Still Slow…but continuing.

This is an update to my October 2022 post, “Slowing…But Not Stopping.” In that post I summarized all the health issues I had suffered through in 2022 (a lot) and their root cause, a rare form of cancer.

In that post I also warned you that my post schedule on PIFW would quite likely slow down somewhat.

Which it did.

We’re seven months on from that post. In that time, I’ve gone through a second emergency spine/neck operation, when the incision from the first operation became infected, six weeks of IV antibiotic infusion, four rounds of chemo (each four weeks long), and a stem cell transplant procedure that has completely laid me flat.

I returned home from the transplant in early May, after four weeks in hospital dealing with the fallout from the high-dose chemotherapy that is at the heart of the procedure. I have the energy of a sloth in winter, and I currently spend my days on my recliner, the laptop on my knees, trying to keep up with business demands. Occasionally, I go for a walk. I cannot yet circle the block, but each day I stretch my walk a few feet farther than the day before.

Writing fresh manuscript virtually stopped during this time. But I have kept up just enough marketing to keep sales from plunging below the poverty level.

The slow pace of fresh posts is likely to continue for a while here on the Productive Indie.

Do you know what your baseline level of activity is?

When you halt all marketing and author activity, including new releases, your sales will sink to a level where the graphline will smooth out and maintain itself, or very slowly diminish. It’s the level I think of as the baseline “natural” sales.

Could your business survive if you had only that level of sales coming in? Do you know what that level of sales is? Hint: It changes from year to year depending on how long your backlist is, and how pervasive your author platform is.

What level of activities (marketing, new releases, platform maintenance) would have to be maintained to bring that baseline of sales up to something you could survive on? I’m referring to bare bones minimum, here. If you pay all your bills with your writing income, for example, how little would you need to do to continue to pay them?

Authors with a long backlist and a robust platform will need to do less than newer authors. Newer authors will flatline with less natural sales.

Unfortunately, the only way to find out for sure what that baseline is, is to stop marketing, putting out new releases and any platform activity, and watch how far your sales sink. It takes a month or two for them to descend to their natural level. Therefore, I don’t recommend trying to figure out your native sales this way, even though it’s the most accurate measure.

Instead, take an educated guess. Most authors have an good gut feeling for where natural sales would sink to if they were unable to work on their businesses. Think about the history of your business. Was there ever a time when you had a large gap between releases? A time when you didn’t or couldn’t market your work? A time when you concentrated on writing and ignored all marketing and platform work?

How did your sales perform during those periods?

Do you have a longer backlist now? Would natural, organic sales settle a little higher now?

Once you have what you think is your best guess for what your organic sales levels are, you can determine if that is a level you could survive at, or if you would need to kick it up a notch with marketing/platform work to get it to that level.

Why Do You Need to Know This Depressing Figure?

We’re authors. Our business won’t work if we don’t. We can’t call in temps from an agency to take over the writing for a while. Even for the admin and production side of our business, the most skilled temporary workers can’t step in at a moment’s notice and run things. They would need training and direction and careful supervision.

We’re the creatives at the core of our business and can’t be replaced.

But we can be knocked out of commission, for a while, or for a very long while. I’m a walking example of this.

One thing I’ve learned about a cancer diagnosis is that it stops you from thinking you’re immortal, that the bad stuff that happens to other people won’t happen to you. This is a universal delusion that lets us move through our days instead of curling up in a dark corner over the existential bleakness. But it also stops us from planning for disasters.

Disasters happen quickly and without warning. Even the warning signs of a life-threatening disease we tend to ignore because it’s too scary to contemplate reality…until the diagnosis is confirmed, and we’re suddenly in the thick of dealing with a radically altered life, or avoiding death in any way we can.

Knowing the bare minimum work needed to keep your writing business viable while you deal with a disaster will give you a degree of comfort and security. Putting some preparations in place to actually have that work done while you’re out of commission will bring you even greater peace of mind.

Even if you just think about how you might cope if a disaster struck, this will help you deal with an unexpected crisis when it does hit.

And, alas, the chances of a crisis of some sort or another hitting your business and your life will rise the longer you’re in business. There are lucky authors who sail through decades of steady writing with nary a health issue or disaster to sideswipe them. Of course there are. But no one knows who those authors will be…not until we all reach the end of our careers.

A little thought, a little planning, now while you have the time and capacity to contemplate the idea in theory, will save you agony and heartache (and a great deal more added stress) if disaster does strike.

Write More, Faster Than Ever Before

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