Random Thoughts and Comments 20230527

A lot of random thoughts going on since this is a big transitional time for me where I’m trying not to start new things.

I just finished reading a book called The Body Keeps the Score that I’d seen recommended somewhere or other a couple times. It was a really interesting book for me as a writer because it talks a lot about how people deal with trauma or what symptoms of someone having trauma might be. And it also talks about therapeutic approaches to trauma which was helpful for one book idea I’ve had percolating for a few years. I don’t want to write a world that would cause harm if implemented in real life.

But it also made me think that maybe some people who get diagnosed with something like ADHD really need to dig deeper and look at whether they’re treating a symptom of trauma when they take ADHD meds. Maybe it’s my biased Twitter sample but almost everyone I see on there that talks about their severe ADHD has also mentioned a sexual assault or being no contact with family or something else that would be considered trauma. If so, EMDR or neurofeedback or something like that might be a more permanent treatment.

I’m not a psychologist though, so absolutely no one should take that opinion as more than the idle thought it is. Just something to consider or discuss with a professional.

I’ve also been thinking this week about relationship repair. Why is it that some relationships end and others survive setbacks. My own family is one that’s had more than one period of heavy relationship drama over the years and yet eventually in most cases the parties have set aside their differences and come back together. (Although the weight of all of those prior conflicts are still there just waiting to rear their ugly heads. We are not a family who solves our issues, we just bury them.)

I used to hate the idea that some guy I was dating would mess up and his solution would be, “here are some flowers, sorry” because it was such a kneejerk reaction to the situation that didn’t consider what I personally value or care about. (I’m not big on flowers, especially after my dad died and everyone on the frickin’ planet sent them.)

And I often look at people saying “I love you” with a bit of side-eye because I know that I usually say that to people either out of routine (like at the end of a phone call with my family) or while I’m actively doing something that other won’t like (when I’d tell my dog I loved her as I trimmed her toenails). It’s also a phrase that’s sometimes used to impose obligation on the other, “But I love you, how could you…”

But if I step back from my own personal reaction, I see that both are a good relationship repair or maintenance tool.

They’re either someone taking a first step and saying, “Look, I care enough about the relationship we have to express the fact that I’m sorry” or a way to say, “I still want this relationship to continue.”

And then of course to repair the relationship the other party has to reach back. It has to be a mutual situation where one person reaches out and the other reaches back. And then they continue to do that back and forth.

Usually relationships end when one person stops responding. They fade when both people stop reaching out at about the same time. Sometimes relationships end with a bang and sometimes they just drift to an end. For me personally they’re more likely to drift to a close.

Which is why over the years, being the weirdo I am, I will occasionally think of a situation that went wrong and reach out to that person with the equivalent of “hey, sorry,” because in almost every relationship both sides have contributed to the outcome. None of us are perfect.

Sometimes my doing so is ignored or never seen. Sometimes my doing so results in a “oh, thanks for saying that” comment and then absolute silence. (Which is often all I actually wanted to accomplish.)

On rare occasions it results in a “thanks for saying that and I’m sorry about my part in things, too.” (Although not too often because people suck at admitting their mistakes or failures and also maybe it feels like I was only saying sorry so they’d also say sorry. IDK.)

And then very, very rarely it actually results in being able to rebuild a relationship.

All of which are perfectly acceptable responses. There are people in my past who if they showed up today and were like, “Hey, sorry” I’d be like, “Cool, thanks” and then hope they never reached out to me again. Because some people are simply not compatible, some friendships/relationships worked for a period of time and then fade, and some people have done such harm that sorry is good, but not enough to risk letting them back into your life ever again.

Interestingly enough I find that I reach out that way far more than the people I’ve known do.

And I don’t think it’s because I’ve been that much worse of a person in my relationships than others have. I think it’s because my role in my family has always been the one of mending and emotional regulation. I’m the one that sees that X person is starting to get upset with Y person so steers Y person to do something to fix that before things boil over. Or the one that mediates between X and Y person to get them to repair things. Or the one that puts myself between X and Y and takes the emotional hit so that they can continue their relationship while either X or Y hates me for a bit.

I also just have more free time on my hands to process things and think about them and look at them from different angles so that sometimes I see that my initial characterization of something (that person hates me) was wrong (no, they were actually lashing out in hurt due to things they experienced long before they ever knew you existed).

Most of my friends at this age (mid-40’s) are so buried in work and kids and some probably also have health and addiction issues of their own or someone else’s to deal with that they can barely take a moment to breathe let alone analyze their pasts.

That’s why I’m kind of looking forward to the new job. I need less thinking time. And I need less time to spend seeing the dramas of others on the internet. Especially because when I get too bored I sometimes find my way to pages or sites that are there to amplify the outrage.

As an example, there is one Twitter page I occasionally go to that is there to specifically share some of the horrible, awful things that men will say in dating situations or do in relationships. And it’s meant to be a WTF sort of page or a “see how hard it is out there” sort of page.

But what it really does is highlights that very very small minority of men that really are absolute shits and makes it seem like that’s all men out there. In reality very few guys are like that. Most single guys are not hanging around using weird lingo for women and talking about a woman’s body count and whether she’s used. They just want to find someone who they can spend time with who won’t make them feel like shit or use them. And they may make the occasional, “huh?” sort of comment, but they aren’t women-hating psychos.

I wouldn’t know that though if all the time I spent was online. Because, “Hey, I had an awkward, very boring interaction with a guy who really isn’t interesting to me” doesn’t get shared.

It’s like the news, right? They lead with outrage because outrage drives viewership and so if you were to listen to the news and then rank what you think your actual risks in life are you’d be completely wrong. (You are far more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a car accident than to be abducted and killed by a stranger, but guess which one will be covered on the news and which is so common it’s barely a blip on the radar.)

They’ve done psychology studies to show this sort of bias we develop and that was long before the internet amplified it to such an extreme it’s almost painful.

Anyway. My random thoughts for the day thanks to family drama over a stupid phone.

I now need to force myself to take a walk/hike since I don’t have a sad-eyed dog to drag me outside anymore. Sigh. (For the record, if I had to choose either dogs or humanity, I’d choose dogs.)

Random Thoughts 20230519

You’re going to have to bear with me on this one, because these are thoughts I’ve had for a while but never tried to organize into any sort of coherence.

So, one of those thoughts: For a society to be healthy and continue to function you need a certain fairly high percentage of the population to live the status quo. You need people who are happy to live in one place and be garbage collectors and fast-food and retail workers or lawyers or doctors or consultants or whatever your society is built upon. And for our society now that also includes people who marry and have kids and raise them to be that next generation to conform.

Another thought: For a society to be healthy it also needs to change and evolve over time. That comes from the fringes. From the minorities and the outcasts and the ones that don’t live by the status quo. The ones who think that “this” is not enough. The ones who can see a different choice. Or who make a different choice for themselves.

A third thought: Often change first appears through creative outlets such as music, art, TV, movies, plays, and writing.

A fourth thought: But there is a hostility from the core of a society who are comfortable with how things are or who even want to go back a bit to those who are pushing the boundaries of society. Hence bans on certain types of expression that threaten the core status quo and a general disdain for many creatives and their choices.

A fifth thought: AI is a way to flood the field with the status quo at the expense of future change. (I saw a tweet yesterday where an AI advocate said that AI doesn’t have to make better content than humans, they just need to make so much content that it drowns out the human-created content.)

A sixth thought: There is an intense motivation by those who benefit the most from the current system to try to keep it from changing. So there is a direct motivation for them to not compensate creatives fairly and make it as hard as they can for creatives to make a living (see the WGA strike right now) so that they can exert those pressures towards the status quo either by only having the privileged create or by being able to exercise control over what is created.

A seventh thought: Everyone talks about how hard it is for disadvantaged communities to participate in our organized creative enterprises, but that’s because those communities are the ones that are most likely to bring change that the money people at the top don’t support. So of course it’s in the money people’s interests to discourage that to the extent they can get away with it.

An eighth thought: Many of our societal problems come from inequalities and insufficient resources in our poorer communities. This could easily be fixed by taxation or other policies that eliminate the billionaire class and redistribute that wealth to create a healthier society.

A subthought: (Too often the changes that are proposed are things like “pay people’s rent” when rents are seen to be too high as opposed to “tax the shit out of excessive rents” or “impose a hefty tax on those who own more than one property in X area”. The changes we often propose actually just feed into that subclass becoming wealthier off of the backs of that community, one they often aren’t even a part of instead of stopping or reversing their actions to acquire more wealth.)

A ninth thought: There is an extremely strong pressure to glorify excessive wealth to help support the status quo especially when most of the communication sources (the news, TV, movies) are controlled by the wealthy.

A tenth thought: Climate change is going to be bad. And there is a subset of wealthy individuals who see the warnings about climate change and have decided it’s time to take the gloves off and suck as many resources as possible up for themselves while they still have time to do so.

An eleventh thought: That strategy will work in the short-term while things are still stumbling along (even though it accelerates things), but not in the long-term because most of what these people are sucking up won’t continue to have value in a failed society (currency, gold, etc.) and what they do have that has value (land, supplies) will be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people desperate to survive. You can’t control eight properties around the world in an unstable society.

(I should note this is one I’m thinking is true, but could be disproven by history.)

A twelfth thought: Religion and societal norms are forms of control over the populace. I think there’s a reason, for example, that suicide is so taboo. Because if you abuse workers to the point they don’t see the point in continuing and they actually remove themselves from the labor force (or from life) you lose the benefit of leveraging their work, so religious and social norms are there to force them to continue despite their instincts that make them want to escape.

A thirteenth thought: No one at the top of the wealth scale is there from their own effort. Yes, they may have had an idea that propelled them to that level and they even may have started the company to implement that idea, but it was usually the work of thousands or hundreds of thousands that was funneled up to them to give them that wealth.

A fourteenth thought: They make attending a top university and qualifying as a lawyer or doctor or consultant or whatever and then working as one hard so that people in those positions believe they are where they are because they earned it. The absolute top of the wealth scale are too few to protect themselves. They depend on the upper middle class and upper class to see themselves as hard workers who deserve their rewards in order to protect them.

A fifteenth thought: Most of that system (top law firms, top consulting firms, medical practice) don’t care if they chew up and spit out a certain percentage of the people who get there because (a) they get the benefit of that labor while they’re doing so for five or ten or fifteen or twenty years and (b) it makes those who survive the gauntlet and achieve that upper class level of wealth support it even more strongly.

A sixteenth thought: And they make those professions put in so much of their time (60-100 hours a week) and isolate them among their peers so that they never stop to question any of it. So they don’t see that others work just as hard at their jobs (teacher, farmworker, etc) but don’t receive those same financial rewards. Animosity to the “uneducated” or poor or “manual workers” is central to the continuation of that system.

A final thought: Knowing this doesn’t change anything or make life better in any way, but it does make it harder to be a part of that system and be rewarded by it. (Assuming you have a conscience, of course, which not all people do. Although I think far more people are simply oblivious because they’re struggling to live in a system that’s deliberately designed to be a struggle at almost all levels.)

We Create The World We Live In

First, the WGA is on strike. I’ll post three Twitter threads at the bottom of this post that are worth reading. As noted before, I support them.

And I think the John Rogers post below is worth thinking about. Because we collectively through our values and our laws create the world we live in.

If you criticize a company for taking steps to maximize its share price you will often hear something along the lines of “well, they HAVE to do that because they have a duty to their shareholders.”

But the point that is often missed in that is that we as a society have created the rules that drive that. And we could change them.

We could make it a law that corporations must provide value to their shareholders while also taking into account long-term profitability and viability.

Because a nice little bump in today’s share price is meaningless if you suck all liquidity out of your company so that it’s bankrupt in two years.

And a nice little bump in today’s share price is meaningless if you create such brutal working conditions that you lose the people who make that company what it is. If you drive away your talent with poor compensation and relentless work demands, you will lose value long-term.

A nice little bump in today’s share price is also meaningless if you so mismanage the natural resources you rely on for that business that you once again deprive that company of what it needs to be a long-term viable business.

I would also argue that the type of extremely high CEO compensation we see should not be treated as a good thing, but should be viewed as poor management. If you’re telling me that the CEO of that company is worth $300 million but the people who do the day-to-day work aren’t worth paying a living wage then what you are telling me is that you have mismanaged that company to create a single point of failure. That’s poor long-term management of a company that should get the board that approved it fired if true. If not it’s a grift and they should still be fired for paying someone compensation they don’t deserve. Especially when it comes at the cost of the staff that drive long-term viability for that company.

I remember back in my broker days there was such a thing as “blue chip” stocks that returned a steady, long-term profit. They weren’t sexy, they weren’t flashy, but they delivered value year-in and year-out. And yet we have this environment now that only rewards sexy growth. Big numbers. Even for companies that should not be that type of company. And it’s killing those companies.

It can be frustrating as an individual to know how to counter this hot mess. For me, personally, I’ve shifted from seeing a fancy sports car and thinking, “ooh, nice” to thinking “what a selfish fuck who cares only for themselves”. If we don’t reward people socially for amassing vast amounts of wealth they (may) lose the incentive to do so.

I mean, honestly, does anyone need $300 million let alone $300 million every single year? No. Especially not off of the backs of others.

And I absolutely did call out a friend recently who probably makes over $500K a year when they kept complaining about “rich people” as if they aren’t one. That shit has to stop. Just because one guy has rocket money doesn’t mean that a whole swathe of people aren’t doing very, very well for themselves and couldn’t spare a bit more than a vote every four years.

Oh, and for this case, I canceled my streaming subscription today and won’t be streaming anything while this strike is ongoing. And I’m sharing the thoughts I can with the people I can to maybe take one more chip at that giant boulder that needs to crumble if we have any hope of the world being a good place to live for more than a handful of selfish assholes thirty years from now.

(Oh, and no comments allowed on this thread. I’m not here for anyone out trolling about the strike.)

Here are those Tweet threads:

Someone Always Has It Worse

I am a worrier. It’s what I do. It’s probably the bad side of being a high Strategic, but I can always see the bad paths as much as I can see the good paths. And I stress about them.

It doesn’t help that there are certain things in my life that are not ideal.

For example, as of today my dog is 9 years and 10 months old and my vet has told me that if she makes it to 10 that will be bonus time after that.

The last week her back left leg has just not been working well for her. To the point that she sits up and then decides she just doesn’t have it in her to stand and lays back down. Or she does stand up and then stumbles for the first few steps while that leg decides to work.

So I’ve been wondering when to call the vet for that last visit. Because as bad as that is, she’s still doing her daily walk and eating all her food. Once she gets going, she’s okay-ish.

I don’t want to call too soon if this is just a temporary muscle pull. But I also don’t want to wait too long and put her through pain she doesn’t deserve.

A real concern. A real issue. Something that is not going to improve long-term. She is an old dog and that can’t be fixed.


Today I found out that a friend of mine unexpectedly lost her dog.

So here I am, worrying about my dog that is still making it through her morning walks okay and my friend just lost hers. My dog could still months. Maybe years. I don’t know. She does. For her, it’s over.

I have other worries or stressors in my life, too. But nothing like the friend whose adult child is currently traveling through a war zone. Or a couple others who are juggling high-stress jobs, sick kids, and lackluster husbands all at once. Or another who is dealing with a long-term illness and the end of an eighteen-year relationship.

Compared to that, my “I chose this path and in a year or two I will probably regret that, oops, but for now my day-to-day is actually pretty great” is…nothing.

It doesn’t mean my struggles or worries aren’t real. It just means I have a long, long way to go until I’m the one with the worst problems. And even then, someone out there I don’t know will have it much worse. I am past the age when certain horrific things could happen. I do not live in a country where other horrific things are a part of daily life. No matter how low my life gets, I’m pretty sure it won’t be the lowest one out there.

Again, doesn’t take away my personal worries or struggles. Just sometimes helps to put them into perspective.

Who Are You and What Do You Want?

I have a tendency because I’m a #2 Achiever on CliftonStrengths to just plow ahead constantly doing things and accomplishing things without ever stepping back and sitting with my thoughts and asking if the things I’m doing are what I should be doing.

And, in general, that’s a successful strategy. If you want to reach a destination, it’s a good idea to move in that direction because sitting around on the couch thinking that you’d one day like to go to X place is never going to get you there. Right?

But this week I decided it was time to step back and assess.


Because often in this world we act like we all want the same things and all think the same way and value the same outcomes. And yet, we really don’t.

For example, I know about myself that I will give up a six-figure-a-year job that allows me plenty of time to write if what I’m being asked to do is boring and doesn’t challenge me. Or if it doesn’t further develop my skills.

For most people, that makes me a lunatic. Or at least someone who certainly doesn’t share their values.

And, well, you know, perhaps I am a little off.

So, at least for me, as someone who doesn’t have the same goals as most people I know, it’s an important exercise to sit down and ask who I am and what I want and then brainstorm from there.

Here’s what I’m planning to do this week:

First, I rounded up all the various personality tests I’ve taken over the years. Strengths but also others that I took through work or on my own over time. And I wrote in a journal a summary of the results of each one. One page each.

I asked, what did this test say about me as a person? And then, what are the commonalities across all of these tests? Who am I as evidenced by my responses to a large variety of personality tests over time? Does that fit with who I think I am? (It better, since I was the one providing the answers.)

So that was step 1. Who am I? At least who do I think I am.

Step 2 will be making a few lists. I do this periodically already. Lists of what do I want. What do I value. What do I have to have in life.

(Last time I made this list books and music were at the top of the list above food and shelter, so sometimes the list is not entirely realistic, but it’s useful nonetheless to ask myself that question.)

Usually, this is a bulleted list for me, but this time I’m going to write out the thoughts about each one. The why of it. And the what do I need to have that? What assumptions are hidden underneath that item.

For example, if I list that I value Peace, which I do, what does that mean to me? It means operating in environments that aren’t high conflict. It means that I avoid high drama friendships and relationships. If you’re always upset and angry about life, we’re probably not going to spend a lot of time together. Same with work environments. A boss who shouts at employees? Nope. Not sticking around for that.

Step 3 is going to be looking back over past accomplishments and failures and jobs I liked or disliked. What do I consider my successes? When do I think I failed? Why? How?

For the failures, could I have done something different to make that a success? And would I have done what was required to do that?

For example, I consider not being able to convert my visa to a residency permit in New Zealand a significant failure in my life.

But when that happened, someone actually offered to fake a job for me so I could get a residency permit to live there. I could have “succeeded” if I’d taken that offer, but I declined, because that was against my ethics. And also who wants to spend their life waiting to get caught for something like that.

Still, at the time I also was completely blind to the hundred other ways I could’ve approached that goal. Just because I failed in that one way of getting there didn’t mean there weren’t other options available to me, like calling up a recruiting company and seeing if I could get a legitimate job offer.

So I’ll do a deep dive there. Learn some lessons perhaps.

Step 4 will be strengths and weaknesses. What am I good at? What am I bad at? Where do I thrive? Where do I fail? What environment do I need for success?

And then, once that’s all done, I’ll turn to the writing side of it. (Non-writers could stop there or take that and apply it to their life in general.)

Step 5 will be what kinds of books do I love? Why? What is it about those stories that draws me in? What doesn’t work for me? Why?

I’ll try to put together a personal id list as Jennifer Lynn Barnes mentioned in an excellent RWA presentation in Denver many years ago.

Step 6 will be looking at the story ideas I have and fleshing those out. Seeing why I want to write them. Seeing what I have. Seeing what I could add to them. Asking myself which of those ideas could be expanded to an interesting world and which are just that story.

And then…

I’ll take all of that, and, knowing me, I’ll probably go write a book on PowerPoint instead of doing anything else with it. Haha.

But that’s the goal for the week. Step back and assess my life. Ask”Am I on track to where I personally would be happy to be?” and “If not, how do I get there? What’s missing? Where’s the road map that does get me there?” If so, “How do I keep on this track?”

One of my personality traits is that there is no “one path” for me. I’m a “I never get stuck” person. So I doubt I’ll personally come out of this exercise with “the answer” or “the goal”, but it will help me prune the branching possibilities down to paths I actually want to take, which is useful thing to do, I think.

Writing Is Weird

Before I decided to focus exclusively on my writing, I had a number of jobs. Some were just those jobs you get when you’re in school and then I had a series of professional jobs.

I started my career in one location with a company and then transferred to another location and position with that same company. I then left that company for a new role related to the same industry. And then left that company with the idea I’d start my own completely unrelated business. Until I fell in love with New Zealand at which point starting my own business in the same field was the better choice. I did that for a while but then added the writing during my downtime between projects until I finally decided to just do the writing.

Each of those pivots was just a normal part of the process of having a career. You work in a role for a while and then move on (hopefully upward) to a new role.

Never once when I was thinking of changing to a new position did I think that I had failed at the prior position, even when I was thinking of going into a completely different field.

Maybe because I hadn’t. Each time I moved in my professional career it was my choice to do so. I was giving notice to that employer or client that it was time for me to move on to the next opportunity.

For the most part I enjoyed what I did, but I always wanted growth and new challenges. I’m not a person who settles into a good-enough job for forty years. (Bless those who do, they’re smarter than I am in many ways.)

But with writing, every time I think of moving on from it, it feels like doing so would be a failure. I think maybe because writing can be anything you want to make it. There is no outgrowing being a writer. It’s always going to have unexplored directions to take.

And so not finding a direction to take that’s financially rewarding enough to stick with it, feels like failure. At this point in time I have accomplished a tremendous amount with my writing. I have a six-foot bookcase with all of my books on it and have written more books than most people who aspire to be writers will write in a lifetime.

Setting aside money and profitability, all the ebooks, print books, video courses, and audiobooks that I’ve created is something to be proud of.

But because writing (at least when you decide to publish) is also entrepreneurship, there’s always also that profitability side to it.

Is this business a going concern? Does it pay its bills? And if the answer to that is “no” then it feels like failure. Because other people pay their bills with it, why aren’t you?

And to be fair, I have chosen to live somewhere more expensive than necessary in order to be near family. If I had chosen two years ago when I sold my house to move to Omaha, something I considered, I’d easily be earning enough from my writing right now to pay all my bills.

But I didn’t.

Also, I don’t know that I’d be happy with my writing right now even if I’d done that. Because the other big difference between a career and entrepreneurship is that–in general, assuming you don’t have a setback–in a corporate-type career you steadily increase your income over time. You either get raises or promotions or move to newer jobs that pay more.

But with most entrepreneurship, including writing, you have up years and down years. It is not a steady progression.

Jim C. Hines has been sharing his annual writing income for years. And you can see that it’s not some nice, steady thing.

Here’s mine:

For a while there it was a steady upward progression. Which let me pretend that this isn’t a highly uncertain business with unforeseen pitfalls.

And if that plateau that you see there were high enough, I’d say, well, that’s okay. You have good years and bad years. As long as it stays above the support level you need, it’s fine.

I have a writer friend, for example, who had a 25% drop in revenues last year. But I’m pretty sure that friend was dropping from somewhere in the $300K range of revenue, so had plenty of remaining income.

Yeah, it sucks to lose $75K in revenue in a year, but when you still have $225K to live on, you can probably make that work, you know.

But when you are still trying to build to a good support level and you level out…And you look at trends in the market and they aren’t favorable…

If it were a simple job, you’d walk away. Hey, my employer is probably going to start cutting staff soon, good time to jump somewhere new. Yeah, sure, you miss the work or the co-workers. Or you regret that the company didn’t succeed. But you make the smart choice.

Writing, though…Even though the very large majority of writers never make much money from it, there’s still this relentless message that you need to stick with it. Even when you can’t think of new ideas, like another writer friend of mine. It’s like it becomes an identity that you can only claim if you’re actively pursuing it.

Skydiving is that way, too. Get past a fun tandem or two and you’re not just someone who occasionally likes to jump out of planes, you’re a skydiver. And if you stop jumping, you sacrifice that identity. And that community.

I don’t know. It’s weird. And something I probably should stop thinking so much about because I’d be better off writing. Or, in the case of what I need to do today, creating six paperbacks that will release sometime in the next week to accompany the two I hit publish on yesterday. But more on that in a day or two when all the sites shake out.

Until then. Enjoy your weekend.

Random Thoughts and Comments 20230119

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.

Random Thoughts and Comments 20220821

I think I finally ran into the IngramSpark/Amazon publishing order conflict today.

I’ve always published my paperbacks to Amazon first because I like to use their previewer to walk through my book and look at my cover. I find it far easier to use than the PDF preview that IS provides.

So I usually go there and publish and then go straight to IngramSpark and publish. Same day for both. And I’ve never had an issue doing it that way.

But today I was going to publish a book on IngramSpark that I’d previously published on Amazon and hadn’t signed up for expanded distribution. (At least it isn’t now and I don’t remember doing so before.)

And…it wouldn’t let me. Said the ISBN was already in use. I assume because enough time had passed between when I published on Amazon (in April) and now. So that error so many people had run into that I hadn’t when publishing over 100 books, I now have run into.

(But just realized I didn’t run into that issue with three other books earlier this month so maybe this was a D2D/IS conflict for a title I started and never finished when I thought I was going to start using them…)

Either way.

Now I get to decide whether to request management of the ISBN or just use another ISBN for the IS version or just not do anything at all because it’s not that big a seller for me.

At least I finally can use my codes on IS again. It’s quite possible I was able to do so back in May which would have been my anniversary date with IS but I didn’t bother trying until today because I was kind of fed up with them.

Which actually worked out well, because I decided to redo the Budgeting for Beginners covers yet again. I redid them in April, but decided this week I didn’t like them so changed them up again.

Sometimes I do something and think “Yep, that did it” and sometimes I do something and think it’ll work and then come back to it a month or two later and go, “Hmmm…No, not there yet” and have to try again. It is what it is.

I often wonder if all the failing in public that comes with self-pub is healthy for me or not. It should be humbling, which would probably be a good thing, and yet somehow I still manage to be an arrogant little shit most of the time despite it.

But it does at least keep me from thinking I’ve got this all figured out which keeps me engaged enough to keep going, so there’s that.

Although I’m not entirely sure carrying around a little voice in your head that tells you that internet strangers are going to think X or Y about you is necessarily a healthy thing even if you do ignore it most of the time.

(Then again, I get that with my mom anyway. The caustic things she said about Anne Heche and that car accident – geez. Seriously.)

Interestingly enough I decided to retake the CliftonStrengths test recently and my Empathy had moved from mid-teens to top 10 and I wonder if part of that isn’t just the bruising you take being out in public.

I mean I’ve always been pretty good at being sympathetic because I’m a Strategic-Relator-Learner so when I interact with people I’m trying to deepen that connection and adjusting my understanding of them on the fly the more they share with me. The better I understand someone, the better the interaction.

But I always figured I was like, “Nope, you’re emotions stop with you, buddy. I’m not carrying that. I got enough of my own.”

Maybe it’s just ongoing cultural crisis impacting how I viewed those questions. Whatever the cause, it was interesting to see.

Also, I’m currently reading an excellent book for writers, The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner. (That’s an affiliate link, btw, in case anyone was planning to buy a boat or something through Amazon. Can you even do that? I don’t know. Probably. If so and you’re going to, why not use the link.)

The book’s not about writing craft so much as writing personalities from someone who worked with a large number of writers over their career as both an editor and agent. I will say I think she skews to the literary side of things with her experience and examples, but still a good read. I’ve done lots of underlining.

One of the things she touches on in there is that balance between ego and insecurity that seems to be part of so many authors. (Me included.)

And it’s funny because this week I was thinking about the fact that there are maybe a dozen people who read this blog. But then sometimes I’ll say something on here and see what it seems might be echos of what I said here and wonder if maybe that number is higher than I think it is.

I mean I know I certainly don’t subscribe to the blogs I read. And I’m pretty sure my subscriber number doesn’t include people who’ve signed up for an RSS feed or whatever that is. So, maybe?

But then I think that’s just ego talking and how those echos are more likely part of the ongoing mass conversation that’s always happening where it turns out a good dozen people have the same “original” idea at the same time because all of the material for that idea was out there in the mass consciousness and those dozen people picked up on it in the same way around the same time.

Like, for example, I made a point here about something a couple weeks ago and then one of the hated ones on Twitter made a similar point around the same time. We don’t know each other, but we both said similar things at a similar time. And so if people who live to hate that person subtweeted their point and I hadn’t seen their post, it would be easy to wonder if somehow I was the one being subtweeted not them.

But likely not.

We all want to think we’re the star of the story, but we’re usually in the audience, not even in the supporting cast.

Just in case, though. For anyone who hasn’t figure this out, I’m just another rando on the internet spouting crap that’s probably 60% outright useful, 30% interesting enough to use to refine your own viewpoint, and 10% absolute misinformation or misunderstanding or only applicable to me.

And with that said…I think it’s time to start uploading some audio files for approval so people can hear me being very authoritative and opinionated on obscure business topics. Good times!

Random Thoughts and Comments 20220819

A few things that have crossed my timeline recently that I figured were worth mentioning.

For anyone looking towards trade pub and bookstore placement, I think this was a really good summary of the current state of affairs with Barnes & Noble.

I hadn’t realized they’d gotten rid of their co-op placement and that’s actually a really nice thing that means I may drop by my local B&N just to see what they have in there. I used to love walking through bookstores to browse the shelves and find something new to me, but recently the books that were getting a lot of attention in my genres were ones I didn’t want to read.

Which also reminds me that one of the drawbacks of becoming a writer is sometimes you get to know other writers and then you can’t remove that impression of them from your judgement of their books.

There was a recent big release by someone who annoyed the hell out of me at a conference by talking through all of the presentations, being generally arrogant, and flipping their hair around way too much and it means I won’t check out their book even though it might’ve been something I would’ve enjoyed.

(On the flip side, you meet a ton of great writers you would’ve never known otherwise and get to check out books that may not have even been on your radar, so it cuts both ways.)

Getting back to that Barnes & Noble thread.

I think something that wasn’t strongly highlighted in that thread and maybe because trade does work differently since books will literally go out of print, is that since B&N focuses so much on backlist sales that means there’s a chance for a book to get shelf space later if it follows the slow build, steady sales over years path.

(And honestly I’d rather not be on their shelves for a year and then be there for ten than be there for a month and never be carried by them again. Of course, trade pub doesn’t actually reward that pattern, but still.)

Anyway. There are a ton of options out there that come along later and maybe aren’t immediately available at release.

Bookbub, for example, rarely if ever (at least last time I checked) takes new releases in its promo emails. They want to see a nice track record of reviews first.

My first BB deal I think the book had been out for two years at that point?

So that midlist title that isn’t stocked at Barnes & Noble, eh, who cares? I mean, yeah, you care because you want to walk into that store and see YOUR book on the shelf.

But if you can create buzz elsewhere those people will order from Amazon or through the Barnes & Noble website or through any of a number of other places.

You do miss a random discoverability sale (which for kids’ books may matter more, since my mom would take us to the bookstore to pick out a book once a week when I was eight), but if people want that book they can still get it.

And if you get those steady sales so that you stay in print and people are continuously asking for your books, eventually maybe you do become one of those backlist titles they stock.

That does come back though to the need for authors to promote themselves somehow. There are so many ways to do that, but most take a lot of time and effort.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have a Twitter account but I do go there and read tweets by about a dozen different authors most mornings.

And you know what? The people I read are people who tweet every single day. Multiple times a day.

They aren’t necessarily the people saying the most interesting things, or the people I would like the most if we met IRL, but they’re the people who are there and delivering content when I’m bored and want something new to see.

Tweeting multiple times a day though is a lot of time sunk into one website that you have no control over.

Because the people I follow don’t just schedule tweets and go about their day. These are people seeing things while they’re on there reading other people’s tweets and sharing and reacting.

I wouldn’t be surprised if each of the people I follow is on there at least an hour a day. Probably more.

That may be fine for them because it’s where they hang out with other writer friends so it’s like lunch break. But don’t think that isn’t time spent. And that it isn’t something you have to dedicate yourself to for weeks or months or years to even get to the point of being visible enough that others share you and help you build an audience.

And at the end of the day…I’m not sure how many new readers it brings in.

I have a friend who killed it with social media. And who gets paid a nice little sum for some of the things they do as a result of building that audience.

But…That didn’t guarantee success when their books came out.

I do think it helped them get a few of their trade publishing contracts. It definitely helped with their first. And may be a factor in being kept on with their current publisher because they’re also very good at promoting other authors.

But social media followers don’t necessarily become dedicated readers.

Eventually I buy at least one book from someone I follow on social media. But I’m trying to think of one of those authors who I then became a regular reader-fan of. And I can’t. I bought that one book. Maybe two. And…that was it.

Because social media is different from novels. And just because someone likes a tweet you sent doesn’t mean they’ll like how you told a 90,000-word story.

Ironically for me most of my favorite authors suck at social media. They either have a snarly out-dated Q&A about the books arriving when they’ll arrive or they have a blog that gets updated maybe five times a year with things I don’t care about or…Yeah, they’re not savvy media types.

So building up a social media following that’s not based on people who are fans of your books is likely not going to drive significant sales of those books.

It might raise the tide enough, though, to get to the people who really would be your readers…But those numbers need to be large enough for that to work.

One of the early self-pub success stories was someone who kept leaving out the part of their story where they released three books almost immediately and then had a Bookbub on the first title for free that moved 40,000 copies at a time when people actually read the freebies they downloaded.

I think if any of us had 25,000 people read one of our books and were a competent storyteller we’d find our way to that core audience of 1,000 that you need to build from. Especially if it happened in a very short period of time when Amazon’s algorithms could see and react as those people bought books 2 and 3.

But for most it’s a much slower grind so there is no algo-love.

I still think of the excellent presentation Courtney Milan gave years ago about being that little paper airplane and trying to get the lift to get it up that initial cliff of discoverability.

And sometimes it seems to me that social media followings are a side quest. You climb a mountain and it is an accomplishment, but it’s not necessarily one that will help you climb the cliff of steady book sales.

Anyway. With that bad analogy, I am done for the day. I have some audio to process and then some groceries to pick up so pup and I can go have lunch with family.

Uneven Information Distribution

That’s a mouthful isn’t it?

I really need to stop reading Twitter, but when your daily conversations are your dog and your mother, well…You have to find some way to participate in humanity and that’s my current way.

So, as usual, the part of Twitter I read, or one of them at least, is blowing up right now with big-time drama.

What the drama du jour is doesn’t really matter. But it brings up an important point, which is that we don’t all possess the same information.

Two of the things that are part of today’s discourse come up often when this happens.

One, is pronoun use. The person at the center of this current drama uses a set of pronouns you’d have to have researched to know about. And they’ve now deleted their account so there’s no way to even see their bio and what pronouns they’ve listed.

I don’t know this person. I occasionally have seen tweets of theirs shared by people I do read.

On a quick glance their name and profile picture, which is all you see when that happens, present female. So if I were as a casual commenter going to mention something I saw them say in passing, I’d refer to them as “she” or “her” or, more likely for me, “they” or “them”. (I actually may have done so here in the past since a passing thread of theirs led me to comment on an issue a while back.)

Often when these things blow up on Twitter there’s a thread of comments about, “And they didn’t even use [person’s] proper pronouns! See how we can dismiss their opinion immediately.”

Except, that’s not really what happened?

What happened is someone saw a thread of a thread of a thread and by the time it was on their radar the actual person who was the source of the original situation wasn’t important enough to get a detailed biographical history before sharing an opinion about the little snippet that made its way into wider discourse.

In this case that was about an employer of this person. So people might weigh in on how someone was outed as working for X employer and refer to that person as “she” because they have no idea who that person actually is and don’t really care about who that person actually is so just go by their name.

It happens. It’s not a deliberate slight or an intentional misgendering. It’s just going by surface information.

The other big gotcha of the current scandal is that the employer information was leaked by some entity that is “known” to be BAD, and so therefore anybody reacting to that information negatively is clearly supporting this entity and its agenda.

Except, again, at least for me, my first note of the current scandal was probably ten steps down the line so all I saw were people who knew the original person reacting to them being called out and I then looked up that person’s name to see why and saw that they worked for X company.

I never saw the original source of the information. Most people probably never saw the original source of the information.

And, even if I had, not being a part of that community I’d have no frickin’ clue that Y entity is bad. Now I know about them. But the “Ooh, you’re supporting Y entity by talking about this, way to be a…” is not the gotcha you think.

According to my Google search, Twitter currently has 450 million users. That person in the midst of this drama I think had 50K followers. I’d bet you that only about 1K of those followers were dialed into the proper pronouns and who entity Y is.

When things like this break out they break out to a much wider audience than the 1K who know all the nitty gritty details.

Calling people out (and again, I don’t actually have a Twitter account and will never have one again so I’m not an active part of this conversation) for something they don’t actually know is the height of absurdity on the internet.

You live in a bubble. We all do. You cannot expect the world to know everything you know. And you cannot expect everyone to–in a casual, fast-moving conversation–dive down the rabbit hole to find every little nuance. Not gonna happen.

Of course, even if everyone in the world read this post and agreed, those sorts of callouts will never stop. Because there’s some psychological factor at work there that’s always existed. Even pre-internet you’d run into it. Like, “Ha! You didn’t factor in obscure fact number 236 in your comment, you’re wrong!”

But I like to scream into the void at times, so…

There you have it. Just because you know something doesn’t mean others do and half of internet fights seem to me to be about that exact imbalance of information and people reacting as if it doesn’t exist.

Final note. Still not approving any comments by new posters on this blog. (If you’ve posted here before, you’re fine.)

Also, full disclosure, I had a family member who worked most of their career for employer X. On space exploration, by the way. And I’m proud of the work they did there.

(And honestly this whole drama has been a good reminder for me personally that a lot of the people who are angry on the internet would never like me no matter what, so why bend over backwards trying to please them in my writing…Hm.)