By Dave Haslett –
I’ve always been a writer, winning a school poetry competition at the age of 7 and writing my first book between the ages of 12 and 13. Ideas come to me easily, and, until I found an outlet for them, it bothered me to have far more than I’d ever be able to use – especially as many would-be writers seem to suffer from a lack of them.
I worked in government/financial administration and the computer industry, but wrote novels and short stories in my spare time. While perusing Writers’ News magazine (UK) in October 2001, a small quote struck a chord with me. Philip Pullman was asked where he got his ideas from, and quipped that he bought them ready-made from ideas-r-us.com. He was obviously jesting, but I decided to start the actual site – and ideas4writers (www.ideas4writers.co.uk) was born.
The site went live in August 2002. Members could subscribe for 6 or 12 months at a time and access the complete collection of ideas, which they were free to use or adapt. I added new ideas and “what ifs” every month and included tips, advice, insider secrets, and so on. I also designed “writing engines” which generate characters and story outlines with a single click.
It was very successful: in September 2003 I went part-time in my job, and in May 2004 I left it.
I managed to write a book in 2005, The Fastest Way to Write Your Book, partly based on tips I’d collected over the past three years. I self-published it, and used what I learned to help some ideas4writers members publish their own books. But I hit a wall after that, because coming up with new ideas for the site was taking all my time. By the time I reached 5,000 ideas I had burned out.
I froze the site and gave the existing subscribers lifetime membership. New members could join for a one-off fee – double the price of the previous annual subscription.
I turned the 5,000 ideas into 35 ebooks and made them available for non-members to buy. (New members can still join and download the whole lot.) And I repackaged the what ifs into an ebook: The Fastest Way to Get Ideas – 4,400 Essential What Ifs for Writers.
The ideas4writers website also lists newsworthy historic anniversaries, several months in advance. Members asked if I could expand this to cover a whole year at a time – and so The Date-A-Base Book was born. This series now generates the majority of my income. Each edition takes nearly five months to compile, but that leaves the rest of the year free for other projects.
It’s been quite a journey to get where I am today, and not without worries. There was a year with almost no income when a project went wrong. I spent nine months mentoring a new writer and editing her trilogy – which would have been huge. But she got nervous, decided she wouldn’t be able to cope with the fame, and pulled out. I nearly had to go back to my old job – and even had a chat with my former boss. I managed to recoup the lost income by giving talks and running writing workshops, though it’s not something I particularly like doing.
Things are pretty settled now, and I’ve become active in the community where I live, chairing committees and so on.
I’ve since discovered a much easier way to make a good living as a writer. Learn all about in Ditch Your Day Job! – a free ebook (PDF) available on my blog (http://ideas4writers.wordpress.com).