For those of you keeping tabs, I’m still alive, yes. Woohoo!
It might not still be so if not for the wild and wise character, John Stryker, of Strykermotors.com.
A couple months before the point of scraping my last pennies together, John approached me about potentially working together in the future. He told me how his successful Jeep parts side business was getting raped in eBay fees – as much as $1,500 per month.
My response: “Woah, wait, hold up. If that’s how much you’re paying in fees, you must be making some substantial profits. This is your side business, you say?!”
“Yeah. Yep. That’s right,” was something like his response.
John told me he’d like to get a snazzier website up and running where he could sell products directly and bypass most of the middle man fees. He knew I dicked around with random website building stuff and he’d guessed I could figure out how to make him an eCommerce site. Turns out he guessed correctly! We chatted and agreed it sounded like a good idea.
It was March at the time, and I was in the Florida Keys hoping the sun would somehow help me regain some strength after the latest battle in the war for my health. We talked about this work happening sometime in the hazy future.
Then I got back to New York City, and the reality of my dwindling bank account came closing in at an accelerated pace. I would soon have absolutely nothing left. Not very little left – absolutely nothing. I pinged John Stryker.
“Oh hey, so . . . about the stuff and things you wanted me to do for you. How’s about now? Now would be good for me.”
We chatted more. On the phone, we discussed all his annoyances with the systems he has to work with now, and what his ideal working world was like. He told me what he envisioned and hoped for with the new website. As John has a lot of work to do on the back end of the business – including buying Jeeps, ripping Jeeps apart and creating new, individual listings for each used part for sale – a key focus of the new site’s capabilities would be automation. Automate, automate, automate everything we could.
So, everything from shipping label creation to social media posts would be connected and automated as much as possible. We would put a lot of extra work into the site up front so that machines could make life much easier for John and his workers in the future. We talked about Tim Ferriss and my love for Four Hour Work Week. . . multiple times. Like a good groupie, I suggested he read the book . . . multiple times. (Incidentally, if you haven’t read the book . . . check it out!)
I drew up a proposal encompassing all John’s needs and desires and estimated (with some padding included) that the site would take me about 2-3 weeks to build.
Of course, scope creep happened. But it was completely on my side. I added in a lot of apps and functionality and redid some things to make sure they were as spiffy as possible. Damnit, this thing was gonna work and work well! I also decided to import John’s used parts in addition to the new parts he sells and underestimated what a pain in the ass that would be. The guy’s got over 400 parts for sale! They’re all fucking different! Which, aside from being annoying for a web developer type person, is pretty astounding considering John and his team carefully procured each piece by hand!
Something like 2 months later, we’re finally finished!
Best of all (for me) each payment from John was super prompt and saved me from bankruptcy in the nick of time! It’s been a really wild last couple of months. Part terrifying. Part thrilling in a good way. And 100% elated that things are up and running!
By the way, I can’t take credit for the amazing Stryker Motors logo. That’s all John and his lovely lady who created that! It may not win a prize in modern art — and really, who would want one of those anyway — but it’s cute as hell and without a doubt, memorable, which is way more important.
If you’re a Jeep lover, driver, mudder, or love someone who is, check out:
P.S. John Stryker (who is also an engineer by trade) is starting to create How-To content in blog and video format. If you have any requests on learning how to repair or replace something on your Jeep, send a message to John here:
Over the past year and a half, I’ve helped business leaders in over a dozen industries. I’ve amped up companies in all sorts of ways — from market analyses to business development to direct sales, copywriting and more. Between various industries, companies, personalities of leaders, sexes, nationalities some issues and needs remained the same. Here, I’ll share some of the preliminary parts of the growth hacking process I lead business owners through to save you some pain and help you to increase your revenue.
I’ll also share some of the red flags I point out. When enough of them are ignored after I wave my hands wildly in their direction, light road flares, and sound bullhorns, they lead me to cut and run.
This blunt list may seem harsh, but would you rather have someone BS you than have a real confidant on your side who wants to see you succeed? ‘Cause I don’t BS. If you want that, you’re on the wrong site. I’ll love you tough-love style, and I’d rather you hate me than walk blindly off a cliff. It’s how I do.
Why Does Your Customer Give a Shit About Your Product/Service? This is the A-Number-One Question every business owner should be able to answer and repeatedly FAILS at over 80% of the time in my experience. I’ll hear things like “it’s the fastest/bestest/coolest/smartest product/service like it on the market!” If your answer sounds like this, it is almost always the wrong answer. I’m a big fan of the marketing guru, Jay Abraham, and one of his rules is, “be more in love with your customer than your product or service.” If I hear something like the example I used above, I know the business owner is getting off on the awesomeness of the thing he/she created rather than getting to caringly know his or her customer. Put the mirror down, stop thinking of your imaginary bank account for a second, and spare a thought for the people you should be serving. Another clue to me that you don’t have a clue is if you only have a single answer. Oftentimes, there will be several customer segments for the exact same product, and each will find a different #1 value in what you offer. For example, when I experimented in direct medical device sales, the customer was always the same, one might think: a doctor of a certain specialty. Yet, depending on if that doctor worked in a large or small private office or in an ER setting, there were 3 totally different top benefits that would be most effective to grab the potential customer in conversation. If you think you know your customer enough, ask yourself how you can go one level deeper. Then, ask again. The research I do in 2 days of direct, cold sales contact is often far more valuable than what full-time researchers unearth in 6 months’ of digging because I know how to ask the important questions and listen. LISTEN!
Masturbatory Monologuing Yeah, you read that right. Let me explain the term with a little story. Back many, many years before the days of Tinder, I liked to play a risky game when I went on business trips. Once I arrived in the new city, I’d post a Craigslist ad looking for someone to take me out for beer. Then, I’d go get ready while the responses piled in. Sometimes, I would ask a trusted friend to login to my email and remotely pick one for me while I applied my eyeliner. Then, I would ask that friend to call the cops if I didn’t tell them I got back to my hotel by XX:XX time. I never died. This is all to explain that I used to creep on Craigslist personals, and would see those CREEPTASTIC ads for guys who just wanted women to show up to a parking lot and watch them masturbate in their car. They didn’t need any verbal exchanges or even physical contact. They just wanted someone to watch them work their own magic on themselves. I think of this imagery every time a business owner, often male, will say they want to hire my services but will only want to talk to me about how amazing their business idea is and how rich they will get. Red Flag 1. Red Flag 2. I might bring up several glaring, grievous errors in their business plan and simple ways to remedy them. If they then hand-wave away my very obvious and grave concerns or refuse to fix them, then, “excuse me sir, but why in the fuck are you wasting my time asking for my advisement? Oh, I see, this was just some masturbatory monologuing.” And, Red Flag 3. Red Fla–. *POOF* I’m gone. How to fix this one? Be aware. Then, don’t do it. If the end of your speech doesn’t have a tangible possible outcome, besides me not working with you further, just stop.
Have you figured out what metric equals “success” and what it will take to get there? This one, most business owners tend to be better at, but still haven’t thought all the way through. Every new initiative or expenditure should be thought of as a test. A test is only worthwhile if you know how to categorize the outcome as a win or a fail. What would the extra $ spent on X marketing need to yield in additional revenue or number of new clients for it to be considered a win? Precisely how many more dollars should each hour of pounding the pavement bring in for it not to be a complete waste of time and blisters? How many clients/packages sold/projects awarded do you need per month/year to cover your expenses and be worth your time? Once you figure out the exact dollar amounts or number of new customers that classify a win, actually take a moment to tally up the score! This is something I do for myself when I’m working with business owners. It makes moving to the right opportunities from the time-wasting ones a lot easier and faster when you take your emotions out of it and base decisions on hard numbers.
“I Don’t Want To Tell Anyone Because They Will Steal My Idea” This one is kind of the opposite of #3, in that the business owners want to do in private what the #3 sin person wants to do on display. If the chances of someone else stealing your precious idea, and then funding and committing to the hard work of building the idea out into a viable business is higher than the chances of you doing the same, then you fucking deserve to have it stolen. The hard work is the hard part and seemingly novel, brilliant ideas are rarely novel or even brilliant. Whatever you do, don’t tell people you won’t tell them your idea without signing an NDA because you’ll just sound like an arrogant, ignorant, green prick. That’s exactly what they’re thinking even if they don’t tell you. Tough love, man.
These are more than just my personal red flags, peeves or means of judging a business leader. These are the top ways I reliably predict whether a business is screwed from the get-go, or has a shot at becoming viable. If I look back on the businesses I worked with, the owners who were able, with some coaching from me, to deeply understand their customers, collaborate widely and determine success metrics were the ones who succeeded. They saw their customer bases increase, their crowdfunding campaign succeed, their revenue increase, they dodged proverbial bullets like fucking superheroes . . .etc.
And the red flag wavers? What happened to them? Well sadly, after I ran from those opportunities like I’d run from a nutter waving a pinless grenade, they stagnated. Those businesses still don’t even have a working product today, long after they predicted they would have one. It’s too bad. Their ideas were pretty good. But like I said: that’s not the hard part.
It genuinely makes me sad, because I want to see these people and companies succeed. Yet, if I didn’t walk away from the time-wasters, I’d be making the same mistakes they do, harming my own bottom line. On the other hand, with those I continue working with, I become emotionally invested in their successes and rejoice when they hit targets as if they were my own!
If you’re at a point in your business where you need a leg-up, some honest feedback and the opportunity to bump up revenues and your customer base, feel free to get in touch via the Contact Form here. It starts with a free, no-obligation consultation where I intimately get to know what’s working for your company and what’s not before I propose action items in a custom-created package for you. Those items may include adding functionality to your website, focusing on more lucrative customer segments, getting more value out of everything you’re already doing, copywriting, or even making introductions to investigate partnership opportunities. And don’t worry, I’ll be gentle – to start.
If you’re in the New York City area, I’d be happy to come meet you, or otherwise, phone conference or Skype with you. I’d look forward to getting to know you and your business, and most importantly — to giving you the chance to bring in more revenue!
In December of 2015, while setting sail from Bro Island, I mean, the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand, the rest of the crew from the Candela and I compiled these essential rules for cooking at sea. It’s only just now that my digital art skills were up to the task of creating the comic — and poster!
Cooking at sea is no joke. Like, seriously. It’s hard.
Yet, I remember lots of laughs while Hakan Norberg, Félix Ménard, and Nicole Reed were all adding their 2 cents. Thanks for the help and the great memories, guys!
Like this and have some rail meat you need to teach about cooking at sea? Order the poster now! All posters are 18 inches by 24 inches in size (45 cm x 61 cm) and come in either: matte, heavy-weight paper ($25); semi-gloss paper ($30); or laminated ($45).
How To Cook At Sea Poster – Matte, Heavy Weight Paper, 18″ x 24″: $25.00
How To Cook At Sea Poster – Semi-Gloss Paper, 18″ x 24″: $30.00
How To Cook At Sea Poster – Laminated Semi-Gloss Paper, 18″ x 24″: $45.00
Free Shipping within the USA! (Please contact directly to order if requiring shipment outside the U.S. by clicking HERE.)
Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery on orders within the USA.
This makes me a published author of something other than featured news editorials, poetry and blog posts. Feels pretty fantastic, even if it turns out to be mostly meaningless.
Know what else feels fantastic? …and is also meaningless?
The first day Scourge of Sheol was released for pre-order, there were enough sales to wedge me between a couple C.S. Lewis books on a very, very specific Amazon category. The uber-specificity is what made it meaningless — and I still don’t care! It then climbed up even higher to #6 in that super specific category:
It probably won’t get any better than this, and that’s OK.
I was expecting about 20 orders in pre-sales from people I know who seemed interested enough (in me, at least) to be sweet and toss 99 cents my way. As of the evening of February 26th, I have 25 sales (that weren’t canceled):
Yeah, someone canceled an order. Hey, 99 cents is a big deal…mostly just to me, though.
If you’re curious what that means to my bottom line, with Amazon’s royalty structure, that’s 25 copies * $0.35 = $8.75. Of course, it takes 60+ days to get a check from Amazon, plus you need to make over $100, I believe, to have a check cut at all, so I may never see the 8 bucks. Ha!
Obviously, I needed to take a stab at more forms of advertising if this thing has a prayer of taking off. So far, I can tell you about one normal thing I did, and a couple more inventive things I’m trying.
The normal thing is applying to a bunch of sites that send out info about book deals to their readers. A lot of these lists exclude books that aren’t at least novel length, or which don’t have at least 5 stellar reviews or more. So, Scourge of Sheol was excluded from a bunch. Then, others simply cost a lot of money! As this is the first book I’m publishing, it wouldn’t make sense to spend too much ad money without other full-priced books lined up waiting in the wings. After all my research, here are the FREE lists I was able to submit my book to — with the advertising due to go out at varying times throughout this week:
One of the crazier things had to do with my experiences traveling Asia last year. I had so many damn Tinder likes in Japan and Taiwan that if I had a book out for sale then and had put it on my Tinder profile, I would probably be independently wealthy now.
So, I thought, “oh what the hell,” and threw the link to the book’s Amazon page up on my dating profiles. “What’s the worst that could happen?” I asked myself.
Well, shortly thereafter, a real, certified, scary weirdo started following me on Twitter.
So, that could happen.
Crazy idea #2 has to do with Givling.com. Givling is a student loan crowdfunding site I signed up to years ago. They had a great idea where people pay to play trivia games and that would pay off people’s student loans. That’s now combined with significant advertising dollah bills, so the concept is certainly viable! Recently, Givling mentioned a new idea where they would put up videos people sent in telling about their student loan stories and any advertising revenue they made off the videos would go to the pile of money that pays off all the student loans.
Well, this sounded like a great opportunity! I certainly have an interesting student loan story. I created the raw content for the video from when I was at my last amazing housesit with the very attractive golden retriever. Of course, I included information about the book as it’s the latest chapter in my student loan story. Then I edited and uploaded it over the last few days and sent the permission over to Givling to use it. I’m still not sure whether it was too shameless self-pimping-ness for them to accept, but, we’ll see! Here’s the video for your review:
By the way, if you want to sign up yourself and get in line to have your student loans paid off, go to Givling.com and use this invite code to get a free “welcome coin”:
Now, I’m back to searching for a roof to put over my head and trying not to vomit. The upload process of the book was pretty stomach-turning, but now people can actually read and comment on the thing! Eep!
If you do end up reading it and liking it, please leave a review! Each sale and each high review will raise my slim chances of success dramatically. Thanks again to everyone for their support!
In the interest of this time-limited experiment, a lot of things I could have done weren’t done. A lot of times, that’s the only way you finish a project, though. If this was a fast-paced engineering project I was managing, there would be a hard deadline, a soft deadline and a lot of things that got tossed by the wayside when they were determined to not be high enough priority. That’s just how shit gets done. So often, though, when it comes to our own projects, we get too distracted with the building, the dreaming, or the details, that the finished product is never realized. You have to ask yourself — if you never bring the thing into the world, what’s the point in working so hard at making in perfect? The pursuit of perfection can be your enemy.
Now, I’m not a proponent for sloppy or shoddy work, but sometimes there is minimum yield for high-effort activities. Those are the necessary things to cut, even if it’s hard. Here are some of the things I had to sigh and force myself to let go of.
My normal editor-type editor fell ill and so I did not have another human to give punctuation/spelling/sentence structure guidance. So, Grammarly became my editor for those things. Grammarly sent me an email to tell me my writing was 97% better on its own than its other users. To me, this means only 3% of the population that give a shit about grammar will see things that bother them. I like those odds.
My editors for other things weren’t given enough time to finish their critiques before I had to finish my editing phase. They each pointed out some glaringly bad things, which were corrected, though. I’m sure there are a lot more points they could have helped me perfect, but I’m too ill and broke and homeless to carve out that much time.
The ebook cover got to passable status, and then I forced myself to stop working on it. My time spent was 1% thinking up what should go on the cover, 2% looking at other examples of bestseller covers, 2% digging up images to play with and 95% dicking with fonts. I mentioned in an earlier update that Manga Studio should be more than capable of producing the art I need. I was wrong – its lettering options kinda suck. Here’s where I probably would have ultimately stopped if left to my own devices:
Then, out of the blue, my dear friend, Dave Egly offered to check out the art I was dicking with. Then, he ended up creating multiple covers from scratch under a super tight deadline. So Mr. Egly was, in the end, my ebook cover artist! Dave is the best. Here is the wonderfully-lettered alternative he sprinkled his magic on:
By the way, the background photo used was one I took in Rathdrum, in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. That makes it extra special to me and gives me warm fuzzies even if no one else likes it.
In the wee hours this morning, I threw the Word file up on Amazon with the biggest Mothra-type butterflies in my stomach that you can imagine. I was (and still am) uncharacteristically nervous. Being nervous about anything is such a strange and unfamiliar feeling these days. Still haven’t puked, though. Winning!
Lucky for me, I only had to upload it again 2 more times to fix formatting errors. The publishing date was set for February 27th and I enabled pre-orders to begin immediately. Amazon told me it could take up to 72 hours for the pre-order thing to launch. It took more like 2 hours, and it’s available for pre-sale right now!
I set the initial price at $0.99, so if you’re interested, buy it now before I jack that thing up. I intend to price test after it launches. Click the link below to order on Amazon — as with so many things, there is no more perfect time than now!
In Update 3 of this self-publishing adventure, it’s time to tell you whether I made my own first deadline. February 14th was the day I would switch from one housesitting gig to another and I wanted the first draft finished by then. Well, in the wee hours of February 13th, I plowed through the ending to the novella. Hooray!
It would take me a couple days to actually read that part and figure out if it was worth a damn, though. The move to the new apartment, plus the responsibilities of walking a strong and an often-spooked golden retriever puppy in Manhattan were a lot for me to handle physically. I was pretty much useless aside from my dootie-scooping duties for a while.
As a result, it took longer than I hoped to do content editing before handing things over to Rebecca Sutton for other types of editing. That might make my ultimate release deadline next week really tough.
In other news, I am enjoying the hell out of my crash pad/office this week. (See main photo.) It puts every cubicle to which I’ve ever been subjected to sad, shameful shame . . . mostly because I can adjust the heat to a reasonable room temperature.
If you’re thinking of doing your own publishing, the following fine details about my progress may interest you.
ISBN Purchase: Fuck that. I was considering buying one, but then saw that I would need a new one for each format (e.g., ebook, hardcover, paperback,) and knowing the ISBN for an ebook probably wouldn’t help a reader do anything. It seems to be mainly useless and I am broke, so I’m skipping that step.
Grammarly Premium Subscription being seriously contemplated. Since I can’t afford a premium “I-do-this-for-a-living” editor person, and my human editor is also currently under the weather, I’ll probably pony up the $30 for a month’s worth. So far, I’ve just used the free version of Grammarly, and it’s been helpful. The free version doesn’t tell you all those finicky little fuck-ups, though. Then again, $30 is like 86 book sales. And, it would be the only part of the process I’ve had to spend money on so far. UGH.
Ebook Cover: do it myself? I know for a fact the quality of cover art directly relates to sales numbers. This was one of the things I considered paying for while I winced and groaned in my soul. Then, I thought, “well I should at least try to create a cover and see how shit it turns out.” I finished it today, and . . . hey, I’ve seen a Lot Worse on best-sellers! So, I’m going with the one I made; it looks good enough not to deter potential readers, and that’s good enough for now.
Presales Plans: still a go so far. Kindle’s presales rules were previously a lot harder to work with: you needed your perfected manuscript uploaded at least 10 days before your book was released for reading. That would have meant it would be damn near impossible to both do presales and release this month. However, now it’s only 72 hours or 3 days you need to have the polished copy uploaded to Amazon’s KDP. I’m hoping to start presales this week and release February 27th. Which in turn means I need to have my shit completely together by Thursday, February 23rd. That’s tight. That’s really tight. I’m gonna aim for it nonetheless.
Hopefully, in my next post, I’ll have links for you to check out the presale! Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is a puppy I have to put to bed.
(Like, actually “put to bed”. I’m not killing the dog, FFS. Why would you think that?)
Since my last post 4 days ago, in which I announced I’m giving self-publishing a novella a shot, a lot of progressed was made!
First off, the Capital One Spark Business checking account I applied to was somehow approved — even though I’m still waiting for the EIN (Tax ID) physical paperwork from the IRS in the snail mails. I’m shocked. However, I wasn’t worried that there would be anything wrong with my EIN – I applied for it almost 6 years ago, and it never expires. I thought there might be a credit check, though, like with the last time I applied for a business checking account, but there was none. That was the part that had me on edge, not having held a job for a year and a half…
But I haz business checking account now! Yea! And it’s free — no monthly fees, and no minimum amount you need in the account to keep it open. I still opted to link it up with my personal credit union checking account and transfer in $20. This was more — I dunno, superstition I suppose. I felt like to leave it at zero would be bad luck like gifting someone a wallet or purse without a coin or bill inside. So now I got a seed note in there, waiting to blossom.
After the checking account was up and running, I went into my business Amazon account — also something I started 6 years ago, and updated that. I signed my business Amazon account up with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and again verified my EIN. Somehow, it took longer to complete the EIN verification paperwork on KDP than it did for a bank account. Ha! That’s all up and running now, too. So, all I have to do is finish writing and publishing that novella.
And yeah, what about the most important part, Erin? What about writing the damn thing?
I’ve made progress there, too! 5 days ago, I reached 13,500 words. I had to skip a writing day since then to spend it entirely thinking through some technical issues with the plot. My technical editor helped me work through a bunch of ideas, and the next day, I was ready to write again. Last night, I got to just under 22,000 words. I’m officially at novella length!
There are a few more chapters to go to finish the thing. Afterward, I need to go back and add some more spoon-fed clarifications. My technical editor also informed me that a part of the story evoked THE EXACT OPPOSITE THING it was supposed to in the reader. And it’s not a little thing. It’s a big, glaring, oh shit, that can’t be allowed to be interpreted that way thing. It has to do with the entire reason I came up with the story in the first place. This book isn’t just something I’m slapping together to try to make some money; the topic is deeply important to me.
I was disheartened to hear that readers wouldn’t be able to draw the big picture conclusions on their own. I hoped I wouldn’t need to spell everything out — I thought that might make things obnoxious for the reader. Yet, considering the ironic spin frenzied readers of Orwell’s 1984 are putting on the book today, and considering that hearing George Orwell rolling in his grave keeps me awake at night, I decided it’s better to be 6 times more obvious and transparent in my meaning. I’m really, really glad my technical editor let me know.
My first rough draft/manuscript deadline was February 14th, because I’m moving to a new house sit that day. However, considering I won’t be able to write that day, my deadline really needs to be February 13th…or earlier. Assuming I can figure out exactly how I want the end of the story to go, I should be on target to meet that.
I started playing around with ebook cover sketch ideas, too, last night. I was on the fence about whether to hire someone, and there is one artist I met in particular here in New York City who I think would be amazing for the style I’d like… but I’m leaning toward doing the art myself, mostly because I’m flat broke. I already have Clip Studio (Manga Studio), which is more than capable of producing what I need, although I’m only half comfortable with digital drawing still. On the other hand, a black, virtual reality forest full of knobby, naked trees features prominently in the book, and there is this great view I got from this apartment… Hmmm…
Well, I guess I’ll just see what I come up with, and decide how shitty it is later! See you next time for Update 3.
As of this moment, as I type from my cat-sitting assignment in New York City, I am indeed still alive! Although, in spite of many opportunities for doctors to figure out what’s wrong with me, they’re still clueless. Once I have a dx, I’m pretty sure I can suss out a way to get myself to kick-ass status again in a physical way. But maybe not. All I know for sure is: I’m out of money, I’m still too weak to work, but I have 2 more weeks in which I don’t need to worry about finding a place to sleep or how to pay the minimums on my credit cards and student loans. This, my dear friends, is a last shot opportunity.
I hear you say:
“But haven’t all your efforts been last-ditch ones?”
Over the past year and a half, I’ve tested out several different ways to add value to the world, and put a roof over my head and money in my pocket. I’ve gotten really damn good at the finding ways to provide myself shelter part. And no, none of them involved shacking up. (Shame on you!) The money thing has been trickier. Even commuting to do office work twice a week proved to be more exertion than my body could take. As a result, I continually find myself scraping the bottom of my bank account. There were times when checking my bank balances made me physically nauseous.
When I arrived in New York City in November, with a couple house sitting assignments booked, there were long gaps in the calendar where I had no idea where I would be sleeping. I also didn’t have enough cash to cover my bare minimum expenses for the time I promised to be in the city. So, I agreed to give God freak-out free time through the end of December. I made a commitment to have faith in Him, and squelch any bank statement nausea at the first hints. But come January 1st, 2017, I was giving myself permission to fully freak the fuck out.
More house sitting assignments magically popped up to fill the longer gaps in my accommodations. The smaller gaps in between were saved by the couches of my very kind and very generous friends in the area. You guys are the best.
I found ins talking with business owners and tried working with them to find ways to add value to their companies. Most of them were men who turned out to only want to talk at a mildly attractive female and not actually work out any glaring snags she brought to their attention. They completely wasted my time. I’ve marked and underlined this fact in my mental notes. One of them was a woman, and I was able to work well with her. I did add value to her amazing business, but after the trial run, I didn’t bring her in enough extra revenue to justify the earnings I would need. Bills continued rolling in, and waves of nausea continued rolling up from the bit of my pit of my stomach, but I consciously stopped them the second they started. The flame, that fear, was instantly and habitually doused. I learned to snap back at the inner whines with, “you think God can’t handle this? This is no big deal. He got you, relax babe. You’re being cared for.” And then, through logic, my faith would win, and the fear would dissolve completely away.
When 2017 came, I’d gotten so used to being at peace that I forgot to be scared. So, I wasn’t. But I was out of time and without any good leads on how to make money with a body that was once more completely spent.
Fuck. So, now what?
So now, the Hail Mary pass. Seeing the Patriots, who were so hated, and so obviously losing the Super Bowl go from zero to crushing the souls of Falcons fans everywhere gives me added hope. Maybe even a person who’s ill-favored enough to get kicked out of Ireland (of all the friendliest places in the world) can score a moderate victory.
My current house sitting gig in Astoria got extended to right up until my next assignment in Manhattan on Valentine’s Day. Suddenly, I had nearly a full month in which I didn’t need to frantically search for and apply to house sits. My bare expenses were covered. I had time. It felt like 15 minutes of overtime was added to my clock. How would I make the best use of it?
I could work on the novel I originally quit my engineering job to finish! But that’s only about a third, or 150 pages in, and I’ve hit a technical snag. In order to continue writing, I need to figure out some physics and power grid engineering details. (The protagonist is an electrical engineer — about time for one of those, right?!) That isn’t something I’ll have tangible results from when my OT is up. So, it’s time to think — not bigger, but smaller. I decided to write a short story and just put it out there as an ebook on Amazon’s Kindle. It’s time to test and see if anyone even gives a shit about my writing. Maybe I was wasting my time with the longer novel! Or maybe I will find I’m onto something and be able to benefit in small, but real ways very soon.
I began writing the evening of January 27th, and the goal was to have a rough draft completed by February 14th. I also decided that even though I was doing something short, sweet and above all quick, I would not do things half-assed. My LLC was still alive, although comatose. She could be woken up and used to publish my books, though. After a lot of searching, I found a free online business checking account with good reviews that I could apply to even though I was in New York, my LLC was registered in Indiana and the place my mail goes is a third location. That’s still in process, and I can blog more details on that later. If you’re curious, I’m trying out the free version of Capital One Spark business checking. This article is really helpful: http://www.carefulcents.com/capital-one-spark-business-review/
There are a lot of pieces to slide into place, but my goal is to publish and have it available for sale by the end of February — hopefully sooner. My current game plan is to do a pre-sale for several days at $0.99 to get reviews and bump it up a day after it’s ready to read. Unfortunately, if you have your ebook available for free for 5 days through Amazon Select to garner reviews, the reviews don’t count toward the paid rankings. And reviews are HUGELY important. So, if when the time comes, you can spare 99 cents, read the book, and like it, I’d be much obliged by a kind and honest review.
I assembled a team of 3 – one is an expert on the subject matter at hand. His main job is to make sure I don’t inadvertently write something horrifyingly wrong. The second is a man whose opinion on books and movies I hold in high regard. He also is incapable of bullshitting or sugar-coating. His job is to review for overall entertainment and enrichment value. The third is my editor for spelling, grammar, word flow, conciseness — all things mechanical. Her name is Rebecca Sutton.
When I requested Rebecca’s assistance, I learned that she does some writing, too. I asked her if she also wanted to put out a short story just to test how it would do. If she wrote it, I could return the editing favor and do the publishing. After all, I had to figure out how to do all that shit for my own book anyways. Her answer was along the lines of, “AW HELL YEAH”. Rebecca’s story is a feelz-inducing historical romance. When I read the short version of it, it gave me chills. I fully expect Rebecca’s sales to CRUSH mine.
I decided to share/document all the steps I’m taking in this process. Maybe it will be inspirational, or at least educational for anyone thinking of self-publishing their own ebook for the first time.
What about my story? What the hell is it? Well, it’s no longer going to be a short story as I originally aimed for, for one thing. I’m a little over half finished and already at > 13,500 words, which depending on your definition, will make it longer than a short story. I’m aiming for “novella” length now. As for the actual plot: it’s about a bloody, blinding, bone-dissolving, sinew-snapping plague taking over the world, and the boundless love of a father who will do anything to rescue his child. The working title is: Scourge of Sheol.
At my disposal are all the tools and abilities I need to follow this test through to completion. My basic needs are met temporarily. I have crazy momentum – I’m hitting over 3,000 words a day now, a record high for me. It looks like the reviving-my-LLC thing and getting-a-business-checking-account thing might work out — as long as no one asks my income from last year. I’ve got a team of trusted people to make sure I don’t produce horseshit. Plus, I have a bucket of discount, instant coffee, and 2 cats to keep me entertained with rousing games of “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?” See below.
There’s been a lot of commotion about the Rochester Photonics Center lately — from everyone who would never directly benefit from a Rochester Photonics Center. The center is a federal government initiative in which the means of production of photonics innovations would be owned and organized by the state.
In case you’d like to hear an opinion from a photonics professional for a change, read on!
First, a little about my credentials and background. I’m originally from Rochester, NY, I hold an applied physics degree with a concentration in applied optics, and I’ve worked in multiple industries centered around optics and photonics. Back in the day, I thought it would be smart to focus on optics in my studies so that I could return to Rochester and land an awesome job. (Also, optics is really cool.) I say “return” because I did not study at UR or RIT – their programs were not thorough enough for what I wanted to pursue. Instead, I packed my bags for the very frightening, crime and crack whore filled city of Flint, Michigan, which was home to Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute) and the most rigorous applied physics program in the nation.
Upon graduation, I was days away from a likely hire at Xerox in Rochester when a hiring freeze crashed my employment hopes. It took several nerve-racking months of searching, starving and paying student loans before I miraculously landed a dream job at Leuze electronic, Inc. My time there would be split between Fairport, NY and Germany and it was a truly amazing opportunity in many ways. After only a year and a half, I was hit by the Great Recession’s second wave and was laid-off. Then came 2.5 more torturous years of searching, starving and paying student loans. Since that time, I’ve hopped around to different temporary situations, but never worked again in Rochester. I’m currently on a sabbatical, in which I’ve been travelling the world, but soon will be back to searching and starving — I never stopped paying those student loans.
This brings us to now, when every time I turn around, Rochesterians are asking me how excited I am about the Rochester Photonics Center. They tell me for sure I should be able to find a job in the city I’m from now. My friend’s father asked for my thoughts on the center, but before I had a chance to answer, he said, “a part of me, though, thinks this is just another Fast Ferry”.
The Fast Ferry, to those who are not familiar, was a multi-million dollar sink hole back when politicians thought they should use public funds to become pioneers of industry. The ferry ran for a short time between Toronto and Rochester and was hoped to bring tourism dollars to Rochester. I remember learning about the ferry proposal in Mr. Pete’s Participation in Government (P.I.G.) class at Greece Olympia. Most of us pupils were not old enough to vote during the previous election, but hearing about the heedless use of taxpayer dollars made us wish we had been. Out of the mouths of babes, came: “Why the hell would Canadians want to come to Rochester?” Indeed. They didn’t. And the Fast Ferry racked up even more expenses than was anticipated and had to be sold.
So today, instead of a ferry, we have a much more expensive $600 million photonics center in the works. It’s thought it will “create jobs” and “spur US competitiveness”. Let’s get something straight, here. Governments do not champion job creation and industry competitiveness, unless the government we’re talking about is Russia. Governments are blamed and praised too often for the directrise and fall of economic states. Governments should be thought of more like farmers than God. Farmers do not create. Farmers do not squat in the earth and say, “ok now, let’s make a grape”, and pop out seeds from their earthly bodies. Of course, farmers cultivate conditions that allow crops to grow well – soil, shade, temperature, irrigation, etc. This is what good governments should do, as well, except those conditions are more like: lead-free water supplies, smooth roads, a trustworthy legal system, low crime rates, good schools, reasonable tax rates.
I hear some of you saying, well, why not? Governments can harness the collective buying power of many, many citizens. Why shouldn’t governments do more to directly grow industries?
Because they are complete shit at it. See Fast Ferry.
And I hear some others saying, but Rochester is, “the optics capital of the world”. I’m sorry, but, no it’s not. I don’t say that merely because I haven’t worked here in 8 years and didn’t get my degree here. I say that because I have a very keen grasp of photonics industries in the US as an active job seeker. At one point, YES, Rochester was not just arguably the optics capital of the world, but also the nation’s birthplace of optical science. At that time, Rochester was home to thriving versions of Kodak and Bausch and Lomb. This is not coincidental, by the way, but causal.
So where is the optics capital of the world? Well, if we’re talking groundbreaking photonics innovations directly headed by companies expecting to make a direct profit, that’s: Oculus, HoloLens, GoPro, Project Aura, secret projects at Amazon labs, industry-leading semiconductor processing, smart contact lenses, industrial laser development, 2D and 3D display technologies, and self-driving cars, then that’s the West Coast from Southern California to Seattle. There’s also all optics things automotive centered in the Mid-West. New England, far outside Rochester, houses established medical optics tech and fiber optic companies.
What Rochester has, in contrast, is the yet #1 optics program of study in the US – at University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics, and a handful of excellent optical component manufacturing facilities. Sadly, though, these things are remnants of when Rochester held the optics crown, not proof she is still reigning queen.
Let’s go back to the roots of optics in Rochester to understand this situation from the opposite end – how do regions successfully become pillars of industry? Which thing is chicken and which thing is egg?
By the mid-1800’s, Rochester was already a bustling and growing city. Three impressive waterways helped to get it there which acted as both power/flour-milling source and vital transportation ways – Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, and of course, the Erie Canal. After the Flour City days, there was an ever-increasing population, fertile farms to feed that population, and still the excellent transportation pathways to import raw materials and export finished goods. This was a ground fertile for industrialization and a few wildly successful entrepreneurs knew it: George Eastman, John Jacob and Henry Lomb, a.k.a. the founders of Eastman Kodak Company and Bausch and Lomb. Photographic cameras and mass-produced optics were some of the most high-tech wizardry you could get before the turn of the century.
Then what? Well, then those companies got together and gave the University of Rochester a ginormous grant so it would create the first optics study program in the United States. This was hardly a purely philanthropic gesture, by the way. Kodak and B&L needed optical science and scientists to continue to grow and stay competitive. The UofR was capable of providing those things in their backyard. This was in reality, a private economic transaction; it was supply and demand.
Notice, the story doesn’t go, “then the politicians of the city of Rochester got together and decided to force economic and educational prosperity upon circumstance”.
After Kodak and B&L came Xerox, and all the optics component suppliers that sprung up to drink from those larger entrepreneurial successes. Then Kodak withered, as did B&L. Lay-offs, lay-offs, bankruptcies, lay-offs. The Institute of Optics still remains, as do many fine component manufacturers. However, tier 1 optics suppliers are now springing up on the West Coast to feed off the aforementioned new, true photonic innovations center of the world. When I worked in the mid-West, I would sometimes attempt to have a Rochesterian optical manufacturer produce or finish a component I designed, but every time, although the quality may have been better, they were unable to compete with cost, timing and even customer service. The optics suppliers that are forming in this new wave of photonics innovation, are built very differently for different customers. They offer quick turn-around, even higher tech in-house engineering capabilities, and altogether different products – instead of basic lenses, mirrors and coatings, they specialize in display, projection, light guide and smart sensor technologies.
That explains why I think trying to force Rochester into national photonics leader status won’t work, but it doesn’t explain why I think it’s a terrible idea. The terrible part comes foremost from the bushels of wasted taxpayer dollars being flushed away. $600 million is the price tag thrown around in the news, with a large chunk coming from federal tax dollars and at least $200 million coming directly from New York State tax payers.
These dollar figures are high, but the economic development initiatives totaling 4 BILLION DOLLARS for New York State as a whole are even worse. To most working class lackeys, these numbers all just sound really big. So, as an aside putting this into context, I want to tell you about the suspenseful Nokia Here deal which I followed very closely last year. Nokia was selling off its division which created really excellent maps primarily for automobile navigation systems. This is the data a pre-installed navigation system in your car would run off – the car version of Google Maps. It may not seem like a big deal to the consumer, but this software is pivotal for the evolution of the automotive industry. Think the development of self-driving cars and increased integration of all things Internets (the “IoT”). Nokia was selling this software as a product to car manufacturers but wanted to get rid of the company. Uber was very interested, but if Uber bought it, there’s no way they would allow car manufacturers to continue leasing the software. This made the Big 3 of German auto manufacturers – Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen – freak out and band together to try to buy it. The course and rate of progress of the entire automotive industry hung in the balance. If Uber bought the software and if Google and Apple and Tesla became very successful with their innovations, traditional manufacturers might be completely obsoleted in the future. The fates of those German car companies were on the line. Together, across those 3 hugely successful, high-valued companies, the Germans came up with2 billion dollars to save their future. Then it looked like Uber would offer $3 billion. Then the German companies laughed and said they’d rather let their children starve than pay more than $3 billion for the imperative technology. Then Uber backed out and the Germans coughed up $3 billion. Note, that’s an average $1 billion per hugely successful manufacturer. AND THEN YOU HAVE NEW YORK STATE, which sneezes and out falls 4 BILLION DOLLARS. BMW was like, “oh we’ve had a good run, if it takes more than $1 billion let’s let it burn to the ground, cuz it’s not worth it”, and NYS tosses FOUR billion haphazardly at “economic stuff and things”. For more information on this bigger problem, see WHEC’s mini-investigation here: http://www.whec.com/nys-exposed/risky-business-investments/4116482/
So back to the Rochester Photonics Center – it’s a lot of money. Ok, got it. What else? Well, it also is on the periphery of federal and state probes regarding potential financial impropriety in all these economic initiatives. Awesome! I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen when George Eastman threw money directly at UR to buy some optical engineers. Then there’s the public pissing contest about where the center should be located. Again, I’m pretty sure Bausch and Lomb didn’t arm wrestle with UR over locations when the Institute of Optics was being built because they were busy building telescopes.
The worst part of all has got to be the fact that most of the key players in this initiative do not have a direct benefit to gain unless something improper is happening. I’m not suggesting there necessarily is anything improper going on with all the parties, only that it makes no economic sense and thus is proof of wasted funds. What does Paychex need with advanced manufacturing methods for OLEDs? How many more gallons of milk per year will Wegmans sell if Rochester creates a spiffy semiconductor clean room?
Tom Battley, the executive director of New York Photonics, was quoted by the D&C as saying, “this is as important to Rochester as when George Eastman donated $30 million to the University of Rochester“. Mr. Battley, I wish that were true, but I really don’t think this is like that time at all.
Getting paid to travel around drinking delicious beers and telling the world about it?! Well, I sure as hell wouldn’t mind that gig. In fact, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing with my life lately — in between testing new entrepreneurial ideas, that is.
In the past 6 months, I’ve drank in Ireland, Germany, and a whole shitload of Asian countries: Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore (Thank You God for the beer in Singapore), Indonesia and Russia. All the beer I tried in Asia (aside from Singapore) really made me miss American craft brews and old-style Euro-brews. I would crack open a can of something, take a sip, and then look back at the cold metal with bitter sadness. “Oh grains, you could have been so much more. What did they do to you?” At least I enjoy novelty to the point I could find delight in trying the new things even when they tasted like disappointment. Plus, all the bad beers enhanced my appreciation of the good stuff in the West. Beer and internet speeds: I never truly knew how good I had it.
Then there is the food. A delicious craft beer is lonely without some truffle fries with aioli or a perfectly grilled meat which was lovingly massaged by off-grid hippies every day of its living life. When I finally got to Singapore after months of travel, I was craving a well-made burger and craft beer so hard that I blew my food budget for the week on those items. It was one of the most sensible decisions I ever made. Upwards of $50 to once again taste a hoppy, in-your-face Bridge Road Bling IPA from Australia, and a thick, juicy, flame-licked burger smothered in cheese, onions and mushrooms. Magic.
Of course, just as with drinks, I enjoy the novelty of new foods even when it tastes strange in bad ways. I brought you along in all those food discoveries as I tried lamb shanks in Ireland to pair with my Irish red, and chocolate banana roti in Indonesia to compliment a refreshing can of Bintang Radler. These were the things that tasted fantastic. You were also there for raw horse meat, fried octopus tentacle balls, and chicken heart. These were in the more-totally-fucking-strange-than-savory category, but I think you enjoyed the novelty, too.
Onto the part where you can get paid to do all of the above:
World of Beer is selecting 3 “Drink It Interns” to travel for 3 months this spring/summer, learning about beer, drinking beer, and telling the world all about it. They’re looking for beer lovers who can learn, travel, drink and social media proficiently. Yes, social media can be a verb; it just makes sense. It probably helps if you’re comfortable roaming the planet alone and striking up conversations with strangers in places where beer lives. I so got this.
If you want to apply, too, hurry! Application deadline is March 26th, 2016. That’s my birthday, by the way. So, you could just not apply as your present to me to help my chances. That would be great!
Here’s my application:
And here’s where you can apply on the WOB site if you plan on getting me something else for my birthday: