But I Thought The Income Was Only Supposed to Go Up

Over and over I keep hearing people say, “As you continue publishing more and more books, your income only goes up.”  I don’t know where this assumption comes from, but in any business, you can increase productivity and see a loss.  So why can’t the same be true for books?  Why must we assume that income never drops if you publish books?  Maybe it’s because no one seems to be talking bringing it up.  Maybe they are in forums, but I can’t remember seeing a blog post that addresses the issue of a dropping income.

So I thought I’d write it.

I’m lucky.  This is the first year I’ve seen a drop in income since starting out with ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords in 2009.  I know I’m not the first author to see a drop in income because I’ve talked to some who have.  My income went up from 2009 to 2014.  In 2015, it stayed the same.  This year, it dropped by half.  In the previous years, I averaged six novels a year.  As of August 1 of this year, I have published six novels.  I have two more done and up on pre-order.  I plan to publish at least two more before December 31.  So even though I’ll be publishing ten novels instead of six, I am still on my way to only making half of what I did this year.

falling income

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Why am I telling you this?

Because the idea that you can write more books and expect an increase in income is a myth.  It’s not fair to tell writers that their income will always go up.  I know we’re in an expanding global ebook market, but that doesn’t mean we’re all going to see a boom internationally.   In some countries, my income is actually down.  In others, it’s gone up, but we’re talking $10.  Not enough to pay any bills with.

So now that we addressed the problem, what do are we supposed to do about it.

1. Realize there is no “sure” thing.

Change seems to be the only constant in life.  The one thing we can depend on is the fact that nothing stays the same.  The sooner we take this to hear, the easier it’ll be to adapt.

2. Try something different.

Sometimes we can get stuck in our ways.  What we did in the past might have worked great.  For example, the $0.99 price point was big back in 2009-2013, and if you had a book set to free, you could pretty much guarantee a lot of downloads.  But then things shifted.  With the increase of books into the market, those two tactics weren’t as effective as they used to be.

I don’t know what you’ll want to try that’s different.  Maybe it’s running a Facebook ad.  Maybe it’s revamping the old covers.  Maybe it’s audiobooks.  Maybe it’s hiring someone to handle the marketing side for you.  Maybe it’s offering online courses in an area you’re an expert at.

I chose to focus on writing one book after another in the series.  I used to take my time in finishing a series, but this time around, I wrote one book right after the other.  I make sure to advertise the pre-order in the back matter so people know what the next book is and where to get it.  The technique has worked well.  It might not have brought my income back to what it was last year, but it’s kept my head above water.

3. Say no to the things that aren’t helping you reach your income goal.

This can be hard to do, especially if we enjoy those things.  But it’s necessary if you’re going to have the time you need to do the things that will help earn you more money.

Take a look at how you spend your time.  What can be cut out?  What can you put in that will help you reach your goal?  I’m not saying what you put in will work, but it’s worth a try because if you don’t try, you won’t know.  And guess what?  You might stumble on something that does work.

I cut back on my blogging.  I enjoy blogging, but it’s not how I make money.  I say no a lot to TV/movies.  I’ve cut back to the time I’ll watch anything to 1-2 hours before bed, and that is to wind down.  More often than note, I’ll fall asleep while watching something.  I said no to spending time browsing forums online.  I used to go to Kindleboards a lot to see what was going on in the publishing world.  These days, I just don’t have the time.  If something newsworthy pops up, usually it’ll be on The Creative Penn or Sell More Books Show podcasts, which I listen to while cooking.

So figure out what areas you can trim out.  This is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worth doing.

4. Treat this like a job.

If you don’t take this seriously, the people in your life will take advantage of your time.  You need to set boundaries with them.  If you have to leave the house, then leave the house.  Set up specific hours and days you’ll work.  Decide how much time will be devoted to writing and how much time will be devoted to non-writing business tasks.  Then make those the priority.  If you were working for someone else and had to be at the office from 8am to 5pm, would you skip a couple hours to do something else?  Of course not.  So you need to take your business as seriously as you would if you were working for someone else.

I stopped writing at home.  My husband and kids kept bugging me while I was working, and no matter how much I told them to leave me alone, they won’t.  I decided to go to my local Barnes & Noble bookstore and treat that as my office.  My writing output went from 1500-2000 words in a day to 3000-4000 on average.  So I easily doubled my word count in the same amount of time simply by making myself leave the house in order to write.   I still do my non-writing related business tasks like emails, blogging, and social media at home.  But when I’m at Barnes & Noble, I keep the Internet off and only write.  I leave my husband with the kids and just deal with the fact that the house isn’t going to be as clean as I’d like when I get home.

5.  Piggybacking off of #4, make sure to take days off.

Otherwise, you’re going to burn out.  I work Monday through Friday.  I don’t write on weekends, though I might send out a new release email when a book is published on Saturday or Sunday.  I make up these emails and blog posts in advance so all I have to do is click a button.  But otherwise, this is the day to spend with family and friends and to have a life outside of the business.

I know it can be hard to take days off to relax.  I’m a workaholic.  I hate sitting around and doing nothing.  I like to be on the move.  So if you’re balking at the idea of taking two days a week off from your writing and non-writing business-related tasks, I understand why.  It took me until this year to finally do this.  But it has been the reason why I’ve been able to publish more books this year without sacrificing the quality in my writing.  I’m not working harder.  I’m working smarter.  I’ve learned a couple days off every week helps to buffer me from stressing out.  You might have to find another routine that works better for you.  This is just the way that works for me.

6. Quitting is a valid option.

I’m not going to criticize anyone who decides writing is not for them.  You only fail if you don’t try.  Writing is harder than it looks.  Not everyone is meant to be a writer, just as not everyone is meant to be a singer or football player or an engineer.  I don’t adhere to this notion that everyone should write a book.  I also don’t believe that quitting is for wimps.  I think if you try something and find out it’s not a good fit for you, then you should move on to something you can be more passionate about.  You can take whatever lessons you learned along the way and become a better person for it.

For example, I was in a high school play, and I learned that acting is a lot harder than it looks.  I was bad at it.  Another example, I thought I might want to go into public speaking at conferences.  After doing a couple, I realized I’m not good at it.  Also, after trying a podcast for a very brief time, I learned it was a lot more work than I cared to do with it.  So there are things I tried but found out weren’t a good fit for me.

Now, do you quit because you can’t make money but love writing?  That’s a tough one, and it’s a question only you can answer.  Not making the money is a valid reason to quit.  You need food.  You need shelter.  You need clothes.  You have to make sure you’re able to obtain those things before you can worry about writing.  You can have a job and write in your spare time.  But the fact of the matter is, you only have so many hours in a day, and you can only do so much with that time.  How you spend it is up to you, and some of you might decide you don’t want to spend your spare time working on a book.  You might want to be doing something else instead.  There’s nothing wrong with that.   Or maybe you’ll want to take a break from it for now and come back to it later.  That’s an option worth noting, too.

*****

So those are my ideas on coping when the income drops.  Does anyone have any they’d like to offer?

Categories: Uncategorized

Coping With Stress

There are many factors that can lead to stress in a writer’s life.  The problem is that there are some sources of stress you can’t control.  Examples of things you can’t control are what people think of your books, how well your promotional efforts will pay off, and what online retailers are going to do next.

stress article

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So how can you cope?  After struggling with overwhelming stress for the past four months, I’ve come up with a few things we can do to help put stress at a manageable level.

1. Routine

I think the first thing to do is set up a routine.  Predictability helps to buffer you because constant change is a source of stress in itself.

Write in the same place.  Do all your non-writing activities in a different place.

I suggest writing in the same place(s).  This can be the same room in your home, or it can be outside the home.  Once I started writing at the Starbucks cafe in Barnes & Noble, my stress level went significantly down.  When I’m home, I don’t write.  Some people have offices in their homes where they do all their writing.  So working at home is fine.  Just make sure it’s in the same place each time you do it.

I do all my non-writing activities at home.  I edit at home.  I do emails at home.  I do blog posts at home.  But I no longer write there.  If you write in one room, then consider doing all your non-writing tasks in a different room.

By writing at the same place, you train your mind when it’s time to be creative.  By going to Barnes & Noble for 3-4 hours a day, I have bumped my word count from an average of 1500 – 2000 words a day to 3000 to 5000 words a day in a month’s time.  I’m able to write faster, and I feel fresher when I’m working.

Take days off.

I know the conventional wisdom is to write every single day, but this was killing me because I wasn’t giving my brain time to decompress.  I always worried I’d lose serious word count by taking days off.  But in April, I started writing Monday through Friday (sometimes only Monday through Thursday).   The other days were days where I was not allowed to do any work.  I could do anything else, but I couldn’t do anything with writing unless it was necessary, which was rare.

Getting back into things on Monday does take a little longer than it does on Tuesday, but I’ve found the days off have been the trick I needed in order stop feeling uptight all the time.

2.  Sleep

Sleep is important for mental and physical health.  I recommend giving yourself a bedtime routine at the same time each night (if you can) to help train your mind to get ready for sleep.  I like to spend one hour in bed watching a movie or TV show off my Kindle.  Some people like to read for pleasure.  Some people like to listen to music.  Whatever relaxes you is best, and it has to be non-work related.

How many hours of sleep you need depends on your body.  I need nine hours of sleep to feel truly refreshed in the morning.  I don’t always get it since I have four kids, but if I can get it on most nights, I’m good.  Some people can get by with less hours.  Try different hours until you find your ideal hours.

I know this is not possible for everyone, but try to get as much sleep as you possibly can.

3.  Diet

A few years ago, I was a skeptic that what we eat and drink can impact our ability to work better, but when I changed what I was eating and drinking and was twice as much productive during the day, I was convinced.

We all know the foods and drinks that are good for us, and we all know what we should avoid.  I’m not saying you can’t ever have the bad foods and drinks.  Just make them a treat for rare occasions instead of a part of your daily diet.

It might take you a couple weeks to adjust to the new diet.  You might even need to gradually change the way you’re doing things.  But if you make it a priority to eat and drink better, it will impact your ability to work better.

4.  Exercise

The choice of exercise is up to you, but I prefer walking.  You don’t have to do this every single day, but if you can do it a couple times a week, it’ll be better than doing nothing.

5.  Laugh

When you’re stressed, it’s hard to laugh, but that’s partly why I believe taking days off from writing and having a wind-down time before bed every night can help relax our minds so we’re more open to humor.

And with that being said, I thought I’d leave you with a cute little comic I found that made me chuckle.

comic for blog post

ID 19168698 © Alain Lacroix | Dreamstime.com

Categories: Uncategorized

Ideas for Making Marketing Fun

Janet Syas Nitsick and I did a video, which I’ll share below.  I’ll also write down the main points beneath the video.

Typically, marketing has boiled down to things like announcing you have a book out, saying you have a review on your book, or sharing your book’s ranking on a retailer site.  But is all that really effective when you’re trying to appeal to readers of your particular genre?  While there’s nothing wrong with informing people about these things, today we want to discuss ways of thinking outside the box when marketing.

The main question to ask yourself is this: what is going to appeal to your ideal reader?  

Think of the kind of things that interest your readers.  This isn’t included in the video, but last weekend I took an online course, and an author mentioned sharing extra tidbits with his readers about research he did that links up to his books.  One example of this would be writing about a child growing up in an orphanage.  In a newsletter, you can then share the history of a real orphanage based off research.

That aside, I’ll go to the contents of the video where Janet and I share ideas on ways to market.

Book Launch Page (or a page on your website/blog like it)

  1.  Make sure you link to every store where the reader can find your book.  One of the main reasons people don’t know you have a book on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Smashwords is because authors are so busy focusing on Amazon that they neglect to share links to other retailers.  If you aren’t exclusive to Amazon, help yourself get traffic to other sites.
  2. On this page, you can also include a bonus video where you discuss something about the topic.  I find this especially useful if you’re doing nonfiction, but you could do a video to go with fiction, too.  For example, I have a book launch page for a book I did on writing.  If I were to do one for a fiction book where I featured a Mandan Indian in a historical western romance, I might include a video from when I went to Mandan, North Dakota and took a video of their tribe.  Even if you don’t use a video on a page like this, you can use pictures to give your potential readers something “extra” they won’t find in the book.
  3. You might want to also put endorsements on this page.  If you’re doing nonfiction and you can get someone with a well-known name who is an expert on your topic to endorse your book, it can go a long way.  Now, I mainly work with fiction, so for me, endorsements come from the characters in the book, and I find these can have entertainment value for the potential reader. (It’s especially good if you can add some humor to it, though not all books will lend themselves to humor.)   Here’s one Janet and I did together that we mentioned in the video.  If you write series where characters from one book can show up in another, you can use them in the endorsements, too.  I notice readers love revisiting old characters whenever possible, so this provided an extra treat.
  4. Having links to share this page can be useful, too, so potential readers can tweet it, pass it along on Facebook, etc.  The more word of mouth you can get, the better.
  5. Also, if you have a gift for making a fun and interesting bio, please do.  In nonfiction, you’ll want to point out what qualifies you to write the book.  In fiction, let your personality come out.

Blog Post Ideas

  1. Character resigns or they’re not happy with what you’re doing, and they’re not shy about voicing their opinion on the blog.  Let your characters have an attitude.  The angrier they are, the better.  The other day I was watching a video on You Tube about actors who hated their own movies, and I really enjoyed this “behind the scenes” look.  I like to think of these blog posts as DVD extras the reader can enjoy.  Since I promised an example of the blog post I did where I had a character resign, here’s the post if you want to check it out.
  2. Character plays the critic.  Have fun at your own expense.   You know those negative reviews you’ve gotten or the ugly email saying you suck and why?  Take this as fuel for your blog post.  Let one of your characters come onto your blog and voice the same complaints, but do a twist on it and make it funny.   I found as soon as I had the characters voice the same complaints my critics were saying, the complaints no longer bothered me.  So in a lot of ways, this technique is very therapeutic while making others laugh.  Honestly, I believe most people are drawn to others who aren’t afraid to admit they’re not perfect.  And this will make you seem more human to your reader.
  3. Audition for another author’s book.  (And get the author to respond if you can.)  Here’s an example of the one I did for Janet’s upcoming book.  This is all fun, of course, and I think it can help readers see us as real people when we take a chance by appearing in pictures or video as ourselves in some quirky or unusual way.  If there are bloopers, share them.  Bloopers are some of the funnest things to watch.  Here’s an example of the one where Janet and I were together (and yes, there really was a spider in the room.)  If you want to take it a step further, are your characters happy you spent time focusing on another author’s book?  Or might they feel betrayed?  What kind of video or blog post might that lead to?

Got ideas on making marketing fun that we didn’t think of?  Please share them below.  The more ideas we have, the better.

Categories: Book Promotion, Marketing & Promoting | Tags: , , , , , ,

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