By BookBaby author Andre Calilhanna It’s easier to find flaws in someone else’s work than it is in your own. There’s a lot you can do to minimize errors and make your writing shine, but another set of eyes on your work is always a good idea. We’ve posted plenty of advice about the editing…Editing Your Work: Things You Don’t See In Your Own Writing — BookBaby Blog
How zero-commission securities brokers get paid
Ever wonder how that can work? How can TD Outhouse, or Squab– or eSuperCheapoTechSavvyStox4U.com–afford to stay in business if they don’t charge you to trade stocks?
Okay, you know what happens with NTF mutual funds: They get kickbacks. Fine. But where’s the money come from on market-day securities trades?
It comes from you. You just don’t realize it.
The foregoing link is to a Mother Jones article that I found very informative. If you elect not to read the article, I’ll summarize it. The brokerage gets a fee from a market maker (a firm that is always buying and selling the actual securities), who gets a better deal than you do. The fee is called PFOF, or payment for order flow. The difference between what you realize and what the market maker realizes is the market maker’s profit.
If you want to watch your broker stammer and dissemble, ask them how much PFOF they get.
Does that mean that your brokerage actually does not give you the best execution on your trades? Sure does! It also means, as the article makes very clear, that the market makers want frequent trades. People who buy and hold index ETFs are their nightmare. They are making billions off the eager young investors who change their portfolios even more often than they change cellphones or social media platforms.
Is that so bad, though? Someone sells someone else the right to conduct your transaction at a slightly better price than you are going to receive. You are, in theory, your broker’s client. In practice, you are the merchandise. And the more you trade, the more often you get rooked.
It would not be bad if they put it out into the open. They don’t. Wait, if it’s legit and reasonable, why not broadcast it loud and proud? They can’t have this both ways. Either it’s sleazeball, and they would rather evade the subject, or it’s honest and decent. If it were, they’d have commercials bragging about it.
Ask yourself why they don’t.
They even have a term for this: the “dumb money” trades. Yes. The people who buy and sell stocks frequently? They tend to lose–not just in the slimy behind-the-scenes way, but because the real money is made by people who know more about it. If you’re a loser, someone else won. Of course eEpiccGetRichQuiccTrade.com will do anything it can to appeal to younger, phone-based investors with amounts of money in inverse proportion to their eagerness to risk them. They’re the easiest to fuck over.
When you see me use profanity here, it is rarely just a frustrated voice. The normal reason is to make a point. These people are fucking you, and the more business you do with them, the more they fuck you. The people you trust are whoring your trades to e-leeches. None of it is in your best interests.
I want to win. My method is to buy and hold index ETFs. I research the area of the market I want to be in, compare the available index ETFs, and accumulate shares over time. I keep doing that.
It gives me no [x]-baggers to brag about.
If you want thrills while losing money, support your local reservation casino. Then when you take a bath, at least it’ll work toward a good cause.
Will this harm eSnapStoxx or eWealthFreedumb or whatever the fad app-based brokerage is this month? Gods, I hope so. They need to be harmed. But even if you aren’t feeling vindictive and punitive, you should at least be feeling avarice in service of your best interests. Whatever makes you more money consistent with your risk objectives and temperament, that’s where you should be.
Your future isn’t a charity for the mega-rich.
The tyranny of the style book
Do you really believe there are editors who run around agonizing about commas, stressing over where to put the hyphen, and otherwise driving themselves to drink over tiny fussy little minutiae?
If you look hard enough, you can find places where they ask for help with those questions. (“Should this have a hyphen? Augh! I’ve been near self-harm for hours over this! Or is it self harm, since it’s a compound noun! I can’t even contemplate suicide correctly!”) Many are novices who decided to be editors and then to learn the English language (that’s not the correct order in which we do this), but some others are professional copy editors. And very often the question will quote The Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Style Book, or some other reference, asking for a ruling.
What’s wrong with this? Sometimes nothing. Sometimes one works in a guide-constrained environment where one of the editor’s primary duties is to conform a document to this or that style, including an internal style guide. In those cases, I understand the agonizing up to a point. One good example would be academic writing, where style fascism is the norm.
But at some point, even in those cases, there come guide-governed situations where the guide does not deliver a clear answer. Then what?
Then use your best judgment based on years of experience, familiarity with the style guide’s intent, and your own damn common sense, that’s what. Those are why you do what you do, and are in the position you are in.
What shocks me more: strict editing to a style guide, and agonizing over some point of punctuation order, when it’s not a requirement. I am serious. The editor views the CMS, or some other style reference, as a holy book whose first version came down graven on stone tablets.
It will eventually fail them anyway, because our language is too diverse for perfect coverage, even by such a voluminous reference as the Chicago Manual. But they are missing the point.
The point is that an editor has years of broad expertise with the English language. It can involve one dialect or many, but it probably began before kindergarten and involved reading hundreds of thousands of pages in varying styles of superb English before the age of twelve. Under normal circumstances, which is to say writing that does not require style guide conformity as a baseline expectation, the point of being an editor is not to worry oneself to death over whether one is in proper and full compliance with a style guide.
The point is to know the language well enough, to consult the various guides where they can be helpful, and to have enough guts and brainpower to make judgments that will make the book the best it can be for the target audience.
That is what we are here to do. Our work is to do all the things to the manuscript content that will help it be its best. What if the narrator doesn’t use upper case? Those who live in style guide tyranny might simply get busy with the Shift key. I might, too–but only after I’d reviewed the ms and satisfied myself that all lower case didn’t work well in this context. If the author’s style and syntax work well to communicate with his or her audience, I’m not likely to change those aspects. Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation are the defaults, but they are not inviolable. There are times to break every rule in service of the greater good.
You aren’t supposed to cross a doubled solid yellow line when driving, at least in the US. That’s usually because that would take you into the oncoming lane in a dangerous situation (such as passing on a curve or while cresting a hill), which could produce a serious kinetic energy problem. It’s a good rule. Most of the time most people should comply. But what if an accident is imminent, and the only way to prevent it is to cross that line? What if there is a serious emergency meriting the risk? I’d rather get a ticket for illegal passing (and there are police stupid enough to give such a ticket, trust me; I once received an even stupider one) than be cut out of the wreckage by the jaws of life. Or have my remains cut out at leisure once they attend to everyone they can still save.
Style guides aren’t law books, and they are not crutches for indecision. If the work requires style guide conformity, all right; but if an uncovered situation arises, that’s why an editor has experience and judgment. It’s time to use them. That’s why not everyone can do this. If one needs to explain a decision to the client, that’s what margin comments are for.
One has to know the rules well enough to judge when to ignore them.
There’s a great part in one of W.E.B. Griffin’s books, the ones before his son started performing some unspecified percentage of the work, doing proportionate damage. Griffin was a military/police/intelligence fiction author of some note. While he had his weaknesses, the strengths were great enough to outweigh those failings. In this situation, the US Army is getting ready to invade Cuba after we bungled the Bay of Pigs. It is necessary to move an armored division by rail from somewhere inland to New Orleans, so it can be loaded for the voyage. There is a fascinating discussion of the logistical headaches involved in entraining about 450 tanks plus all their supporting people and equipment, the sort of detail into which Griffin always knew when it was time to deep-dive. In the end, it comes down to an engineer company that is already loaded, and a colonel tasked with getting things moving. The colonel has an idea how the engineer company can help get the division’s vehicles loaded on rail cars that are showing up with mixed consists. He wants to use their forklifts and other hoisting equipment.
The company commander is the POV character, and he is respectfully dismissive. He figures that the colonel probably considers himself the first person ever to think of using forklifts to load tanks. The captain thus states that it’s against regulations, and worse yet, that it would likely result in the equipment’s eventual destruction due to exceeding safety parameters, which, sir, as the colonel can surely see, exist to prevent such disasters. And therefore, with respect, sir, he can’t do it.
The colonel asks the obvious question, paraphrased from my memory: “Captain, has it ever occurred to you that your goddamn intact drag lines would look pretty silly sitting on a Cuban beach if the division’s tanks were still hung up in Texas waiting for proper train consists?”
When I see a style guide used like a crutch or a bible in situations where there is no specific rule that it must govern, I feel like I’m watching someone who would end up on the beach in Cuba with functional rock crushers, forklifts, and other construction equipment, having not brought the armored fighting vehicles that might make the invasion succeed. I laugh every time at this picture. “Mi comandante, the norteamericanos have landed on the beach!” “With what?” “Señor, they appear to be construction engineers. They have brought a road grader, some forklift trucks, and a backhoe.” “That is all? No tanks?” “None, mi comandante.” “Teniente, if you have been drinking rum on duty, your next assignment will involve cutting sugar cane–and you will not be supervising the process.”
Use your judgment. If you are afraid to use your judgment, overcome this unbecoming fear. Your client depends upon your judgment. If it was just about a damn style guide, the client could read that herself. You’re here to make decisions in her best interests.
Make them. Have and share good reasons for them. Be ready to have them questioned.
Being questioned is not time to wallow in imposter syndrome. Being questioned is time to show off the experience and consideration you invested. Explain your thought process. Show your client the level of effort you expend for what she pays. You should be proud of it.
The clients who write best tend to be the most questioning. They are the clients who drive you to become better.
BattleBots: S10 E4 — BattleBots Update
[J here. This time, for something completely different, I give you Draco’s take on a recent episode of Battlebots. While an editor can guide and teach many writing skills, some writers just have a voice that entertains. I’m a fan.]
[BattleBots: S10 E4 is available via streaming on Discovery+.] Welcome back to BattleBots Update. Took a quick break because I have the freedom to do so on account of being the only moron chasing pavement now that the season is over and I’m late. I’m also basically begging you to rewatch things you’ve probably long…BattleBots: S10 E4 — BattleBots Update
How Ebay eats your vendor’s lunch
Okay, it doesn’t have much to do with editing. It does have to do with buying stuff someone has already edited, because it’s nice to learn about hidden costs. In the past, I have posted about the myth/dodge of free shipping. There is no such thing, of course; the only question is whether it’s buried in the item cost (and will therefore be charged to you for multiple items) or made visible (and therefore can be combined for multiple items).
Want to know what Ebay costs your seller? All right. Let’s imagine selling a book, since I both sell and love books. Fees have gone up recently, for no better reason than Ebay’s basic greed. The basic fees are:
- $0.35 (listing fee; usually avoided as sellers get some fee-free listings each month, and pays to list the item for roughly thirty days)
- $0.30 (basic selling fee)
- 14.55% final value fee; that is, of the final selling price plus any sales tax plus shipping charges (rate varies by category; books are high).
So, here we go. Assume you sold a book with 5% sales tax (which Ebay collects and remits as required; as seller, you learn of it but don’t have to mess with it). You sold it for $6.97 and charged $3.87 for media mail shipping. Begin then with $10.84:
Add 5% for the sales tax; it’s now $11.38, of which $7.32 reflects the item and $4.06 the shipping (this distinction will come into play later). Of course, you will not receive that tax money; we just had to do this for an accurate dissection, so begin by deducting $0.54 for the sales tax. Deduct $0.65 for the listing fee and basic selling fee. Then multiply $11.38 by the final value fee, 14.55%, to get $1.66. Ebay charged me $2.31 in fees on $10.84 in sales revenue.
We have to pay to ship it, naturally. While the media mail rate in Notice 123 (postal rates) says that’ll be $2.89, most shippers use a reseller (often Ebay itself). I use one called PirateShip. It doesn’t drop my rate below the $2.89, so I assume they get a very thin discount and just charge me the Notice 123 rate. Maybe other shippers get it a little cheaper; don’t know. Most shippers try to cheat and use media mail for non-qualifying stuff; I don’t.
We also have to pack it. This is a normal paperback book and can fit in a standard plastic bubble mailer, but I had better put it in a zip-lock bag in case someone spills their coffee or beer on it after someone else stabs a hole in the packing. The bag and mailer cost me $0.24, and only because I buy the mailers in bulk. I also calculate that the label sticker costs $0.04, so supplies total $0.28.
I walk away with $5.36: $10.84, minus $0.65 for listing and basic selling fees, $1.66 for final value fees, $2.89 for shipping and $0.28 for shipping supplies. Not so bad? Not so great. Ebay ate over 20% of my gross. Ah, but looking back, did you observe the disparity between my freight charges and the actual postage? Caught me! Or not. I charged $3.87 for freight. Shipping cost me $2.89; supplies $0.28 on the cheap; Ebay stuck me for 14.55% of $4.06 (remember, they tacked on sales tax, calculated my fee, then remitted the tax–they so suck), so that’s $0.59 of the final value fees related to shipping. My math gives me a net profit on shipping of $0.11. And that’s only by attributing the listing fee and basic selling fee purely to the basic item, not the shipping. Start prorating those, and shipping just became a money-loser.
If the five minutes it takes me to pack the book and buy the postage aren’t worth eleven goddamn cents, then I must really, really suck at both. Hope I didn’t pay more than $5.25 for the book, or I sold at a loss.
You may think it’s incredibly petty to worry about all these “small costs.” No, no, no, no. That’s what everyone who collects those fees hopes you will do. All fees and all costs matter, down to the least one. I am not sure whether my packing tape adds up to a penny per parcel, but I probably should be considering that. The path to unprofitable business is paved with little bits of disregarded cost evidence. Believe me, the people to whom you pay those costs do not disregard their resulting revenues. Try it sometime. “Dear Ebay. Since your final value fees on my shipping are not even enough to buy a can of Coke from a machine, how about you just not charge me them?” Write and let me know what they say.
But what if the customer buys two books? Of course, if I were playing the free shipping shell game, I’d start making good money. Can’t combine shipping if it’s free, right? Such a deal! Ya. The more you buy with “free shipping,” the more you’re screwed. But since I don’t play that crappy little game, in most cases I can combine shipping provided it all qualifies to ship in the same way. Two books with nothing else meet that qualification.
Many buyers think they can both ride for the same price, but that’s not very common. With two small books, it’ll usually be the next pound up, so let’s say it’s just under two pounds. $3.45 according to Notice 123. It’ll also require a slightly larger mailer. So I might charge $4.57, which will put me about in the same place (just covering costs). Instead of paying $7.74, the buyer pays over $3 less. And some of them still think they’re getting hosed.
Not only that, some will even complain: “Dont know why ur not givin free shiping ur charges r a ripoff i no there not chargin u that much 2 ship my cozin works at the postal office”. Or think they are making me a fantastic offer: “Throw in free shipping and you’ve got a deal.”
Now you see why people sell the book for $0.99 (far as I’m aware, lowest price allowed) and jack the shipping way up. That’s the other form of shell game. And it’s true there are ways to trim little costs. Basic selling comes with 250 no-listing-fee listings per month; so as long as you do not get too big, you can avoid those. Ebay probably offers small savings on postage and supplies, and just as all costs are valid, so are all savings.
Anyway, you also now understand what’s really going on when you buy a book from someone. Whether it’s fair or not…you be the judge.
Thinking Fiction: Three Types of Indie Editing Clients — An American Editor
[JK here. I liked this because it showed me a different way of looking at incoming clients than my own, which begins with discovering whether the project is vanity (won’t make money, thus my services are for pride and education) or commercial (meant to make profit after paying expenses including me). I feel constrained to begin there because otherwise I risk leading someone down a garden path by omission of truth, which is: books with marketing plans might make money, but those without one will not. Do I believe that this Ice Bucket phase costs me some projects? I am sure it does–but if I did not, I would in essence be taking advantage of the unknown, withholding known truth, for financial gain. I won’t.]
Carolyn Haley If you edit enough novels by independent authors, you’ll notice patterns in author types and ambitions. By this I mean broad patterns — which always contain exceptions — that can help guide editors in determining how to guide individual authors on their publishing journeys. The three broad types of indie authors are those […]Thinking Fiction: Three Types of Indie Editing Clients — An American Editor
Current read: Out of Their League, Dave Meggysey
While this book first saw the light of day in 1970, it amazes me how relevant it remains today.
Meggysey, one of a large family born to Hungarian immigrants, grew up in Ohio and one might say found his way into professional football without ever having seriously dreamed of playing at the highest level. From high school to Syracuse to the end of his NFL career with the Cardinals, a part of him always knew that football culture was exploitative and racist. What would have been a dream for many young American men was a career from which he was eager to move on.
Moving on was simple enough. As the sixties moved on, all he had to do was become active in anti-war and anti-racist activities. That would get him shown the door if he didn’t retire first, which he did. He moved on to a career in education and activism.
The striking thing about Meggysey’s story is that our progress in fifty years has been modest and incremental at best. He tells freely of the ways and amounts in which Syracuse players were paid, a process that goes on today though less openly. (Whenever I see a college program rocket from mehness to top-ten recruiting classes, my first assumption is that they decided to go the bagman route.) He believes American football has a toxic culture. While I still like the college game, and I do not regret my high school playing days, I also think he is right–especially in places where football is the primary religious preference.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Dave Meggysey, like me, would be proud to kneel with Colin Kaepernick. I don’t have much use for mass nationalistic rallies prior to sporting events. I see them as manipulative and indoctrinary. One major change since his playing days involves the demographics of college and professional football, which are now very heavily black and Polynesian. You’d think it would be impossible to have racist issues in football coaching at any level above high school, and yet we keep hearing of them.
I don’t pretend to know all the answers; perhaps in the past fifty years Meggysey has found some. My biggest takeaway from this book was a better understanding of the game’s dynamics during its unsettled sixties, and the understanding that its troubles are nothing new.
Why I had never heard of him, I have no idea. I’ve normally heard of most conspicuous nonconformists in sports I follow, including those mostly before my time. I am glad I found him now, and I hope I get to meet him someday.
What is an Unreliable Narrator? — Jerry Jenkins | Proven Writing Tips
[J here. These are the sorts of questions that arise in the kitchen where the sausage is made. Want my opinion, most fiction authors start out writing exactly the way they want to write, without considering the constraints and impacts of that choice. I don’t have a problem with them writing the way they want to write, but I do have an issue when they don’t realize they aren’t making it work well.]
You can use a variety of literary devices to add conflict and tension to narrative fiction. But few make readers work harder than the unreliable narrator, a device that, true to its name, allows the storyteller to take readers on a wild goose chase as they determine what’s true, what’s not, and why they feel…What is an Unreliable Narrator? — Jerry Jenkins | Proven Writing Tips
The investing fast takes I wish I had absorbed when I was much younger
When not editing people’s manuscripts, one of my interests/occupations is investing. In thirty years, I’ve paid lots of investing tuition, which means I made stupid mistakes that cost me money. This has taught me some things, ones I can distill into the modern attention span, so here they are.
- Stock and index raw numbers do not matter. Only percentage change matters. If you see a headline like DOW JUMPS 100, and you care, you are incorrect.
- The Dow sucks (and not just because it’s the market’s FUD dispenser). When it’s done, it sucks some more.
- The money media spend long hours trying to scare you into reading their media. None ever get fired for being wrong. So we keep reading them…why?
- All fees and taxes matter. Never ignore any fee or tax; that’s the path to self-delusion.
- Any investment setup that looks like a cutesy little dance, such as little gimmicky stuff that gives you free money to invest, is probably an e-monte game designed to tap into your “omg i could get rich yes plz” wishes. Read the terms, especially those about how you get out when you want to. Bears repeating: Watch the fees. Yes, even those little ones. Yes, those too. And yes, that one. Do you sense a trend? Are they targeting those at younger and less experienced investors? Well, what do you think? Do you suppose that it’s aimed at people who know much about what they are doing? If it’s that great, wouldn’t affluent older people be doing it?
- Wall Street gets to cheat; you don’t. Love that or hate it, but it is what you will live with, and no one with the power to change it will ever do so.
- Anyone who uses the word “bagger,” without “grocery” or “vance,” start ignoring. Just put an R after the B and all will be clear.
- When you are young, time is your friend. Most young people will reject this friendship. I get it; so did I. I was a young idiot. If it were easier to accept that friendship, more young people would do it.
- Even your brokerage will give Big Money better deals than it will to you. They will only be surprised if you act surprised (or outraged) by it, as if all people were created equal or something. In investing, you would be a hopeless naïf to believe this, and they would treat you with the gentle restraint and pity typically shown toward volatile persons missing a few marbles.
- The three main ways to make money investing are to: sell it for a profit, get it to pay you, and/or save on your taxes. Growth, income, tax advantages. That’s them.
- You really can’t know how you’ll react to big gains and big losses until you experience them. What you say about them now is irrelevant. What you do when the crowd’s going wild, or the building is on fire, is your investing identity.
- Most non-index mutual funds do not beat their target indices, raising the question of why pay them more in order to do worse.
- Conventional open-end mutual funds have some inherent flaws that harm performance.
- Understand every investment you buy. It is very stupid to buy something and then go find out what you just got.
- The biggest enemy of your success is your own emotions, both greed and fear.
- If you just read the above and though, “Aha! I’m a man, and the women are more emotional, so I have the advantage!”, your furry ass is showing. A book called Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl makes a convincing case that women are likely to be better investors, more prone to do their research homework. I wouldn’t take any generalization too far, but read that book before you start patting your XY chromosomes on the back.
- If that doesn’t convince you, consider this. With the exception of Berkshire, the only separate issue stocks that have ever succeeded for me were the ones my wife picked. She knows very little about investing. She rarely misses. I don’t even buy them any more, except those she directs me to buy. If you want to know her secret, it’s not very complicated; she buys stock of companies she likes and uses.
- If you want to punish an evil company, don’t boycott their stock. That’s mindless, and doesn’t hurt them. Want to mess them up? Buy a bunch, and then vote against management every time in shareholder elections, especially for the loopy proposals management recommends you vote down. Donate the dividends to anti-company causes if you like. But don’t confuse activism with investing, because they do not have the same goals.
- If your job has a 401k, and you aren’t putting in at least up to the employer’s match, you are financially self-harming. They’re offering you free money and you are refusing it.
- As you change jobs, roll your old 401ks into a rollover IRA, then manage them yourself. You will have better and more options.
- Read good books about investing. Ask successful investors which are good books, and why. Don’t read stupid books.
- If you’re tempted by an investment newsletter, start by rejecting any that arrive as junk mail.
- If you just want the market return and can be happy with it, buy and hold index ETFs. If you did that consistently, you’d probably end up with a pile without having to do any work.
- Every minute you spend watching Jim Cramer, you’ll get a little dumber. About 160 hours might be a functional financial lobotomy.
- “It’s different this time” are investing’s famous last words.
It’s up to you. Good hunting.
Deconstructing Deadly Illusions—What Not to Do With Your Manuscript — Fiction University
[J here: this is a very useful little list of common mistakes that separate bits of untethered plot thrown in from a considered story. Very good advice for writers.]
By Bonnie RandallPart of The How They Do It Series JH: The smart writer learns from the mistakes of others. Bonnie Randall shares what went wrong with a story that made plenty of them, and how we can avoid those same mistakes.Friends, because I’m a little salty these days, and because Netflix is a quadra-gajillion-earning empire…Deconstructing Deadly Illusions—What Not to Do With Your Manuscript — Fiction University