*This appeared in a longer version at Patreon*
Let’s talk about how my writing hustle breaks down by readership, interest and earnings.
First a snapshot of my follow counts across various platforms.
WordPress as of the end of 2017:
My most read post was my where to read my work post. https://shannonsdreams.wordpress.com/where-to-read-my-work/
At the end of December, I had a total of, 498 reads views, 248 full reads (on Medium views means someone clicked reads mean they spent time and read the thing).
In general, my Medium nonfiction pieces get about a 20-30% read. My fiction or fiction related work on Medium is lucky to get 1-3 reads a month and zero interaction.
So being that I’ve used those the most in 2017 let’s talk about what it has shown me.
In trying to work out how to make my artistic life more sustainable, what to do with my Self Care Like a Boss concept and work and trying to yanno live, I’ve been keeping steady track of what works where, who reads what etc.
Now I am not fishing for compliments here so please don’t, this is what the data has shown me and reinforced over the years.
When I collect up the hard stats on what happens when I do stuff, a lot of the time it doesn’t look good. My fiction and Self-care stuff does terribly across all platforms. My poetry on occasion performs well at Ink Node. Overwhelmingly, when I publish or post work myself, the support of folks who have often asked for said work is nil. No retweets, no shares, no clicks, no reads.
I’ve tried a long list of methodologies and there’s the usual FB fuckery in terms of what shows up when but, there is legit a circle of about 20 or so people who click, read and/or share. The same group for years now and who have mainly been the ones to keep me from ragequitting.
The thing I spent most of 2017 trying to make sense of is this.
If a large number of folks tell me, HEY PLS YOUR WORK PLS MORE!! Or are gassing me up in public but, the actuality of numbers shows me the opposite, what do I do?
This has extended a bit to Patreon. When I was polling prospective Patrons or trying to rather, nobody really answered except to literally on my survey tell me to stop begging. The thing that was really fucking me up for a while was this huge discrepancy in what has been asked of me as a creator and what has been given to me.
For a lot of 2017, this discrepancy left me feeling both used and unseen. This doesn’t even touch the free labor I’ve been asked for in terms of things like FB arguments, random dm’s from white folks demanding I teach them how not to be so racist etc. This feeling comes from my own community at large.
I had to learn to accept a few things.
First thing is that this is a real thing. Years of analytics from way back when I was a semi-popular fat blogger and got a book deal dangled in front of me to the occasional agent related hey I like your work –but- notes from social media etc to these days when I’m sort of methodically shotgunning what I do with work I don’t necessarily believe will sell that, I’m just not gonna be the one if I put it out myself.
After feeling shitty about it, let down and just uh, wrong as in the wrong sort of Black person I decided fuck it. However, as fuck it as I feel sometimes, it still gets me down.
I think for the work I in particular do, this is just going to be a thing.
I’ve accepted that in this particular timeline, my most idealized dreams about what I do with my writing will likely not wind up being sustainable. The biggest component I need for that to happen just is not there for me at all. At least not on the level I need in order to be both sustainable and be able to spend the time, spoons and money on stuff.
So here in 2018 I’m spreading my hustle a bit.
The big thing is I decided not to go ahead with my plans for Self-Care Like a Boss. The main reason is that the level of work it would take for me to get it all the way I want it, and the cost of hosting and paying folks for guest blog posts (another thing we’ll get to why I don’t do so much anymore) was just too much for me to foot the bill.
That decision took months of crying, writing, cryng some more and a lot of bitterness because when I started publishing and talking about self-care, well people went fucking in on me. My first self-care book sold a good number of copies, I still have folks who talk to me about it. The second version wasn’t my best work and I failed at it and thus the book didn’t go well.
That said, when I got the blog going and other things and I wasn’t asking for money the support I was counting on, that I was told from various sources was just not there. Not for merch I designed, not for me presenting that work as an independent creator. Real talk, it was devastating and really made my vision for SCLAB (and the domain I bought) just unfeasible. It was a hard decision but, I had to make it.
Beyond the feasibility, the thing is this. I’ve had to not only acknowledge but embrace the fact that I do not possess the spoons to produce work on the scale that I used to. I have had to really take in and live with this. I may want to provide my community with ALL OF THE GOODNESS I have. But I can’t do that without support. Well let me put it this way, support that doesn’t evaporate when I ask for something.
In terms of production, I’m still doing okay. I write a LOT of shit that never sees the light of day because it sucks. As I mentioned in my blog, I have a roster/short list of editors I’m comfortable with and will be doing some more freelance work this year. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want to pitch/sell and what I want to put out myself.
Some of that work is going to be Old Queer Yelling at Clouds and I’ve accepted that. Some of it may earn me some coins behind the paywall at Medium and any coins are good coins. I am gonna write what the fuck I want to write regardless and I have to adjust my expectations of what that looks like for me.
This is where I want to talk very specifically about y’all.
[redacted Patron only section]
As bad as I want to be the high dollar mega super star, I want to write what the fuck I want to write.
I’m learning to work with my output. What’s amazing to me is that unlike in years past, my fiction writing is much slower and more deliberate. Less in the planning way and more in the, I have a goal with a story and am thinking carefully about how to get there way. My non-fiction is kinda flowing far easier. I’ve got subjects on deck to tackle that I’ve been afraid to previously.
2018 I am setting myself free artistically speaking.
I’m going to work the fuck out of my Weird Voice. I’m gonna write and make some ugly shit, some of it will shiny up nicely other stuff well….some stuff just gets put away.
I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to try out creatively and I’m going to because yanno, life is too goddamn short for me to be torturing myself because I fail at being a “successful” artist.
That’s how it is going down.