Following Your Bliss…into Debt…and Recovering with a Muse
Photo from Summer 2007 when Spilled Candy Books had 30+ books in print, 15+ authors, before downsizing through a difficult family crisis immediately followed by hurtful allegations that were proven untrue.
There’s a saying—a wonderful ideal—that if you follow your bliss, you can make a ton of money. There’s truth in that, but…not always. It assumes certain things about the market and how your bliss fits in with the rest of the world. Being “a little left of center,” I have followed my bliss to several cliffs where I was completely alone in the windy dark and there was no one to buy what I could lovingly produce…or where the audience sort of…lunged… over the cliff after other things and into places I would not go.
On a recent date with, we talked about a business he once lost, something he still strongly laments because he conducted it with a high degree of integrity and absolutely loved what he was doing. The problem wasn’t with his product or the service he provided but with the market itself. When the market dried up, so did the income, and he was forced to leave behind a dream. At least for now. It’s one he looks forward to trying again in a different form, and I applaud him for his ideals.
On a recent date with, he delighted in telling me about his many business successes, all of which meant choices I didn’t make. The focus was on making money—lots of it—and he did. He could fly me to anywhere in the world, tomorrow, on his private jet or we could take his yacht. (Yawn.) I could never do the things he’s done to make money, and I felt little to no connection with him.
I’ve made choices about where and how I spend my time and doing what I love to do, especially writing and publishing books on certain subjects. Yet, after 13 years of doing it in my evenings and weekends, I still do not earn a living from what I most love to write. I depend on other sources of income, which allow me to pursue my writing and publishing while still feeding my children. Though I’ve followed my bliss, I’ve always known that the market I favored was a poorly paying one, if it paid at all. I’ve spent most of my efforts on writers (starving artists) and pagans (who often believe that knowledge and teaching should be free so they shouldn’t have to pay for the books, yet can’t understand why their favorite authors stop writing and start working at Starbucks). The answer to fans’ questions about why certain authors no longer publish or why certain pagan publishers closed their doors is very often that there was simply not enough financial support to allow them to both write and eat. Sad, but true, but just because these are the audiences for what I enjoy writing and teaching doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing/publishing/teaching for them. I break even, but so few people actually buy books on any topic these days that many authors and publishers are finally giving up for economic reasons.
To be honest, since the big scandal a year ago hurt my book sales so incredibly (“innocent until proven guilty” is not a staple of MySpace drama and other internet forums), there was no way to undo all the damage and few people ever go back to find out if someone’s been proven not guilty. Spilled Candy continues to publish spiritual books for a niche audience, but putting all my publishing eggs in one basket, primarily the basket of the pagan community, was a decision of the heart, not the wallet. It was what I loved to do and will continue to do, only now I’ve directed my attention toward a slightly different audience, more of the Spiritual Eclectic than the pagan path because for the most part, as a result of last year’s rumors and mud-slinging, I don’t feel I can count on the pagan community to stand behind me. They’re human, yes, but I can still smell the smoke in my clothes from that witch-burning. But it’s for a reason, of course, and that’s been to expand into other places I never would have gone before and be forced to accept gifts I never would have until now.
So I’ve been testing and playing with this idea of “follow your bliss.” I decided to take Tim Ferriss’ advice in The Four-Hour Work Week and find a “muse,” an income-producing project you can put on auto-pilot while you go do the things you want to do, which for me would include writing whatever I want without worrying about the market’s wild fluctuations. If I didn’t have to worry about income, I’d happily give away my spiritual books and suspense novels, but I need a muse or two to subsidize my writing, travel, learning, and playing. I’ve never cared to be the richest woman in the world–I just want enough money to have the freedom to do what I love.
I decided to test a particular publishing project outside of the spiritual realm. It’s not listed here and isn’t under my name. You’d have to dig to connect the project to me, actually. No huge investments of my time or resources, and I can put it out there and forget about it. It is for a target market different from my usual money-poor audiences but I selected these readers because they were wealthy and because they would buy books on a subject and not resell them or donate them. I didn’t write the project myself, so my emotions are not as tied up with it as when I am the author, editor, or publisher. I can view it not as a book but like…soap. It’s a product. That’s something I could never do for my own work or for my royalty-paid authors. I’m emotionally invested because I think of them as family and their books as our babies.
Here’s where things get interesting: I hired the project out as a work-for-hire and have spent $400 on it—and maybe 10 hours’ time with a quick edit and setting up the project for distribution. I have made it available in only a very limited format thus far and I have done absolutely NO advertising or marketing for it as of yet (busy with family right now). I have not yet set up a website for the product. I have not done a press release for it. I have not told any of my fans about it. The audience loves it and there have been zero complaints, no requests for freebies, or any time-sucking issues. It is a no-brainer—and it is outselling my spiritual books 10 to 1.
Though I like the term muse, this is a gift. I’ll invest a little time into several more of these moderately enjoyable projects—gifts to myself—and begin to promote them so that I can spend the rest of my energy working stress-free on the things that make me really happy. That will be the big gift to myself.