AF3e ship date and next FreeBSD talk

The print version of Absolute FreeBSD, 3rd Edition leaves the printer on 4 October 2018. They will absolutely be on hand for MeetBSD.

Thanks go to Bill Pollock, shot-caller at No Starch Press, for making this happen. Paper shortages drove the printer to slip the ship date to mid-month, which would have made getting the books to MeetBSD impossible. Once he knew of the problem, he was able to properly aim the butt-walloping department and get the books done in time. Bill was also prepared to run a few copies as print-on-demand so I could meet my obligations, which is more than many publishers would be willing to do, but POD of big books is nowhere near as nice as real printing. Besides, my most eager readers, the ones likely to show up at MeetBSD, are the ones who most deserve a properly printed book.

Plus, if I’m gonna get on a blasted airplane because my new book is out, I at least want the book to be there when it arrives.

This doesn’t mean Amazon will ship your print book on 4 October. The books need to traverse the physical distance between the printer and the warehouses. But from here on out, it’s all routine.

In related news, I’ll be talking FreeBSD at mug.org on 9 October. With any luck I’ll have print books there too.

Happy #CIDRDay!

On 24 September 1993, the IETF published RFC 1519, designating Classless Interdomain Routing (CIDR) and variable length subnet masks as the standard. That particular document is obsoleted by later RFCs, but it’s still a milestone.

Before then, IP addresses were allocated by “classes.” Class A, B, and C addresses were the norm. I’m not going to explain classful addressing, because it’s long obsolete and, on the current Internet, stupid.

What I am going to do is go on a mini-tirade about classful addressing. Because there’s a lot of people out there still teaching classful addressing to newcomers. And then these poor newcomers hit the field, and people like me have to spend our time unteaching them what they so painfully learned.

I fully understand it takes a few years to disseminate knowledge. But textbooks are still being published that claim classful routing is the standard. This is an appalling disservice to the profession.

Yes, CIDR looks hard. But if a new network admin can’t handle CIDR and VLSM, they shouldn’t be administering networks. That’s perhaps the easiest math they’ll need to handle in their career. And the Internet is full of cheat sheets for people who don’t want to bother to do the math.

On this, the 25th anniversary of Classless Inter-Domain Routing, I hereby declare 24 September 1993 CIDRDay, dedicated to stamping out classful addressing. A whole variety of celebrations are appropriate.

First, of course: cider! Cider is obligatory on CIDRDay.

Second, whenever someone who should know better says “Class C,” “Class B,” or “Class A” address? Explain to them the error of their ways, with the minimum amount of force needed to make sure that they never say it again.

If you know someone who’s still teaching that garbage? Yell at them until they promise to stop. If yelling doesn’t work, escalate.

Because frankly, I’m tired of reeducating innocent newcomers who should have been better served by their instructors.

talking on CreateSpace-KDP print Migration, 24 September 2018

The subject pretty much says it all, but:

On 24 September, at 7 PM, I’ll be talking about migrating books from CreateSpace to KDP Print, including procedural, technical, and business aspects thereof, at the Grey Wolfe Scriptorium. “Talk” is a strong word here; we’ll have a couple remarks and then a back and forth discussion.

It’s a public event.

I won’t say I know everything there is on this topic, but I’ve been following it closely. The hard parts of my migration are done, and I should be ninety percent finished by then. We all know that’ll leave me with only ninety percent of the work left to do.

Pricing Shifts between CreateSpace, IngramSpark, and KDP Print

The massive KDP Print Migration is underway, and I noticed pricing differences straight off. While they initially infuriated me, once I gathered all the data I became much more mellow.

I put my short stories (8,000-12,000 words) in print, primarily so that comparative pricing makes the ebook looks cheap. Maybe folks won’t pay $0.99 for a short story in ebook on its own, but they will pay $2.99 for that same ebook if there’s a print version for $5.99. I don’t expect anyone to buy my shorts in print; that’s not what they exist for. I consider those folks who do buy them hard-core fans, though, and I try to make them as nice as possible.

How do I price these? Well, if someone buys one of these stories I want to make at least a dollar. (Yes, that’s difficult for ebooks–Amazon, for example, gives a 35% royalty on prices under $2.99 and 70% at $2.99 or more. Figuring all books are priced at $X.99, I can make roughly $0.35, $0.70, or $2.)

Print books are a little easier, though. I feed PDFs into the system, let it compute print costs, and twiddle the retail price until I make just over $1.

With the CreateSpace shutdown, though, I’m really noticing pricing differences. Let’s look at the first short I converted.

Spilled MirovarThe first Prohibition Orcs story was priced at $5.99 in print via CreateSpace, for 100 5×8 pages of orcish bootlegging. That gave me a profit of $1.44; perfectly reasonable.

I fed that into IngramSpark, and was rewarded with a net of $0.61.

Whoah. Cue boiling blood.

Before I go all stabby, though, let’s gather all the information. For an apples-to-apples comparison, I’m setting the CreateSpace price of Spilled Mirovar to $6.99, same as KDP Print and IngramSpark. We really need to make two comparisons. CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution (CSED) is analogous to IngramSpark, and CreateSpace’s Amazon service is migrating to KDP Print.

 CreateSpace Expanded DistributionIngramSparkCreateSpace to AmazonKDP Print
US ($6.99 retail)$0.64$1.12$2.04$2.04
UK (£5.99 retail)n/a£0.96£1.97£1.89
EU (€5.99 retail)n/a€0.6€1.89€1.69

First off, it’s clear that IngramSpark smokes CSED–especially when you consider that CSED pays everything in US dollars.

It’s also clear that KDP Print’s European net is lower than CreateSpace’s.

This exposes a weakness in my “make at least a buck on a story” strategy. It sounds reasonable, but I never made a buck on CSED of short stories. I ignored CSED on these titles, because nobody was going to buy a stupid story about orcs bootlegging in 1927 Detroit. (I’m grateful to the people who proved me wrong.)

Once I impose that requirement on CSED/IngramSpark, everything gets more expensive. So while it initially looks damning, there’s no cause for outrage. Annoyance at losing margin on EU sales, yes.

The question is, what do I do with this information?

The obvious thing to do would be to price print books differently by channel, but online price-matching is rampant. The cheapest price I set in a currency is the real price I’ll be paid for. I’m not willing to give my work away.

My decision is, I’m not going to migrate most of the short stories to IngramSpark. My best-selling shorts will go on IngramSpark, but that’s it.

I’m still going to migrate everything to my ISBNs, because I want that control. Pricing will change, new channels will open, and with my own ISBNs on everything I will have the flexibility to take advantage of it. There’s a big comfortable difference between “finish this before an unknown deadline a few weeks from now, or else!” and “try to polish this off before 2019.”

What about larger books? Let’s check out my nerd cozy mystery git commit murder. While I should revisit the pricing in light of exchange rate changes, the comparison should still make sense.

 CreateSpace Expanded DistributionIngramSparkCreateSpace to AmazonKDP Print
US ($14.99 retail)$2.00$3.16$5.00$5.01
UK (£11.99 retail)n/a£2.48£3.87£3.88
EU (€12.99 retail)n/a€2.38€4.65€4.06

The difference between CSED and IngramSpark really shines on larger books. I make a penny more in the UK, and less in the EU? Uh, okay, fine, I guess.

Before someone asks why I make more on novels than short stories, it’s because 1) they took longer to write, and 2) bookstores make their money based on the sale price. A bookstore won’t handle a book unless they can make a few bucks off it. A book like git commit murder or FreeBSD Mastery: Specialty Filesystems has a narrow audience, and cutting the price to $0.99 is not going to improve my sales.

IngramSpark is definitely improving my sales. I’m selling print books through third parties in Asia and Australia, which I never really managed before. I’m being paid more for sales that would have gone through CSED. Additional IngramSpark sales have already paid back what I spent for a thousand ISBNs. I have only a small subset of my titles fully through their system so far, so I’m hopeful that’ll increase when the rest grind through.

The truly annoying thing about all this: CreateSpace and IngramSpark both use the same printing machinery, at the same companies. The different prices are entirely business decisions. I’m not declaring that my lower net on CSED books was absolutely Amazon’s attempt to discourage availability of my print books outside their ecosystem, but my lower net on CSED books was almost certainly Amazon’s attempt to discourage availability of my print books outside their ecosystem.

On the plus side of this migration: the Prohibition Orcs books have spiffy redesigned covers. I am well pleased. And the first one is only $0.99 in ebook.

CreateSpace Shutdown Plan

Beware: book industry neepery.

Yesterday, Amazon announced that they’re merging Createspace into their KDP Print program. A reading of the article makes it clear that the services aren’t merging, though. Createspace is shutting down and all accounts are migrating into KDP.

This presents problems for me. KDP does not offer the same services as Createspace. The ones that present problems for me include:

  • Payment will be delayed an extra 30 days: annoying, but I’ll deal.
  • Small books will increase in price in Europe: I’ll have to pass this on to you. Sorry, folks.
  • Title Information: They’ll screw up my metadata, in new and exciting ways.
  • Orders: I will no longer use Createspace for books not available on Amazon–fine, whatever.
  • Expanded Distribution: I’ve heard from more than one source that KDP Expanded Distribution does not work outside of the US. This is a critical deal-breaker for me. I have non-Amazon readers around the world.

      Fortunately, this merger isn’t a surprise. The Digital Reader has been warning us about this for months, so I’ve had this percolating in the back of my brain. This is why I bought a block of ISBNs at the end of 2017.

      Here’s the plan for all Tilted Windmill Press books.

      1. Join ALLI. For $99/year, I get unlimited free IngramSpark access.
      2. Reissue everything using my own ISBNs. (Remember, you can get 1000 ISBNs for the price of 50, so think long term. Also, ISBN pricing is a ripoff.) Start with the best-selling titles, and go down the list.
      3. Distribute all print books through IngramSpark. Everything issued in 2018 is already available on IS, so this isn’t a big deal.
      4. Also distribute all print books directly through KDP Print. I don’t want to migrate, because they’ll mess up my nonfiction metadata. (Amazon’s offerings are clearly geared towards fiction. Nonfiction is wedged in.)

      As a test, I already followed this process for FreeBSD Mastery: ZFS and FreeBSD Mastery: Advanced ZFS.

      The problem books will be Sudo Mastery and DNSSEC Mastery. I’ve already talked about issues with these books, but to make a tediously long story short, availability of the print editions outside the US will be limited until I get the second editions out. That’ll start as soon as I finish the jails book. If you want the current edition in print, order now.

      The thing to worry about here is scope creep.

      I really need to revisit the covers on some older titles, like the Montague Portal and Prohibition Orcs books. Title text design standards have changed since 2010. The books that I’ve already designed alternate covers for will get them as part of this upload. Others will have to wait.

      And if I’m changing the covers, shouldn’t I also change them for ebooks?

      Yep. But that requires re-uploading books to every site. That’s a mindless job, and can be done in the evenings. It should also be combined with an audit of which books are on which sites, because I’m certain I missed some retailers for some books. (Fifty-odd titles. Several ebook retail distributors, which have changed over time. Yeah, there’s gonna be holes.)

      So, this means a giant spreadsheet. With a list of titles and checkboxes and distributors. Oh joy oh rapture.

      The really annoying thing here is that I’ve started making real progress on the jails book and on the next Beaks novel. Once I have momentum, I need to keep it going. So I have to really focus my time for the next few weeks to get this done.

      Because I only have a few weeks. What’s the drop-dead date? That’s a great question, but Amazon learned how to communicate with small authors from The Prisoner. “That would be telling.”

      Had I started with my own ISBNs, this would have been much simpler. I had no way of knowing in 2012 that this ridiculous business model would actually work, though. I would strongly encourage any self-publisher to own and control their own ISBNs, even if you have to buy them in blocks of 10 or 100.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a load of work to do…

I must credit Walmart

It’s very important to encourage people and organizations when they do something correct. Even when it’s an organization you don’t care for. I never thought I’d one day be compelled to say something nice about Wal-Mart.

But, as they say: here we are.

Walmart is implementing their ebookstore. It’s powered by Kobo, one of my very favorite ebook retailers.

Here’s the Walmart catalog entry for Ed Mastery as of today.

Ed Mastery entry at walmart

It’s categorized as “Books/Computers & Technology Books/System Administration/Linux & UNIX Administration” – all sensible, and what I entered.

Now here’s the catalog entry for the Manly McManface edition of Ed Mastery. I entered its category as “Books/Computers & Technology Books/System Administration/Linux & UNIX Administration.”

walmart catalog for ed mastery manly mcmanface

Walmart has it filed under Books/Computers & Technology Books/Security/Viruses & Malware.

I’m not sure, but I think Walmart… has started trolling MRAs?

New podcast interview

Apparently August 2018 is Shamelessly Shill Yourself Month. I appeared on the IT in the D podcast last week. A fun time was had by all–well, at least by me. And that’s the important thing, right? We talked about my books, decades of IT, SSH, ed, and general nerdery.

I worked with Dave and Bob almost twenty years ago. Somehow they’d forgot just how painful it was to work with me and invited me on the show. And if you think I’m being self-deprecating there: the Michael Lucas Oversight Committee was an integral part of the company. Some of you require managerial oversight: I need a freaking team.

Really, it’s best I’m self-employed. I’m clearly not fit for civilized company.

Meanwhile, Bob and Dave went on to try to improve things for technology folks in Detroit. It’s like they’re better human beings than I am or something.

Tuesday, 21 August 18: me, on ed(1), at SemiBUG

The headline pretty much says it all, but:

Next Tuesday, I’ll be presenting on ed(1) at the SouthEast Michigan BSD User Group, semibug.org. 7 PM, Altair Engineering.

I doubt that any user group or conference will want me to show up to talk about ed(1), even though it is the standard text editor. So, this is probably your one and only chance to see this talk.

Bookstore Reading

My first ever reading at a bookstore happens this Friday!

I’ll be at the Grey Wolfe Scriptorium in Clawson, MI, at 7 PM this Friday, reading from git commit murder. The bookstore is really easy to get to, maybe a mile west of I-75 on 14 Mile Road.

If people show up, I’ll read aloud and answer questions. Otherwise, I’ll just sit quietly and read to myself. They have a whole bunch of books. Maybe I’ll get gelato afterwards. Wait–there’s no gelato near Grey Wolfe? How do people even survive?

Well, I’ll find something. You could join me for that. Even if it’s not gelato.

GWS is really heavily into Michigan authors and publishers. If you’re in Clawson some time that isn’t for my reading, stop and peruse their shelves.

Burn it down! Burn it all down!

I burned yesterday and redesigned my web sites. What was www.michaelwlucas.com, blather.michaelwlucas.com, www.michaelwarrenlucas.com, and mwl.io have been consolidated in a single site, mwl.io. Fiction, nonfiction, FAQ, and blog, all coexisting as one happy family.

Happy families are the ones most likely to stab each other in their sleep. But anyway.

I have a whole slew of redirects on the old sites, so my incoming links should work. My Tiny RSS reader even caught my test post, so I’m pretty sure blog subscribers will continue to get my posts.

Spending a couple days working on this mess wasn’t fun but maintaining four sites, the correlated interdependencies, and all the trivial little difference was eating up too much time. I’ll make back this time in a year. I also took the chance to fine-tune my web server’s TLS configuration, as 2012’s iffy algorithms are downright dubious today.

Also, I’d like to thank Let’s Encrypt for making TLS everywhere a reality. This integration would never have happened without an infinite supply of web site certificates. If you’re not using them, you should.