This article first discusses the web site, then the ebook publishing side.
BondEconomics - What Is That All About?
The seemingly random capitalisation in "BondEconomics" is the result of a branding mistake by yours truly. My plan was to brand my reports as "A bondeconomics.com eReport." It turns out that retailers will block ebooks with URLs (web addresses) on their title page (or so I read; I changed the cover before finding out the hard way), and so I had to find a fall back brand name to work with. Hence "BondEconomics," the idea being that readers will figure out that it is related to a domain name.
(The lesson for readers is to research their branding very carefully before deciding on a web site name...)
Web Site Restructuring Or Content Migration?One of the things that I am aware of is that my articles are split into a few different styles, and the audience for one style may not be interested in the other styles. This is why I have a very minimal introduction on the front page, with a "read more" option. However, that may not help readers who get the articles via other means (feeds, etc.).
I already moved my few "personal finance" articles to personalfinance.bondeconomics.com. For reasons that I will discuss below, I have not published much in that area for a considerable time. I will eventually start publishing articles there if and when I start researching a book on personal finance. Although such a book is not a high priority, it is on the "to do" list.
May I split my content further? I break my writing on the main page into three styles.
- Standard economics blog material - commenting on the latest controversies and ideas in economics.
- Technical model-building articles. These articles probably require the use of mathematics to explain the theory, which I have generally avoided. I may also discuss topics related to the development of research platforms, such as programming.
- Commentary on markets and economic numbers.
I have not yet come to any conclusions on this front; I need to dig into my traffic statistics better to get a stronger idea of what is working, and what is not working.
However, my impression is that my market and economic data commentary might be best moved elsewhere. (Some articles would remain, but those would the articles that I view to be of wide interest.)
One possibility would be for me to migrate towards Seeking Alpha. My author page: http://seekingalpha.com/author/brian-romanchuk/articles . (The regular membership for Seeking Alpha is free, but they have a paid membership option.) Currently, some editors at Seeking Alpha monitor my feed, and republish selected articles (which are generally the market commentary ones). Instead, I could submit such articles directly at Seeking Alpha (and notify readers here when they are published).
As for the split of more technical work, I believe it is too early for that. Instead, I will tend to keep such articles to a minimum, until I have a better handle on how to deal with that split.
Most of my articles are actually what I consider to be first drafts of various concepts that I will incorporate into published reports (which is how I intend to "monetise" this site). For the style of writing I do, setting up the charts, and tracking down references is the bulk of the work. It is fairly easy for me to tap into my article base to then fill in sections of a report.
Although this strategy was efficient for me, I assume that it is somewhat confusing for readers (why is Brian writing a 3-part series on this random topic?). I have been cutting down on such articles, but I intend to pare them back further.
What I see as my core article types:
- Longer comments on recent controversies, and/or my views on various "big picture" topics. I want to reduce the length of such articles - 600 words instead of 1000.
- Primers. Although they are not topical, they help drive search engine traffic. Over time, I will have less and less of these (and I should be cleaning up existing ones).
- Book Reviews. I want to keep a steady output of 10-15 book reviews per year. Readers should note that I do not review every book I read, and I only review the books that I feel are worth reading (although I may disagree with what the author says). I do not have a rating system, since this filtering means the ratings would be obviously skewed; the reader will have to read my article to see how enthusiastic I am. (In other words, the fact that I only review books that I generally have positive things to say about is not a bias that is introduced by my affiliate relationship with a book seller.)
- "Article Reviews": A summary of research articles that I think should be of general interest.
I welcome suggestions for topics from readers; either in the comments or via the contact form. The one type of article that is ruled out is investment recommendations; one cannot give unsolicited investment advice to random strangers over the internet. (In case you are wondering, general commentary about interest rate trends are covered by a safe harbour that allows writers to discuss economic data without lawyering up.)
ScheduleSince this is not a paid service, it might not appear to make sense to follow a schedule. However, it is an extremely useful disciplinary device as a writer. As a result, I aim to keep my output steady at two articles per week, and possibly one per week during the summer. However, I will skip articles if necessary. One of the difficulties with splitting my output to different venues is that keeping up a steady pace is more difficult.
Web Site LayoutThe trend is towards more simplified web site interfaces. My current design is functional, but it has a somewhat retro look. That said, most of the options for a cleaner interfaces poses maintenance issues that I view as a waste of my time. Instead, I may look to see whether I can lop off some of the widgets on the page. (Once I have more than one ebook to sell, the design will have to be looked at anyway.)
Comment FeedA "latest comments" feed may be useful for people leaving comments on older articles - they can see whether there was a response. I had one, but I found it to be unreliable, slowed page loading, and is another piece of clutter on the design.
ReportsAs noted above, I have now finished a draft of Interest Rate Cycles: An Introduction. The text needs to be edited, and the 40 charts inserted. It is currently about 30,000 words, although I would like to cut it down further during the editing process.
As the title indicates, it is introductory, and somewhat informal (almost no equations). That said, it assumes that you are somewhat familiar with the basic concepts ("what is an interest rate?"). It is aimed to be at the level of financial market research, which is written at a slightly more complex level than the business section of the newspaper.
The chapters currently are:
- Central Bank View of Policy Rates
- Modern Interest Rate and Economic Cycles. ("Modern" in this case means post-1990.)
- Market Reaction to Policy Rate Changes
- The Analytical Challenge of Recessions
The Production Slowdown
I had initially expected to publish this report in October/November (2015), but events out of my control prevented that. It is still unclear what caused it, but it appears that my body had a severe reaction to something I ate on the Labour Day weekend (early September). I was out of commission for some time, and I had an extremely low energy level until recently. I kept publishing the blog articles, but the report was shelved.
Going forward, I hope to resume my planned production of a further reports. My objective is to finish 4-5 such reports, and then re-assess my publishing strategy based on the results.
I was going to look at how to create a paperback version of Understanding Government Finance after Labour Day. That conversion was another thing that was shelved as a result of my productivity slowdown.
Once Interest Rate Cycles is published as an ebook, I will look at converting both reports to paperback. The difficulty with paperback is that these are reports (30,000 words) versus full-length books (normally 100,000 words). The economics of print-on-demand mean that if I want to make any money at all on the paperback version, it will have to be sold at around a $10 price point. This may surprise some people ordering it, thinking that it is a "book". (I branded the reports as "eReports" and not "ebooks" precisely because I want to make it clear that they are not full length.)
My current plans are for two reports.
- An introduction to Stock-Flow Consistent models. There is no way to avoid equations, so I would typeset this in LaTex. At present, the only retail channel that I work with able to distribute that format is Amazon. I will need to test technical feasibility before starting this.
- A "best-of" compilation of articles from the site, revolving around the topic of money. Obviously, this would have little new material, but it designed to be more convenient than poking through article links. (It also provides a way for regular readers to support my work.)
Beyond those two topics, things are more flexible. I am currently aiming my reports at an introductory level, but I will eventually write more advanced reports. Since those reports will have a more limited audience, they will be at a higher price point.
Why Not Full Length Books?
My feeling is that I will probably be able to produce 4-5 reports in about the same time it would take to produce a full length book. I prefer to create a "diversified portfolio" of publications before attempting a book.
I am self-publishing my work for very good practical reasons. I worked for a financial publisher, and I have some of the technical skills needed. Furthermore, I believe that I can hire editorial support on a contract basis that would be on par with what would provided by a publishing house (for an unknown author such as myself). Finally, no publisher is going to touch reports of 10,000-30,000 words, which is the niche that I am targeting. (Bookstores will not stock books that are too thin to put the title on the spine.) If and when I target writing a work of over 100,000 words, I will re-consider my publication options.
Thanks For Your Support!Finally, I would like to thank my readers, commenters, and those who have linked to the site. And of course, I would like to thank those of you who purchased my ebook. I hope to keep improving, so that returning here is worthwhile.
(c) Brian Romanchuk 2015