It seems my new way or procrastinating from doing edits is to load videos to YouTube.
Five and a half years ago (which feels like an eternity and at the same time feels like it was yesterday) I wrote and published a book called Excel for Self-Publishers. This was actually the book that caused me to write Excel for Beginners and Intermediate Excel, because all I wanted in life was for writers to learn how to use frickin’ pivot tables. So I wrote four books to get them there.
Of course, Amazon eventually got their head out of their you-know-what and set up reporting so that you could just see in a glance month-to-date sales. And so that you could see AMS ad performance over a time period instead of only the entire life of the ad. And so that you could see the KENP related to a particular AMS ad.
Which was great.
But it also made half of that book outdated and unnecessary. So I unpublished it. And pulled the related video course off of Udemy.
Except some of that material was still perfectly relevant. Like the concept of customer value and how to calculate that. Or how to look at how unit price affects income. Or how to understand that the more books you have the more you can earn.
So yesterday I posted those videos. The customer value ones walk through how to calculate customer value for both sales and borrows and then how to combine those for a weighted average customer value as well as the flaws in the approach. The pricing scenarios and income projections videos are just standalone videos.
I’m pretty sure there are others there that I could also post and probably will at some point. But that was enough for yesterday.
Here is the pricing scenarios one, because it also uses one of my favorite Excel tricks, the “two”-variable analysis grid:
I’m amazed that there are people out there who have no internal dialogue. Their minds are just blank when they’re sitting there not interacting and I find that both disturbing and fascinating, because my mind is never turned off.
So, without further ado. Some random thoughts and comments.
I am increasingly disappointed by the poor decision-making at Amazon with respect to books.
The other day I went to Amazon and there were no also-boughts listed on my book pages. None.
It’s quite possible it’s been this way for a while. I certainly know they were pushed down to the bottom of the page at one point in time.
One of the reasons this is bad is because it hides the scammers. It used to be that I could look at an Excel book and see its also-boughts and if all the also-boughts on a computer book were cooking books about Keto diets, I could pretty much guarantee you that the book was in KU, listed in obscure categories, and probably getting all its money from page reads out of a click farm somewhere.
Another reason is because also-boughts let readers see what others books I had that might interest them. The also boughts on my Excel books often had my Word, PowerPoint, and Access books, too.
I think this does really fall apart for the big-name or prolific authors like Nora Roberts or Stephen King because all of their also-boughts for ten pages are them. But that could’ve been controlled for by showing one page of same-author also-boughts and then showing other authors after that first page of results.
Finally, in the past also-boughts let me see for my fiction books what other authors people who bought my books were buying. That let me know if I had a branding or marketing issue (if my also-boughts didn’t line up with my type of book). But it also let me know who to advertise to with my AMS ads. If Author X’s readers like my books, then I should use Author X as a keyword.
Now it feels like both readers and authors are flying blind there. All they get is ads that may or may not have anything to do with that book.
Amazon seem to be falling apart in other ways as well.
I think I mentioned it before but I’m pretty sure they changed the way that they determine a broad category match on AMS ads, because this last six months for me running broad category match keywords has been a game of whack-a-mole where I luck into someone clicking on my completely inappropriate ad which then lets me know that AMS is showing my book about Microsoft Excel to people searching for makeup and blade saws.
I think before there was some effort to restrict matches to the same general type of product (although maybe not, back in the day I advertised my budgeting book towards people buying high-end TVs) but it feels like the wheels are completely off these days.
Maybe that’s just me.
I’d rather see it where people could direct ads like that using ASINs but where broad category matches were directed to at least products in the same general lane. So my Excel book keywords would direct to other computer books and computer software, not frickin’ makeup.
And don’t even get me started on trying to advertise Access books that suddenly are being put in front of people who want disability access aids. I’m not trying to be that asshole, but Amazon is making it look like I am. It’s a waste of my money and shoppers’ time and energy.
With these types of missteps I think it would be wise for anyone who relies primarily on Amazon to start making a Plan B.
Because they may be the ones who choke off the effectiveness of KDP with their poor decision-making, but when it gets to the point that they decide it’s not a “core business” that’s “worth keeping” we’ll all pay that cost in brutal ways.
If you haven’t been paying attention, they seem to be in a cutting mode right now. Peripheral stuff at the moment like Amazon Smile (which, dude, if you really cared about giving to charity would’ve just been a default thing instead of forcing people to remember to go to a different website each time they ordered) and whatever the subscription program they ran for magazines was and I think I’ve seen at least one or two other programs cut recently.
They are headed in the direction of efficiencies and profit maximization, which means get ready to get screwed as things become less workable for anyone except top execs and shareholders.
(There are days when I think about what I learned at Wharton and how it drives towards a long-term outcome that is net negative for all but a handful of people and just shake my head that I spent time absorbing that crap, but that’s the world we exist in right now. Do you hate the coach when they tell you what it takes to win? Or do you hate the game? And if you do hate the game, do you still play? What other choice is there?)
I’m also keeping a wary eye on all the AI developments because they mean that online identity is going to become even more nebulous than ever.
And there will be significant impacts on writers, audio narrators, and artists.
It’s funny, people used to refer to self-publishing as a “tsunami of crap”. What does that make what we’re going to be seeing from AI-generated projects in the next five years?
As a reader, when that stuff starts to flood the market and I can’t tell the difference between a book worth my $8 and one that isn’t because the packaging will be slick but the content won’t be enjoyable, I’ll probably be even more likely to stick to physical books that come from larger publishers. I won’t be the only one.
Expect those with solid name recognition to weather this well, but new names or unestablished ones to falter.
Then again, I’m also not a whale reader who reads five books a day that the current ghost writing, churn and burn marketers target, so maybe for that reader the new flood won’t be any different to them.
But visibility with that many more titles out there will be almost impossible I think.
Sorry I seem all gloom and doom these days, but I do think there are some seismic shifts coming in the next five years.
Which reminds me there was a good Twitter thread by author Matt Wallace recently. He’s trade-published, but still a good discussion of the ups and downs of this business and need to regroup and readjust multiple times if you choose to keep going. And how really it all comes down to you making that choice.
There were some good spin-off threads based on that one, too. I bookmarked this one by Marshall Ryan Maresca and this one by Ursula Vernon who also writes as T. Kingfisher. Hers was more of a spin-off of her spin-off which discusses what it really means money-wise to sell a million copies.
Speaking of sales numbers, I think I hit 90K paid copies sold as of November and $300K in revenue, which seem like good numbers, right? But they’re really not. Not when rents have more than doubled in my area in ten years and health care cost has tripled.
Yesterday I added the audiobook of Sell That Book to my YouTube page. I wrote that at around 50K sales, but I think the advice in there is still solid. (If I did it right any subscribers to the channel only received one email about it, but the whole book is up there.)
It was actually when I was narrating the audio for this book that I thought about putting up a YouTube channel. Because I had two chapters I wanted to share with anyone who’d listen.
One, was this one on when to quit trying to trade publish and self-publish. (Answer, never if it’s just because you gave up on ever getting trade published.)
The other was the very next chapter which is basically, why wouldn’t you self-publish if that’s the only way to fulfill the dream of getting your book out into the world:
Anyway, those are my publishing-related thoughts for the day.
I’m currently reading a series of books that are really good in the sense that I can devour one of the books in the space of a day or two and want the next one, but at the same time it’s funny to me because there are parts of these books that I absolutely do not like.
They’re a type of fantasy book that is not normally what I seek out, but I like the larger story in these books so I keep reading them.
Thinking as a writer, though, after reading about a dozen of these books there are some little author quirks that have become very obvious.
This author has a go-to phrase they use during sex scenes in every, single, book. Which when you read an author as they release a book once a year isn’t something you notice, but when you read six books by them in a week is.
It’s a reminder that series books have to work standalone because it can be years between when someone reads books in a series, but they also have to work when read in quick sequence. That’s a tricky balance to find. Both in terms of what information is presented and when, and in terms of repetitive phrasing.
Also, I read these books out of order. I read a later series of books first and then circled back to the first series of related books.
I don’t think I would’ve read as many books by this author if I’d started with the first book in the first series and read from there forward.
The reason is because of the characterization. These books include three different groups of characters that are very distinct in their supposed traits. So I would expect a wide variety of relationship types when characters get together.
And yet…all of the sexual relationships between all of the characters, no matter what group they belong to, are identical. Ultra-possessive and involving certain physical acts that I’m pretty sure aren’t the norm for most people…
This was understandable in the first six books or so because of the focus on one of those groups, but then it went right on to include the other two groups, too.
If I were reading in order I would’ve walked away at that point.
As a writer I think that’s a lesson that sometimes what you think people like about your stories is not what they like about them. And, also, to stop sometimes and ask yourself if the world you’ve built would really work that way or not.
In randomly related news, I just finished reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, which I thought was a very good book. (Non-fiction.)
It’s also a reminder that in real life when a man is ultra-possessive and pushes the timeline on a relationship, that’s a very bad sign. (p. 199 in my copy) As is intense possessiveness and jealousy.
I think the fiction books I was talking about above just barely stay on the right side of that line, but I can see how someone could read one of those books and think they want that kind of intense, ride or die, lifelong connection with someone and then find themselves in a controlling, dangerous relationship where they’re at risk of being killed if they leave.
If you’re a single woman learn the real-world red flags for that type of situation. Because if you get into that type of situation, it’s often already too late to get out safely.
Affinity Publisher Book Formatting Quick Takes Videos
This is a video reference library for when you want to do one specific thing in Affinity Publisher. It is not the video courses that are tied into the books I wrote on Affinity Publisher (which are all discussed here). These are short videos (less than two minutes each) meant to cover one very specific topic for those times when you just can’t remember how to do something.
Videos should be sorted alphabetically by main topic (image, master pages, etc.) but I’d recommend using search on this one because there are 89 videos I believe.
Excel Tips and Tricks Videos
These are short videos that are meant to provide a video demonstration of the tips and tricks presented in Excel Tips and Tricks. If you use Excel, I think it’s worth the thirty minutes to watch them because there are a few tips there that I didn’t know until recently that have been very helpful to me, not to mention some of the old classics like freeze panes and using a single apostrophe mark to keep Excel from turning an entry into a date.
M.H. Lee Short Stories
The final set of videos are the audiobooks of the M.H. Lee short stories I’ve recorded so far. There are six of them. Two are very short stories, the rest are about 45 minutes long. All speculative fiction of one sort or another. No explicit sex or violence but a few deal with challenging topics.
A few things to note.
The sound quality is going to vary between the different playlists, especially as I put up older content. Right now the M.H. Lee short stories and Excel Tips and Tricks videos were recorded in my current recording space with a high-quality microphone, but the Affinity Publisher ones were not. The main difference you’ll notice is probably the distance from the microphone in the older videos.
But all of these videos have closed captions on them, so if that’s an issue, just turn those on and turn off the sound. Also, especially for the Excel and Affinity videos, using closed captions will make sure that you catch any technical terminology. I do think I enunciate fairly well but when you’re not familiar with terms it’s hard to know what someone is saying.
That’s also why I don’t know when more videos will be loaded, because even when I was reading off of a script putting those closed captions on a video takes substantial time. And for the technical videos I think good closed captions are essential. I do not trust automated captions for those videos.
If you want to support this effort, please follow the channel. It’s my understanding that if I can hit 1,000 followers on there that I can apply to get a share of ad revenue from the channel, which would be nice. (But as someone who does not follow anything because I hate getting notifications in my in box I completely understand not wanting to do that.)
I expect that the next projects that will get loaded up there are some of the self-pub-related videos that I created years ago as well as the audiobook versions of Sell That Book and Data Analysis for Self-Publishers when those closed captions are ready to go.
If I see a lot of views on the Affinity Publisher videos, I still need to do a quick takes version for the ads and covers book, so that could be a future project. (And if I hit the point where I’m monetized on there I’ll likely add the video courses as well.)
I also do have the old videos I did for Excel for Beginners, etc. that may make it up there at some point.
Basically at this point I’ll see if the channel gets any traction whatsoever and what type of traction it gets and go from there.
As I say in the welcome video, right now I don’t expect you’ll see me on there a lot simply because makeup, lighting, etc. etc. is not where I care to put a lot of energy. But some of the projects I could do would require that so don’t hold me to that one.
Anyway, if YouTube is your thing, enjoy!
(Oh, and know that I have no clue what I’m doing there so I have probably done something wrong at this point. Feel free to drop a line and let me know what it is if you’re so inclined (mlhumphreywriter at gmail or comment below).)
I was reading a sales pitch this morning that was basically 50% “you’re too stupid to know that you need to learn this” and I have to say that I really, truly hate that sort of sales tactic.
And it is a sales tactic. To make you feel bad enough about yourself that you give someone money to “fix” yourself.
This same person also likes to use the “you’re too lazy to put in the work” sales tactic. Like, “I have this amazing, wonderful solution to all your problems, but of course, you’d rather be out there flitting around doing nothing instead of learning what I have to teach you…”
For $500. Or $600. Or $3,000.
The sad thing is that sort of tactic works on people. Someone speaks with absolute authority–there is an answer and I am the one who knows it and anyone who thinks differently from me is wrong–makes people feel really bad about themselves and then demands money to make them feel better.
I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before, but when I was twenty I decided that I was going to quit school and become a stockbroker. I had two years of college–at good schools, but still, I didn’t know a stock from a bond–and this place was willing to hire me to be a broker.
I figured I’d work five years, earn enough to pay for the rest of my college with cash, and it would all be good.
This was a place that gave a personality test when you applied. And it turned out that my “weakness” on this personality test was a lack of “killer instinct”.
I don’t know if the recruiter used that word, but basically the test showed that I didn’t have that sort of, “close ’em at any cost” attitude. I assured her I’d be fine, but it was absolutely true when it came down to it.
There I was. Twenty-years-old. I’d passed my Series 7 and my insurance tests, but three months before that I’d known nothing about any of what I was talking about. And I was on the phone with middle-aged business owners who knew their business, but knew nothing about investing.
All they wanted was someone to tell them what to do. All I had to do was be really arrogant and certain and they would have given me their money.
But I just couldn’t do it. (And good thing, because that brokerage firm was not a very good place.)
Later as a securities regulator I interviewed any number of customers who had lost everything to an arrogant broker who assured them he knew better than they did.
It’s so easy to do.
And I think about that a lot. Because I am one of those people who can see that weakness in others. I know exactly how it can be exploited. And it’s tempting to do that to people, because it results in success.
Make them feel less than they are or make them feel special and they will give you what you ask for. But it feels wrong to me to use people’s insecurities and weaknesses against them.
So I try not to do it. (Possibly to an extent that’s a little too extreme in the other direction.)
I also shake my head in disgust when I see someone else doing it to others.
The crazy thing is, this particular person has good information. I just cannot stand the way they make others feel bad about themselves while trying to share it (and sell it).
I don’t do big releases, as you may have noticed by hanging around here for a bit.
I essentially write a book, get it ready to go, and then when all the links are live do a blog post, send out a message to the newsletter, sometimes remember to post about it on Facebook, and update my website to list the book. Oh, and usually throw an AMS ad or two at it.
(By the way, not only did I release the four books I told you about two days ago, but I also released the six books in the Easy Excel 365 Essentials series, too, yesterday. That would be Excel 365 Formatting, Conditional Formatting, Charts, Pivot Tables, The IF Functions, andLOOKUP Functions. Usually I wait to do that for a bit after the main release since these books are derived from the core series but I had a few days to wait until 2023 so got them ready then and also wanted the LOOKUP Functions book out there ASAP for anyone who knows Excel but doesn’t know XLOOKUP. Anyway. More books. Yay. Now you know. Go learn XLOOKUP if you love VLOOKUP.)
By releasing the way I do, it usually means that I don’t have a lot of work that I have to do leading up to a release, but that I then get to panic that the release was a complete failure for the next week or two after the release date.
Sometimes longer than that.
Since nobody knows the books are coming, most readers aren’t ready to drop money on the day of a release. And it takes time to get ads up and running and in front of the right audience. And for a book to get any visibility from ranking well.
Which means generally for me I don’t see what a book has the potential to be for a month or two.
And sometimes a book doesn’t get launched into the right place or in the right format so it takes even longer than that.
For example. I had that new pen name book I randomly wrote and published last year. I felt like writing something that didn’t fit under any of my existing names so I took a week or two, put it together, put it in audio, got it out there and…
Nothing. It died.
I put it in KU and ran a few AMS ads on it, which got clicks but no reads to speak of and no purchases.
In audio all I can see in real-time (ish) is what’s happening on ACX, which also was ugly. It’s a shorter title so not one that would attract subscription listeners.
I basically wrote it off as a dud. Until I checked my wide audio numbers for November which only came out yesterday.
Lo and behold, it turns out that maybe the market for that particular book is libraries. Because when I saw month-end library listens for the audiobook, that was a promising number. Not huge, but a high enough number to make me think month two could be good if it keeps going.
It took six weeks to know that, though.
Another book I released many, many years ago didn’t get any sort of traction until it was in audio two years later.
Which is all to say that unless you’re savvy as hell about who buys your books and exactly how to position them in front of that audience and also write the types of books that people need day one (so a hot series on the fiction side or a buzz-worthy non-fiction title that everyone wants to be able to talk about), don’t judge your books by their early performance. Things will sort themselves out over the long haul.
It’s also not over until you’ve published in every possible format you can think of, which probably means it’s never truly over…
Anyway. Today’s release-related thoughts. Off to update the website with some book links I guess. Or to have dinner maybe…(The admin side of launching ten books in a week is downright painful.)
It’s that time when people make New Year’s resolutions and I’m sure someone is like I was a few years back and decided that this was the year they’d upload their books direct to Apple. You know, save that 10% they pay to D2D right now.
I actually went direct with them a few years back and then pulled most of my books back to D2D after I did a price promo and couldn’t get my prices to go back to their normal price. But I had a writer friend who said she’s made an extra $20K with them by being direct, so I figured I’d put these latest books up direct even though my amount to make extra with them is more like $100 a year.
But it’s this weird two-step process. And, as I learned this week, their Rights and Pricing page is a hot mess of dysfunction.
Theoretically, you provide a base currency price, $2.99 USD, and then they convert that price to each of the other currencies they support. If you don’t agree with the conversion, you can go in and use dropdown menus to adjust the pricing tier for any specific country.
But, at least on a PC, that currency conversion is broken. So regardless of what price I put for USD, Apple wants to price that book at $20.99 AUD and 10.99 Euros.
And, to make it more fun, if you try to change more than two or three of those dropdown pricing tiers at once it crashes and says you timed out and need to log back in and try again. You lose all your work.
It makes D2D look very appealing.
But, if you are stubborn like me and still want to go direct with them (they have the worst publishing process of all of the major players at this point AND don’t offer any special promo opportunities for being direct, so they’re the last one I’d personally recommend doing of all of the biggies), here is my workaround for the pricing mess:
Get your prices from one of your other stores (like Kobo or D2D) for USD, GBP, EUR, JPY, BRL, CAD, MXN, NZD, and AUD.
Choose Euros as your base currency and set that price and then click the boxes for Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.
All of those countries use Euros as their base currency so you don’t need to adjust the pricing tier on the next page and can just click Done.
Next, choose to add more territories and this time choose USD as your base currency and set that price. Click the boxes for Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, United States, and Venezuela.
All of those countries use USD as their base so can also just be submitted without adjusting price tiers.
And then for me I had to do the rest two at a time for the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, and Canada. I could set the price for one and use the dropdown for the other and not have the system crash on me. Mexico, Japan, and Brazil tend to have weird pricing tiers and Mexico’s is not sorted.
I did not do about 13 countries that have their own currency base and that aren’t included on other sales platforms so that I could easily see what the correct price should be.
But doing it this way gave me 38 countries without too much pain.
(Oh, and when I wrote to tell them about this issue they told me the currencies weren’t converting because of my outdated user agreement which I then fixed and it was still an issue. But, hey, well played getting me to sign an updated agreement.)
Anyway. Hope that helps.
If there is a reader who buys on Apple but my latest books aren’t in your country because you were one of the unlucky 13 countries I didn’t include, just write me if that’s the case and I can get your country added. (Or try Google which I think does cover all of those countries, too.)
You may see some symmetry in those titles compared to the original Excel Essentials series (Excel for Beginners, Intermediate Excel, 50 Useful Excel Functions, and 50 More Excel Functions) and that’s because these are the updated versions of those titles.
Now, to be clear, the original Excel Essentials series still very much has its place for any users of Excel up to Excel 2019 as well as any users who need to worry about backwards compatibility with an older version of Microsoft Excel.
So if you want to learn how to use Excel and be able to function in any version of Excel, then the original series is still your best choice.
But Microsoft has made enough improvements to Excel over the years that if that’s not a concern for you, then this new Excel 365 Essentials series is the best choice. Because it incorporates things like a faster way to apply borders, how to use pivot charts, as well as some of the newer functions that can completely replace older functions.
For example, XLOOKUP, which is available in Excel 365 can take the place of VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, and perhaps a few others. And TEXTJOIN takes the place of CONCATENATE (at least how I used it). And IFS replaces the need to use nested IF functions.
All tremendous advances. (I may in fact have included a marriage proposal in 102 Functions for whoever developed XLOOKUP, it’s that amazing a function.)
So if you want the latest and greatest, Excel 365 Essentials is my take on that as of December 2022. If you need tried and true and won’t fail you no matter which version of Excel you use, stick to Excel Essentials. And, of course, if you have Excel 2019 then the Excel Essentials 2019 series is there for you. (All links can be found on this page.)
Now, I also mentioned a free book. I put together Excel Tips and Tricks, which is a short little book that includes my favorite shortcuts and ways to make life easier. Things like freeze panes and print titles are covered in there, for example.
In ebook it is free on all major retailers. Amazon may or may not price match on any given day, but if they aren’t it’ll be just 99 cents there. But all the other retailers who are sane enough to allow free pricing will always have it free. Or you can get it on Payhip direct from me if you want. There is also a print version available, but that is, sadly, not free.
If you’re reading this you made it to a new year. And as much as we want to have “accomplished” things and “improved” each year, making it to another year is an achievement in and of itself. You made it through 365 days. Those days may have been good, they have been bad, but either way you kept going and made it here.
Now, I am a person who makes new year’s resolutions. It’s more goal-setting these days so I don’t spend the year staring at my navel. (Or, more likely, reading books.)
With writing I usually have something drafted and ready to release in January so that one of my goals can be to publish that book. That way I can reach the end of the year and know I at least accomplished one of my goals.
(I am not above cheating to give myself a feeling of accomplishment.)
Sometimes, though, I’ve set goals that are about improving myself or my life. You know, I want to lose ten pounds, I want to travel internationally somewhere, I want to find a relationship, etc.
And sometimes you have to set a goal to make something happen, right? There are areas of life where if you leave it to chance, it won’t actually happen. Relationships being one of them for most people. Weight loss being another.
But what I’ve learned with those sorts of goals is that if it isn’t something I personally want and value, making it a goal won’t help.
I once set a dating goal. Something like I’d go on fifty dates in the next year or until I’d found someone to date long-term.
I think I made it through five dates. Because I honestly didn’t care about being in a relationship. It just wasn’t on my priority list. My life was good without one.
I tried to make it a goal because I was getting to that age where people look at you sideways for still being single, but it honestly just did not matter to me. Which is why I abandoned it within a few weeks. I did not want to spend my year on that sort of slog.
Same with weight loss goals. I’ll set them some years, because theoretically it sounds good to weigh 25 pounds less, and I am more photogenic when I’m skinnier.
But at the end of the day I like chocolate and cheese and bacon more than I like being skinny. And reading books and watching TV more than I like spending time at the gym.
It is what it is.
So my advice to you for this year as you set your goals is: Focus on you.
Focus on what you value and what will make you happy. Don’t set a weight loss goal because someone tells you that you need to be different from who you are. Don’t set a dating goal because other people think you need to “get out there”.
And if you know that trying to reach that goal, even if it’s what you really, really want, is going to make you absolutely frickin’ miserable and not be something you can sustain, then don’t do that to yourself. Life is too short to be miserable all the time.
I don’t know you. But I’m going to tell you that you, as you are right now, are perfectly good and wonderful. You don’t need to change a thing.
If you want to, go for it. But don’t force it. Don’t let other people’s issues shape your life. Embrace being you and find the things you really do want and aim for those instead.