C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Multiple Streams of Income for Writers

I just watched The Martian again. Loved the book by Andy Weir, too. It’s still the best audiobook I’ve ever heard. The message at the end of the movie (minor spoiler alert) is that things are going to go wrong. Paraphrasing: You can accept that this is your end or you can do the math and get to work.

So it is with author careers. Shit will go south. Then what? Then you have to solve the problem, and the next and the next and so on. Even better, see upcoming problems and plan so a glitch doesn’t graduate to a disaster as soon as it strikes. 

What resources do we need to solve most problems?

To solve problems on Earth, we usually need money, support, information or time. You can buy time by outsourcing and/or sharpen discipline and management skills. You can hire support to leverage time. You can purchase someone’s expertise so you focus on the skills you’re best at. (Don’t major in your minor if you can help it.)

If you don’t have the money but you do have time, digging for information costs nothing extra except for your internet connection. However, the most common denominator here is money. We generally need more of it, especially if time is limited (and, let’s be real, when isn’t it?) Life is short when you’ve got big things to do like write books.

The answer used to be simpler: write more books. I gave that advice myself and once upon a time not long ago that was enough. Now we need more margin for error as we find our way to readers. We all need time to write and ways to find traction in the marketplace. Sure, you can find lots of advice about marketing your books, but how do we get more money to help us with all those variables? How do we pay for a Bookbub to sell more books when the books aren’t selling much in the first place? Advertising and investing in your writing career takes capital (not much, but if you’ve got nothing, not much is a lot.)

Ideally, it’s great to find multiple streams of income that are complementary to your writing career. These might include: podcasting, Patreon, selling t-shirts, selling at conferences, providing complementary services (editing, proofing, book design, formatting), advertising, educational products, ghostwriting, copywriting, publicity, virtual assistance for authors, webinars, speaking engagements, book signings, co-op ventures, organizing book promotions, co-authoring, participating in anthologies, teaching, screenplays, teaching how to write screenplays and Thor only knows what else. Cross-promotion and cross-propagation of ventures makes your other job or jobs a good fit.

What about repurposing material you’ve already created for different venues and audiences? Abel James, author of The Wild Diet, repackaged his offerings in smaller books as well as providing material (and new supplementary info) to nutritional templates he serves up in different ways on the web. For fiction authors, consider publishing prequels, sequels, box sets or an omnibus of your series. (This may not qualify as a reliable stream in your multiple incomes if it doesn’t sell or takes too long to get to market.)

But maybe none of the above appeals to you or you just can’t see a puzzle piece that fits with your writing career. Okay, work the problem. What can you do? How much do you need? What debt can you eliminate? What lifestyles choices can you do without to free up resources? What can you sell or trade? Are you willing to move? What are you willing to do to protect yourself from starvation and insecurity? How will you earn the capital you need to buy writing time, book promotion, marketing and investment in yourself as a writer? (And feed the baby?)

My solution was to take on four jobs. Two of the businesses are mine and I worked it out so I control my time juggling all my projects. Entrepreneurship suits me better than working for a boss. (Me and a boss? That couldn’t end well.) I write more books, yes, but with kids going off to university I need a cushion between me and homelessness as I help them on their way.

Until we can reliably meet our responsibilities with one source of income (preferably by selling tons of great books, entertaining the multitudes and earning fans!) we all have some financial problems to solve. If all you’ve got is a lottery ticket in your hip pocket, please give it some more thought, just in case that doesn’t pan out.

What are your multiple streams of income? Suggestions welcome. 

~ Check out my author site at AllThatChazz.com. You’ll find a helpful podcast and oodles of SF, crime thrillers, apocalyptic epics and a self-help book called Do the Thing! So do the things. It’s sexy to do things.

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Writing: Where the money is

Everybody wonders what the next big thing will be in our expanding industry. In other words, “Where’s the money?”

As it relates to writing as an industry, money looks sparse at first glance. I mean, banking, drugs and guns is where the big money is. However, for our industry? The big money in writing is in the beams and braces. Infrastructure. The money will go to people who service our needs as indies. So ask yourself, what do we need?

1. Book apps. We don’t really understand book apps. Programmers do. Book apps with a subscription service could work, especially for certain authors who are in traditional publishing now but will soon make the leap to self-publishing.

2. Author cooperatives. Box sets may already be on the way out, but I think more authors will share resources and trade skills, either in small, structured groups or as part of a time bank organization, or both.

3. Organization provision: Many of us cringe at the idea of a union because it reeks of gatekeepers. I’d say that’s only because the writers unions that have been proposed for indies so far stink of more gatekeeping. Innovators out to advocate instead of control could do better than that, for us and for themselves.

4. An alternative to ACX that’s more generous to creators. ACX was awesome. Technically, it’s still awesome though the creator share is down. Have you noticed that, since ACX lowered the pay rate, we aren’t talking about ACX near so much anymore? We’re still using it because audiobooks are our future. For some, they’re our today! We’d like more choices and we’d like to get back to the bigger cut, though. (The obstacle is effective distribution, so that will have to be bankrolled.)

5. Selling direct from websites will become more popular. You can use Gumroad to sell digital products now. The problem is, no one wants to sideload their kindle with a pdf. Find a way around that problem and we’ll all be doing it to some degree. Fewer buttons, one click. That’s key.

6. Discoverability tools are more important than information. Make more discoverability tools (like you’ll find at Author Marketing Club, for instance.) Information is free everywhere, including here. Ways to help readers find us are harder to come by.

7. Services that promote indie authors will make money. Bookbub is at the top of the heap now, but BookGorilla is cheaper. The Fussy Librarian is very low cost. if I recall correctly, the latter was built partially in response to Bookbub’s fees. Bookbub has big lists of subscribers, sure, but they have competition and it’s growing because Bookbub is so hard to get into and can be so expensive.

8. The company that finds a way to make it easier for books to be printed and distributed (cheaper, faster and easier than it can be done at present) and get it to libraries and bookstores will make a lot of money. Be the new Lightning Source, for instance, but make it as easy to deal with as CreateSpace. (LS has improved in this regard, but I’ve checked it out and it still feels like a hassle.)

9. Translation houses. Everybody knows foreign language publishing is going to be huge. What we don’t know is whom to trust to translate our work and whom to ask to make sure the translations are any good. We’ll also need people (formerly known as agents) whose sole occupation is dealing in foreign rights sales. The markets are waiting, but most of us aren’t ready.

10. The next destination website for our readers. We need a destination website that operates as a cool magazine that curates our work to readers. We need to provide a way for readers to find us and vice versa. We don’t need another Writer’s Digest. We need a Reader’s Digest, if you will, for our work but catering to readers. If there aren’t click to buy and click to explore buttons at the end of each story or sample, it will still miss the mark.

You could, of course, simply write the next big thing.

We are writers, after all. We don’t want to think about all this tech stuff. That’s why someone with the skills to fulfill these needs will eventually appear and get paid.

If you’re still bent on writing to make money, the trouble is that no one knows what the next big thing really will be. No one saw Fifty Shades of Gray coming. It’s not like it was the first book of erotica to go on sale, but it went huge. Its imitators didn’t make near as much dough. Breaking out is not something you can chase, exactly. It happens to you and there are too many variables outside your control.

Just write the best book you can. When your book is ready, I really hope those trusty translation houses will be up and running and ready for business.

What are your ideas for the support structure our industry needs?

~ The good news. I’m now in the Top 100 Horror Authors on Amazon! The book launch bargains continue for This Plague of Days here. See what all the fuss is about, see the video and find the secret.

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Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

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