Success and the future.
Now there are two words that almost every writer I have met can’t fathom or even see when it comes to their own writing and business.
Now granted, some writers give those two words lip service, and in different workshops Kris and I work at getting writers to think ahead. It feels like walking into a brick wall.
Success and future planning when it comes to writing and a publishing business are just not possible for almost every writer to fathom.
And honestly, I understand that. My goal, for a very long time, was to make a living at my writing. I had NO concept what that meant other than the basics of “paying my bills” with my writing income that month.
Notice the thought is making a living, not a career. A living can happen for a year. And a ton of writers in this modern world of indie publishing can make a living for a year or two, as long as the hot-new-trend they stumbled into continues.
You see this a great deal in the writers in Kindle Select. (And three years from the time I write this writers will be asking me “What was Kindle Select?”) This book of blog posts will far, far outlast that blip in the publishing history.
These writers give no thought at all to building a career.
Let me give a quick definition that I use. “Making a Living” is a very short-term goal. “Building a Career” is the ability to make a living every year, year-after-year, over decades.
Everything I teach and everything in this book is aimed at helping writers build careers. If you want the most recent fad, go have fun. Bank the money is my suggestion.
So now, for this chapter, I am going to talk mostly about success.
Selling to Traditional Publishing
Got to deal with this first because to many beginning writers, simply selling to a major publisher is a success.
The sad writers who do this in 2017 (as I write this) are not giving one thought to the future or long-term career building. They are selling all rights to their books for a few thousand dollars and the pat on their heads that tells them that some English major in an office in New York really likes them.
Then for a short time a year-or-two-later their books will be published overpriced, restricted in distribution, and with a great sense of “Is that all there is?”
Soon the book will be pushed to the back and forgotten, just an IP valuation on a corporate balance sheet. But wow is their family proud of them, but wonder why they are still working their day jobs.
To these writers success is measured by a sale to a single editor. That’s it.
That’s their definition of success. Sort of sad, huh?
And by signing the contract they make their future with those books very simple. They no longer own the books, so those books have no future.
Reality of Numbers
Publishing is a very large industry. Very large. And if you know how to manage your magic pies correctly, your work in publishing can extend into many other areas as well. Movies, television, games, to name just some obvious ones.
But writers tend to be focused on how to make an extra sale here, or give something away there, to gain more imaginary numbers on a mailing list. These writers make no plans and have no concept at all of what might happen when it comes to real success and real money.
One question we do in both the online monthly business class and a variation of it in the Strengths Business workshop, is what would happen if you knew suddenly that in three months one hundred thousand dollars would hit your account.
The answers are head-shaking because it is clear no writer we have asked that question to has thought ahead to that kind of small success. (And yes, that is small success in publishing.)
And if you are thinking you would take that small success, I sure understand. But that also illustrates the problem. Your vision, your ability to see a future and real success, is very limited.
A good attorney friend of mine once said that he envied me with my job. He went to work, made great money, and then went home. All the money he could make in a day he made. To keep making money he had to go back to work the next day. But when I got up and went to writing, every day I had a chance of hitting a home run and making millions.
And sometimes that possibility was with a novel I wrote years before.
He saw the publishing profession so much better than most writers.
Sadly, there is nothing I can say to most here in this chapter to convince most anyone. Think about it. Even those who do make the huge money are always called “lucky” or “outliers” by those who can’t imagine doing it themselves.
There is a vested interest in writers as a class to not think about real success or the future.
So What Do You Do to Get Ready for Success?
First, never sell your entire magic pie. For any reason to anyone.
Keep that magic pie, that copyright, firmly planted in your bakery.
That is the basic center of everything. Then your pie, as the future unfolds, can earn you money.
What else can you do?
— Start studying writers who are successful in careers. Not those flash writers chasing the most recent trend. Study writers who have been writing and selling and in a career in one form or another for decades. There are a lot of us.
— Start understanding business and money. Your magic bakery is a business. Start understanding things like cash streams, corporations, tax protections, and so on. For example, that one hundred thousand you get in suddenly. If you understand what I just said, you will keep it all. If you don’t, you will pay over half of it to governments.
— Start learning how stories and novels get outside of publishing. What do you need to do? Learn that.
— Get your work into every market you can around the world and let it build. And keep writing what you love.
— Learn all the ways you can divide up your magic pies.
— Then be patient. You can’t learn any of the above overnight, or even in a year.
You are a writer. Write the next book, the next story, the next blog post as I am doing here.
Then, as I am doing here, after you are finished, see how many ways you can turn slices of the pie you just created into cash streams.
Next chapter will be about thinking about the future. You know, that place beyond Christmas.