640% Kickstarter, Sponsorships, and Shipping

In forty-eight hours, my experimental Kickstarter funded six hundred and forty percent.

Those of you who told me so, may now commence declaring that you told me so.

I am considering using Kickstarter for future books, in combination with my sponsorship program. (Sponsors pay me while I’m still writing the book.) The sponsor program will never go away, mind you. My end goal is reader disintermediation; I want folks coming directly to me for their books, instead of buying through Amazon or whoever. Sponsorship is the culmination of disintermediation. But sponsorship is for dedicated readers, while Kickstarter attracts casual ones. I’m thinking that I’ll use sponsorship to pay bills as I write, while Kickstarter will pay the bills of publishing. I’ll have to figure out how to make any sponsor books more precious than the Kickstarter ones, though. Maybe a special SPONSOR EDITION note on the cover.

One wrinkle with Kickstarter that’s raised a bunch of questions, though, is shipping. Overseas shipping costs are EXPENSIVE. They are set by my experience with sponsor gifts.

When it comes to shipping books internationally, the US post office provides three options.

  1. Media Mail. I can get it just about anywhere in the world for less than $10. No international tracking. No guarantee of delivery. Might take months or years. Those container ships moored outside every port in the world, waiting months for an opportunity to unload? There are Media Mail packages adrift in every one.
  2. First class mail. Costs $25 +/- $5-ish. Delivery guaranteed, eventually. Might take months. I can complain to the post office, and they’ll fill out a form. What they’ll do with that form is another issue.
  3. International Priority Mail. Costs about $40 ($30 to Canada). Ouch. Delivers within a week or two, sort of guaranteed. Insured. Complaints are taken mostly seriously.

I normally use First Class mail.

Ever since the pandemic started, sponsor gifts anywhere outside the USA keep going astray. Thanks to the tracking number I am able to watch packages bounce between, say, Chicago and London, England. I don’t know if the actual package keeps circling or if the computer is confused, but either way the sponsor does not get their gift. This is unacceptable. If some maniac generous soul puts food on my table as I write the book, my ethics declare that I must get their thank-you gift to them. Asking the post office staff for a better solution gets me the same answer every time: Use International Priority Mail.

Delivery failures are not my fault, but they are my responsibility. Here in the USA, a backer with a tracking number can contact the Post Office themselves. That’s not an option for a backer in Farawayistan. I must be able to investigate and resolve problems. That means tracking. I elected to go with Priority Mail all around this time, so that any complaints merit more than a tally in a database.

I would prefer to offer backers shipping options like “Would you like cheap ‘I promise to ship it, good luck getting it and I can’t help you’ or expensive ‘will arrive ASAP’?” Kickstarter does not offer that flexibility.

When I offer OpenBSD Storage Mastery for sponsorship, I will offer that choice. Sponsors already accept some risk–if I drop dead while writing the book, they’re out of luck. 1 Some of them will choose the cheap mail, probably the same people who tell me not to ship them a gift.

My Inevitable(?) Amazon Tech Ebook Exit

Warning: publishing business book neepery ahead, as I try to figure out a problem. It includes a bunch of tedious ground-laying. I also round many prices to the nearest dollar.

I am specifically talking about nonfiction here. The fiction business is different. (That’s the problem.)

Amazon’s Payment Model

Amazon’s direct publishing program, KDP, is one of several distribution channels that allows writers to reach audiences without going through a publisher. KDP is the largest such distributor. In any business, the largest distributor uses its power to impose extra rules that benefit it. One of those is the ebook royalty structure, which is dictated by the ebook’s price. Ebooks priced up to $2.98, the author gets paid 35% of cover price for each sale. From $2.99 to $9.99, the author makes 70%. At $10 and up, they make 35% again. (Traditional publishers have a different structure.) Authors also pay delivery fees, so the actual payment is a little less than that. Amazon clearly wants ebooks to be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Other distributors might have limits at the bottom end, but generally pay 65% to 80% — and nobody else has this artificial $9.99 cap.

Amazon agreements have a Most Favored Nation clause where they can price match any other distributor. If an ebook is $9.99 at Amazon and $4.99 at Apple, Amazon can cut their price to match.

If I price an ebook at $9.99, I make about $7 at any distributor.

If I price that same ebook at $14.99, I make about $10 everywhere but Amazon, and $4.50 at Amazon.

In short, ebook prices of $10-$19.99 are a “dead zone” that benefits nobody but Amazon. I must price my book over $20 to make more per sale than I would by pricing at $9.99.

Novels versus Tech Books

Tech books are fundamentally different from novels. Writing tech books takes a different skill set than novels, and the potential audience is different. Amazon treats the two identically, to tech authors’ detriment.

I can write a mid-size novel in about a month, barring debacle. (Yes, other writers are different, I know.) I spent about a year researching and writing SNMP Mastery and another writing TLS Mastery.

The maximum potential audience for each type of book is very different. A novel’s maximum potential audience is effectively unlimited. It might sell ten copies or fifty thousand copies. A lucky few sell millions. The maximum potential audience for a tech book is far, far smaller. I will be thrilled to unreasoning giggles if SNMP Mastery sells five thousand copies.

Every author knows this going in. $ git commit murder might sell a million copies. It won’t, of course, but it might.

Compare a $5.99 novel ($4 payment) to one of my $9.99 ($7 payment) tech books. Fifty thousand readers for that novel nets about $200,000. My five thousand readers at $7 each is about $35,000. That is not much for a year’s highly skilled work.

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon really pushes authors towards their Kindle Unlimited program. This is a flat rate subscription program, where authors get paid on the number of pages read. Books must be exclusive to Amazon, however. If someone reads a novel, they read every page. If someone grabs a tech book, they might read only one chapter. I design my books to be read from front to back, letting the reader build a comprehensive body of knowledge on the topic, but I know dang well some of you read one chapter and fuddle through without context. The KU program as it is currently structured is hostile to authors and non-Amazon readers alike, and I will not participate. That post is several years old, but the basics haven’t changed.

Additionally, I can destroy the career of any author in KU by setting up my own instance of scam software and aiming it at them. It would cost a couple hundred bucks of cloud computing and a couple days of my time, sure, but any number of the folks I’ve pissed off by insisting that women exist in tech would gleefully pay that to take me out. (As an aside, that’s the same reason my print books are non-returnable despite several bookstores requesting otherwise. I don’t know that enough of my haters are adept enough in the publishing biz to run the Returnable Books Exploit, but I can’t take that risk.)

Finally, consider the word monopsony.

The smaller maximum audience size, combined with techie reading habits, makes Kindle Unlimited absolute death for my tech books.

Mastery Book Goals

Most tech books are huge. I wanted to write shorter tech books that dive deeply into narrow aspects of system administration. I saw a gap that $9.99 ebooks would fill nicely. The books would be about 30,000-45,000 words each, and cover what every sysadmin must know about the material. The argument over whether or not the books achieve that is best had over a drink, but that’s the goal.

Some of my topics were poorly chosen. SNMP Mastery wound up at over 60,000 words. I looked at the completed book and thought: a fair price on this would be $14.99. If I do that, though, I make less on each ebook sale at Amazon. I might figure out how to survive that. I would not survive thinking of Amazon making more off my work for purely arbitrary reasons.

The books must be fairly priced, both for you and for me. I won’t ever get wealthy writing tech books, but if I don’t pay the bills I’ll have to go to work for someone else. They must be a win-win purchase.

Long Term Pricing

Prices increase over time. This is not a surprise.

Consider the cost of tech books through the years. Ebooks should not be priced the same as print books, and booksellers discount print books, but print books have the MSRP on the cover so they’re a decent yardstick for measuring scale of change. My books Absolute BSD, Absolute FreeBSD, and Absolute OpenBSD are all about the same size and have similar audiences.

These books cost $39.95 in the 2000s, and $59.95 in the 2010s. I expect them to hit (ugh) $79.95 in the 2020s.

Amazon is fairly rare among dot-coms in that it started off thinking very long-term. Its long term goal is to make books inexpensive, just like they make everything inexpensive. They’re not looking at 2021, they’re looking at 2030 and 2050.

Why would they ever eliminate the dead zone? Keeping it fits their long term goals. I would like to be wrong, but I’m pretty confident the $9.99 hurdle is perpetual.

The Future
Writers might not need pants, but we do need health care and gelato and caffeine. The price of the Mastery ebooks must eventually increase, along with everything else. This change is not imminent, but I can see the day approaching and am considering strategies against it.

My main options for “price increases above $9.99” seem to be:

  1. Drop Amazon Kindle for all new books. Amazon’s print book description would have near the top: “Due to Amazon’s discriminatory treatment of technology authors, ebook versions are available everywhere except Amazon.” I don’t know how long that note would survive, but I would take great satisfaction in posting it. It might alienate Kindle fans, though.
  2. Increase prices into the $10-$19.99 dead zone, and hope that my proceeds on other distributors overcome my Amazon losses. Theoretically possible, but rewards Amazon for discriminating against tech book authors.
  3. Artificially increase the price above $20 on all platforms. If I need to make $10 on each ebook sold at Amazon, I could increase the ebook price to $30. Thanks to the Most Favored Nation clause, the price must be identical on all platforms. I think $30 is an unfairly high price for SSH Mastery or even the overly long SNMP Mastery. Not a win-win, I won’t do it.

Other options do exist, like release windows, but these are the primary strategies. Of them, numbers two and three are unacceptable.

Decision Factors

If you look at my 2020 income, Amazon is my single biggest source, at 36%. My Amazon sales are pretty evenly split between print and ebook. Let’s call it 18% each. Taking an 18% pay cut would suck. Some of those readers would buy elsewhere, sure, but businesses must be pessimistic. For my calculations, and my laziness, let’s say Kindle is 20%.

(Dear tech author friends: don’t use my numbers. What percent of your sales are on Kindle? Do you know? And yes, I’m a freaking unicorn, I get it.)

Let’s say I write another tech book that should be priced fairly at $15, and examine it in three scenarios based on a baseline 1000 ebook sales.

Scenario 1: I price this book at $9.99, and sell 1000 ebooks across all platforms. I make $7 per book, and make $7000.

Scenario 2: I drop Kindle. I make $10 on each sale through every platform except Amazon, but sell only 800 books. I make $8000.

Scenario 3: I keep Kindle, but price at $14.99. I make $8900, at the price of feeding Amazon’s anti-tech-author discrimination. Plus, they make about $2000.

Is my annoyance at Amazon’s bottleneck practices worth $900? Is reader convenience worth $900? How about the two of them combined, against an “I win, you win, Amazon WINS BIG” situation? Good questions.

So what’s my actionable plan?

  • Write shorter tech books that can be fairly priced at $9.99. (We all know how I will fail, but it’s a goal.)
  • Watch inflation.
  • Continue disintermediating readers.
  • Steer readers that cannot be disintermediated to distributors other than Amazon.

I wrote this post to try to figure out the Kindle exit conditions. I guess I’ve already hit them. Or, I sell out for a few hundred bucks. Those folks who know the technologies I write about will understand that ethics matter to me, though.

This might get interesting…

“DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd Edition” Open for Sponsorships

I’ve started making words on a new edition of DNSSEC Mastery.

After weeks of folks repeatedly asking when they can sponsor it, I have an answer other than “later.” Sponsorships are open now. Eddie Sharam will be doing the cover, as usual.

If you’ve just come across my sponsorships, here’s the deal. You give me money before I’ve produced anything suitable for human consumption. In return, I put your name in the book. $25 or more gets your name in the epub and mobi ebook versions, while $100 or more gets your name in the print and electronic versions. (The PDF version is straight from the print, so while it’s technically an ebook you need to have print-level sponsorship to appear in there.)

For the record: yes, I consider sponsorships something of an open scam. There’s no way you get enough benefit from a sponsorship to merit the cause. They’re a throwback to the medieval patronage system, where folks with money supported artists they considered worthwhile. Or, if you prefer: you give me money your excess cash, and write it off as a business expense.

On the other hand, I got bills. So here it is.

If you want to trickle money to me, rather than big lumps, I offer monthly patronage opportunities at both Patreon and my e-bookstore.

Or, just go to your favorite bookstore and buy my books. That’s all the support I need.

the Write Stuff bundle, featuring: me!

My book Cash Flow for Creators lays out exactly how I make a living in this deranged business. You can get your own copy for a paltry $6.99.

Right now, you can get it for $5 as part of the 2021 Write Stuff Bundle at Storybundle. Plus three other books and classes on building a career from your craft. That’s even cheaper than my usual cheap. Or you can spend $20, and get ten excellent business books from people who know what they’re doing, who make a living with their craft, and who are cheerfully sharing how to do the same.

I’m delighted to be in this bundle, and not just because bundle curator Kris Rusch called Cash Flow for Creators “one of the most important books you’ll read all year.” (Mind you, I’m gonna keep that quote in a safe place so that when the world catches on to what a complete doofus I am, I can take it out and cuddle it.) But there’s some top-notch writers and business people in this bundle.

Johanna Rothman is best known as a business and technology consultant. She also writes charming heart-warming stories that remind me of fairy tales for some reason, because they’re totally not fairy tales. Except when they are. I’ve met Johanna at several conferences, and for a quiet and unassuming itty-bitty lady she knows how to put herself out there. I’d absolutely listen to her on getting speaking slots at a conference. Or, in this case, read her Writing a Conference Proposal the Conference Wants and Accepts.

Joanna Penn writes top-notch fiction and hosts the Creative Penn podcast. I was lucky enough to have lunch with her at a conference on the Oregon coast a few years ago and frankly, I have no idea how she gets the energy to do half of her stuff. She’s a smart people, and has built one heck of a creative business doing this weird… what’s that word? Oh, yes. “Planning.” Something I constantly and consistently fail to do. I really ought to perform the exercises in Your Author Business Plan. I should also take her advice that I need to weasel my way onto more podcasts, because the whole “wait patiently for invitations” thing doesn’t work well.

Stefon Mears once worked in computing, but he got better. I’ve known him for years, and the interesting thing about Stefon? It’s not his obsessive Blue Öyster Cult fandom, though that is one of his better traits. It’s not even that I once made him laugh so hard that bystanders asked if he was having a seizure and if they should call an ambulance. It’s that he’s just this guy, and he keeps writing book after book after book in the grand pulp tradition. One after another, he churns them out like Rex Stout or Zane Grey or Lester Dent or any number of others. We’ve talked about how to write a novel every month, and I overwhelmingly agree with the advice he gives in The 30-Day Novel and Beyond!

All this for five bucks. But the bonus books, for those who pay $20 or more?

Award-winning writers and editors Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have survived several economic crashes in this trade. They were the first professional authors I ever met who understood that writers don’t write books; they create and license intellectual property. I don’t always totally agree with them, but they back up their arguments and make me think about why I’m doing the things I do. You can’t buy that. Except you can. In several ways. In this bundle.

Mark Leslie LeFebvre was a bookseller. He’s worked for Kobo and Draft2Digital. He’s a fantastic writer and editor. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s worked at a printer. He knows this business like I know that weird growth on the back of my left hand. (Don’t worry about me, they always drop off before they hatch.) I respect this man’s mad skillz enough that when I finish the Current Giant Epic Fiction Thing I’m working on, I’m going to buy an hour of his time to talk through how to optimally release it. If you want your work in bookstores and libraries, he’s the man to tell you how. Oh, hey–An Author’s Guide to Working With Libraries and Bookstores. What a coincidence!

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tonya D Price at more than one conference. Her excellent writing survived MBA school, a feat not many people manage. A Writer’s Introduction to Social Media Marketing is exclusive to this bundle, so I haven’t read it. Yet.

Writer, editor, and game publisher Loren L Coleman might be best known for his work in Battletech, but I mostly know him for his phenomenal Kickstarter chops and his devoted Prohibition Orcs fandom. Anyone who can raise multiple millions in a Kickstarter has my attention. He recently Kickstarted Crowdfunding Your Ficton: a Best Practices Guide. Kickstarter is on my Things To Play With list, so I backed it. You can get his book after those of us wise enough to back him, but before the great unwashed masses.

A cut of the purchase price goes to each author. Another cut can go to Able Gamers, if you check the box. You should totally check the box.

Also, the price is completely “pay what you want.” None of us would mind if those of you with real jobs realized that this bundle is dang near theft and chose to pay a bit more for it. If you read these and act on their advice, you’ll turn a profit easily.

My first “What is Wrong With You?” Patron Cert

On both Patreon and in my store, I have a What is Wrong With You? Patronizer tier. It is a paltry $250 per month, chump change for all you dot-com gazillionares out there.

So you like the idea of throwing money down a well, but don’t want to pollute the water table? Burning cash increases atmospheric CO2 levels? And using bills as toilet paper wrecks the plumbing?

Send your excess cash to Lucas, who will safely dispose of it in the gelato shop.

This is the daft level, for the true Lucas Loony. You get all the benefits of all lower tiers: your name in books! Defaced–er, *signed* books shipped to you! More books! Books books books! So many… blasted… books.

You also get a special “What Is Wrong With You?” certificate, suitable for framing, with your first shipment books. (Upon Patronizer request, an F-bomb may be added to the title.)

I might also send you something special. Something odd. It depends on what I can find around the house.
When the opportunity arises, I will introduce you Crypt-Keeper style.

There is no sensible reason to choose this level, unless you want to submit your support as evidence in your inevitable competency hearing.

In case it’s not clear, this level was intended as a joke.

In case it’s not obvious, some of you like to take jokes too far.

I figured if anyone actually bought this, it would be a one-off. I designed humorous certificate to mail people when they did. Everybody laughs, we get on with our lives. The thought that someone would pay to Patronize me this thoroughly, and pay for a year in advance, did not occur to me. If you ship me a giant lump of cash, though, I feel obliged to extend a minuscule amount of effort into rewarding you. By watching one of EuroBSDCon’s many fascinating presentations and by grilling a mutual friend (who I shall identify only as “MHK-A”), I was able to personalize said certificate.

With my Patronizer’s kind permission, I can share it with you. (Click for full size if you’re interested.)
WTFIWWY certificate
This could be you. For several thousand dollars, mind you, but still.

Oh, and hire Eirik’s company. He clearly needs the dough.

My books on Google Play, for now

Google has been actively hostile to authors for years. That has changed, somewhat. You can now find much of my fiction and nonfiction on Google Play, for now. I rather expect Google to reverse their less-hostile stance without warning, so these might come down as quickly as they appeared.

What do I mean when I say that Google has been hostile to authors? Forget the bit where they scan millions of in-copyright books and make the text available. That’s a separate problem.

Google Play offers separate terms for traditional publishers than individual authors. I own my own publishing company, but I don’t produce books quickly enough to get access to the publisher terms. Fine.

Since its inception, Google Play has let individual authors put a suggested retail price on their books. Until recently, they reserved the right to cut the price for their customers. If they cut the price, they would pay the author their cut based on the suggested retail price. Google used this to boost their platform. They could take, say, SSH Mastery, and make it free for the next thousand downloads. I would make my $6 or so on each download. I get paid, so what could I possibly object to?

I object to it destroying my business, that’s what.

Modern publishing is an ecosystem. Changes in one distributor affect how other distributors behave. Other major ebook distributor either respects the suggested retail price I set on their platform (e.g., Gumroad) or they have a Most Favored Nation clause in their terms where they can match competitor prices. Apple had this for years, but I’m not certain of its status after the antitrust lawsuits. Amazon still has this MFN clause, and it actively monitors competitors for prices to match.

Here’s how this goes horribly wrong.

  • Google makes one of my best-selling books free.
  • Amazon sees it and price matches.
  • A few thousand people download the book on Google Play. I get paid for those.
  • Tens of thousands of people download the book on KDP. I do not get paid for those.
  • Google restores the suggested retail price.
  • I spend days begging Amazon to restore the normal price.
  • Everybody I might sell that book to got it for free.

That book is dead. I made a few thousand dollars in a month but that book brings in nothing more, forever.

Writing is a passive income game. I count on each live book to bring in a few hundred bucks a month. Some, I’m delighted if they bring in fifty bucks a month. I count on last year’s books to pay this year’s bills. If you want to know more about how this works, check out Cash Flow for Creators.

Free books are a valid promotion strategy. (I’ll be announcing a free novel soon, to suck people into the Montague Portal omnibus.) I need to control their use, however.

I half-expect Google to reassert their previous model at any time. Google is spectacularly indifferent to their users. When Google blinks, I’ll be turning them off.

Mind you, I’ll keep the books set up in their publisher dashboard. When they twitch back, I’ll turn them back on.

Private Patronizer site out of beta

My homebrew Patreon is successfully processing renewals. A variety of stupid mistakes and bone-headed misconfigurations have been addressed. Patronizers can subscribe to posts by email. I hereby declare it out of public beta.

This is not a statement that it’s bug free, mind you. I’m sure I’ll find new problems. My fans are dedicated to illuminating me through providing exciting, inexplicable errors, and they are legion.

If you were pondering switching but didn’t want to be a guinea pig, you should be safe now. Or stick with classic Patreon. The benefits are the same. My private Patreon will have certain tiers not available to on Patreon, but only because I have more flexibility. If you want to pay only on 29 February, I have an option for you. I expect this one to be a top seller in 2024.

I wish to offer blatant gratitude to my fearless beta testers. If you stayed on Patreon as well as signing up for my beta, this is the time to pick one. (JDM, I’m looking at you.)

Why would I go through the trouble of building my own Patreon, when Patreon’s right there?

Do whatever works for you. Heck, just buy my books retail. People can still do that, y’know.

Gelato, out!

2020 Income Sources

My post on where my income came from in 2019 stirred interest, so I’m sharing the same information this year.

I had this bright idea that I could perhaps extract and share other useful information from my business data. I dug and found many strange things–but, while they’re interesting, they’re not actionable. It was all minutae like “Cash Flow for Creators sold five times as many copies on my own e-bookstore as it sold in all other channels combined.”

That’s not just interesting, it’s downright weird. It’s also utterly non-actionable, unless you’re trying to say “A book that doesn’t sell on one platform might sell on another.”

So, forget extra information. Here’s where my money comes from.

Or, if you like percentages, here’s everything including “other” detail. Not quite 100% due to rounding.

  • 36% – Amazon KDP
  • 15.9% – Royalties
  • 14.5% – Direct sales (tiltedwindmillpress.com)
  • 10.6% – Patreon
  • 9.7% – IngramSpark
  • 7.3% – Sponsorships
  • 2.8% – Tip jar
  • 1.6% – Gumroad
  • 1% – Apple
  • 0.6% – Kobo
  • 0.5% – Aerio
  • 0.2% – Draft2Digital
  • 0.05% – Barnes & Noble
  • 0.03% – Audiobook

Minor income sources, like my affiliate income, don’t appear here. Amazon’s affiliate program was once a nice way to get a few hundred bucks a year, but they’ve cut the rates so much I no longer find it worthwhile.

Amazon is still my single biggest distributor, but they aren’t a majority. I don’t prioritize them or advertise to them. They’re in the business of selling books, I let them sell my books.

The royalties are my traditional publishing income. A chunk of this is certainly sold through Amazon. As trad publishers push to diversify distributors at least as much as I do, I’m going to assume that their diversification efforts are at least as effective as mine, and that about a third of this is sold through Amazon. This means Amazon is about 41% of my income, pretty much the same as last year.

Direct sales are slightly up from last year, which is nice. I do steer people to direct sales as much as possible.

IngramSpark handles non-Amazon paperback sales and all hardcover sales. I introduced hardcover books with the second edition of SSH Mastery, and people started snapping them up. Who am I to argue with readers? My best-selling hardcover is, to my surprise, the Networknomicon. Go figure.

I’m going to lump a few things together: Patreon, sponsorships, and the tip jar. Money from “people who want my books to exist” makes up about a fifth of my income. My Patreon was new in 2019, and didn’t run through the entire year, so “up from last year” isn’t a meaningful statement. I’d like to add the folks who buy direct and throw in a tip on top of the purchase price. Sadly, WooCommerce’s Name Your Price plugin doesn’t report on how many folks pay extra for books, but I see a whole bunch of you paying $6 for a $5 book, or even $12 or $15 for a $10 book.

In this year of plague and political upheaval, as our economy grows increasingly K-shaped, I am especially grateful to you folks who back me out of the goodness of your hearts.

Or maybe you just like watching the Lucas Train Wreck. Whichever, I appreciate it.

I didn’t believe my Patreon would work. It did. That’s why I increased my Patronizer benefits this year, and launched direct sales of Patronizer benefits through my bookstore. If I’m going to sell something, I’m going to sell it directly. Disintermediation is the future for creatives.

Gumroad? If I didn’t have my own bookstore, Gumroad would be business-critical. As things stand, though, it’s mostly for folks who want to buy books in PDF but must also pay EU VAT. (I don’t sell enough goods in the EU to make filling out the paperwork worthwhile. Yet.)

Apple, Kobo, and draft2digital? I’m glad that 2% of my users can get their books through the channels most convenient to them. I truly want to support you folks.

Kobo in particular has an interesting sales pattern. Folks don’t buy one of my books on Kobo. They buy a book, and then a day or two later start buying all the rest of my books. Voracious readers are a writer’s best fans. Sadly, sales on Kobo are low enough that I can see this pattern–but those are exactly the readers I want.

My Aerio store lets me sell books directly to you without touching the books. I like that. They’re new as of the middle of this year, so I expect them to be higher next year.

Barnes & Noble? I’ve spent months of my life wandering through your stores. Today, you’re killing me.

Last, audiobook income. Note the singular. I released my best-selling short story in audiobook for April Fools’ Day. It’s the perfect length to listen to on your commute. I am convinced that’s why everyone stopped commuting in March. The good news is, the payback time on this audiobook is a paltry seven years.

In summary:

If I lost any one channel, I would survive.

Disintermediation is the way. Sell direct to customers.

Make your books as widely available as possible.

Private Patreon Public Beta

This weekend, I built my own private patronage site at https://www.tiltedwindmillpress.com/product-category/patronizer/

My test users say this works. Consider this a Public Beta. There will be bumps. But if you want to have nothing between me and you but a stack of obstreperous software and recalcitrant payment gateways, this is your chance.

It functions slightly different than Patreon in a couple ways. Fees on $1 and $5 transfers eat a big chunk of the money. The $1/month “See the Sausage Being Made” is a $12 annual charge instead. Similarly, the Digital Reader tier is a $15 quarterly charge instead of $5 a month.

All the benefits are identical, and will remain so. They will be delivered through different channels. Sausage posts will appear on both sites, restricted to your account.

I expect some minor things to change. Patronizers currently get a link to download new books. The link is only good for a month. My next release, I plan to hook those books into direct Patronizers’ TWP accounts. The book will remain there for you to download forever.

This is built on Woocommerce, just like the rest of my store. The software is a $398 annual fee. If everyone was to switch from Patreon to direct, it would more than cover the expense. I don’t expect that to happen. But many folks have said that they’d patronize me if they didn’t have to go through Patreon. I expect most of them were just spewing hot air, but here’s their chance. If I can come close to breaking with Patreon fees, I’ll consider it a win. Disintermediation is valuable in and of itself.

Honesty compels me to say: Patronizing me is still a terrible deal. Only Patronize me if you want to send me extra dough on a regular basis. I am perfectly content when folks buy my books through retail channels.

Geek honesty demands I remind you: public beta. All known problems are fixed. You will discover new ones. Please tell me about them so I can fix them. You are generous with me, I will make it right.

And extra honesty compels me to say: if you decide to switch from Patreon to TWP, in the name of all you hold sacred please remember to de-Patreon me! You folks are already generous enough. I don’t think I could handle some mad wildebeest of a fan sponsoring me full throttle on both sites.

More on Print Orders

A couple notes on the direct print orders I’m offering for the next couple weeks.

For the love of Rat, don’t send money before I give you a quote and confirm your book is still available. First-come first-serve means exactly that.

Here’s how I’m processing orders:

piles of books

Each morning, I get up and read the emails with the subject BOOKS. I collect the books each person wants, put them in the correct size envelope, weigh them, and make a quote with shipping. Each envelope gets a sticky note with the person’s name and the weight.

The next morning, I see who paid. I sign those books and ship those people. Any unpaid books go back on the shelves. One of these envelopes contains my last copy of the Networknomicon, but if it’s not bought someone else can have it.

I then pack & quote new requests.

Last, I check my email for people who have paid since I started.

No, I sit corrected. That’s not last. Last is when I realize that people are buying first edition Absolute BSD or, weirder, first edition Gatecrasher and wonder “what the heck?” But it’s a good bafflement. One I appreciate.