9 High Level Hacks to Preserve
Your Indie Revenue in
Our Current Hard Times
Indie published book sales are slumping right now, for everyone.
Even if COVID-19 isn’t completely in our rear-view mirrors, most of the world is moving out of the severe restrictions we’ve suffered through for two years. That relaxation coincided with the arrive of spring. Now it’s summer, and everyone who turned desperately to reading fiction in early 2020 is doing anything but reading.
The second half of 2022 and into early 2023 is likely to be ultra lean. Even if you haven’t felt the effects yet, don’t wait until your sales graphs slide downward to institute one or more of these smart moves to preserve your business.
Pick the degree to which you adopt them, for some of these are for very hard times.
Stash cash, as much as you can.
This is a basic, d’uh-level move, but you may not have thought of applying it to your business. Has your business got a savings account, along with its cheque account and credit card?
Start stashing cash into that savings account, even if it’s only a dollar here and there — although regular savings (even if it’s $5 a week) work faster to build your stash. There are a thousand sites, books and groups with advice on saving money. Translate the advice for your indie writing business and apply it.
Your stash becomes your emergency fund, your sick leave, and a life preserver in case times get really hard.
Don’t slash, *amputate* expenses.
Question every penny/euro/cent that leaves your bank account.
That means not just asking how you can reduce expenses, but what expenses you can get rid of altogether. No expense is beyond question. Book covers: Is there a cheaper way to have them made? A hungry new designer who gets your genre? Will your current designer cut their price if they get commissions in bulk? Can you get a discount if you bring new clients to them?
Frugality isn’t just for the homefront. Make every penny squeal. And of course, stash what you save.
Write and publish more, and shorter books.
If you’ve been writing 100,000 word tomes, drop your wordcount per book down to 80k. Or 60K. If you tell a good story, the readers won’t care that you tell it in fewer pages.
If you don’t want to write shorter novels, spread their releases out by a week or so extra and write a series of novelettes or novellas between novel releases.
This lets you produce more titles, more quickly. Every book launch generates sales for that book and for the rest in the series.
Do NOT experiment with your fiction.
Now is not the time to try that brand new sub-genre that looks promising. Nor is it the time to play with author voice, strange new concepts and structures, or a new series that takes a severe left turn from anything you’ve done before.
Write books your readers know and love. Comfort books, that they are more than happy to snap up. Remain an author they can count on.
Diversify your revenue streams.
While the fiction you produce should remain consistent, you should also find other writing streams. Non-fiction. Screenplays. Freelance content marketing. Copywriting. Ghostwriting. White papers. Also, non-writing gigs: Workshops, coaching, paid public speaking, editing and more.
In Becoming A Writer, Staying A Writer, J. Michael Straczynski spoke of the Three Legged Stool Theory, proposing that all writers need at least three streams of revenue and three streams of creative expression, at any one time, in order to survive. If a Hollywood success like Straczynski finds it necessary to diversify beyond screenwriting, it’s worth absorbing the lesson.
Think sideways. What writing or writing-related skill can you turn into another small income stream?
Mine your local literary community for cash.
Are you a member of a city, state, provincial or federal writing association? A genre-specific association? If you’ve been ignoring their newsletters and weekly bulletins, now’s the time to go through the back end, classifieds and display ads for each with a magnifying glass. Find the unexpected one-off gigs and money-making opportunities and follow up on them.
It is from your local writing associations where you can learn about Writer-in-Residence opportunities, plus local, state/provincial, county and federal writing grants. If you’ve avoided applying for these in the past because a) they’re too much fuss and b) they won’t give money to indie authors, now is the time to roll up your sleeves and make the effort.
Don’t self-edit. Assume your application is just as valid as the celebrated, award-winning poet who applies.
Plumb your government for non-writing grants.
Start with available small business loans and grants and go from there. Crawl through your various levels of governments’ websites, looking for funding you qualify for.
For example, a writer I know was given a generous grant to move to a small, rural community. The community wanted to attract self-employed professionals to the area, which came with a new broad-band internet complex. Her rent was subsidized for a year.
Another writer received funding to update her house, including a new furnace and ducting, and new energy-efficient windows and doors. The funding covered the installation and she enjoyed greatly reduced energy bills, afterwards.
Leave no stone unturned in your hunt for government and corporate assistance.
Experiment with pricing.
We’ve all got used to the average price for books in our genre(s), but there could be temporary adjustments to that average (and the adjustment is not necessarily downward).
Experiment with pricing, chat with other authors in your genre. Find out what price is moving books right now. Then stick with it until conditions change, or your research indicates it’s time to shift the price again.
Bring everything back to DIY.
This is the ultimate in tough times indie publishing.
Indie publishing was originally called self-publishing. Hew to that principal and do as much as you can yourself. Gently let go of contractors who have been editing your books, doing your marketing, corresponding with your readers, formatting your ebooks and print books, coordinating your street teams. Get rid of virtual assistants.
It’s possible you did everything yourself when you started out. You can do it again.
Or you can learn how to.
Even doing your own covers isn’t out of the question, here. Despite the oft-quoted advice to never do your own covers, if it comes down to a choice between paying for a cover and paying for groceries, I know which one I would pick.
How tough is your situation? Can you see your sales sliding week after week? Don’t wait until you’re broke to adopt some or all of these ideas.
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