Thursday, September 20, 2018

Writers on YouTube? Prepare For An Uphill Battle

Regular viewers know that something I like to do during Business weeks is to offer some advice on different platforms you can use to start earning money from the content you produce. One of the oldest recommendations I made was detailed in Make Money Writing (By Joining InfoBarrel), and it was joined by the more recent coverage on Want To Make Money Writing? Check Out Vocal! that I added earlier this year. Both of which are still solid examples for text-based income, by the by.

However, if you're an author who's been thinking about expanding your brand into the multimedia sphere, then you might be considering using YouTube as a way to boost your signal, and increase your earnings. After all, YouTube is free to join, gives you lots of tools, and it is accessible by huge numbers of people, so why wouldn't you want your work on it? While joining up as a content creator is not an inherently bad idea, per se, it is one that comes with a lot of strings attached. Strings that a lot of folks just don't think about.

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What Does It Take To Make YouTube Work?

If you're taking your work to YouTube, whether you're creating audio books of your own work, writing skits, or doing a kind of full-cast drama, it's important to know what it is you're dealing with when it comes to this platform. Because YouTube is competitive, but even worse, they raised their bar for monetization earlier this year.

I actually help out on a YouTube channel titled Dungeon Keeper Radio, and we made an anniversary post detailing the requirements and changes to the platform that we (and all the other creators out there) now had to cope with. Give it a listen, and you'll understand why so many people are frustrated with YouTube.

Short version, for those who didn't give it a listen, is that until your channel has 1,000 subscribers on it, and a minimum of 4,000 hours of total run time over the previous 12 month period, you can't get your channel monetized. That means no ads, and no money, no matter how much work you put in, until you clear those hurdles. Given that it was only 10,000 views to get monetized (a significantly easier bar to clear) until the beginning of this year, that's a fairly major change.

So, before you get too involved in your project, ask how many videos you're willing to make before you can get ads on your channel so you can start getting paid. Because if you already have a fairly big following, and you know your work is popular, you might be able to get this sort of thing up and running within 6 months to a year. However, if you are starting from scratch and you don't have a catalog of popular work, any real fan base to speak of, etc., then you are going to find it is a lot harder getting people to hit that subscribe button than you think it would be.

That is, perhaps, the most important thing to keep in mind here. Because while a lot of platforms require you to get a big explosion of attention in order to make any real money, YouTube requires that kind of viral boom just to get the site to agree to pay you in the first place.

Better As A Supplement, Than A Main

The unvarnished facts are that if you want to make a living on YouTube then you need to have thousands of supporters, and you need hours upon hours of watched content every day. And unless you're a singing sensation, a do-it-yourself guru, or you stumble upon the next viral creepy pasta, you might find that it's tough to get enough views to even cut a check every month.

However, that doesn't mean you can't use YouTube as a supplementary platform for your work.

Which can reap benefits all its own.
For example, if you're using Patreon, then you could make audio book entries on YouTube as a way to give your audience some extra goodies, and reward those who give at a higher tier. If you're recording samples of a book that's for sale already, then you could use the popularity of the video to get a buy link in front of an audience to increase your sales. The same is true if you use YouTube to make promotional videos for your work; if they're successful enough to earn you ad revenue, then great, but if not they can still get you increased sales and visibility for your books.

Hell, you could even use YouTube as a way to talk directly to your fans, answer questions, and keep them up-to-date on your appearances, upcoming projects, and your life. As long as you're entertaining, it will help spread the word. John Green did this to massive success, for folks who've been by his channel.

If you've been thinking that YouTube is going to be that secret gold mine where your unknown work suddenly blows up and makes you an Internet millionaire, then I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it probably won't. Barring the usual zeitgeist that seems to select people at random, anyway. But if you want to make videos, audio, etc. as a way to supplement and boost your already existing platform, then you will probably see a lot more success. And even if your attempt at leveraging YouTube to your ends doesn't work out, well, you likely haven't lost much other than time and energy. Provided you didn't go overboard getting expensive film, sound, and editing equipment, anyway.

Speaking of YouTube, though, if you're a fan of tabletop games and fantasy, please head over to Dungeon Keeper Radio and check us out. We can use all the help we can get reaching our goals!

That's all for this installment of the Business of Writing! Hopefully some folks found it helpful. If you have questions about YouTube, and how you could use it for your brand, then leave them in the comments below. For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive. To stay on top of all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to help support me and my work, then you can Buy Me A Ko-Fi as a one-time tip, or go to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a regular, monthly patron. Every little bit helps, and there's plenty of free stuff in it for you as a thank you!

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