I wear more than one hat. In addition to being The Whine Seller and daily conquering all things ecommerce, I’m also a fiction writer and playwright. While this creativity and commerce go hand in hand in many ways, they’re like completely different worlds in others. But while I’ve gotten pretty good at making the mental switch between the two halves of my career over the years, there’s always been one thing I struggled with: priority and profit.
See, if I take an hour and list some items on eBay, that’s guaranteed income. But if I spend that same hour working on a novel or play, that’s a gamble. Because while I could, in theory, sell that fiction and earn income from it, it’s nowhere near the sure thing like the e-commerce stuff is. Even my selling related writing has always been the more obvious choice because my non-fiction books outsold my fiction ones and this blog got more traffic. While I’ve always devoted time to my fiction regardless, it’s much harder to justify that as a good use of my time because if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense… right?
But something has changed. Last year, my income from just the fiction of mine that I retain the rights to between performance royalties (for plays) and books sales (so, not including my 3 traditionally published plays, one of which is a bestseller while another is climbing the charts) was greater my entire income from selling. When you figure in the income from the publisher, the difference is even more striking.
This was the first year that I sold more writing than I did physical items on sites like eBay and Amazon. Suddenly, fiction is a big fat chunk of my income. It’s kind of weird.
There’s a few factors at play, of course. Part of it is that it’s much harder for me to list items like collectibles for sale because of various parenting reasons we’ll get into later so I listed much less for sale last year than I have in the past. Our publishing arm also didn’t have a new book out this year as we did most past years. Last year was also the first year that my writing blog had as much traffic as The Whine Seller and, while there’s any number of reasons for that, it reflects two shifts: traffic is decreasing here a bit but increasing exponentially more over there. Nothing happens in a vacuum, obviously, and this big change is a result of many small things. But, even taking those factors into consideration, there’s no denying there’s been a profit shift beyond them.
It all comes down to one thing: There’s a demand for my fiction now that either there wasn’t before or I wasn’t tapping into it correctly and, while fiction is never really a sure thing, it’s no longer this exercise in futility it felt like it was in the past. I have people who want to perform my new play before I’ve even finished it and that’s absolutely changed how I work.
Suddenly, when I sit down for that hour of work, the choice isn’t as clear. An hour of items listed is still guaranteed income but it’s one-time profit and I’d have to list more to make more. But if I use that same hour to write a play, it will go on earning books sales and performance royalties in the background not only while I work on the next one and FOR THE ENTIRE REST OF MY LIFE, resulting in far more profit over a lifetime than I could possibly earn with item sales alone.
Weirdly, I find myself in a position my past self would have found impossible: It’s more worth my time to work on a weird fairy tale play than something like my next eBay Marketing book. In the big picture, writing something like a novel may have a greater return than getting set up on that new e-commerce platform. It’s a considerable shift but absolutely not a bad one!
What does this mean for you, gentle reader? It means all my upcoming ecommerce books are on hold for a little while as I work on other things because I’ve got to take advantage of this upswing in fiction and build on it. But, rest assured, that I’m not going anywhere. I’m still selling, still marketing every single day even if I don’t have as much time to blog about it as I used to. If anything, these findings are driving me to rethink my selling and this blog to figure out how to better monetize it and make selling more efficient and I’ll share my finds with you every step of the way.
But, most of all, I wanted you to know what was happening behind the scenes and why I’ve shifted my focus a bit. The only constant in business is change and we’ve all got to adapt our selling as changes come in and I’m just trying to ride the winds of profit like any of us. 2015 was a weird year but still a great one and I’m looking forward to seeing where the journey leads in 2016.