Sanding our assholes with 150 grit.

Work sucks, what to do

Recent threads about being bored at work and wanting to do something different got me thinking.

Speaking for myself I can say with conviction that the problem is not management, tools or environment, but simply that sometimes working for someone else for a fixed monthly fee just sucks.

My job would probably be considered interesting by any measure but I still find myself bored to death by it periodically and as a result I am sometimes unable to get the slightest thing done except browsing the net or working on my own projects. Notably my own projects are in the exact same field as my professional work but here I could dig in and work for days without sleep if I didn't have other obligations. So it's not the field of work itself that's the problem. I love software.

For me the whole difference is that in my day job, what I do doesn't matter much to me. If my work is outstanding, the most I can hope to achieve is a pat on the back - that is if it happens to be in a field where the quality of my work is actually measurable by management and/or peers.

For the most part my field of work is opaque to outsiders meaning rarely will anyone recognize excellence, and even if they did it would probably make little difference in the end result I care about, namely the size of my pay check. Neither will I ever get to see the happy face of a customer satisfied with what I created since the 'customer' is a huge multinational and my work is a cog wheel somewhere, so I will never know if it had a positive impact.

I guess some of my gripe has to do with being an employee in a big organization and I should probably consider moving to a smaller place with more involvement. But on a general level I think a big part of the dissatisfaction is that I am not working for me. My contribution does not directly influence the bottom line for me, but for someone else. I have more or less arrived at the conclusion that I need to own, or at least be a partner, in whatever business I am putting in sweat for.

Some have suggested finding a creative outlet for personal satisfaction and growth, like learning a musical instrument, writing a book etc., but for me that just smells like defeat - submit to the mental slavery of the day job with the only comfort being that it buys free time to pursue satisfaction in the evening and weekends.

My present course of action is working on my own commercial projects whenever I have time for it. I.e. sacrifice my free time in order to try to create something in the future for myself and my family. I have gotten something done, but admittedly this approach is more reminiscent of the prisoner digging his way beneath the prison walls with a teaspoon than real entrepreneurship. But at least I am making a break for it.

Maybe, just maybe, sometime in the future I'll emerge at the other side. If not, at least I tried instead of rolling over dead.
Permalink jz 
March 22nd, 2005
I think you've got it pegged. Working for someone else for a fixed fee (ie, no matter how hard you work, your best reward will probably be a 3% raise at review time or maybe an occasional promotion.)

I'd much rather be out earning my own living, with my income dictated by my own blood, sweat, and tears. Trouble is, I haven't figured out what to do just yet, and I've got zip for capital.
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
Advice to both of you: Figure out what you want to do soon. You're wasting time as it is. I only just recently figured out that what I want to do is make games - all kinds of games. I'm 36, and I just figured that out. muppet, I know you're not yet 30, so imagine another 6 years of not knowing what the hell you want to do.

At least do *something* new and different. That way if it sucks you can cross something off your list that you thought maybe you had wanted to do.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
Well right now I've got my book, but it's far from certain whether it'll ever be a money-making project. Maybe by the second book I'll have a more concrete plan. :)

Other than that, I have a pair of web-games I'm developing which may or may not generate some revenue in the future.

Aside from both of those things, what I'd really like to do is open a coffee house, but that requires capital that I've no means to acquire.
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
So the capital for a coffee house is what you need - what can you do in your spare time that isn't that, doesn't totally suck, but helps you toward that goal?

Are you going to put your book on Lulu once you get it written?

Do you have time for freelance coding?

Just throwing out ideas.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
Aaron-

With a child and my fiance's student loans and college credit debt to pay off (she's paying it, not me, but that leaves me with the bills), about the only realistic thing I can do to raise the capital is take a second job, and that's not realistic. ;)

I have this fantasy by which the book, or a series of books, or a collection of short stories... will one day raise the needed capital for the coffee house, from which I will sell more books. ;)

Lulu is an option I've considered, but that place seems pretty ghetto to me. I'm actually looking into a real honest-to-goodness small run plate printer with pretty decent rates.
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
Of the print on demand places available, Lulu is pretty much the best, and it has the advantage of not having to have a lump sum of cash up front. There are many people who like their production quality, and compare it favorably with traditional press.

I've published before, and it's a pain to get good pricing on small print runs. Don't limit your search to the US - overseas is much better.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
I've got a quote of $11K for a run of 1,000 hardbound books with embossed full bleed jackets and foil imprinting on the volume under the jacket.

I don't know whether that's a great price or not, but assuming a retail of $25 (which is conservative) on a hardbound book, that's still a pretty tidy profit if I can move all 1,000 copies.
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
Aaron -

Lulu only offers perfect binding, no hardcover. And their price charts only go up to like, 400 pages, so I assume that 400 pages is all they can handle.

My book is going to be more like 900 pages, and I want hardbound volumes not paperbacks.

Also browsing through the offerings on Lulu is depressing. Most of it is very poor writing and most of THAT seems to be Crowley-esque sexual fantasy.
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
Lulu does offer hardcover as a special order, but the price gets a bit high.

Are you planning on using distributors/bookstores, or on selling it yourself? You can afford higher costs if you sell it yourself, but you'll sell fewer copies, obviously.

One thing I learned was that print costs should be about 10% of cover price of the book. This assumes traditional distribution systems.

Also, there's nothing that stops you from doing both Lulu and a traditional print run. Use the Lulu sales to measure interest and generate a little (very little) cash for the real print run.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
See.. from where I'm sitting, I think a Lulu run will invalidate the work. It'll be like a little stain that will follow me around forever "Thisb book was once sold on :blech: Lulu"

I'm not going through regular channels, I'll have to sell on Amazon and through my own website and suchlike. Maybe in a few local coffee shops and bookstores and things like that.

10%? That's crazy. That sort of percentage applies when you're printing in the MILLIONS.
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
I really doubt that the Lulu version will get enough public notice to be a stain. Sorry to be harsh, but it's true. Just withdraw them from Lulu once it's done its job and few, if any, will care.

The 10% figure comes from the rpg industry, which is ridiculously small, where a *good* print run is 3000+.

Believe me, I am honestly trying to help. I don't want to see you with a bunch of books in storage. I have nearly 1000 copies each of 2 books sitting in my garage. Of course, I made mistakes doing it that render them useless, like not taking the time to do good layout.

Oh, yeah. I doubt your book will need much in the way of internal art, nor of fancy layout (like rpg books need), but do spend the time/effort/money to make the jacket look absolutely kick ass.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
It'll have maps and suchlike at the beginnings of chapters and books, but that's about it. The jacket will be kickass, I've got an artist lined up.

I understand that Lulu won't get much attention, but should I garner attention via other channels in the future, the Lulu thing JUST MIGHT come up. :)

The fact is that I just flat out don't like Lulu.

10% printing cost is a ridiculous expectation for a small run. You show me a printer that will do a run of 3,000 books for $7K
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
Who is this Lulu of whom you speak?
Permalink  
March 22nd, 2005
I don't know any. That's another reason my business failed. I failed to do due diligence.

You might ask some rpg publishers which printers they use, since they are used to doing really small print runs. The art and layout in rpg books these days is amazingly good, and the quality of print and binding is excellent as well.

If you look at the cut that Amazon wants and you compare it to the amount you'll have left over after your print costs, you'll either have to raise your price or be satisfied with a really small margin.

As far as Lulu goes...well, if you don't like it, you don't like it. It's just a suggestion, anyway.

I *am* trying to help.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
Was the original post about "Lulu"?
Permalink ::: 
March 22nd, 2005
No-name -

Lulu.com is an online print-on-demand shop. No cost to the publisher. They sell on commission, and I've heard very good things about the quality of the printing they do.

The down side is that there is a lot of crap on their online store. Since anyone can do it, there's no filter to keep the drek out.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
No, the original post was not about Lulu. The OP was looking for a way out of the crap they are stuck in, and it became a thread with me and muppet talking about how he can get out of the crap *he* is stuck in. Different thing, but it can apply to anyone.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
Aaron -

I never said you weren't trying to help. :)
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
:) Thanks. It's good to know you realize it.

Seriously, though, talk to some of the rpg publishers. They have gotten really good at this game. I can tell you a few publishers I think produce top quality work if you like. There's even one that comes to mind that as far as content goes I wouldn't use ever, but their production quality is good and they make a ton of it. Then again, they also tend to do larger print runs. Maybe you want a smaller company to talk to. It's up to you.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
I don't see why an rpg publisher is going to want anything to do with my fantasy novel. :)
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
Just ask them for advice, not to publish it. They'll realize you're not the competition and might be willing to share what they've learned. Most are pretty good people.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
I don't know what sort of networking skills you have, dude, but I can't imagine phoning up White Wolf and asking them for printing advice.
Permalink muppet 
March 22nd, 2005
Heh. That's where we differ. I *can*. :)

Go over to http://www.enworld.org/ and get a user account. There's a section on the forums for publishers. Read up on those a bit and you'll find that there are some real live people there. Get to know them a bit, and ask questions. Even though you're not talking about an rpg, it's still a fantasy novel, so they will probably be pretty tolerant.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
Of course, this is just one course of action you could take. There are certainly others that I am unaware of. There is probably a network of self-publishers doing exactly what you want to do. I just don't know about it - it's outside my experience.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
Another thing, I am working on my own project too.

Some people(smart people) just don't like working(for company types at least). I know I don't. So why do something you don't like. Of course there is a money issue.
Permalink Berlin Brown 
March 22nd, 2005
The money issue is the reason I feel like this about the day job: Forget about busting my ass trying to make a good impression and being a stellar performer, since it won't make any damn difference in the end.

Making a career in a big company seems to be all about politics and general sleazeball antics. I have colleagues who are set on going this route and more power to them if they succeed, climbing the corporate ranks is where the real money is, but I just can't do it.

So the point is to just put in what is necessary in the day job to get the job done and keep the employer happy and the checks flowing to finance the getaway. Anything more is effort wasted which could have been spent improving my own prospects.
Permalink jz 
March 22nd, 2005
jz - That's true whenever you work for someone else - your best effort goes to making them richer. With a small company, though, you have a chance at rising in the ranks by default as the company grows. In a big company, you do pretty much have to claw your way up.

Or you could start your own business and be able to tell the whole world "You're not the boss of me!"
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
Those are basically the options I see before me. A smaller company could work if I felt sufficiently involved - which probably means that I would have some kind of stake in the business. OR the work would have to be extremely rewarding in its own right, but alas, that kind of coder rock stardom is reserved for a lucky few.
Permalink jz 
March 22nd, 2005
I like this proverb:

Old Chinese proverb - “The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed."

http://blogs.purpleant.us/bswanson
Permalink Berlin Brown 
March 22nd, 2005
That is so true. On the path to anything worth doing there are obstacles, and frequently just before the finish line the worst of them show up.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 22nd, 2005
Going back to Muppet's book, the tning you've got to remember is that the retailer will take 35-50% (Amazon takes 50% I believe) of the cover price, and won't guarantee to sell a single copy, and will only pay for those he sells, and will send you the others back.

The standard cut a publisher will give you for hardbacks is probably around 10% of sale price (which is not the same as recommended retail price) and 5% for paperbacks. Joel used to claim he got more money when people clicked on Amazon referrals for his books than he got in royalties.
Permalink Stephen Jones 
March 23rd, 2005
Well, muppet is planning on being his own publisher, I think, so he gets to keep more of the money than he would otherwise, but the bit about distributors taking a large cut is very true regardless.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 23rd, 2005
Yep, I'm not dealing with any commercial publishers, they're all snakes.

As for Amazon, I'm not going to lose too much sleep if they won't sell my book fairly, I just won't use them. I understand that this hurts me more than Amazon, but I'm prepared to accept that.

Even if I only make $2 off every book sold on Amazon, though, I'll still get the name recognition of having my first book out there. Perhaps then I'll do better with the second.

I've also got some side projects, like collections of short stories, in the works aside from the "Souls of Glass" series of novels. I'm pretty confident that I can make a go of this once I get rolling.
Permalink muppet 
March 23rd, 2005
I'm not sure "fairly" is quite the right word. As far as I know, they offer the same terms to all publishers. While their discount is steeper than most traditional distributors, it's still legit.

It's also not really a big deal to get on Amazon. I did it. I think they still have copies of the two books I published, even though I dissolved the company. Not sure where the money would go if they sold them.

Just so you know, Amazon will probably only want two copies of the book at first. Then they'll see how fast it sells and buy enough to keep it in stock. They typically don't want a large shipment from a new publisher.

Oh...also, Amazon only accepts books that have an ISBN. Just so you know. You'll have to get one of those. There are several ways to do it.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 23rd, 2005
I already plan to get an ISBN.

If Amazon wants a 50% commission on a book they've had no part in producing, then yes, I'd call that a tad unfair, universal or no. I'm not overly worried about ability or inability to sell through Amazon.
Permalink muppet 
March 23rd, 2005
Hate to break it to you, but pretty much *all* distributors take a hefty cut. It's the price of using a middle man and getting more people to buy it.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 23rd, 2005
Aaron -

but in this day and age, we have the magic of the intarweb.

I won't be sharing 50% of the retail price with anyone who's not paying for the book to be printed in the first place.
Permalink muppet 
March 23rd, 2005
Ok. I was hoping to see your book in a brick and mortar bookstore, but I doubt it will happen.

I assume you've got room for a skid of books to sit peacefully wherever you live?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 23rd, 2005
Aaron -

Trust me, I'd like to see my book in a brick and mortar store, too. Nothing would make me happier.

However, I'm not going to accept the ass-fucking that most new (and even some established) authors accept from the publishing and distribution industries.

Unfortunately, these two things are mutually exclusive, so I'm left with the decision to take the moral high road or sell myself out. I don't think I'd be satisfied seeing my book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble if I knew I had gotten screwed royally to get it there.

And yes, I can comfortably store a skid of books when the time comes. :)
Permalink muppet 
March 23rd, 2005
It did occur to me a moment ago that it is possible to list with Amazon another way if you handle all the shipping etc. yourself. I think they take a smaller cut. I forget the details though.

It is possible to arrange to be your own distributor, of course, but much harder. A hell of a lot more legwork involved. You probably can get into mom and pop shops easier than chains this way - chains tend to only order from one or two major distributors. I never got my books into distribution, personally.

The skid of books in my garage is destined for the shredder at some point. Minus a box or two that I'll keep for the hell of it, and maybe I'll convince the author of one of them to pick up the copies of his book so they can be *his* white elephant for a change. Feh.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 23rd, 2005
So, question for you - why the heck don't you set up an Amazon-type website for people in your position? If you're going to do that for your own book, why not make it more general and open it up to other new authors. They do their own distribution, like you have to, but then there is one point for people to come to who are specifically interested in reading stuff by new authors.
Permalink  
March 24th, 2005
I assume the question is targeted at muppet, not me?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
I meant muppet, mostly, but you as well.
Permalink  
March 24th, 2005
Isn't that what LuLu is?

I get the impression Muppet is a bit paranoid. has even had anything published that gave him the experience to say all distibuters are snakes?

He seems to have a sever case of 'Not invented here" combined with "They're all out to screw me!".
Permalink Honu 
March 24th, 2005
As to why I don't create a store for the books in my garage...there's more wrong with them than just layout. There are some accidental license violations in them that I didn't realize at the time. It would be a bad idea to distribute them at all.

For future works, I have no desire to handle sales myself. I plan on using traditional distribution methods as much and as soon as possible.

As to muppet, I believe he wants all the money that the end-user spends on the product to go directly to him, out of which he will pay for printing and shipping. I do hope he realizes the really tedious nature of this - collecting sales tax, getting a merchant's license, and whatever other miscellany is involved.

However, I think he's smart to focus on getting the book done first and deal with the other stuff when the time comes. That can eat a lot of time better spent on creating product.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
I also believe that muppet is of the opinion that since distributors did none of the work in creating the book (either the content or the physical object itself), they deserve none of the proceeds.

muppet, am I wrong?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
It's amusing to me how much muppet harps on fairnesss. Apparently he's believes so much that everything should be so fair, that he's not even willing to give the publishers their usual cut, even if that would get him into real bookstores and a better chance at long term success. Nope, its not fair so he's not playing.

It's a common attitude I see in chronic failures, nothing is fair and it justifies why they don't do more. For example, if you work twice as hard but don't get paid twice as much, that's uinfair. So instead they adjust their own contributions down to be in line with what they perceive as fair, and then bitch about how the rewards aren't coming to them.

Chronic winners don't concern themselves so much with fairness. Instead, they just do things that bring them rewards (whatever they might be), even if someone else benefits unfairly from their efforts. They care not that if they work twice as hard they only get 20% more (or whatever). They realize whether or not some else benefits, it really only matters that you are pushing forward and moving towards their goals, fair or not.
Permalink ronk! 
March 24th, 2005
Aaron -

well no not NONE, but not HALF. That's nuts.
Permalink muppet 
March 24th, 2005
That's great that so many successes are suckers, ronk! There are also plenty of successes who aren't.

I don't need a bestselling book to be a success. I'd rather have my balls when I'm done.
Permalink muppet 
March 24th, 2005
I'm a sucker, I'll admit it. I've do way more work than my colleagues, and I've not met with a proportional amount of money. Yet, I've been very successful and I've made more than I ever thought I would, and my work has meant a lot to a lot of people. All of that would have never been if I concerned myself with fairness.

But you keep trying make sure thing are fair before moving ahead. It's got to pay off eventually, right?
Permalink ronk! 
March 24th, 2005
muppet -

I agree, half seems pretty steep. I just look at it as "How much does it cost me to make the book. Now how much money per book do I want to make. Ok, now double that," and sell it for that. Hopefully that's a competitive price.

This is also why it's pretty important to get inexpensive printing, why 10% of cover is the target. Otherwise you aren't left with much.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
10% of cover is impossible without running hundreds of thousands of copies.

Ronk! I'm not trying to make sure everything is fair up front. I've just decided that I'm not giving a distribution channel, who has done none of the work and paid none of the production costs, half of the profits of my work. I don't think it's ethical and I won't do it.

If that means I'll be less "successful" in terms of total sales, then I'm prepared to accept that.

If you value success above dignity, then that's your perogative, too.
Permalink muppet 
March 24th, 2005
dig·ni·ty (dĭg'nĭ-tē)
n., pl. -ties.
The quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect.

I gots dignity coming out my poopshoot. Fairness has nothing to do with dignity. Did Salk get anything tangible in return that even approaches his contributions to mankind? If you don't understand that fairness and success have little to do with each other on a personal level then I suggest that you are the sucker.
Permalink ronk! 
March 24th, 2005
muppet - does the act of connecting you with many many retailers, which saves you a lot of time, count for anything?
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
Sure it does, but not half my work.

Ronk, if I had the cure to some horrific disease, I'd glady hand out the formula free of charge, and allow any chemist who wanted to make a fortune from it do so.

As it is, I have a novel. Why should Amazon get 50% of my due simply for putting a picture of my book on their website? As I understand it, even if they take orders, they would still come to me for inventory.
Permalink muppet 
March 24th, 2005
They have two programs, one where you fulfill the orders and maintain all inventory yourself, with a lower cut (I forget the exact amount), and one where they maintain an inventory (but a pretty small one for an unknown) and handle all fulfillment themselves, for a higher cut (around 50%). For an unknown, they won't take your entire print run of 1000 and put it into their inventory. They'll take 2 copies and see how it goes. As orders come in, they'll request more copies.

For more mainstream distributors, they'll take a lot more copies up front and handle getting it to retailers themselves. This assumes you can get them to accept carrying your work. Not always easy, but better than talking to a whole bunch of retailers on your own.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
If you think that by taking 50% they are taking half your work then you are more logic impaired than I thought.
Permalink ronk! 
March 24th, 2005
muppet, your work is worth the difference between the money you actually get in your hands minus the money you have to spend to get it. If you want more per book, raise the price.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
Aaron-

That's great to a certain point. A book is worth the same amount to a consumer no matter how much you feel your work is worth.

If I hand over 50% of cover to a distributor, then I'm going to get less, period. I can't double the price of my book to recoup costs that the reader neither knows nor cares about.
Permalink muppet 
March 24th, 2005
Less per copy, yes. Can you sell more than twice as many copies by using a distributor than you can by selling it yourself? Probably.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
But that way is less fair. dur.
Permalink ronk! 
March 24th, 2005
It's less fair if the distributor thinks they're entitled to half of the profit on a book they're pretty much just adding a line-item on some catalog for, yes.

What's your malfunction here, guys? Do opposing viewpoints really get your cocks so knotted? Give it a rest. I don't like certain aspects of the industry, and so I'm not using them. If you have no problem with the industry, go ahead and make use of it to your advantage as you see fit.

What's the issue?
Permalink muppet 
March 24th, 2005
Just trying to help you make more money.

Done with it now.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
Aaron -

I don't mean any offense. You've offered lots of good advice. I just think that the point has been belaboured and the discussion done to death, just like the thread below this one. :)
Permalink muppet 
March 24th, 2005
Ok, thanks. Truce. I admit I was getting carried away - you're smart, you've surely considered my arguments already, so they're not going to change your mind. My bad.

I guess I really didn't want someone making the same mistakes I did, and you're not making mistakes by doing it your way - though I still think you might shop around a little more on the printing. :)

It's a matter of your goals and priorities. You have some things you don't want to do, and I need to remember that. I forget your goal is not necessarily the same as what mine would be.
Permalink Aaron F Stanton 
March 24th, 2005
Actually muppet, I think its great you are writing a novel. Really! I hope you meet with success with your book, I really do. But if you think the concept of "fairness" has much to do with individual success, you are seriously handicapping yourself. (fairness in macro-economics is important, but for different reasons).

And another point is that Amazons costs aren't just the effort to place your book into the catalog and process orders. There also the pesky detail of building a world class online store that people profess undying love for. That takes capital and a ton of work.

Honestly I don't know if Amazon is the right place to market your book or not, I'm just trying to point out that your expressed reasons against it do not make sound business sense. You place your book where ever it will bring you the greatest total reward, not the greatest percentage.
Permalink ronk! 
March 24th, 2005
Ronk

That's the disconnect, you're looking at the issue from a business perspective, and I'm not. I want to sell my book in a way that will allow me to sleep at night. Handing over half of my revenue to corporate America is not that way for me.
Permalink muppet 
March 24th, 2005

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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