Coffee heat rising

Dumb Tax and Learning Experiences

Okay, this is gonna have to be fast because a ton of THINGS remain to be done. But you probably think I fell off the edge of the earth…so…just to keep my hand in, here goes…

Since quitting the teaching job about the four weeks ago, I plunged into a whirlpool of nonstop work, 12 and 14 hours a day: trying to catch up with all the work that hasn’t been done over the past year while I’ve been wrestling with the Mayo Clinic and trying to establish a business framework in which to build the proposed p0rn novelette empire. I’ve gotten a LOT done, much of it entailing technologies and jobs with which I am not familiar. Videlicet:

The print version of Slave Labor is now in existence.

The diet/cookbook is finally online!

Day before yesterday I returned corrections for the print version of Thirty Pounds in 4 Months; while I was at it completely reformatted the endless thing in a new template. Awaiting new page proofs.

The blog empire is moved over to WestHost but the new back-end guy hasn’t done much to get it organized. Says he picked up a bad bug from his two-year-old’s day-care experience…which is likely, because there is a nasty bug going around these parts just now.

I’ve about learned how to upload a book-length MS to Kindle and soon will apply to Nook (later!).

My friend who can fairly be described as the dean of scholarly publishing, referred me to the editor of Johns Hopkins University Press. I wrote a new cover letter and sent the proposal for the Boob Book to him, and he immediately sent it to an acquisitions editor, saying it “looks promising.” 🙂

I’ve hired a freelance who has written several p0rn0graphic bookoids with more to come; I will fill in with two more after I understand more about how her characters interact. This will give us a seven-story series in a frame story.

Considering another potential scribbler; we shall see on Friday when I interview the guy.

Created a contract for hiring these creatures.

I’ve written two founding stories for series of spicy novelettes, but have had an awful time finding time to write any more around all the other demands.

The 18 installments of the Fire-Rider series are ready to go; just waiting on the art director to finish the covers (seven are in hand, though…that’ll last the better part of a month if I publish at the rate of one every three or four days).

I’ve come to hate things technological…what a time suck!

Finished the last freshman comp course I hope EVER to have to teach. Told the chair I’m taking off next semester.

Took out a month’s subscription to Shutterstock, which gives me the privilege of downloading up to 750 images.

Already have found, downloaded, and catalogued about 100. Every time I enter a new set of key words, a bunch more likely candidates come up.

Found some extremely kewl drawings for the Camptown Ladies Talk blog (which has yet even to be established at Westhost; reference the alleged kid virus), but discovered they’re .eps files, which have to be converted to jpegs and then reduced hugely in size. But still…amazingly kewl.

Created an awesome cover, using PowerPoint and Preview, for the first installment of the Biker Babe series. Unfortunately it’s a little too racy (read “eye-popping”) to publish on this site, but when the Camptown Races Press site is up, those of you whose sensibilities can sustain a truly lively image will have to come over and admire it.

Purchased 100 ISBNs.

Created spreadsheets to suffice (i hope) in the absence of a decent database.

Edited copy. Advised one distraught author and another who simply plods along and refuses to give up.

Escaped having to deal overmuch with my neediest client, who thank God ended up with his account at Createspace intact and operative.

Mocked up a cover in Powerpoint that looks pretty persuasive but have not had the nerve or the time to fiddle with trying to upload it to Amazon or B&N…another day!

Spent two half-days getting the car’s tires changed.

Spent half of yesterday today re-learning Windows at the campus’s computer commons; figured out how to get content loaded to Amazon correctly, using a PC not a Mac.

Approached the college with an initiative the Scottsdale Business Assn has cooked up, by way of offering internships in members’ companies under the SBA aegis. Interesting but tricky.

Raised Hell, put a block under it, and finally resolved the issue with AMEX about the freeze on my credit bureau accounts. Extracted two new credit cards from AMEX, to kick in after American Express’s contract with Costco expires.

Along the way,  I have learned a LOT of stuff, most of it falling under the heading of “dumb tax.” For example:

Yesterday I learned that Kindle cannot run a table of contents generated on a Mac, no matter what iteration of Word you’re using. It must be updated on a PC or its links will not go through. Period.

What’s the Dumb Tax part of that? If I’d been paying attention when I read the endless instructions for  how to upload to Kindle from .docx, I would’ve noticed this little detail… 🙄

Bowker gives one an opportunity to buy a bar code and UPC to go with the ISBNs you’re spending your children’s patrimony to buy. I declined, knowing they weren’t necessary for e-books. But what I did NOT think about is that they are necessary if you want to sell hard-copy books on Amazon. Or anywhere else. The bar codes are expensive, and I was too cheap to pay for them.

Greed Tax: same thing as Dumb Tax. Now I’ll have to have the damn things printed out on labels and ship any hard copies of the diet/cookbook to Amazon, expensively, from my house rather than having the PoD guys ship direct to Amazon. 🙄

And why not have the graphic artist just add the bar code to the wrap-around cover? Because I’d like to sell these things sometime in my lifetime…

When using a finely tuned Book Design Template, you have to use styles even if you’re preparing PDFs for print. If you use Wyrd’s italic or boldface function (command-i or command-b), for example, what will happen is that any line with so much as one character of italic or b.f. will take on added leading. So instead of the line being, say, 10/12 (ten point type over 12 point leading), it will appear to be 10/13. Lovely.

Why did I not sense this in advance? Not knowing, I’d hesitate to state, for fear of being erroneous.

My friend the e-book builder had converted Slave Labor to .mobi with far more techie software and expertise than I’m capable of marshaling. When I wanted a print-on-demand version, I just slapped the copy I’d sent to him into Book Design Template’s “Focus” model (very handsome, BTW) — without even thinking about the font formatting. Nor was there any reason to think it would make any difference. The styles are designed to make the files work with Kindle. Oh well.

Also yesterday I learned that Windows has reinvented itself so many times that to a Mac user it now looks like it was developed on a planet circling Antares.

Should’ve bought myself a cheap laptop PC with which I could continue to use Windows, down through the ages.

That’s only partial Dumb Tax, though: in the past, I’ve found that switching back and forth between the Mac and the PC environments causes a lot of headaches. It’s quite a PITA when you confuse one set of commands with another.

Because of the TofC issue, I learned that the college’s Computer Commons is dead empty in the summertime and is a HEAVENLY place to work. It’s quiet, it’s air-conditioned to sweater-weather levels, and with no one around, you get the techs’ complete, undivided attention.

I’m definitely going back today or tomorrow to work more on relearning windows and to refine the Fire-Rider tables of contents. If I can get them to let me sign in as a member of the public after my campus credentials expire, then the Computer Commons may become my office-away-from-the-home-office, at least during the summertime.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe how cold it was in there. In the morning, I was sitting here at the Funny Farm with the AC blasting and fans running, and sweat was running off my  nose as I was tapping away at the keyboard. I’m not thrilled about burning the gas to drive up to campus every day, but if I get more work done and have fewer conversion problems, it may be worth it.

I think the groundwork for the Camptown Races Press enterprise is now about laid. I sincerely hope so, because wrestling with all this stuff has meant I haven’t been able to write more than a paragraph or two a day for the past several weeks. By the time I’ve finished a day’s raft of To-Do’s, I’m so tired I can’t hold my eyes open.

So I’m hoping that by the end of this week I’ll have the websites updated, announcements of the newly published books posted here and at those sites, a social media expert hired to help peddle the things, and FINALLY some time broken loose in which to do what was the whole point of this exercise: sit down and write for a living.

Now…the only question is, how do I persuade every single reader of Funny about Money to review my astonishingly brilliant and wondrous to read Amazon books???

Start-up Risk: What Will the New Enterprise Cost?

   QuestionmarkLast night when I got a chance to take a deep breath, I again reviewed and toted up projected operating costs for the first six months of Camptown Races Press’s existence.

Why six months? Because with any luck, the thing should run in the black by then, assuming I can put 15 to 20 bookoids online each month. Apparently critical mass is achieved at about 100 publications. That would be 17 squibs a month.

I’ve written two, each taking about a week or ten days to prepare. However, during that time I’ve also had to do with a new, painful, & temporarily debilitating surgery at the same time my summer course draws to an end — significant distractions, we might say. Also both of the new bookoids are longer and more sophisticated than necessary. If I wrote two books/month that were what I would naturally write when confronted with a keyboard and a screen and filled in with eight- to ten-page quickies (heh!), I could probably crank six or eight a month myself and hire out the rest. Assuming I can find enough people to write nine or ten in a given month.

So I calculated the minimum and the maximum operating costs I think will be necessary to run the new publishing imprint for six months, assuming it does indeed generate enough copy to produce 100 novelettes and free-standing short stories over that time.

Making another assumption — that I can learn to format these things for Kindle and Nook myself — the major costs are editorial (i.e., hiring writers), cover design, stock art, hosting fees, and back-end website management. Over six months, these will range from a minimum of $5,085 to a maximum of $7,850.

I propose to capitalize the new business with funds in the S-corporation. These figures represent about half to three-quarters of the S-corp’s liquid assets. And of course they don’t account for any unpleasant little surprises, like this handy-dandy MacBook Pro self-destructing….

True, The Copyeditor’s Desk will continue to bring in some money. We still have several editorial clients, two of whom pay a decent rate. But in a good year the editorial biz only nets about 10 grand. This has not been a good year, so far. Nor am I any more enthusiastic about taking on new editing clients than I am about ever having to teach another section of freshman comp…

But oh, my! This morning I sat down to begin drafting the proposal for the Boob Book, preparatory to sending out my pitch to publishers who might actually pay me an advance — which, should any such thing come to pass, would also help to capitalize the nascent porn business. And the thought wafted into my mind:

How incredible would it BE if all I did, every day, is write?
What if once again, after all these years, I were a writer and ONLY a writer?


And 🙂

But then of course the sane voice whispers, “Are you kidding? Have you even considered the opportunity cost of spending all your time writing when you could be earning actual dollars teaching dunderheads online?”


The question is, which endeavor really represents the opportunity cost: the writing or the teaching? If scribbling steamy novelettes really can generate more than $1,120 a month, then teaching is the culprit here, because it would take away from the total potential earnings.

But if I can’t make that much, then spending my time writing instead of teaching is going to cost me $1,120, every month from now until I shuffle off this mortal coil.

It’s a big risk. Very big. I could lose my shirt.

Is it worth it?

Well. I’m not fond of teaching. In fact, I would go so far as to say I hate it. And I’m very, very tired of editing arcane academic works. I would go so far as to say I hate that, too.

I like to write. I’m good at it. And any day I’d rather spend eight to ten hours writing in pursuit of the almighty dollar than teaching or editing for part-time hire.

Yeah. Say I’m crazy, but I think it is worth it.

I hope.

Economics of Changing Horses in Mid-Stream

Or of bailing out of the sinking canoe? Of the Eng. 102 papers graded so far — about half — 36 percent have D or F grades. Actually, only one of those has a D. All the rest are flat-out failing.

Before the Online Course…

Why? Because they don’t bother to read the assignment, and they’ve found a way to rack up the full score on the quizzes over the textbook chapter without reading the book. They haven’t the faintest idea what they’re doing, and they don’t care.

I am so sick of this. Reading a failing paper is really a painful process, because you have to justify everything you’re doing that marks down the paper into the 69% or lower category. You can’t just scribble “this is sh!t” and give it a goose-egg. If you find they’ve plagiarized, you have to locate and document’s source and demonstrate exactly HOW copying word for word is plagiarism. If they haven’t done the documentation (or any documentation) you have to point out where they’re lacking and explain how to fix it and refer them to websites that explain MLA style for all perpetuity. If they’ve used Glamour Magazine as a scholarly source (I kid you not…), you have to explain why Glamour is not a scholarly source (can you imagine having to explain to a grown man or woman why a fashion magazine for 20-somethings  is not a scholarly journal???) and then explain to them how to recognize a scholarly source and then refer them to several websites that explain how to find and recognize acceptable sources. On and on and drearily on it goes.

Got to get out from underneath this job!

Yesterday I came across a podcast interview with a woman who writes romance erotica under three pen names. She discussed her business model in detail, and it is highly replicable.

With a hundred novels and novelettes online, she’s earning about $5,000 a month. That, I think, is a lot more realistic than the $30,000 figure, which may or may not be a one-shot event but is unlikely to continue forever. And I’ll tell you, if I were turning five grand a month from Amazon, I would be beside myself with joy.

She said that she made a conscious decision to treat the enterprise as a job, not as a side gig to gainful employment. She quit doing any other kind of work and began to focus her workday hours on writing erotica and publishing it. Like others, she designs the covers herself (apparently high art is not what these readers seek), converts them to e-book formats herself (there are tools for that), and rides herd on things herself.

She did not mention hiring people to write some of the bookoids.

So, I’m thinking I could capitalize the p0rno venture with funds in the S-corp’s checking account. There’s not enough to underwrite an entire semester off the teaching job and cover start-up costs. However, this fall I will be forced to take a required minimum withdrawal from the big IRA. Since I’ll have to pay taxes on that anyway, I may just tell the chair I’m not teaching this fall because I’m sick or some such — trying not to burn that bridge behind me — and use a few thousand bucks from the RMD to live on this fall. Then spend every single day writing or managing other writers.

I would like to keep capitalization costs down to $5,000, but that may be unrealistic. Adding up what I think it will cost to start up and run this business, here’s what I get:


In the best-case scenario, operating costs would run about $1,700 a month. Actually, they would run $1,700 to $4,450 a month. I could sustain this over two quarters, assuming it takes six months or so for revenues to reach a noticeable level, but only if costs were kept at the very barest minimum. That is, only if Murphy’s Law never strikes.

Heh. We know about how realistic that scenario is.

Assuming a 30% cost overrun, in the best of all possible worlds monthly operating costs would run around $2,430; in an OK scenario, around $5,785. Over two quarters, the latter would not be sustainable. The former — costs are kept in the basement and I do most or all of the work and I do never anything black-hat like hiring people to write reviews, would drain most of the S-corps funds. At a 50% cost overrun, the whole project is untenable, no matter how you look at it.

Unless, of course, the stories that people tell about generating untold riches in the p0rn bidness are true.

Sappho, the Tenth Muse

Let’s say it takes six months to start cranking a $5,000 monthly income. That’s assuming I succeed in spinning out 20 to 30 books a month, to the tune of $100 apiece. At the end of the 2nd quarter, our first $5,000 check comes in.

Then, in our very best-case scenario — costs kept to a minimum and no Murphy’s Law attack — we’re $3369 in the red ($8,369 in costs offset by $5,000 revenue). This is not good, but it’s not unsustainable yet. If, at the end of  Q1, $5,000 actually does start coming in monthly, by the end of the next quarter we should be the black. In one quarter we make $15,000. It costs $8369 to run for a quarter and we’re $3369 in the red: a total of $11,738 to make up. So $15,000 less the $11,738 of red ink gives us a profit of $3262 after four quarters.

Folks. Four quarters is a whole year…

None of the other scenarios look as bright as this.

However, the Bowker (ISBN) and Shutterstock charges would be annual, not monthly, so that would reduce costs by $470 to $650 in most months. If I wrote most of the books myself — a lot more than 10! — that also would cut a major cost significantly.

As a practical matter, there’s no way I can write 20 or 30 bookoids a month. I would need to farm out at least 10 and probably more like 20, certainly to reach the 30-squib-a-month goal.

Our spy in the p0rn bidness claims his books are 5,000 words. Another writer, posting on some message board, says his/hers average 3,000 words. Either of those would take me at least a couple of days to write. The woman who spoke in the podcast — the one who says she’s turning five grand a month — said her bookoids are 10,000 words long and that she takes two days to write one and one day to edit, create the cover, convert to e-book formats, and post. Five thousand words a day is a fair amount of copy to churn out! It also means she’s only putting out ten a month, assuming she works on weekends.


I’m about half- to two-thirds of the way through my first effort in this fine genre, Biker Babe. (Yes…obviously that working title will need improvement.) It’s taken me two days so far. More like two half-days, actually: yesterday I had to knock off to trudge through dreadful student papers.

The book, though, is a hoot. I expect to finish it today.

Then, a travel series…

Biker Babe and BillyBob Do (heh) the Grand Canyon
Biker Babe and BillyBob Do Mazatlan
Biker Babe and BillyBob Do Vegas

Or how about mystery erotica?

Biker Babe and the Mystery of the Sunken Canoe?
Biker Babe and the Mystery of the Missing Heiress?

Multiple Men erotica?

Biker Babe Goes to Sea
Biker Babe Learns to Play Rugby

The podcast interviewee says she writes about four hours a day. To which I say, Seriously?? You’re REALLY cranking out 5,000 words in four hours? How? Channeling from Anaïs Nin?

At ten or twelve bookoids a month, it’s anyone’s guess whether you could generate enough revenue even to stay afloat, to say nothing of not having to EVER TEACH ANOTHER FRESHMAN COMP COURSE AGAIN. At 30? Probably the bidness could generate enough to replace teaching income and maybe even then some. But it’s going to take several months for that to happen.

In the interim, I have to eat…

Anaïs Nin
Anaïs Nin

At Last: A little traction!

FINALLY am getting a little traction on the Boob Book!!! Yesterday was a true Day from Hell, in which I got exactly nothing done, despite arising at 5 a.m. and planning to spend all of Friday on constructive work. Goddamn Wyrd completely crashed my computer…thought I’d lost several days worth of work in files that were live when the system went down. And naturally at the same time a (temporarily) dormant client resurfaced, in a tizzy and seeking rescue.


Right now.

But today… Just finished Chapter 2 and tossed together the ToC and a chapter outline. So now I’ve got most of the package:

Table of Contents
Chapter Outline
Chapter 1: Mammography
Chapter 2: “Something Suspicious”
Appendix A: How to Read a Scientific Article
Appendix E: The Komen controversy and alternatives to donating to Komen

Now all I have to do is write the cover letter and the marketing pitch, toss it all together, and find someone at William Morrow to send it to.

I remembered that my late business partner, Phil Harrison, packaged a book for HarperCollins West. HarperCollins hasn’t got the greatest reputation among writers — in terms of working with them, I mean — but I don’t recall Phil complaining. Anyway, if this bounces from Wm. Morrow I may send it to HarperColllins, since I can say with some truth that “i” (i.e., my company) worked with them in the past. But I also need to dig up an agent. My plan is to pay for access to LMP online and build a list of about a dozen agents and a dozen publishers; then start shipping the package out.

A standard advance for a book like this is about  25 grand. If I get anything close to that, I’m going to stand down off the teaching for a year (actually, $16,800 would buy me out of the teaching job…but I expect that’s what I’d net after taxes on twenty to twenty-five thou, since I’m being forced to do a required minimum withdrawal from my IRA this year, which will really jack up the tax rate). At any rate, if I don’t have to teach, then I should be able to write the book AND work on building the proposed…ahem…racey publishing empire.

At any rate, I’ve gone as far as I can today, because I’m tired, hungry, and have other projects in hand. Food is on the grill. As soon as I finish lunch/dinner, I’m going to start writing outlines of the zingy (if that’s the word…) stories downloaded from Amazon > Books > Erotica on the current free trial subscription to Kindle Unlimited. Actually I’d better download a few more, too.

From there I’ll create guidelines for writing the…uhm, what we might call the “quickies”…so that they can be turned out in a uniform way and with any luck speedily.

Believe it or not, three people have actually volunteered to write these kernels of p0rn!!!!! One of them, o mirabilis, is magnificently gay and highly creative.

Things are beginning to shape up (heh) in budding p0rn empire.

I’m out of money and out of food. So tomorrow, when the new AMEX billing cycle starts, I’ll have to spend most of the day running around town restocking the pantry and the fridge; then cook another week’s worth of dog food (Ruby and Cassie out out of food, too). And then it’s off to some friends’ house for father’s day. While I’m chasing around, I’d better pick up a gift and some wine for him.

And Monday: student papers. Two have turned in their essays early, but that leaves another 21 to trudge through…

All of which is to say it’ll be next Tuesday before I’ll get to the next phase of the Boob Book project: write the cover letter and marketing pitch, unearth the names of new editorial staff at William Morrow and HarperCollins, and send the proposal package off.

Another Day, Another Dollar

…or a tiny fraction thereof. The dollar, I mean. It’s 8 a.m. and I’ve been working since  5, so I suppose a substantial fraction of the day has come and gone.

Visit to the Cardiodoc later this morning. That meeting, I hope, will put the whole blood pressure question to rest, once and for all. After another entire month of twice-daily bicep-pinching, the average comes to 124/74, not bad for a seventy-year-old broad who drinks a lot, doesn’t exercise enough, grinds her teeth in frustration until her jaws hurt, and most days consumes meat decorated with butter. I would like very much not to have to hear anything more about that!

Yesterday a very nice little discovery came my way: Joel Friedlander, a graphic designer who blogs about self-publishing, has come up with a whole set of Word templates tricked out as book formats for various types of fiction and nonfiction. Once you pour your copy into one of these and tidy it up a bit, you can convert to a PDF that any printer should be able to use to produce the desired trim size.

While, no, Word cannot do really top-flight page layout (largely because its fonts just aren’t up to the job), for most self-publishers’ purposes Page Layout As High Art is not required. Something that’s readable and doesn’t look like it was put together by a sixth-grader will suffice.

These things more than suffice. I’ve been putting Slave Labor into one of them and finding the task moves right along. The styles built into the template work smoothly and provide excellent consistency. It would be good to be able to insert a hard hyphen to force a line break, by way of fixing the occasional loose line (the particular template I’m using won’t allow that), but otherwise I have no serious complaints.

Student papers are starting to come in, so when I get back from the doc’s place I’ll have to kill at least part of the afternoon reading that stuff.

Two of them have plaintively begged to be told the title of the book. Uhm…it’s at the top of the FIRST PAGE of the syllabus. What part of download the syllabus, an instruction emitted three times on the first day of this online course, did they not understand?

They have an open-book quiz on the syllabus that gives them FIVE CHANCES to find the answers. It should be impossible to get less than the full ten points. We have scores of 7.3, 8.5, 8.3…jeez.

Wonder how they’ll do on the quizzes over the book’s chapters (assuming any of them manage to buy the book)? They only get three chances to get the answers right on those things.

This train of thought is making my teeth grind again. Must get up, feed the dog, and fix some breakfast.

The New Writing Empire: Promising!

Yesterday afternoon I sat down and began the project of dividing the epic (not to say “endless”…) Fire-Rider novel into chunks that can be serialized on Amazon. At the end of the day, I had 19 “bookoids,” as I’ve taken to calling them. That doesn’t count the front and back matter.

Our porn king’s bookoids, which he tries to post daily, are 5000 words apiece. Fire-Rider serials average a little over 8,000 words, with the shortest in the 5,000-word range.

To my delight, I found the book deconstructs beautifully into perfect little stories, each with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And strangely, the format seems to make the saga more interesting, more engaging. Instead of feeling like oh, God, here’s another chapter plod…plod…plod…plod, your sense is w00t! I’ve finished this and now I get to start a new one!

Rather than wondering when is this ever going to end?, you find yourself wanting to move forward to the next stage.

In the morning I talked with my graphic designer — the artist, not the e-book dude. He really likes the idea.

He feels we can use the existing cover image, which is extremely cool IMHO, as a kind of “brand” identity for the entire series and, without a lot more expense, adjust cover lines and a few graphic details to produce a unique cover for each bookoid.

This afternoon I’m going to divvy up the MS into the 19 segments. With the introduction and the afterword, the total will create 21 items to post on Amazon, but I think I also will put the intro (at least) and maybe the afterword online through Plain & Simple Press, giving me something freely accessible to post on Twitter, FB, and LinkedIn. Assuming that doesn’t violate Amazon’s ToS. If it does, then Amazon doesn’t get those two items; WordPress does.

Tomorrow — or Saturday, since tomorrow and Friday will be busy — I’ll download and install Scrivener and begin learning how to use it to create e-books. That or something like it is what the Porn King is using: we’re told he farms out some of the content production (“writing” may not be le mot juste) to freelances and uploads the things to Kindle himself.

Dang! I’m excited!