I think it’s safe to say that we were ready for 2020 to be done and gone by last March or April. So here we are at the beginning of a new year with two signs of hope: 1) a Covid-19 vaccine will be widely available soon – that is, if our leaders can get it together and get the vaccine to us; and 2) Trump will be gone by January 20 (unless he tries to stage a coup which I wouldn’t put past him). Be prepared to defend American democracy from a proto-fascist.
How has this past year affected art and artists? Artists are always looking for opportunities to show and sell their work. The year 2020 was the most challenging for artists in many years. Almost everything went “virtual.” We couldn’t have “live” Open Studio tours or popup events, and most galleries stopped having live exhibits and openings.
I turned to Etsy in an attempt to sell small artworks, among other things. I did indeed sell some small artworks, mainly in the Art:Flora and Art:Abstract categories. But the big surprise was the popularity of malas. FYI, a mala is a Buddhist/Hindu circular string of beads (kind of like a rosary) that is used in meditation to help concentrate and say mantras which are sort of like a prayer. A traditional mantra has 108 beads and an amulet attached. A lot of westerners wear them as necklaces.
At first, I thought that my buyers were using them as necklaces only. But I quickly found out that many are using them to meditate. That’s understandable. We’re all pretty stressed out because of the pandemic. To sit silently and say a prayer, mantra, or an affirmation helps calm the mind and body.
Etsy keeps very good statistics on who clicks on what and who makes an item a “favorite.” The stats told me that of every 20 “favorites,” 19 of them are malas. So Baja Arizona Treasures will be offering more malas in 2021. See more at Baja Arizona Treasures.
I could write a book (seriously) about what I’ve learned about the publishing industry in the past few years, and in particular, in 2020. Here’s a summary:
- The publishing industry is undergoing a change on the magnitude of when the printing press was invented (1436), and then later, when paper production became cheap enough to print newspapers and inexpensive books (late 1700s, early 1800s). These days, traditional publishers are consolidating and trying desperately to hang on to control of the book world in the face of greater and greater challenges from indie writers and publishers, the internet, and more.
- Indies (independent authors/publishers) face constant unrelenting discrimination from the “trads” (traditional publishers) who like to ignore indie writers, or disparage them as less than/not as good as trad-published authors. Fact is, some of the indies are the best writers out there.
- Some indie authors have been very successful. Several are making over $100,000 a year, and I know of one who made over $1 million last year. These authors usually are engaged in “rapid write-rapid release,” producing a 50,000 word book (not the typical 70K to 100K words) every six weeks or so. Almost always these books are in the genres of romance/romantic suspense or sci-fi “space operas.” (stories like Star Wars and Battlestar Gallactica). Also these more successful writers typically have a patron (usually a wife or husband) who pays the bills so that the writer can write. But most indie writers like me are spending more than we’re making trying to put books into production and then market them once they are published. Otherwise, the books just disappear, and no one knows they exist. The vast majority of indie writers don’t make much money at all, and are often going in the hole until they have enough books out there to start eeking out a profit. Trad-published authors aren’t doing much better. The publishers just are not providing the same level of support as they have in the past, especially in the area of marketing. Often trad-published authors have to provide these services themselves and at their own expense.
- A large secondary industry has grown up to “help” authors, which is another way of saying these “helpers” are making more money from providing these “services” than the authors are making from writing and publishing their books.
- I started writing to supplement my meager income. In the past, I had always been paid for my writing as a newspaper reporter and a freelance writer for magazines (locally, Zocalo, and The Desert Leaf). I was very naïve about making money by writing and selling books, especially fiction. I’ve concluded that the only way to succeed is: a) have enough money before even starting so that I can spend money on promotions and ads; and 2) follow the “rapid write, rapid release” method to produce as many books as humanly possible, preferably in romance or space operas. I don’t have lots of money to spend on ads and promos, I don’t want to spend 12 hours a day on a computer churning out books, and I don’t have a patron.
My conclusion: in 2021, I’ll be better off focusing on good physical health, spiritual and psychological wellness, and especially, having fun. So starting today and in 2021, I’m making art and writing books for fun. And hoping for the best.
Feel free to comment. What are your plans for 2021?
Home_Sunday morning, January 1, 2021