A neglected premise of this blog is that my thoughts about writing, publishing and business are worthwhile because I actually make money selling e-books independently. I plan to push on that theme a little harder in 2013, and publish more posts about a life in e-business. Starting with this one.
For years I worked on PainScience.com in my so-called “spare time,” slowly creating a huge (> 1M words) resource website and ebookstore whenever I wasn’t working with massage therapy clients (the day job). It’s a bit of a miracle it got off the ground in those conditions, but it’s amazing what a workaholic insomniac can accomplish. But time was so tight that I delayed many heftier business improvement projects until 2010, when I was finally able to quit massage and go to work full-time on the website.
I had barely started using my freedom from a day job to tear into that project list when my wife had her epic accident while travelling in Asia in February. That alarming experience derailed and delayed virtually everything I had been dreaming of doing with my business for years, and the effects spilled over well into 2011. And so by the fall of 2011 I had acute hyperprojectemia: a suffocating pile-up of neglected projects. (Symptoms may include profit, higher taxes, and incorporation. As well as anxiety, night terrors, frustrated idealism, and going prematurely gray.) I did my best to wrap my head around the result of years of good intentions, and produced a Master List of Projects to Finally Get Serious About in 2012.
So what did I actually accomplish? Only about 20% of what I planned … and at least two huge projects that weren’t even on the radar:
- PDFs! High quality PDF versions of my books … with an efficient automated production process. This was the only major project planned for 2012 that I actually finished.
- Optimization! Specifically, I moved to “static publishing” — a technical accomplishment that makes PainScience.com much faster.
- Audiobooks! Except I only finished one out of eight. The second is three quarters done. Going to have to pick up the pace on that, or give up!
- Videos! I produced a series of videos on the myths of IT band syndrome. It was expensive and difficult, the return on investment unclear. I was supposed to produce about a dozen short videos this year, but I only got through five.
- Responsive web design! A major unplanned job. Mobile web browsing really took off this year, and my site just didn’t work very well on small screens.
- New friends! I got fairly serious about “networking” in 2011, and did a lot of “relationship building.” That sounds insufferably wanky, but really it was just a matter of spending a fair amount of time emailing, facebooking, tweeting and so on. I have quite a few very pleasant and beefed-up relationships with experts and colleagues that I didn’t have before, so mission accomplished … possibly at the cost of spending way too damn much time on Facebook.
And that’s roughly what I got done in 2012. (That and about 20,000–30,000 words of new articles, chapters, science summaries and more.) It doesn’t look much like what I planned, but it’s not bad I suppose. What’s left? What’s next? Well, lots…
- At least a couple new books, and possibly revising my inventory a bit. My existing inventory of eight books is a bit haphazard. I didn’t really think it through, years ago: I just picked a few of my biggest articles and ran with them.
- Get my books onto Amazon … maybe. There could be a great deal of money there. But I am also loathe to cede any control over my product and its distribution.
- A big move away from my Canadian domain name, and onto a geographically neutral dotcom. (Right now Google shows my articles to Canadians much more than anyone else.)
- Extensive SEO work, especially building relationships with other publishers, and creating a set of well-chosen short excerpt articles from each of my ebooks (a “halo” of findable content for each book).
- Different versions of my books — summary and deluxe versions at different price points.
- Illustration — I (still) want a lot more good illustration on the site.
- Humour editing — I want to dial up the chuckle-factor site wide, adding amusing comic strips, videos, quotes, stories and more, wherever possible.
- Conversion science: to this day I have never systematically tested (as one should) what kind of presentation leads to more book sales.
- A much better web store that lives on my own server.
- New website features to help visitors find the content that interests them, especially tagging and categorization of my content. Everything has tags, and it’s all in a database, but visitors have never been able to see or use those tags!
- Overhaul and revitalization of this here blog.
And then there’s diversification: completely independent writing projects, like a mini-biography about quitting massage therapy in a poopstorm of legal controversy, and a science fiction novel.
And that’s just off the top of my head.
Almost every outstanding project has been on my mind for at least five years, which feels pretty oppressive. But, on the (very) bright side, my business is also healthy enough to finance any project I choose. I “just” have to decide what’s most important … and start.