The last week of February, writer Scott William Carter and I taught a workshop to about twenty-five driven indie writers. The thrust of the workshop was how indie writers can make more money.
During the four days, Scott and I covered everything, from professional cover design to blurbs to paper books to web sites to bookstores to audio sales to traditional sales and translation sales and so much more.
What was fantastic for me was that with twenty-five-plus driven indie writers in the room, the synergy was almost overwhelming. We talked about pricing of electronic, pricing of trade paper, and pricing of audio. We all tossed around a ton of ideas, studied covers, talked about the levels of sales and how they added up and on and on. The workshop didn’t seem to stop for even lunch or dinner or much sleep.
In other words, it was a workshop I couldn’t believe I had been a part of. I learned so much, I had ten pages of notes of things I learned, AND I WAS TEACHING THE THING. Not kidding.
The Magic Pie
So on the last morning, I went to the white board to attempt to put the entire workshop together. Again, remember, the focus was helping indie publishers/writers make more money with each piece of work.
And our second focus had been to try to get indie writers out of short-term thinking and into long-term business planning.
At the white board, I drew a big circle as I am want to do. You know, the image of a pie. My metaphor of a copyright as a magic pie in a magic bakery.
I wanted to summarize all the topics of the long four days into one drawing.
Each story, each novel, each book is represented by one of these pies and each slice is an income stream every month.
So I drew a big slice of the pie and labeled it “Electronic Publishing” and then divided that down into the major players such as Amazon, Pubit, and Smashwords, trying to be general about the size of slice in relation to the size of the income. (I was being general, so I added in the smaller slices for other streams such as other online bookstores or Overlook under “other.”)
I then added another large slice and called it “Traditional Sales” since we had talked about selling to magazines, selling translation rights to overseas publishers, and so on. All that we considered traditional. Most indie publishers early on will make most of their income either in electronic or traditional.
You can see on the chart on the right all the different things we considered in our Long Term approach to indie publishing and making money.
The POD or paper book slice is represented smaller, but for many publishers that slice will just grow and grow. Notice I also have a slice called “Bookstore Flow” which means sales of indie books (and eventually electronic books) to bookstores.
We have a slice called “Web (direct)” that represents selling off your own web site and of course, audio books. And the “Special” section are for things like signed books, enhanced books, limited editions, and so on.
Size is Everything
I know that now most indie publishers chart would be mostly electronic and only a tiny slice, if any of POD or audio or anything else. Electronic publishing is a great way to start. And rightfully, the focus of most starting publishers has been there in this early-adaptor period.
The thing to remember is that the size of the cash streams will change over time in relation to each other. That’s something an indie publisher needs to plan for. For example, I fully expect almost half of WMG Publishing’s income in two years will be from the combined Bookstore Flow and POD Publishing sections. And I expect audio will be bigger than I have it projected and special editions might be huge.
I expect for me (personally) the traditional income to shrink.
And then the workshop ended.
While I was doing this drawing, Annie Bellet’s husband, Matt, had joined us and was drawing the above chart on his computer as part of the notes as I drew my rough drawing on the white board. After we were finished and everyone was standing around still talking, Annie showed me the drawing and I asked Matt if I could use his nifty sketch for this post and he agreed. Thanks, Matt.
But then Annie and a couple others went up to the white boards, laughing and when I had turned around, they had drawn their own representation of “Short Term Thinking” on the board beside the image of “Long Term Thinking” I had drawn.
The chart they drew is on the right, thanks once again to Matt Bellet.
And sadly, I agree.
That second image is how so many indie writers think about their business. While I and others use the cash flow streams from the Long Term Thinking chart while we build for a future.
I have talked about this before. But since there is a huge difference between long-term professional thinking and short-term “I want the money now” thinking, I wanted to just point this out once more.
And these two charts illustrate that difference perfectly.
Copyright © 2012 Dean Wesley Smith
Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
Illustrations of charts Copyright 2012 Matt Bellet