Happy New Year!
Before you ask, no. It's not one of Bushyasta's dreaded slug minions. Don't worry. My keyboard won't melt away beneath acidic slime. I couldn't resist. The first thing I had to do was play with it. I intend to reveal the true nature of Bushyasta, eventually. This post isn't about that evil witch woman from the Netherworld, though. It's about a few truths I have pondered while on a winter break from the day job.
I love to write. That's not a secret. It's also no secret that my writing style is chaotic pantser. (I know. Random discovery writer is more politically correct, but the other is simply more cartoonishly amusing to me.) The characters are present on the stage in my mind when I write the scenes. I write the story the way they tell me to and spend far more time revising, editing, and filling in the details after the fact than I do actually writing the initial scene. I'm a storyteller, so I write in a storyteller style. Embellishment is part of the game. This always leads to trouble.
I currently have no less than 14 unfinished works in progress outside of the Draoithe Saga, which has several books left to be written. Truthfully, five of the 13 are in the Kings Wilde Miniseries and 4 are in the Mystic Dark Miniseries, and 2 are an Epilogue Duet. (One is in a world not set in the dream.) That technically means I'm often writing on 5+ open manuscripts at the same time.
Wow! That's the first time I ever laid it out like that. It's overwhelming. The chaos could be maddening. I love it!
So what's the problem? Why am I discussing a slowdown?
I have to work. There are golden handcuffs in spades, like health insurance, student loan forgiveness possibilities, and a reliable income, to name but a few. More on that next time. It sucks up my creative energy and my time to write and tell stories as well. I don't hate it. What I hate is it robs me of my ability to do what I would prefer to do. Much of what I learned in my day job inspired what I do with self-publishing. (To be clear, not the story content, but the processes surrounding the business side of things.)
I've tried finding a middle ground with only marginal success. I could choose a less demanding position for less pay, but it means I must wear the handcuffs forever. No can do, brother; no can do. So I'm forced to rethink how I spend my time and what I focus my energy on. If the day job is what it is, requiring what it does, what does that leave me with? Less time to focus on my stories. I have no choice. I must slow down once again.
I love my blog posts, but crafting them the way I want takes time. I prefer they have audio and video components. So they have to be reduced to one per month. I can't do them weekly anymore. I simply lack the ability, considering my work situation and my lack of excess funds.
They will still have the audio and video components, and they'll probably be a little longer. I'll attempt to post them on the first Saturday of the month. We'll see how it goes from there. Thanks to everyone who regularly tunes in to my crazy. Ophelia Kee Speaks isn't set in the Batcave, but I'm old enough to have watched those old Batman television shows with Adam West. 'same bat time; same bat channel'.
Social media takes up far too much of my time. Can you tell I spend time on Twitter? Can you also see it isn't doing what I need it to do? My current social media presence simply doesn't produce paid results. (Please see the image below for reference.) So I am slowing down another way by backing away from my social media. I won't quit the scene, but Twitter has to turn into a weekend-only gig.
This is not to imply I never sell books, or that Twitter doesn't help. I sell them on Amazon, D2D, Google, and Radish. It means I don't sell books on my site, and I don't know if Twitter impacts the other sales or not. So I need to change my social media presence for several reasons beyond my lack of time.
Royalty rates. With Amazon and Google, an author's royalty rate is 70%, and with D2D it's 60%. These places aren't charging unrealistic fees. They have a platform with known customer traffic. A 30/70 or 40/60 split has been the industry standard for a digital and/or a physical copy for years. So where's my issue?
The adspend required to get product views is where it starts. Organic traffic is almost nonexistent. So that means, out of my 60-70% earnings, I must deduct the money I spent on creating the books and then deduct again for what I spend on advertising. If I'm not making much money on the books because I'm not paying for advertising, it's easy to see how this becomes a vicious nightmare. Not having enough time and money to experiment with ads means I avoid paid advertising altogether. That means fewer people get to read my stories.
The exclusive versions, early-release versions, and discounted versions of my books are on Payhip. Readers pay less for stories in the dream if they choose to buy directly from me. I earn more with Payhip, even with discounts because I give up less than 10% of my royalties. I can offer exclusive digital products because Payhip doesn't charge additional fees for the size of the digital download.
Second, I don't know who the organic or paid traffic is. I'm super thankful to whoever has bought one-by-one, every single book in the main Draoithe Saga on Google Play over the last two months. Whoever they were, I was so stoked. (That's the hardest platform for me to sell books, even though I prefer to read on that platform of all the major ones.) I'm also super happy with my faithful readers on Radish who come back every day to get a new episode of the Draoithe Saga. To everyone who picks up any copy of my books on any platform: Thank you!
All of those book sales told me only 2 things about my readers. They enjoyed my stories, and they might have purchased more if I had more content published. But... Who are they? Can I reach out to them and thank them for purchasing my books? Not really. Can I offer them the next book for free? Can I provide a discount coupon for their next miniseries purchase? Or invite them to join my beta readers or my ARC team? No, no, and no! I add all the links in the back matter of my books with grand hope, but we all know that stuff is read as often as reviews are posted. (If you pick up one of the exclusive books on Payhip, check the front and back matter. I post links to video content there. I'm thinking of adding QR codes to the paperback copies.)
Maybe I'm old school, but I like the idea of quality customer service, building a relationship with my readers, learning what they enjoy about the tales, and hearing ideas for future stories. That's difficult to do when someone else has control over your customer's contact information. I don't need or want any credit card numbers, birthdates, social security numbers, or your mother's maiden name. Nor do I even want an address or phone number. I'm an indie author, not a stalker. What I would like to have is an email address, so I can unobtrusively say thank you directly and maybe start a good customer service provider relationship. That's hard to do outside of my site.
Storytelling is customer service. A book is a fancy little entertainment package created by a storyteller as a product designed to meet the needs of the customer. n my case, anyone over 18 who enjoys steamy paranormal romance tales. Books often come complete with shiny wrapping paper (book jackets and covers) and may come with stickers, art, and bookmarks (whether digital or analog). Some of them glow in the dark, talk, and even have moving parts and accessories. Authors ask for reviews the same way vendors ask for reviews.
Stories are also the oldest form of entertainment known to humanity. Entertainment is a service. Storytellers who rendered the service of entertainment predate the discovery of alcohol and the invention of writing. Whether they are told, read, or performed, people devour stories analogously to a toddler eating dessert. They prefer more and don't mind being messy with it. Storytellers were often revered or beloved. (Or maybe chased out of the village if they were telling taboo tales, only to be visited at night and in secret by those who wished to hear without being known.)
As a storyteller, who is also self-published, I have to make all the hard decisions about how to continue my endeavor. I promised to be open and honest about my author's walk when I began this journey in 2016. I won't lie and say I haven't been disappointed, but mostly I'm still feeling my way.
Shifting gears slightly in 2023, I'll continue that practice of truth-telling with Ophelia Kee Speaks. Even as I slow down, I want to alter my storytelling focus from written word media to a marginally greater extent in video media than I have in the past. Will I stop writing? Not happening. Video storytelling takes time, but I seem to have excellent results from shorts. My three-minute videos have amassed hundreds of views in a much shorter time frame than my books.
As an educator, I know people don't have time to always read epic novels. It's not that we have shorter attention spans or that we don't want to read (contrary to what my students say). Pressure from day-to-day life interferes with our consumption stories. When people have time, they enjoy long movies and good books. When they have less time, they still crave entertainment, but they need it in more manageable bite-sized pieces. I believe that's why podcasts and audiobooks are so popular. It's why TikTok videos, Reels, and YouTube Shorts get more views than television sitcoms. Episodic fiction sites like Radish, Wattpad, and Kindle Vella and nonfiction venues like Blogger, Medium, and BlogLovin cater to that same concept by providing written word entertainment in shorter, easier-to-consume packages.
As a writer, I may try Kindle Vella again in the future for a new series. For Draoithe, Radish is a better bet with Amazon's ridiculous exclusivity clauses at the moment.
Do I want to expand more of my stories into AI audiobooks? Yes, absolutely. Most are available on Fictionate.me as AI audio tales now. I'm working on adding them to Payhip as I complete my recordings. They will be the same price as the written books. Some of my free books have audio and video episodes included for each chapter in the e-book. I've even debated having my narrator speak with a British accent for a few of them.
I definitely want more video books. I'm learning how to craft each episode now. Please look for my video books in the future. TikTok and YouTube are going to play a big role in how that works. So if you haven't followed me or subscribed to my channel, head over and do that. If you haven't subscribed to my Newsletter to get all this craziness delivered to your email inbox, what are you waiting for? I promise. All the best coupon codes are in the newsletter. You can start reading in the dream on Payhip. You can save your hard earned money and help me earn mine.
Shameless Self Promotion: My books went on tour. It's crazy, but they started traveling with the help of AR Grosjean and the Indie Authors Book Tour. Please take a moment to visit and check out the books. It's a seriously impressive endeavor. I'm honored to be included.
When you read, no matter how or on what platform, please remember to leave those all-important reviews. I hope I didn't lose anyone as this turned into the longest explanation for the 2023 slowdown, but I hope I hit all the high notes concerning the why and how behind my plans for the upcoming year. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please reach out. I love to be bothered.
Happy Reading in the New Year!
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