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But it also made half of that book outdated and unnecessary. So I unpublished it.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: https://www.youtube.com/@m.l.humphrey

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…

To Hell With ASUS

I don’t do social media other than here, so sorry in advance for subjecting any of my followers to this rant.

I think I mentioned I’d bought an ASUS computer recently. It was the first one I’d ever bought from them. Not sure how I settled on it, but it had a high screen resolution and upgraded amount of memory that I thought could better handle what I do and it was supposedly designed to work well for graphic design/artistic types.

I didn’t get around to using the computer for about a month because I was doing audio work, but then I did. And it started crashing on me. Their online help is questionable so I called in. The person who helped me the first time was decent and walked me through the standard run updates, etc. process.

But it still crashed. The second person was not useful. He transferred me to a department that wasn’t even open at the time so their customer service kept me on hold for a while and then just hung up on me.

So I called again. Got the first person again, I’m pretty sure. They figured out what had happened with the hang-up. Told me someone would call.

Guy calls. Spends an hour on the phone with me. Can’t get the BIOS to update. So I get to send it in.

I send it in. Without the computer for 10 days or so. They replace the SSD and a fan. Get it back. It starts crashing again.

I call. They say because it was sent in before it has to be sent in again. So I send it in again because when it crashes sometimes it makes a buzzing sound and smells like something is maybe burning?

They kept the frickin’ computer A MONTH. And said they couldn’t find an issue. Only reason I ever got it back was because I called and said, “Uh, where’s my computer?” Both times I sent it in I sent it with a list of dates and times it crashed and what I was doing when it crashed. Did they ever try doing exactly what I was doing when it crashed? Not as far as I can tell.

So I get it back. And it starts crashing again. They send me a survey about my experience. I rate them poorly because it’s STILL CRASHING. They ask me to video the crashes.

Okay. I sit down, start working, and within two hours have two videos for them of it crashing. One from my other computer, one from the computer itself.

I send it to them. They say they’ll respond in 24-48 hours. A WEEK LATER I follow-up. Because it’s now started crashing every four minutes when I use it. Which means I can’t even work around it crashing because no sooner is it up and running than it crashes again.

I get a response. You know what the response is??? Have you tried running Windows Update.

FUCK YOU, ASUS. SERIOUSLY, FUCK YOU.

Do you think I haven’t tried to update shit? Multiple times? Do you think I didn’t upgrade two of my programs to the latest version at a cost of $200 to see if your precious, delicate little piece of shit laptop would maybe handle them better?

Three calls with your support staff and months of issues with this laptop and no, not one of us ever thought to update the damned computer…Seriously?? That’s your response after all this time.

FUCK YOU ASUS. Never ever ever ever will I buy another computer from them. Ever.

Comments off because I swear to God if someone tried to comment on this post that they’ve never had a problem with ASUS I would jump down their throat. (Oh, and clearly I’m not alone in my issue, because they didn’t even let my 1 -star review through on NewEgg, but there are at least two others out there also having instability issues and they’re now “out of stock”. Umhm. Way to dodge further bad reviews on your product…)

Revisiting AI

I posted a while back about one of the AI art generators because I was excited to see what that could do. As someone who does a lot of my own covers and has the ideas but not the skills to do really complex covers and gets frustrated with cover designers who flake or take a month longer than they said, I thought it was a potentially interesting new option.

But I never really pursued it. When I was able to get into the beta on that one I did about five prompts and thought, “well, this is crap.” It was not able to take my simple description and do anything the least bit attractive with it.

I figured that was that. Creepy, not-quite-right images that just don’t work for anything outside of horror.

That’s changed pretty fast though. A few friends of mine who are authors have really dug in on using Midjourney and some of the stuff they’ve created is really, really good. To the point that one set up a shop for selling notebooks with covers they created from Midjourney and another is or is planning to do a Kickstarter with images they’ve created there.

On the flip side I’ve seen some pretty prominent authors publicly state they’re not going to support the use of AI and most I’ve seen who were playing around with it early on have said they are done even posting personal use images with it because of the harm it does artists.

(Which, man, that cover that was done for Ilona Andrews is amazing…)

I’ve decided I’m personally sitting this one out for the time being. Because it’s become a hotbed of controversy. And there are some clear ethical violations going on out there with building models.

For example, I’ve heard of people building models using one current, active artist’s work. That’s just some serious bullshit right there.

And there’s another AI that’s so sloppy about stealing other current artists’ work that the generated images still show the original artist signature.

Tech seems to have this thing these days where it’s like, “can we do it, let’s go!” and then “oh fuck, that has problems, let’s fix them on the fly.” It really harms a lot of people along the way in the name of “progress” (which is otherwise known as making a bunch of dudes with no social skills or empathy rich).

I don’t think AI art or writing is going to go away so I expect at some point it will become something I use indirectly even if not intentionally. (One of the SFF publishers was just put on blast for using an AI-generated image someone had put up on a stock photo site. How we’re supposed to know that’s what that is, I don’t know.)

I do think AI art and writing need some ethical parameters. Because it’s one thing for one artist to take years to learn another’s style and then to reproduce that style over the course of a couple of weeks for each piece and it’s something else entirely to have a computer learn that style in the course of a week and then churn out replicas one a minute. Unless we want to either subsidize new artists so they can create and still live or we want to just stop having public displays of new creative works, something will have to change about this.

Training an AI on public domain content I think is probably fair. Training it on copyrighted content (like this blog is and any current blog is) without permission, not cool.

And using it to basically replicate one specific artist’s work when that artist is still alive and active–that’s asshole-level behavior right there. (Especially the example I saw with some dude who wouldn’t admit he was doing it replicating a woman-artist’s work.) Not surprising that it happens, but also not something we have to as a society reward or accept. Shunning is very effective for a reason…

But, yeah, I think this particular cat is out of the bag and it’s going to be ugly for the next few years and change the industry substantially over the next ten.

Random Thoughts and Comments 20221130

First, the color versions of the Affinity Publisher collections (Ads & Covers and Book Formatting) are now available on Amazon and will be at some point elsewhere. (IS is slow to review sometimes.) I don’t actually recommend buying them because I think you can get the same thing for cheaper if you buy the ebook and black and white print versions. But for those who want color images in their print book, they’re now available.

I’ve been back to working on audio lately. Mostly because my pretty new computer that I got from ASUS spent the last month with them for repairs that they didn’t make. (Not buying another computer from them, thank you very much.)

So I published the audio of four holiday short stories from one of my romance pen names and have now recorded the audio for two of my cozy mystery novels. I should really be reviewing the last of those files right now, but sometimes you just hit a wall and don’t want to be productive. Which means I’ll wrap that up tomorrow.

I wanted to do three before I released any, but I think at this point I’ll just release those two and see how they go. It takes me about a week to record each one, which would mean another seven weeks to do the rest of the series, which is a lot of time really.

I’ve been enjoying doing the audio, though. In terms of level of difficulty I think it goes non-fiction, short story, novel, series of novels.

The biggest challenge after just getting good audio recordings is all the character voices. In a series you end up with a larger number of recurring characters that each need their own distinctive voice, which is not so easy to do. Even in a first-person POV you need them to be distinct enough to have a conversation between different characters that works for the listener.

I’ve also found that narrating audio makes any writing tic you may have glaringly obvious in a way that even having Word read back to you doesn’t. Hopefully it’ll improve my writing next time I actually write a novel or short story, but probably not. Not unless I narrate before release and then make edits and re-record which is a lot to do for fairly minor issues.

No idea when I’ll write more fiction. I have a big non-fiction project to wrap up next.

And then…I don’t know. I have a zillion fiction ideas I could write, but I may just step back and focus on other life things for a while.

Of course, I say that and then a week later I set some new goal for myself and I’m back in the race.

In non-writing news…

I was lucky to have a good family Thanksgiving get together this year, but with only half of the attendees because of sickness. Another friend didn’t even get to have her family’s celebration because of people being sick. Non-COVID.

I think that may be more the norm going forward than it was before even if it’s not directly people having COVID. Some folks’ immune systems are just more susceptible now than they were before.

Of course, two weeks ago 1/3 of my brother’s workplace tested positive for COVID, so that’s definitely still around, too. And a video I watched today by a cardiologist about the long-term side effects of getting COVID makes me more than willing to continue to play cautious for the time being.

I honestly don’t expect I’ll ever stop masking at the store. No reason to do so other than social pressure, and I could care less about what other people think of me.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again and again. My dad died at 45 from an illness he had when was five or six that permanently damaged his kidneys. I don’t fuck around with illnesses that can cause long-term damage. I’ve witnessed that life and it’s not one I want to live if I don’t have to.

So.

Onward.

Piracy Hurts Us All

Yesterday, the U.S. government unsealed an indictment against two Russian nationals who were behind a massive online piracy site.

When the online domains related to this site were seized I saw a lot of people on Twitter that got very upset about it. They were pissed that all their free content had been taken away from them. Some were very vicious towards one specific author whose fans they blamed for outing the site.

I was disgusted by that reaction.

Somewhere somehow someone has twisted piracy into this idea that “life is hard so I deserve free things from our corporate overlords and I’m just sticking it to the man when I consume pirated content.” Which is a bullshit fantasy unconnected from reality.

As someone who works very hard to create content that is not high-priced and is as available as I can make it through places like libraries, piracy pisses me off.

I mentioned here that within 24 hours of my posting my video content about Affinity on Udemy it was stolen and posted on another site. Someone deliberately went in, bought the courses, stole all of the content, and then requested a refund after they’d done so. I didn’t even get paid the cost of one person watching that course before they stole it.

I’m not some big corporation. I’m a single individual trying to make a living by producing creative content (books, audiobooks, video courses) and to have someone immediately steal what I produced is offensive.

That sort of theft makes it even harder for little guys like me to continue to do this. The big corporations that people are supposedly sticking it to will go on. They’ll raise their prices for everyone else who buys their product or simply not publish certain types of content.

It’s the little guys that get taken out by piracy.

And the authors who write for those big publishers, too. Because what happens is some author writes a book that sells well. But then book two gets pirated left and right and suddenly the sales for that author look like crap. The publisher sees that drop in sales and decides that the author didn’t really do well after all and drops the author.

The author that those people loved so much they just had to steal that author’s book loses their career. The big corporation that published them? Finds a new author to publish and carries on just fine.

So when people pirate they are actually screwing over the littlest players in the market. The solo entrepreneurs struggling to make enough to keep going and the authors who came up with that material in the first place.

It’s a really shitty thing to do.

Bravo to the DOJ for doing something to address it. I hope they do more.

It Is What It Is

This week I finally decided to tackle trying to put my cozy mysteries into audio. At this point I’ve put at least five non-fiction titles and a half dozen or more short stories into audio that I recorded myself, so I’ve done the practice and fine-tuning to be ready for this.

Maybe. A novel is a whole level of difficulty harder.

The main challenge is character voices. You have to find character voices that are distinct enough to be audibly different and also that aren’t too annoying to listen to. The one romance novel I paid to have put into audio, this was the issue I had with it. I really didn’t like the second female character voice at all.

Now that I’m doing this myself, though, I begin to understand the issues involved and how challenging it can be to do multiple good character voices. Only reason I’m willing to tackle these books is that it’s written in first-person so technically all of the character voices can be that narrator’s interpretation of the people around her.

Still hard, though, even with that allowance.

Anyway. What has me writing this post is my intense desire to start rewriting the cozy after doing the first few chapters in audio.

Some of it’s minor issues I’m noticing, like a sentence that has “nearby” and “world go by” that creates an unintentional rhyme that I don’t like. Or another one that used making twice in two different ways where I could replace one or the other to get rid of that repetition.

And there’s a bit of a pacing issue, too. I can see as I read the audio where I could’ve maybe tightened things up better when I was giving the needed background info.

The narrator voice in those books is very much stream-of-consciousness first-person so there’s going to be more random information included than other POVs might use, but there’s a bit of repeating information that probably didn’t need to happen.

What’s funny is I’ve reread this book at least three or four times over the past few years as I wrote the series and didn’t notice these issues. But narrating the story for audio gives a whole other level of feedback.

I think it will sound fine to listeners so these aren’t fatal flaws for the audio version. Still. I really want to fix it.

But I’m not going to let myself do that. It is what it is at this point. (I did find a typo, so that’ll get fixed. But nothing else.)

Why not fix it? Why leave it as is if I can see a way to improve it further?

One, because it’s done just fine so far and I could inadvertently break something that works if I try to fix it. As of right now the book has 529 ratings on Amazon with a 4.3 star average, so readers in general are not hating it.

Two, there’s a temptation to get stuck in a loop of ongoing minor improvements at the cost of forward movement. My readers would rather have the audiobook (or a new book in that series) than have me tweaking the first book in the series forever.

Three, because no matter how many times I loop through that book it will never be perfect. I don’t do minimum viable product, but I do subscribe to the “as good as I could make it at the time” approach. So there’s always a little room for improvement, but it’s in A territory already and that distance from A to A+ is too much effort for too little change in the ultimate product.

So I will just have to suffer through on this one and leave it as is. (Except for that stupid typo I found. I swear those things breed when you’re not looking at them.)

Okay. Off to try to come up with a secondary female voice that’s about the same age as the first voice but different enough you can tell them apart. That should be easy to do …Not.