Organized Freebies

It’s taken a while, but I finally have all (I think) of my (supposed-to-be) free stuff organized (ish) on a single page.

I use freebies the same way Costco does, in the hope that you’ll try a taste and return for more. You can get a few free titles from my e-bookstore or other, lesser retailers. If you sign up for my nonfiction mailing list, I’ll offer you a free copy of Tarsnap Mastery. The fiction list gets you seven free stories over six weeks. The email marketers call that an “onboarding sequence.” I call it “Seven stories is a lot, let’s break that up into something manageable.”

Anyway. Free stuff.

Organizing freebies isn’t just about luring people into my literary clutches, though. I’m looking at Kickstarting another short story collection this summer, in part to make some dough but mostly so I can unpublish a bunch of chapbooks. I’m seriously thinking that from now on, my short stories will be exclusive to my store. I want to publish them–one, so folks can get them, but two, so I can experiment with book design. But the maintenance overhead of publishing them on all the different stores is dreadful.

But the mental load of publicizing a short-term deal like a Kickstarter is also dreadful. I loathe asking for money. No, not hate. As Terry Pratchett said, “hate is an attracting force, just like love.” I loathe it. I don’t want anything to do with it. Promotion destabilizes my creative energy. This time around, I’m planning to end each promo piece with a link to my freebies page and a note along the lines of “If you don’t want to give me dough, please grab something for free.” I’m hoping that it let me feel better about pulling a filthy capitalism twice daily.

The pedantic will note that these books aren’t truly free. You must make an account somewhere to get them. And–yes, that’s true. I’m a business. Giving me money requires making an account somewhere. Meet me in a dark alley and slip me $20 and I’ll hand over a brown paper bag containing a book, sure, but online commerce requires accounts. For what it’s worth, my store’s privacy policy is the one I would like other retailers to use, and you can delete accounts in my store.

Anyway. Freebies. Look for the Apocalypse Moi Kickstarter later this summer.

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!

Print Price Increases

Forget the cost of living–my printers have raised their prices. I have no choice but to do the same. $25 in 2018 is $29.50 today.

Unfortunately, back in 2011 I decided that I wanted my tech books to look like Real Books. You know, from Real Publishers, whatever that means. He put prices on covers. Younger Me had lived through several periods of inflation, and while he had learned the lessons of inflation on the demand side he failed to extrapolate for when he became a supplier. If he thought about prices on covers becoming invalid in five or ten years, he would have sneered Like I’ll still be making a living doing this in 2023. I assumed my writing career was unsustainable. I have to file updated, priceless covers with the printers.

I tried a different page layout on the new edition of DNSSEC Mastery, tightening the text to reduce page count so I could hold prices the same. The result was functional, but unattractive. The topics of my tech books are already unattractive, so doubling down on that theme is unwise.

I’ve also hit the point where maintaining my business is interfering with making new words. I’m hiring a part-time contractor to help with the web site. He’ll want paying, because despite what the oligarchs think you can’t just ship your flunkies a crate of cheap instant ramen and a box of coffee and get quality labor out of them.

So, price increases. Sorry.

I’m starting with the more popular books, like SSH Mastery. The price will be set to $29.99 by the time you read this, but it’ll take a few days for the respective databases to churn through.

Folks who follow this blog are the most likely to buy my books, so I wanted to give you advance warning. If you’ve been waffling on grabbing a book in print, this is the time.

Quarterly and Annual Patronizing

As frequently requested, I’ve enabled options for Patronizers using to pay quarterly and yearly. If you want to switch away from monthly, you’ll need to unsubscribe and resubscribe. This only applies to my site; I have no control of how Patreon handles payments.

Do I care what option you pick? Not really. The “See the Sausage Being Made” and “Digital Reader” tiers were already annual and quarterly to reduce fees to acceptable levels. If you want to pay quarterly or yearly and save me a few cents I’m down with that, but I’m not going to sweat them.

Everything should auto-renew so long as you pay with a credit card. Please let me know if you have problems. I have double-checked everything, but that only means I’ve looked at my errors twice.

More Stuff In My Ebook Store, and a mega-deal on Absolutely Everything

You can now get my in-print short stories and novellas (aka “chapbooks”) at The coupon code ZONLESS will get you $1 off each of the short stories. Yes, it works multiple times. Buy 5 shorts, get $5 off. There’s also a bundle with all of them. I’ll have a blog post in a day or two about the economics of this. The math is ugly, but putting them on my store makes it less ugly.

You can also get the Absolutely Everything bundle. It contains Absolutely Everything on the site, for over $50 off. Tech books. Novels. Audiobooks–er, audiobook. Everything.

As a special offer for my previous customers: if you have previously purchased the current editions of items in the Absolutely Everything bundle, or smaller bundles like Total Mastery or All the Novels and Collections, and would like to upgrade to Absolutely Everything, email me at mwl at mwl dot io from the email address used in your account. Use the subject “Absolutely Everything.” I will give you a coupon code for the value of current editions of what you’ve bought from the store, valid for your account, good until the end of May 2023. If you bought the newest SSH Mastery and Sudo Mastery direct from me for $9.99 each, and want the whole thing? I’ll give you a coupon for $19.98.

This offer expires at the end of May 2023. (I would like to offer this permanently, but I need a way to automate it.)

For the record, I would like to be wrong about the Absolutely Everything bundle.

When I first put up the Total Mastery bundle I thought This is stupid. Nobody unfamiliar with my work is going to come in here and buy all my tech books in one lump. People keep suggesting it, so I’ll try it just to shut them up.

I was wrong.

I sell a few each month. Someone comes to my store searching for, say, SSH Mastery, sees the bundle, and decides to splurge/invest/binge.

People also suggested that I put up a bundle of fiction. Fine, the novels are in the store, I’ll bundle those too. I was confident nobody would buy them.

Again, I was wrong. A few each month.

I am confident that nobody will buy Absolutely Everything. Being wrong would delight me.

Order Books for BSDCan Delivery

BSDCan 2023 is happening in meatspace.

Folks like getting books from me personally, so normally I bring a few copies of each old title and about ten copies of each book released since the previous con. I’ve released eighteen books since the last meatspace BSDCan, plus innumerable chapbooks and collections and anthologies and who knows what all. 18 titles, ten of each? I am fifty-six years old and am not lugging one hundred eighty books into a con knowing full well that most won’t sell and I must lug them back to the car and unload them at home and let them collect dust. Nope. Ain’t gonna. Can’t make me.

Plus, there’s this.

One copy of every edition of everything I’ve written, 2023 February

I have written too many books to drag “a couple copies” of everything anywhere, let alone to BSDCan. Also, I haven’t done cons for years and have methodically reduced inventory. Other than the copies on this brag shelf I own very few copies of anything. I can buy more from the printer, but I’m not going to buy 180 dust collectors books.

The obvious answer is to let y’all preorder for delivery at BSDCan. I can get exactly what I need, plus a couple extras here and there.

To order a book for delivery at BSDCan, check my meatspace catalog for titles of interest. All prices are USD. Send your list to mwl at mwl dot io on or before before 1 April 2023, specifying paperback or hardcover when there’s a choice. Use the subject “BSDCan Preorder.” I will confirm the total price.

Payment? If you want one or two books, you can pay me cash at BSDCan. Three or more books, I need payment before 3 April. (Otherwise, some jerk who isn’t even attending BSDCan will order thousands of dollars worth of crap just to screw me and call it a joke.) I’ll use my tip jar for prepayments because it takes credit cards or paypal, or you can paypal to accounts at tiltedwindmillpress dot com.

I will place my order on 2 April. I must have prepayments by then.

I will deliver at BSDCan, 19-20 May 2023. Folks who haven’t prepaid should pick up on the 19th (or tell me why not), otherwise I’ll assume you’ve changed your mind and try to get rid of them on the 20th.

Will I bring books for people who don’t preorder? Yep. A few. Not many. You’re better off preordering. Price increases on print books are coming this month, but I will honor these prices for these preorders.

While the meatspace catalog includes everything I can get, here’s what’s come out since the last BSDCan.

Tech books since BSDCan 2019

  • Sudo Mastery, 2nd edition
  • SNMP Mastery
  • The Networknomicon
  • TLS Mastery (Beastie Edition, Tux Edition, and combined hardcover available, be specific, although I’m sure you fine folks will all want Beastie or the hardcover)
  • DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd edition
  • OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems

Other Nonfiction since BSDCan 2019

  • Cash Flow for Creators
  • Only Footnotes
  • Domesticate Your Badgers
  • Letters from ed(1): The FreeBSD Journal Letters column, years 1-3

Fiction Since BSDCan 2019

  • Drinking Heavy Water (Montague Portal)
  • Terrapin Sky Tango (Beaks #2)
  • Aidan Redding Against the Universes (Montague Portal all-inclusive omnibus)
  • $ git sync murder ($ git commit murder #2)
  • Prohibition Orcs (collection)
  • Frozen Talons (Prohibition Orcs #2)
  • Devotion and Corrosion (collection)

Huh. I feel like I’ve been slow during the pandemic, but this is a modestly respectable number of books. The years know things that the hours and days cannot.

Anyway. Check the meatspace catalog for what you want. Send me a list. Specify paperback or hardcover. I will verify price. Three or more, pay me beforehand. Pick up at BSDCan.

Otherwise, take your chances that I’ll bother to bring the book you want and won’t sell it before you can grab it.

Selling Direct and Customer Support

I have my ebookshop at, and it’s a great defense against online retailers deciding that they don’t want my business. But sometimes it comes back to bite me.

I don’t want your personal information, unless things go wrong. But when it goes wrong, I have no way to contact you.

I got an email today from antonio@z*****.com, saying they hadn’t gotten the BookFunnel email for their purchase. They had received the receipt from me. It happens. I replied, and my maillog spat out:

Mar 1 12:00:54 mail sm-mta[17756]: 321H0qc5053731: to=, ctladdr= (1001/1001), delay=00:00:02, xdelay=00:00:02, mailer=esmtp, pri=31211, [], dsn=5.7.1, reply=554 5.7.1 : Relay access denied, stat=Service unavailable

In between them getting the receipts and BookFunnel sending the email, their mail server broke.

I have no other information by which to reach this reader. They did provide an address, which is nice. I could send a postcard. To another country. Assuming that address is even correct, which is dubious given the privacy habits of y’all. (Yes, I collect addresses, this is why.)

So, what do I do here?


Presumably, the customer will notice that they aren’t getting any email and reach out again.

Although I do see that the customer has four MXs, and they’re all the same priority. It might be one of them is misconfigured. I’ll send another message, see what happens. Or, maybe the customer will see this blog or my fedi post and see that they have email trouble.

If I demanded phone numbers for ebook purchase I could text them, but that would require I collect phone numbers and I want to not have that information.

Comparing Kickstarters

Comparing how two different books sell is foolish. Books are not fungible. Comparing how two different marketing campaigns do is likewise foolish. Neither marketing, nor readers, nor economic conditions are interchangeable.

But bear with me for a moment while I do it anyway.

The Kickstarter campaign for the Prohibition Orcs duology brought in about $11,000. Which, while not Brandon Sanderson’s millions, was way cool.

I intended to use the Devotion and Corrosion campaign to compare “Kickstarter with Twitter” to “Kickstarter without Twitter.” That seemed sensible, right? The videos are comparable, the campaigns are comparable. The story for the orcs is stronger, because “Orcs in Prohibition” is a solid hook, but still, it’d do something, right?

But then Kickstarter did not give D&C the “Projects We Love” button, which meant that they won’t promote it for me. My attempted comparison fails. I suspect this is because D&C has less Big Idea and more gentle philosophical ambiance. We don’t like to think, we want orcish face-punching.

The campaign funded anyway, which is great. But I can’t do even my lame, heavily-caveated comparison. Facebook spreads my posts to a few of people I know and a couple of the folks who follow my fan page. While the Fediverse shares my posts more broadly, it’s definitely a less commercial space.

I had hoped D&C would hit $4,000. My marketing has saturated the people I know, however, and now I’m hoping it breaks $3000.

Disappointing? Not really. Thinking about it in pure financial terms is wrong.

D&C is doing “well enough.” A bunch of people, wonderful people, will get ebooks and paperbacks. A handful of folks (those with disposable income as well as exquisite taste) will get fancy leather-cased books covered in rats and brains and knives. I will cover expenses and most of a mortgage payment.

And I can be confident that my readers who follow me on the fediverse or my mailing lists or my blog or even on Facebook will at least consider at my next project, no matter what any CEO or billionaire has to say about it. Eventually, a fiction book from this no-name nobody will pretty reliably cover a mortgage payment.

I have what Twitter’s owner can never have.


But if you want that fancy leather-cased book, you better grab one quick. Once the campaign is fulfilled, I’m not getting Studio 42 to make any more. In fact, let me post that picture, because it really is spectacular.

Comparing one book to another, or one Kickstarter to another, is foolish, but I can guarantee that you won’t find that many rats on any other leather-cased book.

Shipping OMF

I spent today dealing with the “OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems” sponsor, Patronizer, and pre-order shipments.

The first lesson I’ve learned is, I was too flexible for someone so easily perplexed. If I do pre-orders again folks will get the option to buy just the one book, in paperback or hardcover. That’s it. Checking and double-checking all the possible option takes up a lot of brain space.

More annoyingly, I’ve had to delay a full third of my non-US #omfilesystems preorders, and a few of the US ones, because folks didn’t include a recipient phone number in their order info.

Data is like medical radioactives in the oncology ward; necessary, but I want as little of it as possible and must dispose of it safely. I have no desire for phone numbers.

For some destinations, however, I must provide the carrier a recipient phone number before they’ll sell me postage. I have no way to tell if I’ll need a phone number until I try to buy postage.

I don’t want to demand phone numbers for everyone. I actively want to not require that information.

But I’ve spent hours today chasing folks for phone numbers, interrupting my flow of packaging because someone kindly got back to me ASAP and I really do want to get these out of my house and in your paws.

I fear I’ll need to make the hard choice next time I open sponsorships. Ah, well.

But I have all the sponsor, Patronizer, and multi-book pre-orders packed and either picked up or ready for pickup. What remains is single-book shipments, plus all the folks who owe me phone numbers. I’m calling it for the day.

“OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems” hardcovers are here

By “here,” I mean “in my living room.

64 of them. A nice even number!

I’ll be packing Patronizer and sponsor books first, then complicated preorders, then single-copy preorders. I don’t know if I’ll have them all done today. I might. Paperbacks arrive tomorrow, so I hope so.

You know, maybe one of these days I can do some writing? Sigh…