“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 (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.

New Montague Portal novel: “Drinking Heavy Water”

I’m pleased to announce the next Montague Portal novel, Drinking Heavy Water. Take five hundred breaths and never go home again.

Drinking Heavy Water cover

SECOND CONTACT

Aidan Redding’s entire goal for her time in this universe: behave. For once. Discovering seafaring aliens trashes that plan.

The aliens raise questions. Her co-workers raise more.

The answers explain it all. And ruin everything.

On a world where gravity changes every second, Redding finds herself involuntarily allied with a mathematician from Soviet Texas as she races to save not just herself but civilization.

Forget aliens. Nothing threatens Earth’s golden age so much as ordinary human beings.

Available in ebook and paperback, at all the usual suspects. Lots of links at the book entry on my site.

Grab it at any bookstore, including these.

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.

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.

Temporally Shifting Bundles

A few days ago I wrote about the Big Time Bundle. It was supposed to expire last week.

I’m not saying that the US election broke space and time, forcing us to reset the end date. But the election definitely squeezed all of the air out of the world, and disrupted much of our publicity.

So we reset time.


The Big Time bundle is available for three more days. Ten books, by award-winning authors like Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Robert J Sawyer. And one by yours truly. All DRM-free. Dirt cheap. Part of the proceeds go to the Oregon Food Bank to help folks recover from the wildfires.

I’ve been reading these to take my mind off… well, everything. And they serve that purpose admirably.

In the meantime, I’m back to working on TLS Mastery.

Last-Minute Public Reading, on Halloween

On 31 October 2020, Halloween, I’ll be giving a last-minute online reading at Privacy Week. You’ll get snippets of $ git commit murder and a sneak peek at “TLS Mastery.” We’ll have time for a Q&A afterwards, and then a breakout session for those who for some reason want yet more time with me.

This is a last minute event; I’m filling in for someone who cannot make it. The time isn’t yet set, but it’ll be either 15:30 or 16:30 EDT. I’ll find out tomorrow. It will also appear on the Privacy Week schedule. I’ll also have streaming links tomorrow. I’ll update this post with those links, rather than spam y’all with yet another post.

This is a free event.

The main part of the talk will be recorded and publicly available, once the volunteers finish it. The breakout session will not.

EDITED TO ADD:

Talk is at 20:30 Berlin time, or 3:30PM EDT.

Streaming link is at https://stream.privacyweek.at/.

See you there!

Patreon Reorganization, January 2021

When I set up my Patreon, I had no idea how well it would work–or not. My life in information technology has me paranoid, though, so I set up my Patreon through a paranoid lens.

Patreon worked better than I feared. It’s exceeded what I hoped for. Not my wildest dreams, mind you. (My wildest dreams are not financial, mind you, so they’re irrelevant–but still.)

I am therefore changing my Patreon to be more generous.

Creators of greater Patreon savvy than myself were unanimous in telling me to give advance warning of any changes, even if they’re for the Patronizer’s benefit, so I’m making these changes effective January 2021. (They also tell me to stop calling my Patronizers “Patronizers,” but that would make you suspect someone else had taken over this account, so I’m ignoring that advice.)

The $1 level will become “See the Sausage Being Made” (down from $5). You’ll get the monthly post on my progress with current projects, plus the Unix fortune file and a short story.

The $5 level will become “Digital Reader” (previously $10). When I release something that I retain digital rights to, you’ll get a copy. Generally, that means any new pieces published by Tilted Windmill Press, fiction or non. I do not retain the digital rights for No Starch books like “Absolute OpenBSD,” nor do I have ebook rights to third party fiction anthologies like “Face the Strange” or the new “Bloody Christmas.” (Anthology stories get published separately once I get the rights back, usually within a few months of the anthology publication.)

At times I must republish old titles, usually because an ebookstore has done something horrific and I must touch all of the books, but sometimes for omnibus or collections. Such backlist titles are not included.

At $10 and above, I’ll have a new benefit: Monthly Video Chat.

You’ll get a pass to a monthly Patronizer-only live AMA session with yours truly. I’m starting this with Zoom first, as I’m already stuck using it for other meetings and it has a cross-platform web client that works on both OpenBSD and FreeBSD.
If only a couple folks show, I’ll hang around for not less than half an hour. I’ll go at least an hour if we get more folks.
Meets will be scheduled in advance, at different times of the week and different times of day, so Patronizers will get a share of time slots no matter where they live or their work hours.

While this is an “ask me anything” sort of thing, I do retain the right to not answer questions that are a) too personal, or b) would spoil the surprise.

I have no idea what will happen with the video chat, but I’ll commit to working through any issues for twelve meetings, barring personal debacle or US civil war or such. Even if the remaining half of my thyroid implodes, I should be able to sit on video chat.

The technology might be changed. If it’s wildly successful, I might need to add a moderator. If nobody shows up, or it turns into a time sink that interferes with my writing, I’ll stop it.

$20 and greater levels remain unchanged.

As it’s almost Halloween, I’d like to close by reminding you that the $250/month “What is Wrong with You???” level, which has a variety of benefits but includes me introducing you Cryptkeeper-style, is available.

A Very MWL Christmas

As if writing about TLS, filesystems, and apocalypse wasn’t bad enough, I also write Christmas stories. And sell them. To publishers.

Last year the WMG Holiday Spectacular sent subscribers a Christmas story every day for a month. It was a fictional Advent calendar. It included my Beaks short story, Sister Silence Night. It’s unquestionably a Christmas story. It couldn’t happen any other time of the year. And it’s also a Beaks story, so bring bandages.

This had two aftereffects.

One, the stories from the Spectacular have been collected in three anthologies: Bloody Christmas, Joyous Christmas, and Winter Holidays. They’re full of great stories, and I’m proud to be among them. I’ll let you guess which one has my Beaks story.

Two, the 2019 Spectacular was successful enough that they’re doing it again. And it’ll include Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween! If you don’t feel like backing it as a Kickstarter, you can subscribe and get the stories mailed to you over the holidays. I have not one but two Christmas stories in here.

If you want more Christmas from me, here’s how you get it.

Or you can wait until late 2021 and get the collected anthologies. Like you can for Sister Silence Night right now.

Or, you could wait until I publish the stories standalone. Which will happen… later. Whenever I get around to it.

Patience is hard. And I know folks who make a living by standing beneath ladders and breaking mirrors that have better luck than 2020. Bring yourself a little joy. Buy last year’s collection and back this year’s.

Oh, and the Prohibition Orcs tale that was in the Face The Strange? Woolen Torment is now available standalone, for a buck. Because it’s short.

Lots of fiction news lately, because that’s how trad publishing works: everything backed up, and now it’s breaking through and spilling out everywhere. Not to worry, I’m still cranking on TLS Mastery. Well, cranking as hard as 2020 permits. I desperately want a complete first draft as my Christmas present…