New Book: Only Footnotes

I know perfectly well why you people read my books. It’s for the footnotes.

Some of you buy the Mastery books for the cover art, but those few who open the things do so for the footnotes.

My conscience has been at me again, the filthy bastard. Charging everyone exorbitant rates for a handful of footnotes is robbery. I should produce books that people want to read. I have therefore gathered all of the footnotes from all of my books in a handsome collectible hardcover edition.

Announcing: Only Footnotes.

Only Footnotes. Because that’s why you read his books.

Academics hate footnotes. Michael W Lucas loves them. What he does with them wouldn’t pass academic muster, but that doesn’t mean the reader should skip them. The footnotes are the best part! Why not read only the footnotes, and skip all that other junk?

After literal minutes of effort, Only Footnotes collects every single footnote from all of Lucas’ books to date.* Recycle those cumbersome treatises stuffed with irrelevant facts! No more flipping through pages and pages of actual technical knowledge looking for the offhand movie reference or half-formed joke. This slender, elegant volume contains everything the man ever passed off as his dubious, malformed “wisdom.”

Smart books have footnotes. Smarter books are only footnotes.

*plus additional annotations from the author. Because sometimes even a footnote needs a footnote.

Yes, it’s 1 April. April Fool’s day. This has got to be a joke, right? Am I the sort of person who would release an entire book as a gag? Might I even release a special edition of a book for those unable to accept feminine pronouns in their tech books?

Yep. A good 1 April post has meat on the bone.

It is absolutely real. ISBN 9781642350548. $24.99 USD, because hardcovers cost a bunch to manufacture.

Unfortunately, IngramSpark has delayed production. You can’t buy it yet. (Insert one of those sobbing emojis, except he’s also enraged and flinging a Molotov.) (EDIT: It is now available, see )

Only Footnotes will exist only in hardcover, to be show off the lovely interior illustrations by OpenBSD’s Ayaka Koshibe. There’s no ebook, it’s a collectible. Specifically, it’s another step in my quest to make a career out of publishing the least useful nonfiction books known to humanity.

New podcast interview: Alive After Reading

If I was to choose a pseudonym, one pronounced “Need A Writer” would be too on-the-nose even for me.

Tim Niederriter was born that way.

Tim interviewed me for his podcast Alive After Reading. I signed on thinking that I’d promote the new Montague Portal stuff (the first short novel, Forever Falls, is now free everywhere, Drinking Heavy Water is fresh out, and there’s an omnibus collecting all things Montague Portal).

Instead, we mostly talked about the craft of writing. Specifically, how to become a better writer.

Yes, you can become a better writer. Hint: use the exact same techniques used by craftspeople for millennia.

Unrelated: the title of this episode of Alive After Reading is perhaps the most appropriate of any interview I have ever given.

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.

“TLS Mastery” pre-order on my web store

Publishers have researched the best book release strategy for decades. Even the indie folks have done lots of number-crunching to determine the best day to release a book, and how to optimize that release. Me? My indie book release strategy is “trebuchet this mess into the cold world as soon as it’s done.”

Running a pre-order through Kobo or Apple or one of the little, less relevant retailers requires knowing the release date. My release date is “day back from copyedit + days to lay out in print + day to index + day to produce final print and ebook versions” = “usually 10PM on a Saturday, but sometimes bite me o’clock Sunday morning.”

These constraints don’t apply to my bookstore, though. I can have a release date of “when it’s done.”

TLS Mastery Beastie Edition
Beastie Edition
TLS Mastery cover
Tux Edition

TLS Mastery is due back from copyedit 1 April. I should have ebook out about a week later. Print should be in stores a couple days after that, more or less, kind of sort of.

The book will come in two versions, the Beastie Edition and the Tux Edition. The only difference is the cover. Buy the ebook or paperback anywhere else, you’ll need to pick which version you want. Only in my bookstore will you get both ebooks in one purchase. The hardcover dust jacket will have both, of course.

This release will let me achieve a personal goal. Here’s a picture of me with one copy of everything I’ve published, including translations.

The author, next to a nose-high stack of one copy of everything he's published
One copy of everything I’ve published

The paperback and hardcover will push the stack over the top of my nose, officially achieving “drowning height.” I could argue that I achieved this some time ago, as I don’t own a copy of the Korean translation of Absolute OpenBSD. My Platonic Ideal Pile is a couple inches taller.

But drowning’s digital. Either you’re drowning or you’re not. Either the stack would kill me or it wouldn’t. And until now, I could breathe.

I’m planning a stack taller than me before the end of 2022. And with that, I’m off to make some $ git sync murder.

New Montague Portal omnibus, and a free novel

I’ve released an omnibus of Montague Portal novels and stories, Aidan Redding Against the Universes.

It collects Forever Falls, Hydrogen Sleets, Drinking Heavy Water, Sticky Supersaturation, and No More Lonesome Blue Rings in one convenient doorstop. Yes, in this order. It’s not exactly chronological, but Montague Portal fans have strong opinions on the order they should be read in and who am I to argue?

You can grab this omnibus in ebook, print, or a luxurious dual-layer illustrated hardcover at:

With the release of this omnibus, the short novel Forever Falls is now free. Yes, this is very much a “the first hit is free” situation. Many folks won’t try a new author without a free sample. The hope is that they’ll read Forever Falls, want more, and save themselves a few dollars by buying the omnibus.

And with this, I’m pretty much out of procrastination. I guess I better start work on $ git sync murder.

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!

“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.

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 (
  • 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

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.