That is my armor. Imma red, bloody bird. Fear me! *cackles*
Well, actually, this whole crusade thing is not new but rather forgotten. I've gone full circle from firmly believing that to make money writing books you have to sell them (when I started writing five years ago, fresh from working on my start-up and surviving by selling my product to everyone left and right) to believing that well-written books will sell themselves (when about two years ago I retreated from selling into learning the writing craft) to finally believing again that no matter how well-written your book is, if you don't make an effort to sell it, it will linger in all its well-writtedness in obscurity. And yes, in two weeks, on May 15th, it'll be five years since I started writing full-time. And yes, I'll write a post on 25 things I learned from writing full-time for five years. But this is in two weeks. Right now I'm preoccupied with this realization that self-publishing is a lot like having a small business. What do you have to do to survive? Sell. What happens if you don't sell? You perish.
And so, starting tomorrow, I'll dedicate one hour each day to selling my books.
I don't know yet what that will look like. I'll have to shake off the cobwebs from my selling mindset and remember what l I did when startups folded around me and I was closing my biggest clients. I only know that I have erroneously thought that art is exempt from such loathsome, petty, primitive type of thing as standing on street corners and telling everyone passing you about your art and asking them to buy it. Well, I was wrong. I was under the impression that art was divine and somehow above such needs as eating and paying rent and bills, and taking your kid to a movie, and so on. Only it's been five years since I started writing, and I'm still not supporting myself financially by writing alone.
Yes, I know what you're thinking. Many of us writers are making money by doing other jobs, sometimes several at once, carving out time for writing in the evenings and on weekends. I've been privileged to be able to write full-time for this long. It's a miracle, really, and it's thanks to Royce's support that I continue to be able to do so.
In these five years I've been making money in all kinds of ways (besides selling books and getting support from my Patreon patrons)—by consulting, editing manuscripts, ghost writing, getting paid for speaking gigs, selling articles to publications, and so on. One thing I learned, though, is that none of those side jobs are making me happy, but writing does. And reading. Writing and reading. Yet the better I get at doing those other things (like editing, for example), the bigger the demand is, the more money I'm offered, the more I take on, the less time I have to do the two things that I love very much: writing and reading.
To be able to do work on the side, I cut my reading time. No big deal, I thought. I'll write in the first half of a day, and then instead of reading in the evenings I'll edit or consult. And it was all right, at first. But several weeks without reading started getting under my skin until yesterday I crashed. For the first time in my five years of writing, I couldn't make myself write. It wasn't a writer's block or the fear of revisions or mental exhaustion, none of those things. What happened was, I was so distracted in the morning by thoughts on how to fix a particular plot twist in the manuscript I'm editing right now (a dark, woodsy, splendid fantasy by Brooke Shaden that you all should read when it comes out), I couldn't focus on my story. Moreover, I realized that reading every night used to fire me up to try the new tricks I learned in my own writing in the morning. I wanted to apply what I glimpsed to my story, and I couldn't wait to start. Now that I'm spending evenings on editing, I have stopped that flow of inspiration. I'm no longer reading something finished and polished and crisp, I'm reading something that is raw and needs work, and so I work on it, and in the mornings I work on my own raw stuff, so yesterday I broke down—because for a whole day I wrote nothing. NOTHING. Not a single word.
I couldn't make myself. I was stumped. I cried. Then I knew what to do.
I'm going to stop doing all this side-stuff that distracts me. I'm going to finish work with the editing clients whom I promised work (I'm booked until October), and then I won't take on any new clients or editing jobs. Instead of spending evenings on making money on the side I'll start reading again, and I'll start spending one hour on selling. I could be many things, like reviving my newsletter that I haven't sent out in forever, or figuring out metadata for my books to make them more discoverable online, or add the prizes they won to their covers and update the covers everywhere, or compile a list of conventions and go there and sell my books in person and ask people to join my newsletter. There are lots of things, and all of them involve asking, and as I'm uncomfortable with asking, I'll just have to take a page out of Amanda's book The Art of Asking and do it like I did when I had my startup. I had to survive. I had to pay my team. I had no choice, so I had no qualms.
And I want to be able to pay my publishing team—not some small amounts here and there as I make a little money—but pay them according to the going market rate and help them grow, which in turn will help me grow, which in turn will help me sell books, and so on.
You see, instead of consistently beating into one spot, I spread myself too thin, doing a little bit of everything and therefore not devoting much time to my dream–to get on the New York Times Best Sellers list. I see bestselling authors sell all the time: they are being interviewed, they go to conventions, they speak—they are visible and they work hard at being visible. In other words, they sell, sell, sell. If I want my dream to become a reality, I must do the same. I can't sit here and hide in my writing cave and hope that money will magically rain on me. It wasn't a happy realization, I tell you, but it also relieved me in some way of anxiety. It gave me a reason to go forth and conquer, and it gave me focus that I lost, and it motivated me to get off my ass and stop doing what's distracting me (although it pays money) and start doing what I love and make it so that it pays me too. Sounds impossible, I know. Yet it is possible. I see it happening to authors, and I will make it happen to me.
TUBE is the first book that I'm writing with sales in mind. I have worked hard on learning the craft of plotting, and I have applied all I know (and still am applying) every day to this final draft, because I want it to sell. It'll be my best writing yet. I tried to dramatize my personal story and make it into Olesya's own, and I'm very proud of what it's turning into. It will be good. And The Dacha Murders will be even better.
Get ready. Fun times to come. When between books, I'll be now traveling to places, starting with conventions, and maybe even more—going to bookstores for readings, and so on. But I promise you, I will never do the pushy, annoying, in-your-face, buy-it-already-dammit sales variety. I hate it when authors do that to me, and I'll never do that to any of you. I'll be talking about my books, yes. I'll be asking you to buy them and review them, yes. In fact, I'm asking you right now to buy a paperback of mine and give it as a gift to a friend and tell them why this story has moved you. Spread the love, share the art, and you might inspire your friend to share too. And finally, I'll be figuring out all kinds of things like discounts and promotions and other things that will thank those of you who have stayed with me on this crazy journey all these years. As a thank you to you. So thank you for sticking around. Thank you. THANK YOU.
That is the plan. Let's say, the plan for the next five years. Let's revisit it in five years and see how I did, shall we? The three things I'll be focusing on will be:
- Writing and selling books (love writing them)
- Writing and selling articles (like the one to Vox—loved writing it)
- Writing stories for Patreon (exclusive to my patrons—love writing them)
We can do it together. I know we can. I can't do it without you. I love you. Onward.