Still having trouble with staying focused. I feel like I’m not productive enough, almost daily. Things are getting done; the podcasts are all running on time, I’m doing two or more Art Walks/Fairs/Detours a month & I’ve painted a dozen new paintings since the first of the year. I’m even blogging semi-regularly, which you already know, reading this. But I could be doing more.
Yesterday I only did three or four hours of audio work, and even though I know I worked on other things, it feels like I didn’t get anything done, since it’s harder to tally the hours and to quantify what’s work and what isn’t. Does Twitter count? Reading publishing & other blogs? Blogging? It’s all part of connecting with people, with building an audience and building myself as a “brand” and educating myself about what’s going on, what’s working, and driving ideas forward. So in a way, yes. Then there’s the oft-repeated idea that everything an author does and experiences is a sort of reasearch for future books; this is somewhat true, but feels like a sort of excuse.
In addition to feeling that perhaps I’m not being productive enough, I also think a lot about my not being profitable enough. Even with the reduced up-front costs of doing business the way I am, not a single one of my books has even reached break-even, yet. The art, comparably, has been doing great – not bringing in enough to live on, but if not for the cost of going to Tools of Change in New York (ie: if not for a big, extra publishing expense), I’d already be profitable this year on art sales alone, with only bluer skies on the horizon. The margins on the art, even with prices basically cut in half & then frozen since 2004, are great – not just in money, but in time. It takes me hundreds of hours to produce a book, and somehow it’s harder to sell a copy of the book for $14 (or less) than it is to sell a painting (that took me less than 10 hours to create) for $150. Lately I’ve been creating a lot of “Mini Paintings”: 8×10″ for $20, 5×7″ for $15, and 4×4″ for $10, right now. Most of them are done in under 1 hour of work (though admittedly, some have taken up to 3), and they earn me as much as or more than a book does, usually without having to try to sell them at all.
Obviously, the art sales can only scale to the limits of my creativity & time to produce original works – I’m not sure what the upper limit is, but perhaps dozens a month. Certainly not hundreds. Whereas the book sales can scale without proportional extra work on my part – Lightning Source prints however many copies people order, whether it’s dozens a month or thousands. If/when I “hit it big” the books will quickly win in this regard. Not to mention I can sell a book more than once, and without doing prints (something I am currently opposed to), I can only sell an original work of art once. So it takes orders of magnitude more work to produce a book, but I can keep selling it over and over again forever, instead of just once.
If only my sales numbers were orders of magnitude better. Did I mention not a single one of my books has yet earned back the costs associated with its production, yet? That’s with $0 value associated with my time, no less. Which is to say: if I were more productive (of books), I’d perhaps only be digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole. Being more productive of art is good, but when I really need to figure out is how to be more productive of profitability. I need to produce more book sales. That’s a hard one. The podcasting thing is meant to be helping with that – it certainly puts my writing in front of a lot more minds than everything else I’ve been doing, even if it is for free, right now. Something approaching five hundred times as many people have downloaded Dragons’ Truth from Podiobooks.com than have purchased a copy of the paperback (not counting sales to family) – that’s a huge multiplier. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it hasn’t translated directly into interest in my other podiobooks or in sales of my paperbacks or eBooks. Gotta keep it up, though. Gotta keep working on it. Gotta get back to work, right now – I’m supposed to be editing together next week’s episodes of Forget What You Can’t Remember, right now. Gotta go.