Funny about Money

Simple Living = Frugality = Peace of Mind: Personal Finance and Stress Control

September 1, 2015
by funny
8 Comments

Exeunt the New York Times, Pursued by a Bear

Just canceled my print subscription  to The New York Times. And since the pitch they made their wretched phone CSR throw at me to try to keep me in their clutches was so damned obnoxious, I canceled the online sub, too.

By the time I got off the phone, I was ready to wring that kid’s neck…and it wasn’t his fault, he being a schlep who was just doing his job. Thank heaven for small favors: I may go hungry, but I don’t have to do a job like that.

The cost used to be pretty reasonable, because I got it while I was teaching at ASU — way back in 2002, the kid said! — when they were practically giving it away to students and faculty. But prices being what they are, every year they’ve inched up the rates. It’s now $34 for print delivery with “free” online access included.

Problem is, often the thing isn’t delivered. A couple of weeks ago they failed to deliver the Saturday and the Sunday edition, even after I called (twice!) to complain.

When you do that — call to bellyache that the paper wasn’t delivered — their CSR will say they’re crediting your bill. But of course, they don’t.

The biggest problem with home delivery, though, is simply that I don’t have time to read a newspaper anymore. Much as I love the Times — and I do enjoy reading it — the only clear time available to read the paper is the ten minutes or so it takes to bolt down my breakfast. There’s usually a little coffee left after that, but nine times out of ten, I’m writing promotional copy, wrangling Amazon, or chasing e-mails over the last of the coffee. Two or three hours of work have already been done by then: only another ten or twelve to go.

Really: I don’t think ten minutes of hurried reading is worth $408 a year.

I can get the print AND digital versions of The New York Review of Books (which I dearly miss) for $75 a year. I can get The Economist for $52 a year. Both of these are delivered by mail, so one does not depend on the bums (not an exaggeration) to bring it to your door and drop it in a puddle of water.

Between you and me and the lamp-post iPad, I think I can get by with the news reports and opinion that are available for free online.

Most of the time, instead of sitting down and reading a newspaper, I graze for news online during short breaks between projects. Best sources around:

Hmh. No wonder I don’t have time to read the Times

So, what are your favorite news sources? And BTW, while you’re at it, don’t miss this news flash. 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 31, 2015
by funny
14 Comments

Foiled by the Effing Cell Phone!

By Runex Tangled. I dunno who you are, Runex, but i think i love you…

So I spent the entire day studying up on Twitter and (I think) more or less figuring out how to work it for my nefarious purposes. Wanting to establish a new account for the Camptown Ladies in addition to FaM’s Twitter account I signed out of the FaM account and tried to create a new account.

Well. You have to have a cell phone, because they won’t let you sign up unless they can text you a verification code.

For all practical intents and purposes, I have no cell phone. I do have an LG 440G, but I got it unwillingly, only because with no pay phones available anymore I had to have something to call roadside service if my car breaks down.

I never use it. I don’t want to use it. I have enough electronic crap and gear to have to figure out, thank you very much!

So I haul out the instruction booklet, which I carry around in my purse, knowing someday I’ll have to figure out how to dial the roadside people.

This thing is utterly incomprehensible, because it’s predicated on the assumption that you already know how to use a cell phone. And it’s incomplete. I finally find about three lines purporting to explain how to send a text message, but nothing about how to receive one.

I look the little bastard up on the Internet. The user manual posted there contains nary a word about text messaging.

There’s something about SMS’s.

I’ve never heard of an SMS. Finally, after cruising the Web again in search of a definition, I gather this is a synonym for text message. Probably. Roughly.

Okay, so I study the instructions about what to do when you receive an SMS. The button they say to use appears not to be a button but a tiny painted-on white dash. When you do figure out how to get this bizarre button thing to work, it brings up nothing. However, figuring out to make it work does use up your minutes.

When you attempt “using your navigation keys, go to messages,” you never do arrive at the menu thingie that shows in the online user manual’s image. There’s no way to find “inbox” because the screen that (I guess) it appears on does not come up.

 See why I don’t want to own a smartphone? I can’t even learn how to use this thing, the dumbest of dumb phones. How am I going to learn how to operate a really sophisticated piece of electronic detritus?

Anyway, I wasn’t able to set up a new Twitter account for the Camptown Ladies. Oh, well…

Ladies portrait

When ARE we going to get our coming-out party?

August 30, 2015
by funny
0 comments

Weird Weather / Weird Electrical Event

Today has been so humid, it’s been hot and sticky even inside air-conditioned buildings. The weather service is predicting, in a rote way, the usual “chance” of isolated thunderstorms, another way of saying “we have no clue.” Last night’s “chance” knocked out power to 13,000 people.

As is typical, we had no storm or even a sprinkle in this part of town, though we did have a brief, brisk blow.

However, we did have a weird happening. Along about 9 or 10 p.m., a strange, loud electrical sound burst out just to the north of the Funny Farm, a kind of wwWWMRARMRMRMRMMMMWRMM. I could see a bright, orangey light through the curtains.

It wasn’t lightning — wrong color. Lightning’s blue in these parts. And the sound was definitely not thunder.

The dogs were alarmed. I didn’t think much of it.

But then about ten minutes later it happened again, and the flare was much brighter and then the power went out.  I got up to look: absolutely no storm going on.

The noises sounded electrical, and I thought I could see a fire at the end of the street. And I thought the sound and flashes had come from the vicinity of Manny’s house.

Our tract has underground utilities. So if it was over by Manny’s place, then…???… It sounded like a big power surge — like this one.

But can a power surge be visible when the power lines are underground?

The surrounding tracts have overhead lines, so if a surge or a transformer malfunction occurred in one of them, it would have happened  a little further away than Manny’s house.

I finally decided the “fire” was somebody’s headlights (or something) and went back to bed. The dogs remained disturbed for awhile, but after the power came back on, they settled down.

Strange night.

And right now it’s hot and sweaty in here even though the AC is pounding away. Enough. I’m going to bed, or maybe to bed down on the cool tile floors.

That’s one of the reasons desert dwellers have tile floors, after all…

 

August 29, 2015
by funny
4 Comments

Enterprise: One Long Shot after Another…

So, how are we doing in the publishing enterprise department?

Yesterday I applied a little English-major math to a moment of taking stock.

The goal is to have an inventory of 100 short works online by the end of March. The 18 Fire-Rider serials count toward that total, as will any boxed sets the several contract authors and I can create for the series we dream up.

We can do that. Given what we have in hand now, reaching our goal will require us to publish 9 items a month. That’s two creative items per month, per worker.

Assuming The Copyeditor’s Desk retains its bread-and-butter client (never a safe assumption…but then, what is?), and assuming none of our efforts ever turns a dime, at the end of six months — on March 31 — we will almost break even: we’ll be $86 in the hole.

Here’s how this looks in Excel:

CRP projection august 2015Yes. That’s right. I am trying to capitalize a business on $7500. That would be the very definition of “a long shot.”

However. I think it ‘s unlikely that our publications will earn nothing, zero point zero-zero dollars. For hevvinsake, Slave Labor turns a couple of bucks every month…and who in their right mind would want to read that thing?

So, if an obscure book on a subject no one cares about (if anyone cared, we wouldn’t have adjuncts) can sell a few copies with almost no active marketing, a passel of rollicking sexy tales should find their readers, sooner or later. The bet on the come (heh) (sorry) (writing this stuff is not good for you…) ( :roll: ) is that at least some of our bookoids will find them sooner, not later.

So, I believe we have a good shot of at least breaking even, with a decent probability of staying afloat for an additional six months, after which the vessel will either unfurl its sails and take off across the bounding main or…sink.

The gigantic albatross in that metaphor is the sheer quantity of time-consuming work involved in supervising writers, formatting documents, dealing with various bureaucratic requirements, keeping the books, publishing the stuff, and trying to market it. The time suck leaves just about zero space for writing.

Today, for example, Saturday: For the first time in weeks, I took off exactly one-half day to junket around town with a friend.

Shouldn’t have done that. Because…today I need to post another Fire-Rider episode, post widgets at three websites (to build ONE widget takes exactly 12 ditzy steps), post notices on the few social media I have going, figure out how to build an author’s page on Goodreads, figure out first whether I have more than one “author’s page” so as to create sites for our pseudonymous authors…but first figure out why this computer is entering the characters ...is while my fingers are burning through …uter, a process that undoubtedly will entail closing out of everything, shutting down, and rebooting…a distracting process that will interfere with deciding whether to hire a subcontractor to format copy for Smashwords (which entails deciding whether to go with Smashwords at all, not a slam-dunk by any means) or whether to find someone who would format the MSS only for Nook and then go out and find such a person, first figuring out how to assess applicants’ alleged skills and also while I’m at it writing a contract for such persons, then try to figure out how to do a Facebook page that will preclude FB from blitzing my churchly friends with announcements for salacious novelettes and also try to figure out how to block FB from learning very much about me and my business since it’s none of FB’s damn business and while I’m at it do a little research on the cost/benefit ratio and efficacy of FB ads and…can you count up the number of hours these adventures will consume on the fingers of one hand?

Claro, if this bidness is going to thrive, I’m not going to be doing much writing. My job is going to be project management. Not quite what I signed on for…but still. Better than teaching freshman comp.

I figure that to stay solvent — that doesn’t include making a noticeable profit — Camptown Races Press will have to net about $1,200 to $1,500 a month, by the end of March. If it isn’t earning that much and I still can’t do any writing because I’m too busy doing all the housekeeping and marketing, then we’re sunk. We’ll have to cut back on producing the smut or I’ll have to take on two more jobs I’m not qualified to do — cover design and complicated computer file formatting. Or throw in the towel.

At a net return on sales of $2.09 per bookoid (optimistic!), we would have to sell about 575 copies to achieve a $1,200 revenue. That’s a little less than six copies per title.

Is that an unreasonable number? It may not be, especially since we’re talking about sexually oriented fiction. Sex does sell. However, it will never do to forget that most books posted on Amazon sell fewer than one copy per month. A bunch of theories tend to convince writers and publishers that sales increase as product volume increases. The leading hypothesis, as far as I can tell, is that your backlist feeds your new book sales and your new book sales feed your backlist sales.

That’s a little circular for my taste. I’d love to believe it’s true — and indeed, the throw of my dice is predicated, to some degree on this claim — but I’ll believe it when I see it.

My guess is that what drives sales is strong marketing. People who have the drive and commitment to build a large backlist also have the drive and motivation to build a strong marketing campaign. Thus the backlist-new sales feed loop is an illusion: such a publisher’s success with sales has less to do with the number of products as with determination to market the products.

So. My job right now is to learn how to market on the Internet and then to do it.

August 28, 2015
by funny
1 Comment

Fire-Rider: Another Day, Another Book…

Dang! We just published the eighth volume of the Fire-Rider series and one of the book’s several high points: The Lake of Fire!

Over at the Fire-Rider website, I’ve posted an excerpt. Come on over and have a look at it. And while you’re at it, do buy the book, review it, and tell your friends.

Seriously: Fire-Rider needs reviews. If you’d like a copy, let me know and I can send you a .mobi version readable on a free downloadable Kindle app.

Not on of our boys' better days...

Not on of our boys’ better days…

August 23, 2015
by funny
4 Comments

Of erotica and budgets…

walrus&carpenterglass20Lacking cabbages and kings to talk about, let us consider erotic lit’rachure and budgeting.

To start with the budget: the AMEX bill came in: only about $2100. Before you faint dead away: that includes the $1200+ for a new crown, plus $158 for routine dental cleaning.  If that’s correct (and I have no reason to suspect it’s not), then it means this month I spent all of $742 on regular expenses.

That’s some kind of a miracle: normally I budget $1100 to $1200 for day-to-day costs. So in reality I’m only about $1,000 over budget despite some $1350 dumped into the dentist’s coffers. Hallelujah.

I guess.

As a practical matter, this came about because my nose has been glued so tightly to the grindstone that I haven’t been frolicking around in places like Costco. Really, all of the standard supplies like paper towels, TP, and  olive oil are stashed in gay abundance. Trips to grocery stores suffice for almost everything else.

And also as a practical matter, it means I’m not eating very well. I hate grocery stores and will put off going until I’m totally out of everything, and that means most of the time there’s no fresh produce in the house: no veggies, no fruit, no salad stuff. Instead of eating, I’ve been browsing out of the cupboards: rice, pasta, cheese, canned this and frozen that, whatEVER. Not very good for one.

Oh well.

This afternoon I decided to do a little research on the market for erotica lite, preparatory to writing a short essay to post on LinkedIn (thereinatupon, i hope, to garner some attention from my august colleagues in publishing).

Interestingly, there appears to be surprisingly little data, except for information kept hidden by Amazon. We can see that the market is quite large and has been booming for at least a decade. However, who exactly comprises said market remains to be seen.

A few studies dating back to the 1990s suggest the market is largely female. One set of statistics, whose provenance is decidedly shady, suggests the median age of female erotica readers is around 30. Well, I’ll believe it when I see it, and I ain’t seein’ it there.

However, some more serious studies published in scholarly journals suggest that very probably a large portion of the readership consists of women. We can deduce a few characteristics  of Racy Writing that particularly appeal to women. They tend to like “romance,” which is broadly defined in these studies as stories that involve a relationship. They like stories in which one or both characters are hurt and comforted. And they apparently like the racy passages to be part of the plot. A study of “slash”–a contemporary phenomenon that involves imagining popular characters such as Harry Potter or Captain Kirk in gay or lesbian tales — showed that 60% of readers/hobbyist writers (again mostly female) liked PWP: “porn without plot.”

Moving along… It was off to find some sources for the proposed annotated edition of  The Romance of Lust.

Uh-oh...

Uh-oh…

Ohhh those Victorians! I found a bunch of stuff, some of which I just ordered up from Amazon. Most hilariously, those folks were into sexy furniture, notably technological marvels that comprised all sorts of mechanical wonders. Some of it is truly bizarre.

I’ll leave that to your imagination (which may not be up for the task, if you’re even remotely normal). But rest assured, when my version of the Romance is ready, you’ll be able to read all about it in the headnotes!