I started off chapter three with a question and an answer: “How do you slice a magic pie? The answer is simply as many ways as you want.”
But first you have to have a magic pie to slice.
You have to have copyright to license. And that is the rub, the place where so many writers flat run into a massive wall. It takes time and a lot of practice and knocking down personal demons to produce new stories and novels regularly.
Anyone can do it for a short time. A year. Maybe two. But then with just a few cases in their Magic Bakery half full and the rest of the bakery still empty, the writer fades away.
The magic pies don’t spoil as I talked about earlier, but they sure gather dust. No one comes through the door and no one keeps up the bakery.
When the writer stops caring about their own business, the business dies. It is called quitting and it is the only way to fail in this modern world of publishing.
Now I understand how hard this is. Clearly understand. And this problem of looking at empty shelves almost got me as well.
So a personal story…
As Kris and I moved from traditional publishing to indie publishing, I got the statement from young writers over and over how easy I had it because I already had work.
Well, I knew how to tell stories, sure. And I had sold millions of books and had made my living in publishing since 1988. Sure.
But the indie world made me into a flat beginner. So when some young writer with three or four or five novels said that I had this huge advantage over them, I just nodded and said nothing.
The only real advantage I had was that I was a better storyteller.
You see, the dirty truth was I had no books. Well, I actually had two, one was my first published novel I had the rights back to and one was a thriller I had written and then tossed in a drawer. And I had a ton of short stories.
For almost all of my career, I was a media writer and a ghost writer. I wrote over one hundred novels under pen names or media books and I didn’t own a one of them. I had baked the magic pie in someone else’s bakery.
So I had nothing but the short stories and I didn’t feel I wanted to bring the thriller or the first novel out right off the bat.
I felt I needed to fill my magic bakery.
It felt impossible, I must admit.
I would stand in that Magic Bakery and stare at all the empty shelves and wonder how in the world at my age I would ever fill them. In other words, I had to start my writing career completely over in my 60s.
So with two novel pies sitting in the back room and my bakery almost completely empty except for some shelves of short story pies to one side, I started to work in 2011. All of the shelves were cleaned and polished and just waiting for me to fill them.
Waiting for me to get baking.
I did some more short stories to get started and then lost most of a year to a personal friend’s death and estate.
By the time I got back to writing, it was almost 2013. And again I did more short stories to try to get going.
Then in the summer of 2013 I decided I really needed to get baking. I was tired of staring at all the empty shelves.
So I started up Smith’s Monthly, which needed a novel, four short stories, and a serial every month. And I had to write it all. Every word of a monthly seventy thousand word magazine.
I wrote like crazy that summer to get a few novel pies on the shelf and the first issue came out in October 2013. I am a little behind at the moment here in 2017 as I write this, but I expect to be caught up by October 2017 with the 4th full year without missing a month. And then I plan to start into the fifth year.
Imagine in October a wall of my Magic Bakery will be full of forty-eight magic pies with the sign over the wall Smith’s Monthly pies.
After four years I now have pies of different sorts filling my bakery.
These nonfiction books taken from blog posts.
The short stories have all been published standalone and a slice of each novel was taken and licensed to WMG to publish standalone.
And I combined slices of the short stories to be in collections and so on. Not counting short stories, last year alone I did twenty six major books. The year before over thirty. This year will again be over thirty.
I went from having a mostly empty bakery to a decent inventory in my Magic Bakery in four years.
Over a hundred major products and hundreds of short stories.
And the customers are coming, even though I have done very little, if any advertising.
Seems people like the taste of a Cold Poker Gang pie or a Seeders Universe pie or a Poker Boy pie.
This Takes Time
There are a number of hot, young (in numbers of books) gurus out there at this moment preaching how to sell more books by this or that advertising device. Some of the advice is pretty good. And WMG is following some of it in moderation.
But almost without fail, these “experts” have an almost empty Magic Bakery. They have gotten very, very good at driving customers into their empty store, but have forgotten the reason to have the store in the first place.
Think folks. You might, through some advertising hype or another, go into a store you have never visited. We all do. Standard business stuff. But if you walked into the store with only a few things on the shelves, would you make it a point of going back?
In our north Pop Culture Collectables store, we have over twenty thousand books and a hundred-thousand comics, toys, cars, games, and collectables of all sorts. It fills four large rooms and when someone comes in they are always surprised at how much we have and they always take time to explore all four rooms.
And they often buy something they didn’t even know they wanted.
If they came through the door and we had two collectable cars, an old toy, five used paperbacks, and six used comics in the four rooms, think anyone would bother to stay? Or come back?
It has taken us over a year now to get the store as full as it is. And we had all the inventory in the warehouse. It took a year to get it all out and priced.
Things take time.
As writers, we must create our own inventory. And that flat takes time.
But it will never happen if you don’t start.
And it will never happen if you quit.
How to Even Start?
First… As I suggest in a number of classes, do an inventory of your magic bakery.
Everything. Every article that might be combined into a book, every short story, every novel.
Everything that you own copyright on and have created. Even stuff still in the back room you are too afraid to bring out and put on a shelf.
Second… See if there is any way to create new products with that inventory? You know, take a small slice from five short stories and combine it into a collection. Things like that.
Or get your work up on Bundlerabbit so people can ask for the bundling slice of your pies. And so on and so on.
Third… Figure out your hours. How much time do you spend writing each week creating new product? What is stopping you from getting some of the work in the back room out to the shelves?
In other words, find your demons. Check Heinlein’s Five Rules and be honest at which rule you are falling down on.
Fourth… Make a five year and ten year plan. Expect it to take time to fill your shelves of your magic bakery.
Make your focus early on not on getting customers through the door to be disappointed, but on making your Magic Bakery a place where people will want to return over and over when they do find it.
When you start thinking of your writing as a business and a retail store, it really is amazing how clear some basics about writing become.
I knew this four plus years ago when I started filling my shelves. And I do not plan on slowing down because my bakery really is magic. I have as much room as I need to expand when my inventory starts filling the shelves.
And I plan on doing a lot of expanding over the next ten years.