Wednesday, August 5, 2015

You Need Quality AND Quantity to Make a Living as an Author

There's this bizarre argument that crops up in practically every writers' group I've ever sauntered into. On one side, you have writers who believe that money and sales will follow those with a true mastery of the story-telling art. On the other side, you have writers who argue that one book isn't going to be enough to get the job done, and that you need to produce on a regular schedule in order to actually make a living putting words on a page.

So who's right? Both sides are, in their own ways, but unfortunately any attempt to step between the opposing crusaders is met with vitriol and suspicion that you are secretly working for them, and you are not to be trusted.

Are you legitimately suggesting that I have to produce stellar work AND produce it fast?
The unfortunate reality of being an author is that every time you create something new you're spinning the wheel of fortune. For example, say that this blog post went viral for some reason. Maybe it's my charming wit that leads readers to share it all across their social media feeds. Maybe what I have to say causes some kind of controversy, and people angrily spit my link at each other so they can all be equally outraged about what I've created. Whatever the driving force, we'll say that I spend a week with hundreds of thousands of hits a day driving up my views. My ad clicks go through the roof, and at the end of the month there's a big, fat check waiting for me.

That's great... but what do I do next month? Or the month after that?

Insights From Erotica Authors

Don't take my word for it, though. Instead, listen to the wise words of Pandora Box (alias Peter Hayward). According to Hayward, it's important to know your audience, to give them what they want, and to make sure you're choosing the right niche for your work (I'm assuming that being an entertaining writer, if not precisely a "master of the craft" fits in there somewhere as well). The real key to Hayward's success, though, is that he's written over 180 erotica stories which are currently available on Amazon.

"The Necromancer's Mistress" just might be my next project...
The numbers don't lie, either. In July of 2012 (when he first started up the engine on his erotica writing) Hayward brought in $93 and some odd change from his works. Rather than dedicate a lot of time to big novels, he chose to keep pushing smaller, more regular projects with tighter arcs (among other things) so his readers got a constant fix. The result is that, one year later, his monthly take was over $5,000. That isn't a typo; it's a 5, with three zeroes after it.

That isn't because "sex sells," nor is it because he's cranking out assembly-line smut (or at least neither of those things is entirely responsible for his success). The reason that Hayward, and many other erotica authors are so successful is that they've found people who want what they write, and they give it to them. By creating a big backlog of available projects, and by charging a small cost for them, these authors achieve what I call The Cascade Effect. The short version is that you have a dedicated group of readers who buy your work, and tell their friends. Every time you get a new reader who likes you, those readers buy up your previous work as well, resulting in a waterfall of sales as all your old work experiences a rejuvenated interest.

Publish or Perish

When it comes to stacking cash, you can't depend on any one title to write your meal check. Whether you're a novelist, a short story writer, a blogger, or you just maintain an article archive at a place like InfoBarrel (a paying website I covered in this past post), one of the keys to a steady stream of income is going to be a body of work.

Those looking for an intro to my work should check out this free sample.
That doesn't mean you can get away with not editing your work, that you can just slap terrible cover art on the front, or that you can supplant good research and engaging prose with titillating titles and click-bait in order to churn out products faster, either. It means that you need to be able to find what people want, and to give them a quality product that satisfies their needs in a reasonable amount of time.

If you can do that, then you have a much better shot at big sales, fat checks, and not needing the security of a 9-5 while you're trying to keep the stories coming.

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