People my age are not known to like change. (Might this apply more to women than to men? On second thought, I shouldn't suppose this at all to keep from being accused of being sexist.) Now it's not been a complete change, this going from being a part-time bookkeeper/part-time window cleaner to becoming a full-time window cleaner. But it has felt odd to not drive to Freeburg every other day to print checks, balance books, enter/catalog other financial information, etc. I mean, I would have been an MFA Freeburg employee for 8 years as of January 2014. Maybe if I was only in my mid-30's or so, starting my own business would not be so stressful. Actually, it hasn't been very stressful at all ... thanks to Father God providing so many dirty windows to clean this month!
To refer to a previous blogpost, my bookkeeping position at the MFA cooperative in Freeburg was eliminated as of Oct. 31. Since then, I've been a full-time window cleaner.
And how has this first month of full-time operation been?
The monetary goal set for November 2013 back in September was met around the middle of the month. Even with having to reschedule a few window jobs because of rainy weather, as well as purposely not scheduling any on Thanksgiving or today, Black Friday, that goal was wonderfully doubled by the 27th.
Ain't God good?
Because of this wonderful blessing, Wifey and I were able to tuck the overages into our savings account in preparation for the not-so hospitable to window-cleaning weather to come.
A few days ago, I called one of my regular window clients whose windows I usually clean earlier in the fall to ask if she would like me to schedule her windows for a "pre-Christmas cleaning." She expressed amazement that I was cleaning windows this close to Christmas. So I replied that I clean windows 12 months out of the year, weather permitting, or course.
And why shouldn't I? The forecast for the first week of December shows lows only in the 30s with highs reaching into the 50s.
And that's nearly perfect window-cleaning weather for me!
Even though Dave's Window Cleaning had a tremendously-successful first full month of operation, something I had planned on doing concurrently was moth-balled.
Yes, you might have guessed it: NaNoWriMo for David E. King, Author, was a wash-out.
And how do I feel about that? A little disappointed, I guess.
But as I look forward into December and even further into January and even February, there will be lots of time for writing ... even if there's nothing like NaNoWriMo in any of those wintry months.
Maybe it's like knowing that during the winter someday that big snowstorm is going to arrive. Sure, most sane people hope that it never comes, but honestly, in the back of our minds, even as we are dreading it, we know that it can come anytime. That's right! What are we supposed to expect during winter here in the Midwest? Warm, sunny days?
The crash of 2008 was a wake-up call for the MFA in Freeburg. The co-op posted a $120K loss that fiscal year because of it. Yes, it was nice that the wholesale cost of fuel fell more than 100% in less than six months. But the big problem was not moving the over-priced fuel fast enough to make room for the cheaper stuff.
It's not like it wasn't unexpected.
In fiscal 2012, Freeburg MFA posted a modest $17000 gain which was a bit of a surprise to those interested since gross sales of feed and fuel had either remained constant or had decreased from the previous year. Management attested the profit to major reductions in operating and overhead costs. It made sense at the time.
Last month, in September, the accounting firm told Freeburg MFA's board to expect a loss of close to $80K for fiscal 2013. Feed sales were down ... the fuel business had been sold to MFA Oil a few months before ... there was nothing else left to cut. Or was there?
Staff reduction ... that's what it is called. It even sounds nicer than "layoffs." But with a layoff, there's the essence of hope that when business picks up, the laid-off employees would be welcomed back with open arms.
But this is not a lay-off.
As of October 31, a mere two days from now, I will no longer be employed as the book-keeper of the Freeburg MFA. Come January 2014 I would have been working in Freeburg eight years. Is it simply coincidence that the 31st is not only the end of my tenure at the co-op but is also the cut-off for fiscal 2013? I don't think so.
So, as of October 31, I will be a self-employed window-cleaner, a job that I was doing since January 2011 in conjunction with my book-keeping duties at the MFA in Freeburg. The beauty of this new situation is I will not have to arrange my window-cleaning schedule around the days required to be in Freeburg to take care of "the books."
It also means that if I don't want to battle the cold wintry weather that's coming to clean windows, then I don't have to! Yes, the cash flow will be a little tighter, but it's not like it wasn't expected.
It also means, for the entire month of November, I can arrange my window-cleaning time around something I have been looking forward to since last winter: NaNoWriMo!
As I'm prone to do a few times a month, I started skimming The Writers' Cafe forum. And what did I happen to stumble upon?
Oyster, an e-books distribution system that many have compared to Netflix, that's what!
Now if you don't know what Netflix is, then I suppose this blogpost won't have much to offer to you. (Actually, if you don't know what Netflix is, I'm more than astounded that you are even reading this blog!)
But if you haven't rented (or even watched) a DVD in the last 12 months but have been streaming movies to your HDTV, etc. then read on!
Oh, but wanting to learn more about Oyster implies that you actually read something ... read books, for the most part ... since that is what Oyster is all about.
Basically, if you own an IPhone, you can easily download the Oyster app, agree to Oyster's terms of usage, give the company your credit card info, and SHAZAM! you'll be able to browse over 100K books much like you browse over 100K movies via Netflix (hence the strong comparison).
For a measily $9.95/month, Oyster users can access and read as many ebooks they want ... as long as the ebooks they want are available in the Oyster system.
"We created Oyster to evolve the way people read and to create more of the special moments that only books can offer. From anywhere a mobile device can go—a bustling subway car, a quiet coffee shop, or lost at sea with a Bengal tiger—our mission is to build the best reading experience, one that is both communal and personal, anytime, anywhere."
Mark Coker, the brains behind Smashwords' global ebooks distribution system, communicated in September as well his plans for collaborating with the Oyster folks:
"Smashwords authors don’t need to do anything to enjoy Oyster distribution other than ensure their books are Premium Catalog-approved."
Recently, like about a week ago, Oyster decided to offer an app to IPad owners:
"Oyster launched to much fanfare in September as an app for the iPhone but almost immediately many began asking when an iPad version of the app would launch, since many users prefer using their tablets for reading e-books. It didn't take long for Oyster to move to Apple's tablet."
Since I don't own either an IPhone or an IPad, signing up with Oyster ain't gonna happen. But from an indie-author's perspective, who happens to have an ebook available via Smashwords, I have to say that I'm a bit leery about Oyster's business model.
And what about the fine folks who frequent The Writers Cafe? Let's take a look at what they have to say:
"If I can get my books in front of more people, make money doing it, and at no additional cost...well, I'm all for it."
"It sounds cool to me, but I didn't see any info on how much you would make per 'borrow'."
"Oyster? Really? What a dumb name. Roll Eyes Opting out until we get more information."
"You mean I no longer have to sell my first born to cover my reading addiction? I can read as many books as I want? And it's not just western romances like my local library seems to stock to the exclusion of all else? Where do I sign up?"
"Oyster isn't doing the automatic opt-in. Smashwords does that with ALL new channels and everyone who is on Smashwords should know that. The problem is we're often opted in before we're notified and there isn't a SINGLE SUBJECT email - rather it is frequently buried in with the regular newsletter and I don't want to scroll past the monthly Amazon bashing and non-scientific surveys in the newsletter to get to something that's actually relevant to my business."
"Apparently they buy at full price the book that is being rented if the reader reads more than 10% (ie more than a standard sample size), so I don't think we'll be losing any money on this as authors. As a reader, I don't know. I'd have to see what books and authors were available and if the selection was good enough and in my tastes enough to be worth it."
"Money issues aside. I will not be joining Oyster because of the way they are treating authors. It should be you have the option to opt in not contact us if you want out."
"It seems to me that they have no obligation to pay the copyright holder anything, under the First Sale Doctrine. It would be exactly the same as Netflix. Although they may make deals with distributors to get large quantities of product, Netflix could just as easily buy the DVDs and rent them out to their heart's content. That's what Blockbuster and all the independent stores did for years."
"I honestly don't see how this could possibly be a bad thing. It sounds like it's pretty much an online library. I'm thinking the payment for 'borrows' will work similar to how it does in Select."
"Keep in mind, services like this one make their money off non-readers, not heavy readers. $10 a month is a lot to me, but to many in America its nothing. They spend more that in a day at Starbucks. So it becomes a nuisance charge. Not enough to make them drop even if they do not use it all that much because "next month they will find time to read" Its just like the big gym chain that charges $10 a month for membership and sits mostly empty most of the time... small reoccurring charges for a large volume of people who will likely not use the service much at all."
"But yeah, it is kind of fishy why everyone is so secretive about things and they aren't going to send out an email until days upon the release of this new program. This doesn't give authors enough time to decide if this is something that will work for them. I'm also curious to know what Mark has to say about this..."
"I'm not sure. I'm wary about it to be honest. I tend to see subscription services as being about making money for the service at the expense of content providers, though I confess I'm under researched in this area. I'm actually rather surprised to see that big publishers are taking part! Given that they seem to hate giving libraries access to ebooks, I'm amazed that they've agreed to a subscription service! I'll wait to hear the royalties and a bit more about how it works. If I'm still unsure, I'll opt out until I hear from others how it's going."
"So, three groups that can't seem to get it right, get together with people who used to work for a group that used to get it right, but these days not so much, to do something with other peoples work to make a profit for themselves? And they aren't going to give the providers of that content the information they need to make an informed, thoughtful decision about whether or not to REMAIN opted in until the last second? I suggest everyone opt out immediately, and force Smashwords to disclose the details. I wouldn't touch this with a ten kilometer pole."
"I wonder how it works? Strange that SW is keeping the royalty piece a secret, makes me think perhaps subscribers won't be as thrilled as they say and that Oyster requested they keep it quiet until after the launch to avoid any negative publicity. Yes, feeling a bit cynical maybe. That said, this could be interesting if you can pick and choose which books you'd like to include, such as the first in a series so you'd get the same benefit many qet with giving it away free."
"Hmmmm let's see 100,000 books on who knows what for $119 a year. For that I would go with amazon prime and save $40. I can find plenty of books in my preferred genres for much less than $10 a month. Ok so truth be told my TBR is as tall as a couple of authors."
" if Amazon let me read as many books as I wanted in one month, I would stick with prime too (or even a more reasonable number than one) and pay more for it too. But for right now, at the rate I go through books it's an expensive pastime, even with prime and a library card. This seems awesome for me anyway. But yeah, if amazon takes notice, I'd definitely stick with prime. Especially because this Oyster program seems apple product only at the moment with no plans for other platforms at the moment."
"Yet another thing the publishers should have thought of and done themselves years ago."
"I am intrigued and would be more than happy to participate should the terms prove acceptable, and I would be grateful to Smashwords for the opportunity. That said, it is WRONG to automatically opt authors into a distribution network, especially without giving them any details first. I'm not okay with that."
"Time to bust out those back-of-the-envelope calculations...
Each customer is worth $119.4 per year. Year one they have 1 million customer and make $119, 400, 000. They take 30% of this as profit ($35, 820,000) and leave $83,580,000. They spend $5 million on servers, customer service etc and have $78, 580, 000 left over. Each customer reads (a read is counted as merely opening a file) 500 times per year. This is 500,000,000 reads. Divide the $78 million royalty pool and you end up with $0.15716 per read. I'm guessing the actual setup will be that a 'read' is only counted once a reader gets through 1/4 of the book or some such. I'd expect also the royalty pool to not be as high as listed here and eventually the per-read amount to drop down to what Spotify/Pandora apparently pay (fractions of a penny). As a reader, I'm interested. I don't want to own most of my eBooks. I read them once and move on to the next thing. As a writer I can see that a subscription service like this could dramatically reduce my income. Instead of making ~$2 per sale I could be down at a few cents per customer. There would have to be a radical increase in reads to make up for the loss in income. If they go with a 'read' being merely an 'open' then we're going to see a lot of linkbait type stuff happening. If they go with it being 1/4 or so then we'll probably see a bestseller list emerge with a sharp spike and not much width down below. I'm very interested to see what the terms are. Also, I would like to know how this affects the TOS at places like Amazon. At $0.05 per read it could be argued I'm selling my work for five cents and Amazon has the right to price-match that."
"According to MY TOS, Amazon can only price match based on the sale of my book. Oyster does not sell books. It sells a subscription service. They can no more 'price match' a subscription than they can price match a library loaning my ebook for free. What Oyster actually pays me has no bearing on the issue, because my royalty from them is not the basis for price matching."
In my first NaNoWriMo blogpost, I focused on how I plan to average close to 2000 words/day starting Nov. 1. To summarize, I figured that I could sacrifice 2 hours each day, cranking out 800-1000 words per hour. The plan that seems to be the best is to log the first hour of the day early in the morning -- before going to work -- and concluding each day with the second hour -- before hitting the sack. And what will be sacrificed at those two times? Browsing the Intrawebz, that's what!
Yuppers, it does seem so easy ... maybe even too easy ... choosing to set aside the electronic distractions in order to meet the goal of writing a 50k+ word novel in thirty days or less.
But what about the human element? Even if the distractions appear to be taken care of, what about the distractors? What about the people who will -- by no fault of their own, with no malice intended -- attempt to get my mind focusing on things that I generally read about when I'm burying my face in the Intrawebz!
Let's pretend for a moment that it's already November ... that NaNoWriMo has already begun ... just for a moment ...
"Hey Dave! Did you happen to catch that Cards game last night?"
"Uh, no, Bob, I didn't."
"Man was that great! There the Redbirds were, one game away from elimination, when they ended up beating the Pirates ... in their own stadium even!"
"That's very nice, Bob, but I am in the middle -- "
"What? You can't be serious, Dave! You didn't watch the game? Oh, that's right. You don't have cable ... or even dish."
"Thank you for remembering that, Bob."
"But you do have a radio? DSL? You could have at least listened to the game on the radio? Or even on the Internet?"
"I suppose I could have, Bob, but I really was busy last night."
"Busy? Too busy to keep up on the Cards? What could you be doing that is more important than that?"
"Writing a novel."
"Oh, that's right. You're writing another novel. What? Didn't you just finish your third novel a few weeks ago?"
"May, Bob. I finished the last book of the trilogy in May."
"Never mind ... but it's the Cards, Dave! Where's your Redbird spirit? They're in the playoffs, man! The playoffs! And they were one game away from elimination!"
"I made this commitment to write 50000 words in the month of November ... to write an entire novel before the month is over."
"You did what? Write a book ... the whole book ... in a month? Now that's just nuts, Dave! Why did you decide to join this ... this NannyMoNaNooNaNoo thing? Now wait just a darn minute here! What about the NFL? Fantasy football? Aren't you keeping up with your fantasy football teams?"
"Yeah ... I guess I am."
"So how are your teams doing?"
"Fine ... I guess ... "
"It's bye-week time, Dave. You are making good adjustments for bye-weeks, aren't you?"
"Oh yeah ... bye-weeks ... I hate bye-weeks ... "
"Aw, c'mon Dave! You can't be serious? You're too busy writing a silly novel to fix bye-weeks holes?"
"Well ... I suppose I could be -- "
"What about the federal government shutdown? The Obamacare debacle? The budget mess? The debt ceiling crisis?"
"I think I've heard something about that ... "
"Oh no you don't! You definitely gotta be pulling my leg now, Dave! Seriously? All of Washington ... the whole bloomin' country ... is in an uproar! And you think you've heard something about it? War memorials have been shuttered ... World War II vets in wheelchairs have torn down those barriers ... "
"I'm trying to write at least 2000 words a day, Bob. And to do that I have to sacrifice the time I spend on the web."
"My oh my oh my! This is not like you, Dave, not at all like you! Aren't you the guy who teases everybody about their knowledge of current events? Aren't you the guy who has always taken pride in being on top of who's hot and who's not in the NFL? Aren't you the guy who by now has memorizedKU's men's basketball team roster?"
"Am I really that crazy about the Jayhawks? Oh never mind ... It's called NaNoWriMo ... writing an entire novel of at least 50000 words ... in the month of November ... "
"Yeah, yeah, I've already heard that, Dave, but this is -- "
"I have chosen to sacrifice ... to give up my time ... to stay away from the Intrawebz ... I have chosen to write ... chosen to write ... chosen to write ... "
I went to nanowrimo.org and signed up to participate in this year's National Novel Writing Month ... even though the idea of committing myself to averaging close to 1700 words a day for the entire month of November makes me cringe!
But what's to be afraid of? All it will require is committing to stay away from Facebook, Google+ and a few other websites that suck away my free-time. From writing/publishing three novels and nearly a dozen short stories already, I know I can crank out 800-1000 words per hour -- as long as can I force myself to not backtrack to revise/edit!
Yes, that's the ticket! Just slap as many words into that textfile as fast as possible, throwing concern for quality out the window! Nah, just kidding about not wanting quality.
Pursue a balance ... that's the real ticket! What ends up as a first draft each day (or writing session) must not be garbage ... must not be sentences and paragraphs thrown together just for the sake of generating 1300 words per day.
Seems reasonable enough, right?
Now ... when's the best writing time? First thing in the morning is a possibility (since I'm usually up by 5 anyway). But for many years, that's been a great time to "browse" the web! How can I possibly resist the temptation to fire up Chrome to check out the early-morning pulse of the Intrawebz?
So ... wow about after the duties of the day have been completed? On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, that's been around noon each day. But after working hard all morning cleaning windows, won't it be hard to force myself to not fire up Chrome once again, rationalizing that I need time "to recuperate" after working so hard?
Then there's the early evening hours ... between 6 and 8? Now there's a possibility. After stoking the wordsmithing-furnace with Wifey's wonderful home-cooked dinners, I should be able to force myself to not fire up Chrome, right?
I'm beginning to notice a pattern.
If the goal of typing at least 1300 words per day, of writing a novel of at least 50K words in the month of November is going to be attained, "firing up Chrome" will have to happen a lot less-often than it happens right now.
Yes, if being a part of NaNoWriMo 2013 is a worthy goal, then I must also have a goal of not spending so much time exploring the Intrawebz.
But how to accomplish such a feat?
I've heard/read of people turning off their DSL/cable modems while they are writing. But does that actually work? I mean, how hard is it to turn the thing back on? I suppose I could actually disconnect The Beast and give it to Wifey an hour each afternoon and evening. She wouldn't mind not being able to get online during those two hours, right?
As a related thought, a few of us CIA'ers (Christian Indie Authors) have been "word-warring" to prepare for NaNoWriMo and plan to WW once November finally arrives. For a word-war to take place, at least two of us agree to write for an hour, starting and stopping at the same time, and this "war" is discussed via the Nano Word Warriors Facebook page.
So, if the plan is to shut-down/disconnect the modem during my writing times, how can I set up a word-war with any of my fellow Nano Word Warriors?
Realistically, turning off the modem is not going to happen. The only way I'm going to beat this thing is to force myself to stay focused on writing and not browsing.
After all, it's only, on the average, 2 hours a day, right?
Know what DRM is? Digital Rights Management is an software encryption system that is suppose to make ebooks, digitized music and even videos safe from digital pirates.
Amazon, via its Kindle Digital Publishing division, gives authors a choice. Want to help Amazon to keep pirates from selling or even giving away your book(s) without your permission? Then allow Amazon to insert some DRM code into your ebook and viola! It's piracy-protected!
Or is it?
Some disgruntled authors have googled the titles of their precious offsprings only to discover them being sold/given away via obscure websites. And they are more than a little tiffed about it!
A few months after uploading Betrovia to Amazon's KDP servers, I thought it would be interesting to search the Intrawebz for it. And yes, even though I allowed Amazon to attach DRM code to the ebook, I found a few websites offering it for free.
So what could I do? What did I do?
I knew that anything placed within the insecure confines of the Intrawebz would someday end up in the hands of those hoping to make a quick buck from it. For me, writing has become a fairly impersonal activity: I slap stuff onto my blog, my Facebook page, even my Twitter feed without much reservation about what someone might end up doing with it. And I have hardened my conscience to the feel the same about my stories.
But what about getting official, US government copy-writes for my stories?
I read a few weeks ago that over 500k ebooks will be uploaded to Amazon within the next 12 months. That's over 1/2 million ebooks! And how many of those will be copy-written by the US federal government? How many have been copy-written in the last year? The last five years?
How about not getting all worked up over somebody "stealing" my story and think of it as "spreading the word"?
Send a DMCA notice to the place hosting the PDF (works everytime). Though you will find some sites state they have it in PDF ( other formats ) but they dont. Their end goal is to get people to their site and click on their adsense ads. Nothing more. Crazy but it happens.
Double check to see that they really have your book. Most of these sites just 'scrape' the publicly available info off of Amazon (cover, blurb, reviews) and package that as the book.
DMCA takedown requests won't necessarily be honored.The Pirate Bay, for example, would laugh in your face (if they bother to reply at all). Reputable sites like Scribd should honor such requests within a few days, but that won't necessarily prevent your work from being pirated there again in the future. It's also very possible that the sites have simply scraped your metadata to lure people into clicking useless links. A shocking amount of the internet is worthless garbage written by robots. Personally, I would encourage you not to worry about this sort of thing. My belief—and I say belief because I can't point to any empirical studies, but it's a belief shared and encouraged by luminaries such as Neil Gaiman and Hugh Howey—is that the visibility is helpful, and you're likely to gain more than you lose from being pirated (assuming you lose anything! I wouldn't assume that you do). Setting that question aside, you would probably have to work on this every day or every week just to keep up, and there's no guarantee that you'll gain anything from that effort—you might simply be wasting your time, or even be losing readers who you could've sold to otherwise. People will still be able to share your work for free, without your permission, if they're determined to do so. The only way to prevent piracy with certainty is to never publish at all.
If it's a torrentand you can't get it taken down, one alternative is to upload your own, better-formatted, version with links to your other books. These people are rarely your customers/readers anyway, and you might convert some along the way.
Every author should have a 'Pirate-Friendly' version and seed the internet with them. A kind note, thanking people for 'borrowing the book from the grand library that is the internet' with a note on where to paypal if they enjoy it and links to other works.
Pirates are in the minority, and they're never likely going to buy your book in the first place, so I think trying to engage with them, and perhaps *give* them a reason to buy from you in the future is better than worrying about it, because realistically, it can't ever be stopped.
Most of those sites do not actually have your book. They tend to be bots scraping data off Amazon or Books in Print. They scam is to get people to sign up for the site and provide their contact information, which is then sold to spammers. Often, they include having you jump through hoops before you can 'see' the book (sign up for three newsletters, watch two videos, sign up for this free 30 day trial, and then stand on your head and sing America the Beautiful). If someone is actually stupid enough to go through all of that, they usually end up with spyware installed on their computers.
"Dear white-collar pirate,
Attached please find my latest contemporary fiction book..."
While I don't go out of my way chasing pirates because I don't like playing internet whack-a-mole, I sure as hell am not going to go out of my way to reward scum for their behavior, either. I'm not going to grovel at the feet of selfish, entitled punks and beg for donations when I have honest, legtimate customers who actually respect authors. I think it disrepects honest customers who play by the rules to give scumbags books for free. I don't reward bad behavior.
One other point that may help as a salve: People who are committed to getting all their entertainment free in pirated form aren't your potential customers anyway. They're not buying anything from anyone.
There's a difference between pirates and scrapers. Pirates just want to get stuff for free for a variety of reasons, from just not wanting to pay to avoiding DRM related problems (including DRM that hacks your freaking computer or makes the product unusable), to digital product ownership issues that have not been and will not soon be addressed. They're not evil or scary monsters, they're just folks. Whatever harm these people do to creators is negligible, limited mostly to ego. Scrapers on the other hand are people who take other people's work and then try and turn a profit on it for themselves. They're a kind of pirate, but not the end-all and be-all of pirates and they are both malicious and a detriment to creators because they really are stealing paying customers from them.
I once posted my free KDP giveaway on Reddit, and one guy came out of the woodwork to spit in my face and brag about how he can get any book he wants for free. He actually acted as if he were offended that I'd shown my face in there, trying to make a living from my hard work. So yeah, there are plenty of entitled morons in the pirate community. That said, I was in high school when I discovered MP3s. I made 2 bucks allowance every first week, and 5 bucks every second. So in my case, the notion that I wouldn't have bought the music anyway was absolutely true. I had higher pursuits (pop and chips) than spending a month's worth of cash on a CD, on which there were 2 or 3 songs that I actually liked. MP3s actually allowed me to cultivate a love of music where I wouldn't have before. Once when volunteering in the library at the homeless shelter, a down-on-his-luck guy held up his smartphone and proudly showed me all the books he had downloaded from Pirate Bay. I don't know what happened to him since, but I think it's safe to say he wasn't going to buy anything anyway. And I won't begrudge his reading. Becoming an author gave me more insight into this kind of thing than I had previously. And I do take measures to safeguard my work. That guy on Reddit still stands out in my memory, but I have to assume he doesn't represent the majority.