Jen A. Miller, and I'm a freelance writer and author. I've been freelancing now for 17 years, and in that time, have written hundreds of articles, three books (two about the Jersey Shore and one about running), and two ebooks (both about freelance writing).
Hello hello! Yes, the rumors (that I started) are true. On New Year's Day, I fired up the old Book a Week with Jen blog, gave it a new domain, and I'm going to be writing about my reading habits once again.
If you're not new around here, wow a lot has changed. I wrote a memoir, picked up a regular running column for the New York Times, and put that back down again. I ran a lot of marathons, and got into ultra marathoning, which lead me to run my first 24 hour race on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day 2020/2021. My first dog, Emily, died in 2017. I sold my first home, lived out of my car for a year traveling the country, scooped up a scruffy cattle dog mix in Idaho and named her Annie Oakley Tater Tot, and bought another house not far from the first one. I also "learned" how to surf for my 40th birthday (I'm 41 now and still mostly fall down, but I try).
OK back to this project. In 2007, I started the blog Book a Week with Jen. It was a time of personal distress (which I wound up writing about at length in Running a Love Story), and I think most of us are in a not great place right now. For me, personal health challenges, COVID, political unrest - whatever you else you want to add here - well, it's not great. My work life has been going swimmingly (I'm now a six-figure freelancer, and I reviewed my first book for The New York Times Book Review last year!) but as I closed out 2021, I felt that I'd lost touch with writing for fun.
I also knew that I've lost that ability to do introspective, creative writing during the pandemic. I tried reviving a book proposal in the middle of 2021 and had to stop because my brain imploded. In setting 2022 goals, I asked myself: what could I do to force myself to dip my toe back in those waters without putting too much stress on my already stressed out self?
On New Year's Eve, I read Damon Brown and Jeanette Hurt's The Passive Writer: 5 Steps to Earning Money in Your Sleep. I already earn passive income through my freelance writing ebooks, but I can always learn more, so I zipped through this to get a few ideas. They asked readers: "What do you do, everyday, that you aren't paid for?" and "What do you love, outside of writing and relationship, more than anything else in the world? If you're not writing about it, why not?"
Books! I love reading, and I love talking about reading, and books, and more reading and more books. And while I'm occasionally paid to review a book, and often use authors as experts in stories, I don't write about what I'm reading on a regular basis. The format, of writing about a book when I finish it, should prompt me to write creatively too.
Instead of getting too hung up on how this project should look (newsletter? new website? chalk on sandwich boards outside of my house?) I came back to this space. I invested $12 in buying the new domain and slapped on a new theme, but the bones of the site are still the same. I've left my archives as is because I think they're important too (and full of great book recommendations you can read right now).
I'm not going to charge for this content. However, I'm adding some monetization avenues, and I want to be 100% clear on what they are:
- I ditched the old Amazon links and became an affiliate with Bookshop.org, an online platform that has raised more than $18 million for independent bookstores. If you click a link here and buy a book, I get 10% of each sale, and 10% goes to an independent bookstore (I'm going to build my store with links to the books that I write about here - fun!) I know I've been critical of affiliate link journalism, but to me that's writing posts for the sake of making money off of links (like when a running magazine website publishes a piece about best at home saunas - which is a real thing that happened in 2020). This is adding links to stuff I'd be writing anyway.
- For audiobooks, I'll be sharing my Libro.fm referral code (which is lfm125120 - or use this link). If you don't know Libro.fm, it's an audiobook platform where a portion of sales go to an independent bookstore. You can buy a la cart, or sign up for a membership, like I did when the pandemic started. If you use my code when signing up for a membership, I get a free audiobook. I've also applied to be part of their affiliate program.
- I'm adding a Ko-fi "buy Jen a cup of coffee" links to posts. I've been asked many times if I have a Patreon or tip jar, and neither one of those feels quite right. This feels like a better option.
Is there a more snazzy/profitable way to do this? Probably. Will the website's look change as the year goes on? Perhaps. But I didn't want to lose the reviews I wrote 15 years ago (!), and I also didn't want my lack of web design skills to hold me back from getting right into posting about the first book I read this year (which is FASCINATING - I can't wait to tell you all about it).
Onward! And oh here's Annie Oakley Tater Tot, in all her glory, from our fall trip to Acadia National Park.