Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why digital sharecropping is doomed - and other notes on moving to Rainmaker

Thought I could get away from this for awhile while I move to Rainmaker, but moving makes dust - and dust makes you sneeze. Here's some sneezes I've been supressing:

Why digital sharecropping is dying and will take you with it.

Got a comment on one of my other blogs about how he was going along publishing public domain books on Google Play and suddenly got kicked off. So that income line is permanently down for him, from what I gather.

I imagine that his problem is in not having already built his audience. You build your audience, find out what they are interested in and then produce the books in the format they want. Along the way, you also publish the distributors like Google Play, Amason, iTunes, etc.

This is a lesson I'm only just learning - probably just in time.

An old (March 18, 2013) podcast from Entreproducer with Eric Reis pointed out that many times, when you are trying to fit into Amazon's mold, you're actually throwing away income. Think about it - where does Amazon want you to price your book? $2.99 to $9.99. That gets you into their Kindle program, which is a walled garden. Reis sold his as a PDF with lifetime updates, for around $20 - and is still making income off it (at the time of this recording.) He didn't like Amazon because they were forcing him to put his book up against similar titles priced at $4.99.

In short, Amazon is trying to make a commodity out of your books. The original ones. (Amazon's weird policies on public domain books is odd, in that they are already commodities and given away for free on the Internet elsewhere. You'd think they'd want to encourage people to add value and submit truly higher-quality versions and then let the market decide. Control freaks? Possibly.)

The bottom line is that like most of the "free" blogging sites, they are just using you as a sharecropper while they own the field you farm. At any time, they can capriciously kick you off and quit paying you anything. (And they remind you of this every single time you submit a public domain book - one of the reasons I haven't published to them since.)

For those of you who have never farmed: Sharecropping is doing the work and getting a small split of the profit. The land owner pays for the seed and fertilizer. If you also live on the property, that rental is usually taken out of your profit. In the post-Civil-War South, this was a solution that turned out to be just above slavery, since it still kept you on the plantation and too broke to save up and own your own place. It was security, and a living - after a fashion...

Wordpress, Tumblr, Weebly - all these tend to be tenant farmers for sharecroppers, as they need your content, but they don't need you. (In fact, several of my Wordpress blogs became orphans because they suspended my account, but not the blog - hint: set up several accounts under different emails and cross-connect the authors to the  blogs.) What they constantly push at you is to pay them monthly for the privilege of publishing there - and over-charge you for getting that domain you want (which they own, not you). Once a tenant, always a tenant.

Wordpress has been particularly bad about shutting you down when you put affiliate links into your content. But they run their own ads on the site.

Blogger is at the other end of the scale, since you have to enable Adsense ads to run and Blogger doesn't care what you link to. And they encourage you to get your own domain name while they host your blog for you. That's why I've been using them, until just recently...

You want to have someone else host your blog and take care of the backend, while you then build your audience. Blogger does this pretty well, but it's quite limited to what it can do. If you integrate Gumroad, you can get membership options and email capture while you sell your own digital products that they deliver for you. And if you're just starting out, that's probably the best way to get started. Later you can graduate up to Rainmaker or some higher-value hosting.

If you own your own domain, and pay for the hosting, you don't have the headaches of maintaining a site with all the updates, and your content is owned by you. Means you own the title and land you're blog sits on and you can make as much profit as you want from it.

Is there a use for Sharecropper blogs? Sure - you can get traffic from these communities as they all have their various audiences. Using IFTTT, you can syndicate your content from an RSS feed of your main blog over to Blogger, Wordpress, and Tumbler. The same strategy applies to posting there - no affiliate links, but you can link back to your own site - and post regularly if not daily, keeping your posts about whatever is trending so that it will show up in their recommended feeds. There is no duplicate content penalty, actually. Post on your own site first, then everything else will show up afterwards - Google will value the date-stamp of your original post as the one they need to show highest. As far a link-love, these free blogs don't give you much push - but someone searching within those networks for your keyword may clickthrough to that post and then your own site, which is where these bring traffic. It will be up to you to convert that traffic.

Moving to Rainmaker - bit by tedious bit

The reason I've been using Blogger blogs for so long are just a couple:
  1. As above, they host for free and don't shut you down.
  2. Inherently, publishing on anything connected to Google couldn't hurt.
This has left me with several dozen blogs where I've been testing out content and approaches. The whole idea with Rainmaker is to get all those efforts under one roof - in one basket where I could watch it all very closely.

Of course, you have to export everything, set up categories for all those posts, re-do your tags, and so on. Not an easy task. But it's like digging a ditch - you get so many feet done a day and then sleep over night to dig your next set the next day.

One advantage is that I can work these all over as I import them. Right now, I'm simply getting them into their best categories and turning them back to draft. When I'm ready to put these live, then I'll assign tags and restore or replace missing images, etc.

It's happening bit by bit...

Sidebar note: Workaround for audiobooks.

Just so I don't forget this again. There's a way to get around Audible/Amazon's stranglehold on audiobooks. Produce them professionally, as usual, then submit them to CDBaby or Catapult as "spoken word" albums. Keep your artwork and title the same as your books - and then it will show up on Amazon for any search for that title. Not the same as what they do with audiobooks, but you'll get a much higher royalty, can set your own price, and can also on CDBaby get the CD created and sold through music stores. Meaning you get into other audiences than before.

How does this fit into your assembly line? Blog your book and podcast it. Saving your original files, offer these as part of bundles for promoting your book (and have your text version promote the audio version) and also just sell the complete set as a "spoken word" album.

While Audible has an exclusive contract with iTunes for audiobooks, you can apply to Apple to upload and sell your audio directly as "spoken word" and so again bypass Audible's stranglehold.

You can also sell your singles or albums directly via SoundCloud. You can host on Sellfy or Ganxy, as well as CDBaby (which costs a fee for each one.) This means you have extra income from that podcast.

With Ganxy you can also give people a discount for tweeting or "liking" your audio to their followers. Nice promotion work - more eyeballs to see your stuff.

Of course, in Rainmaker, you host right from their platform and sell from it, too. If you want, you can embed Sellfy or Ganxy - but working with the Rainmaker developers should be able to get you a promote-to-pay option.

I'm always looking out for you and your budget. Blogger and Gumroad with Ganxy is a great way to earn enough regular income so you can afford to make the move to Rainmaker. Lean and frugal - that the route to success.

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(photo: Jeff Nelson, on flickr)

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