After a few bad years when I couldn’t get much done, I’d hoped for a quieter year to sort things out before Brexit hit in 2021. Instead, everyone had a bad year, and I got very little done.
In February, my family had a bad illness which we now think was COVID-19. The initial illness barely affected me, but in the weeks after, I developed severe reactive arthritis (I’ve had it mildly before after viruses, but not like this). This was also during lockdown, so it wasn’t really possible to see a doctor. I had to figure out a home treatment.
One good thing is I got to go out for my birthday, as it was before walking became difficult and before lockdown. My previous birthday was a funeral, so this was an improvement.
I spent most of the year managing the arthritis and sorting things like food orders. I couldn’t do much typing or thinking, so I mostly focused on doing stuff in Second Life and other distractions from the pain.
At the end of the year, I still have arthritis. It’s a lot better than it was and I can think clearly again, though my free time is still limited.
Novels / Novellas
One of the issues I’ve faced as an author is a lack of charisma. People are not going to give me money for a crowdfunded campaign. They’re not going to buy birthday presents from a wishlist. If I reach out for help, I might as well have said nothing, as nothing much happens. My value to the majority of people in the reading/writing community is only in the products I can produce.
The next issue being a run of bad years, so I have a lack of new products. This is how it had to be for my health, but it doesn’t make it a good situation.
So this year, I tried a more roundabout solution: I made my products more expensive.
Back when I started, people complained if a self-published novel was more than $0.99 and never mind novellas. My old price point of $0.99 for a novella and $2.99 for a novel was tolerable, but as high as people would go. There have been changes in the industry since then, including bigger publishers taking on more novellas and charging very high prices for them. So I went up a modest amount, taking my novella to $2.99 and the longer works to $4.99.
As well as an overall potential increase in profit, it’d mean novellas make income in their own right, rather than being sold at a loss to promote longer work… because frankly, it didn’t happen. People liked my novella Werecockroach, but it didn’t encourage most readers to try something else.
The first month I did this, sales were about the same. I sold one $4.99 book and multiple copies of Werecockroach at $2.99. I just made more money than usual. November and December weren’t as good, but I suspect sales would have been bad regardless as a lot was going on. Not as good still meant I made more money overall compared to the old prices. I tried a brief advertising campaign in November, but it didn’t get the sales of previous campaigns, so I ended it early.
I’ll continue to monitor the situation and see if sales go back up again as the year settles. If they do, this will give me a bit of space to finish something else. It’ll also mean that something else can be a novella.
Last year, I said I wanted to find more projects to submit short stories to. Most of the year was a bust, with nothing likely appearing. There are a few possible projects at the end of the year, so I’ll aim to submit a few things next year for these.
Both of the anthologies I’m involved with ended up delayed due to the pandemic. Common Bonds has now sent out backer reward copies and contributor copies. Early reviews seem to like my story. Both that anthology and Rosalind’s Siblings have been rescheduled for 2021.
In final short story stuff, I put out a temporary short story collection called Patchwork in March 2020. It’s now been removed as 2020 has ended. This had a number of my previously published stories, including ones that had only been on Patreon. It was free and was just to do something nice for people for the year. So if anyone sees a reference to it and is confused, that’s what went on. The stories will all be back again for the next proper collection.
Zazzle / Art
I have no complaints about Zazzle this year. They reacted quickly to pandemic sales issues by putting out face masks. I sold some of these (and got some for me). I also saw much higher sales (of everything) in the last quarter. I suspect because people were stuck at home, so those with money found fun things to buy. I continue to be glad I got all this set up as passive income.
I had issues producing art for most of the year, as my hands consisted of sausage fingers and joints that couldn’t take any pressure. I regained the ability to hold tools later in the year, so got back into it by doing Botober. The pieces were posted on this Twitter thread. I’ll likely work a few of them into Zazzle designs, but it was just good to get drawing again.
I will note that doing the art challenge didn’t get a lot of engagement in the sense of new followers or the like. It’s a thing to do for fun.
I planned to produce a video a week for a year for my YouTube channel. My last video was in March. During this video, I already had early signs of arthritis in my fingers and arms, but hadn’t realised what was happening. It’s why I’m smudging charcoal with the backs of my hands, because bending the wrist too much was starting to get painful. I’d had conjunctivitis too badly the week before to use the first draft of the video, which is also a reactive arthritis symptom. Shortly afterwards, I stopped being able to lift a camera and that was that.
The bad news is it means the channel stalled before I got very far. The good news is the channel didn’t see an overall loss in subscribers and views. A few videos have seen a continual rise in views as they get picked up by the algorithm.
I know people panic about small breaks ruining their chances forever, but this wasn’t my experience. A channel is unlikely to grow during an absence, but it doesn’t mean it sinks either. It’s waiting there for when I can film again, at whatever frequency that turns out to be.
I was getting sorted to start reviewing again towards the end of the year. I selected a few books, created a schedule and started reading one of them. Then I got an email from Amazon terminating my Amazon Associates account. I always knew this could happen, as Amazon is known for doing this. In theory, people can appeal, but it’s hard to appeal when you’re guessing exactly what happened. Amazon gives basic categories, but no details. The result of the appeal was just a resend of the original email.
I looked around for other larger affiliate schemes, but I didn’t see anything likely to actually make money. The only bigger one I found was Barnes and Noble, who rejected my application.
I will review a few things here and there as I feel like it, but mostly my reviewing is over. I’ve closed my review requests for the foreseeable future. I don’t think there’s a big demand for detailed text reviews anyway these days, so this was going to happen at some point even without the loss of Amazon Associates.
I’ve had reactive arthritis for most of the year, following probable exposure to COVID-19. I didn’t do a whole lot of creative stuff, but I did put out a temporary free collection, raised my book prices and started drawing again towards the end of the year. I have no firm plans for the future.