First of all, let’s get those quasi-kinky, faux S&M thoughts out of your head . . . this post has nothing to do with the movie.
This is the first part of the Surface Thinkers’ Rx Series, where we challenge our brain machines to look a level deeper. We explore a thing called “critical thinking” where we search for an understanding that lies beyond spoon-fed conclusions.
The term “Shades of Gray” seems like a great place to start — it’s a basic, widespread idea which is easy for our visual brains to latch on to. It’s also completely fucking wrong.
In English, we use the term, “shades of gray” to express an understanding that lies beyond the cold, hard edges of perceived reality. Usually, if someone is said to see the shades of gray it’s a compliment to their superior empathy and perception. I remember in an episode of Ally McBeal, a t.v. series from the late 90’s, the term was used to poetically paint the perceptions of the main character. For those of you who don’t remember, Ally McBeal was a ridiculous woman who let lovesickness dictate her career choices. And yeah, I watched way too many episodes.
But . . . what if . . .
Take, for example, this image of a newspaper image of an orca in the real paper version of The Seattle Times:
What shades would you say made up the whale? Maybe you would say, “black and white”. Orcas are black and white.
But then maybe some ass-licker student raises their hand in class and says, “actually, there are many shades of gray in this picture. The white isn’t actually white if you look closely. It’s gray!”
Well done, Ass-licker!
Actually, sorry Ass-licker, your arrogant notion that you hold a truthier truth than truth — that there is no such thing as black and white — is wrong.
Let’s look closer.
Now we’re close enough to see what every printer already knows.
If you zoom in far enough, you see this image wasn’t printed with black, white, and 20 shades of gray ink. It was printed with varying sizes of black ink dots. There is ink. And there is “not ink”. This image is binary. Yes or no. Right or wrong. At the whitest parts, you can see there is no ink, not a light shade of gray ink that got stamped down.
There is no gray.
So when you’re given a headline, and then you’re fed a different headline with a little extra info that makes you think there may be no right or wrong answer to a problem . . . that is not your cue to say, “well, I guess there are many shades of gray in this world and there is no right answer. Absolute truth is a fallacy.”
That is your cue to think, “well, shit, I guess I need to go a lot deeper down and learn more specific details about this topic to understand it clearly.”
If you see shades of gray, you’re not looking closely enough. Put your swim mask on and dive beneath the surface of understanding. There are really fucking cool tropical fish down there. (And black and white orcas.)
Do you cling to the surface of understanding like these thrown-overboard-undesirables cling to topside to breathe?
If you read a headline, do you investigate further before you consider the headline part of your vast wealth of understanding? Or do you cockily throw that half-assed version of understanding on the table during group conversations like a merit badge representing your intellect?
Do you think many things are obvious?
Do you think ALL things are to a degree obvious?
Do you scoff and say, “well obviously,” a lot?
My friend, if you answered, “yes, no, yes, yes, yes, yes,” you might be a surface thinker. But fear not! The vast depth of beauty lying beyond that reflective surface Narcissus fell captive to is accessible to you!
If someone asked you to estimate the number of fish in this cove, how could you count all the sardines from the top? It’s only by submerging down into the depths that you can number the layers.
This is the beginning of a series of posts called, “Surface Thinkers’ Rx”. I want to give you alternate viewpoints to consider . . . viewpoints that I believe can assist you in understanding not just the topics at hand, but also in understanding understanding. I hope to help you learn how to shift your own camera angle . . . and to swap out lenses on the fly.
Question what you consider to be “obvious” truths. Question in a pure way — not just in a way you are told to question by a group or specific person with an agenda. Otherwise, your “questioning” reverts back to more spoon-fed acceptance of headlines.
Let yourself find joy in the curiosity you once relished as a child. The curiosity that let you rapidly expand your knowledge and understanding in a way that let’s you survive as an adult. Think of how much knowledge you amassed in such a short amount of time! You became fluent in a foreign language, grasped the concepts of: basic math, social interactions, dexterity, bike-riding, that touching hot shit on a stove can burn you, reading, writing, art, singing, how to maintain a priceless piece of equipment — your human body, and so much more. That is all difficult shit to learn from scratch!! Yet you acquired these capabilities because you were born with a burning craving for deep understanding and mastery. Find that hunger again. Satisfy it for its own sake.
Have faith in the possibility that there is always more to the story than you grasp . . . always more beneath the surface. And remember that this kind of faith is the prerequisite of genius.
Some call it humility.
Put another way, I say hubris is the greatest threat to intellect. Kill your hubris, embrace the depths you do not yet know. Come dive with me, under the sea!
If you’re involved in the engineering of products manufactured globally, chances are you’ve been personally affected by SNAFU’s on an epic scale. Despite your best efforts, you probably had to sacrifice some weekends, or late nights, or quality time with your kiddos, or at the very least, your blood pressure.
Hey, it happens to the best of us, especially if that global manufacturing involves China in any way . . . but before you give up on your blood pressure entirely, let me ask you this: have your best efforts involvedTELEPORTATION?
Before we go over the modern magic of teleportation possible in R&D today, let’s get clear on the process that’s supposed to happen in an ideal world.
First, some socially inept nerds virtually dream up how a physical design should theoretically work in their engineering cave. (It’s OK, maybe you can’t say that, but I can. I used to be that guy.)
They might not ever touch a physical component in their design work! To the layman onlooker, it might all appear to be math and video games. That’s mostly because it is.
Usually, there are several disciplines involved in this theoretical design stage. The discipline that dictates the other requirements for the system often begins and then hands off specs to the other departments. In electro-optical systems, usually, the optical design is the thing you do first. Then the optical engineer (that was me) would tell the mechanical nerds about the size and location needed for the optics. Also, the optics guys often would tell the electrical engineers about how much juice they need running to an LED, or how much light will turn on a sensor. Then, after those informational batons were passed, the ME’s (mechanical engineers) and EE’s (electrical engineers) would go to work in their own engineering caves to design their respective pieces of the system. Those caves might be down the hall from each other, or they might be on different continents. I’ve lived both scenarios.
Once those circuit designs, mechanical designs, and optical designs are all finished, detailed prints (“blueprints”, but no one actually says that) are often handed over to a factory in some country where stuff is really cheap to manufacture. This might be Mexico, or China, or Thailand, or somewhere else that isn’t the place where the parts were engineered.
Then, everyone waits a while for those parts to be physically made on a different part of the globe and then shipped half-way around the world. Hopefully, it’s not MF Chinese New Year at the time. It usually is Chinese New Year, though. It just seems to work out that way. So, your 6-week lead time might turn into 8-10 weeks in that case.
After the parts arrive back where either the assembly happens or where one of the engineering disciplines live or both, all the pieces are put together physically for the first time! Fingers are crossed. Everyone hopes that when all the parts are connected up and the switch is flipped, the thing a.) does not catch fire, and b.) works like it was intended to.
Of course, everything all working together seamlessly on the first try and on time is a laughable fairytale of a dream.
Maybe the components you used had lousy, inaccurate info on the manufacturer’s spec sheet. Maybe the system ran hotter than your thermal simulations predicted (if you even ran those) and consequently, your LED’s aren’t as bright as they need to be. Maybe your mechanical drafter was working in the wrong units when he created some component and it’s totally in the wrong place in the system. Maybe China put the wrong color LED’s on the circuit board. (Come on, automobile turn signals are not green, China. THEY ARE NEVER GREEN.) Maybe China used the wrong material. Maybe China used the wrong resistors. Maybe China mislabeled a driver. Maybe . . . China.
And maybe . . . maybe on that slow boat from whatever country your components were manufactured in . . . maybe the things just fell off the boat. Like, literally fell off the boat and sank to the bottom of the ocean. That also seriously happens.
Here is a PowerPoint slide I created to illustrate the real-life global R&D process to a bunch of high school mechatronics students in Silicon Valley I lectured to recently. Pretty accurate, and I think they got it:
What happens then, after all those hiccups? Hopefully, the project managers involved had the foresight enough to factor in both multiple design iterations and random China screw-ups. Yet, sometimes, when all the things go wrong at once, even if your Gantt chart had some cushion in it, your project ends up months behind. Then what?!
Well, if your product is low-tech and not timing-critical, maybe you just push out that anticipated release date.
However, if your product is, say, a 2018 Cadillac Escalade, it needs to be ready to roll by 2018. Otherwise, if it comes out in 2019, it is not a 2018 Cadillac Escalade! So what then?
Well, then comes shouting, migraines, missed birthday parties of your children, high blood pressure, occasional heart attacks (no joke) and the tears of fully grown men (also not a joke). Seriously, I’ve seen more grown men cry than I’d like to recall. 98% of those instances were in professional engineering settings.
Or . . . or you can salvage some of that lost time with teleportation!
Yeah! Well, kind of. It’s more like the next best thing.
With the technology available today, we don’t have to wait on manufacturing in another part of the globe before we figure out if a design itself is valid! Your engineers in the USA and Europe and Timbuktoo can all (nearly) instantly have each other’s designs physically in-hand. Moments after a design iteration is figured out in Munich, the parts in that design can begin to be physically created in real reality in San Diego. Actually, those designs can be immediately made into tangible parts in more than one place. Today, you can teleport AND CLONE prototype parts, too!
How is this possible?! If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m not really talking about teleportation (ORLY?) – – I’m talking about rapid prototyping of parts using 3D printers and PCB printers.
If several R&D facilities scattered across the globe have the same rapid prototyping equipment, they can shoot electronic blueprints of new part ideas to each other at the speed of light! Then, engineers can create and hold in their hands nearly identical copies of those parts and begin assembling and testing entire systems before China ever turns on injection molding or SMT machines.
3D printing along with the more general processes of additive manufacturing have been around for a while. It’s just now, though, that the quality of the parts possible and the variety of materials make so many of a design’s mechanical parts teleport-able. You can print metal parts! You can print optical quality lenses (https://www.luxexcel.com/)! You can print parts with carbon fiber or even Kevlar (http://impossible-objects.com)!
Printing circuit boards is a much newer thing to become easily accessible — especially if your design uses flex boards. If you’re not familiar, flex boards look like this, and they’re . . . well . . . flexible circuit boards:
Other older technologies are available to mill out circuit boards from rigid substrates, but they’re messy and can’t make these fancy flex boards which for many applications can’t be substituted in the prototyping stage.
BotFactory takes a unique approach to this in that their desktop PCB prototyping machines print conductive and insulating inks to build multiple conductive layers (like the wires of a circuit board). All their machines come standard with pick-and-place capability, too, so that means you could create the totally completed circuit board – with all your components on it – that France dreamed up and turned into a Gerber file minutes ago, right now from your desk in the USA . . . Or, Timbuktoo. (Whatever, you do you! I’m typing this from Bermuda, so hey.)
When I came across BotFactory’s technology, I thought back to all those migraines and man tears when China completely messed up a circuit board. I thought about all those weekends I lost when I had to make up for wasted time in the prototyping stages of electro-optic system design. And then I thought,
“engineers need this! Me from yesterday needs this!”
So now, I’m helping to spread the word about BotFactory‘s amazing tech. If you want to be able to print out and assemble multi-layer PCB boards, even flex boards, from your desktop and save gobs of development time in the iterative prototyping phase of R&D, shoot me an email. I’d be happy to learn about your current challenges and talk with you how teleportation technology can help:
Now, is this teleportation stuff a substitute for testing first production parts made in Asia? Unfortunately, no. You still have to make sure China didn’t swindle you on material quality and put the right parts on all the things, and etc, in the stuff they’ll ultimately make for you in mass production. But for the most time-consuming system design phases, especially within multi-national corporations, you could easily save months in a project. Literally months!
Plus, perhaps most importantly, for the optical enginerd near and dear to my heart, that’s less time proving a Chinese factory screw up was to blame for a system failure and not an optical design.
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.