One of my complaints as a writer is the need to find ways to get more content to my readers. Being a writer is about so much more than stringing words together to create sentences that fill books. Every month, my writing mentor picks a new topic to nag me on and as June began it was that I wasn’t effectively using my blog, social media, or the internet as a whole. He started this discussion by sending me a link to a writer’s webpage… not the landing page the extra “paid content” page with a single sentence “You don’t do this because you don’t produce extra content beyond your books as a writer?”
A lively and mildly aggravating discussion ensued and after a flurry of exchanges he brought a second author into the discussion… one that has a “paid content” section on their webpage. The other author offers short stories, character sketches, deleted scenes from published books, and preview chapters of novels available for preorder.
I should explain my mentor’s philosophy about writing as a “paying profession” because it explains why he sent me this idea. In his opinion, if you are making the average for a writer or below (which in the US is $31,000 a year), there’s a cause and either it’s because you aren’t very good at it or because you aren’t selling your self correctly. And he surprisingly encourages a bit of mercenarism: we write because we can’t imagine not writing, but it’s easier to write when you don’t have a soul crushing day job in a cube farm and you’ve managed to pay the electric bill.
Having said that, he’s never told me I’m a good writer. He tells me I “have potential, but fail to fully develop plots to their logical conclusion, while essays and character creation” are my strongest writing skills. He’s not entirely wrong and I know it, which is why I have started a journey of improvement by taking some creative writing classes.
However, I am less comfortable in the every day prostitution of my writing which is why he sends me things like this. But his sarcasm needled me, as I’m sure he knew it would. Because we have discussed my writing routines/habits and he is aware that I like most authors generate more than just books. Even on shitty days, I try to force myself to write either a blog post or a short story. And when I have writer’s block, I generate character sketches which often include a short story or two to establish the character in my own mind. Often, I delete all this stuff after it sits in the “Extra Junk I’ve Written” folder for a few months.
And this is where his ideas and my ideas differ. He sees that folder full of “Extra Junk I’ve Written” as profitable content just lacking distribution channels and I see it as extraneous stuff; it isn’t “reader material” it’s “writer material”. But he says readers want to see the “materials generated by writers in the creation of their favorite characters or plot lines or settings or whatever” and we as writer’s should be fulfilling that “behind the scenes peek readers crave” and if we can make a few bucks off it, that’s even better because then we can pay the electric bill for another month and create more of it as well as creating books for them to read.”
I admit, sometimes I see his point. I would love to know Stephen King’s thought process while creating Holly Gibney who is by far my favorite King character ever and maybe get my question answered “Is she tapped into the Akashic Record?” Also, it is a lot easier to write books in my office with the lights on than in a coffee shop because my electricity has been turned off.
Furthermore, I do pay a monthly fee for “paid content” from two authors and I do enjoy it. Both use a subscription set up for their “extra content” and my $5 a month to each gets me character sketches, deleted scenes from books, plot outlines, early release chapters of books, and one has original artwork for her books that she creates, and once in a while one will send out a short story related to a character or book that’s about to release and allows me access to all previous “paid content” on the site that went up before my subscription began.
But is it for me? I hate creating and maintaining web pages and I sometimes wonder if I’m not just randomly creating more work for myself in general. Of course, when I asked the important question of my mentor “is it for me?” He replied with “why not? You are a writer, there is no shame in charging for content, if people don’t want to read it, they don’t have to pay for it, but for those that would love to read it, they should want to pay you for all the soul and energy you pour into it. High quality extra content from a writer for less than a Quarter Pounder meal, it’s a steal. Imagine if we’d had this kind of opportunity in the 1980s and 1990s.” And later I got a short video on how to do a subscription service for “paid content” through WordPress from a different author he had contacted about it.
I’m still not convinced it’s for me. I do like putting out extra content and having more stuff beyond a “simple book” for my readers; but should they pay for it? I mean many of you have already pledged your $4.99 to me in July for Dysfunctional Dreams and before the end of the year you’ll have paid me for Anonymous Dreams, The Dysfunctional Expansion, Buried Dreams, Avenging Reality, and Nephilim Narrative 3 – depending on which of my books you read.
PS: After a conference call with an author that does pay per download for “paid content” a subscription seems like the better option for both author and reader. That author admitted they feel “pressured” to create extra content now, something they hadn’t been in the habit of doing before and sometimes they struggle to find ideas for it which is why they choose the pay per download instead of the subscription.
Unfortunately, it’s only June 13th which means I probably have another fifteen or so days of nagging on this subject.