Self Publishing and the 4th Era

This terrific article is well worth the read and a bit of contemplation. The times have never been better, in my opinion, for writers who want to get read, and paid. There is so much potential in the internet, eBooks and the business in general it is, for me, a very exciting time to be a writer.

I think the Salad Days of writing, the 1920s to 1950s, were great in that you had a market for short stories and there was more chance a novel could get published and make a few bucks. Radio was around and TV was in its infancy but people still read and read for pleasure. Magazines were full of short stories and some genre, like Sci-Fi and Crime, kept a lot of mouths fed over the years. The advent of TV, video and then cable and now the internet changed the publishing scene and cut off a few income streams for writers for a while.

Today there is a lot more competition with something like a million new publications, in English, worldwide every year but the growth in ebook sales proves people still love to read. While sales have flattened in the last year or so, I think there is still a place to make a living from writing for all online. If, as the article suggests, you can also take advantage of a traditional publishing deal if offered and then return to self publishing, all the better for writers the world over.

Taking A Break

The last three months I have been gainfully employed in a ‘real job’. I was handling sales and marketing for a small, family owned security company. They got a lot of work in over Christmas and because they haven’t been paid by their clients, yet have had to pay all their staff, they have become insolvent and so had to let a bunch of us go. So I’m back earning my  living as a freelance eWriter. Magic!

I confess it was nice to get the money in the bank every Tuesday, even though it wasn’t much. They were great people to work for but, I prefer being self employed. My time, and thus my life, is my own. I confess I let the site slip while I was busy swapping hours for dollars and I have 32,743 spam posts to delete. I can only do 20 at a time so that means 1,637 deletions at three clicks a deletion or up to 15 seconds a time. That’s nearly seven hours of solid clicking! You gotta be kidding me! If nothing else, this tells me I need to pay regular attention to my sites!

Part of the role of being an eWriter is that you have to market yourself. You need to be filling the sales funnel with prospects so you get a steady drip out the bottom you can work and bill. I’ve let the funnel dry up these past 14 weeks, so my first job is to start refilling it. Part of that process will be using social media and my blog sites to raise the profile, get the search engines ranking me as high as possible for keywords like ‘ghostwriter’. I need to spend just 15 minutes a day on each of my sites to keep them fresh, relevant and ranking well. better get on to it then!

The Reality About Making A Living Writing Online

Percentage of Income 2013-2014

Percentage of Income 2013-2014

Breakdown of Writing Derived Income 2013-2014

Breakdown of Writing Derived Income 2013-2014

In Australia it is tax time and I have just finished doing my Profit and Loss (P&L) for 2013-2014. I thought I would share some percentages with you to give you an idea of what it is really like to make a living as an online writer.

First of all, my writing work made up just 45% of my total income. Tutoring gave me 35% thanks to having a long term student awaiting sentencing filling in 6 hours a week, every week of term time. I made just 8% from my community college lecturing as in both colleges and all three courses I offer, there were few takers but that was par for the course for everyone and every course. 11% came from the sales of books online with 1% coming in from Adsense and the sale of some domain names and web sites I no longer wanted. Book sale income then has to be carved up further as many of the sales were for books I either pay 50% royalties on to the author or are part of a business I share with a partner in Ireland.

A breakdown of the writing income finds 15% was earned writing content for websites, 25% editing other people’s manuscripts and publishing them and the rest, 60% from ghostwriting. This was by far the big earner for me and I put that down to a couple of reasons. First of all I am building a solid reputation as a ghostwriter and have had most of my commissions awarded to me by referral. Secondly, they are long projects but ‘big ticket items’.

So what can you learn from this? It has not been an overnight success kind of thing. I have been building up my business since September 2009 when I went full-time into online writing. More than half of my income comes from related activities such as tutoring and lecturing with  actual sales of my writing (under my own name) making a percentage of just 11% of the total income. After paying withholding tax to the US government and copping the fees for the cashing of the cheques sent by Amazon, then paying the royalties to authors I publish and distribute for we are looking at maybe 5% at best. You could say 50% of my income is directly related to my online writing activities so the message is clear: either don’t give up your day job, budding authors, or make sure you have several irons in the fire.

Great News

The great news is my writing income has increased in both percentage of overall income and amount. What we need to take away from that is that I realised in January, after months of research and action in marketing my own novels, that I wasn’t going to make much money selling my own writing compared to writing for other people. Ghostwriting is far more lucrative as you get paid for what you write, not what people buy to read. The down side of that is your ego takes a hit when you see your book getting rave reviews but the client author is the one getting the kudos. Such is life, you can’t have it both ways. Well, you can. One book I wrote this past year that is doing great is ‘Sarah’s Child’ and I share the front cover with the author. It is his story, just written by me from info he supplied and fictionalised to keep everyone out of court. He has been doing a ton of promoting and pushing the book and while sales are good and steady, they will take a long time to recover what he has spent so far. This is one of the reasons I decided to shelve my own writing career as a novelist and focus on writing for pay, for other people.

While I am not about to disclose actual dollar amounts, the income earned was sufficient to allow me to travel to Malaysia and the Philippines to conduct research and collate information and experiences to update existing titles and to create new work, all of which generates income and so is tax deductible. My wife and five girls haven’t gone hungry, all the bills are paid but then we do live a modest lifestyle and within our means. Nett profit was 18% of Gross Income after all legitimate expenses have been deducted. 18% is not a bad profit margin, not brilliant, but not bad.

Nett Profit to Gross Income ratio 18%

Nett Profit to Gross Income ratio 18%

Find Your Niche

I have found my niche, something I advised you to do some years ago when I started this website and blog. Find your niche, specialise and stick at it. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Is Video The New eBook?

The growth in video online is phenomenal to say the least. Here are some statistics from YouTube, the #1 web site for video online.

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localised in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults aged 18-34 than any cable network
  • Millions of subscriptions happen each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 3 times since last year, and the number of daily subscriptions is up more than 4 times since last year

YouTube Partner Programme

  • Created in 2007, we now have more than a million creators from over 30 countries around the world earning money from their YouTube videos
  • Thousands of channels are making six figures a year

Monetisation

  • Thousands of advertisers are using TrueView in-stream and 75% of our in-stream ads are now skippable
  • We have more than a million advertisers using Google ad platforms, the majority of which are small businesses

Mobile and Devices

  • Mobile makes up almost 40% of YouTube’s global watch time
  • YouTube is available on hundreds of millions of devices

Content ID

  • Content ID scans over 400 years of video every day
  • More than 5,000 partners use Content ID, including major US network broadcasters, movie studios and record labels
  • We have more than 25 million reference files in our Content ID database; it’s among the most comprehensive in the world
  • Content ID has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for partners

So, are you writing for video? Are you putting your writing out there on video? Did you know that YouTube includes transcripts of your narration? You can read these as the video plays by clicking on the square shaped icon to the right of ‘Add To’ on the text line below the screen. Sometimes the transcript is a bit of a laugh  but you can upload an accurate transcript if you prefer.  What is so valuable about the transcript is the assistance it gives to search engines to rank your clip. Keep in mind the second most popular search engine in the world, after Google, is YouTube. That is powerful stuff and I thank my friend and SEO mentor, Chris Bennetts for demonstrating how powerful this feature is.

It is also something that underlines the value of the eWriter in today’s online economy. everything needs to be written and as important as a good code writer is to get the thing cranking, the other half of the coin has an eWriter’s face on it. Rethink video, eWriters. It will be the wave of the very near, actually already here, future and you need to understand how it can help you make your living, doing what you love.

Keeping Up To Date

A lot of my time is spent keeping up to date with the changes in the marketplace in which I conduct my business, the Internet. One of the major changes I have monitored for some time is the rise of mobile devices for accessing the web. When you keep in mind the fact that Gen Y is now all over 21 and GenZ have all grown up with mobile phones and the web, YouTube and what have you, not keeping up with technology and web use is like shooting yourself in the foot and saying it helps you hop better.

Another consideration is video. Forget swathes of text unless there is a nice image to catch the reader’s attention. Even better if you can communicate your message through video. Moving pictures, talkies, call it what you like; a picture is worth a thousand words and a moving talking one a heck of a lot more. I just had a book trailer video made and it is helping the book get noticed and bought far more than a tweet of 140 characters alone. I tweeted the video link and got a lot more hits than when I tweeted the launch of the book with the cover photo and far more than the test tweet with no cover shot.

Watch the video from Social Visibility Online and give it some serious consideration. It really is timely advice you should pay attention to if you want to do anything online and hope to have any success at. The number of people competing for your potential customer’s dollar grows every minute as the World wide Web is forever expanding and what the ‘guru’s’ are selling as the latest, sure fire way to make a million online stopped working for them a year ago, right about the time they figured they could make money from you selling the ‘secrets’ of what worked (past tense) for them. SVO’s CEO Chris Bennetts is telling you what is working now and what will be the way forward.

The Return Of The Short Story

Screenshot 2014-01-30 11.09.45Short stories and novellas (say 20-40,000 words) are on the way back, which is great news on so many levels. I love writing short stories as you can write it and have it read in a lot less time and effort than it takes for a novel (say 50,000 words and up). Novels have not always been in existence and a lot of the ‘formula’ for novels was set by the commercial realities publishers have to face to make a profit.

There are valid reasons why books are the way they are and more has to do with what sells than the story that needs telling. The ‘airport blockbuster’ of 500 to 800 or so pages is not really ideal for reading on a plane, but a short story or collection of them is. You can dip in and out as you like whereas a novel is a commitment that too often the rigors of a journey don’t allow you to enjoy. The reality is there is a certain investment per book, regardless of length that must be met. An extra two or three hundred pages is the least of the costs to be considered. When buying a book, people are more likely to think they are getting value from one that would stop a bullet compared to what used to be the norm for novels 30 or 40 years ago.

Electronic publishing, eBooks, has changed all of that and much more as well. You can now download a short story or collection of short stories to your eReader or other device and the overhead, while remaining pretty much the same for a traditional publisher, is virtually nothing for indie publishers and self publishing authors. Even with professional editing and other out sourced help, the investment is in the hundreds of dollars rather than the tens or even hundreds of thousands.

Short stories can also be good loss leaders, introducing a reader to an author so that they go on to buy their novels and other writing. Stephen Leather, a favourite author of mine, does this very well, offering short stories for free or just a buck and including links to his latest releases. I recall over a decade ago reading, for free, his superb look at the seamy side of Bangkok life in ‘Private Dancer’, a book his publisher claimed would never sell, Stephen offered it for free as a download (this was way before Kindle et al) and after however many thousands of downloads, his publisher saw the error of his ways and now the book is available in print as well as online, but no longer for free. We exchanged emails about this and of course, Stephen was very genuine and approachable as I have found all the ‘big name’ authors to be. We are, after all, just ordinary people with a brilliant talent… (shameless inclusion of self, there)

The great thing about short stories is that you can offer them for free to promote other work and you are not giving away the ‘farm’ or devaluing your work. You can sell them for 99 cents or compile them into an anthology and add a couple of bucks to the rrp. The really big news is that short stories are selling once again and that has to be a good thing for readers and writers. None of which, of course, takes away from the necessity to write a good story and to present it as error free as possible in a professional manner. After all, if you are charging money then you are a professional and everything you put your name to should reflect that.

 

 

Street Lit Now Included on Wikipedia

Slide1The entry on Urban Literature (aka Street Lit) on Wikipedia includes a mention of Australian author Perry Gamsby and his three Street Lit novels, ‘The Cool Side of the Pillow‘, ‘Twenty Seven Seventy’ and ‘Never Be Unsaid’. While most urban lit is of African-American or Latino origin, Perry adds an Australian voice to the gritty, edgy street lit genre.

As part of the StreetWise Publications 2014 Marketing Plan, all cover art is being reviewed with ‘The Cool Side of the Pillow’ and ‘Twenty Seven Seventy’ being the first to receive new covers. Additionally, a book trailer is being made for ‘Never Be Unsaid’ and advertising on FaceBook and LinkedIn is being trialled.

As any eWriter knows, writing the book is the easy part. Selling it, promoting and marketing; that is where the real hard work begins.

Book Trailers

Outback road AustraliaI am a member of the Association of Independent Authors and this month they have a special deal going with COSProductions to have a book trailer made for just $250 (normally $1,000). My latest novel, ‘Never Be Unsaid is in pre-launch having been finished during NaNoWriMo and now I just have the re-writes to do (groans). I thought this would be a superb opportunity to get some first hand experience of having a book trailer made by a professional outfit at an affordable (for me) price.

I will keep my audience informed (so if either of you have any questions…) on the process and of course, post the final product here. So far I have received a professional contract and other communication and paid the fee, plus $75 for it to be formatted for Amazon.com as you need to be listed with the world’s biggest book distributor to have any chance of making money. I sent them the link to my book website, the cover art and a bio-blurb on me, an ‘elevator pitch’ about the novel and the signed contract. Now it is in the queue and no doubt things will begin to roll along soon.

How Do I Start My Own Blog?

I was asked this question by one of the readers of this site and I have written a brief page about the mechanics of doing this. I plan to add more detail as I find the time but for now, I think the more important question is ‘why do you want a blog?’

If you can answer that then the how part is simple and covered here.