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LandlordMax Major Release Coming This Week!

This is one of those posts I’m not sure how to approach, especially being this tired when I’m writing it. You see I was fully expecting to release the latest major release of LandlordMax tonight, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Although we don’t have official release dates, we’ve slowly and quietly being letting people know that a release was coming, most likely over the weekend. Again, unfortunately, it’s not going to happen.

The good news is that the new version of LandlordMax is ready to go. It’s actually been ready for almost a full week now. The only thing holding us back is the website, it’s not entirely ready. We’re still working on the release notes, and the user manual definitely needs more work. At the very least I don’t want to release the latest version without a strong News and Newsworthy page like the last release. Although I really hate it, I can accept it if the user manual is trailing behind by a bit. It’s not the end of the world. But we absolutely need a page showcasing the latest features, otherwise it could potentially be confusing to our users. I’d rather give them a good heads up of what’s new, and how some of the new features may affect them (for example a new feature called Advance Notices will have an impact on their existing Scheduled Entries).

That being said, instead of pushing through tonight to the wee hours of the morning, I believe we need a rest (plus we have a key person downtrodden with a bad cold – not me – fingers crossed). I myself have only slept a few hours for the last 4-5 nights, so I’m pretty exhausted. I’m actually hoping this post makes sense when I read it later after I’ve had some rest.

So what I’m going to do instead is take a small breather, and let everyone get some rest before we go live with the new version. We need it! But more importantly, I think it’s important that we avoid making any mistakes releasing a new version of the software. And the best time to make mistakes is when you’re overtired. It’s also the time when people have a tendency to push stuff through that’s of lower quality just to get it over with. That’s not a position I want to be in. I believe the wait will be worth it. I want to avoid making any stupid mistakes. And a few days is not going to hurt anyone. It’s worth the cost.

Although I really don’t like to promise an official release date, I suspect we’ll be releasing mid-week this week.

Thank you for your patience and I look forward to posting when LandlordMax is released!!

PS: Please note that you don’t have to wait for the new version to come out to buy LandlordMax, as part of your license you’re entitled to all releases that come out for up to a year. This includes major upgrades!






How to Publish Your Own Book – Part 1

Books

Should you decide you want to author and publish your own book like I did (Blog Blazers), there are basically three main paths you can take. Each has it’s own benefits and risks, and each is quite different. There are actually a few more alternatives to this, but you can pretty much fit them into these options if you try hard enough. They are:

  1. Ebook only
  2. Print-on-Demand (POD)
  3. Self publish
  4. Publish through a publishing company

I’ve personally had experience with 3 of them: Blog Blazers which was initially POD but ended up being self published, and How to Generate Traffic to Your Website which is an ebook only book. The only reason I have tried publishing through a publishing company is that I haven’t been interested enough in this option yet. But who knows, that might change if the opportunity is right.

In any case, over the next while I plan to write several posts explaining the ins and outs of each publishing option, maybe even have one Questions & Answers session, and finish off with one final post with my recommendations of which publication method to use in which situation (along with some links to further information and resources). Should be a lot of fun and hopefully you’ll learn a lot along the way.

And if you don’t want to miss anything, please feel free to subscribe to my email newsletter or RSS feed. This will guarantee that you’ll get each post directly rather than having to come back each day.






Who Should Make the Decision?

Make Decision

Is it the person in charge that should make the final decision? Sometimes, but not always. It should be the person who’s most knowledgeable with the information on which the decision will be based.

Let me give you an example. In the tv show 24, this season the president of the United States was taken hostage in the White House by a small team of armed men. Yes it’s quite a story, but let’s ignore that for now. What was interesting is that the decision on whether or not to storm the White House and retake control was not decided by the agents that were following the case the whole time, those that knew who the terrorists were and had studied their histories, those that really understood their motivations and intentions.

Instead the decision was taken by the Vice President. He didn’t even know what was going on, he was just quickly appraised of the situation, well as much as they could within minutes, and he had to make a decision on whether or not to storm the White House. There’s no way this person could make the right decision unless it was pure luck. There’s was just too much history and information needed to full appreciate and understand the situation. Plus, he had additional motives (such as protecting himself) which came into play. In this case the wrong person to make the decision was the person in charge.

Of course this is only a tv show, but it happens all too often. Especially in software development. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen developers struggle and fight through a hard problem only to come to a fork in the road. They then have to go to the team lead / manager (or whoever is in charge, which is sometimes someone who’s not at all technical) and have to explain the issue. Now if it’s a good lead, they will listen to the developer and pretty much let them lead the decision, after all they’ve been in the thick of it while the leader only superficially knows and understands the issues. It makes sense and is the smart thing to do.

However many times the opposite happens. The suggestion is completely ignored and the developer is told to just make it happen (even when they strongly disagree and push against it). My favorite is “I understand you might not think this is a good idea, but just do it anyways.” The reality is that someone working on a problem for hours or days can’t really express the full issue in minutes. It’s just not possible, so what you get are the highlights, the glance over. If you really want to make the decision, than dig into it, spend some time to really appreciate what’s going on. Expect to spend some hours, maybe even days to fully understand what’s going on. Especially if the decision has large implications for the future.

The reality though is that sometimes the developer is not perfect either, they might not appreciate everything else that’s going on. Maybe there’s political factors. Maybe there’s monetary factors. Maybe some timelines with the marketing team that need to be met, etc. If you can (I understand that sometimes it’s not possible), than share with your developers other factors that will affect the decision. Help them rather than just make the decision outright based on only one factor. In other words, don’t just pick option A because it will allow you to meet your deadline while option B won’t because it might come back to bite you very hard. If the developer is pushing option B so adamantly, figure out why. And only then make your decision. Don’t just base it on one factor that you know, understand the full problem. Work together to come to a decision.






Tune into Click for Clients Radio Tomorrow at 4pm

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOE3OeKZzcA

Tomorrow I will be interviewed on the hour long show of Click for Clients radio hosted by Jon Ward and Andy Renk as seen in their announcement video above. The interview will be mainly about my book Blog Blazers and ebook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website and how you can blog successfully.

So don’t forget to tune in tomorrow at 4pm EST.






The Anatomy of a Press Release

This post is an exert from my ebook How to Generate Traffic for Your Website:

Writing a press release is almost the same as writing good content, therefore pretty much everything that applies to writing good content applies to writing good press releases. Your headlines need to catch your reader’s attention immediately, the active voice is strongly recommended, and you need to provide unique and interesting information. An interesting angle (a different perspective) is always a very good thing to have with your press release.

The main difference with writing an article for your website and a press release is that a press release is more restrictive. Press releases have a structure to them that you really should adhere to, to get you the best results. In some circumstances if you don’t adhere to the generally accepted format your press release won’t be accepted at all by the wire service.

** Please note that there are some variations to press release formats, but the one I will describe is the most common.

Headline: Every press release needs a headline. It’s very crucial to the success of your press release. The headline needs to be precise, convey what the press release is about, and possibly create anticipation for the article above the other aspects of what makes a great headline.

Teaser: Your first paragraph (also known as your sub-lead – which might sometimes appear with the headline in a different text format than the rest of your article) is a teaser that reveals something exciting without going into the details, it’s the hook

Second Paragraph: The second paragraph explains why the news in your first paragraph is important and why it’s beneficial to the reader

Third paragraph: The third paragraph should include quotes from powerful industry leaders, well known experts, etc. You need to validate your second paragraph (where you stated your news). If you’re not using quotes, then explain how you came to your conclusion. Just remember to keep it short, it’s only a paragraph.

Fourth paragraph: The fourth paragraph is the wrap up. It’s where you close off your article.

Contact Info: This is where you give out your contact information so that the general media can contact you. Just make sure that you can be reached through your contact information the day your press release goes out.

Above this, there are some differing options by the different services as to what you can include, such as how and where you can place pictures, graphs, etc.

Having described the anatomy of a press release, let’s look at a concrete example. The following is a press release I wrote and published a while back in June 2005. In terms of reach, it was read 161,125 times on PRWeb (the service I used to distribute this particular press release). This number is includes only the times it was read on PRWeb directly, not how many times it was read from all the sites that re-published it. In any case, it’s a good example of a successful press release.

How Interest Rates Can Drastically Affect Real Estate Prices

Interest rates can drastically affect real estate prices and the profits you make on your real estate properties, probably more than most people realize. An increase of interest rates of 5% to a more normal historical average of 8% can signify a 27% drop in housing prices to maintain a $1000 monthly mortgage payment!

Many people believe that what has driven the real estate market to today’s high prices is the investment value of properties, just like stocks in the dot com boom. However, if you ask the average person what started the boom, as in what exactly is the “investment value” most people won’t be able to answer you. Put fairly simple, housing got affordable quickly because interest rates dropped substantially and rapidly, to their lowest in decades. Although this is not the only variable, the reality is that for each 1% interest rates dropped, a person could afford a lot more mortgage with the same monthly payments, especially when the interest rates are on the lower side of the spectrum. This has fueled the real estate market boom. However as the flames burned high, the market has taken a fire all of its own as speculation too hold.

Looking at an example, a mortgage payment of $1000/month at an interest rate of 5% amortized over 30 years will allow you to pay a mortgage principal of $186,281.62. If you increase the interest rate by 1% to 6% and you want to maintain the same monthly payment of $1000, then you cannot sustain a mortgage of more than $166,791.61. This makes the mortgage amount you can afford 10.97% less than before. Take a higher interest rate, a more historically average interest rate of around 8%, now you can only afford a mortgage of $136,283.49, a significant drop of 26.8%!

We can graph the mortgage affordability based on interest rates alone. As you can see, the mortgage affordability is affected much more significantly at first. This is unfortunate for all those people that have been buying up real estate without really doing the research or working their numbers, or that are on the edge financially. They will most likely get squeezed out of the market and cause over zealous fire sales, much like the dot com boom and bust of 2000.

Headline: As you’ll quickly notice the headline draws attention. It has a power word (drastically). It creates a sense of emotion (this was written in 2005, so the real estate bubble hadn’t yet exploded – it was actually in full mania).

Teaser: In the teaser you’ll notice I state that interest rates will drastically affect real estate prices, and more importantly the profit YOU will make on YOUR real estate properties. Then I give a quick and concrete example with some numbers (no calculations or explanations are included yet) showing just how large an impact it can have on you. I imply a LARGE 27% drop in prices. Again, notice I state my claim without any explanations as to how I got to those numbers. The idea is to provide just enough information to entice the reader to read further.

Second Paragraph: This is where I make my real statement. This is where I explain my article, why it’s interesting, what it’s about, how I got to this conclusion, and most importantly why it’s important to YOU.

Third Paragraph: This is where I give credibility and validation to my initial statement. Normally I would use a quote (this is probably the only press release where I didn’t include a quote) from some high profile person (don’t forget this can also include you if you’re the founder of a company or a high profile person). In this particular press release I validated the second paragraph by explaining how I came to my conclusions. I give a concrete example of my conclusion with numbers, to show that I just didn’t make them up from thin air.

Fourth paragraph: Here I wrap up the article and add a parting thought, a word of warning for the reader to leave with.

Tip: Not all press releases need to be directly about you, your company, your product/service, or your website. Sometimes creating press releases with very interesting news information, such as the example I just showed, can result in significant indirect traffic. In this article the key to driving the traffic was the contact information.

My goal was not to directly promote me or my company, but to create authority in the real estate field. I was trying to get attention from real estate investors and indirectly create traffic and sales for my company LandlordMax (as well as this blog). And at the same time, if the article is related to your keyword as this one was, it can increase your search engine ranking through all the links you’ll get (from re-publications).

You can also increase the odds of getting traffic to your website by embedding a link to your company’s website, blog, etc. with the quote, but it’s not always recommended (if you don’t do it right it can come across as “spammy”).






LandlordMax 5 Year Anniversary!

Actually it’s a belated anniversary, it was last month but I was just too busy trying to get the book to the  printers, combined with everything else, to post about it. So here it is. LandlordMax was officially incorporated 5 years ago! The company was of course around before that, but it was just me working on the first version. Seems like only yesterday…

Which leads me to think, it’s time for an update on everything that’s been going on around here. The last update on LandlordMax, and everything I’m working on, was on June 8th. Wow, has it already been 4 months???

Well I can tell you it’s probably been the 4 busiest months in since I started LandlordMax! It’s been so busy that over the last 4 weeks I’ve only posted once on this blog where I usually post 1-3 times a week. So without any further ado, here an update on everything:

Blog Blazers

As many of you know, I’m in the process of publishing a book called Blog Blazers. Well the book is finally off to the printers. I’m sure like all other books, it was quite a dash to the finish line. The book is now officially scheduled to be available for November 1st. Which is why the last few weeks have been a whirlwind! If I hadn’t gotten it to the printers before now there’s no way it would be available on time.

For those who’ve been following my story of publishing the book, the cost is already over $15,000. Above this you can add the costs of printing (which is dependent on the number of copies), followed by all the marketing and promotional costs. Which means the original $15,000 will in all likelihood be quickly eclipsed as my marketing efforts starts to ramp up.

I’ve already hired a PR agent to get us in the media (he did very well in getting LandlordMax in the papers – we had appearances in at least 6 major newspapers). I’ve also hired another PR consultant who’s going to be working with me on a part time basis. She’s already started 2 weeks ago, so that ball is already rolling. And that’s just the beginning, I haven’t even started talking about my efforts. But have no fears, I’ll share more of my promotional experiences as I go through them. I already have a few big posts planned.

Above all this, I’ve also had to get the website up and running to get credit card approval for the company (the book will be managed by Levac Publishing House). Yes I could’ve gone the PayPal, e-junkie, etc. route, but I chose to go the professional route. After all, we’re already all setup for LandlordMax so I can leverage a lot of this effort. Plus it looks a lot more professional. And based on the volumes of sales I expect, it makes sense.

In any case, the website is already designed and we’re in the process of properly completing it right now (it’s currently faked with images for those of you who’ve already checked it out). The good news is that a lot of the work behind the scenes is completed. Other than the actual implementation, we’re already well into the process of getting approval from our credit card processing company, which takes at least a few weeks assuming we pass all the checks (SSL certs, proven shopping cart system, privacy policies, security validaton, etc.).

Please note that the book isn’t just going to be available on the website, it’s going to be available on Amazon and so on. So that work is already in progress above all this. And technically I could have limited purchases of the book through bookstores, but I prefer to give people the option of buying directly from us. Actually, to be honest, I’ve really been thinking about creating an optional bundled deal with my ebook How to Generate Traffic to Your Website exclusive to the Blog Blazer website. But I’m still in the air on that one. So we’ll see what happens.

As well, the book Blog Blazers will be available in both softcover and ebook formats (it will no longer be available in hardcover). In the ebook version, all the URL’s will be linked. So for some people it might be advantageous to buy both the softcover and ebook. I often myself buy both books and ebooks as I like the tangible book for reading and the ebook for referencing and searching – especially if the ebook is bundled with printed book. I also now understand why they charge a few more dollars for the bundle, it does costs something to manufacture the ebook, and to sell it. But it’s not much, so I suspect the bundle will be something like an additional $5 or so. I’m still working on the ebook pricing. By the way, the book will be priced at $16.95 USD.

And before I move on, if you have a blog that gets respectable traffic and you’re interested in reviewing my book Blog Blazers, please feel free to give me a holler.

LandlordMax

An amazing amount of work has been going on with LandlordMax. We’re moving forward with the new major upcoming release. Generally I don’t like to publish the upcoming features, but today I’m going to share some insider knowledge. There’s some benefits and liberties to being the founder of a company.

We’re planning to integrate email within LandlordMax, as well as offer support for Outlook (so that you can import and export certain data such as your contacts).

Another major feature is the ability to generate graphs and charts for the relevant reports as you can see in the screenshot below:

LandlordMax Property Management Screenshot: Graphs and Charts on Reports

Please note that these graphs will appear in the generated and formatted PDF’s. So now not only will you have all your data, but you’ll also be able to quickly analyze the results of your reports!

Something else some of you might have noticed in the above screenshot, there’s two new workareas. The hint is the two new buttons on the left side of the screen. These are the “Contacts” and “Synchronize” buttons. Contacts is a place to store additional contacts that don’t really fit under tenants, landlords, vendors, etc. And Synchronize, well this is part of the work being done to support Outlook right now.

If you can make it out, there’s a new third button on the right side of the screen. Although it just says “Print” (there’s two Print buttons), it should really say “Email” (we’re using print as a placeholder). This is where we anticipating putting one of the new “Email” buttons. You’ll be able to quickly click on this button to email the generated report right from this screen. You’ll no longer need to export the report to then email it. You’ll be able to do it all in one fall swoop!

Of course it doesn’t end there, we’ve added several new features, like the ability to associate the accounting entry to an “Account” (generally a bank account but it can be more open ended). And it’s not all new features, we’re also working on enhancing the current usability of the software. As much as I’d like to just add new features, I also strongly believe we should look at what we already have and enhance it even further. So lots of work is going on in this respect too.

I also promised in June that I would post an update on our sales revenues, so here is the monthly sales revenues graph, followed by the 12-month trailing average graph:

What’s really exciting for us is that as the real estate market is collapsing our sales keep increasing!!! It just goes to show that as the market gets tight, people really start to look for value in their purchase choices. And I like to think of us as the Honda or Toyota of cars. We’re not necessarily the luxury model, but we sure do offer an incredible value in terms of bang for the buck. Just wait until we have our networked/browser based version available!

How to Generate Traffic to Your Website

Above the book Blog Blazers and LandlordMax, I’ve also written an ebook earlier this year called How to Generate Traffic for Your Website which has been very well received by the online community (you can read some of the very positive reviews here).

The biggest news about this ebook is that it’s continuing to sell very well. Actually in August I ran a test to see how well the book would sell at $14.95 versus the original $28.95. It turns out this was a good decision. So I’ve decided to keep it at $14.95.

As I’ve also alluded to earlier, I’ve been thinking of offering a special bundle deal with my upcoming book Blog Blazers exclusive to the website. So that might happen next month, we’ll see. If it does, it most likely means that the sales page for the ebook needs some serious updating to related it to the Blog Blazers book. So there might be some effort going on here as well. We’ll see…

FollowSteph

What can I say, traffic is exploding! I’ve been at it for over 3 years now with over 300 posts. I’m still going strong.

The biggest news here, other than the fact that it’s continually growing, is that I’d like to re-skin/theme this blog. Upgrade it’s look and feel to circa 2008. I’d like to do that before my book is released, but again, we’ll see. There’s only so many hours in the day, even with help. Someone still has to find, manage, and coordinate all the efforts.

GTA Stud

You would think I already have my hands full, and I do, but somehow I’ve managed to start yet another project. I’ve launched a new website called GTA Stud. This project was conceived and launched only a couple of months ago, but it’s already starting to get very good traffic with all things considered. We’re getting about 1,500 unique visitors a month, and we haven’t even begun to promote the website! Just this mention is my first promotion.

The website consists of everything GTA (Grand Theft Auto) related. The website is pretty much a blog, where one day we have an article on something related to GTA, be it a tip, trick, a how-to, a secret, basically something interesting about the game, followed by a gameplay video on the next day. So far we’ve been mainly finding the most “redonculous” videos on YouTube, but we soon hope to publish our own YouTube videos which will include full tutorials and mission walk-throughs. I’m pretty excited about that since no one’s publishing walk-throughs or tutorials that I know of.

The quick story behind the project is that I’m the silent partner under the scenes. I’ve basically hired someone to write all the content, find all the gameplay videos, as well as create all the tutorials and walk-throughs videos. My part, other than financing the project, is to promote the website. And unfortunately because of everything else going on, I haven’t really had the time to do anything. Which is why it’s great that we’re already getting 1,500 unique visitors a month within a little over a month! Imagine when we start promoting it.

The other reason I’ve been holding back is that we don’t really have a design for the website. For example, even the GTAStud logo is pretty weak. The good news is it’s being worked on right now and hopefully we’ll have something later this week. So things are moving quite fast with this project.

Misc.

I have a few other projects going on, but most of them have been sidelined for now. These include FindYourWeddingDress.com and WhichJar.com. To be honest, although WhichJar.com is generating some traffic I don’t know that I’ll ever get back to this project. It’s not that it’s not successful, it’s that I just don’t have time. I thought about hiring out, but I can’t commit myself to even managing that project. I’m over extended. So if anyone is interested in buying the website (including the domain/code/database/etc.) please give me a holler. There’s about 200 jars already loaded. The key isn’t getting the traffic, it’s adding the data to the database. The good news is that it’s pretty automated, all you need to do is submit jars (with additional fields) to a submission form and it will do all the rest for you (all username/password protected of course).

For FindYourWeddingDress.com, I’m now at a stage were I need to hire someone to help me out. Mostly because I just don’t have the time. Plus most of the work can be easily outsourced. The problem is that I don’t have time to find someone, nor manage them. So it’s going to be put on hold until I can find the time.

Conclusion

So that’s it. That’s what I’ve, well I should say, we’ve been up to. Hopefully now that the book is going to print I’ll have a few minutes to breathe. Yeah, not likely. The marketing campaign is really ramping up! Plus the website needs to actually be built, not just faked. And I want to get the new release of LandlordMax out as soon as possible. So there’s lot of work there. Actually, there’s lots of work everywhere! The good news for you though is that I’m back to posting more regularly. Hopefully I can get back to my 1-3 times a week within the next few days.






Blog Blazers Update

As I’m sure some of you have noticed, I haven’t been posting much recently. That’s because I’m really pushing hard to get my upcoming book Blog Blazers (book cover above – this is the first time I’ve publicly shown it!) completed and to the printers ASAP. The publication date is November 1st, so to make it on time for that date I need to get it off to the printers now. The good news is that it’s almost ready to go, I’m just in the process of finishing up the last last details with our typesetter Shawn. It’s been quite a sprint to the finish line as well. Self publishing a book is no small feat!

And don’t think it ends when the book is off to the printers. The website for the book needs to be completed. And the marketing effort is just starting to really rev up.

As soon as this week is over, and I’m finally able to catch a breath of air, I’ll go into more details about the whole experience and some of the people involved. But before then, I want to send out a thank you to all the people who helped make this book possible. I still can’t believe the quality of the team that got together for this book. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was amazing! If you plan on self publishing your own book, please don’t hesitate to contact me for references and contacts. I can point you to some great people.






Book Update: Self Published Versus POD

As most of you already know, I’m in the process of publishing a book in which I interview 40 very prominent bloggers. The project started in the winter of 2007 and we’re now near the end of the summer of 2008. I expected to have the book out by spring of this year, and summer at the latest. However most things don’t go as planned.

I initially decided to go the POD (Print on Demand) route, using iUniverse as my POD of choice. They had great reviews, a good book (Get Published!), and they seemed very knowledgeable on the phone. Again, things never quite work out as planned. iUniverse merged with AuthorHouse and Amazon has decided to change the rules for all POD publishers.

Not only that, my experience with iUniverse wasn’t all that rosy. Yes I expected some issues, but having seen them listed often as the better POD choice, I expected more from them (but then again I probably didn’t have the correct expectations). Having started the process just before the merge certainly didn’t help, especially with issues they had moving some of the staff. If memory serves me right, I went through two account managers before finally staying with Rosalie, who incidentally turned out to be the best of the three. The first account manager disappeared and it wasn’t until I called and pressed the issue that something was done. I don’t remember what happened to the second account manager, I think she decided not to move in the merger. Whatever the reasons, it took three tries which definitely delayed things.

Another issue that really irritated me was that my book was accidentally put on hold for a month. For some reason it wasn’t pushed through the next phase and it just sat there. It wasn’t until I contacted them and pushed to see what was going on that they realized the issue. Scary to think how long it could’ve been before they realized something was amiss!

On the positive side, the professional editing they provided was very good. I really believed it improved the quality of the book, so I’m pretty happy with that. However getting the editing costs all figured out was somewhat of a challenge, which I won’t go into today. Needless to say, it cost me about $1000 to get the book edited. Remember it’s an interview book so the interviews aren’t edited like a normal book (the bulk of the content), only the preface, introduction, epilogue, etc. are edited.

The downside to the editing service is that you don’t really get to communicate with the person proofreading and editing. They send you the revised document with their comments. They also include a document which adds additional comments, which by the way is filled with up-sell services (not a bad thing in of itself, but somewhat frustrating since you don’t get to actively communicate with the person). In addition, you only get one pass. And you don’t get to choose the person you’ll be working with, to see if they have the same style as you. But I got lucky and hit a good editor. Plus the amount of content was pretty small, so it wasn’t too difficult to work with.

On the negative side again, some other things started to really annoy me. For example getting the book’s cover copy (the back) took a bit more than a month. And I have to admit I wasn’t impressed with what I got back from them. Firstly, the copy was mainly an exert from one of the interviews. To me this is very weak, especially for taking a month. Anyone can just flip through a book to look at it. And if you’re shopping online you can page through a book using Amazon’s “Search Inside” feature. In their defense, they did include more than just an exert, just not much more. And it didn’t really work for me.

This led me to contact Peter Bowerman, author of The Well Fed Self-Publisher (an excellent book which I’ll discuss in more detail shortly). Through emails with Peter I decided to use his mentoring services, and am I glad I did! Although in his book he talks about self publishing versus POD, I still had to talk to him before doing a 180 degree turn and going the self publishing route. Thank you Peter! That was probably the best money I ever spent on consulting services. I don’t know that I will ever be able to beat the ROI from that one phone call!

Why did I change my mind? For a number of reasons, including those which I’ve already mentioned. But it’s more than that, and chapter 12 of Peter’s book (“Print-on-Demand (POD): Dream or Disappointment) expresses much better than I ever can. So if you’re considering either route, I strongly suggest buying his book and reading at least that chapter. It alone is worth the price of the book. And don’t get me started on Appendix C! I can’t tell you how valuable that section of the book is!

For me personally, what I didn’t like about POD is that you have no controls over timelines. There aren’t really any with POD. I could never get a good answer as to when the book would be ready, and if I did get an answer it was generally too optimistic. Plus, it was impossible to work on anything in parallel to speed up the publication of the book. For example, work couldn’t be done on the books copy and cover couldn’t be done in parallel (and each seemed to take much longer than I thought necessary – which turned out to be true). Although I didn’t agree, I accepted the sequential process at the time (mostly because I didn’t really know any better).

The catalyst though is that I couldn’t get a good idea of when the book would be ready. For the copy they said 4-5 weeks, but based on what I saw, that should have been 1-2 days. Yes they might be busy, but 4-5 weeks seems excessive. Once we agree on it, we get to move on to the cover, which I suspect will take as long if not more.

You also get very limited input in the process. For example, since I’ve gone the self-publishing route I’ve hired George Foster, one of the best book cover designers in the industry (did you know that a book is generally judged by it’s cover?). Working with George (and Peter) we came up with a general theme. Then we tweaked it several times until it was just right. This flexibility just simply isn’t available with a POD service. You don’t even get to choose the artist you’ll be working with!

The other thing that irks me is that if I’m going to pay to have someone help me with the copy (I can write web copy, but I don’t really know what sells for books) and the cover, then why am I using their service? Why do I have to wait? I’m basically paying for something I don’t want.

Something to note though about POD versus self-published, POD is significantly less expensive and less time consuming than self publishing. Self publishing is basically not for people who just want to try to write a book, it’s a full endeavor! You get what you pay for, but it’s also not cheap. So only go the self published route if you really think you have a hit on your hands (or you have a lot of money to burn). Self published is not a hobby, or a sideline like POD can be. The difference in price is from $1000-$3000 for POD to at least $10,000-$15,000 for self publishing. And this doesn’t include any time or marketing costs, this is just to get the book to out there. I’ve personally spent over $15,000 as of right now on just to get the book published. Wait until I include my marketing costs!

Before I continue, let me just say that iUniverse has its place and time. It’s just not for me. However if you plan to sell a limited number of copies, you have very limited funds, you have no timeline to get published, you don’t need creative control, or you just want to try publishing a book as a hobby, then it might be the solution for you. But for me it was no longer the right choice.

Getting back to our discussion, there are some other perks going the self published route. You own the ISBN number, not the publisher. The book is registered under your publishing company (we’ve created the entity Levac Publishing House for this first book). Plus once you get the book done, you own it. With a POD they own the finished product. For example you own the text but not the typesetting. Which means if you ever do strike out on your own, you’ll have to absorb that cost again.

But more importantly, some of the economies start to favor you with the self published model. With POD the best discount you can get for promo books is about 50% of retail, and this is only if you order in quantities of 500 or more. So if you have a $20 book, that means $5000. If you want smaller amounts, then expect only to get a 20-30% discounts. Not a small sum of money, especially if you plan to market and promote it on a commercial level. On a hobby level, you probably won’t ever need 500 promo copies. Again it depends on what you want to do.

With self publishing, you can get that cost down to $2.00 + shipping & handling (assuming an initial printing run of at least several thousand books). So assuming 500 promo books, that’s $750. Wow! What a difference from $5000! I didn’t include shipping since both options would incur this same cost. Anyways, it again comes down to your business model for the book. Is it a vanity book or are you planning on the book being a business unto itself?

Obviously you know which model I picked. I personally expect to go through more than 500 promo books in the first few months alone! I’ve already promised each interviewee a book which brings it up to 40 copies the first day.

Why is the pricing so different between the POD and self published? With POD they always charge you 50%-80% of the cost for promo books. With self publishing, once you’ve incurred the large initial upfront costs, the reproduction costs become small in comparison. In other words, you don’t make a profit for the first x books (and x isn’t a hobby number, we’re talking in the thousands of books), but once you pass that threshold (your break even number) it becomes financially viable. The statistics however show that most authors never get to the break even point. Of course for this book, we’re going to blow past the break even point!

But there’s still more. By going self published I can guarantee the quality of printing. Apparently there’s quite a few horror stories floating online about the print quality of Amazon’s new POD vendor. I’d hate to experience that.

But it doesn’t end there, there’s more. Another aspect I really like about self publishing is your ability to price your book. With POD the books generally have to sell for more because of the higher overhead. With self publishing you can generally bring your price down a bit. Not much, but about 10%-20% less. It might not seem like much, but if you’re comparing two books side by side, it might be enough to influence your decision. And more than that, the POD vendors generally set the price based on the number of pages, not the quality of the book.

So to make a long story even longer, the book’s production path has been significantly adjusted this week. A lot has changed. The title is no longer “Interview the Pros”, it’s “Blog Blazers”. It’s no longer going to be a POD book, it’s going to be a self published book. I’ve also hired an amazing team to get this book done. I’ve hired a cover artist, a book mentor, a typesetter, an indexer, and so on. Although I don’t like to promise timelines, I’m hoping to get everything to the printers by the end of next week if everything goes according to plan. From here I’ve been informed it takes about 5 weeks to print the books (a proof copy needs to be approved – with time for shipping – and then the first full run is printed and warehoused).

I would show the cover, but we’re still finalizing the last minute details. As soon as it’s ready I’ll post it up. Also the book’s website isn’t ready yet. I’m hoping to have that up very soon. I’ll keep updating you as the book is approaches the finish line.

Otherwise everthing else is progressing very fast now. I’m very excited about the results and can’t wait to see the finished and printed book!






How Variable Naming Can Significantly Impact Your Teams Productivity

How Variable Naming Can Significantly Impact Your Teams Productivity

What does kunnr mean? Anybody? If you’ve worked with SAP than you might know but to everyone else good luck. What about rqnb? Does it mean anything to you? Isn’t it obvious to you that rqnb represents a request number? Seriously though, why do people name their variables so cryptically?

Think about it a little, how much easier would the code be if the variable was named requestNumber instead of rqnb? And for those of you who think it will save a few keystrokes, hence make your typing faster, remember that each time you use the variable you have to remember how to abbreviate it. With one variable it’s not so bad, but when you have dozens, you’re always looking up the different variable names.

Still don’t believe me that it makes a large difference, tell me what the code example below does (ignoring all exception handling):

public static void chPd(uId, oP, nP)
{
    Usr u = UsrDB.getPrf(uId);
    if(cfPd(oP))
        u.chPd(oP, nP));
}

You might have a chance with that one because it’s similar to the Unix/Linux command line tools. But what about the following more complex case:

function clcMtPy($mtAmt, $ct, $intRt, $nPt)
{
    $mInt = clcMtInt($ct, $intRt);
    $mPym = $mtAmt * $mInt;
    if($mPym > 0)
        $mPym = $mPym / (1 - pow((1 + $mInt), - ($nPt)));
    return $mPym;
}

How easy was that to read? You probably didn’t get the meaning of what’s happening in the first pass, or even the nth pass. And nor should you. But that’s how a lot of code is written. What if instead it was written as:

function calculateMonthlyPayment($mortgageAmount, $country, $interestRate, $numberOfPayments)
{
    $monthlyInterest = monthlyInterest($country, $interestRate);
    $monthlyPayment = $mortgageAmount * $monthlyInterest;
    if($monthlyPayment > 0)
        $monthlyPayment = $monthlyPayment / (1 - pow((1 + $monthlyInterest), - ($numberOfPayments)));
    return $monthlyPayment;
}

How much easier is that to understand? Sure in the cryptic example, once you get a good handle on what’s going on it makes sense, but how long did it take compared to the last example. And How many times did you have to re-remember which variable represented what?

Isn’t the last example much much friendlier? Couldn’t almost anyone jump in and understand right away. How much time is spent in the first two examples just understanding what’s what? And that’s with abbreviated names, what if I had just used one letter variables? Don’t get me started on that. Ever try to search for instances of a variable that’s one letter? Try searching for the variable “u” (used in the first example) on this webpage. How many hits did you get before you found it? Good luck with that!

By the way, this code is actually a real life snippet of code from our free real estate analyzer. Although our main LandlordMax application is written in Java (Swing), the free real estate property analyzer is written in PHP. Not that it really matters, this code isn’t really language dependent. (And please note that I’ve removed all code dealing with currency and doubles for clarity).

In any case, all this to say be careful when you name your variables. Don’t think in the now, think beyond. Think about tomorow and the next person. Make everyone’s lives easier. Yes it might make your code more verbose, but it also makes it readable! It’s well worth the cost.






 
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Disclaimer: This is a personal blog about my thoughts, experiences and ideas. The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only. No content should be construed as financial, business, personal, or any other type of advice. Commenters, advertisers and linked sites are entirely responsible for their own content and do not represent the views of myself. All decisions involve risks and results are not guaranteed. Always do your own research, due diligence, and consult your own professional advisors before making any decision. This blog (including myself) assumes no liability with regard to results based on use of information from this blog. If this blog contains any errors, misrepresentations, or omissions, please contact me or leave a comment to have the content corrected.