6 Things To Figure Out Before You Start Writing Full Time (Part 3 – Mental and Emotional Health)

Maintaining your emotional and mental health when you switch to writing full time may become more of a challenge than you expect. I assumed I'd be far happier writing full time than when I worked full time at other jobs, and overall that's so.

But unexpected issues cropped up.

Home Alone

Spending most of your work life writing almost always means spending a lot of time alone.

If you're used to working a day job with other people around, this change can be difficult even if, like me, you're an introvert. Granted, I'm an introvert who also likes public speaking and interacting with others, but I need a fair amount of alone/quiet time to recharge after doing either.

When I worked 40-60 hours a week as a lawyer, one of the aspects I didn't like was that I constantly had to be “on.”

Despite that much of my practice involved writing legal briefs to file in court, it was rare to have more than 15 minutes when I didn't need to answer client inquiries, make presentations, question witnesses, or debate points in person or by phone. I figured switching to writing for hours at a time would be nothing but wonderful.

And in some ways, yes, it is. I'm far more relaxed than when I worked so many hours in law. In ways I didn't expect, though, I miss interacting with people.

Some things to consider before you make the switch, especially if you plan to write from home most of the time:

  • When you stop for a glass of water or cup of coffee, you may miss the chance to say hello to someone else or talk about the weather or traffic.

Those mundane interactions are low stress and add a little variety to a day.

  • Even if you like being alone, you may feel a bit blue if you spend full days without talking to anyone in person.

Most of us need some amount of interaction for balance.

  • If you aren't talking to anyone else, it's easier to get stuck in unproductive loops of thought.

For instance, if you're stuck on a scene or you're upset about a bad review and you work somewhere with other people, they can help you take your mind off it for a while. Someone else's joke or story about the trip to work might distract you long enough to give your conscious mind a break and let your unconscious solve your issue or put it into perspective.

  • You may find fewer ideas for your fiction or non-fiction.

Interacting with other people gives us things to write about that are outside our own experience. It also can prompt us to research topics that wouldn't otherwise have occurred to us, revamp our dialogue, or add to a character's backstory.

How you address these concerns will vary depending on your circumstances and your needs. Here are a few things I've found helpful:

  • Writing one or more times a week in a local coffeeshop or library
  • Choosing options that require interacting with people rather than automation, such as depositing checks in person at the bank rather than via ATM or buying vitamins at the local pharmacy rather than online
  • Contacting 1 or 2 people per week to meet with the next week for coffee, a drink, or a meal
  • If meeting people in person is difficult, scheduling telephone calls (or video calls) rather than relying only on text and email. Hearing someone else's voice can make a huge difference in how connected you feel.

Money Matters

Depending upon what you do now for a living and how much income you need from your writing, you may be on a tighter budget if you write full time.

In 6 Things To Figure Out Before You Start Writing Full time (Part 1 – Income) I addressed the practical sides of this issue, including creating a spending plan, tracking your money, and planning for the future.

But money also is emotional.

In a literal sense, it's nothing more than a medium of exchange. I earn X amount doing whatever it is I do and I trade with you for money you earned doing whatever it is you do.

But for many of us it symbolizes one or more of these things:

  • success
  • safety and security
  • love (for example, if we equate giving or receiving gifts with love)
  • moral goodness
  • wisdom
  • belonging

If you've made a choice to write and that choice includes changing your standard of living or watching your money more carefully, give a little thought in advance to what money means to you.

For instance, if earning a lot makes you feel successful, and you may earn less for a while, you may want to think about what else equals success for you.

It could be having more control over your work schedule, being your own boss, or devoting your hours to something you love. If you have all of those alternates in mind, you can remind yourself of them if you start feeling you're not successful if you don't match your previous income.

A New Type Of Fun

The most unexpected side effect of writing full time for me was needing to find other things to do for fun.

When I worked a ton of hours at other jobs, writing was like my vacation. In fact, my favorite thing on vacation was to spend hours of uninterrupted time a day writing. (Read more on planning writing vacations here.)

When I began spending most of my days writing, I still enjoyed it, but after dinner I'd think, okay, what do I do now if I want to relax by myself? I still did the same things out with friends or family, but my wind down quiet time now seemed empty.

After a while I rediscovered how much I love reading for an hour at a time. I haven't been able to do that for decades, since before I went to law school. I also love reading at a Starbucks or in a park, something else I had little time for when I worked 40-60 hours at law and wrote on the side.

I've also start watching more movies again.

None of these activities probably surprised to you. But I pretty much forgot about them when I couldn't fit them in for so many years. I love enjoying them again, but it took me a few months to “remember” what I enjoyed.

Consider making your own list of everything you want to do and never have time for before you switch to full time writing.

That's all for today.

Until next Friday, when I'll talk more about choosing where to write

L.M. Lilly

P.S. If you write full time, what are some of the issues you've run into and how have you solved them?


6 Things To Figure Out Before You Start Writing Full Time (Part 2 – Health Insurance)

Last week's article talked about estimating how much you need to earn before you make a shift to writing full time. This week will focus on health insurance.

Health insurance is something many people don’t think about in advance, but in the United States it's often harder to get, or costs much more, than expected.

Because I’ve been self-employed for a decade, starting before the Affordable Care Act was passed, I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to healthcare and insurance costs and staying covered.

I offer what I’ve learned in the hope that it helps you with what to think about before  launching a full-time writing career, but—here’s the disclaimer you knew was coming–I’m not a legal, financial, or insurance expert when it comes to health insurance or medical care.

This article is meant as an overview and starting place, not to tell you what you personally should do for your specific circumstances. Also, this post is mainly directed toward writers in the United States because that's where I live, and it's the health insurance world I'm familiar with.

Reasons Not To Skip Health Insurance

The Affordable Care Act requires most people in the USA to have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. Recent changes to tax law eliminated the penalty, but I've read that those changes don't go into effect until 2019.

Whether or not you would pay a penalty, being uninsured poses significant costs and risks.

  • Even if you are overall healthy and haven't needed to spend much on healthcare in the past, you can’t control everything in your life.

If you cross a street and a driver who is texting rounds the corner and hits you, it’s very possible you’ll suffer serious injuries. It’s easy for hospital bills to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even for less serious injuries other medical care, such as physical therapy, is not cheap.  (I know firsthand from recently breaking my foot.)

  • Regardless of your past health and no matter how much you take care of yourself, you could be surprised by a serious illness or heart attack.

Your health insurance information is the first thing most doctors' offices, clinics, and hospitals ask for.

Getting treated without it, other than at an emergency room, is a challenge. Paying for that treatment, unless you either have massive wealth or are completely broke, risks draining your bank accounts and sending a lot of your future earnings to healthcare providers.

  • If they can afford to pay, uninsured people generally pay the highest rates for healthcare.

Insurance companies have bargaining power because they influence so many patients' choices of medical provider. As an individual, you have next to no bargaining power.

Also, quite often the billing office of a medical provider won't be able or willing to tell you the price in advance, you just get a bill later and get collection calls if you don't pay in full. (The exact words at my doctor’s office when trying to find out a price before treatment were, “Ma’am, whatever the charge is, you need to pay the full amount.” “But what is that amount?” “You have to pay it in full.” This went on through several attempts until I gave up.)

Where You Can And Can’t Get Health Insurance

Some options for health insurance:

  • You may be eligible for insurance under a spouse or domestic partner’s group health insurance policy. (You probably are not if your partner is self-employed.) If you are, there’s a good chance it will be your least expensive option or at least will offer the best coverage for the price.

It’s worth understanding other options, though. If your relationship status changes or your partner’s employment changes, you may need to find another way to stay covered.

  • Most full-time jobs include health insurance benefits. If you leave you will usually be able to extend that coverage for eighteen months under a federal law known as COBRA. (There are a few exceptions, so verify this with your employer.)

After that, you will need to find something else.

  • Since 2010, under the Affordable Care Act health insurers who offer individual coverage have been required to insure everyone regardless of medical history.

You can buy individual coverage through healthcare.gov. These plans are not government insurance (there is no insurance called “Obamacare”), but are individual plans health insurers offer.

Check into this well in advance. There are limited enrollment periods, but certain life circumstances (like a job loss or change) allow you to buy at different times of the year.

That means you can also buy an individual policy directly from an insurer if you aren’t seeking a subsidy to help pay the premiums. When the ACA became effective, I called Blue Cross directly because I knew it offered good coverage. I found the salespeople very helpful in sorting through all the plans and options.

A caveat:

In recent years there have been news stories about counties where there are no health insurers offering individual plans. This is mainly due to a lot of uncertainty about changes in the law and what payments insurers will receive. If your county has no insurers, your state or county may have a set up an option.

  • If you are or you become a student at a college or university you may be eligible for student health insurance.

But check the fine print. You may need to be a full-time student or to take a certain number of courses. Also, the insurance may or may not continue during times when you aren’t taking classes.

Some writers and artists I know have extended or enrolled in graduate programs relating to their art not because they want the further education but to stay insured.

  • Some voluntary organizations, such as churches or professional associations, may offer limited health insurance options.

Always check the benefits before you count on these types of plans. Some have waiting periods of over a year for coverage of pre-existing conditions and/or offer limited total coverage.

Also, every professional organization I've checked offers not a group plan but some sort of deal on individual plans. This means the coverage will be the same as what you’d get in an individual plan and typically won’t offer the type of insurance or pricing a group plan might.

I mention this because in the days before the ACA, many people mistakenly believed they could get covered despite pre-existing health issues through an organization like the Chicago Bar Association, AARP, or some type of self-employed network. Because such plans are individual plans, not group plans, that was not the case.

Costs Of Insurance And Healthcare

If you extend your current employment coverage through COBRA, your cost per month will depend on your employer's plan. It may cost more than you expect, but in my view it’s best to take the paperwork and compare to other options before you turn it down. It may turn out to be your best option.

You can check out the range of costs on individual plans on healthcare.gov even if you don’t plan to buy through the website.

In some areas, there are a dizzying array of plans, so at first it’s best to use it to get a rough idea of costs. You can narrow it down later.

Most health insurers also provide an online tool, such as this Blue Cross Blue Shield site, to compare their plans.

A few things to keep in mind when thinking about costs:

  • The premium for an individual plan rises with your age and depends in part on where you live.

As a 52 year old in Chicago, my current premium for a fairly wide provider network (which still doesn't include my doctor) with a $5,500 in-network deductible is over $650 a month. If I were 22 and lived in Springfield, Illinois, it would be a lot lower. If I chose a narrower network (see below) or a different insurance company, I could likely lower my premium.

  • Higher deductibles and higher out of pocket limits generally mean lower premiums.

When you budget, it’s helpful to compare the costs of a year’s premium plus a year’s deductible–and a year’s premium plus a year’s out of pocket expenses–for each plan. That gives you a better sense of the overall cost of each plan.

  • Wider networks, meaning more options for choice of hospitals or doctors, usually means a higher premium.

Search for a few hospitals and doctors in your area to see how wide or narrow the network is. Check on whether your regular doctor is in various plans. If you're willing to choose from a smaller number of, or a different set of, medical providers the cost may be less.

Keep in mind, though, that you may not always be able to find the care you need within network, so at least eyeball the out of network benefits so you're not taken by surprise.

  • Research the insurer to see if there are consumer complaints.

Some insurers are better than others about paying claims.

This may affect not only your bottom line but whether a healthcare provider will accept that insurance. Check sites such as your state government's consumer website and the Better Business Bureau or simply run a general search for the insurers' name and consumer complaints and see what comes up.

Quality Of Care

There’s an old saying in the insurance industry that when people shop for insurance they only care about price and when they use insurance they only care about benefits.

This can lead to a lot of problems, particularly in healthcare.

Writing about healthcare quality issues is a topic far beyond this article, which is already one of the longest on this site. But a few thoughts before I close.

When you’re choosing a plan, in my view it's key to consider what doctor you'll be able to see and at what hospital you'll be able to seek treatment along with the cost. Even if you need to go with the lowest cost plan, being prepared in advance for what your choices will be will help.

Finding out when you’re already injured or ill (and so in distress) that the medication your doctor prescribed will cost $500 because you went to the wrong pharmacy or it’s not on the insurer’s preferred list can not only be upsetting  but can seriously harm your health.

If you'll need to find a new doctor or hospital, look at how many options you will have to choose from. Keep in mind the number of options listed can be deceiving. My insurer lists quite a few primary care doctors as accepting new patients, but so far I've called seven of them and none were accepting new patients.

Also, remember that not all doctors and hospitals are created equal.

Do some research (online at the library if necessary) into the quality of care of the hospitals in the network. How does the hospital rank for patient outcomes compared to others in your area?

Also look at the qualifications of the doctors you may want to see.

How long have they practiced? Are they board certified in their area of expertise? Do they get good reviews on patient care sites? Where did they go to school?

The Future

If you follow the news you know that healthcare options and insurance options are always changing and not always for the better. For that reason, it’s wise to have a back up plan.

Many people, myself included, who sought individual plans in the days before the ACA were surprised to find no one would insure them.  I’m in overall good health, exercise 30-60 minutes a day, am the recommended weight for my height, eat a healthy diet, and don’t smoke. None of that mattered.

What mattered was that I had a blood clot a month before I opened my law practice. It was the kind that can’t kill you, and it requires no on-going treatment.

The medical establishment differs on whether it puts me at risk for the more serious type of blood clot down the road, but the insurance industry wasn’t taking any chances. I was turned down and had to buy insurance through a state plan (now gone) that allowed me to basically continue my COBRA coverage.

Another attorney I know got turned down because she went to counseling during her divorce nearly a decade before she applied for individual coverage.

I mention this so you’re aware that changes in the law could mean you can no longer get insurance even in you think you’re in good health. So it’s important to keep an eye on developments so you'll have time to make changes if needed.

That’s all for today. Until next Friday, when I’ll talk about maintaining your mental and emotional health when you write full time—

L.M. Lilly

6 Things To Figure Out Before You Start Writing Full Time (Part 1 – Income)

For a lot of writers, including me, the most important goal is to write full time.

That may mean earning the bulk of your income through writing so you don't need to do anything else or earning income in several ways but devoting most of your working hours to writing.

Either way, there are some stumbling blocks almost every full-time writer encounters relating to emotional, financial, and physical well-being.

Answering the questions below before you shift to full-time writing can help ensure happiness in your writing life:

Today I'll talk about income.

Ups, Downs, And How Much Money You Need

Income from writing is generally more up and down than a regular job.

Even if you've been self-employed in another field for years, as I was, relying more on your writing income means shifts in the publishing world–from royalty rates to Amazon algorithms–will have a greater effect on your bottom line.

Knowing from the start how much you realistically need to earn and how you'll earn it can help you weather the storms.

Before we go ahead, a quick disclaimer:

I am not a financial adviser, and this article is not meant to advise you about your personal circumstances. The information below is based on my own experience and information I gathered for my personal situation. You should turn to a personal financial adviser for specific advice tailored to your life.

Creating A Spending Plan

I like the idea of a spending plan rather than a budget.

A budget sounds limiting and makes me focus on what I “can't” spend. A spending plan sounds more realistic and positive. You need to spend money to live, and it's a plan for doing that.

There are tons of free worksheets and calculators online to help you figure out what you spend. I like Vanguard's Retirement Expenses Worksheet. While you're not retiring, you are making a shift (or hoping to), and many of the money issues are similar.

You can also find books in the library, bookstores, or online about budgeting. (I like Suze Orman's books, including the 9 Steps to Financial Freedom.)

Here's what helped me most when creating a monthly spending plan:

  • Track what you actually spend for 2-4 weeks.

Not what you hope to spend, but what you truly spent, including expenses you don't expect to have every week like birthday gifts or car repairs.

  • If you use credit cards, your credit card company may offer you a list of what you spent the year before by category.

If you use an accounting program, you can run your own list. Both are good to compare to what you track and fill in gaps.

  • In your plan for the future, remember to include unexpected one-time expenses and average them out per month.

Home or car repairs, doctor or emergency room visits, family member emergencies, or traveling for (and/or standing up in) a friend's wedding are all expenses you don't expect to have every month, but you'll almost certainly have one or more of them every year. Ignoring them while planning will leave you constantly short of funds.

  • Leave funds for non-necessary things you enjoy.

Much as you love writing, most of us need more than sitting in a room writing all day to feel happy. You may not mind spending a little less on some things, but it'll be next to impossible to stick to a spending plan that cuts back on everything you do for fun.

  • Think about your future.

Depending where you are in life, you also need to consider planning for retirement.

Yes, you can hope, as I do, that your books will keep making you money as long as you live. But it's possible they won't.

Continuing–or starting–to put away money for retirement, even if it's in small amounts, matters. If it's something you're not doing now anyway and you'd rather be writing than working at your current job, you may want to make the switch regardless. That's a personal decision.

But be sure you make a choice rather than let the issue go completely. Think about when and how you'll move toward a place where you can put something aside for your future.

Consider what you may need or want to pay for someone else.

If you have dependents, you'll need to consider your spending relating to them. If you don't, there may still be amounts you give to others. Do you help pay expenses for an aging parent? Donate to charity? Send your nieces holiday gifts? Take friends out for their birthdays?

Remember to include these things in your spending plan. If you plan to cut back, imagine how you'll feel about that and be realistic about whether you'll do it or not.

Tracking The Money

Knowing where your money comes from is essential to planning your full-time writing life. Let's call it your Income Plan.

Make a list, chart, or spreadsheet of your current sources of income, whether you have one or many. Include all amounts high and low.

If you have a savings account that earned $10 last year or you get $2 a month from listing your ebooks on Kobo, list it. You may be able to increase those amounts in the future, so you want to have them in mind.

Remember to subtract business expenses from your business income.

If last month you earned $1,000 in royalties on three books, but you spent $500 total on advertising, paying your email list provider, and a new cover, you only have $500 of those royalties that can go toward expenses. List $500, not $1,000.

Taxes will further reduce what you keep in your pocket.

If you didn't include income taxes in your spending plan, make a guess based on the last few years how much of your income you'll need to pay in taxes and subtract it.

If you're leaving a job to write full-time, leave the income from that job off your Income Plan.

Now let's look at the future.

Planning For The Future

Unless you are independently wealthy, are already earning a large income writing, or have a partner who earns enough to cover expenses and then some, the income from you Income Plan may very well not yet cover your the expenses in your Spending Plan.

That means switching to writing full time will require educated guesses at how much you'll increase your writing income or other sources of income once you have more time to write. While all of us hope that our writing income will increase the more time we devote, there are a lots of market factors out of our control that can affect that or make it take more time than expected, so don't assume that if you double your writing time in the first year you'll also double your income.

But first, look at your best case scenario.

Consider how much more you are likely to write and what you realistically hope to earn. It'll inspire you and help you move forward.

Second, consider the worst case scenario and decide how you'll deal with it. For writers, that usually means you quit your job and your writing income either doesn't increase or it goes down.

If you have a plan for what you'll do if that happens, it will ease your mind and help you focus on writing rather than panicking over money.

Some questions to ask yourself when creating that plan:

  • Are there additional or different types of writing you could do that might earn you more money?
  • How quickly can you get a new (non-writing) job if you need to?
  • Is there freelance work you can do that will help pay your bills?
  • Do you have savings that you've set aside to use while you build your writing career and will you feel comfortable seeing your account balance go down if you spend it?
  • Can you decrease your spending in specific ways and still be happy? (For instance, could you downsize your home, find cheaper transportation, or grocery shop at less expensive stores?)

The answers to these questions will be different for everyone, and you may think of alternative ways to cover your expenses if your writing income doesn't meet your expectations. But whatever your personal questions and answers are, thinking about them will help you decide when and whether to switch to writing full time.

Until next Friday, when I'll talk about a key issue for any self-employed person: health insurance

L.M. Lilly

Writing When Life Throws You A Curve

How do you stick with your writing when life throws you a curve?

Maybe you create a list of goals for your writing. Or choose one project to finish this year: a novel you started last year, a series of short stories, a book on how to cook gourmet meals.

Then something happens.

A flood damages your home, you need to care for an ill friend or family member, you become injured yourself. In addition to your grief and learning to cope with the change in your life, you may feel more frustrated, depressed, or anxious because you can’t write or aren’t progressing the way you feel you “should.”

What do you do? 

You Don't Write With Your Toes, But…

In late April I broke two bones in my foot.

One was a major bone on which you put all your weight, so instead of a walking boot for a short time (as one of my friends had for a stress fracture), I had a series of different casts that reached to my knee. I had to stay off of my foot entirely for over 10 weeks, spent 3 weeks in a walking cast, and am still rehabbing so I can eventually walk without limping.

When the doctor told me the treatment plan, though, I figured it wouldn't interfere with my writing. After all, I don’t write with my toes.

It turns out wearing a cast makes it hard to find a comfortable way to sleep, to sit at a desk, and to get around even at home. Things like brushing my teeth and making the bed took twice if not three times as long as usual on crutches. And I was exhausted. Not only from lack of sleep but because it takes a lot of energy for your body to heal.

It seemed like I'd be struggling forever, and spending a lot of time at home alone didn’t help my state of mind.

So though my fingers could still type, I didn't write all that much. But I learned a lot.

Feel free to adopt what helps you and ignore the rest.

Remember: It's A Long Game

Whether you’re recovering from a physical injury, dealing with emotional pain, or experiencing other acute stress, you may well find you're less able to write.

If you can keep your writing schedule and it helps you feel better to do it, then of course go ahead.

But if not, remind yourself that it's okay to do less. Finishing a novel or building a writing career is a long game. As Anthony Robbins says in Awaken The Giant Within, most people overestimate what they can do in one year and vastly under estimate what they can do in 10.  

Slowing down or taking a break entirely doesn’t mean that in the long run you won’t reach where you hope to be.

Do Something Different

During the first few weeks of my recovery I had trouble focusing enough to write or read much. But I did two things that ultimately helped me feel better and sparked new ideas.

Each time I iced my foot I watched a segment of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern-day take on my favorite book of all time, Pride and Prejudice, told as a video blog. In doing so, I engaged with a new (to me) form of storytelling and delighted in a different spin on a story I loved.

That reminded me how much I love the audiobook edition of Pride and Prejudice narrated by Shiromi Arserio.

I started listening to it at night when I couldn’t sleep. The narrator has a wonderful voice, and hearing the book again was like visiting old friends.

Now that I'm doing better, I added a new book to my list of non-fiction books to write over the next 9 months: Pride, Prejudice, and Plot. In it, I plan to use Jane Austen's classic to illustrate the simple plot points from my guide to plotting, Super Simple Story Structure.

If people find that book helpful and enjoy it, I plan to write Pride, Prejudice, and People, a study of characterization.

Choose A Smaller Or Writing-Adjacent Task

You may not be able to keep writing when life throw you a curve, at least not at the same pace or on the same project.

But you may be able to write or plan something else.

Perhaps a short journal entry each morning. Or maybe you can do something to help create or plan your story, such as imagining a scene or interviewing a character in your mind. 

Appreciate What You Can Do

It’s easy to think about what you’re not doing. But rather than thinking about the hours you don't spend writing in a day or week, give yourself credit for the fifteen minutes you do.

Be Guided By Your Feelings

Sometimes something you think will help makes you feel worse. For instance, at first I thought that since I had to spend so much time at home sitting or lying down I’d be able to add to the roster of writing podcasts I listen to.

But that made me feel depressed.

It emphasized what I wasn’t doing and left me feeling as if I were behind everybody else. I cut back to the two podcasts that for me are the most helpful and encouraging: The Creative Penn and the Sell More Books Show. And even those I sometimes put off listening to for a day or two until I was in the right state of mind.

It’s also important to pay attention to what makes you feel better.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries were so absorbing that they took my mind off of my pain and elevated my mood. That’s why I binge watched them.

That’s all for today.

Until next Friday —

L. M. Lilly

P.S. For thoughts on writing and chronic health or wellness issues, see Writing When Injured Or Not Well.

Bonus Materials For Your Readers

If I could go back and do one thing differently from the day I published my first novel, it would be to start an author email list on that day.

Why You Need An Email List

I published The Awakening (Book 1 in the Awakening series) in ebook format in 2011. When I put it in Kindle Unlimited and made it free for a few days, I had thousands of downloads.

But I had no second book to link to in the back for readers who liked the first. I was working a lot of hours as a lawyer at the time, so it was 2 1/2 years until Book 2, The Unbelievers, came out.

At least if I'd had an email list sign up option in Book 1 with some sort of bonus for people who joined I might have had a way to reach those readers.

But I didn't. So when Book 2 came out, I had to start all over.

Forms, Bonuses, And Costs

Bonus materials or other incentives are a good way to encourage people to join your email list and to remain on it. When you offer a bonus or gift to new subscribers, though, you need to (1) be clear that you are asking them to sign up for an email list and (2) let them know what else they'll be receiving from you.

Your email provider typically has on-line forms you can customize for your list and whatever bonus you're offering. I use MailChimp. This is a simple form to receive a Character Creation Tip Sheet for subscribers to the Writing As A Second Career list.

Sending readers a bonus or gift doesn't mean you need to spend money, though some authors do.

If you don't want to spend at all, you can email a file directly to readers yourself.

If you'd like to have someone else deal with any technical issues and you're sending an ebook as a bonus (more on that below), you can use a service such as Book Funnel.

For a minimal amount (right now $20 a year), Book Funnel will let you create a reader landing page for your book and will handle the download process. Readers can download in whatever format they read. If they have problems with the download or have questions, Book Funnel handles those.

Types Of Bonuses

Some ideas for bonus materials:

  • Complete Books

If you have more than one novel or non-fiction book, you can offer readers a free ebook edition. Offering a complete book works best if you have a series, especially one with multiple books that are for sale.

Make sure you include sale links to your other books in the back matter of the free book.

  • Inside Information/Snippets From Your Writing Process

If readers enjoy a book, they often like getting a glimpse into the writing process.

You can offer items such as:

  1. deleted scenes
  2. scenes written from a different character's perspective
  3. early drafts (including with handwritten corrections)
  4. author commentary
  5. interviews with favorite characters
  6. author interviews
  7. research notes

I offered some or all of these at different times. More recently, I put some of these items into a Reader's Guide in ebook format.

Here's the Book Funnel landing page for the Books in Order and Reader's Guide I created for the Awakening series. People who sign up for my email list get the guide free. Otherwise, I sell it for $1.99. (Go ahead and download it for free  if you'd like to see how the process works.)


  • Worksheets, Checklists, Tips

For non-fiction, useful materials like worksheets, lists of tips, or checklists can be a good draw.

Years ago I downloaded a book launch checklist from Bryan of the Sell More Books Show. Now I'm a devoted listener to the podcast and I attended the Sell More Books Show conference this year.

Creating those materials sometimes can help you as the author figure out what to write next. I got such a good response to a bonus I offered on a simple 5-point method for plotting that I expanded it into Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel.

  • Short Stories

If you write fiction and aren't yet able to offer a novel, you can offer a short story.

A short story may not be as intriguing to readers as a full book, but it's a place to start. Also, it can be a draw if it ties into a novel or a series.

Some authors use short stories to tie two different series together. In that way, the free short story may draw a reader from one world of yours into another.

Also, once you have several short stories, you can consider putting them together into a collection and selling them.

  • Swag

Some authors offer readers promotional items such as pens, mugs, T-Shirts, coasters, or other items with logos or names identifying the author or the author's work. Others offer signed paper books.

The downside of physical promotional items is the cost of shipping.

The upside is that other people likely will see the items, possibly adding some free advertising for you.

A podcast for my favorite TV show does a great job with physical merchandise. Whether or not you're a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, it's worth a look at the merch page for the Buffering The Vampire Slayer podcast to see what can be done.

That's all for today.

Until next Friday when I'll talk about Adjusting Your Writing Goals When Life Throws You A Curve

L.M. Lilly