Austin Kleon, Show Your Work, and Amazon

I found author and creator Austin Kleon when teaching high school English. His Newspaper Blackout collection (as well as his work in progress showcased on his website and Twitter/social media) inspired me to create some "blackout" pieces of my own and assign my students to do the same—but more importantly, I was driven to start showing more of my work and doing more things now, instead of waiting for magical moments or inspiration.

Kleon's later book Show Your Work (linked via the image) is a major inspiration for the SHOWOFF brand and the different projects I'm starting to work on here. Not only do I recommend Kleon's books (all of them), this post is another invitation into the ethos of showing work in progress. This is my progress tonight.

...which brings me back to the title of this post—Amazon. I have done some reading on Amazon and the Amazon Affiliates program, but hadn't yet pulled the trigger on signing up and/or exploring it myself. One of my excuses or "obstacles" was readership—I don't yet have a huge base by any means, and the revenue from click-through links only gets really powerful on a large scale. But another excuse was one that SHOWOFF itself is designed to combat: I was waiting for a "magic moment" to start something like this outside my comfort zone.

But, there is no magic moment—there's only doing something, now.

In that context, then, it should not be a surprise that—disclosure—the links in this post that send you to Amazon are Amazon Affiliate links. If you head there and buy from Amazon, I get a small commission from Amazon (of course, you notice nothing during the transaction and it doesn't affect your price).

When I think about the Affiliate program one way—even though you pay nothing more than what you would in a normal transaction—it still feels a little shady to me. Part of me feels like it's a way to manipulate whoever actually does decide to look at what I'm writing just to make money from their clicks.

On the other hand, when I remember other content creators I've read who are also Amazon Affiliates, and the way they have disclosed their affiliate links—open-handed, no-pressure, honest—I feel like I can share valuable content in good faith, and not worry about it. After all, you only buy from Amazon if you think it's worth it. And I'm not asking you to host a Tupperware party or join a multi-level marketing empire—it's one-and-done, and hopefully valuable to you.

So—with open hands, no pressure, and honesty—here's to doing stuff and seeing what happens.

P.S. Kleon's other big book for me—Steal Like an Artistis another I recommend, and will hopefully dig into and write more about another time.


On the Side

I’ve been putting design work up on a few sites for a little while. It’s not big money, but it lets me create, push out, and experiment with the market. There’s no risk or cost (other than my time—more on that later) and I make a few bucks. You can check out my Redbubble portfolio if you want (I will have links under my Design tab, too, once I get rolling).

Redbubble summarizes my sales, and it’s interesting to see which designs get the most traction (see screenshot).

Now, this snapshot is just most recent sales—for a while, my “Hillary” shirt was winning (a quick, opportunistic design put up on the night of the election); then it was one of the coffee designs (originally designed for my wife); and now it’s “Fantastic Beets” (an Office/Rowling mashup). So far, politics and pop culture are good for business; my corny jokes? Not so much.

Note: I’m also showing in the screenshot above just how much “a few bucks” means here—it really is just a few. I’ve had work up on Redbubble since around September, 2016. And while the income is totally passive once it’s set up, I have way more designs up than have ever made a sale.

I value doing it, though, because it’s doing something. I can practice and experiment and get better and have fun—and that time spent is worth more than just the income (for now). In the long-run, I’m fine with some failure and learning curves (that’s what SHOWOFF is about)—but my goal is to trend toward increasing value and impact—and that means finding what works to strike a balance between personal fulfillment, growth, significance, and yeah, income (there’s surely more to unpack in that balance for later).

So, today I decided to look at and set up a Society6 storefront. Not much work there yet (just one simple logo/brand piece at time of writing)—but it’s fully SHOWOFF branded, and it will give me another market to experiment with (again, I’ll have my store links up on the Design tab).

Here’s to work on the side.