Sunday, January 27, 2008

Helium Reward-athon

One of the things that is happening over on Helium is the Reward-athon. Quite simply, writers are being rewarded an extra dollar for each new article they put up between now and April 14th. Note that it is not that simple; one must have at least one writing star and three rating stars at midnight (April 15th) to actually earn the reward.

Given the amount of churn that Helium articles are occasionally subjected to, there is no promise that myself, or anyone else will be in the running for the bonus when April 14th rolls around.

So how to approach the writing there for the Reward-athon? Simple, write as you normally write. That way even if you do not end up having enourgh stars at the end of the period, you have not lost that much.

For instance, I am mainly focused on articles that I was going to write anyways, such as my review of all the Enochian Chess books in my possession, those articles I can recycle at Associated Content, and articles that I suspect are going to the better money makers.

An example is my article on Improving one's FICO 08 Credit Score. It falls under a category that I think has a lot of readers, and is something that I think will do well on both sites (AC and Helium).

The reason for me just sticking with this type of tactic is that one) I learned my lesson during contests there (my contest entries have never made money) and two) even if I fail to have enough stars at the end of the promotion period, in theory I should stall make some money off the articles.

Bottom line, the bonus payment would be nice to get, but I am not going to count on it. After all, I am trying to run a business, and past experience has taught me some hard lessons.

Friday, January 25, 2008

First week of the semester down

It is no surprise, at least to me, that I have been relatively inactive this past week. After all, it is the first week of the new semester.

True to form, I started the semester behind--"Here read all this; none of the other professors ever assign homework." Besides my other homework, I have to do two hours of reading everyday to keep caught up.

Not that I am complaining. It may sound like it, but honestly, I am not. I really do love college.

It is just that I am supposed to be also trying to grow my own business at the same time. And sometimes, college ends up taking top priority and that is that.

So due to the time crunch, some things have been backburned. Such as the redesign of the lodge's webpage, and a couple of major writing projects.

But on the bright note, within a couple of weeks, I will be caught up--I hope.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

First day of the semester

Well, today is the first day of the new college semester. This semester I am taking Pyschology 101, World History 111, Humanities 121 (looks like we are focused on the Ancient Greeks), and Masterpieces of Literature 2.

Due to the Humanities and Lit class being done by someone that believes that you will learn more from reading the writings than being exposed to a canned answer, I have a lot of reading to do. Eight novel length books in fact (four per class); actually there is nine books altogether, but I am not counting Voltaire (I have already read that one before--Voltaire is a great writer).

And yes, I am walking into these two classes with my eyes wide open; I had this professor last semester. Barely made an A in the class, the essays gave me more grief than the reading.

So for the next week or so, I will be reading two textbooks (or at least part of them) and two novels until I am ahead of the reading. Due to this, my writing is going to be on the backburner for a few days.

But that is why I am self-employed while in college; I have the option of shuffling the work around my school. How many people can say that? Not many.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mental Health Day

Today I am taking a "vacation day." Which may strange, especially when you hear my idea of a vacation day.

So far today, I have hang up a thermometer on the outside shed (I can see it from the office window--it is freezing out there), changed a couple of light bulbs, loaded the dishwasher, sorted though some old computer parts, changed the layout of both blogs here (I removed the adsense from the bottom of the blog on both, and moved it to the sidebar; I don't think anyone would ever see the ads on the bottom of the page), sent out an email and did some research on the interent.

Sounds almost like I am working. And in a way, I am. On the really good vacation days I will do some remodeling around the house. So why do I call them vacation days--simple, I am not doing any serious writing or schoolwork.

So why today? I am not sure. Maybe writing an article on How to Improve Your FICO 08 Credit Score took more out of me than I thought it did. Or maybe, it is because I know that college resumes Tuesday. Whatever the reason, I am taking the day off.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How much is exclusive (all rights) worth?

For those who missed it, there was a big flap today over on Associated Content. They made an announcement on the writer forum that they were no longer going to consider non-exclusive content for upfront payment. There was a lot of protesting, and by the time that you read this AC has changed their minds and decided to put this policy change off for awhile longer.

But it is coming; you can see the storm building over there. As time has gone on, AC has been rejecting more and more articles for upfront payment. You can still put them up for performance bonus (page view payment), but it has been getting harder to get them to cough up anything up front. Even when you are offering them exclusive rights (also known in the business as All Rights), it is getting harder to pry any upfront from them. And forget about getting a fair amount for anything (ten dollars is a really low all rights payment); even if you can crank out something in an hour, there is no way that their upfront offers will cover your time and energy.

Face it, economics has caught up to AC. They are hoping that decent writers will make enough from the performance bonus to stick around. And as it is they have a ton of writers flooding the stacks with stuff anyways. There are always new writers (unpublished and eager for that first byline) waiting to line up and write for them. It is only us established writers (those of us with more than one outlet for our work) who are going to bolt at the very idea that AC is trying to turn us into work for hire slaves.

Personally, I have already quit trying to get upfront payment for non-exclusive content from them. Outside of my first piece published there, I figure that anything I have used or plan on using elsewhere is off-limits when it comes to upfront payment. I use AC as a secondary income source for my work, not my primary one.

The only articles I consider giving them exclusive rights to are actually News (which are hard to sell on most websites unless you have a relationship already built) and those which felt into AC and that I can't think of any other place that I would ever use them. The problem with News, quite simply, is that it has a really short shelf life. The instant that it passes that point, and becomes no longer of interest, it will expire like month old fruit cake, forever on the web, but with earnings no longer coming from it. For instance, the last piece I offered to AC as an exclusive (Hillary Clinton speaks at Auraria Campus) was one that I figured could last until either the Democractic Convention this summer, or be dead in a couple of weeks. After all, it was political, things change there fast; and once a politician is out of the running, no one cares anymore.

On the other hand, I figure that an article about improving one's credit score will have some shelf life. And I can figure out more than one place to use it, so why offer it for upfront payment consideration; after all, I have to live with myself and I do have some ethics to my name. Besides for an non-exclusive, they are probably going to offer nothing; I can hit publish now and start generating page views from it.

AC and its content producers (writers) are both struggling with opportunity costs. AC realizes that they can focus on exclusive for upfront payment consideration and not lose much while the writers are realizing that the upfront payment on an exclusive is not worth the time that they spent writing the piece. It will be awhile, but we can expect to see more changes there as the supply and demand curves keep moving towards equilibrium.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Unofficial Guides and what J.K. Rowling is really afraid of

I am not sure how many of you are following the recent J.K. Rowling vs the Unofficial Guide to Harry potter Universe fight. I have been keeping track of it because of the fact that I am a writer, a scholar and book reviewer (is it a surprise that I am opinionated).

What is going on is that Rowling is claiming that only she has the right to write about the Harry Potter universe, as in she claims that she is the only person that has the right to write a guide book about her fictional universe. And that an unofficial guide to her work will decease the value of her own guide book.

For the record, I own about a half dozen guide books to the Lord of the Rings universe, and am likely to buy a seventh if I run across it. I am not that much into the Harry Potter universe; but if I was, I am quite sure that I would end up with both the official and all the unofficial guide books that were available. It is just the type of person I am.

I am not alone in things like that. I know Trekkers who own every guide book to the Star Trek universe there is, official and otherwise. Same holds true for Star Wars fans. When I was still playing Magic the Gathering, I brought every guide book I ran across (I have no time to play anymore); the same is true of my Role Playing days (Dungeons and Dragons among others).

If you are a fan who buy guide books, odds are that you are going to buy a lot of them. And publishers and film companies know that fan sites, unofficial guides, and word of mouth help sell more copies.

So what is J.K. Rowling really up to? What fear is driving her? Simple, she wants to make sure that she, and only she, ever writes any stories that are set in the Harry Potter universe. She does not want Harry Potter to become another Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, or Captain Kirk. After she dies, she wants to make sure that no one ever revives her characters and writes about them. In other words, she wants her universe to be as unchangable as the Bible.

On one hand, I understand what she wants to accomplish, but I can not consider it good news if she succeeds. She already has the right to make sure that only she can write stories about the Harry Potter universe. If she wants to put out of business fan stories of her universe, she can; and her bottom line will suffer accordingly. She has those rights already.

It is the right that she is trying to seize that worries me. Basically, she is saying that only she has the right to write a guide book and discuss her work. This is bad news for scholars and book reviewers. For years, publishing houses have been seeking a way to make sure that only good reviews get written about their offerings. It is not J.K. Rowling that I fear; it is those who will if she wins, take this victory and use it as a weapon against book reviewers, critics, and scholars hostile to their offerings.

For the record, I write hostile reviews. I just reviewing three Enochian Chess books by Steve Nichols. (Enochian Chess (Book One): Foundations ; Enochian Chess (Book Two): Practical ; Enochian Chess (Book Three): Alpha et Omega.) And I am quite sure that Nichols would love to roast me over warm coals for how I treated his books. But he can't. If I feel that a book is not necessarily the world's best on a subject, I am allowed to say so. And I did.

I am a writer, book reviewer, scholar and a Golden Dawn member. All of these depend upon literature being able to be discussed, reviewed, and argued about. Without the freedom to do so, we are all in big trouble. Remember in 1984, the first thing they did was get rid of the writers.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Attack of the wife's schedule

I haven't been doing a lot of writing lately. In large part, it is due to the fact that my wife had her winter break (she is currently working as a substitute teacher). I can't work around her for various reasons, mainly because writing is a solitary pursuit and interruptions upset the flow. Of course it doesn't help that she can not tell when I am working and when I am not.

There was also the fact that she has the home remodeling bug, and for the first part of the break she thought that we were going to make major progress on the kitchen. Considering the amount of paint that needs to be stripped, I figure it was going to take months, if not years, to do; so, I decided that it could wait until I felt like doing it (aka need something to do when milling over how to rewrite something). The wife would have none of that--"I thought that you were going to help."

Oh, I planned on helping. In my own good time, on my schedule, not when I needed to be writing--so much for the plans of mice and Morgan. So outside of one "flash" contest entry and a book review of a Anne Coulter book, I have accomplished nothing over the past few weeks.

Now, that she is back at work, maybe now I can get some writing done before the semester starts. Or maybe not; who knows what other interruptions are laying in wait for me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year Resolutions

I believe in New Year's Resolutions. Not in the sense that I am going to lose weight, or be nicer to people, or anything like that. I just believe that one should take stock periodically and determine if they are going in the direction that they want to be headed.

And the New Year is as good as time as any other to do this. In fact, if some of your resolutions like mine involve your business, then it is the perfect time of year (unless you use a different accounting period) because we are thinking about our taxes and year end bottom line.

Mine was not as large as I would have liked it to be. And it was nowhere near where my wife would have wanted it to be. But I did make progress from the year before. Plus I am expected to match it this year based on having a certain amount of material on revenue sharing sites.

So I decided that my sole New Year's Resolution, outside of maybe trying to figure out how to increase the lodge's membership, is to increase the amount of money that I make as a writer. I chose a figure almost double of what I made last year. I wanted a figure that would be hard to accomplish, but still could actually happen if I treated my writing as a business. Plus, it needed to be low enourgh to allow me to maintain my college grade point average.

As writers, I figure we should all have an income goal for the year. Something to gauge our efforts by, and hopefully make us strive harder at our craft. For some people, the goal will be to finish a novel, or organize their office, or getting people (one's friends and family) to respect the fact that writing is a real career. For me, all of these tie into making more money this year as a writer than I did last year.

Our goals as writers do not have to involve money. Some of my goals as a writer definitely do not involve making a lot of money (some types of writing do not have large audiences). But I think that we need goals, and periodic reminders that we can become better writers.

Happy New Year!