Coffee heat rising

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

5 thoughts on “Economics of Changing Horses in Mid-Stream”

  1. Hmmmm….What you are experiencing with your ….”students”…is what concerns me about the whole “on-line diploma industry”. Good for you to stand up and say NO …YOU FAILED. Instead of just passing these folks and allowing them to get a diploma. My dog in this fight?…..I paid …some would say too much money…for my kids to go to good schools and get degrees. They are both articulate and EARNED their degrees from good schools that challenged them. For someone to gain this same recognition without putting in the work OR mastering the work….makes me physically ill…
    As for the “porn productions”….MAN….I just don’t know….Does this stuff really sell? I can’t imagine for the life of me someone making a living writing about “Biker Babe”….Who are the customers…are they mostly return customers or curious folk? Aaaand 5000 well crafted words that tell a story in a day seems challenging to me…Your thoughts???

    • Well… There’s are seven kinds of ambiguity in the public community college business. Yes, community colleges are partly populated by the weakest students who have never learned effective study skills (not altogether their fault: remember, my students are graduates of a school system that ranks 48th among the 50 states). Yes, they also have a population of people who went to work or into the military directly out of high school, but who have grown up and now are serious about learning, about achieving a degree, and about bettering their career opportunities. Often these late bloomers are among the best students, and some of them go on to build successful careers and found thriving local businesses.

      And those schools have a population of very bright young people who recognize that they can save a quarter to a half of the exorbitant cost of a four-year degree by getting all their lower-division prereqs out of the way in a community college. By and large these are skilled, hard-working students who deserve a great deal of respect because they (and their nurturing parents…) have earned it.

      Sometimes you want to bop the dumb ones over the head (especially because some of them are NOT dumb but simply lazy or overbooked). But overall, community college students represent an unsung treasure for this country.

      Porn and $$: Yeah. There is a LOT of money in the sex industry. And amazingly enough, the shorter bookoids sell the best, and they keep on selling.

      Customers are, weirdly enough, pretty normal human beings who enjoy a little arousal with a story. They’re the same people who enjoy genre romances, genre mysteries, genre sci-fi, genre fantasy, genre horror…you name it. Hey. Almost everybody likes sex!

      A whole lot of folks consume some or all of these types of genre fiction like Cracker Jacks: “You can’t eat just one!” People love the stuff, even though it’s not very good. It’s escape fiction. It’s daydream fiction. It’s better-than-TV fiction. It’s caramel popcorn. One erotica author remarked that it’s “an addiction” for some people: once they find your by-line, they keep on coming back.

      As you said yourself, people who kvetch over an extra dime for a cup of coffee will plop down five or six bucks for one issue of Playboy without blinking.

      Any day, I’d rather sell imaginary sex to my fellow citizens than sell them meth. 😉

  2. I’m absolutely fascinated and thrilled at the idea of you cranking out p0rn instead of teaching. I think it is totally doable and will be disappointed if you don’t give it a thorough try.

    You’ve paid your debt to society by years of teaching those who didn’t particularly even want to be taught. Now put all those writing skills to work and make some REAL money, girl. 😀

  3. Perhaps your standards for writing are too high and you need to lower them a bit and cut a few corners? I suspect the people who are buying these cheap bookoids aren’t expecting the writing to be top notch or the editing to be stellar. I have downloaded exactly one of those free volumes of that genre and found the writing, editing, plot, etc to be not very high quality. What is your research revealing about the writing and editing standards?

    • So far — of the dozen or so stories I’ve seen — quality is extremely low. These are not works of literature. Two or three have been decently written, in a marginal way, with characterization that rose above the level of wooden chess pieces.

      Still, it takes time to string together 5000 words of any quality.

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