Puffins by J.C. Penner 2014

There are many many many things to photograph in this collection of J.C.'s belongings, but this is one of my favorites of the first two hours documenting. :)
Taken on August 15, 2013 at 09:49PM
Uploaded to Flickr on August 20, 2014 at 08:59PM: http://flic.kr/p/oQ29w4

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@ Posted on August 21, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

bought an audiobook 2014

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

@ Posted on August 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM in Books | Comments (0)

Watching my author rank, but not too closely 2014

Not sure I ever got a screen shot or noted my Amazon author rank numbers during my first year as a published author, but before it rolls off the chart, here's my second and much of my third:

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It fluctuates a lot—do not base your self esteem on this number—but it's clear that having two books out helps a lot. It'll be very interesting to see what happens when I add a third to the mix, which I hope to do next year.

I suspect that the few dramatic drops in 2014 (one of which was on my birthday, which I find rather uncivil) relate not so much to my books' performance, but rather to dramatically good performance of one or more other books in their category. That July downturn correlates well to a lot of social media chatter, for instance, about Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Bar Book, and I'm guessing many purchases of that excellent tome.

@ Posted on July 30, 2014 at 06:25 PM in writing | Comments (0)

Wonderful light 2014

sunset view of the Golden Gate Bridge as we approached Fort Mason from the east
Taken on July 27, 2014 at 12:59PM
Uploaded to Flickr on July 28, 2014 at 10:02PM: http://flic.kr/p/oxgWgX

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@ Posted on July 28, 2014 at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

bought an audiobook 2014

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

@ Posted on July 24, 2014 at 12:00 PM in Books | Comments (0)

Beware the UPS Store (or Mailboxes Etc or similar) mailbox 2014

Warning: If you sign up for a mailbox at a non-USPS location, you will not ever be able to file a change of address for it with the postal service.

Also, it's probably a franchise, meaning UPS (with their potentially-consumer-benefiting concerns about maintaining their brand) has no control over pricing, meaning the store might decide to double the fee for that mailbox at some point and leave you with a tough choice.

CRMAs are required to offer mail forwarding services for six months, but they can (and do) charge for them. So far as I am aware UPS Stores do not offer forwarding for a closed box for longer than that six month minimum.

Yes, it's nice to have a non-home-address to use for business or other purposes, but be aware that there are serious flexibility issues with signing up for CRMA (Commercial Mail Receiving Agency) services.

 

Update July 25, 2014: Just spent 51 minutes on the phone with USPS. The person I spoke with said her supervisor told her that you can put in a change of address from a CRMA address to a street address or USPS P.O. box. I'm going to try that and hope it works.

My particular UPS Store, while not bending on their pricing which is now 4x the cost a USPS box, did say that it is their policy to hold mail from terminated boxes for a little while and to turn it over to the former box owner if they check in, after which they return it to the postal service. It is unclear what would happen to that mail then. It's already been delivered, but maybe a change of address could kick in.

But no. After trying to submit the change of address, I got this on the USPS website:

"Mail addressed to an addressee at commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA) is not forwarded through the USPS. The CMRA customer may make special arrangements for the CMRA operator to re-mail the mail with payment of new postage. A CMRA must accept and re-mail mail to former customers for at least 6 months after termination of the agency relationship. After the 6-month period, the CMRA may refuse mail addressed to a former customer. The Application for Delivery of Mail through Agent (PS Form 1583) requires an addressee and agent to comply with all applicable postal rules and regulations relative to delivery of mail through an agent. For more information on mail forwarding regulations, contact your local Postmaster."

I have not been offered any mail forwarding service from the UPS Store and it sounds as though they would immediately put in a termination notice with USPS for accepting my mail. Not sure what that means would happen to any of my mail, but seems as if it would be destroyed or returned to sender.

@ Posted on July 3, 2014 at 11:44 AM in warnings & kvetches, work | Comments (0)

How to Avoid Setting Yourself Up for Ebook Disappointment 2014

Some lessons drawn from the how-not-to-do-it example in Tony Horwitz's New York Times op-ed, "I Was a Digital Best Seller!"

  • If you've had a negative digital publishing experience, talk to a wider range of those who've published in digital format before concluding that your experience represents "a cautionary farce about the new media and technology we’re so often told is the bright shining future for writers and readers." It's possible that the farce wasn't entirely about the platform, but also your use of it.
  • Ensure when you're contracting with a publisher that the expenses they've said they'll cover are covered as you go and that you are contractually well-protected should they not publish the piece as originally planned.
  • Also budget your own expenses and degree of risk and, with those and what you've agreed on with the publisher, stay within the boundaries.
  • Use potential future income as motivation to complete the contracted work, but by no means assume that that compensation will actually come to you. This holds true also for dreams of glorious enhancement of your reputation. Bear in mind, also, as expected sales figures get tossed about that the typical non-fiction physical book sells less than 3000 copies. Be excited about potential upsides, but be realistic—and don't count on them.
  • Once again, ensure your contracts exist and that contingencies are in place which will incentivize the publisher to honor their deal with you and, ideally, publish and pay, or at least pay an exit amount and revert rights to the work to you.
  • If you aren't great at the contractual/financial sides of the business, make sure to involve professionals who are on your side, and preferably with whom you have a long history of working together. They, like you, should be taking the long view of building your success and security. They, like you, should not assume that a single project will guarantee that success or security.
  • Get realistic estimates of potential sales and income not only from the digital publisher who wants you to do work for them, but from others with experience in that industry and with that publisher. Get an understanding of how volitile sales indicators (such as Amazon Kindle best sellers) are and what kind of total sales they represent. It's important to know what kind of sales spike can shoot you to the top of a list and how those spikes relate to aggregate sales of the work over time. Do not assume any understanding you may have of physical book sales indications will translate to these new areas.
  • Do not assume your publisher—digital or traditional—will put in the effort to bring readers and buyers to your work. Get a clear picture of what they will be doing to attract readers to your piece specifically. Above and beyond their planned effort (which like the potential returns must be taken with a grain of salt), you need to prepare to promote the work yourself.
  • Before you take on a project, research and understand the audience(s) for it. What do they like? What formats will they pay for? How much will they pay? Use this as a reality check for the proposed compensation and expenses for the project.
  • Before you take on a project, get a basic plan outlined of how you will reach those audiences. How do they learn about new works of interest to them? Whose recommendations do they trust? What communities do they participate in, and are you excited about participating in those communities too as you promote the work?
  • If your past experience is with traditional publishing only, talk to a variety of authors who've had both success and failure with digital publishing. You should pay particular attention to their experiences with promotion, both what they did and what their publishers did, as well as to what worked and what did not.
  • Thanks to frequently poor online browsing setups for ebooks—yes, iTunes Store, I am looking at you especially—random discovery of your work will be one of the least common ways for a reader to find it. People aren't generally poking around the shelves the way they do in physical bookstores. It's word of mouth and reviews on which you need to focus.
  • Plan to prime the pump for those reviews by building enthusiasm for the piece through your own professional social network. (You have been building a Twitter following around your past work, yes? And you don't have that all muddled up with your personal tweeting, right? Ditto for your professional blog or regular community participation in your areas of expertise.) Thank your readers and encourage them (without being pushy) to review the work or spread the word about it.
  • Work with the publisher to ensure that review copies will be sent out as quickly as possible, including—if you'll be releasing a physical version of the work as well as ebook—a giveaway through Goodreads.
  • Do not assume that enthusiastic readers, the kind who'll recommend your work repeatedly, will be fooled by fake glowing reviews written by publicists or pals of the author. Build enthusiasm in those whose opinions would be trusted and whom you can expect to engage with the work in detail, writing a review that is clearly by someone who cares about the topic.
  • Ensure that you have a contracted and reliable way to get copies of the work for yourself to use in direct sales (for example, at speaking engagements) and as another means to get review copies in the right hands.
  • Once again, make sure that your rights to the work are very clearly spelled out in your contract and that there is a clear path for any rights the publisher has to revert to you under conditions of them ceasing to publish the work.
  • Bottom line: Know the kind of writing you want to do, the hats you're willing to wear in the course of getting it in the hands of readers, and the realistic market for compensation for that writing with different kinds of publishers and (important and different!) through self-publishing.

    Writing is a tough job to make pay; don't enter into the profession with just a dream and crossed fingers.

@ Posted on June 20, 2014 at 03:17 PM in Books, warnings & kvetches, writing | Comments (0)

bought an audiobook 2014

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers

@ Posted on June 19, 2014 at 12:00 PM in Books | Comments (0)

Delete your Facebook! 2014

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@ Posted on June 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM in Discardia, warnings & kvetches | Comments (0)

Election Slate June 2014 2014

Was hoping to get this up earlier but a combination of travel and headcold slowed me down. Fortunately it's all pretty straightforward this time.

Governor: Jerry Brown
This guy plays economic management on the hard setting and he still seems to be winning the game. Very interested to see what he can do with a few more years of turning things around.

Lietenant Governor: Gavin Newsom
Seems to be doing just fine and working well with Brown.

Secretary of State: Alex Padilla
Seems to have done a good job in the State Senate.

Controller: Betty Yee
A fair, capable administrator.

Treasurer: John Chiang
Another sound fiscal adminstrator from whose good work the state can continue to benefit.

Attorney General: Kamala Harris
She's doing a good job, let's keep her at it.

Insurance Commissioner: Dave Jones
Seems to be doing good work so far.

Member, State Board of Equalization, District 2: Fiona Ma
Though often too partisan in more politicized positions, Ma does have a sound financial background and we can hope will be able to carry on Betty Yee's good work.

U.S. Representative: Nancy Pelosi
She ain't perfect, but she's far better than the alternatives and I want to keep her strong voice in the House.

Member of the State Assembly: David Chiu
(his has been one of those campaigns where the larger pile of mailers with over-the-top photoshopped imagery indicates which side NOT to support. When this campaign season started I didn't see huge differences between David Chiu and David Campos, but the way Campos and his backers have conducted their campaign—with attack mailers, stretched truths, and sensationalism instead of a proven track record—makes it clear that they aren't the same kind of candidate at all. I'm sticking with someone focused on achieving results, through keeping his ass in his chair for Board of Supes meetings and compromising when necessary. I'm hopeful that Chiu will take on a bit more of Ammiano's progressive mantle as he moves to this larger stage where stubborn idealism is more needed than in heart-on-its-sleeve SF.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office no. 20: Carol Kingsley
All three candidates look pretty good, frankly, but Kingsley's experience stands out here.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Tom Torlakson
Definitely don't want to give the privatization movement the boost Marshall Tuck would bring.

State Proposition 41: Yes
This is a small price for housing people, better yet that it helps homeless veterans.

State Proposition 42: Yes
Public information access needs to be protected from budgetary excuses. Pleasingly, this also creates incentives for local government to streamline their processes to keep their costs down while still providing the required access.

City and County Proposition A: Yes.
This is earthquake country. We cannot rely on century-old infrastructure to protect us and allow us to recover quickly. Bonds are a way better investment than the massive expense of lost income we'd see with greater damage and delayed recovery after a major quake or big fires.

City and County Proposition B: No.
This is a bad, sneaky proposal and an attempt to create loopholes for developers. Elections are not the place to conduct planning and evaluate environmental impacts. Why would we want to push these decisions into an arena which favors big money over community wishes? We know what elections are going to bring; piles of often-sleazy mailers attempting to manipulate opinion. Election mailers don't build community. Participation in the planning process can. Besides, aren't we supposed to be those liberal citizens that believe government can be a force for good? We have a public participation process; let's use it.

@ Posted on May 31, 2014 at 04:46 PM in politics & philosophy | Comments (1)

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