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Unplanned Time Off

Unplanned Time Off

I took some unplanned time off from working on my blog over the past few weeks. It stemmed in large part from a life roll—the loss of our two dogs. Poppy passed at the end of April, age-related reasons, at 18 years old. Worf, only 7 years old, was diagnosed with cancer and had stopped eating despite all that we tried. It became clear he wasn't improving and we made the difficult choice to have him euthanized. It's been hard for me and my family. As I get my creative life back on track, I thought I'd share some tactics I've used that you might find helpful. 

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It’s Never Too Late to Revitalize Your Writing Career

Revitalize Your Writing Career

A decade after I decided I needed to "get serious" about my writing career. I already had a master's degree in writing popular fiction and had been writing since I was a teenager. I'd managed to get a couple stories published and enjoyed my first professional sale. At the time, I thought I'd start making a living from my writing within five years.

That didn't happen. I watched other writers, newer writers, achieve the sort of success that I wanted. I kept at it and sold more stories. I made my first forays into indie publishing and it didn't take off the way I wanted. Since I also have a satisfying career as a librarian, I shifted my focus to my library career. I kept a few things going with my writing, but mostly I let it rest for about three years. Now I'm rebuilding, revitalizing my writing career. In this post I'll share four strategies I've found helpful in starting over.

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Vacation Reflections

Vacation

Last week didn't go as I had planned. I took a vacation to head down to Lincoln City, Oregon, for a writing workshop on writing fantasy. I've done several of these workshops taught by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I signed up for this one (and the Anthology Workshop I went to in February) back when I was finishing my MLIS degree as a sort of celebration of graduating. Despite looking forward to the workshop, I found my stress increasing as it drew closer and I ended up getting sick and leaving the workshop early. It's made me think about vacations and the importance of rest and balance.

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Taking Risks With Confidence

Man jumping between rocks taking risks

Taking risks makes our hearts beat faster. Doing something risky leaves you vulnerable to rejection, disappointment, or failure. Writers face this fear all the time. We might love writing and have fun telling our stories, but that sense of risk can hurt our work. It's possible to take risks with confidence, overcome our fear, and live with greater freedom in our life and our writing.

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Writing Through Depression

Writing Depression

Writing and depression both factor into my life. For the longest time, I didn't know that I suffered from depression and anxiety. It showed in many ways, the worst that I presented a positive face in public but my family saw the downside of keeping up that smiling depression. Fortunately, a couple years ago a major depressive episode actually helped me realize I needed assistance, that doing so wasn't a sign of weakness.

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Why Sell Direct to Readers?

Sell Direct

I'm setting up my site so that I can sell direct to readers. I still plan to offer my books through the major retailers. Selling direct offers many advantages for both authors and readers. I'd planned to do this years ago, but at the time it was a much more difficult thing to set up. Today, many tools exist to make direct sells easier than ever. This post isn't about the details of setting it up so much as why consider it at all?

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Reflections on the Anthology Workshop 2018

Anthology Workshop Ocean

I just spent over a week on the Oregon coast attending the 2018 Anthology Workshop run by WMG Publishing's Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Allyson Longueira. The other editors this year included Denise Little, Ron and Brigid Collins, and Mark Leslie Lefebvre. Plus nearly fifty professional writers who wrote stories for six different Fiction River anthologies and Pulphouse Magazine. How was it? Fantastic and intense. 

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Amazon Has All Your Eggs: Diversifying Cash Streams

Eggs with Amazon logo illustration cash streams

I didn't think about cash streams when I started writing. My basic understanding was that I'd write something, send it out, and I'd either get paid for it or not. Of course, this was back before the Web and before the current age of self-publishing (which has been the model in the past). I wasn't thinking about cash streams or about different ways I might use the copyright on that work. I also didn't consider how long I could continue to benefit from my intellectual property.

Today writers face many different decisions around cash streams and our intellectual property.

Amazon Has All Your Eggs

In the United States (not necessarily in other parts of the world) Amazon is a giant. This dominant market position leads writers to put everything in Amazon's basket by going exclusively with Kindle Select. This can work very well. With the integration of print into KDP, it is also easy to offer paperback copies. It offers promotional opportunities and inclusion in the Kindle Unlimited all-you-can-read e-book lending program. Paid by page reads, many writers find a lot of success this way by offering work that readers want.

I've also seen the reactions when Amazon changes how Kindle Unlimited works. A change to recommendations, to what gets paid, can mean that what worked before doesn't work for some writers. With everything in Amazon's basket, writers are vulnerable to such disruptions.

Going Wide

Another group of writers talks about the benefits of going wide to multiple stores and distributors. Whether going directly to Kobo or iTunes or using a service like Draft2Digital, these writers aim to reach as many readers as possible on an international scale. With enough success around the globe, Amazon's share of contributing to the writer's income drops. It still might make up the biggest piece of the pie but it becomes obvious that it isn't the whole pie.

This is where those other cash streams come into the picture. Say sales through Amazon makes up 60% of your income. Does it make sense to drop the other 40%? If you never had anything except Amazon sales it might not be obvious how much you're missing.

It's Not All E-Books

Intellectual property—copyrights you own—can provide an endless variety of income streams. The same story might sell in e-book, different print formats, audiobooks, in periodicals, anthologies, gift boxes, and other formats that you decide to produce. It can be translated into other languages. It can be adapted to other media, such as plays, films, or TV shows. It might become the basis for gaming titles across a variety of game genres. Comic books offer yet another take on your story. Merchandise is another possibility, through licensing or other avenues.

Think about a popular intellectual property, e.g., Star Wars or Game of Thrones. Ask yourself a question about those stories. Would they exist in the way they do if either George had published the story as an exclusive e-book on Amazon? (And yes, I realize that wasn't an option back then.)

What if your book is the ‘next [fill in the blank of your favorite title]'? Even if you don't think that your story has the potential to be the next whatever, there are still so many formats and opportunities available.

And yes, going exclusively with Kindle Select doesn't have to be forever. Except writers do sign exclusive deals all the time with major publishers that have far-ranging implications on how that writer makes money. Get an intellectual property attorney (not an agent) to look at any contract. Amazon is relatively benign in comparison to many publishing contracts. At least with Kindle Select, you can opt out in 90 days—with a publisher contract you might be lucky if you can opt out in 35 YEARS.

Lots of Eggs in Lots of Baskets

That's my strategy (though it isn't true at the moment). As I relaunch my titles and release new titles, I plan to go wide and hit as many formats as possible. I plan to have lots of titles available wherever readers can find them. Lots of eggs in lots of baskets. Some of the eggs might get broken. A basket might develop a hole in the bottom, but I'll have other income streams in place. I may even have a Kindle Select basket with targeted titles that are likely to be of interest to Kindle Unlimited readers. I want to experiment.

What About You?

Do you want Amazon, a publisher, or another vendor to have all your eggs? Share in the comments!