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.

“TLS Mastery” first draft done!

I’ve completed a rough cut of TLS Mastery, and am now looking for tech reviewers who know TLS. If you know more about TLS than the above average sysadmin and would like to review the manuscript, please drop me a note at mwl at mwl dot io with the subject “TLS Reviewer” or use the contact form. I’ll be collecting feedback until 28 February. Then I integrate everything and make a real book.

I’ve given the manuscript to sponsors, plus the Digital Reader and above Patronizers. (Thus proving you don’t need blockchain for “proof of work.”) If you’re a sponsor it’s in your account. There’s three PDFs: the one for Windows and Mac, the one with everything embedded, and the one that’s printed to PDF. One of them should work for your combination of PDF viewer and OS.

Next up, I start hammering on $ git sync murder. Plus I fix some annoying web site issues, get the Montague Portal omnibus in production, and maybe even clean my office.

Direct Print Book Sale

THIS SALE IS OVER. POST KEPT FOR HISTORY

I write too dang much. And every time I have a new book out, I grab a few extra copies. An author always has a use for extra copies. He can sell them to avid readers at conferences. He can hand them to reviewers. He can level furniture and clog the plumbing. When a reader asks if I’ll sign a book, I say “catch me at a conference.” It’s all good.

Provided that said author ever leaves the house. Which is not the case for 2020.

Every single one of my 2020 events was cancelled. No AsiaBSDCon, no Penguicon, no BSDCan. I’m all home, all the time. I don’t expect any of these events to take place in 2021, either. Which means that I have extra books. So I’m doing something I swore I would never do. For the next two weeks I’m selling them, direct to readers, by mail order. Yes, I’ll sign them.

No, you can’t order via the web. This sale only runs through 9 December. It’s about getting rid of the books in my house. I’m not restocking; once they’re gone, they’re gone. So I won’t reconfigure my bookstore to handle direct print sales. Undoing such changes would burn up my time and threaten the stability of my site.

Go check the list of books I have on hand. Decide what you want. The numbers give my current inventory of not-yet-paid-for books and the price. If it is not on the list, I do not have it. If the cell is blank, I ran out of it.

Send an email to me at REDACTED, SALE IS OVER with:

  • The titles you want
  • Your shipping address
  • A recipient phone number
  • The subject BOOKS

I will send you a quote for shipping, using whatever goshippo says is cheapest. Assuming you’ve given a phone number, that is. (Cheap shippers all want a recipient phone number, while the pricey USPS doesn’t.)

Pay me. Use the tip jar for credit cards, or my business PayPal accounts at tiltedwindmillpress.com using the same email address you used to get your quote.

If you ask for a quote, I’ll hold the books until the next day. The books are sent first paid, first serve. This means I might need a day or two to get back to you with a quote; if someone asks for a quote but doesn’t pay, it’ll go to the next person.

Yes, it’s possible this could go horribly wrong. I could get flooded with demands for print books. I doubt it. I don’t have that many fans. But I am dedicated to clearing out this crap these magnificent tomes, and will work through everything as quickly as possible.

translationsI even have some extra copies of translations. When you’ve written close to forty books and have been translated into nine languages, and you get two copies of each translation, well… it gets ugly. If anything in here tickles your fancy, drop me a line. Going cheap.

If you’re a completist, there’s some rarities in here. First edition Absolute BSD, Absolute OpenBSD, and Cisco Routers for the Desperate. The PGP book. They’re half off, and I could be talked down further.

If you’re a true hard-core completist, I unearthed a few copies of the Gatecrasher books. Those I can’t be talked down on, mind you, but the fact that they exist at all is nearly a miracle.

I do not anticipate doing this again. I’m not saying I never will, but it’s gonna take me being stuck with extra books and being unable to leave the house. Perhaps during COVID-25 or COVID-33; I’ll have a bunch of new clutter books built up by then.

“TLS Mastery” Covers Reveal, with T-shirts and Posters

No, that’s not a typo. TLS Mastery will have two covers. Eddie Sharam outdid himself this time, in more ways than one, parodying an artistic masterpiece that folks have requested for years.

Munch’s The Scream could not be used for just any book, mind you. It demands a topic of particular notoriety. A subject that drives even seasoned systems administrators to desperate shrieks for aid. Something that makes the world whirl around us all. With its classic combination X.509, ASN.1, ITU and IETF standards, and more, I’m pleased to say TLS fits this more than any other general topic.

The book will appear in two versions: the Beastie Edition, and the Tux Edition.



The hardcover dust jacket will have both.

As a unique touch, Eddie painted the Beastie version. By hand. With oil paint. You know, like real art. And if you should ever be unlucky enough to enter my office, you’ll see this.

Every day as I work, I’ll be looking at this.

That old beat-up bookcase? Once we can safely go to IKEA, that’ll be replaced by a new bookcase for my brag shelf. My current brag shelf is overflowing.

Real authors have the cover art for their books hanging on their wall. I guess I’m a real author now. It’s been a long time since one of my books had a painted cover. How long, you might ask? Well, the wall behind my desk has the previous paintings.

Those are Tom Dow’s cover paintings for the two Gatecrasher books, plus a Bradley K McDevitt original from the interior. They’re roughly 1992. Getting those paintings converted to a form suitable for printing involved going to an industrial photographer and having a photograph separated into four CMYK transparencies. Each cost several hundred dollars, and had to be shipped to the printer. If any of the transparencies got damaged, the whole set was ruined. Dealing with the interior art involved high-grade photoduplication, a light table, and a wax roller.

To prepare the Beastie Scream oil painting for printing, Eddie got out his camera. No, not the cellphone camera, a good camera.

This is truly the best time in history to be a creator. Other than, you know, plagues and long-overdue racial reckonings and political upheaval and such.

I’m gonna be self-indulgent here and show off the BKM interior illo as well. Like I need an excuse, it’s my blog.

This was one of the very first pieces Brad did for me, but once I saw the book titles I knew we were going to get along famously.

If you’re interested, you can get T-shirts and small posters with the Tux Scream and Beastie Scream at my shop. The book itself is still open for sponsorship.

TLS Mastery updates, August 2020

Solar systems form out of vast clouds of particles and gas. Motes of dust aggregate, drawn together by their own minuscule gravity over innumerable aeons. Those aggregates creep near other aggregates, eventually colliding into heavier masses, and their combined gravity draws yet more matter. A cosmic observer with a really compressed sense of time would see nothing happen for millennia, then there would be a huge rush as all this matter sucks itself together and becomes so heavy that the innermost atoms are compressed into involuntary thermonuclear fusion. It looks quick, but most of the progress is invisible.

Writing this book is a lot like that.

I’ve used TLS and SSL for decades. I have debugged errors and battled bogus certificate chains. I have screamed the vilest obscenities at SSL Labs for daring to expose my weaknesses and, like every other sysadmin, have doused browser developers in kerosine as they slept and set them on fire. I had a good working knowledge of TLS, but writing about it demanded a deep plunge.

So: the book is about a quarter written.

Most of my time has been spent aggregating tiny details into facts, building those facts into knowledge, and fitting my experience into that knowledge. I’m not going to jinx myself by publicly declaring that I expect the mere writing to go quickly, of course, but I feel I have some decent aggregate chunks and am ready to start throwing them together.

The Princess Bride motif I was considering seems to be a natural fit. Which is good, because if a motif doesn’t fit naturally it’s the wrong motif. My subconscious brain recognized the suitability before my conscious mind did. (Weirdly, John Carpenter films would have also fit well. I did cosmic horror for the SNMP book, however, so my beloved Carpenter must wait for another suitable title.)

Some bits, of course, won’t fit. A stray comment from Ray Percival reminded me that this book doesn’t mention my personal favorite Great Evil: Oracle. You might not have noticed, but Oracle has exerted great efforts to earn my personal loathing. The conversation ed1conf and I had on the Great Beast is irrelevant to TLS.

“You’ve heard of Informix? DB/2? SQL Server 2019?”

“Yes.”

“Morons.”

“In that case I challenge you to a battle of integrity.”

“For the database?”

“Yes.”

“To the death?”

(nods)

“I accept!”

“Good. Then open your console. Read this, but do not click «agree».”

“I comprehend nothing.”

“What you do not comprehend is called a EULA. It is odorless, tasteless, devolves instantly into legalese, and is among the more deadlier poisons known to man.”

(deploys system)

“All right: where is the liability? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both click «agree», and find out who is right and who is sued.”

(much later)

“They all had a EULA. I spent the last several years building up a mastery of Postgres.”

You can still sponsor TLS Mastery either at the print level or ebook level. Don’t wait too long if you’re interested. The dust cloud is coming together faster and faster, and once fusion hits it’s all over.

Sponsorship Headaches

Today, this happened.

This is a Sudo Mastery, 2nd Edition print sponsor’s gift. I shipped this book out just after I got the hardcovers, back in late 2019. It went to Russia. Months later, it came back with a tag saying “No such person at this address.” In the months between purchasing the sponsorship and me finishing the book, the sponsor had moved to Estonia. I shipped the book out the second time with the Networknomicon sponsorship shipments, just before the United States Postal Service to suspend all shipments to Estonia.

Today, I checked my PO Box for the first time since sending those books. I don’t get much mail there, and I’ve avoided leaving the house because of the plague. The length of this delay is 100% my fault. Fortunately, mail service to Estonia has been restored. I can now reship this package. AGAIN. The good news is I’m entitled to a refund on postage, so I don’t have to pay postage a third time.

The sponsor (who I’m not going to name for privacy reasons, though he’s welcome to chime in here to call me an idiot) has been beyond patient. I’m going to add some extras to his package, to show my gratitude.

But if you’re considering book sponsorships, or Kickstarters, or anything that involves physical goods, this is the sort of headache you’ll be dealing with. If (when) the plague is still going on when I finish TLS Mastery and start the next tech book, I might decide to not offer print sponsorships. Don’t get me wrong, I’m utterly grateful for people’s support–but I must not make promises I cannot reliably keep.

Stupid plague.

Anyway, that’s enough annoyance for today. I need to go make the words. Stay home, wash your hands, and wear a mask. And be kind to those around you–they’re just as stressed out as you are.

Reviews and Podcasts on “Cash Flow for Creators”

Mark Leslie Lefebvre hosts Stark Reflections, an essential podcast for writers. He was kind enough to interview me on my new book, Cash Flow for Creators. If you have any interest in managing money in a creative business, check it out. We also talked about the Networknomicon and other special editions, as well as many other options open to today’s creators.

Mark knows the publishing business cold, and his thoughts are well worth listening to. Plus, Mark is giving away a copy of the book. Listen to learn how to win.

Meanwhile, over at Writing Slices, Alex Kourvo reads books about writing. Now, I’m not saying that Kourvo calls her blog that because when she finds a bad book she slices it to ribbons. I wouldn’t dare. Alex turned her experienced and incisive eye to C4C. While I’ve given up soliciting long-form reviews, I’m always pleased when they happen. I expected her to leave my book a heap of ribbons, but was pleasantly surprised.

If you’re a writer and you have any interest in learning your craft, you should subscribe to Writing Slices. She really will save you a whole world of frustration with lousy books, freeing you to discover your own personal, entirely unique realms of frustration. I rarely buy writing books any more, but when I do it’s because she recommended them.

You can get C4C in all the usual places, including at my ebookstore and my print bookstore.

That’s enough resting on past successes. The electricity has returned after a 51-hour outage. The fridge has been sanitized and restocked. It’s time for me to descend into the Word Mines and drag out a bucket of high-carat verbs, not all of them obscene.

New book: “Cash Flow for Creators”

I make my living writing books. I don’t consult. I don’t teach, except for occasional talks at user groups and conferences–and cynics might call those talks “one hour commercials for a book.” It caused a problem I didn’t predict. People keep asking me how I do it. Some of these querents are making enough at their writing or other creative endeavor that they could make a living with their writing. I find my way of life immensely satisfying, and I believe similarly inclined folks should enjoy the same pleasure.

The answer comes down to: learn business.

Most business books are irrelevant to creators. Business books are aimed at franchises or stores or family factories, and contain chapter after chapter of stuff that’s utterly irrelevant to creators. I know. I read the books. Plus, the artistic stereotype includes “bad with business.” This is a pernicious myth that hampers many creators. A creator that dives into a business book filled with irrelevancies can be forgiven for buying into the myth, though.

This myth supports an entire industry. Any number of people will agree that creators have no head for business. It’s genetic. It’s not in their nature. That’s just how it is. They will soberly agree to handle your business affairs for a meager cut of the take. These people have an unparalleled skill at looking serious while their inner child is cackling and counting up the money. They profit by feeding the myth. These folks take the “no head for business” myth from a handicap and escalate it to utter pernicious fallacy.

A creative business isn’t hard, once you know how to do it. It might be the simplest kind of business there is, specifically because you don’t have to worry about so many of the things that make a store or a factory complicated. It might also be the most complicated, because being a full-time creator changes your whole life.

So I wrote a book about it. A small book. A cheap book. Cash Flow for Creators is about how to create, run, and build a creative business from the ground up. It explains how business works, and how to convert the irregular flow of creative income into rent payments without getting in trouble with the tax man.

It’s available my ebookstore and my brand new print bookstore. Or lots of other places shown in the book listing. (Still waiting on Apple, dagnabit.)

There it is. That’s how I do it. No secrets, no evasions.

The rest is up to you.

“TLS Mastery” sponsorships open

My next book will be TLS Mastery, all about Transport Layer Encryption, Let’s Encrypt, OCSP, and so on.

This should be a shorter book, more like my DNSSEC or Tarsnap titles, or the first edition of Sudo Mastery. I would like a break from writing doorstops like the SNMP and jails books.

You can sponsor in print or ebook. Remember, the print sponsorship includes everything in the ebook sponsorship, so you don’t need to buy both unless you want your name to appear twice in the ebook.

As we’re in a pandemic: take care of you and yours first! I’m conflicted on offering sponsorships, as so many people have lost their jobs. Several folks said they were going to send me money anyway, so I’ve opened these up. Do NOT send me money if you have any doubts about your financial stability.

“SNMP Mastery” leaking out

Bit by bit, site by site, SNMP Mastery is escaping into the world. I’ll keep the SNMP Mastery entry on my web page updated as it appears in more stores.

The various store databases are still synching everything up. You can get both paperback and Kindle on Amazon, but the entries aren’t connected. IngramSpark, the non-Amazon paper distributor and the sole source for hardcovers, is still processing. It’ll appear in other stores soon.

Now to go do my taxes, and get more work on git sync murder.