You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both.
For the past two and a half years, I’ve been joking that I haven’t seen my comfort zone since late 2017.
It’s not actually a joke, of course. I have been pushing myself beyond what I thought myself capable of and I’m not even close to being done.
During the last eighteen months alone, I quit my teaching job to start editing and coaching full time, I moved to Cyprus, I published my first co-written lesbian romance, I published my first and many other nonfiction books, and that’s just the business and writing part of my life.
Of course, these were all calculated risks, and some were bigger than others. You really don’t have to jump without a safety net. Falling flat on your face and bruising your ego is embarrassing enough as it is. Besides, there’s no guarantee a crazy leap will bring in a bigger reward. It might, but it might also end in a trip to the ER.
Small risks are still risks
I haven’t been feeling all that courageous lately. Perhaps it’s the pandemic happening, or because I—on some level—secretly do believe that I never actually risk anything. Not really. Because I always have that safety net, that plan B when all goes to hell.
But does that diminish all the risks I do take? Because that’s what I’ve been realising over the past month or so: I consistently take small risks. Once I’m comfortable with something, I’ll push myself out of that newly created comfort zone and tackle the next thing.
I’m that curious a creature. I love experimenting, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Oh, this is working for this author? Great! Let me try that for myself and see what happens.
When curiosity meets fear
Being curious by nature helps with the risk taking, but I’m equal amounts curious to figuring out how to do it right as I’m afraid of doing the wrong thing, especially when it comes to money. Some days, I’m more curious than afraid, but I’m often much more terrified than I’m curious.
It’s another thing I’ve been realising lately: one of the things stopping me from following my curiosity is the fear of losing money.
When I say ‘losing’ money, I’m not just talking about actually wasting money on something, but also about ‘losing out’ on money. What if the decisions I make diminish my income instead of increasing it? What if I’m actively hurting my chances?
I have quite a few issues around money—I’m not alone in that—and it doesn’t help that there’s so much advice out there on what you should or shouldn’t do when it comes to writing, publishing, and marketing.
Of course, that each bit of advice depends on so many variables and can be utterly contradictory isn’t all that helpful either. There are so many options out there that the only way to truly know what applies to your situation is to test it for yourself, which comes with the risk of…losing (out on) money. And perhaps even embarrassment that you didn’t get it right, while others seem to succeed doing the same thing.
Lucky for me, fear doesn’t paralyse me entirely. It slows me down, until I get really tired of myself and just do it. Which is how I finally got to the point that I was willing to risk pulling my books out of Amazon’s KDP Select and publish them more widely.
That I’d received some comments here and there about my books not being available in a different format or through my own website right when I was about to remove my first book from KDP Select gave me that encouraging nudge that it was time and that I was doing the right thing, no matter how scary it felt.
Amazon’s KDP Select
My initial strategy for publishing was to enrol each and every book in Amazon’s KDP Select immediately. For those who don’t know what that means: when a book is enrolled in KDP Select, it becomes available to anyone who has Kindle Unlimited. When people read your work, you make money per page read.
KDP Select pros
Enrolling in KDP Select can be an exceptionally useful strategy especially when you’re still unknown. Since KU users can read your books for ‘free’, they’ll be more inclined to give it a go, even if your name doesn’t mean anything to them or when you don’t have (m)any reviews yet.
My co-written romance is in KDP Select and when I started publishing nonfiction books, I decided to enrol those as well, just to see what would happen. Even my 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner is in KDP Select right now (until tomorrow, when the enrolment period ends).
KDP Select cons
The downside to being in KDP Select is that you can’t offer digital copies of your book outside of Amazon. A lot of people use Amazon, but because of the way my books are formatted, they aren’t available to all Kindle devices. But, because they are in KDP Select, I’m not allowed to send someone a different kind of file, like a PDF.
I always knew enrolling my nonfiction books in KDP Select was going to be a test, and that I would pull them out eventually to test what ‘going wide’ would do. Even though it had always been part of the plan, it didn’t make it less scary when I finally committed to making the shift.
First of all, I was scared to piss of some KU readers. Secondly, I knew trying to sell my books directly meant I was going to find out whether or not I had enough of a name ‘out there’ yet to drive people to my website. Add my technophobia to the mix, and I’m sure you can imagine how terrified I was to actually take that step.
Selling direct with Payhip
Once I decided on taking that step, it didn’t take me long to decide which company to use to sell my books directly. First, I checked what Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn is using nowadays—she does her research!—and then I read an older blog post by her about the topic. When I was looking for the link, it turned out she has just published a new post on it. (This is why I trust her; she’s on it!)
I won’t go into detail about it here since she does, but when reading that older blog post and checking out the Payhip website, I really liked what I saw so I decided to try it for myself as well.
Of course, something went wrong when trying to install the Buy Direct buttons on my website, and I was this close to calling it a sign from the Universe that I. WAS. NOT. READY. FOR. THIS when Payhip’s excellent customer support pulled me through. Oh, the anxiety. It might not be real, but it sure feels real.
Unforeseen pros of going wide
Because KDP Select works with 90-day enrolment periods, I’m still pulling books out of there (two more days!). Even so, I’ve started seeing some unforeseen benefits.
Getting out of KDP Select = more sales
Because most of my books are tiny, I only make about €0.15 when they are read in Kindle Unlimited. It’s one of the reasons I felt I could take the risk of losing some KU readers. However, I never thought getting out of KDP Select would make my Amazon sales go up. This month, I almost tripled the amount I’ve gotten used to since I published 52 Weeks of Writing last December.
I simply expected those who have Kindle Unlimited to no longer be interested in my books—which is another reason why I felt uncomfortable leaving KDP Select behind—but it looks like some of them are simply buying the books now instead of downloading them.
Going with Payhip = finally finding a solution for that nagging problem
Being aware of my own technophobia and how it clashes with me wanting to move forward, a strategy I recently adopted is: read the FAQ and watch the available videos before you even create an account.
I did that before I moved from Mailchimp to Mailerlite and it gave me some wonderful ideas. I also read Payhip’s FAQ—which they call their Creator Handbook—before getting started and it ended up solving an issue I had given up on aeons ago.
Aside from my fiction and nonfiction, I’ve also co-edited two anthologies in the My Voice, My Story series. Because of the nature of these anthologies, I wanted them to be available for free. However, them being available for free obviously meant we weren’t making any money we could then invest in a next anthology.
It was a conundrum I just gave up on at some point. I didn’t want anyone who couldn’t pay for it to not have access to these stories and I kind of accepted that this could I wouldn’t be publishing any other anthologies because of lack of resources and time.
Without me looking for one, Payhip provided me with the solution in their Creator Handbook: they have a ‘Pay what you want’ option. I could simply set the minimum to €0.00 and then let the buyer decide whether they wanted to add something to that.
I know it isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but just the other week, someone bought one of the anthologies for €5.00. It really made my day and I wouldn’t have found this solution if I hadn’t pushed myself to find a way to start selling directly. If I hadn’t taken that scary step.
To be continued
At this point, I’ve hardly sold anything directly. Most of my books haven’t even been on there for a month and I also haven’t tried to spread the word much yet. I did create a coupon code—Payhip has great options and ideas for those—to lure people to my website and ease them into buying directly from me 😉 To get 50% off any book, just use the code SUPPORTTHEARTIST before the end of June.
Truthfully, I don’t think I’m visible enough yet to make a lot of direct sells, but going wide already gave me more than I expected. I mean, even though I haven’t made many direct sales yet, just getting out of KDP Selects has improved my sales. Besides, I had to start somewhere and I’m already planning my next move, before I’m feeling too comfortable.
In the meantime, I’ll be celebrating every direct sale like the victory it is and remind myself of just how courageous I actually am.