Category Archives: Blogging

The Complete Writer: Ethics for Bloggers

Writing Nonfiction: Magazines, Newspapers, Books, Blogs
Chapter 22. Ethics for Bloggers

The Complete Writer
Part IV: Blogging

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. To see all the chapters published so far, visit the *FREE READ* page for The Complete Writer. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

The Sanity Discount: Integrity, Small Businesses, and Bloggers

Bloggers who run ads are small businesses, of course. A couple of ripples in the daily flow of things led me, over the course of several days, to ruminate about integrity and ethics, and about how they should direct the course of the seemingly ubiquitous American side businesses, including our blogs.

Fair play for a client

First, a very nice new client had recently wandered in through the door [his character is irrelevant to the issue, but nevertheless: a very sweet human being he was]. He said he wanted someone to edit website copy for a successful small business in the trades. I sent my rate sheet, which frames my rates on a per-page basis. He wanted to know what I would charge by the hour. I said sixty bucks, not an unreasonable amount in the large scheme of things (twenty years ago a friend here was getting $120 an hour for similar work). He, doing business in a large city far, far away where employees’ and independent contractors’ pay is not throttled by right-to-work laws, didn’t even blink.

So I dove into the project, which was kind of fun. “Kind of fun” because it didn’t entail a lot of technical language or esoteric theory, unlike most of the stuff I do. Mathematical biosciences this was not, nor was it abstruse postmodernist blather. But there was a fair amount of it, and it needed substantial reorganization, rewriting, and new research and writing. I enjoyed this little endeavor over the course of about twenty-two hours. Eventually I wrapped the job and added up my bill, and . . .

Holy mackerel! At $60 an hour, the tab came to enough for me to buy a condo in the guy’s expensive city. It really did seem out of line, given the relative ease and mild entertainment value of the work.

Okay, it’s true that if I based my fees on how much fun the job is, I’d have to edit novels for my favorite genre publisher for free. But still . . . there’s a limit.

Seeking a fairer arrangement, I calculated what it would cost the client if I charged my highest page rate—justifiable, I figured, because of the amount of actual writing I did—and came up with an amount that was enough for The Copyeditor’s Desk to buy itself a couple of laser printer cartridges. Fairly respectable, but not enough to break the bank.

So that was what I ended up billing: about four or five hundred bucks less than the hourly rate would have commanded. But at $60 an hour, the bottom line added up to a figure utterly beyond reason. It didn’t seem right to charge that much for that kind of work.

Call it the Sanity Discount.

Hard on the heels of that exchange, an ongoing conundrum resurfaced.

Black-hat “advertising” in the blogosphere

Funny about Money is large enough to attract the attention of various individuals and groups who bill themselves as advertisers. Almost all of them want me to run paid text links. And they’re willing to pay pretty well for the privilege. I could easily double or triple Funny’s revenues by selling paid text links.

These people and their brokers approach the blogger by saying either that they want to buy ad space on the site or that they are generously offering a guest post, “absolutely free to you.”

Trouble is, doing so puts one afoul of Google’s arcane rules, designed to protect its search engine algorithm. To simplify a complicated story, if Google catches you publishing paid text links (as sooner or later it will), your page rank (a metric that dictated where your site appeared in a Google search but that has, in recent months, been abandoned in favor of “blog authority”) would magically drop to zero.

So, after you’ve worked for months or years to build a respectable page rank, these folks come along and take advantage of it; then when their practices kill your page rank, they of course abandon you.

That particular aspect is not at issue here, though. What we have at issue is the so-called advertiser’s strategy to evade discovery, which is to produce copy for a post that fits the blogger’s site theme. The paid link is then embedded in the post, in such a way that the link appears to point to something relevant to the post’s subject.

It’s important to understand that paid links are not advertising. They’re a device to suck link juice from a site with a relatively decent page rank into the buyer’s own site, as a strategy to cause the other site appear at or near the top of a Google search.

In other words, what looks like a real post is a deceptive device to mount self-serving links whose purpose has nothing to do with the host site’s content. Often it contains a link pointing to some outfit selling a service or product that runs counter to the host site’s reason for being. Why, for example, would a personal finance blogger who urges readers to get out of debt, manage money wisely, and avoid loan sharks recommend taking out a payday loan?

Why? To collect a hundred bucks for publishing two words attached to a live do-follow link, that’s why.

Such a post is, in short, advertorial. Actually, it doesn’t even rise to that level, because the articles are not really intended to be read; they exist to carry the links, which exist to use the host’s page rank to jack up the search engine page rank on the link seller’s site. While they’re billed as advertising, they’re actually a form of black-hat SEO.

Editorial vs. advertorial

Over the years since I started in journalism, I’ve worked for some of the most prominent regional periodicals in my part of the country. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as journalistic ethics, and after some thirty-two years of practicing and teaching, they tend to inhabit your thinking. When I came up, there was a sharp divide between advertising and editorial—in fact, the ad and circulation departments were housed on the other side of the building from where the editors and artists worked.

Magazines did publish crass little “articles” written by highly paid ad copywriters—earning far more than any of us did!—whose purpose was to plug paying customers. This was not surprising: magazines survive on ad revenue. Subscription income doesn’t suffice to support a print publication. However, ethical publishers mark advertorials as such: with a running header or footer saying something like “Advertisement.” Often advertorials are set off typographically and even printed on slightly different paper from the rest of the rag.

To publish advertising or SEO masquerading as a normal blog post without cluing the reader to the fact that the stuff is paid advertising: that’s dishonest, in the same way passing off an advertorial as real journalism is dishonest.

That is why many publications don’t print advertorial at all, and why those who do, if they have any decency at all, label it prominently as advertising.

Times have changed, of course, with the advent of the brave new world that is the Internet. And blogging is and is not journalism, though it has readers who presumably expect some standard of honesty from their writers. Here’s what journalistic webmaster Robert Niles says about the issue, writing at the Online Journalism Review[1]:

The old rule: There must be a wall between advertising and editorial.

The new rule: Sell ads into ad space and report news in editorial space. And make sure to show the reader the difference.

Drawing the line in the shifting sands of ethics

Accordingly, I marked the paid-link peddler’s copy as a Sp0nsor3d P0st! The numerals were intended to throw off Google’s nosy bots, which go around searching for clues to paid links.

This elicited a squawk of dismay. When I refused to remove the notice saying the post was a paid article containing links to the author’s clients’ sites, the deal fell through. Cheerfully, I removed the post from my site, and good riddance to it.

To cope with the practice of secreting paid links in fake stories, Google began to demand that all links to commercial sites be coded as no-follow links, robbing them of the coveted “link juice.” Would-be advertisers hated this, of course—because the link juice is what they were paying for—and usually they would then decline to place a paid link unless it was do-follow. Many bloggers simply take a chance[2] that Google will never catch them, and they justified the potential swat-down by arguing that PR didn’t matter anyway.[3]

Maybe it didn’t, maybe it did. The technicalities of page rank were way above my pretty little head, and so I didn’t trouble myself with them.

But one could argue, with some justice, that Google’s policy on paid do-follow links[4] was hugely unfair, since Google AdSense places plenty of paid links on your site. And because Google pays nothing like what these sometimes sleazy “advertisers” will pay, Google itself takes on a whiff of the exploitive.

About that, I say it is what it is.

Ironically, while Google’s policy is self-serving (its motive has nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with the way the company’s business model works), it in fact fed into that fundamental journalistic ethic: the effect of the rule was to discourage deceptive content and to encourage separation of advertising and editorial.

Old-fashioned . . . but then so is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

[1] http://www.ojr.org/p1623/

[2] Check out Martin Langfield’s discussion at NiemanLab: http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/03/the-flip-side-of-black-hat-seo-if-your-news-site-publishes-paid-links-you-risk-googles-wrath/

[3] Eventually Google tried to suppress PageRank as a device for assessing a site’s influence. Today an advertiser will ask what a site’s “authority” is. Danny Sullivan discusses this in “RIP Google PageRank Score: A Retrospective on How It Ruined the Web,” March 9, 2016, Search Engine Land, http://searchengineland.com/rip-google-pagerank-retrospective-244286

[4] “Link Schemes,” n.d., Google. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en&hl=en&rd=1

The Complete Writer: The Weirdness That Is Adsense

Writing Nonfiction: Magazines, Newspapers, Books, Blogs
Chapter 21. The Weirdness That Is Adsense

The Complete Writer
Part IV: Blogging

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. To see all the chapters published so far, visit the *FREE READ* page for The Complete Writer. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

The Weirdness That Is AdSense

I used to enjoy exploring the mazes of Google AdSense’s labyrinthine reports and policies. Every now and again, one would see phenomena that were truly mysterious.

One of the things AdSense could do was to identify the type of computer used to access a page. If you selected “Performance Reports” and then clicked on “Platforms,” Google would tell you how many views of your site were made by people with desktops, mobile devices, etc. This still amazes me. It creeps me out: who needs Google spying on users in quite that much detail?

Over the one week, for example, Funny about Money readers viewed 563 of the site’s pages with “high-end mobile devices.” Some of them apparently clicked on ads, since they generated a couple of bucks that week. The first time I discovered this blandishment, a few people had been accessing the site through their mobile gadgets, but none rose to any advertiser’s bait. Over time, though, some of them began to bite.

Meanwhile, 5,005 pages were viewed from desktops. Unclear whether a laptop is regarded as a “high-end mobile device” or whether a MacBook (for example) is included among desktops.

Equally unclear what is meant by “unmatched ad requests,” a line that appears on the “Platform” page. Whatever it is, it can’t be very significant: it always registers “0.”

AdSense kindly includes a sort of glossary with its reports page—it’s really an agglomeration of FAQs, I think. Look up “unmatched ad request” and you get the answer to some customer’s question about why this item appears in his reports:

An ad request is counted each time your site requests an ad to be served, even if no ad is returned. Unless your coverage[1] is 100 percent, you will have more ad requests than matched requests (ads that are returned and displayed on your site), resulting in some unmatched requests.

Some reports have columns that are meaningful only for matched requests. For example, the Targeting type report shows how ads displayed on your site have been targeted. When an ad request is unmatched, there are no ads to consider, so the request has no targeting type.

This is why unmatched requests appear in a separate row.

Moving on, the Biggest Mystery of AdSense is why some days and some weeks vast lucre (oh, say, $1.95 a day!) comes pouring in, and at other times pay is in pennies. For a few weeks, FaM would crank more pennies than usual (in the dead of summer when readers should be vacationing at the beach!). But shortly thereafter it wouldn’t turn enough to get AdSense off its duff to send a payment. I never did, for the life of me, figure out what I was doing (if anything) to cause AdSense revenues to increase in some weeks and flatten out in others.

It does seem as though spikes in revenues may increase when you discuss certain topics. For example, one spike occurred around the time I was holding forth about credit cards. A bunch of ads for banks, credit cards, loan sharks, and the like came up (at least, they did on my computer—apparently these things are tailored according to what Google can see of your browsing habits as it spies on you). Maybe ads from well-heeled institutions pay better . . . that is, maybe Google charges ING more than it charges some local air-conditioning or pool company and then passes a few pennies of the profit along to the site publisher?

That would explain why some bloggers create whole sites devoted to nothing but discussing credit cards. Boring, but profitable.

AdSense occasionally performed moderately well for Funny about Money. Not well enough to retire to the Côte d’Azur, by any means, but well enough that if I could just be certain it would behave that way all the time (it did not!), the S-corporation could have afforded to buy me a cell phone.

But no.

AdSense is much like adjunct teaching: catch as catch can.

[1] For an incomprehensible definition, check this one out: https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/92360

Image: Shamelessly ripped off from Wikipedia.

Whoa! Will Medium come to the rescue?

For hevvinsake. I just discovered that I may not have to delete copy from P&S Press before publishing on Medium!

Well. That would be a bit of a godsend. I’ve been, shall we say, not happy at the prospect of having to deconstruct this site. Turns out you can import your blog — part and parcel — to Medium, and not only will this action not trash your Google ranking, it actually will improve it.

Check out what Andre Piazza has to say, in a post about optimizing Medium stories:

Find new audiences: import your existing content to Medium

Sometimes, you have already done the hard work: creating the content. Now, it’s time to reap the benefits.

This chart shows the number of view, reads and recommends one Medium user gained in the course of 30 days simply by importing his existing blog. No new content created. Credit: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/07/14/medium-publishing

You should consider importing your entire blog to Medium. You don’t need to delete the original blog (or posts); in fact, the objective is precisely to keep the original content in its place. The advantages of importing all of your posts at once are:

• Efficiency: no need to copy and paste posts individually. Your content will be automatically import to Medium

• SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and Findability: when importing the posts, Medium will automatically add a CANONICAL statement to the HTML code linking to the original blog’s URL. This ensures that search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo) will process both links in a way that increases your search rankings for both posts (original and Medium’s) and also grows the authority of both assets: your blog and your Medium page.

If you’re ready to give the import tool a try, start here and on the comments, keep us posted of the results.

Medium’s algorithms will place your content in front a new audience that otherwise would never have heard of you

Outstanding! Even if exporting this blog to Medium doesn’t increase the number of eyes on copy, the fact that it will not crash Google search results is huge. Just the sheer amount of time saved by not having to swivel-hip around taking down content so that it will have been off-line for ≥ two weeks by the time it goes up on Medium…omigod! How can I count the ways that I did not want to do that?

He also suggests simply reposting Medium stories on LinkedIn, rather than jumping through hoops revising them to make them resemble new copy:

Find new audiences: repost your Medium stories as LinkedIn articles

Same content gains different traction in different social platforms. That happens because the same content will be showed to more or less people (and in different ways) depending on the platform it was written and the platform it is being shared.

For example, a Medium story will usually get less eyeballs when shared on Facebook (as a link) when compared to the same content written as (a native) post on Facebook. This happens because social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube favor distribution of content that is native to them. Facebook is notorious for giving preference to videos directly embedded to its posts versus videos shared as a link in YouTube.

As you start developing a collection of Medium stories, consider sharing them on LinkedIn as (native) articles. This not only likely increase the number of readers to that content, but also will get you new readers, some that will potentially cross-follow you to Medium.

Start here to post articles on LinkedIn by copying the content from Medium and pasting on LinkedIn. Remember to add a statement like this to the bottom of the post: “This article was originally published on Medium <link to the article>.” For more ideas on how to use the footer to improve your Medium game, read on below to number 12.

This also registers as some kind gift from heaven. LInkedIn will be my main stand-in for the defunct Facebook, because I already have a presence there and already have some followers. But there, too, I’ve felt I had to write all new copy for LinkedIn. Like the latest, for example

Naturally, I can’t be posting chapters of strange fantasies like Ella’s Story there. LinkedIn really isn’t the place for fiction. And I’m not at all sure Medium is the place for it, either, though I did find an article describing its use for publishing fiction.

Welp…the Learning Curve looms high, up ahead through the misty altitude. Just getting started learning how to work it and have not yet tried to establish a site there. But in the meantime, I will UN-unpublish the chapters in Ella’s Story, If You Asked, and Complete Writer, and will not have to take down the accruing full MSS for each of those.

It’s a miracle! 😀

Reamed, Steamed, and Dry-Cleaned

Welp, it’s only quarter to eight in the evening, but I’m simply too whipped to build the page and post the first chapter for the third book in progress — which unlike the other two, really is a work in progress — that I plan to publish here at Plain & Simple Press.

Not that I’ve done that much today. Here’s the thing: I finally gave in to CardioDoc’s entreaties that I try the mildest blood-pressure drug he can think of, even though I question that it’s necessary at all. It’s a long story, but shall we say it was recently punctuated by a PA at the Mayo opining that she would not prescribe any meds for an average blood pressure in the 120s/80s.

I’ve resisted: the reason being that I’m hypersensitive to prescripton and nonprescription drugs. As a child, I almost died from a reaction to a popular antibiotic of the time, administered for a cat scratch — the doctor told my mother I would not live through the night. Oddly enough, he was wrong…hence a world plagued by my presence. I’m even allergic to aspirin. And acetaminophen. And ibuprofen. And iodine. Who knows? Maybe I’m even allergic to allergy pills.

If one in ten thousand people has some weird, rare, exotic reaction to a drug, I am invariably that person. But a few spikes — one of them a breathtaking 165/105 — have been alarming. Yes. Alarmed, I decided to capitulate and have been swallowing pills for the past couple weeks.

So since this supposedly benign med has kicked in and indeed has depressed my blood pressure into the subterranean range, I have felt so tired, so weary, and so foggy that I can barely function. Getting through an ordinary day’s to-do list leaves me falling-down exhausted.

Today there wasn’t that much to do:

  • Take the dogs for a mile-long walk
    • Didn’t get far with that. There was so much traffic on the ‘hood’s main feeder street, I couldn’t get across it, so we had to take another route that only walked up about 3/4 of a mile
  • Download data from bank and credit-card accounts, figure out the accountant’s new spreadsheet system, and install the data in the spreadsheets she sent.
    • I truly hate Quickbooks. I truly hate Excel. I truly hate crunching numbers. This tooth-grinding, three-pronged chore absorbed about three tedious hours from Hell.
  • Check pool chemicals and adjust.
    • Done: almost out of chlorine
  • Change out pool pump pot basket. Clean.
    • Done. Notice filter’s pressure is rising; automatic cleaner is slowing down. Mental  note: cope with that. Later.
  • Post to writer’s group at Facebook.
    • Done. Just barely.
  • Post to Funny about Money
  • Haul six wicker chairs back outside, the rain having stopped and the chance of more estimated at nil.
    • Done. Dinged a newly painted wall in the process and so had to…
    • …clean and repair damage inflicted by that exploit.
  • Inspect K-1 for an investment made, years ago, by my ex- and me in a land fraud bank. Package it up and haul it over to Wonder-Accountant’s place.
    • Done.
  • Post a chapter of Ella’s Story here at P&S Press
    • Sooo…NOT done.
      • Discover that Wyrd has lost data in what appears to be the latest version of the Ella’s Story file. Search, search, search, and frigging SEARCH SOME MORE trying to find it.
      • Eventually I do recover what I believe to be the latest file (though have not searched Time Machine’s back-up of DropBox, because that’s more techno-frenzy than I care to take on.
      • Am reminded, though, that I drafted recent parts of the partially lost chapter in ink, on paper, by hand. Could it be?
        • YES! Find the lost copy scrawled across the pages of an artist’s sketchpad.

Decide to post chapter tomorrow, thankyouverymuch.

One of the other interesting effects of this fine antihypertensive drug is that every time I fly into a hummingbird-like rage, along come a hot flash and a screaming headache. Apparently it drops the blood pressure so much (under 110/75) that my system can no longer handle a true, elegant, and fully realized flying rage.

Lord, spare us.

Tweeting to the Choir

Have you, truthfully, ever been able to see the sense of Twitter as a marketing device? It’s unclear to me that it’s as effective as people claim.

Consistent tweeting adds up to an unholy time-suck — in the most vivid sense of the word: time sucked down the drain and wasted, washed out to sea. I’m willing to try it if it will help me link with people who might enjoy reading Camptown Races books and consequently might buy them. But Twitter crawls with independent publishers who “follow” each other and then post nothing but ads for their self-published bookoids.

Few of the tweeters I’ve followed seem ever to have heard of the “Give, Give, Give, Right-Hook” concept of social media marketing. Obsessively posting images of your latest Kindle book cover — over and over and over — does nothing to help your cause. It gives the reader no information, other than that you publish things in a given genre.

I’m left with questions:

If you don’t read, review, and tweet other writers’ books, why should other writers buy and read yours?
How many Twitter customers can be expected to bite on one’s advertisements?
Is building a readership of people who compete directly with you a wise use of Twitter?
What can one learn from this experience?

If you want me to care about you as an author, you need to persuade me that you’re a human being, not a marketing bot.

If you want me to buy, read, and review your book, you might consider buying and reading my book. And use Twitter to let me know about it. Use Twitter to let others know if you did or didn’t like my book. And why.

But figuring out how to make it work that way is a challenge. Maybe, one suspects, an insurmountable challenge.

Recently it dawned on me that rather than following people who are like oneself, the trick is to follow those who fit some other model. The Internet swims with lists of “Top NN People to Follow on Twitter.” I stumbled on one listing people and sites in the book industry. They’re not up-and-coming publishing companies or writers. They’ve arrived.

And what do you find when you read their tweets? Rarely do they flog their books on Twitter. Instead, they comment briefly about issues or post links to interesting articles or notices.

Clearly, if you want people to read you, you should bestir yourself to write something worth reading. In admanese, we might say something like “Don’t sell them; tell them.”

😀

 

 

 

FOUND on Twitter

P1000759Welp, Twitter is already paying off, in a charming way. Check out this lovely blog at WordPress, by a writer presenting herself as Rosie Amber. Unfortunately, WordPress (which has become almost as obnoxious this way as Blogger) wouldn’t let me sign in under the email address it had glommed, because it’s associated with one of the many sites I’ve established there in the past and whose password I no longer remember or have a record of.

So, SO glad to have migrated the stray provinces of the Blog Empire off WordPress.

Anyway, love that rose image, and also like the idea of reviews + author interviews. Definitely “following” this Tweeter, and bookmarking her site under “Marketing.”

Thot I was gunna die after several hours of wrestling with Amazon/Goodreads Authors this afternoon. Maybe there’s hope for alternatives to the Amazon megalith.

Writing Enterprise: Nose permanently attached to grindstone

Actually, I believe my nose has grown onto the grindstone, sort of like a tree trunk growing around an object in its way. Progress is being made on the new Racy Writing enterprise, but as usual everything has to crash on my head at once, so I can’t focus on the specific tasks at hand without distraction.

The last freshman comp course I will ever have to teach (I sincerely hope!) is now over and grades are posted. No one flunked, thank God, and only two got D’s. So that’s a mercy, and it’s also one distraction permanently off the table.

A week or ten days ago, I compiled a list of Über-To-Do’s needed to change heading for The Copyeditor’s Desk and its imprint, Plain & Simple Press. Tacking this particular ship into the wind is quite an undertaking. I figured if I could do three of the following per day, in a week or so I’d be ready to devote most of my time to writing and publishing short racy squibs.

Move the Blogging Empire, which consists of a lot of sites, from my web guru/friend’s server to WestHost.

Said friend does a wonderful job of wrangling websites, but he’s a young dad of four who recently landed his Dream Job in the corporate world.  Bizarrely, though, Dream Jobs require you to work, and since this guy isn’ta slouch, you can be sure every living, breathing moment of his life when he’s not caring for his family is spent working. So he folded most of his small IT business when he jumped on the commuter train. He kept a couple of his old clients, including moi, but it soon became apparent that he was going to need some time to have a life.

Another blogging friend referred me to her back-end Web guru. At this time we’ve moved the passel of websites to the self-hosting server. In the next few days, the new guy will reorganize the sites (well.. re- is not operative for something that’s grown up like topsy: he’ll organize them into something rational.

Writers Plain & Simple remains alive, despite WordPress.com threatening to close it down. We will move it over to WestHost and make it a subdomain of plainandsimplepress.com, the site for my S-corp’s Plain & Simple Press imprint. Watch this site, and please…try not to get lost! 😀

Assign remaining ISBNs to upcoming books.

Mooted. You have to have the cover art to do that, and I still haven’t been able to get the artist off the dime. He says he’s done about half of the covers for the Fire-Rider series.

Purchase another 100 ISBNs.

Done. All upcoming books now have informally “assigned” ISBNs, which at least I can enter on the copyright pages. Officially inscribing them with Bowker will have to wait until (yesh…) the artwork surfaces.

Set up Excel spreadsheet to track ISBN purchases and assignments.

Done.

I really need a database. Access didn’t come with the version of MS Office I bought for the Macs. And come to think of it, I don’t even know if Access will run in the Mac environment. In any event, it’s been so long since I’ve used Access, the re-learning curve would be excessively high…so for the nonce I’ll have to make do with Excel and Quickbooks.

Experiment again with using PowerPoint to create cover art for e-books. Check out that link: King’s covers don’t look staggeringly awesome, but they’re sure as heck good enough for genre fiction. And believe me, folks who buy the kind of stuff Camptown Races Press will publish are not buying it for the covers. 😉

To do, pending download of some stock art.

Actually, in the past I’ve tried following the guy’s how-to steps with an ordinary photo and found that it’s easy to do. Remains to be seen whether I can faze the result past Amazon and Nook. But…huh…if he can do it, so can I. By golly.

Buy a month’s subscription to Shutterstock and download as many images as allowed.

Pending.

Before I actually pay for a subscription, I wanted to find and compile lists of images fitting as many categories as I imagine the naughty novelettes will require over the next six months to a year:

Biker stories
Ghost sex stories
Traveler stories
Banner images for websites
Generic sexy images
M/M
W/W
Threesomes of various combinations
Racial configurations of various combinations

Create an Excel workbook with spreadsheets to keep track of stock art and public domain images

Done.

Did I mention that I need a database?

Study the user manuals for the Friedlander templates used to compile the stories in hand. Study the user manual for Calibre. Figure out how to use Calibre to convert from Word to Kindle and ePub formats.

Done, sort of.

Today I will try these on the cookbook and hope to get the thing online, around the ongoing hassles of trying to straighten up the sites on WestHost, which as we scribble are consuming more and more time.

Because the diet/cookbook has a lot of lists, formatting it may be difficult, and so I don’t want to just hand it over to Amazon to do the conversion. If I can’t do it myself, then I’ll hire my ebook guy to do it…but of course, that means it will be weeks (if ever) before it goes online.

The novelettes and the Fire-Rider serials have virtually no elaborate formatting: no subheads, no lists, no tables, no images. So I think those can simply be uploaded to Amazon along with their cover images.

Learn specs for Kindle and Nook covers.

Done.

Learn how to upload content to Nook.

Done.

Write proposal and cover letter for Boob Book.

Done

Find a half-dozen agents or markets for Boob Book. Send proposal to the first of those.

Done.

Learn how to upload files to Snowflake Press for print-on-demand; do so for Slave Labor and order ten copies.

Under way. To be completed today, I hope. Maybe.

Learn how to sell hard-copy books on Amazon and do the fulfillment in-house, not through fulfillment by Amazon.

Later!

Publish the diet/cookbook in e-book format on Amazon.

Pending: whenever I figure out how to get it formatted propertly.

Establish an account and publish Slave Labor and the How I Lost 30 Pounds in Four Months on Nook.

Later!!

To accomplish most of these little tasks in a week or so has required me to start at around 5 in the morning and work all the way through, without stopping except for a few snacks and to cope with things that can’t be put off, until I can’t work anymore, which is about 8 or 9 p.m.

And that, my friends, is what’s entailed in quitting your day job.

Two Bookoids Down…

Only eighteen more to go! 😀

Last night finished the second of the ten to twenty racey “books” I’d like to turn out per month. “Bookoid,” is what they might best be called. The word length is definitely in the ball park of what’s being turned out. But that word length is not very long: about 7400 words, for this one.

It’s taking a lot longer to write these things than people say they take, or than I planned. I see, for example, by this blog that I thought the present magnum opus would be done two days ago. I completed the first bookoid six days before that. So it’s taking me about a week to write one of these things.

That’s only four a month, and I need a bare minimum of ten.

The big problem is the constant stream of interruptions. Some days it feels like I can’t get ten minutes without SOMETHING busting in to my concentration.

Yesterday, for example, the car had to go to the repair shop — that’s two trips through rush-hour traffic, back and forth. Twenty minutes after the mechanic dropped me off at the front door, the handyman showed up to fix the kitchen sink. He occupied a fair amount of time, though he didn’t charge anything (which was nice….since the car is about to bankrupt me).

Final student papers are coming in. To get some of them to turn in their 10-page exudations early so we’d get a little slack on the awful deadline for filing final grades, we offered them  20 points of extra credit to post their papers before Monday. So naturally, the best and the brightest have begun turning that junk in.

Okay, so the brightest students are easiest to grade, because all you have to do is slap an A on their paper and you don’t have to waste your time justifying WHY you’re giving the person a D (it’s a waste of time because these folks have heard the same stuff a score of times and don’t pay the slightest bit of attention — some of them don’t even bother to read your comments). But it still consumes time to read them, even in a cursory way.

Speaking of exudations, one of the three surgical incisions I came away from the Mayo with is infected. It’s worse this morning, so I’ll have the privilege of spending half of today trying to cope with that, which will entail another trip to the hospital and a trip to a pharmacy and probably some throwing up in response to whatever antibiotic they inflict on me.

The designer called and revealed that he is only JUST beginning to look at compiling the 18 Fire-Rider covers I need to have before I can post that series on Amazon. Grrrr! But when he did that, he also revealed that I must have been in my cups some weeks ago when I sent him the list of books & titles — he thought the title of book II is the title of book I, and from there things went downhill.

So  now I get into my files and see, yes, somehow that list got completely garbled! I’d sent him something that made exactly zero sense.

So that meant I had to rewrite that, try to get it right for a change, and send it to him.

Then there was the back and forth with the web gurus. The exiting guy — alas, this lovely man got a JOB (horrors!) and besides has four kids and a wife he imagines he should spend time with — is going to move the blog empire over to WestHost today. The new guy is going to reorganize it. Among other things, this site (Writers Plain & Simple) will become a subdomain of Plain & Simple Press, allowing the domain name to revert to GoDaddy.

This scheme — converting a number of free-standing business-related sites to subdomains of my main business websites — will save a ton of money over the long run. GoDaddy is now charging several hundred dollars a year for the many domain names I’ve claimed. Speaking of sucks: that’s a money suck.

So I’ll end up dropping five domain names and picking up one new one: Camptown Races Press, the new imprint for the p0rn enterprise. Good. Very, very good.

Because I was waiting for a number of people to call, when the phone rang I had to pick it up. Normally I don’t…when you get to be my age, you get on every predator’s phone list, so every day I get two or three phone calls from scammers trying to victimize old folks. And yes, I am on the National Do Not Call List, a pathetic joke. Sometimes I can tell the caller is a crook — the ones that spoof Directory Assistance are a bit obvious. 😀 But sometimes Caller ID won’t have enough information to tell whether it’s the handyman calling from his cell or what.

The phone kept jangling all day long. Every time I’d sit down and just get focused, BRRRRRIINNNGGGGA! And there’s some moron on the other end.

No, I cannot afford call blocking. The phone company does not want you to block their customers — the people who pay them for your phone numbers — and so they charge an arm and a leg for call blocking. No, the Panasonic phone that lets you block around a hundred numbers is not a practical option: you need a master’s degree in software engineering to figure out how to program it.

Then Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend decided that NOTHING will do but what I have to traipse out to Sun City to have dinner at his house while New Girlfriend is off in Colorado. It’s all very nice that he’d like to socialize with me, but… He invariably wants me to come out there in the rush hour. So to get there by 4:00 I have to leave here by 3:00. By the time I’ve sat around his house until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., a third of the day is shot!

(Hereabouts, evening rush hour starts at 3:00 p.m., especially during the summer when guys in construction and other strenuous trades start at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. to get around the worst of the heat.)

By way of negotiating this social event, SDXB phoned me…what? Three times? Four? I can’t recall, but every time I sat down to work, there he was on the phone again.

So, what have we got here: TEN ONGOING DISTRACTIONS breaking up ONE day!!!!! Shee-ut! No wonder I can’t get any work done.

Well, it’s after 6 a.m. We can call the Mayo 24 hours a day, so I’d better call and let them know I think this damn thing is infected. That will mean traipsing up there today. If they let me in this morning, then the first half of the day will be erased, for all practical purposes.

If I have to wait until this afternoon, then I won’t be able to go to the writer’s group I favor, which meets at the library of a westside suburb halfway to Yuma.

There’s another time suck. They meet for three hours once a month. It’s an hour’s drive each way: five hours down the hole.

Normally I do not hang out with writer’s groups — they really are an unholy waste of time for someone who already knows how to write and edit, thank you very much. But this group is something else. Most of them are already published, some of them through real presses, some through Amazon. And what they’re interested in is not how to become a Writer with a Capital W, but in how to market.

Marketing is my big weakness. Hustling my wares is far from my favorite pastime, and I’m not good at it. So I see enough value in this group to make it worth killing half a day a month sitting around listening to them.

At any rate, what it boils down to is

a) it’s taking longer to write these things than I figured (original estimate was one every two or three days), and
b) even when it looks like I have a day that’s going to be free, it in fact is a pastiche of interruption and nuisances.

That makes it unlikely that I can turn out ten to twenty bookoids a month, unless I write much shorter. How many s∈x acts can you cram in to 3,000 words? And how much space does that give you to come up with an entertaining reason to present the s∈x acts?

Turning out one a week, which seems to be about the rate we’re looking at, means not doing anything else. I haven’t written the proposal for the Boob Book, even though the chapters, intro, and appendix are ready to go. I haven’t worked on formatting the last two of 18 Fire-Rider serials so they can go online as soon as Gary finishes the covers. Nor, indeed, have I budgeted several hours to sit down and study how to get the things up.

Claro, I’m going to need those four wannabe writers to contribute to this project. So far none has come forward with a draft. It remains to be seen what will happen there. But to get even 10 a month online will take more than one person writing the stuff.

Maybe I should come up with some writing prompts for them…

On the other hand…I have to tellya! Writing this stuff IS a hoot. The one I finished yesterday turned out to be a great deal spicier than the first effort. And in 7,000 words, you can come up with characters that are more than cardboard figures. You can even create a little backstory. These are stories that are probably worth reading for more than just the smυt. But there’s plenty of that, too.

And each of these stories lends itself to a series. Think I’ll go back and forth between them. The next bookoid will be another biker story; then the following will return to the incubus tale.

Speaking of time sucks, now it’s after 7 a.m. Got to water the plants before the heat fries them and get cleaned up lest I have to schlep to the Mayo hospital. Ugh.

A New Publisher a-Borning?

Wow! Things are popping in the racey-book kettle. Most notably, four writers have come forward expressing interest in writing for the new publishing enterprise. One is the best journalistic writer I know who’s still in the business. Another is experienced with the genre, and the other two are promising.

This is amazing.

My second lively bookoid, to be called The Ouija Lover, is almost done — should wrap it up today, barring any new interruptions. I have a good idea for the second installment of the Biker Babe idea (now dubbed Bobbi and the Biker), and a fair idea for the second Ouija Lover.

Meanwhile, check out this little report about a publishing company called Ellora’s Cave: They claim at one point to have been selling 200,000 books a month! Holy freaking MACKEREL! I’ve worked for publishers who would be happy to sell 200,000 copies a year.

Well. I certainly don’t need to burn up the world like that. All I need is to earn a fraction of a living. And it looks like that actually could happen with this tack.

On another (related) front, I’m in the process of moving my self-hosted sites to another service. I probably will move Writers Plain & Simple off WordPress.com at that time — whenever we decide which service is best. I hope I don’t lose those of you who are following… If the site disappears from whatever service brings it to you, bear in mind that the domain name will remain the same: writersplainandsimple.com . Follow me there! 🙂

Why does WordPress.com make it so effing impossible to post comments???

Have you noticed that on some websites you can’t post comments unless you’re a WordPress member, or unless you jump through a series of complicated hoops to force the comments function to let you post?

This happened to me twice the other day, at David Gaughran’s extremely interesting site, Let’s Get Visible, where I wanted to comment on his excellent, detailed post that argues self-publishing will be the savior, not the destruction, of the publishing industry. Also, I wished to leave a comment at Reclusive Rachel’s most recent post.

At Reclusive Rachel, when I tried to post WP wanted me to sign in under a different e-mail address than the one I used to set up Writers Plain & Simple. This, experience has shown, causes me to appear under the username for three websites I set up for my community college courses, back when the district was using the endlessly annoying and infuriatingly unreliable Blackboard online course management software. First, I do not WANT to post as Eng102pvcc [not the real username]; I want to post under the name of this blog, which I intend to use to publicize the three books I expect to publish by the end of 2014. Second, those sites are defunct anyway, since with the advent of the Canvas course management system I no longer need an off-campus site for my online students to fall back on when the district’s system crashes, because Canvas doesn’t crash.        .

I tried to change my email/username. Typed in all the BS to get recognized. And EVERY TIME, when I hit “post comment,” the damm thing reverted to the old email/username.

Gave up.

Went over to the Gaughran site. There, the system did see me as my current username. But again, it would NOT let me post a comment. It seemed to accept all the data, which I believe to be current and correct. But when I hit “post comment,” nothing happened.

I gave up again.

This kind of thing keeps happening at WordPress.com sites. Funny about Money, my main site, is large and venerable. (It also is hosted elsewhere!). It has a nice readership, and I correspond with a lot of personal finance and lifestyle bloggers, most of whom make it easy to post comments. But by golly, every time I stumble on a good WordPress.com blog, it wants me to sign in as eng102pvcc. Here, too: log out, sign back in as plain&simplepress, and the comments function won’t work.

So next I went to WordPress’s “support,” which is just like all huge faceless e-corporations’ support: instead of hiring a few techs to troubleshoot users’ problems and answer questions, they refer you to an annoying forum, where you’re supposed to post your question to which NO ONE knows the answer. I did find an e-mail function; when you e-mail your question (which does not seem to appear among the myriad FAQs they’ve posted), all that happens is the person on the other end POSTS YOUR QUESTION TO A USELESS FORUM!

Eventually an answer of sorts came back: delete all WordPress-related cookies.

Okay. Done.

Know what that does?

It blocks you from getting back into your own website! And no, it does NOT let you post comments as anything other than Eng102pvcc, even though you do have a different username and password to sign in to the website you want to use.

Did you know that WordPress.com will not LET you delete a username? Any username you create exists forever, even if you delete the sites associated with that username. So you’re stuck with it. You can’t get rid of it.

I guess WP has decided to make its little empire a closed club. But…why? If that’s what you’re going to do, dear WordPress.com, why publish sites on the Internet at large? Why not make them visible ONLY to WordPress.com members?