Sunsetting Potato’s Short Guide to DIY Investing

July 28th, 2014 by Potato

Time to make it official: I will be putting my ebook Potato’s Short Guide to DIY Investing to rest in November.

What does sunsetting mean? It means that the ebook will be going out of “print”, taken down from my website as well as the Amazon and Kobo stores, but not immediately. I plan to pull the plug near the end of November, 2014.

Why are you retiring the book? Though the book is still useful and not wrong, things have changed at TD and in the marketplace, in particular the introduction of commission-free ETF trading at several online brokerages. However, the main reason is that I have a new, more comprehensive book coming out. Unfortunately I can’t share too many details about the new book yet as it is still being reviewed by the potential publisher. By the end of November I should have more details to share on the publishing path and timelines.

What can you say about the new book? It’s longer and more comprehensive — nearly triple the length of the original. I’ve tightened up the writing and added many more helpful figures, and it addressed years of reader feedback and suggestions. It includes detailed how-tos for three investment options that represent ideal trade-offs in terms of cost and complexity: Tangerine’s index funds, TD’s e-series funds, and ETFs (with a worked example using Questrade’s commission-free purchases). It has a much stronger focus on planning and process, to help you set up and stick to an investing plan.

What does this mean for right now? Unfortunately until I hear back from the potential publisher I can’t promise anything in terms of release date or special offers. I want to offer anyone who buys the current ebook now a discount on the upcoming book to make the choice simple, however I can’t promise that as it my not be under my control. It’s up to you whether you want to wait months (or possibly over a year) for a newer, more comprehensive book, or to buy the decent short ebook that you can download right now. I don’t want to prejudice you against Amazon or Kobo, but if I do end up with enough control to offer discounts on the future book, I will only be able to do so for people who buy through my online storefront (ePub/PDF versions — sorry Kindle owners).

Quick question/straw poll for the bloggers and journalists: what format would you like review copies to be in?
1) ARC electronic (placeholder art)
2) Final electronic
3) “Report style” hardcopy ARC (letter paper form factor)
4) Final hardcopy (trade paperback form factor)

I had a meeting with the artist and my new cover art isn’t going to be ready until November, and that’s also when I’ll hear back from the publishers on whether they will take it on or if I’ll be self-publishing. I’d like to give people as much time as possible to read at their leisure (and also to collect blurbs if you like it!), but I know that an ARC with placeholder art can look a little amateurish, and more importantly can’t really be passed along to your own friends and readers through a giveaway (though I can follow with final hardcopies later for that).

I’m interested to hear what the consensus is before I start firing off review requests, and will also note that I can start sending ARCs this weekend for those interested in that format.

Back from the Grant Monsoon

July 24th, 2014 by Potato

It’s been a hell of a run here at the day job with two massive projects back-to-back. I know pagecount is a very rough metric of productivity at best, but within two weeks we had a ~44-page grant and a ~40-page grant to submit, of which ~36 and ~18 pages were for me to write, and all of which were mine to edit. Some writing is more labourous than others — 36 pages of unfocused blog rambling is something I might do in my spare time over two weeks if I was in the right mood, whereas single pages of highly technical material can take days to churn out, much of which may be spent reading research materials to get and reference the data — but however you slice it that was a lot of work. And a lot of overtime to make it happen with the crunch on.

I can hear you asking “but Potato, how could you possibly work so hard and pull so many all-nighters and still be such an awesome daddy to Blueberry, while keeping up your 10-hour-per-week second job inspecting subway cars for the TTC?”*. Of course one part is that I completely neglected the blog over the last month, but that was a pretty minor contribution to the war effort. The answer is the magical combination of salty food, refined sugar, a significant calorie surplus, and caffeine. That’s pretty much the recipe for supercharging your brain to keep you going and focused for such a task, but it comes at a steep cost: between not exercising (Wayfare and Blueberry made it into the car early enough many mornings to give me a ride to the subway so I lost many of my morning walks), the stress, and the lack of sleep, I’ve put on 20 pounds in the last year, all of which came in sudden bursts during two particularly busy periods (this last month and the insanity last fall).

With the book pretty much done and under review at the prospective publisher(s), and my other InDesign project shelved, my side project is now to lose that weight and try to undo some of the damage. That’s a tall order: I’ve had no success at this in the past. Though I managed to make it through my PhD gaining basically no weight, I gained an amount that can only be described in fuck-ton units through my MSc and have never managed to lose any of it. I suspect it is an evil curse from all those Western blots (because if half-assed attempts at dieting and semi-serious exercise regimes didn’t get rid of it then it has to be supernatural, right?).

Anyway, let’s move on to something you might want to read about.

Over on the Reddit, a user asked me to create “the complete rent-vs-buy manifesto” to bring together the salient points when making the comparison and decision. To a large extent that would just mean putting some organization to about a half-dozen posts I’ve already written to form one larger, coherent post. It’s kind of an interesting challenge and I almost reflexively started outlining how I would approach it. However, I’m crazy enough without having a manifesto to my name, and it’s hard enough to get first time buyers to even look at their rental options with a 1000-word post — I don’t think a 5,000 word soup-to-nuts summary is really going to help.

Oh, I see the Ballparkinator fix is still on my to-do list. I’ll get to it real soon.

Have I talked about the book much yet? (Checks back, not really). So it’s done. Not like ready-to-put-on-the-bookstore-shelf done, but done enough that I have sent it (or queries) to publishers to see if they want to publish it instead of publishing it myself. With all the feedback/feature creep from the beta testers it ended up being legitimate personal finance book length — about 42,000 words or about 200 trade paperback pages, with 20 helpful figures (I consider the bunnies helpful). That’s more than triple the length of the first book, so it’s way, way beyond just “PSGtDIYI 2nd ed” and is its own book (with that how-to/implementation stuff as the core of it). I have a new title that I really like (I know a publisher may choose a new title if they take it on but I’ve gone ahead and spent a few bucks to register the associated domain).

To be realistic, the odds are that a publisher will not take it on. I’m hoping they will of course, but my plan is to be ready to launch into self-publishing as soon as the rejections come in. From what I’ve read, they typically take ~6 months to make a decision so I’ve got a few months yet. Still, I’m moving in the background to continue to tighten up the editing, get the formatting ready for the different form factors, and I’ve retained an artist to help me with a new cover design. I’ll definitely go with a hardcopy version this time around.

What I’m struggling with now is whether I should continue to keep things pretty hush-hush or start getting the word out. I don’t want to publicly say what the snazzy new title is yet because that could still yet change (especially if a publisher has a better idea), but I also don’t want to leave it until a day before release. I want to start sending out advanced reading copies, but don’t want to step on the publisher’s expert toes on marketing if I do end up getting a publisher — after all, that’s the primary reason for getting one.

The broad sketch of my plan is basically to wait another month or so before I start doing any of this stuff, and then to start with ARCs for bloggers. I don’t know whether the 6-ish-month clock for hearing back from publishers starts when I sent the first query, or only after the full manuscript arrived. I should hear back by December, so if I don’t hear back by then I’d like to launch the self-published version in time for xmas shopping, new year’s resolutions, and RRSP season. I know some works started as self-published items and transitioned to traditional presses, but aside from those exceptions I don’t really know if initiating a self-publishing push will scuttle a potential publishing deal if I had just waited an extra few months. Though I’m afraid to push too hard too soon on self-publishing, I also don’t want to wait forever (and miss a big part of the yearly cycle) to give extra time to a process that has a ~90% rejection rate.

Anyway, lack of sleep, dilemmas, too much stress weight, manifestos, and soon I’m going to have to start “sunsetting” Potato’s Short Guide to DIY Investing.

* – or alternatively: “what’s with all the whining? 83 hours/week should be your starting point for the work week. That leaves you with 85 hours of non-work every week: put in 18 to watch Blueberry, 1.5 to get groceries, 3 to wash the dishes and clean up, 2 for meals you’re not eating at your desk or during Blueberry time, 2.5 for personal hygiene, and you’ve still got 8.3 hours per day left to do whatever the hell you want. Don’t whine about a lack of sleep just because you chose to spend some of that time with your wife, checking your email, watching TV, telling people on the internet how wrong they are, or massacring video game orcs to de-stress instead.”