Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Audience Demand, "Sandman," And The Impossible Pressures Put on Creators

If you're a comic book fan, then you know about Sandman. This series, written by acclaimed author Neil Gaiman, has stood the test of time as one of the most celebrated examples of the medium. When word came out that Netflix was going to make a series putting it to film, even people who were sick and tired of superhero movies and shows sat up and took notice. The show garnered a huge amount of views, a lot of audience praise, and enthusiasm from a large percentage of people who wanted to see more.

And despite all of that, Gaiman and the cast basically had to beg everyone to binge watch the whole series again so that Netflix didn't cancel them after only one season because the company wasn't convinced people wanted a second season badly enough.


While I'd like to say this is only something that heavy hitters making big budget productions have to deal with, this is unfortunately something that affects all creators out there. Namely that if we can't muster a massive audience willing to bang down the doors demanding more of our work then we may not get greenlit by our publishers, or we may not get paid enough money by the platforms we use to actually keep writing new novels, short stories, screenplays, etc. for our fans to consume.

Before we get into the nitty gritty this week, don't forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter to get all my updates right in your inbox. Lastly, to be sure you're following all of my followables, check out my LinkTree!

The Numbers Game Is Awful


Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about from the independent side of things. A little while back I started listening to Old Gods of Appalachia (go check out their podcast if you haven't yet, and support them if you can afford to), and I really enjoyed everything about it. Capitalism strained through the lens of cosmic horror and its effects on rural and poor areas is right up my alley. However, it was during one of the in-between episodes where the creators were answering questions and casually talking to their fans that I started noting numbers.

According to what I heard, the show had 5 million plays through Spotify in its first two years. Given the wide exposure they'd had, and their supportive audience, I wasn't surprised by that number, and I agree with the team that it can be mind-boggling contemplating that many people consuming something you made. However, if you break it down using the numbers I referenced in Youtube, Dailymotion, and Spotify... Challenges and Payoffs, you get into some pretty bleak profits. When all the calculations are done, that averages out to somewhere around $10,000 per year of traffic, if you assign 2,500,000 downloads/listens per year.

That's what it should have been according to the math, anyway. Seems that I got it wrong, and it's even bleaker than that!

When I reached out to the show to check my facts, Cam Collins was good enough to set me straight, and provide me some more accurate numbers. According to what Cam said, the show makes literally nothing from Spotify directly, and only a tiny fraction of their income from advertising. 90% of their income comes directly from their audience providing support.

To reiterate, this is a show that people could not shut up about for months during the pandemic. It's been given top marks, its cast and crew are truly talented people, they've had write ups in major media like the New York Times, and there's a goddamn tabletop RPG for Old Gods of Appalachia... and the only thing keeping it going is the direct support of folks who enjoy their work, and who want to help them keep the lights on so they can keep the show going.


A lot of us have this idea that when someone makes popular art, that art pays for itself just through the sheer force of its popularity. However, that perception is often the reverse of reality. Because as I mentioned back in Unfortunate Facts: Without Sponsorship, Most Authors Can't Eat, the things we as an audience think of as secondary items (creator merch, fan pledges, etc.) are actually the main source of income for most people for the simple reason that it takes an absolutely absurd number of views/listens on any platform to make enough money to pay your bills.

In the end, it creates this weird Catch-22. Because when your audience is small, or your numbers are below a certain threshold, a cut of the small amount of traffic you generate is all you'll be offered by a platform. As such, you need every view you can possibly get in order to scrape by. But if you generate the numbers necessary to make bank off of your traffic alone, that also means your audience is big enough (and that you probably have enough sponsorship deals and independent support) that the check from your views is just the icing on your cupcake... if, as it turns out, you even get that.

What Does One Example Have To Do With The Other?


Some readers are no doubt wondering what a major streaming platform that can afford millions of dollars to produce a high-budget fantasy series, and the impressive success of an indie horror podcast, have to do with one another. The answer is that in order for creators to be successful, big or small, it takes an absolutely ridiculous tide of raw numbers.

But this is, sadly, nothing new. It's just capitalism as usual.

This will do you, I'm sure.

Think back to before music streaming, when we listened to our music on the radio. A lot of folks might not know this, but the band didn't actually get paid for their music being on the airwaves. The idea was that people listening to the music on the radio would lead to increased sales of merchandise (recordings, band tee shirts, concert tickets, etc.), so even if you were burning up the charts you didn't get paid until folks actually bought something from you. The reason there are so many singer/songwriters, interestingly enough, is that the writers did get paid for those radio plays, so a lot of artists made sure they did both as a way to ensure they weren't left out in the cold.

Everything old is new again, eh?

In decades past it was record labels trying to keep the lion's share of money, while paying their singers a pittance. Now it's the streaming platforms doing the same thing by demanding that channels earn their monetization (also known as "working for free" while the company reaps the benefits), or making backroom deals to ensure they have access to large libraries of content while the folks who were previously depending on royalties end up with a handful of pennies. And publishers... well, publishing hasn't really changed much in the past century and change.

And that often includes freelance writers not getting a pay raise since the days of H.P. Lovecraft when it comes to our by-word rate.



We Need Numbers (And Can't Get Them On Our Own)


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, all of that nonsense up above is the reason that creators end every production asking listeners to like, subscribe, support, and share links to our work. Because it takes literal millions of reads/listens/hits/etc. for us to make a poverty wage.

I know that as listeners we grow deadened to that constant request. It's the equivalent of an unskippable ad, and we either tune out, look away, or just skip past the text if it's in an article. But without audience help, whether it's funding our work directly or helping us build our brand by sharing our content for others to see, we're going to lose our grip and fall. Either our publishers will stop greenlighting projects that don't get an appropriate amount of attention and sales, or we just won't be able to pay our rent with what we're bringing in every month.

So if you have a creator whose work you enjoy, big or small, please do your part to make sure they can keep making art. Follow their socials, read their articles, share their posts to draw attention to them, and if they've got a playlist consider leaving it on while you're out and about just to give them a few extra hours of listen time a week.

It all adds up, and it all makes a difference, even if you feel like it doesn't.

I Could Also Use A Little Help (If You Can Spare It)


If you made it this far and you'd like to help me, specifically, here's some things you can do!

Subscribe to The Azukail Games YouTube Channel (where I contribute video content)
Subscribe to My Daily Motion Channel (longer videos that won't show up on YouTube)

And if you happen to have some spare dosh lying around, consider become a Patreon patron, or leaving a tip by Buying Me a Ko-Fi!



To help The Literary Mercenary keep making content like this, consider leaving a tip, or becoming a patron:

- Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/theliterarymercenary
- Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/theliterarymercenary

Follow the author's social media for the latest updates:

- Twitter: https://twitter.com/nlitherl
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- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/neallitherland/

Thanks to Gretchen VanHeeren for providing the voice of the lamia!

Background music from Tabletop Audio:

- The Long Rain
- Dark and Stormy
- Dark Continent

Additional Background Music

- The Introvert by Michael Kobrin (https://pixabay.com/users/21039285-21039285/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=music&utm_content=10959)

- Cold Mind Enigma by Gioele Fazzeri (https://pixabay.com/users/gioelefazzeri-16466931/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=music&utm_content=13553)

- Chasing a Killer by Gioele Fazzeri" />

Like, Follow, and Stay Tuned!

That's all for this week's Business of Writing!

If you'd like to see more of my work, take a look at my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife as well as my recent collection The Rejects!

If you'd like to help support my work, then consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page! Lastly, to keep up with my latest, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now on Pinterest as well!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Pressure of The Blank Page

Like a lot of authors I have a decided compulsion toward acquiring the materials of my craft. Notebooks big and small make me happy, I will pick up pens abandoned in parking lots to recruit them to my cause, and I will never say no to another hot cup of coffee.

Some people argue that coffee is not a required tool of the writing trade, and that's fair. But if you can do this job without being caffeinated, I'm suspicious of your status as a living human.

To each their own.

I always get a smile on my face whenever I pick up a new pen, receive a notebook, or someone gives me a little bag of go-beans so I can keep this operation going. However, there is something that I think a lot of other writers experience but don't talk about... which is the pressure that having all of these tools of the trade can put on your shoulders when you feel you aren't using them often, or quickly, enough.

But before we get into it this week, don't forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter to get all my updates right in your inbox. Also, if you've got a bit of spare cash that you'd like to use to help keep the wheels turning, consider becoming a Patreon patron!

Lastly, to be sure you're following all of my followables, check out my LinkTree!

The Pressure of The Blank Page


I won't lie, since I was in high school I've had a box of notebooks that I carried with me every time I moved. I rarely used any of them, but I kept them the way that you keep that box of cables and cords; just in case you need it. While I always had a need for a pen between being a college student, and then a reporter, I never used them as fast as I acquired them. Coffee is a recent addition to this list, but I started drinking it at the beginning of the pandemic and I've almost never had to pay for it since then between people clearing out their cabinets, or sending me gifts when they found out I wasn't picky about my brands or roasting type.

I have come to the conclusion that it is unlikely I will ever write through all the ink in these pens, or that I will use every sheet of every notebook I have stacked up on my shelf. However, I go through a couple of pens a month, and a few notebooks every season. But there's always more. This is both comforting, and a little weighty. Because I feel like it is my responsibility, my duty even, to use these tools to pour forth ideas from my mind and into reality in some way, shape, or form.

The coffee will get drunk, let's not be silly on that score. I may have to share it with other people from time to time, but it's going to be put to good use.

Make it good. Don't waste space, or ink!

I believe there's another word for this feeling, but I've come to calling it the Pressure of The Blank Page. Because all of the pens that stand ready at my desk, and all of the notebooks in a row, stand like soldiers in a line... and it's up to me to call them up for service one after another as the need requires. But while I do need them, and I do use them, I also know that I only have so many words I can write a day. Does my brain have enough ideas to use all of these materials in time?

Maybe.

I'm normally very confident about my skill level, and what it takes to do my job. I also know that I tend to go through a shopping bag of paper and a tin full of pens every year just keeping the assembly line going with things like my 100 Kinfolk project, or supplements like 100 Sci-Fi Cults. But between YouTube scripts, TTRPG supplements, short story ideas, novel layouts, and random brainstorms, I honestly wonder if I have more materials than I do ideas sometimes.

Of course, that's the thing about ideas; they aren't finite.

I'm absolutely certain that if I never had another idea, then I might find myself at a standstill eventually. It might be in five years, ten years, or even twenty years, but eventually I would get out all the ideas I have stored away on the back shelf of my brain until I've caught up on my back log.

That's the thing about ideas in my head, though... the tap doesn't turn off.

I have new ideas fairly often, even when I'm not trying to. I'll be down at the gym when two thoughts spark off in my brain, and I have to jot down the glimpse of the idea I caught in that brief flash. I'll be mid-game rolling some dice, and an outline for a new supplement will come to me. I'll sit down to help a friend through a story they're working on, and by the time we've solved whatever plot problem they're working on, I'll have had a new idea of my own.

I'm not special in this regard, either, and that's something I wanted to tell people this week. Because a lot of us can get overwhelmed wondering what we're going to do with our hoard of supplies and inspirations, and if we should leave them to a friend, a child, or perhaps a favored niece or nephew. Take a second. Breathe. You aren't going to run out of ideas any more than you're going to run out of readers.

With that said, though, if you've got a stack of notebooks you've been holding off on writing in because they're too nice, or your ideas aren't good enough... well, there's no time like the present, eh?

Of Course, More Materials Are Always Appreciated




If you're one of those folks out there who is cursed with spare notebooks or pens, and you want to send them to a good home, feel free to reach out via my email gadget on the page here. This offer goes double for anyone looking for a sponsor for notebooks, pens, coffee, and other authorial accessories. I'm always happy to talk about products that make this hard job a little bit easier, after all!

And for folks who just want to do their part to help keep me making more content like this, as well as the little audio drama above, please subscribe/follow me in these locations:

The Azukail Games YouTube Channel (where I contribute video content)
My Daily Motion Channel (longer videos that won't show up on YouTube)

And if you happen to have some spare dosh lying around, and you want to be sure my supply doesn't run low, consider become a Patreon patron, or leaving a tip by Buying Me a Ko-Fi!

Like, Follow, and Come Back Again!


That's all for this week's Craft of Writing! For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, or my most recent short story collection The Rejects!
 
And to stay on top of all my latest news and releases, collected once a week, make sure you subscribe to The Literary Mercenary's mailing list

If you'd like to help support my work, then consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page! Lastly, to keep up with my latest, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now on Pinterest as well!

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Overcoming The Bystander Effect is Important For Building Your Audience as a Creator

Imagine that you're drowning, flailing your arms and doing your best to shout for help. Would you rather have a crowded beach full of potential rescuers to come to your aid, or just one person who happened to be walking by in your time of need? While a lot of us might think that the former situation means you'd have more people to come help, it seems you're actually more likely to get help if there's one person around to throw you a line.

This is called the Bystander Effect, and it is a serious problem for creators of all kinds out there.

Don't worry, you've got this!

Before we get into the nitty gritty this week, don't forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter to get all my updates right in your inbox. Lastly, to be sure you're following all of my followables, check out my LinkTree!

Even Murder Can't Get People Off The Sidelines


One of the most famous examples of the Bystander Effect as pointed out by Psychology Today is the murder of Kitty Genovese. In 1964 this young woman was stabbed to death outside her apartment in broad daylight with dozens of witnesses. No one stepped up to stop the assault, or even to call the police; everyone watched, but no one did anything, and the killers walked away.

Why did this happen?

Anybody got a problem?

It's a complicated situation to be sure, but it also works as a great example of the Bystander Effect. The two major factors involved, according to Latane and Darley, are called diffusion of responsibility and social influence. Diffusion of responsibility can be described as, "Well surely somebody is going to help?" Because if you're alone, and someone is in trouble, you know it's down to you to help. If you're in a group of 30+ people, though, that responsibility doesn't feel quite so heavy on your own shoulders. Social influence refers to how we often look around and examine the behavior of others to see what's the appropriate thing to do in any given situation is. And if nobody else is helping, we feel like maybe we aren't supposed to help either. And even if we'd like to help, we have to overcome that inertia to be the ones to start the ball rolling.

This is where the Catch-22 for creators comes in. Because we need literally tens of thousands of people to step up and help us make our projects successful, but when you address large audiences to try to rally those numbers you get a lot of people all agreeing that somebody should help you, but nobody lifts a finger to actually assist you in hitting your goals.

Become an Atheist (A Parable)


There's a story about a holy man who said that God made everything, and one of his students asked, "If God made everything, then why did he make atheists?" The holy man smiled, and said that atheists existed to provide an example for everyone. For when an atheist gave someone food, shelter, and care, they did not do so because they believed that God would judge them, or because they needed to avoid hell, but because they saw a problem and chose to step up and fix it because it was the right thing to do.

So when you come across someone in need, do not pray for God to help them. Rather, in that moment, become an atheist, and be the help they need.

I got you, brother.

Something I would tack onto this is something known as Rule .303. I talked about this in Want To Get Your Character Involved in Plot? Remember Rule .303, but for those who've never come across it can be stated simply as, "If you have the means and the opportunity, that confers upon you the duty to help."

Once you get into the mindset of someone who wants to help creators you care about (whether they're making things you like, or they're fellows in the industry you want to support), you find out that there's actually a ton of stuff you can do... and a lot of it is actually free!

How You Can Help Today!


Take a moment and think about a creator whose work you enjoy. Whether they're an author, a podcaster, a YouTuber, a game designer, or any other kind of creator, ask what you're doing to support them.

If you have money:

- Buy their work (for yourself, or as a present).
- Become a patron on Patreon.
- Give them a tip on Ko-Fi (or any other tipping platform).
- Buy their merch (seriously, tee shirt proceeds are how a lot of folks pay their bills).

If you don't have money:

- Subscribe to their social media (algorithms decide who gets promoted based on follower count).
- Like, share, comment, and reblog to boost their signal (again, interaction persuades the algorithm).
- Review their work (particularly important for Amazon).
- Talk about them in groups (I call this "doom posting," where I big-up people's signals en masse).
- Consume their content (read articles, watch videos, listen to casts, etc. even if it's muted, because these numbers are what contributes to their paychecks).



If you made it this far and you'd like to help me, specifically, here's some things you can do!

Subscribe to The Azukail Games YouTube Channel (where I contribute video content)
Subscribe to My Daily Motion Channel (longer videos that won't show up on YouTube)

And if you happen to have some spare dosh lying around, consider become a Patreon patron, or leaving a tip by Buying Me a Ko-Fi!


Like, Follow, and Stay Tuned!

That's all for this week's Business of Writing!

If you'd like to see more of my work, take a look at my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife as well as my recent collection The Rejects!

If you'd like to help support my work, then consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page! Lastly, to keep up with my latest, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now on Pinterest as well!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

The Unique Feeling When Someone Else Contributes To Your Setting

Regular readers of this blog are probably up-to-date on most of my projects, but in case you missed it (or you're new around here) I've been slowly building up a fantasy RPG setting for the past few years. Sundara: Dawn of a New Age began with a series of fantastical cities that people could add to their own games, but it expanded into splat books for various fantasy species, discussions of the gods, and even some books covering organizations in the world like Cults of Sundara and Sellswords of Sundara.

A lot of these books also boasted fun little vignettes to bring readers into the world, and in time I convinced my publisher to let me dramatize them for the Azukail Games YouTube channel, such as The Price of Steel, a story of the Risen Legion mercenary company.


However, this has been a one-man operation when it comes to the storytelling aspects of a lot of the setting... until recently, that is. And while I'm excited about it, this is also the first time I've experienced this unique situation. As such, I thought I'd take a moment this week to talk about it.

But before we get into it this week, don't forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter to get all my updates right in your inbox. Also, if you've got a bit of spare cash that you'd like to use to help keep the wheels turning, consider becoming a Patreon patron!

Lastly, to be sure you're following all of my followables, check out my LinkTree!

Castles in My Sandbox


When I first started shaping Sundara as a setting, I knew I faced certain challenges as a sole creator. After all, there's only so much word count I can put down in a day, and I have bills to pay, so I couldn't spend 6 months to a year putting together large tomes that covered huge swaths of the world all at once. Hence making smaller resources that built the world one block at a time, and allowed players and Game Masters to explore it bit by bit, while keeping my new releases flowing.

While a couple of folks noticed, the setting went largely unremarked... except by one Isaiah Burt.

The name on the cover, in case it blended with the mountain.

When I was first approached about the story that became Legacy of Flames, I had a strange cocktail of feelings regarding it. Because I've never read something by another author that took place in a world of my creation. So I was seeing the names and descriptions of things that had come out of my own imagination, but filtered through the mind and creativity of someone else. Not only that, but seeing a story that really hit the high notes of what I wanted the setting to bring across to readers, and the kinds of narratives that I felt lurked between the lines, was a great feeling.

The story itself is a solid piece of work that gives readers a different perspective on Ironfire, the City of Steel, and the dangers faced by the Red Cloaks that are the closest thing to an official force the city has. It follows Gnav, a huge razorskull cinderscale (lizardfolk from the local volcanic region) as he seeks a beast that threatens the region. A creature that could, if left unchecked, become a problem even for a place as powerful as Ironfire!

It's a fun story, and if you've ever wanted to read a sword and sorcery tale where the protagonist felt like the bastard child of Conan and Killer Croc then you're going to love Gnav. More than that, though, reading this made me feel like all the work and energy I've been pouring into Sundara as a setting hasn't just been pissing into the wind. Because if there's someone who loves the setting enough to write entire novellas of text in it, then it means I must be doing something right.

And that can be very motivating.

Check Out Sundara: Dawn of a New Age If You Haven't Yet!


If you're in the market for a good read, grab a copy of Legacy of Flames for yourself! And if you want more Stories of Sundara like the one I linked all the way in the top of this blog entry, then stop by and subscribe to the Azukail Games YouTube channel. I've even got videos discussing Sundara as a setting, if you're curious about what's going on but would like a like more information before you get in too deep.

So check out the full 26-video Speaking of Sundara playlist, in addition to the following supplements!


Cities of Sundara


The setting first began with the Cities of Sundara splats. Self-contained guides to some of the larger and more powerful centers of trade, industry, arms, and magic, these unique locations provide plenty of fodder for character generation and plots. Not only that, but each one comes with unique, mechanical goodies for players and GMs alike to take out for a spin!

- Ironfire: The City of Steel (Pathfinder and DND 5E): Built around the Dragon Forge, Ironfire is where the secret to dragon steel was first cracked. The center of the mercenary trade in the region, as well as boasting some of the finest schools for teaching practical sciences, Ironfire is a place where discovery and danger walk hand in hand!

- Moüd: The City of Bones (Pathfinder and DND 5E): An ancient center of trade and magic, Moüd was lost to a cataclysm, and then buried in myth. Reclaimed by the necromantic arts of the Silver Wraiths guild, this city has once again become a place teeming with life. Despite the burgeoning population, though, it is the continued presence of the undead that helps keep the city running, ensuring that Moüd is not swallowed up once more.

- Silkgift: The City of Sails (Pathfinder and DND 5E): Built on the cottage industry of Archer cloth (an extremely durable material used for sails, windmills, etc.), Silkgift is a place that prizes invention and discovery. From gravity batteries that store the potential of the wind, to unique irrigation systems, to aether weapons, the city positively churns out discoveries... and then there's the canal they cut through the mountains that makes them a major center of trade across the region.

- Hoardreach: The City of Wyrms (Pathfinder and DND 5E): A center of power across an entire region, Hoardreach is ruled over by a Cooperation of five different dragons. A place for refugees and outcasts of all sorts, Hoardreach boasts some of the most unusual citizens and creations from across Sundara. Infamous for their sky ships, which require the cast-off scales and unique arcane sciences of the Dragon Works to take to the air, one never knows just what they'll find in this city built atop a mountain.

- Archbliss: The City of The Sorcerers (Pathfinder and DND 5E): A floating city in the sky, Archbliss has been a refuge for sorcerers for thousands of years. It's only in relatively recent years that the city has allowed those from the ground below who lack the power of a bloodline to join them in the clouds. However, while there are certainly amazing wonders to behold, there is a darkness in Archbliss. Something rotting away at its heart that could, if not healed, bring the city crashing to the ground once more.

Gods of Sundara


Gods of Sundara (available for Pathfinder and DND 5E): In a world with no alignment, and where the gods are often genuinely mysterious forces that are far too large for mortals to truly comprehend, the divine feels genuinely strange and unknown... something that really does have to be taken on faith. This supplement provides a sample pantheon for Sundara, but also provides instructions on how to easily make your own gods in a world where you can't cast a spell and tell whether someone is good or evil.

Species of Sundara


Sundara is filled with creatures that many of us recognize, but I wanted to give greater depth to their cultures, and a wider variety of options. After all, humans always get 15+ ethnicities, languages, and unique histories, while elves, dwarves, orcs, halflings, etc. are almost always left with footnotes, or maybe with a handful of offshoots. So, in short, I wanted to give all the fantastical creatures the treatment that humans usually get in our games.

And there is no human book yet. If readers demand to know more, then I may sit down to pen one... but I figured that humans didn't need to be front-and-center in this setting just yet.

- Elves of Sundara (Pathfinder and DND 5E): Elves are one of the most quintessential fantasy creatures... but if you want to see more than just high elves, wood elves, and elves of the sun and moon, then this supplement has you covered!

- Dwarves of Sundara (Pathfinder and DND 5E): The children of the primordial giants who were meant to fill in the details of the world they'd made (or so the myths say) there are as many kinds of dwarves as their are kinds of giants... and possibly more, depending on who is keeping count.

- Orcs of Sundara (Pathfinder and DND 5E): Supposedly a creation of the elves, none can say for certain exactly how or why orcs have been made. What most agree on is that these creatures are far more than most may think at first glance.

- Halflings of Sundara (Pathfinder and DND 5E): Little cousins to the dwarves, halflings are tough, clever, and not to be underestimated. From living beneath the hills, to taking up residence in the deep forests, halflings in Sundara come in quite a variety!

- The Blooded (Half-Elves and Half-Orcs) [Pathfinder and DND 5E]: When orcs and elves mix their bloodlines with other creatures, the result is one of the Blooded. This inheritance takes many forms, and it can even wait generations before manifesting when the right combination of individuals come together to have a child.

- Gnomes of Sundara (Pathfinder and DND 5E): Gnomes are strange creatures, found in places where the spirit of the land has coalesced and made children of its own. The sons and daughters of the ancient nymphs, they are the stewards of these places, and they change as often as the weather and the land.

Like, Follow, and Come Back Again!


That's all for this week's Craft of Writing! For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, or my most recent short story collection The Rejects!
 
And to stay on top of all my latest news and releases, collected once a week, make sure you subscribe to The Literary Mercenary's mailing list

If you'd like to help support my work, then consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page! Lastly, to keep up with my latest, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now on Pinterest as well!

Thursday, December 29, 2022

YouTube, Dailymotion, and Spotify... Challenges and Payoffs

If you're a writer, especially one who stops by this blog with any regularity, then you already know how hard it is to make money in this profession. Especially when it feels like people just don't read books, blogs, and articles anymore, making it feel like you're fighting to keep your head above water with the anchor of the algorithm wrapped around your ankles. But what if you could tell stories in a way that your audience didn't have to pay money out-of-pocket for, but you still got paid at the end of the day? That sounds like something of a miracle, right?

Well, if you've been watching the rise of podcast culture, that's what it seems to be... at a glance, anyway.

So I just read the script, and then money in my pocket?

However, I think there are a lot of folks who try to go the audio route with their tales, and they aren't sure what they're in for. So I wanted to take a moment to talk about my experiences, and to pull back the curtain so folks understand what kind of ridiculous numbers you need to hit in order to pay your bills doing this.

Before we get into the nitty gritty this week, don't forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter to get all my updates right in your inbox. Lastly, to be sure you're following all of my followables, check out my LinkTree!

Let's Start With YouTube


The first place a lot of us turn to when we decide to tell stories rather than just writing them is YouTube. And why not? After all, it's the second-most-visited website in the world, and we've all heard stories of creators who made a particular video, or a series, or just got a shout out from someone famous that made them an Internet sensation overnight. We all know it's possible to make a living (and even to make a good living) on YouTube, especially with that many people tooling through the site all day.

Possible isn't the same as probable, though.


First of all, nobody starts out making money on YouTube. Before you see so much as a single cent, you need to meet the site's standards for monetization. That means you need to have 1,000 subscribers, and you need to have 4,000 hours of watched content on your channel before the site reviews you and decides whether or not to share ad revenue with you. That comes out to something like 11.5 hours of content watched every single day for an entire year, just to put that in perspective. You also have to be a viable candidate for the Google AdSense program, and even once you do all that, your videos need to be within YouTube's accepted parameters in order to keep them monetized. And the Google Adsense platform holds your earnings until you hit the $100 mark before paying out, so it could be a while if you have low traffic, or a lot of your videos get demonetized.

That's tough for folks who create content focused on horror, true crime, and anything with adult themes. So even if you manage the extremely difficult task of getting monetized on YouTube, you might end up with videos that can't make you any money no matter how popular they get.

Again, this is doable. But it's a lot more doable if you already have an audience that will find you on YouTube, subscribe to your channel, and help you get over that hurdle. Speaking of which, I create content for the Azukail Games YouTube channel, so if you'd like more audio dramas like the one above, tabletop gaming videos, and related content, come check it out and help us get monetized... we aren't quite halfway there yet, but we're trying to make that a reality in 2023 if we can.

What About Dailymotion?


I have a Dailymotion channel, and if you aren't subscribed to me there you should check me out at The Literary Mercenary. I'm front-loading this so that folks have context for the rest of this section, and what circumstances drove me to this particular site rather than YouTube. Because while I contribute to channels on YouTube, I do that as an employee, or on commission. I don't make content for my own channel there, and I probably never will.



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Thanks to Gretchen VanHeeren for providing the voice of the lamia!

Background music from Tabletop Audio:

- The Long Rain
- Dark and Stormy
- Dark Continent

Additional Background Music

- The Introvert by Michael Kobrin (https://pixabay.com/users/21039285-21039285/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=music&utm_content=10959)

- Cold Mind Enigma by Gioele Fazzeri (https://pixabay.com/users/gioelefazzeri-16466931/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=music&utm_content=13553)

- Chasing a Killer by Gioele Fazzeri" />

Why won't I post content on my own YouTube channel, some of you are no doubt wondering? Is it because the monetization requirements are so ridiculous that it's really hard for any independent creator to meet those standards without an absurd stroke of good luck? Is it because YouTube's content moderation tends to demonetize the sort of videos I'd be likely to make on my channel, and the stories I'd want to tell?

Well yes... but it's also that I literally cannot make money there, because I'm not allowed on the Google AdSense platform. I wish that wasn't the case, as it was what I used to have on my blogs for my ad revenue needs. But about 8 years or so ago I was informed that I was being removed from the program without an actual explanation being given. When I appealed I was simply told that my appeal had been noted, but I was still banned.

So even if I made the most amazing audio drama anyone had heard in years, and it drew a massive audience, getting millions of views, all that would do is put money in YouTube's pockets. I would earn nothing from that. And since the whole point of getting onto a platform, and making content like this is to pay our bills so we can keep writing for a living, that seems like a pretty pointless endeavor to me as a creator.

When I started looking for alternatives, Dailymotion was one of the only ones that seemed functional. It has a much smaller user base, and the site doesn't have as many features as YouTube does, but I can tell you that what it does have is a significantly lower bar for entry. In order to become a Dailymotion partner you need to get 1k hits on your videos. That's it. My first video, the weird Western tale Dead Man's Bluff almost managed that all on its own in the first few weeks it was up. Just to be safe, though, I followed it up with a reading of my popular 50 Two-Sentence Horror Stories, which put me over the finish line.

None of my content has blown up big over on Dailymotion, which is frustrating since it also holds your earnings till you hit $100. If you want to help me keep my numbers up, and brighten my day a bit, check out the above story about an Old Testament angel tracking down a modern-day cult of Moloch, and if you like it subscribe to my channel, and help spread the word!

As a final note, you're not allowed to share your content between YouTube and DM, if you were thinking about trying to double your money. You might get a warning from whichever platform catches you first, but it's likely that if you try to double-host your videos you'll simply end up being able to use neither platform.

But What About Spotify?


I have not tried Spotify myself, though I have been looking into podcast platforms for putting together longer-form audio dramas that can be told in seasons. However, I do have some friends who run the Homebrew Shomebrew podcast, which is all about tabletop gaming, and they were good enough to answer a lot of my questions, and give me some insight into what they've had to deal with.

Also, listen to them if you haven't yet!

What sort of challenges are we looking at?

Now, Spotify is not the only podcast/audio drama platform out there. It is, however, the biggest one overall. But you could use websites like Anchor to help distribute and figure out your show so that it's as easy to find as possible. Of the three platforms mentioned here, Spotify has the lowest barriers to entry, especially for folks who want to make audio dramas instead of videos (though you can also upload videos to many platforms covered by Anchor as a feature, in case you had video content made and wanted to keep that as an option). Best of all, though, Spotify doesn't have the monetization requirement the previous two platforms have. So as soon as your episodes go up, bam, it's counting your views and calculating what you'll be paid.

How much you'll be paid might vary, but you don't need an audience of a specific size, or a certain number of streams, before Spotify starts calculating your earnings.

All Right, So How Much Traffic Does It Take?


And now we get to the depressing part. Because being an artist under late-stage capitalism basically means you need rock star numbers just to make poverty wages. This is true for all three of these platforms.

All right... what numbers do we need to get this injection?

I covered this back in Direct Donations Really Are The Best Way To Help Creators You Love, but since a lot of folks haven't read that blog entry, here's the numbers (on average) you're earning when you're on these platforms:

- YouTube pays (roughly) $3-$5 per 1,000 views (when ads get seen, that is)
- Dailymotion varies wildly, my experience is something like .05-.10 per 1k views
- Spotify pays about .04 per 10 streams, or about $1 per 200 streams

Now, of the options presented here, Spotify is definitely coming out the winner in terms of user friendliness, platform size, and actually paying you what you're owed. While the exact rate will fluctuate (this is an average, after all), it's important to take a moment to consider what you're actually making at this rate.

Let's say that you get on Spotify, and you start cranking out material. Maybe you're writing a podcast to tell a longer, inter-connected story, or maybe you're just doing stand-alone audio dramas for people to listen to. Whatever your format of preference is, you're recruiting listeners, trying to get as many folks onboard as you can, and to keep your numbers up. Now we'll take it a step further, and say you have a relatively modest rent. $1,000 a month is not out of the question, especially if you're the breadwinner of your household. How many streams would you need to get just to pay your rent with your art?

250,000. Every month. You would get paid $1,000 for that.

Now, $1,000 a month sounds awesome... but could you pay all your bills for that? Buy food once bills were paid? Could you buy the equipment upgrades you'd need to keep the show going, or pay other voice actors to ensure your content was up-to-snuff going forward? Probably not.

The irony, of course, is that if you draw a quarter-million streams a month, you aren't depending on the payout from your traffic for your bills. If you have that kind of profile, your show will have sponsors. You'll have members of your audience donating to a Patreon, or buying you a Ko-Fi so you can keep the wheels turning. You'll have offers to open a merch store where folks can buy things to ensure your profits stay up, and you can cover your bills, and keep producing the content people like.

That's the Catch-22 of all of this. Because if you're a newer creator, you need that kind of time to build up your catalog, expand your audience, and so on. But you aren't earning any money while you do that. Whereas if you have the kind of traffic that's paying your bills, now you've got people lining up to pour icing on your already iced cake.

So if you have a creator you love, take a moment today to help them out. Trust me, they need all the help they can get.

If You'd Like To Start With Me...


For folks who've stumbled across this post, and would like to help me haul myself up a rung or two, here's a handy list of the places you can go where your efforts would be much appreciated!

The Azukail Games YouTube Channel (where I contribute video content)
My Daily Motion Channel (longer videos that won't show up on YouTube)

And if you happen to have some spare dosh lying around, consider become a Patreon patron, or leaving a tip by Buying Me a Ko-Fi!

Like, Follow, and Stay Tuned!

That's all for this week's Business of Writing!

If you'd like to see more of my work, take a look at my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife as well as my recent collection The Rejects!

If you'd like to help support my work, then consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page! Lastly, to keep up with my latest, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now on Pinterest as well!