – 0.07%
  • Redbubble – 0.05%

Everything that’s listed here is part of my deliberate publishing strategy. My minuscule affiliate income and other minor streams are excluded. I use them, and every so often someone drops fifty bucks in my bank account, but they are not part of my strategy.

Amazon is still my biggest single distributor. I do not prioritize them, or use their exclusive programs like Kindle Unlimited. Indeed, I want to reduce the amount I sell through Amazon and increase other channels. This percentage is basically unchanged since last year. It appears to be the natural floor. Next year might be different, though. OpenBSD Storage Mastery will be on Amazon in print, but not on Kindle. Kindle users will be able to buy Kindle versions in lots of places, just not on Amazon.

Royalties are traditional publishing income. This is slightly up from last year, thanks to me selling short stories to Fiction River as well as the Absolute books going into Humble Bundles. Can’t knock that.

Direct sales are up a few points over 2020, which was up a few points over 2019. Good. Disintermediation remains my primary goal. Increasing this share makes me happy. I will continue to improve my bookstore to make this easier.

On the other paw, my IngramSpark share is down. IS handles non-Amazon print sales. People are not visiting bookstores, so this is not a surprise.

Kickstarter is a new category for me. It worked. This category is a little weird, though. While the other channels are raw income, this bucket includes the money I must spend to print and ship books. I plan to experiment more with Kickstarter, and perhaps even offer Kickstarter-like functionality on my own store.

At first glance, it looks like income from my Patronizers has plunged since 2020. Look a little further down, though, and you’ll see the share of income from my direct patronage makes up for it. My experiment in offering direct patronage sales hasn’t quite broken even, but it’s been successful enough that I’m willing to give it another year and see if I can grow it. Even if I can’t boost that any further, diversifying patronage sources and disintermediating roughly half of my backers is inherently worthwhile.

My Patronizers get a horrid deal, by the way. I don’t recommend it. But I appreciate every single Patronizer.

Sponsorship income is down, but I only had one book on sponsorship in 2020. If I want more sponsors, I must write more. That’s a goal for 2022. I’ll be using pre-scheduled Internet blocking software to reduce distraction.

I’m not going to go through the other channels one at a time. I will quote Blaze Ward in saying, “them nickles spend.” My comments on all of these are basically unchanged from previous years. I do wish Barnes and Noble would rise from the dead, though. I fondly remember wandering through their shelves, and deciding I would rather read a favorite author’s new book than eat.

So, to sum up:

  • If I lost any one channel, I would endure (yay)!
  • Disintermediate. Sell as directly to your customers as possible.
  • Try new things. Like Kickstarter. Or dropping Amazon Kindle as a distributor for a new book.

What else is coming up in 2022? More books. Print price increases. Gelato. Staying home, making words, and avoiding unclean idiots who choose to not get vaccinated.

The New York Times, featuring: me?

Several years ago (yes, December 2020, but covid distorts time), I tweeted about my Capital One credit card. The world validated my thoughts. I moved on.

A few weeks ago, a New York Times reporter discovered that tweet as she was researching a story.

Which leads to me being on the front page of the New York Times’ Business section. It has my picture and everything. (In case the Times removes the page, here’s an archive.)

The reporter skillfully caught the most important thing I said during the whole hour-long conversation, and quoted me on it.

Also, the photographer worked miracles. Somehow, he made me look like I belong on the front page of the Crime Business section. I suspect sorcery, or perhaps a body double.

Screwing Up, and Recovering

I scheduled an all-Patronizer video hangout for last Saturday, and didn’t show up. This is obviously unacceptable. I’ve already apologized to my Patronizers on the various sites they back me on, but I wanted to blog about dealing with this kind of screwup.

The root cause was pretty simple: my house has been full of workmen for several days, busting concrete and ripping out walls to fix a tiny leak in 70-year-old plumbing. It was either that, or let the bathroom fall into the basement. I am not accustomed to jackhammers under my feet. My nerves were, to put it mildly, frayed. I completely forgot about the video hangout, and decided to go to the dojo to work off some stress. I remembered about the hangout right before parking.

How do I keep this from happening again, and minimize the impact in case I do?

First, I have installed Zoom on my phone. If I forget about a hangout, I can now join from anywhere.

Second, my most consistent attendee now has my phone number. If I’m 15 minutes late to a hangout, he will call me.

Third, I must ensure that when I create the meeting in Zoom, the waiting room is disabled. If I don’t show up for hangout, people can talk to each other while my Designated External Memory calls to poke me. I’m looking for a way to make this the default for all meetings I create, because any process that relies on my brain is doomed to fail.

I have already scheduled a make-up hangout for next Saturday, so that my Patronizers can chide me in person.

When I became a full-time writer, I thought I would leave root cause failure analysis and remediation behind. Silly me.