The Riches of Self-Publishing…

This past year or so, I have published three books for other people and am working on additional books for myself. These are done through self-publishing, print-on-demand efforts. My intent is to continue to work not only on my own books, but with others to get their books published and available on Amazon. The three books published are:

Each of these books are unique in their own ways, and each was published because the author wanted a printed book that they could use when they are presenting or otherwise teaching. None of these were written with the sole purpose of getting rich, which is good when you consider statistics.

Last year I attended a presentation at a local conference on publishing. There were a few enlightening numbers that were shared in this presentation that help shine a light on the likelihood of getting rich by self publishing.

One of the first things to consider when self-publishing is the fact that you’re writing one book that will be made available with the millions that are already being sold. It was state that an average Barnes & Nobles stocks can carry about 200,000 titles. On Amazon, the number of unique books is closer to 3.4 million. If you write a book and expect to sell copies on Amazon, then you will also need a plan to help your book stand out from the (literally) millions of others.

For the average person who self-publishes a single book, the expectation of revenue from Amazon should be to earn $0. Yes, that’s nothing, nada, zip, zilch, not a dime. In fact, statistics show that about 88% of first time, one book “publishers” don’t earn anything on Amazon. Of those that make money, 10% make between $1 and $5,000US. That leaves only 2% to make more than $5,000 selling a book on Amazon. The thing that always amazes me on statistics like this is the number of people that don’t pay the retail price to buy a single copy of their book on Amazon. While they can get a discounted author copy, I would have expected more to buy a copy if for no other reason than to say they sold a copy!

If you work with a small press in publishing on Amazon, the numbers change. In this case, only 18% of books published by a small press don’t make any money. The next 67% make between $1 and $5,000US. Only 1% make more than $100,000.

Of course, traditional publishers fair better in sales, although they are by no means making huge numbers of authors rich either. 7% of traditional published books fail to sell. 40% fall into the $1 to $5,000 range and 9% make over $100,000. The writers that fair the best are those that use a combination of self-publishing and traditional publishing. These also tend to be the people with more of a following, and thus an increased chance for exposure and to sell books. It is roughly 3% of the hybrid authors that don’t make anything with 27% earning between $1 and $5,000.

The last number I’ll share is that the average amount of money made in 2015 by self-publishing authors was reported to be $289. That equates to less than $6 a week, which isn’t quite a livable wage.

What is the take-away? If you are going to self-publish, you should not expect to get rich selling copies on Amazon. Rather you should write for other reasons. This is not to say you can’t make money self-publishing. You can; however, you’ll need to do more than simply toss it onto Amazon. Specifically, you’ll need to market your book. That, however, is a different story…

# # #

Ten “Hmmm…” Moments from the HSE School Board Meeting on Feb 13

The February 13th, 2019 Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting was one of the longer meetings. This meeting had a number of topics covered including the video retention policy, an update to the non-discriminatory policy, approval of a bond, approval of a contract, and then updates by the superintendent and board members. In this short blog post, I’m going to cherry pick ten items from the meeting that were interesting or might make you say “hmmm…..”.

Hmmm…. 1: The Never Ending Video Retention Discussion

The topic of streaming and retaining videos is one that I believe to be a no-brainer. Other districts retain videos of the board meetings and don’t indicate any date for them to go away. Other organizations do the same. As such, it is mind boggling that the topic was brought up again and nearly 30 minutes spent bantering it around before a vote was taken. At one point Mr. Boyer even commented that there were more important things for the board to be talking about than this, yet he continued to talk about this instead of calling for a vote! Look for this to be reviewed and hopefully finalized in next month’s meeting!

Hmmmm…. 2: Sexual Harassment at Fishers High School

Wow! A couple of community members, including to FHS students, spoke on alleged sexual harassment at Fishers High School and the idea that a person was being allowed to participate in a sport they were removed from as a result.This discussion by itself is enough to make you go “hmmm….’. It left many questions. You can watch the following video starting after about minute 12:00 to hear the comments. With the exception of Mr. Boyer, the board did not comment on this topic.

Hmmm…. 3: “I won’t be reporting these kinds of things in the future”

It is an unusual thing for a student to present to the school board in the main part of the meeting. As such, the two FHS students presenting (in my previous “Hmmm) deserves its own call out. The bigger “hmmm”, however, is hearing a Fishers High School Student stating that as a result of the school district’s actions they don’t feel comfortable reporting future issue such as the one discussed. This is the exact opposite of the environment the school district has been trying to create. Hmmmm….

Hmmm…. 4: “That was in our 3 year plan anyway.”

Most people likely missed the subtle comment made by Mr. Harrison, one of the technology people for the district. The board was presented with a contract that included a charge of over $10,000 for electronic equipment to add close captioning in real-time to the video streaming. It is odd that time was spent for the school board to discuss this topic because Mr. Harrison made the comment that it was in his 3 year plan to buy the hardware anyway.  Hmmmm…..

Hmmm….5: On the agenda, off the agenda

On the draft agenda from the January 30th meeting, there was an item (5.01) for Ms. Chavez to report on a policy. Ms. Chavez prepared a 15 minute report to present to the school board on diversity. In the agenda for the February 13th meeting, this was dropped for a standard item on policies and Ms. Chavez was shifted to speak as a community contributor, which is restricted to just 3 minutes. I’m not privy to the details of what was promised by the board, but do see the draft agenda on the January 30th Board Docs and the final agenda for February 13th. Ms. Chavez did her presentation in 3 minutes, which was impressive. Wondering what additional information she could have presented will may you go “hmmmm….”.

Hmmm….6: High School Choice

Just when you think it is done, it’s not. While time is running out. the administration opened up a survey to try to determine the impact of adding transportation. Adding shuttle buses between the two high schools is being considered, which would allow families that can’t afford to provide their own transportation to be able to still make a choice on which High School they want their child to attend. It seems high school choice is not yet completely nailed down…hmmm….

Hmmm…7: A new school, but no net new teachers

Southeastern Elementary will be opening next year. With a new school, you’d expect that the district would see an increase in the number of overall classrooms and thus an increase in the number of teachers. In addition to 26 new positions at Southeastern Elementary, there is also a need for teachers at other schools. Specifically,  Cumberland Road would need to gain 4 teachers, Sand Creek Elementary needs to gain 1, and Riverside Intermediate needs to gain 5 teacher. A total 0f 36 positions need to be filled in the lower grade levels.

A flow chart was created (shown below) to make sure that the hiring for these positions is equitable across the schools. Teachers in the district had until February 25th to apply for these Kindergarten through sixth grade positions. After that, the positions will be opened for consideration outside of the current teaching staff. this expanded opening is expected to happen by Spring Break. At the meeting, it was stated that there was going to be a lot of movement of teachers across the district.

Mr. Boyer asked the question of how many positions the district was going to lose at existing schools to make up for the new school. The response was that the 36 open positions, replace 36 existing positions. No new positions are being created even though a new school is being filled. That should make you go hmmm….!

Hmmm…8: Redistricting in a couple of years

Yes, you heard right. There could be another redistricting within a couple of years. This topic was raised when issues around High School Choice were raised and the need to consider different high school lines. If Durbin Elementary is updated or rebuilt, then it could take on a couple hundred additional students. This would cause a small shift in the redistricting that just occurred to take advantage of the space. The shift in the elementary schools would then roll out and impact the other schools that were being fed into. Changes to Durbin Elementary could happen within just a couple of years. Dr. Bourff seems to be pushing for this change sooner rather than later.

Hmmm….9: Posting recent videos…Maybe Not?

Previously it had been indicated that meetings in the new board room were being recorded and could be made available. At this meeting, it was stated that the board meetings that were being recorded before the streaming starts, might not be posted to the public. It was indicated that there would be a cost associated to getting the videos posted due to the need to add closed captioning and processing them to fit within the BoardDocs agenda structure. The technology group was going to need to see what the cost and effort is going to be. This would mean that some of the contentious meetings such as this one and the mid-November meeting would never go live. Hmmm….how convenient.

Hmmm…10: “In the public, not with the public”

It was stated by the board that the meetings are in the public, not with the public. This is important for those attending school board meetings to understand because it means that while you might have information that could help the board in the discussions they are having, you can’t share that information. It also means that if you want to speak, you have to request time in advance and present without the expectation of getting feedback. This means you can present questions, but you cannot expect answers. As many people saw in the February 13th meeting, the board can engage with members of the public if they want. They don’t, however, have to engage with everyone that takes the time to present.

In Conclusion

The February 13 HSE School Board meeting was definitely interesting. My notes are not perfect, but they give you an idea of just some of the many topics that were covered. Not all school board meetings are as exciting as this one, but with everything happening in the district, I expect there will be a few more exciting meetings in the coming months.

# # #

 

 

 

 

Trust Nothing You Hear or See

Technology is to the point where you should not believe anything you hear or see online. Let me be more specific. I could tell you that the following three people are a family. I could tell you this is a picture of a man, woman, and their child. You might believe this, but the reality is, they are not a family

Actually, the reality of the situation goes beyond that. The child is not their child. In fact, that child does not exist. Nor does the man or woman. These picture are not real people. The pictures are all fake. While the pictures look very real, they are not. In fact, these pictures were created by an Artificial Intelligence program.

Similarly, I was recently told that it only takes about 10 minutes of audio from a person to be able to imitate their voice using AI. So with 10 minutes of someone’s voice, I can have a model of their voice that I could then apply to an AI generated image. In essence, I could have a non-existent person that could call your phone and leave you a message, or that could message you with an account that includes a full profile including a picture.

I could actually go one step further….

If I captured a bit of a person’s voice and combined it with bot technology, I could make an interactive program that could talk and respond using an existing person’s voice. The bot technology could be programmed so that the person could respond without any intervention from the developer.

I could record you or anyone else and then use your voice to say anything I want. The technology exists today.

Pictures of Non-Existent People

You can find pictures of non-existent people at https://thispersondoesnotexist.com/. If you go to this page, you’ll be shown a random picture of a person that does not exist. You can refresh the page to see additional pictures.

This web page generates pictures of people based on a style based generator architecture. To learn more about this, you can see the following video on YouTube:

The take-away from all of this is that as you view things on the internet or on television, you need to be extra diligent to make sure it is real. In a world of advancing technology, artificial intelligence, and programmed bots, it is getting very easy for anyone to generate fake personas.

# # #

Thanks go to my Friday Night Gaming Group for the discussion that led me to look at this closer!

 

 

Transparency Versus HSE Schools Video Retention Policy

The HSE School Board has been discussing their video retention policy for months now. The previous school board overwhelmingly voted for videos to only be retained for 45 days before being removed. One board member indicated that for transparency the videos should be left online indefinitely. Because it wouldn’t be until later that videos would start to be posted, the old board decided the incoming board could review the policy and decide on changes.

The new board is now in place and the video retention policy has been discussed a couple of times. If the policy is going to be changed, it is expected to happen next month.

Why should the policy change?

First, why not retain the video indefinitely? Other school districts and organizations leave their videos online. Storage is cheap, and storing them provides the ability to go back and find what was discussed. There have already been examples referenced by the new board to the interest in looking at old videos, something they can’t do because they don’t exist.

The primary argument for removing the videos has been that the written board minutes are the official record of the meetings. While this is the case, the official minutes in the current written form are lackluster at best. This is best illustrated with an example. At the November 14th meeting, there was an agenda item related to the HSEA (the teachers’ association). The official minutes documents this as follows:

6. HSEA Relationship with Board
Information, Discussion: 6.01 HSEA Relationship with Board of School Trustees

Janet Chandler gave a brief presentation to the board.

Parent, Cathy Goldman addressed the board, calling into question board reaction to social media postings.

That is the official tracking of this board item as recorded in the minutes and approved on November 30th. From these official minutes, you’d never know that this item caused the school board room to be packed. The room was filled primarily with teachers who were concerned with a public posting by an existing school board member. The parent comments reflected the same. Had there been a video of the event you’d have gotten the details that were like what is in the following poorly recorded video:

As you can see in the video, a lot was said that isn’t reflected in the minutes. More importantly, with a 45 day retention policy, an official video of this meeting would now be gone, expunged, lost in history. While a few board members might like to see it go, it could be argued that there were important points being made that would also be lost.

This is just one example. As someone who has attended a lot of school board meetings, I could list other examples of where discussions in the board meetings were not reflected in the minutes. Such a list could be an entire article on its own. I won’t do that at this time.

Will the policy change?

I believe there are currently three school board members that will vote for transparency and the posting of videos for the long term. I believe that there are two school board members that could vote against posting the minutes for the long term, just as they voted to keep the current policy no longer than 45 days. That leaves two board members that I would be hard-pressed to predict, which means a vote could go either way. THe first of these two, Brad Boyer, is an unknown to me on this topic. In the discussion from this last school board meeting, his contribution was about reviewing policies and not really about this specific policy. It was unclear if he had a point regarding the specific video policy, which left his potion questionable. The other unknown to me is Sylvia Shepler, who had sided with the old board on limiting the video to 45 days; however, the November 30th meeting she seemed to support the idea of leaving the video live “for at least four years.” From her past votes on topics, however, I won’t speculate on how Sylvia will vote. Of course, nobody’s vote is certain until it happens.

In Conclusion….

In short, right now it is unclear how the vote for retaining the videos will go. I would strongly suggest people write the board members and push for them to support transparency and make a policy that leaves the videos live forever. Being able to go back and review discussions on topics that have happened within school board meetings is a valuable resource. Let’s hope that a majority of the board members see the value in leaving this information available. After all, if there is nothing to hide, then what’s the harm in leaving them public other than it making a number of people more accountable….

And yes, here is my rough video of the video retention discussion from the January 30th board meeting:

The White River and Fishers

When it comes to the discussions of what is happening with the White River, there are lots of plans being created that stretch from the top of Hamilton County all the way to the bottom of Marion County. With Fishers being in the middle, you’d expect it to be included in the plans.

Fishers is included in the plan, with a lot of changes proposed that include a boat launch, two pedestrian bridges that cross the river, walking trails, and a lot of planned activity ideas. The issue, however, is that this would all be a part of Conner Prairie, and not likely public access. Conner Prairie has a map of their future plans that includes many features that tap into using the river. Once they have made their official public announcement, then I’ll be able to share a diagram showing many of their updates and the expected locations.

As a member of Conner Prairie, I find the bridge, trail, and other ideas to be great improvements; however, it would have been nice to see ideas for White River improvements applied throughout the other areas of Fishers. The Public level of access to the White River from Fishers is minimal, with primary access at 116th Street and South. Ironically, most of the Conner Prairie plans are in Carmel – the West side of the river.

The Fishers City Council is focused on the rail trail and the new park on Geist, but it would be nice to see additional focus put on the White River and the opportunities it offers. Right now, the primary access from Fishers is a boat launch at 116th Street, Heritage Park, and behind the Riverside schools. Adding access to the river at 146th Street would allow a person to canoe, float, or kayak down to 116th or even 96th Street. Additionally, adding easier access to the river at Heritage Park would make it easier to get in and out of the river. It would also open up tubing from 116th Street to Heritage Park.

Outside of Fishers, there are a lot of popular destinations on the river. I mentioned many of the parks in a previous post. The following image from the White River planning committee list many of the popular destinations. It would be great to see more added that are located in Fishers!