Writer-Introvert Insecurity

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It is estimated that the owners of the blog Wait but Why earn up to $30 000 per month on Patreon. This, I think, answers the question in my blog post Attending the Birth of a Book from last week, Can one make money from blogging? My next question is, How do the owners of Wait but Why do that?

The answer is very simple: the writer of the blog put in the hours needed to create unique, high quality and well-researched blog posts, kept at it diligently, build up his following exponentially (186k followers on Twitter and 16k subscribers on YouTube) and monetised the blog cautiously. Wait by Why was founded by Tim Urban and Andrew Finn and has 371 000 subscribers. There is a very good article on Shopify that explains how the blog was monetised called “The Right Way to Monetise a Blog (With Lessons From Wait But Why.)”

In the not-so-good old days (for artists, in any case) if you wanted to make a living from your art, you needed a patron. Several famous artists, like Mozart, Beethoven, Michelangelo and William Shakespeare, had one or more devoted patrons who supported them financially and thus enabled them to create their masterpieces. Today, artists are still supported by patrons, but instead of one or two very wealthy patrons, artists can now have thousands of patrons who each donate a small amount per month. Wait but Why has more than 3600 patrons, some donating as little as $1 a month, others much more.

The platform that has made the support of singers, songwriters, screenwriters, filmmakers, writers, bloggers and painters possible, by anyone with an interest in their work, is called Patreon. At Patreon, artists share their work with their patrons, on a monthly basis and get paid, on a monthly basis. Patreon has over 1 Million patrons and 50,000 creators on its platform. It is estimated that Patreon paid their creators $150 Million In 2017. The 35 top creators on Patreon earned over $150,000 In 2016.

Does everyone on Patreon earn lots of money? Certainly not. Less than 2% of creators on Patreon earn the monthly (American) minimum wage. The creators who earn the most, are those who are willing to invest the time and energy needed to attract and keep patrons. So very few creators make a living on Patreon, but a huge number make a tidy sum that helps them make ends meet at the end of the month.

This is what I set out to do when I created The Friesian Fillies Fan Club on Patreon. I want to earn enough to provide for my horses – my horses supply the inspiration for my books and I cannot do my day job, host my Connect with Horses personal empowerment workshops, without them. A substantial number of writers, and a small number of bloggers, already earn a decent amount on Patreon every month, so I decided to give it a go as well. For me, it is another way of earning income from the books I write – in addition to the money I make by selling my books, Patreon enables me to make money by writing my books.

I do have a bit of a problem, though. One of my favourite authors, Brené Brown said, “The easiest way to think about vulnerability is the willingness to show up and be seen when you can’t control the outcome.” I spent nearly every waking hour (and some half-asleep) of the last week creating my page on Patreon and now that it is ready to launch, my “Margaretha Montagu is creating equine-inspired life-enriching Books“-page is making me feel vulnerable. Because it does mean putting myself and my work out there on a substantial scale, doesn’t it? My half-finished, yet-unpolished work (in as far as I ever manage to get it properly polished.) This is about more than my usual writer-introvert insecurity.

I think I have created a very good page, but when I look at some of the other writers’ and bloggers’ pages, I think, ‘This is so exceptionally good. The writing sparkles, the ideas are beyond innovative, the books already published of such incredible quality…Why am I even bothering to put a page up? Why would anyone want to support me when they can support these amazing writers?”

Is there any truth in what Neil Gaiman said? That “the one thing that you have that nobody else has, is you. Your voice, your story, your vision. So write…as only you can.” That I can do, but will anyone be interested enough in finding out how I write books to become my patron? Time will tell.

Next week, I will blog about the process of creating a page on Patreon (subscribe to my mailing list so that you will be notified of new blog posts and book giveaways.) In the meantime, you can have a look at the Friesian Fillies Fan Club on Patreon here: Margaretha Montagu is creating equine-inspired life-enriching Books.

Attending the Birth of a Book

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I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.
Neil Gaiman, author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman

This year, I have decided to practice what I preach and make a few changes. The last two years I have been immobilised by the frequent need for eye surgery. This year, even though there is more surgery in the pipeline, I intend to challenge myself to change myself and change my world. Starting with my writing. This year I want to write regularly again, both blog posts and books. I want to market my writing properly and earn some money from it. I am sure I will make several mistakes along the way (I am very good at that!) but I will no doubt learn a lot too that I can share here and in future books.

I have already learned quite a lot in January. One night, while I was fluttering from blog post to blog post online, as you do at three o’clock in the morning, I came across a website where enterprising bloggers publish blog posts, once or more a month, and get paid a monthly fee by people who want to read their posts.

My brain imploded. There are people out there who are willing to PAY to read blog posts – the very same blog posts hundreds of bloggers are turning out in their thousands every year, entirely free of change? What a discomfiting surprise! Especially at three o’clock in the morning, when you are awake because you are fretting about not earning enough to feed your hungry herd…

I know that several of the readers of my blog are bloggers too and that many of the 12 000 people who follow me on Twitter are writers – many just as keen to increase their income as I am, so I am going to share with you what I have discovered during the first month of the year. My first challenge of 2019.

About these blog posts. I wondered if the blog posts that people are willing to pay for are exactly the same as those that people like me publish four or more times per month, without ever charging a single penny per post? I shouldn’t think so. Reading a bit deeper, I discover that I am right, in part. You can make money sharing your blog posts on this website, but you have to produce high-quality, in-depth, well-researched blog posts, regularly. I also discover that not a lot of bloggers use this website yet, but a lot of writers do and at least 200 writers on this site earn more than $1000 per month at this website. Fancy that.

I am hooked, on the spot. I spend the next two hours discovering how writers earn money by sharing their work. It turns out that there are people who are actually interested in attending the birth of a book. They find the whole process fascinating. Really? I mean, REALLY? Writing a book is such a messy, tiresome and rambling business – in any case, it is when I write a book – I can just not imagine why anyone would want to be part of this process. Apparently, there are people out there who enjoy watching a book take shape and even assisting in its creation, offering advice in comments and making their opinions known in polls.

Well, I never.

Not quite sure how I feel about this. Do I really want to expose my worst writing weaknesses, my frequent indecision, my unquenchable self-doubt, my ever-worsening self-criticism and my numbing-but-luckily-intermittent writer’s block to the public at large? My reading public? Of course, I am interested in my readers’ opinions. I am after all writing for one reason and one reason only, to make a difference in as many peoples’ lives as possible…for the better. If they could tell me which of my strategies work for them and which of my strategies are entirely useless, as I am writing… that could indeed be incredibly useful.

The idea starts to grow on and in me.

I have 5 horses to feed, water and generally keep in the manner they consider appropriate to their exceptional talent, beauty and intelligence. $1000 per month will come in very handy. I have to admit that many of the strategies that go into my books, I developed from what I learned while facilitating equine-assisted experiential learning sessions during our Connect with Horses personal empowerment workshops. Without the horses, there would have been no books anyway. So I guess it is fitting that they get the lion’s share of whatever I earn by sharing what they taught me.

Should I give it a go? What do you think? I will be a fair amount of work, firstly to set it up and then to keep it going and there will be the ever-present fear of failure to contend with. I write every day in any case, though, because I am quite thoroughly convinced that I want to try and help people become more confident, communicate better, manage their emotions and handle stress better – and even though I feel somewhat intimidated to share my convoluted and confused writing process, if I don’t try, I’ll never know if I can actually make it work.

It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another.
But above all, try something.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, author of Looking Forward

Right, I’ll take this advice, so here goes. I am going to investigate this website and read up around it and then I will share with you what I found out. If it works for me, if I manage to increase my earnings using this website, I will let you know, fellow-writers and bloggers, so that you can use it too.

 

Writer’s life

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A writer’s life can be a challenging one. I think I shall have  to go on one of my own walking and wine tasting holidays once I have finished this book.

Honestly, is there anything more soul-destroying than editing? I HATE editing. Not even my fancy new toy – Scrivener – can make this more bearable. I LOVE Scrivener. Scrivener is absolutely brilliant. One of the novice writer’s best friends, especially if English is not the writer’s first (or second) language. I am still test driving it. The trial version is free for 30 days, but I already know I will lay down the $40 required per year so that I can continue to use it. One of the best writing tools ever developed, as far as I am concerned. It has a great spell-check and instant access to a wheelbarrow load of extra tools: a thesaurus and a quotes dictionary, to name a couple. The problem is, there is rather a lot more to editing than checking one’s spelling.

I started the editing process by doing a simple spell-check. It was humiliating but bearable. It was all for a good cause. I then decided to do a grammar check. Bad idea. Very BAD idea. I used Grammarly. Grammarly is not a very nice person. En fait, I think Grammarly hates me. Doesn’t matter, I hate Grammarly as much if not more than it hates me. It lights your grammar mistakes up in red. Bright red, traffic light red. Words that looked perfectly good before Grammarly now look like blood splotches all over the page. Sometimes even whole sentences go red. En plus, it keeps count of your transgressions. At the bottom of the page, there is a small red dot with the number of unforgivable mistakes on the page. 20, 25, 30… It sometimes suggests what you may do to rectify your mistakes, but not always. You know something is wrong, you just do not know what. Sometimes your husband, whose first language is English, does not know either. So neither of you know what to do to correct said “mistake”. I mean “mistakes”.

I had 42 500 words when I started editing. I edited the first chapter. Now I only have 41 700 words left. This is all Hemingway’s fault. Hemingway is a demon. This demon takes pleasure in torturing writers. You subject your text to Hemingway and your screen lights up like a Christmas tree. Yellow if the sentence is too long. Purple if there are simpler alternatives. Green if the passive voice creeps in. Didn’t even know what that was until I met Hemingway. Blue if there are too many adjectives. Some other colour when you use a cliché. I would like to know what is wrong with using the odd cliché. Honestly, I would.

Fine. You write your book with Scrivener, you edit with Grammarly and Hemmingway and you read it through about ten more times correcting mistakes as you go along. Because you keep finding mistakes, every single time you read it through.

If by some miracle, your book survives this process, if you have not shelved it yet, you find out that the next thing to do is to get a beta-reader. As opposed to an alpha reader, I asked? No, no, no…it means the book is not ready yet. It isn’t? No.

Right, so where does one find a beta reader? On Goodreads, apparently. Even though you have never heard of it, you go to the website and open an account. Five hours later you start wondering why you initially came to this website. Because this is a great place to get lost. It is all about books. Books you have read, books you would still like to read, books your friends have read. What you thought about the books that you have read and what your friends thought about the books they have read. There are groups that you can join, where writers are introduced to beta-readers (passive voice, you see?) Oh yes, that was it. There are different types of beta-readers. Sci-fi, romance, crime, paranormal, dystopian (what on earth is that?) and non-fiction beta-readers. Amazing.

Someone in one of these groups suggests that you use your author platform to find beta-readers. What author platform? What is an author platform? Turns out it is a collection of social media accounts. Your social media accounts. Your hundreds of followers on Pinterest, your thousands of followers on Facebook, your tens of thousands of followers on Twitter…your Amazon author page followers, your Nook (Barnes and Noble) author page followers…I can’t remember what the others were called. Also, your endless mailing list with subscribers from your author website…

STOP! There are no subscribers, no mailing list and absolutely no author website.

Once you have corrected the mistakes your beta-readers have pointed out, you need someone to proofread your book. You pay for this. You do? Oh yes, you go to Fiverr and you find yourself a proof-reader. When you have corrected the mistakes your proof-reader picks up, you send the book to an editor. You pay to have your book edited by a professional. You do? Oh yes, lots. And lots. Because your editor hates you too. You can choose a simple edit, a structural edit or a developing edit (or something like that). Obviously, you pay more the more editing you want. Assuming you are happy with the work your editor did, you only pay once. If not, you find another editor and pay again.

And let me tell you, even if you choose the simplest edit, the manuscript comes back with more red on it than black. So you thought you would write a book. By all means, do so. But be warned, the writing part is the easy part. The editing part is excruciatingly painful. I shall have to follow the advice in my book about confidence building if I am ever to pick myself up from the mud again.

You thought that was it? Silly you. After the formal editing, the book has to be read one more time to make sure no mistakes have slipped in during the editing. WHAT? How is that possible? Well, shit happens. Back to your list of proof-readers. And to Paypal, because it is always payment up front.

I am sure having a baby is easier.

Just so you know: It gave me enormous pleasure to write this blog post in such a way that it drove both Grammarly and Hemingway to hysterics. Small-minded pleasures are the BEST.

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