Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Crazy Writing Life - Day 8: Giving Back

I realize that I’m not supposed to look at my sales too closely, but it’s easy to get depressed when you read about other authors finding success when you’re struggling, especially when they’re making over $13,000 a month. That’s something I never did. I’d be happy with a quarter of that amount. As long as I can scrape by, I’d be happy writing all day long.

And I mean that with every fiber of my being.

(Oh boy. It’s going to take awhile to complete this paradigm shift. Can I really say that money isn’t that important?)

Before, when the money came easily, I got complacent. I convinced myself that I needed a break and was tired after all of the years working in the hotel industry and web development. Of course, that was utter nonsense. I really needed to be developing as much content as possible, especially since Amazon’s algorithm changes were just around the corner. Sure, I couldn’t have predicted that this would happen but I should never have assumed that the money would continue flowing as it did.

That is my mistake, and I paid the price for it. If I can get back to where I was, I will give it my all and publish frequently, if not every day. I want to be successful and am willing to do whatever it takes to be a full time author again. It’s a dream worth fighting for.

When I see numbers like “$13,000 in December” I no longer see it as a given that an author can repeat those numbers the following month. If she can, great. She deserves it. Things are changing so rapidly I’m surprised that she’s been able to increase her income.

And she’s certainly put in the work. Back in October when Amazon began pulling erotica titles left and right (I believe one of the offending keywords was “Daddy,” which makes me surprised my children’s book My Daddy’s Cool Car Collection wasn’t pulled), she had several profitable titles that got banned. But rather than sit and complain about it (which I would have likely done), she reworked the titles, toned down the content and got them reinstated with correspondence from Amazon.

I doubt I’d have the same reaction. In fact, I’m certain I wouldn’t. I have three titles that have been blocked by Amazon because they were in the Indonesian language and it made me absolutely furious when they were pulled and I was notified afterwards. “They don’t deserve these titles,” I said, and put them up in all the other venues. That’s right, I didn’t bother fixing them (I could have made Bilingual English and Indonesian versions to comply with their policy), and vowed to make a bunch of money with someone who actually wanted them. “I’ll show you Amazon!” I declared, but perhaps it’s time to put aside my anger and get these books back into the #1 e-book store on the planet.

Although there’s no guarantee K. Matthew will break $13,000 next month, her chances are good. Readers tend to stay active during the winter months in spite of work, school, etc. In fact, the shortest month of the year, February, was my most successful month ever, so there’s plenty of opportunity to earn a decent income post Christmas.

Everything she does seems to turn to gold, and lately, everything I’ve been doing has turned to crap. I can’t complain, though. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve published and there have been a few surprises in the international market. I’ve also jumped around a little more than was wise, following up unprofitable works rather than zeroing in on what makes money.

(Are you sure that money doesn’t matter?)

When I was first successful with children’s picture books, I followed up My Little Pet Dragon with My Crazy Pet Frog. It wasn’t exactly a sequel, but it was of the same ilk. Afterwards, I published A Little Book About You (which is free right now if you’d like a copy), Pigtastic, A Pocketful of Dinosaurs, Ninja Robot Repairmen, Happy Healthy Hearts, My Daddy’s Cool Car Collection and If I Were A Robot. In between there was a lull for these similarly themed books (by that I mean the look and feel). Taming Your Pet Monster: An Operational Guide hit a few months later, followed by The Penguin Way a month after that. I would not release another children’s book of this type until a year later with Baby Blue.

Granted, I did work on other children’s books during this time. I wrote 11 volumes of Alphabet All-Stars that has been largely unsuccessful (but personally rewarding for my son), and put out five books in the Adorable Dogs series that sell here and there and were lots of fun to do. I also did a pair of girly books (does that make me a girly man?), Aveline and The Most Beautiful Flower, but it’s obvious from the covers that they are in a different class than my popular children’s books.

Looking at it this way, it’s obvious why I haven’t been successful recently. Even if I published one children’s book per month like I was previously doing, I should see sales improve, especially if I extended the length.

As I’ve said before, I’m in this for the long haul, and I’ll keep working until I get this ship turned around.

But I do admire that I didn’t chase the money, at least not to high degree. Instead, I focused on being an artist and wrote the stories that I was interested in. Sure, I paid for it financially, but I feel good about everything I’ve written. To be quite honest, it was personally fulfilling to come up with an idea and see the finished work materialize in a matter of hours or days. Who doesn’t like to be productive and follow their instincts? It’s very liberating.

But I shouldn’t become a starving artist, especially since I’ve found success in the past. I have profitable franchises; is it too much to follow them up? Will I really be selling out by doing this? All of us need to eat, right? And many of us like to eat well. Would it be worth it to sell out a little (just a little, I promise) and reach $10,000 a month?


Personally, I hate to think of writing as a series of business decisions. Ideally, I should feel free to write what I want whenever I want, regardless of the financial circumstances. Actually, that’s how I became successful in the first place. I took a chance and went for it. And the person that doesn’t see the value in taking risks won’t hit the big payday.

You also shouldn’t shy away from your ideas. Don’t turn off the creative faucet because, even though you like the idea, you’re afraid that your audience will not (i.e., you won’t sell enough copies). That’s why I want to write faster. If I move quickly from project to project, I might just be able to keep up with my feeble brain and take more chances than the average writer.

But success should be followed up. That’s money left on the table. My Little Pet Dragon was a huge hit when it was first released, but I never wrote the extended children’s novel like I intended to. I was too busy chasing the next idea, and many didn’t work out.

I’m glad I took those chances, though. I really, really am. But I would have been better off mixing in sequels with new projects. At very least, it could fund all of my crazy ideas, like those fart books I rattled off.

That’s a change that I need to make this year. It’s worth my time to mix in a few projects that could result in big sales. The first two are My Little Pet Dragon Ness and Secret Agent Disco Dancer. I have the covers for each as well as a good start on the actual stories. If I work on them a little each day along with my journal, they’ll get done. That gives me a real shot at reversing my fortunes.

The relationship that authors have with readers is a fragile one. When we don’t deliver, they tune out and there are many things to distract them these days. The worse case scenario is that they never check back again, and that would be a real shame. I’ve got so much more to show them—fantastic voyages with twists and turns and characters that are out of this world. I owe it to them to finish these projects.

The truth is, you can’t just be an artist who chases the winds of creativity. You must also be a smart artist, and realize when it’s in your best interest to work on something despite your reservations. Working on a project, however commercial in nature, won’t change who you are.

Remember, the art that is produced isn’t just for you. Some consideration must be given to the reader. Do something just for them as a thank you for making you successful.

In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

These sequels are love letters to all of those who gave me a chance and made me (at least briefly) a full time author.

And I’m not going to delay any longer.

Since I’ve done the most work on Secret Agent Disco Dancer, that will be the next project following The Forgetful Alien. I may be delayed while working out the kinks with this daily journal, but it’s at the top of my list—my highest priority—and I will not stop until it is done.

Give back every once in awhile. It will also pay you back in the end.

Or, simply grow a brain a follow up successful books. That works, too.

Day 1: 1,035 words
Day 2: 1,045 words
Day 3: 1,035 words
Day 4: 1,560 words
Day 5: 1,193 words
Day 6: 1,157 words
Day 7: 1,102 words
Day 8: 1,643 words
Total: 9,770 words

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