New podcast episodes have dropped! Sixty Miles from Anywhere

Signal boost for my other site and new podcast episodes. This week, I talk about walking in Dublin, Writing, and on Friday, a new episode will be available. Please check it out!

Monetization and the plan for shameless self-promotion

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!!!

Let’s start a new tradition

I was reading another blog and the writer was talking about her upcoming wedding and asking for suggestions on what to put on their wedding registry. The question got me to thinking. I offered my suggestions in a way that was hopefully as sincere as I could manage. Just because my luck in being married wasn’t ideal, doesn’t mean I don’t wish other people happiness. You miss 100% of every shot you don’t take, as the Great One says.

Looking back, my wedding registry was ridiculous. Lots of towels, expensive kitchen stuff like matching slotted spoons and soup ladles. Pizza stones. Small appliances. We just went OFF with the scanner gun at the Aurora Target. Most of it didn’t last long. The towels wore out. The appliances broke. And of course we wound up fighting over a large chunk of what was left over, paying lawyers $300 an hour to bicker over a set of dishes that were missing most of the coffee cups.

The other day, my mom and I were at a thrift store and we were amazed at the number of complete china sets they had for sale. China has gone out of fashion when it comes to presentation and bringing family together. Whole sets were selling for like $75. Originally, they were probably over $500. Like the families who donated the china, I didn’t need any of it. I’m sure those china sets were on someone’s Registry stretching back to the 40s and all the way up until the 90s. I remember one of the patterns was a set that I had looked at with my ex wife back in the day.

It got me to thinking. Why don’t they have a divorce registry? They should be doing a lot of what is involved with divorce differently. It could be an excuse to have a decent party, sorta like a wedding, or a funeral.

For example, when someone dies, they are inundated with casarole dishes because grieving people usually have to force themselves to eat, or at least cook. The same is true of divorced people. And most of the good stuff they used to have in the kitchen to help them cook has been divided in half (best case scenario), or destroyed by a vengeful ex. So, why not unload your favorite hot dish on your divorced friend? Or better yet…you might see where I’m going with this.

Have a Registry! And a party!

They can scan all the crap they are going to need to put their household back together. Even if it’s just a couple chairs and a couch from Ikea (which would be the perfect place to register: mattresses, furniture, housewares, towels, etc). You’re going to need forks, knives, and spoons. Blenders. Mixers. Nothing will replace the bowl that has been in your family for generations that your ex decided to hang onto (or smash in the driveway), but maybe you can add some decent stainless steel mixing bowls onto the list of stuff you will need.

When I got divorced, many of the people I found coming back into my life were very generous. They gave me gently-used couches, TV stands, kitchen tables and chairs, and stuff for the kitchen. I appreciated all of it. I only wish I could have had a nice big grill out for everyone. A celebration of starting over in life. Maybe a big pit-cooked pig like at a luau. An open bar.

I’ll likely never get married again, but if I could have done things differently, other than choosing a different bride, I wouldn’t have registered at Target. I would have registered with an airline or airbnb. You can pick up just about anything you would need for home at a thrift store or an Ikea. It won’t last anyway, and if it does, there’s the chance it could outlast your marriage. Who needs to be reminded of that?

I say give the gift of experiences. Go somewhere. Do something. Enjoy yourself, because nobody can ever take that away from you. The memory might be soured, but some blood sucking lawyer isn’t going to be counting up their billable hours when your ex wants your memories of paragliding to keep for themselves.

If I had the money, I would give a couple starting out the chance to have a trip they would enjoy.

Bill Murray once said:

“If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s make a date, let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you land at JFK and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”
–Bill Murray, Men’s Health, 2014

I know my ex and I did not travel well together. Every excursion was a chore or a carbon copy of some childhood vacation she had been on with her family, replicated right down to the endless bickering and fighting. We probably should have known. We should have called it at the honeymoon.

If you have a recently divorced friend, you and your friends should all chip in and send them on a trip. There’s a couple reasons for this. Their finances are going to be bullshit. They are soaking their money into attorney’s fees, they are focusing on their kids and essentially bribing them to continue loving them, and they are working on starting their lives over again. They are NOT going to spend valuable resources on going on a vacation. Even though that is probably the one thing they could really use right now. Don’t make it an option either, because if they have cash on hand, their ex or their lawyer is going to grab it.

Remember Eat, Pray, Love? Remember How Stella Got Her Groove Back? Remember Under the Tuscan Sun? Getting the hell out of town is sometimes exactly what someone needs to find themselves again. I know I would have loved that. Instead I dated someone who went to Asia and Europe without me and would send me pictures of all the places she was and I wasn’t.

And no, the goal shouldn’t be finding someone to sleep with. Hell, you can do that at a bar. The goal should be self-realization. Self-exploration. Creating new memories with the one person you should have been investing your love and affection into this whole time: yourself. Because the best way to be happy is to enjoy your own company and shake the codependency that got you fucked up in the first place.