Friday, September 26, 2014

Choices



There's a man. Bloodied, but unbowed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

How much of my stuff is a souvenir?

There are two phases to downsizing your stuff, and it's entirely possible to cycle between them in tune with the 60 Hz hum of a dying transformer.

1.) Junk is stuff you throw away - and so much of this stuff is junk! It's great to be getting rid of this!

2.) Stuff is junk you keep, and I can't get rid of this! Or that! Or that either! And that will probably come in handy, and "Two is one and one is none!" Col. Cooper's ghost would frown if I threw this out!

It's fairly easy to get rid of the first layer of junk, but there comes a time when you're down to stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. Part of the whole process that surprised Calmer Half, when he started unboxing things for the first time in 4 years, was just how much of the things that were packed as good stuff turned into junk he could give away when he finally started sorting through to deal with it.

And today, I found a perfect quote to explain why.

"Physical books are souvenirs of the experience of reading the book."
-Tracy Hickman

This explains many things, like why I keep a pile of paperbacks I haven't reread in years, but loved - and always end up rebuying if I give them away. It's why I cheerfully paid full retail price to buy a hardcover signed edition of Mike Williamson's Freehold, well over a decade after I first read it on a beat-up CRT monitor, page at a time on Baen's Free Library. It explains why some fans of Calmer Half buy the print edition as well as the ebook - or even after they've read the ebook. They want the souvenir from the experience.

It also explains my fifty-odd t-shirts, some of which are old enough to rent a car and nowhere near fitting my current proportions. This shirt is the one I was wearing when I got my flight license. This was the first orienteering course I completed. This was a great scifi con where I met friends. This was the sweatshirt a kind stranger shoved under my head while they waited for the ambulance to come, and the EMTs just tucked under me when they put me on the stretcher. Heck, this even explains the mis-matched utensils in the drawer - this is the set that's complete, but these knives are from the set Calmer Half got for his house when he bought it...

As long as emotions are still attached to the souvenirs, they're stuff that's painful to get rid of. But if I learn to let it go, to look back and realize I'll always have the scent of snow off the glaciers adding its distinctive lilt to a warm Alaskan summer day filled with friendship and muddy malamute paws in my memories, then this is just a pair of jeans so battered they're indecent, and too small anyway.

(Besides, I have no doubt G---- could always reach over to the futon and send me enough spare malamute fur to build a small dog, if I really needed the reminder.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

What does that mean?

Once upon a time, after the dinosaurs were gone but when you could still hear the echoes of their footsteps, I was a small child in elementary school. Even back then, I liked science fiction novels, but would settle for reading six chapters ahead in the textbook rather than listen to the teacher go at the pace of the slowest kid in class. However, I didn't understand everything I read or heard, so I'd often ask my parents.

The sad part is, all those burning questions I was so frustrated at the answer "wait until you're older"? I don't remember any of them now. And half the ones I went to look up in the dictionary, I forgot due to distraction. Wikiwandering is nothing new to any kid who had encyclopedia sets or the unabridged OED available.

However, there were some answers that made a LOT of sense, and Daddy could tell me answers for hours.

(This would have been several years before daddy started teaching me about depleted uranium's really cool uses (even more versatile than enriched uranium!), but probably about the time he had me memorize the periodic table with lots of "Hydrogen goes boom, helium makes you squeak when you talk, and lithium burns really hot and sets the asphalt parking lot on fire if you toss a cube out the lab window into a snowbank.")

The second time an elementary school teacher asked a puzzling question, by G-d, I had an answer.

"What would happen if they held a war and no one came? Um.... yes, Little Wing?"

"Conquering, looting, pillaging, and burning! Like all the city-states that didn't have allies handy when Ghengis Khan came to town, or the Vikings rowed in from the sea! Did you know the Assyrians used to make walls with the skulls of their defeated enemies?"

That night, I had a new question for daddy. "The elementary school teacher tried to give me detention, but the principle said your answer was right. Daddy, what's a rhetorical question?"


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stuff!

"Junk is stuff you throw away, and stuff is junk you keep."

I've now given away about 70% of the glasses, mugs, and silverware I owned, as well as at least half the plates and bowls. The three partial sets of measuring cups have been replaced with one matched set, the chipped bakeware all tossed, all but two of baking pans and why do we have 5 pie tins, mixing bowls down to half what they were, bread pans all but gone, pots and saucepans thinned...

And you know, it hasn't actually affected the schedule for washing dishes? It does mean there's a lot less clutter taking over the sink and counters, though, before the dishes are done. Some days, everything even gets scrubbed and stuck in the dishwasher, awaiting a full load, and the counter and sink stay clean, clear, and dirty-dishwater-stink free.

So that's the bright side.

On the other paw, the last two pickup-loads we've moved have been sharply capped by "drop everything and run, the rain's started falling." At least it's the cookbooks that got wet, not the military history books. Cookbooks with watermarks and stains are just... books probably have good recipes. (Hint for used cookbook buying: hold the book pages-up, spine flat in the center of your palm, and let the covers fall from vertical to horizontal. Where the pages break open and lie flat is going to be a recipe that was used a lot, and will be one of the ones that make the book worth having.)

And on the gripping paw, if I could just be self-aware enough to instantly figure out the difference between "I'm bored because you are determined you have to do everything yourself and will snap at me if I pick up a single item you're not ready for me to carry to the truck. Clearly, you're doing it all wrong." and "I am having a massive, epic-level allergic reaction to the dust in this room, and am not so busy bearing dusty items back and forth that my mind is taken off the fact my skin is swelling and itching, eyes burning, sinuses hurting, and temper flaring.", domestic tranquility would be a lot more tranquil.

The "We will stop meth labs by making it bloody hard for everybody to get the allergy medicines that work!" laws SUCK DEAD RAT THROUGH A STRAW. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest the lawmakers and lobbyists who crafted and passed them, and swarms of bedbugs by night and chiggers by day cover the journalists who praised them! No, you bloody pharmacy tech, I don't have puffy red eyes because I want a meth fix, I have puffy red eyes and swollen hands because I need the bloody antihistamines I'm trying to buy! Sod off and just hand me the damnable pills!

Sigh.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Things I learned this week:

1.) If you don't have the time (or inclination) to make chocolate ganache (the chocolate super-dense "frosting" in cakes and other desserts), nutella will do in a pinch.

2.) Where I see a chocolate candy bought by my husband as a "Get better soon" treat, the cat sees a round ball-shaped object with crinkling foil twists at each end. If I don't keep a sharp eye out, they will get stol... nationalized by a furry little socialist.

3.) The very best note on Robin William's suicide I have read was at Cracked.com. Yes, the site with all the lowbrow humor you can cram into a list form. It's the most serious, wrenching note of all, and you can tell the poop jokes thrown in were there by reflex, almost like a nervous tic. It's cracked.com. Of course it's not safe for work. But I'd recommend you go read it anyway, because it's going to be the most raw and honest answer you'll ever get to "why?"

http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/robin-williams-why-funny-people-kill-themselves/

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Know Your Readers (Pricing)

Readers aren't uniform creatures with uniform buying habits, so why do we approach pricing with the assumption that they are?

Pools of readers:
1. The Free Crowd. If you put your story free, they will download it, but they'll never get another of your books... unless you put that one free, too. These are the same as a library crowd. They range from teenagers with no extra cash (the majority of the audience on WattPad) through college kids to pensioners with no extra cash (more likely to be found on Bookbub and Goodreads).

Don't ignore these readers. If they love your work, they will give you the most powerful marketing tool of all - word of mouth. If young, they're likely to come back later and buy all of your books in a few years when they have a job and income. (Baen Free Library has thus made lots of sales across the years.) You can develop lifetime fans here, who will turn into fans who buy everything you put out... but right now, they're loyal to price above all else.

However, understand they won't pay for your books. There's no money to be made from them, so while they're very relevant to marketing, they're irrelevant when it come to pricing - to actually making money to buy food and pay rent.

2. The discount crowd ($0.99 - $5.99)
Believe it or not, this is a different group from the Free Crowd. There's plenty of overlap, but it's a different crowd. Unlike the hardcore free-only, the 99 cent crowd will buy books cheap. If they're long-term broke, they're likely to use some of the tools to track your sales and only buy when the price drops. These are the people who keep all the used bookstores in business. At this price point, you're competing with used paperbacks from McKay's Powell's, Amazon... you are NOT competing with new books from B&N or Book a Million.

How big is this market? I don't know if there's a way to tell - certainly it hasn't been measured. But it's been large enough to support thousands of used book stores across the US alone (much less the charity shops in the UK), and to propel low-pricing indie authors into millions sold.

You can develop fans here. If you stay in this price range, they'll buy everything you put out the moment they discover it. (Not the same thing as the moment you release it, and that's why a mailing list / social media presence / targeted advertising is a good thing.) You can also use this range to tempt people into impulse buying your works, in conjunction with targeted advertising.

3. Occasional Bookstore Browsers. ($6.99 - $9.99)
For those of us who've been head-down in the indie world for years, and can remember the bemoaning of any changes to Amazon's algorithms, it may come as a surprise that there are a large number of people out there who only buy a book now and then, and think that they should cost about the same as bookstore prices. The idea of a $2.99 book is met with "What's wrong with it, that it's bargain-bin price?"

But to millions of readers who buy only occasionally, either for themselves or as gifts for others, as often from a brick and mortar bookshop as online, $13.99 is a pretty normal price for a paperback. If you can position yourself with all the same signals (especially cover, blurb, and correct 'feel' to your sample chapter) as a traditional publishing house, then they'll consider $6.99 a fine price to pay for the ebook.

However, this is a much smaller market, in volume, compared to the power readers who regularly trawl the used book stores, looking for their favorite authors and interesting new reads. So you'll make more money per sale, but will make fewer sales.

4. Fans. ($0 - $50.00)
All of the above categories are loyal to price, not to a specific author. And in the general world of books in aggregate, when a potential customer is looking for a new-to-them author, price will significantly impact their browsing and buying habits. However, when a reader is a fan of a particular author, the price consideration becomes very, very flexible indeed. Baen has found they can sell the unedited pre-release ebooks for $15! And the same people who paid that will drop $25 on the hardcover of the same story!

These people are to be cherished, interacted with, and the first to know when a book's coming out, because they're the ones who will, over the years, ensure you have an income from every story you tell. Take care of your fans, and nurture them with a very long-term eye; short-term gouging will only result in ex-fans who spread bad word of mouth faster than any good word could go.

---

Critical note: Readers will be all of these categories at one point or another, from one book or author to another. No single price point is The One Right Way, nor will any stay The Right Way forever and ever amen. Price with purpose, and with forethought, instead of in reaction to your hopes, fears, or feelings about the market.

hat tip: http://kriswrites.com/2014/01/29/the-business-rusch-marketing-and-readers-discoverability-part-who-knows/

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thieves' World

In a lot of fantasy set in generic medieval Europe equivalent, one of the stock characters is the plucky street thief. (Steampunk, as well, and any story involving a bazaar.)

But where does your plucky street thief come from? Who is he going to sell your stolen invention to? What is the black market in stolen goods?

..Did you know most stolen items are sold within an hour of their theft, and often within 5 minutes? Or that low-level thieves in present-day Manchester target soap and Mach III razors - precisely because they are hard to prove stolen, and easily disposed of (everybody uses soap)?

Or that there's a highly enterprising con that involves buying cheap gold-looking jewelery / knock-off copies of luxury goods and reselling them at a higher price on the black market, all the while acting like they're the stolen real deal?

Go, read. http://www.academia.edu/465485/How_Prolific_Thieves_Sell_Stolen_Goods_Describing_Understanding_and_Tackling_the

One last note: while people are people, and the entire report is a very interesting and illuminating window on the world of thieves, it is also Extremely English. This means they're blinded by their own worldview. Very sharp people put a lot of thought and effort into trying to figure out how to disrupt the economics between thieves, fences, and the not-so-innocent buyers... and completely ignored any risk involved from anyone other than the police. I assure you, thieves in Texas and Tennessee put a lot more effort into figuring out if they're going to get shot by the homeowner than thieves in Nottingham and Manchester, and that appears to be a far greater deterrent to crime right there, than anything this paper proposes as a solution.