I hope you and yours have a safe and healthy holiday season. This has been a tough year and I know we’re all looking forward to 2021, I know I am.
I hope you and yours have a safe and healthy holiday season. This has been a tough year and I know we’re all looking forward to 2021, I know I am.
I won’t lie, two weeks ago, we wrapped up Ignite Denver a few days before social distancing was the order the day (we were about two days before the venue decided to close up). I thought, “You know this sucks, but things will continue like normal, more or less. It’ll just be inconvenient for a while.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong. We’re now in week two of social isolation and self-quarantine. Everything is closed except grocery stores, pharmacies and (here in CO) dispensaries. 180,000 people in CO filed for unemployment last week. Things are shit.
People (rightfully so, I mean tomorrow is scary, four months might as well be four years from now) aren’t thinking about conferences. They’re not buying tickets, not signing up to speak. Sponsors are waiting to see what events are happening before they write checks. All perfectly understandable because things are shit, but not helpful.
And I can’t file for unemployment. Well, I could if I fired myself, which would be closing down 360|Conferences. So I’d prefer to not do that!
I sent an email to one community earlier this week, another went out today. Essentially begging folks to buy tickets. I hate sending emails like that. I hate asking my communities for charity. I’d rather support them than ask them to support me. I’d rather be the one to bring them together. Help them grow, meet new people, do awesome things. Not beg for their time. I did it because things are shit.
No ticket sales, no sponsorships means no payroll for me.
Writing is a bright point right now. I’m hard at work on Space Rogues 7. Space Rogues 6 comes out next month. Pre-orders have surpassed book 5 numbers, so that’s awesome. I’ll have book 7 ready for pre-order when 6 launches, so that will be awesome.
The downside is that…
Well, if you’re so inclined, you can directly support me. Buy books (or merch) directly from my shop page. I get paid immediately for those purchases. If you’ve read all five books, tell people you know that might like them. Gift them copies, send them the URL with “Buy this book” all of it helps, because right now, writing income, will be supplementing conference income.
Welp, we’ve passed the Winter Solstice, and in just a few hours we’ll be saying goodbye not just to 2019, but to the 2010’s. I’ve never been a resolution maker but I do like to look back on what I’ve done, what I wanted to do etc.
The 2010’s saw the birth of my professional writing career. Technically I’ve been paid for my writing for years, as a copy and tech writer, a resume writer, etc. But fiction, that’s new. Plus I stopped selling my non-fiction writing services years ago. If you’d asked me ten years ago if I thought I’d be a writer that makes money I’d have laughed. If you’d asked if I thought I could ever make a living as a writer, I’d have laughed harder. But here we are.
On top of my writing the 2010’s were a pivotal and volatile decade for 360|Conferences.
On a personal level, Nicole and I moved from our downtown townhouse in the “Hottest ‘hood in Denver” (Blech) to just outside downtown to a neighborhood that doesn’t suffer year ’round construction, unannounced music festivals, and other nonsense. I haven’t had to step around vomit once, and it’s frankly glorious. Suck it RiNo.
We love our home and the neighborhood, we actually get out more to the nearby arts district than we did in RiNo where drinks came with a loan application and snobbery.
The Netherlands. We got to visit our dearest friends Mike and Judy in their awesome adopted home of Amsterdam. We’re overdue for another visit as they’re now homeowners!
Germany. We did Oktoberfest! The real one! It was amazing. We had a big group which was tons of fun, drank and ate lots, saw a ton of things. Did NOT snort menthol (which we thought was cocaine and that Australians gave zero fucks). We’re planning to go back in 2023.
Egypt. To close out the decade (sorta) in 2018 we spent 10 days in Egypt, visiting all the things, drifting down the Nile river. I wrote a large portion of Space Rogues 4 on the deck of a Dahabiya watching the Nile drift by. It was an amazing trip!
We Renovated our house. Thankfully we were in Egypt for some of it. But the house we moved into had a few less than perfect things about it. Namely, a kitchen that was too small, a dining room we didn’t need, and a master bathroom that was anything but masterful. So we gutted. We have an amazing open kitchen now that we love. We have a master bathroom that’s stunning and we couldn’t be happier. The house is much more ‘us’. It was neat to see the house torn back to studs and in the case of the first floor, the original brick. I’m so bummed we had to re cover it but someone in the past through you could nail plaster and lathe to brick… Same for the original hardwood floors (no I’m not Karen from the 80s, we put down new wood #carpetsucks).
And we will likely never do a renovation project again. That shit is stressful. But I did find a wizard staff hidden in the wall, so there’s that.
Number of Space Rogues books released: 5. 7 if you count the two short stories.
Number of non-Space Rogues books released: 0
Number of non-Space Rogues books written: 1
Number of eBooks sold: 23,197
Number of Paperbacks sold: Not many, Hard to break out past about 90 days, but about 200.
Number of eBooks given away: 46,552
Number of Books put to Audio: 1
Number of conferences created: 3
Number of conferences put out to pasture: 2
Number of moves for Nicole and I: 1
I’m pretty excited that writing is going so well. People seem to really like the Space Rogue series. The 5th book was just released with the highest number of pre-orders yet. Book one has been hanging around the top 500 or so free Kindle books for the last two months (It’s going back to full price 1/1 if you haven’t grabbed it yet!). In 2019 I made about 5x more than I did in 2018. I don’t want to jinx things but can see “Full-time writer” as my occupation in a few years if things keep going well.
Mid-2019 I wrote what I hope is the first book in a new series. It’ll be released sometime around the first of the year, in addition to Space Rogues 6. I’m excited to try something new, to branch out, and I HOPE, add a new revenue stream to my business.
I decided in 2019 to start putting myself out there more in person, so I have been applying for author alley’s or paying for booths at conventions. I’ve written about that already so won’t rehash it here, but I’ve signed a couple of dozen books now for people, which is pretty fucking cool, even if I still haven’t found “my thing” when signing. I’ll be doing more in 2020.
The last bit of writing news is that I spun up a merch store. I’m still working on it, fine-tuning, but I’ve had enough readers ask about shirts and stickers and such that the couple hours it took to get it going, should be worth it. I mean I’ve already sold 2 shirts and a coffee mug so, ¯\_(?)_/¯ . I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to the day I see someone on the street in a Space Rogues shirt.
Amazon now accounts for ‘just’ 74% of my income. My hope is to move that closer to 50% or less. There are a few companies I trust with silos, Amazon isn’t one of them. My books are available on every device and in every store that sells ebooks.
While I dislike exclusivity, I am a bit locked in with Audible. Because I’ve set up a royalty share with my awesome narrator, I’m locked into Audible for 7 years. That’s unlikely to change, unfortunately.
360|Conferences had it’s oh shit moment during the 2010s. Specifically, 2017, where attendance at 360|iDev dropped by 50% without any warning. The hard part there is when you plan, and commit to 400 ppl, and only 200 show up, hotels and vendors aren’t overly sympathetic. It was made worse by having already taken a significant loss in spinning up a new conference. Thankfully the Grand Hyatt (Where 360|iDev has been for 3 years now) are actually really awesome partners. 2018-19 were years of regrouping and figuring my shit out for the conferences. I’m happy to report I might have finally kind figured this out. Still pretty upside down, but not in a way that it feels hopeless.
One big thing for me was that I realized that while being the ‘biggest’ was neat, it wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t really what I wanted. Being the ‘best’ is what I want, and think we’re doing pretty good there. 2018 was a record profit year for all three conferences, and 2019 was pretty good (a few stumbles). I’ve made some changes for 2020 that I think will be awesome. Of course after 2017, all this “record profit” and “best year yet” stuff is just digging out a pretty deep hole. I’m thankful I was given a chance to dig out vs. walking away from debt and hosing a partner.
I’m thankful that 360|Conferences is celebrating a decade of existing, not many conference companies get to say that. The communities that I’ve had the privilege of supporting are amazing, and I’ve formed a ton of friendships by doing these conferences.
360|Flex was put to bed. This happened pretty early in the decade. I tried to rebrand, failed. Tried to bring 360|Flex back as more niche, didn’t enjoy it. So I pulled the plug 100%. A shady travel company managed to grab the domain, then lost it, the new owner then stole the twitter account, fun.
360|intersect was born and died. I’m still convinced intersect was just ahead of it’s time, but regardless, as much as I loved it and the content, not enough people were coming. While all my conferences are near and dear, 360|intersect brought together some really awesome people to tell their stories.
360|AnDev was born. Dave and Chiu-Ki approached me about doing an Android event here in Denver. I was hesitant since I’d said Android wasn’t really for me, but with their help on the community side, we’ve created a world-class event.
Chicago Roboto was born. Ryan and Jerrell reached out after 360|AnDev about doing another Android event, this time in Chicago. I still wasn’t sure, but again, they managed the community aspect, and I executed. Chicago Roboto has quickly caught up to its sister 360|AnDev in terms of size and speaker quality. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve done.
360|iDev has continued to lead the iOS developer event pack. A few more events have closed up shop (This ain’t an easy business!). I made the conscious decision that 360|iDev was a 200 person event. no more creeping up to 300, then 350, then 400. At 200 it’s sold out. The end.
AltConf is still THE community event at WWDC. I love working with Rob and Anna and the rest of the AltConf team. We execute a truly massive (Thousand of attendees, dozens of sponsors) event, that is free to attend whether you’re a WWDC ticket holder or not.
And of course (not 360|Conferences) Ignite Denver is still something I’m super proud of. The first Ignite event in CO, and the longest-running.
That’s the 2010s for me. I’m exceptionally excited or 2020 and the decade it brings. I’m excited to see where the iOS and Android communities go. I’m excited to bring more stories to the world, who knows, maybe one day you’ll see Wil Calder on the screen (big or small).
Happy Holidays, Merry New Year, Successful Festivus.
I decided around mid-year to start putting myself out there as an author, like in person, in front of other people, outside my house. On top of looking for opportunities, I said yes to any that came along.
To date, I’ve had:
A two-hour spot at MileHiCon (see here. They’re not written off, but close)
A booth (two days) at Rocky Mtn Con
Three 2 hour blocks at the CO Country Christmas Gift Show at the Denver Merchandise Mart. This was via CAL Who had a large co-op booth.
A local Author happy hour at my local (and excellent) indie bookstore, BookBar.
It’s been a mixed bag to be sure. MileHiCon was a bust. But it was only for two hours. During Rocky Mtn Con, there were a few times where nothing happened in two hours. That said, Rocky Mtn Con was quite good. This year they didn’t do programming, just basically a merch hall. I don’t know if that’s a new ongoing thing or what. Given that it was only shopping, I was surprised and impressed by the crowds. There was rarely a time without dozens walking around the space.
I did get a panel at MileHiCon, which taught me; 1 be more aggressive in offering myself up to panels, and 2. don’t go in with expectations LOL. It was fun, though, and met some neat authors.
The Christmas Gift Show was the most interesting. For one thing, it was at the Merchandise Mart, which I’d never been in. It’s fucking huge. Also, the gun show was next door, so that made for some interesting customers. In all like 450 vendors, from books to pallet-wood painted like the CO flag and any number and manner of wooden stuff painted in a Christmas motif. I had time slots all three days (Fri, Sat, Sun) where I was at a table with my books, being social and talking to people. The idea is not only are we pushing our stuff but books in general. Some folks make a killing some don’t. I made enough to cover the cost of being there and then some, so I’ll be back or 2020.
The Local Author Author Happy Hour was a lark. Bookbar had Space Rogues 1 on consignment so it was cool to bring in friends to shop the bookstore and ideally pick up some copies of the book. It also lined up right before the quarterly SciFi-fantasy reading series a friend puts on. Saw lots of friends, sold some books. Drank lots of wine.
I’ll admit to having a bit of an advantage here. Running 360|Conferences the last 10 years has taught me how to stand around and smile and be pleasant and not be bummed when I’m ignored by a passerby that clearly saw me, but ignored me (We all do it at these things, else we’d own 100 hot tubs, and have new windows every year). While still not at all in my comfort zone, I’m much better about being out there than I think many authors (at least in the beginning).
That said, it’s still LOTS of smiling. Some folks prefer to stand the entire time. I tend to go back and forth. Standing when it’s busy, but sitting when it’s a person every 10-15 minutes. I don’t find vendors sitting to be off-putting, some folks think it’s weird/rude. They’ve likely never worked a booth for 8 hours a day for 3 days.
The other thing with the smiling is that you never know who might come back around. It’s an excellent icebreaker to recognize someone you smiled at as they walked past and be able to start a conversation around “I knew you’d be back” I did that a few times. Sometimes it leads to a sale.
Depending on the event and your commitment you might be stuck for hours holding down a booth, especially if it’s just you. Have a sign ready for “Be back” and bring snacks and water. I noticed a few folks at Rocky Mtn Con. ordering pizza and other grubhub’able things. I was ok with snacks for the most part. Regardless, be prepared. Hotel food is stupidly expensive and limited.
One thing I learned at Rocky Mtn Con. was to work while there. I was surrounded by artists, and between smiling and selling, they’d pull out their sketchpad and draw/doodle. So, I spent Saturday doing pretty much nothing. well, I mean smiling and chit-chatting, but nothing otherwise productive. So Sunday I brought my iPad keyboard and wrote. It’s not as cool looking at the person next to me drawing an awesome Deadpool riding a My Little Pony, but still, I managed to write almost 4k words. I might actually make a sign, “Writing in progress” or something so it’s clear I’m not just being an anti-social prick and that the “magic is happening right now”. The key is keeping your focus split so you can immediately engage someone that drifts into your attack radius. Don’t want to miss a possible sale.
So this past weekend participated in MileHiCon. It was… Just ok. I don’t put any blame on the organizing team per se. It sounds like last year they went really big (50th Anniversary), and this year the programming chair took ill and ignored (Probably rightly if they were ill) email starting in April (Not sure why they didn’t say something sooner, shrug)
I had a 2 hour slot in the Author Co-Op, a shared table space next to Author’s Row. I also had a seat on a panel.
I ended up paying for an extra ticket (I bought a ticket for nicole and myself at the end of September) but that’s ok, it wasn’t a lot, and the volunteers didn’t seem to have a ton of information (even those assigned to the participant greenroom) so it wasn’t worth puzzling out with them. Or dealing with that puzzlement, as several seemed highly disinterested in being helpful. I don’t know if it’s normal for this Con or not, but the volunteers seemed to have little to no knowledge of, well, anything. How to check people in, how do deal with participants, etc.
We (My amazing and supportive wife came along) made sure to arrive an hour before my spot at the Co-op table. I met my (assumed) table mate, JT Evans, great guy. We chatted while the current occupants of the Co-Op packed up. Then we realized there were 5 of us there to set up.There were 4 spots. Oops.
About two weeks ago I got an email confirming the Co-Op stuff, there was a tiny screenshot image of the schedule, I was on it. The gist of the email was confirming participation, essentiially If you’re on this tiny image, you’re good to go. Or not as it turned out.
There’s a tripod sign with some kind of hand sign up for the open Co-Op spots and someone had written themselves in. Hence the problem. Thankfully one of the organizers came over and explained the illness and the wholly borked internal stuff she was dealing with, including a disconnect between the previous person, and the tools they were using to organize things. She very kindly found me a table. Upside, I had a whole table to myself. Downside I was at the end, alone and in front of a door to some type of kid’s activity room.
There is definitely a “Gravity” aspect to these things (I think. My sample is small right now). JT had been on a panel or two before our time slot and many people came by having seen him and bought books. The guy next to him, also sold a few books (He may have sold books no matter where he was, not trying to imply otherwise). I sold none, but did give out a few business cards to people interested in eBooks more than paper (Can’t blame them). I don’t know if I’d have sold any sitting next to JT or not, but since I wasn’t selling, I was watching :) He had by far the most visitors. He’s also been around and knew a lot of people so had lots of friends stopping by. People are drawn to crowds (Gravity, right?)
So that was a bit of a bust, but a great learning experience. I’m glad I wasn’t selected for the Author’s Row my first time out. That might have been a bit much for my first time out. I’d be curious how those folks did, since the four hours I was there, i never saw a crowd, ever. At best a trickle of a few people here and there.
I was selected for a panel on “Createspace, KDP and you” or something to that effect. Basically Self Publising 101. It was at 7pm. Next door was “How to write good sex scenes” and in the main area was the Cosplay parade. I had low expectations for turn out.
We actually had a not bad turn out. The room probably held maybe 30 and we had about 12 or so. Oh and the moderator was a no show.
The same email with my Co-Op spot on it, included a few PDFs one of which was a panels 101 kind of thing with the questions the moderators of other panels planned to ask their panelists, so everyone could be prepared. My panel wasn’t included. I didn’t think anything of it, figuring the moderator was going to wing it. In hindsight I’m guessing the moderator didn’t even know they were the moderator.
The panelists have all showed up, I shared the table with Jonathon Brazee, that was cool, he’s a great guy. No moderator. I don’t know if the time keeper reached out to an organizer or what, but at 7 he closed the door and kind of shrugged, “Guess it’s just you all” and sat down in the back row. The guy at the end, a small publisher, took the lead as moderator since the rest of us didn’t much care. He didn’t do a horrible job, but was very anti Amazon, which given the title of the panel was a bit surprising. I’m no fanboy, but still.
The panel went fine, some great questions from that side of the table, and great insights from our side of the table. I even gleaned a thing to try out :) The stand-in moderator did an admirable job.
It was a bummer it was a manel, I don’t know if the moderator was also a dude, but in their absence, manel for sure. I know it’s hard to avoid, but I’d have given my spot up in a blink to an non-dude. Ah well, not my circus, not my monkeys, as they say.
I’ll give MileHiCon another shot next year, the folks were all very nice, and the other authors were great. Nicole accompanied me and did some surveillance around the con and picked up that this year was a bit lackluster after last year. Less budget after the spend last year, and overall disorganization. I’m well aware of what goes into events, so am not holding this year against the team.
This is officially my first public thing as a writer! A panel at MileHighCon 51
I’m on a panel Saturday (the 19th) at 7pm. It’s about Self publishing and platforms like KDP, Createspace and Ingram Spark. Should be fun!
I applied for a spot in author’s Alley but alas was not selected so if you want to get a signed copy of Space Rogues you’ll have to literally walk up to me and ask. I’ll try to have a backpack full of them :)
I’ll be honest I’ve never been to MileHighCon before, but that’s more oversight than anything else. I’ve never been a crowds person, so conventions are rarely my scene. Of course now I’ve selected yet another occupation where I don’t get to hide in a cave if I want to succeed, go figure.
Anyhow, grab your tickets and come hang out with a bunch of nerds. And definitely come to my panel so I see faces I know in the audience!