Affinity Publisher 2.0 New Releases

Just a quick post to let you know that the Affinity Publisher 2.0 titles for book formatting are now out in the wild. These are basically the equivalent of Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts (Part 1) and Affinity Publisher for Non-Fiction (Part 2) but written for the updated Affinity Publisher.

As I mentioned in an earlier post they moved a few key things around and changed the appearance as well, so I figured this was warranted. And this one doesn’t have the terminology error I made in the original books.

I enjoyed coming up with a completely different color look, but I’ll probably decide I hate it a month from now. (As I always seem to do.)

Anyway, if you needed it, enjoy.

Be Careful Out There

Two things I noticed this morning that require a brief heads up.

First, the WGA is likely going to strike so as writers be careful about suddenly having your work optioned and being asked to write the script yourself. Or being asked to do so on work previously optioned.

More on that here:

Basically, it probably won’t go anywhere and you’ll look like an ass to your fellow writers. Not the way to break in.

Second, if you do voiceover work or aspire to, it seems Voices has gone to the dark side in the last year or so. I had debated creating an account there a couple months back and found all sorts of threads talking about very negative changes they’ve made, and then also saw this today, too:

Be careful what rights you end up signing away with all of these companies.

And keep in mind as a creator that if you embrace the theft of content produced by other creators (which is generally how all of these AI models get trained) that you shouldn’t be surprised when it circles back around on you, too. Even when used for “fun” any support or advertising for these products makes them look that much more desirable and worth investing in. Best to steer clear entirely IMO.

Mistakes Were Made (Affinity)

I may have mentioned before that I am not perfect? And that I figure things out but only to the point that I can do them without a lot of wasted time?

So, anyway, this week I was trying to figure out my next project and I thought I would tackle updating my Affinity books for Affinity 2.0 while I do so. At least the book formatting ones. As I mentioned, they moved things around and also changed the appearance of a few key things.

In the process of doing that, I realized I made a terminology mistake in the first books. I thought all the little dockable task panes they have were what they called studios. But they’re not. They call them panels.

My confusion came from the fact that they were all, in the original Affinity, listed under a Studio secondary dropdown menu. They changed that in 2.0 which made me have a lightbulb moment and realize that they have always been called panels and are considered components of a studio not the studio itself.


Sorry about that.

I don’t think it materially impacted anyone’s ability to use the program. At least no one has yelled at me about it yet. But since I’m fixing that error in this round and will probably do a bridging video for the video course folks, I did want to mention it as soon as I realized it.

Root Cause Analysis

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a background in securities regulation. Meaning that for a while there I investigated broker dealers for rule compliance and also consulted with various financial institutions about how to fix issues with their regulatory compliance.

One of the core concepts of regulatory compliance is determining the root cause of an issue.

So, fine, whatever, that new account didn’t submit a tax form.

But why was that? Is this a one-off situation? Or is it a pattern of activity? If it’s a pattern, what is the pattern? Are the forms being sent? Why aren’t they coming back if they are? Is better follow-up needed? Or is there something else going on?

In one exam I conducted it turned out that the lack of a tax form for new accounts was a sign of unauthorized trading. The pattern was that it only occurred in one branch office and only among a handful of reps who had all come from the same questionable brokerage firm. The reason those forms weren’t coming back was because those customers never agreed to open that account.

That was a very important thing to understand and address.

But if you stop at, “Well another customer is late submitting their form” *shrug* you miss the opportunity to fix the actual issue.

Right now, in my opinion, the United States has a very large problem with failing to address the root cause of many of our issues.

Which is why, when a school shooting happens, like the one today, someone says, “Oh, better give teachers guns” or “Better give the cops better armor” or “Better do more shooter drills for nine-year-olds”.

Which, I don’t know, maybe feels good to a certain type of person. Look at us, doing things. We’re not just sending thoughts and prayers, we’re fighting back.

But it’s all a giant, ridiculous waste of money and effort that is not going to stop the shootings or save lives. Because not one of those asinine suggestions gets to any of the root causes of this issue.

What makes all this harder is that we’re a country that doesn’t want to discuss the root causes. Things like the ready availability of guns and gun culture. The ease with which someone can obtain a gun. The types of guns available. The mental health issues of some of these shooters. The inequalities that exist in our society that make some people feel desperate. Social media and how it pollutes people’s minds. Social isolation. The lack of communities.

I’m sure there are a hundred other factors if you keep digging. And that if you go to some of the people who deal with this on a regular basis, they could give you the list. They’ll tell you, “Don’t fucking arm teachers, restrict who can own that type of weapon or how about being more proactive intervening with individuals who are unstable.”

But on one side of the aisle we have the “ma freedoms” coalition who object to any hint that anyone would want them to limit themselves in any way to protect those around them.

You can’t take their guns, that’s one step from taking everything away. I once had a friend’s husband inform me that he couldn’t give up his semi-automatic because he needed it for when three men (not one, not two, three) broke down his door to assault him.

(Something that has yet to happen to him and is unlikely to happen. One of his three young children are far more likely to get ahold of that gun and use it.)

On the other side of the aisle we have the “just because” and “not all” coalition who will scream from the rooftops that just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t mean they’re going to be a shooter. Not all people with mental illnesses are murderers. So we can’t discuss that aspect of it, because you’re insulting the people with mental illnesses who aren’t.

And so we just sit here letting children die and grow up in fear because we won’t fucking do anything about the factors in our society that drive this shit.

Instead we throw lots of money at people who then have even less of an incentive to stop the problem before it ever occurs because they’re making bank off of the deaths of children. Panic rooms. Special bullet-proof backpacks. Security assessments. Shooter drills. Behind everyone of those, someone is getting paid.

And we get to pat ourselves on the back for “doing something” while we all know that more children are going to die because we can’t fucking get our shit together and do the hard work of addressing the root causes and fixing them.

(And, yes, there probably has to be a transitional period in there where you are addressing both sides of things. What to do when a shooting happens and also how to keep more shootings from happening. It’s not a switch you can flip. The type of change needed here requires long-term funding and effort and probably won’t show full effects for years. But if we don’t start to address the push side of these issues it’s just going to get worse.)

Quit Falling For It!

Twitter is annoying me today because I’ve seen multiple authors talking about a certain hatchet job article slamming epic fantasy and a very successful fantasy author.

And what annoys me is the number of people who had to go read the stupid, horrible article to see how stupid and horrible it was. Dude! That was the fricking point. You got them clicks. You earned them money.

Same thing when you share some stupid idiot’s YouTube video meant to enrage or say something incredibly, ridiculously stupid. They want the views and the clicks and will do anything to get them.

You think you’re pointing out some bad take but really you’re just being a fucking fool who fell for the grift. STOP!

Random Thoughts and Comments 20230316

I just submitted audio files for four more short stories and a short story collection this week. And it made me happy, because two of the short stories I did this week were ones I tried to do last year and didn’t like how they turned out.

I think both were emotional stories and I overplayed them the first time I tried to record them. I don’t know whether I’ve grown as a narrator enough at this point to do them justice or if it was because some part of my unconscious mind was puzzling through how to present those stories effectively. Whatever the reason, I think I pulled them off this time around.

So, yay, for incremental improvements and finished projects.

I assume by now most have seen the news that a SFF author signed an eight-figure publishing contract for a dozen books on the trade publishing side of the business.

I think it’s important to know that if you do very well for trade publishers you can in fact be paid very well on that side of the business.

But it’s also important to understand that this was a proven author with a successful TV series based on their books, so it’s not a normal author who signs a deal like that. And it took a decade of steady success to get that.

(Just like Scalzi’s deal a while back which I think was 3.something million. These deals are for long-term successful, reliable authors who’ve shown they can produce steadily and have a solid audience base. It’s also I’d say for an author who is comfortable making a long-term commitment to a publisher, which not all are.)

I think it’s also important for authors to understand that this is actually a good thing for other authors who want to publish at that publisher. I’ve mentioned before that everything I’ve seen about publishing is that it’s very much like venture capital, or at least how VC was explained to me in business school.

Essentially, you invest in ten targets that you think will do well. Two knock it out of the park. Two fail miserably. The rest, eh, they’re okay. But the business is built on the profits of the two that knock it out of the park. So if you take that to publishing, a publisher locking down a high-performing author gives them the profits to invest in that next group of ten new authors.

It’s a repetitive process of trying to find the two out of the ten. And they just sort of ditch the other eight.

If you’re going to publish, self or trade, you need to come to terms with the reality that the top authors take in the majority of the money. It’s the 80/20 principle. 80% of the money is earned by 20% of the authors. And the more popular an author, the more stable sales are long-term.

Think of it like a ramp that you’re building to launch off of and the higher you launch the longer you stay up.

Sometime recently I was listening to a new podcast that was pretty good that’s by two newer authors, one who did well and one who did not. Both with the same publisher.

I’m not linking to it here, because…I think the author who didn’t do well is shooting themselves in the foot with that podcast. They are very much putting all of their sour grapes about their experience on display.

And, yeah, it sucks to be one of the eight out of ten who don’t knock it out of the park. Or one of those bottom two. But if you want another at bat…don’t publicly drag your publisher like that. You’d have to be ten times as brilliant as anyone else to get that second chance if you’re known as a person who airs dirty laundry.

(Look at me, using all the cliches today. And I call myself a writer.)

It’s the same in the business world. I have at times very deliberately chosen to burn a bridge because I viewed it as more important that X happen than that I keep that person I burned the bridge with happy.

But that needs to be a deliberate choice. Too often I see people do it in a fit of pique without thinking about the consequences of what they’re doing, which is what I think is happening with that very interesting, very honest podcast. Someone thought they could write a book and be successful and then weren’t and they’re not handling it well.

(It’s possible I’ve been there myself. I’m twelve years in at this point from writing that first novel and I was convinced early on that I was not going to need that 12-15 years to find success. Haha. Oops.)

Whatever side of this business you choose, it’s not an easy path.

(There is one author in a couple of groups I’m in who swears up and down that self-pub is. That all you have to do is get everything right and it’s like printing money. He’s I think the equivalent of the nepo baby who’s like “it’s easy to be an entrepreneur, just borrow a million from your parents to start a business and then…” Mmhm. Okay. But for us mere mortals…)

I don’t know where I saw it, but I actually saw someone with a good analogy about entrepreneurship who was like middle class people get one try to hit the bullseye, rich people get unlimited tries, and the poor people don’t get any tries at all. I don’t think it’s quite that extreme, but there is a valid point to be made there.

I had a friend who won a prestigous creative award after twenty years or so of working at it, but it helped that this friend had a trust fund that paid their expenses while they were working on their creative projects. Top of the line equipment, time, mental space. It all helps.

But especially with writing, though, it’s not essential that you have everything to succeed. One of my favorite non-fiction authors is/was Barbara Sher who at one point was living in her car before she published her successful books. And of course she-who-shall-not-be-named was also not in a good place financially when she hit as an author.

I think sometimes living a hard life can actually be a stimulus to writing. I only write poetry when life is really shitty, for example. Which is why I haven’t written it since my early 20’s. It’s the whole splinter idea that was discussed in Wonderbook. That we all write from some sort of pain or wound.


Enough rambling for the day. Yay to new audiobooks. Yay to authors showing you can make money as an author. And don’t forget, especially on the trade pub side of things, that this is still a business and business rules apply. If you’re going to be difficult in some way, you better be brilliant in all the other ways.

Pricing Scenarios (New Videos Up)

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 Am On YouTube

You can find my YouTube channel here:

Right now it has three playlists:

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).)

Free Book and Excel 365 Essentials

As I mentioned, I like to start off a new year with a new release so I feel like I’ve accomplished something for the year.

This year’s new release is the Excel 365 Essentials series, which includes Excel 365 for Beginners, Intermediate Excel 365, and 102 Useful Excel 365 Functions.

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.

So there you have it. Enjoy!

Why I Like Writing Non-Fiction

I’m currently working on formatting a non-fiction title that has close to two hundred screenshots. It had been a while since I formatted any non-fiction books with images in them and I could not for the life of me figure out how I used to insert images into my books and have Affinity automatically put a border around the image.

For five images, fine, you just manually put the border on it. But the images were also coming in pinned and I was having to undo that, too. And then I had a brilliant idea. I could grab my own book off my shelf (Affinity Publisher for Non-Fiction) and I could read the chapter I wrote on inserting images using Affinity.

And lo and behold, there was the answer. (picture frames)

So that’s reason one I love writing non-fiction. Because it captures the knowledge I have at a point in time and then forget because I don’t need it. I’ve pulled the Excel functions books off my shelf more than once because of that. I know there’s some trick to using a specific function but can’t remember what it is off the top of my head. Or I know the function exists to do X, but don’t ask me in the moment what that function actually is.

The other thing I really like about writing non-fiction is that it makes me learn more. I don’t write books about subjects I don’t feel comfortable discussing, but I’m one of those people that will race ahead with a “that works” solution without stopping to see if things have changed. But when I have to explain something to someone else, I finally stop and say, “is there a better way to do this?”

And sometimes there is. I used to manually resize my picture frames to my image (by using dimensions, so it wasn’t horribly time-consuming) in Affinity. Until I wrote that book and realized there was a button I could press which would size the frame to the image. And that I could change my settings so my images always imported at 300 dpi. And that I could create a shortcut for insert frame break to save a bit of time when I needed one of those (which happens often when inserting two hundred images).

None of those were things I would’ve just sat down and figured out on my own. But when I’m trying to explain things to someone else, I do. Which means that even if a title doesn’t earn me a lot of money it saves me time because my own process improves. (I still want it to earn money, my dog is big, hungry, and vocal when not fed. It’s just a nice side benefit.)

Plus, there’s just a sort of puzzle-solving aspect to writing non-fiction. How do you get the right components on the page and in the right order so that someone stays with you and learns what you’re trying to teach them? It’s like a Rubik’s cube, except I can actually come up with a solution.

And finally I like to think that it helps others, too. I (perhaps naively) think that anyone can learn anything if they have the right teacher and put in the time. And since my mind works a little sideways to the norm, I like to think that maybe I bring a different angle to things which helps people see them from a different perspective that finally makes it click into place.

Yeah, so, there you have it. Sometimes I beat myself up for writing so much non-fiction instead of fiction (only one novel and one short story this year and five years since my last fantasy novel even though over a thousand people have bought that whole series at this point-eek), but I really do enjoy it.

Oh, and for those of you who are writers but not into writing non-fiction but were kind enough to read to the end…If you’re wide, don’t forget to check out the Google promotions tab because you can now put a discount on your books if people buy 2 or more books in a series. You can set it up for all of your series under one promo so it takes only a minute or two to get up and running.

Also, if you’re looking for new social media to join, perhaps Hive has worked its issues out and will be that next place for creatives to gather. It’s app-only right now so you won’t find me there anytime soon, but it looks like it could be that thing that’s big in a few years. (Just exercise caution in what you share there as you should with all online activity quite frankly. It’s young and will have growing pains.)

Okay. Back to it. This book is not going to format itself…