New Sponsorships Open, and More Crowdfunding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need to add Kickstarter to my crowdfunding strategy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“DNSSEC Mastery 2/e” Auction Winners

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

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

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

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

DNSSEC Mastery, second edition, creeping out

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

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

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

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

Book Sale

(Update: sale is over. Leaving the blog post up for posterity.)

For those interested in such things, I recently posted my 60,000th tweet. This prodded me to try an experiment I’ve been pondering for a while.

Over at my ebookstore, two of my books are now on a “Name Your Own Price” sale. You can get git commit murder and PAM Mastery for any price you wish, with a minimum of $1.

Regular readers of this blog are theoretically already aware that these books exist, and have bought them if they’re so inclined. If you could help spread the word to potential new readers, though, I would appreciate it.

“SNMP Mastery,” April Fool’s, and The Networknomicon

I sent the official release announcement today: SNMP Mastery is everywhere. You can get it, no matter where in the world you are or what vendor you prefer. Assuming they’re open, that is.

The world is in chaos. This is the worst possible time to do a book release. Like every other industry in the world, my income has plunged eighty percent. Fortunately, I’ve prepared for just such a contingency. We’ll be okay for a while yet.

But the world has no space for April Fool’s Day.

I’ve long believed that a prank must have meat behind it. A funny blog post is not a prank. Ed Mastery was a prank, particularly with the Manly McManface edition. People saw it, snorted, and then discovered it was real and laughed. And certain people were horribly, horribly offended. Exactly as intended.

SNMP is often compared to black magic. Therefore, I prepared a grimoire version of SNMP Mastery, to be released on April Fool’s Day.

Presenting The Networknomicon, or SNMP Mastery, by Abdul Alhazred, as translated from Alien Syntax Notation.1 by Michael W Lucas.

It is the finest physical artifact I have ever produced. The dust jacket is glorious, and there’s still more glorious art beneath it. The interior is stamped with labels from the Miskatonic University Library of Computer Science. No other technology topic is so utterly fitting to be presented as a eldritch tome of forbidden black magic. I have labored over the Networknomicon for six months.

The world is flat-out not in a place for this prank.

The Networknomicon was a sunk cost when everything went to hell. It was already at the printer. Copies were shipped to all the print-level sponsors and Patronizers. The ball was rolling downhill, and people were looking at the sponsor copies and saying that they needed it.

I’m still proud of creating the Networknomicon.

I would much prefer the world was in a place to laugh with me. But it’s not.

I’ve elected to just let it quietly seep out, not using it as an April Fool’s prank. I’m not going to demand to know who did this, indignantly insist the perpetrators fess up, threaten lawsuits for soiling my good name. I will not demand to know what happened to the “My Little Pony”-themed editions I supposedly shipped to print sponsors and Patronizers. And what sort of idiot prices a book at $66.66? (Yes, it’s expensive. This art was not cheap.)

My excitement has been building for six months. I have been desperate for 1 April to arrive so I could enjoy the world’s perplexity and cackle for a solid week.

And it’s going to fizzle. This disappointing decision makes me sad.

But I can’t joke about necromancy, black magic, and a book bound in cyborg hide during a pandemic, while millions are losing their jobs and companies that charge thousands of dollars for desperately needed ventilator fittings that can be cheaply 3D printed on site are threatening to sue over saving people’s lives.

On the whole, I’m ridiculously lucky. What everyone else calls “social distancing” is my normal life. I bought a Costco crate of toilet paper a week before the panic hit Detroit. I have enough medication to get through a few months, and enough steel cut oatmeal for months.

I will get over the sad. And we will get through this. Most of us, at least.

The Impending Demise of “PGP & GPG”

At fourteen years old, PGP & GPG is perhaps my oldest title still in print. And soon, it will be no more.

The theory in the book is still good, but GnuPG has changed in the last decade and a half. The PGP version discussed in the book is no more. Best practices and use cases have changed. I’d guess half the chapters have some utility, while the other half have none.

So the book is being deliberately eased out of print. It predates Kindle, so there won’t even be an ebook version available.

My No Starch books normally sell out their print run, get reprinted a few times, and fade into Out Of Print status. But PG3 never sold out its initial print run.

I’m glad we did it. No Starch Press is one of the few publishers who would take a chance on such a title back in the heady days of 2005. (The book came out in 2006, but the decision to take that chance was in 2005 or maybe even 2004.) But it was not a commercial success.

If you want to be a completist collector: grab this book while you can. Soon, it will be no more.

I expect the price of used copies to immediately skyrocket, of course. Because that’s what rarity does.

New novel out! “Terrapin Sky Tango,” aka “Butterfly Stomp Waltz 2”

Fire up the sirens and release the hounds, another novel has escaped!

People have begged for a sequel to Butterfly Stomp Waltz for years. (Earthquake Kitten Kiss doesn’t count; it features side character Liza Bradley, and it’s romantic suspense.) I’m delighted to finally be able to say “Here you go. Now hush.”

Terrapin Sky Tango is now available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover, almost everywhere books are sold. It’s 110,000 words of blood and mayhem–perhaps not Robert Jordan hefty, but big for a crime novel.

A FAMILY AFFRAY

With her father’s death, mercenary thief Beaks returns to the place she hates most—her childhood home, to both pay her respects and make certain he’s gone.

She finds only lies.

Determined to rip the truth out of the shadows, Beaks ricochets around the world, defying killers and government agents alike. With the man she loves and the secretive hacker Sister Silence, she targets a nightmare that turns suffering into profit and slaughter into joy.

Family. It’s worse than murder.

Grab it at Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Gumroad, Amazon US, Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Amazon DE, Amazon FR, Amazon IT, Amazon ES

As part of this release, I looked at cover branding. I outsourced the BSW cover, which complicated long-term maintenance of the book. (The designer did a fine job, mind you; she simply used different tools than I do.) So I redesigned the cover to theme these books, with a theme I can use for all future Beaks novels. As part of this redesign, I was able to cut the print price of BSW down to $11.99USD and release a hardcover for a paltry $24.99.

50% John McClane
50% Robin Hood
100% trouble

Reeling from the death of her lover and partner, freelance “exfiltration specialist” Billie Carrie Salton breaks into a high-tech, high-security biotechnology firm to steal their sickle cell anemia cure and broadcast it to the world.

In, out, announce. Easy.

Except Salton’s life never works that smoothly.

And a gig gone wrong only begins the disasters.

Thievery, lies, and betrayals propel Salton across the world, from Atlanta, Georgia, to the heat of Portugal and the jungles of Myanmar, where she must put everything on the line to save everything she loves.

You can get BSW at Kobo, iTunes, Nook, Gumroad, Amazon US, Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Amazon DE, Amazon FR, Amazon IT, Amazon ES, and a bunch of other places.

In other news: Sudo Mastery went to copyedit last night. I really, really hope to have print in hand for vBSDCon.

Now pardon me, I gotta start work on snmp Mastery and another Prohibition Orcs novella.