Tuesday 18 June 2019

Diversification - Adapt to Survive, by Lu Hersey

There have been so many gloomy articles about writer incomes recently. Basically they all tell us that it's going downhill. Advances from publishers are getting smaller, some offering no advance at all. Amazon has wiped out hundreds of independent bookshops, there's very little coverage of kids' books in the media, and school funding is being hit by austerity, making paid author visits less frequent. All cheery stuff...

But writing isn't the only job to suffer from the current economic climate. Sometimes it's worth looking outside our own world to see how other industries are coping. Like say, farming.

Apart from mega farms (the Amazon(s) of the farming world), the only way small farms are managing is by diversifying - finding a niche, making a new product, producing a different crop. With ideas varying from micro dairies and breeding lamas to making specialist cheeses, the farming industry is having to adapt to survive. Maybe the time has come for writers to do the same? (Though perhaps not by breeding lamas)

Ask yourself a question. Are you going to give up writing? NO, OF COURSE NOT. It's like asking if you're going to give up breathing. So how are you going to survive? Here are some practical options:

1) Get a day job to fund your writing habit. Many writers do. I had one until very recently.

2) Find a rich partner to support you. Good luck with that.

3) Be JK Rowling. Several friends and relatives will probably have suggested this already...and possibly you're still speaking to them.

4) Diversify.

I'm currently trying option 4. Having recently moved to Glastonbury, probably the least practical place on the planet, I've been observing how local businesses adapt to survive. For instance, the ice cream van also sells crystals as a sideline. The pet shop sells Gandalf style walking sticks and carved antler key rings. The Co-op sells a wide range of vegan products and local organic farm produce you'd never normally find in a Co-op. The bakery sells Avalon fruit cake (made to an 'ancient recipe', obvs)...and so on.

I wondered what a writer could possibly do to diversify here - and I'm currently experimenting to try to find out.

Firstly, I'm setting up a series of Glastonbury style writing workshops for adults. Celtic tree writing workshops, faerie realm writing workshops, dragon writing workshops - that kind of thing. No idea how it will pan out, but it's worth a shot - and I'm having great fun with a fellow local writer thinking up workshop ideas.

On a more practical level, I realised I have one major asset. Unfortunately it's the house I live in, but it's still an asset. It has a view of Glastonbury tor and the surrounding countryside. It's quiet - although the woodpeckers make quite a racket. Badgers visit the garden.

View from house, as drawn by writer Paul Magrs recently

So I decided to offer it up as an occasional writing retreat for small groups of writers. The downside of this genius idea is I have to be somewhere else when the writing groups come, but I've worked that out - after all, friends in tourist areas like Cornwall manage it every summer. Also, it's only available to writing groups for short breaks, so I can live here the rest of the time.

There are probably far more practical possibilities for writer diversification. You've possibly thought of several already. We all write stories from our imaginations, so thinking creatively can also be put to good use thinking up new ways to subsidise a meagre writing income.

I'm optimistic my current efforts at diversification will help pay the bills... otherwise I'm going all out for  option 3.

I'm going to be JK Rowling.

Lu Hersey
w: luhersey.com
writing retreat: @GlastonburyWriters
t: https://twitter.com/LuWrites

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