Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How to Make Money as a Writer (By Embracing Your Inner Troll)

When you decided to become a writer, what sort of daydreams did you have? Packed bookstores full of readers with well-worn copies of your latest release, all of them breathlessly asking for your signature? Conventions offering to pay for your air fare and hotel room if you'd just consent to be one of their guests of honor? Maybe it was something as simple as getting big, fat royalty checks every quarter that would let you pay off your car, erase your student debt, and maybe put a down payment on a house?

Then you started working, and before long your fantasies mostly consisted of being able to go to a high-class establishment for a nice lunch when your royalty check came in.

The kind of place that's geared toward your pocket book.
For some writers, not making enough money to pay their bills is okay. They're less concerned with making it big (or just making it), than they are with being able to share their works with the world. That's great, good for them, and if you're one of those writers then you just keep doing you. For those of us who would like to write books, blogs, and contribute to sundry publications without the need to also dedicate 40+ hours a week to another profession, I've got a tip for you.

Embrace your inner troll.

What Are You Talking About?

You've heard the phrase, "there's no such thing as bad publicity," haven't you? It was true when your primary exposure came from newspapers and magazines, and it's just as true today. In fact, given that outrage and offense are the two primary currencies of the Internet, it might be even truer now than at any point in human history.

I want you to do something for me. Go to whatever your primary social networking site is, and scroll through your news feed. See how long it takes before you stumble across a link to an article that someone shared out of anger, or frustration with the content. Now ask yourself how many times you've seen someone do that, and then re-shared the link because you, too, were outraged. Did you leave it at a share, or did you also put it up on another social media page? Did you mention it in conversation later, telling your offline friends to go and check out this thing that made you really mad?

That is how you pay the troll.
I have unfortunate news for you; all that effort you put in because you were mad at what that person said online likely paid his rent for the month.

You see, trolls are kind of like Freddy Krueger. If you talk about them, and share their stories, and let other people know they exist, then their power (and by extension their earnings) grows. The only way to truly harm trolls (just like authors) is to keep quiet, and to forget about that book they wrote, or the article they published that made your blood pressure spike.

Fortunately for you and I, this weakness doesn't seem to be known to the populace at large.

But I Don't Want To Be A Troll!

I'm not saying you have to live under a bridge, vote for the Tea Party, or shout out offensively racist, sexist, or otherwise terrible things. What you do have to do is grow a thicker skin, and don't be afraid to put out work that is honest, and which you know will be attacked. Even attacked viciously. Because every time someone comments about what an asshole you are, your post gets pushed back to the top of the order, and more people will see it.

Don't take my word for it, though. Check out this piece by professional troll Nicholas Pell.

Sounds legit.
Since no one on the Internet really believes you until you share a personal experience that may or may not be indicative of a trend, though, I'll tell you about a piece of my own professional trolling (which I think I'm going to re-name "ogreing" to give it a sense of legitimacy).

In 2014 I began contributing content to a website called Crit Confirm, which is mostly dedicated to tabletop gaming and associated areas of geekery. The way the site pays its authors is that ad revenue for the month is split according to the amount of traffic each contributor brings in. I was the new guy, so I knew I was going to have to do something pretty big in order to get a lot of attention. So after some thought, and a whole lot of research, I penned the post Diversity in Gaming: Will Gamers Slay The Serpent of Sexism?

Know what happened? Every Facebook group I posted to, and every forum I shared the link on, lost its collective shit.

Why's that, you might ask? The article itself isn't overly incendiary, and there's plenty of articles and statistics linked in the text. Well, as I said in the opening of the article, sexism is the vitriolic heart of the fireball that is the diversity in gaming discussion. All you have to do is say the word, and it's likely to bring a lot of people with a lot of negative things to say out of the woodwork. My article was no different, in that sense. Several users got banned from one FB group in short order, and in less than 24 hours the post was taken down from three separate pages because of the negative attention. This made a lot of users curious about what was going on, and so they tracked down the link and shared it on their personal pages. One user went so far as to start up a whole new FB group specifically to discuss social issues surrounding roleplaying games, re-posting my article for all new members to see, read, and discuss.

When the dust settled I had earned roughly half of the site's ad revenue for the month based on my traffic. From one piece. People were that upset over the relatively straightforward article.

Just Be You... With An Edge

Being an ogre doesn't mean you have to change the way you write, and it doesn't mean you have to be dishonest. It doesn't require you to be someone, or something, you're not. All it means is when someone leaves a nasty comment, or talks about what a hack you are, you just smile and remember every time they say your name you get a little more powerful.

And a little richer.
It can be a fine line to walk, and it takes some practice. What you're trying to do, in essence, is use the vitriol of the masses like a shot of NOS in a race car in order to reach a much bigger swath of people. That means you carefully pick your title, your subject material, where you post links, and how you respond to negative comments (hint: reminding people that by commenting they're actually helping you is likely to lead to a fury of shit-talking, which ironically enough still helps you). Once you hit your stride you'll find that people who like your work will talk you up, and that people who loathe your work will talk you up even more!

Well, that's it for this week! If you found this piece of advice handy, and you'd like to see more posts like it in the future, go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and throw me your support! If you want to make sure you don't miss any future updates then submit your email address over on the right, or follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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