Monday, July 29, 2013

Outlining the next chapter of my life

Last weekend I attended BlogHer'13, which is the largest blogger conference in the country, and my brain was filled to overflowing with an abundance of information about how to navigate the next chapter of my life. It occurred to me during Guy Kawasaki's keynote that I have been working with an outdated paradigm. In fact, I feel like quite the dinosaur, but unlike the dinosaurs, I'm planning to adapt to the new landscape and thrive.

I am probably not the only writer who has been walking around thinking that the big goal of having a blog was to get a book contract. I started blogging in 2006 at Antiquity Oaks, talking about my day-to-day life on the farm growing our own food, and I assumed that once I got a book contract, I would then be able to make money writing. Well, my third book comes out this fall, and I'm still not making money. Yes, I get an advance and royalties off the book sales, but following the advice of many authors who have gone before me, I've been spending the advance to supplement my publisher's efforts to promote my books, hoping that it would increase sales and I would ultimately make a profit. That hasn't really happened. And it doesn't happen for most authors, so I'm not alone. And even if I had not spent my advance on publicity, I still would not have made enough to live on.

But there are a lot of writers who are making money today, and they're doing it through their blogs. They are creating their own little mini media companies, and some of them have grown far beyond the "mini" stage and become small businesses with employees and other team members. It was rather depressing to meet people who started blogs far more recently than 2006 and are making a very good living from the business that they've developed.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to share with you the notes I took at BlogHer'13 as I outline the next chapter of my life.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The next chapter

This week I'm at the BlogHer '13 Conference, being held in Chicago this year, which is practically in my backyard. No, I'm not speaking at this conference. I'm here to learn, and being close to home is really important to me because that reduces the costs considerably ... and that brings me to my next goal.

After writing three books that were published by a traditional publisher, I am pretty much "over" the thrill of being published, and the goal for the next chapter of my life is to actually make money. I am not talking about being greedy or getting rich here. I am simply talking about making as much money as someone who works at the local discount store or fast food restaurant, so that if my husband were to die tomorrow, I wouldn't get evicted from our home after the life insurance runs out. If you think that authors are all rolling in buckets of money, check out my previous post on that topic.

It is a sad fact of life that the digital revolution has made information easier to access and cheaper than ever before. There are a gazillion writers out there willing to write for free or next to nothing, which has driven down book royalties, advances, and payment for magazine articles. In fact, hundreds of magazines have gone belly up over the past few years because of dwindling subscriptions and advertising dollars. And most magazines don't pay a penny more today than they did twenty years ago.

So, what does this have to do with the BlogHer conference? Bloggers with good business sense can make money. I've often lamented the fact that I am a terrible business person, but I really need to get past that. My son recently suggested that I read Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, and although it might seem like the perfect book for young women -- and it is! -- it is also a great book for women whose children are growing up and leaving home. Right off the bat she got me thinking ... "What would you do if you were not afraid?"

My answer ... I would charge more for my writing and speaking. (And in many cases, "more" simply means "something" as I often speak or write for free.)

And you have no idea how hard it was for me to admit that! Why? Because I'm afraid that if I ask for fair compensation, people will think that I'm greedy or unworthy and they won't like me. This is a common problem that women have, according to the legions of research quoted in Sheryl's book, so I am not alone. And this is one reason that women make less money than men almost a century after we got the right to vote. We have less confidence, and we simply don't ask for more!

So, in the next chapter of my life, I want to be a big girl and start earning a living myself. I feel that I have been truly blessed to have a husband who earned enough money that I could stay home with our children when they were young, but they're all grown up and gone now.

It's time to stop being afraid ... and turn the page to discover the next chapter of my life.