I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a YouTube channel lately for my travel writing as well as exploring my life as a full-time writer. There’s not a lot of information out there, other than the Hollywood movies which are just meta-fiction about how the main character is a writer or wants to be a writer.
There is always that part of the movie when the would-be writer has a friend read something they’ve written and they say, “This is good. You should show it to someone.” And BOOM! instant fame and success and living in a $6000 a month loft in Manhattan is the next act (and doing very little writing). That really doesn’t happen. Nothing close to that happens unless the niche is just so starved of talent or someone knew somebody who knew somebody. Like Anthony Bourdain and his success with the New Yorker.
Consider the urban legend of how JK Rowling (yes, I know everyone is supposed to hate her now, even though they grew up on her books) got 29 rejections before Scholastic took a chance on her. So, there are 29 publishers who turned down the goose that laid the $Billion (with a B) industry. And we are supposed to consider “making it” in publishing as a metric of good taste and what it takes to be successful.
Anyway, most books/movies/articles these days come with a fan base built in. That way the publisher/producer/etc. know that they aren’t taking much of a risk. They want to hedge their bets, because with an already established fan base, they don’t have egg on their face by being one of the 29 idiots who turned down Harry Potter. This is why Disney is going whole hog with cranking out Marvel and Star Wars shows. Both of those are “too big to fail.” Even if 75% of the fans hate the product, you still have a couple million people who watched it, bought the Lego sets, and are arguing about it on Twitter.
From what I’ve been learning about monetization of a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel, typically you are drawing attention to a product or a service. In some cases, you are being sponsored by a company. Big sponsors or affiliates are web-design companies, camera companies, or in my case I shilled Origin Boots on my other blog. (use code Harris10 to get 10% off). But if I want to diversify my income streams, I need to focus on what product or service I offer beyond being a shoe salesman.
Both podcasting and YouTube allow for sponsorship, but you have to hustle and make calls to find those. But it’s all part of diversifying your income stream. Hopefully my content will appeal to sponsors, but I’m not going to bet the farm on it. If you look at a lot of successful podcasts (like Joe Rogan’s) he brought in a fanbase of people who enjoyed watching him dare people to eat pig anuses. The draw wound up being him using his connections with interesting celebrities to have long format interviews. The rest just snowballed.
Really, my writing is the product I am offering, but there isn’t a lot to be gained from that on the surface. Blogs no longer get the kind of clicks they used to to make a decent paycheck from just telling a story. So, like Disney or any good publisher, what I’m doing is calling attention to my work and creating a fan base.
My product is the books I write and a podcast or YouTube channel would be the commercial. By interacting with subscribers, I am building a fan base for my books which I will be publishing myself. If you like the kinds of stories I’m publishing on my blogs, then you might buy the books that are coming soon too. It’s not what I would call instant gratification (unlike the boot money) but I’m hoping it leads to something. Otherwise, how the hell are you going to even know what I’m writing? How do you pick a book from a whole slew of others on the shelf at a store and commit your hard earned $15 and several nights of your time to reading it if you don’t know what it is about?
My services might even be “Hey, I can write stuff. Hire me to write stuff for you!” And give me a big travel expense budget while you are at it.
So, yeah. I think the podcast/YouTube/blogs are eventually going to be the commercial for the stories I am trying to sell. Maybe I’ve got it backwards, but really the books are the merch. It’s about all I can think of right now. I doubt I’ll have as many subscribers as a guy screaming at a video game or a kid opening a box of something they got in the mail. If you knew how much money people made on CPM (clicks per minute) these days, it would make you throw up. (Like 20¢ per 1000 clicks). I’m lucky to get A click on a post. Affiliate links are harder to come by. I got lucky with the boots, but not everybody is rushing out to buy a $400 pair of boots (no matter how cool they are). The old method of linking Amazon as an affiliate is next to impossible to make money from, much less get approved. Their code doesn’t play nice with WordPress anymore, especially when you self-host.
A lot of what I want to talk about in my podcast or YouTube channel is challenges such as these. These are the real questions facing a freelancer these days. Gone are the days where the “Chief” gives you an assignment and a nice expense fund and you can do those deep dives to get the story. Most of the time you are paying your own way and hoping to God and little green apples that the magazine doesn’t fold before they pay you for your story–if they accept your pitch, or even responded to it in the first place!
I want to promote an honest look at it, and I also don’t want to starve to death in the process.
More to come!!!