The New World of Publishing: Investing in Your Own Future

The other evening, after a hard day of moving massive numbers of boxes and magazines, I invited writers Chris and Steve York and Lee Allred up to the new offices to sit around and talk. And an interesting conversation happened about the future of indie publishing that helped me get the nerve to finally write this topic.

I’m going to talk about how to handle the future. This is not a column of me pulling out the old cracked and dusty crystal ball and trying to look ahead. Nope.

This is a column about attitude.

Attitude about the future. And attitude about your writing now.

And sort of a continuation of the previous column about “Writers” and “Authors,” so make sure you have read that column before this one. It can be found right below this column.

The Previous Article

In the last article in this series, I went on about the difference between an “Author” and a “Writer.”

And in indie publishing, the difference can really, really be seen, with the “Authors” doing nothing but promoting “their book” while the “Writers” just get out to readers what they have written and then move on to writing new stories.

And let me repeat something I said:  It is the “Authors” who are going on and on about what indie “Writers” MUST DO.

That’s right, it is the indie “Authors” who are promoting like crazy and at the same time trying to tell all the rest of us what we have to do and don’t have to do in order to sell copies of our work.

Most “Writers” just shrug and think they will get around to all that stuff someday, when they have time, but of course, they never have the time because they are “Writers” and writing comes first. And then we “Writers” feel uneasy and a little guilty for not doing all that promotion stuff the “Authors” are shouting that we MUST DO!

So time for a little attitude adjustment for us “Writers.”

It’s time we “Writers” really, really ignore the “Authors” and just think long term. And here is one way to keep the focus on long term writing and publishing.

The Old Days of Publishing

When I say “The Old Days of Publishing,” I mean more than two years ago, when publishers had complete control over all distribution systems between writers and readers. Thus all writers had to fight through all the myths of traditional publishing, get editors to buy our work, wait around for years for the books to get slowly published, and then build a career over a decade or more, slowly, one book at a time, moving publishers, taking rejection, low advances, books kicked out of print for no reason, and bad edits, plus anything else traditional publishing could toss at us.

Most writers didn’t make it ten novels, let alone ten years. And when a writer spent a bunch of time on a book and it “wasn’t right” for traditional markets, the only choice the writer had was to put it in a file folder and try to forget the thing.

And in the old days heaven forbid you suggested a short story collection to your publisher. Just the idea might have caused extreme laughter and nasty responses from your editor about “waiting a few years until the market was ready.”

Two-plus years ago traditional publishers lost their control over the distribution system, allowing writers to go directly to readers with every book, every collection, and all our backlist and unpublished novels. And ever since great fun has ensued among the writers with the courage and the attitude to venture out into indie publishing.

The control by traditional publishers of the distribution system is forever gone. The horse is out of the barn, the genie is out of the bottle, and writers are forever free to write what the hell we want to write when we want to write it.

We are free to let readers decide if they want to read what we write or not instead of letting some guy in a bad suit in a New York sales department pass judgement on our work.

Let me simply say: I lived for thirty years in those old days, made my living in those publishing games, and not for a second do I miss those years. I love this new world. (I think I have said that before a time or two.)

But now it is time for indie “Writers” to start thinking long term, because the world we are in right now is here to stay in one form or another.

Investment

Most people work day jobs and so many of the day-job workers invest for their future, their retirement, whatever, in some way or another.

One of the most popular ways of investing for a future retirement is a 401(k).

For those outside the States, 401(k) takes its name from a part of our tax code and is a government-allowed way to put money into an investment account with tax relief. Inside the 401(k) the money is often invested in stocks and bonds by professional investment people. Lots of ways of investing inside 401(k)s, actually.

Many people I know with regular jobs put money every paycheck into their 401(k), trying to get the yearly amount up to the limit allowed by the government.

And a huge number of people every month don’t even open their 401(k) statements when they come in the mail. They just don’t want to know the ups and downs in their total caused by the stock market. They just want to know that the amount is growing slowly over time and in the future there will be enough there.

Starting to see where I am going with this? If not, hold on, I’ll get there.

The Deadly Wage Thinking

The hardest thing for newer writers to understand is that writing time is never wasted. But it often sure feels that way. Not only is the time spent practicing on the path to becoming a better storyteller, but that time also creates items, widgets (known as stories) that can then be sold.

Math Alert!!

You sit alone in a room pounding out a novel. It’s done finally.  Say you actually wrote 1,000 words per hour and the novel is 90,000 words long.

You just worked for 90 hours.

Let’s say you are pretty fast with all the other stuff like cleaning up the manuscript and getting it ready to go out and your total time spent on the novel is 120 hours. (This is an example…so take a breath.)

But consider this: If you had worked those same 120 hours at your day job for $20.00 per hour, you would have been paid $2,400 before taxes.

You would have paid some bills that month with that money, whatever, and the money would be gone. Poof into the air, unless you put a hundred or so into your 401(k).

Let me say that again. You will never be paid again for those 120 hours. They are headed into the past along with the memory of how you spent the money. And except for the $100 you put in the 401(k), you will never see any more money from those hours.

But that is not the case with the 120 hours you spent writing and preparing the novel. Those hours haven’t started to earn for you yet.

Just exactly like the $100 you put into your 401(k) last week hasn’t started earning anything yet.

It will take time for that $100 to earn any return.

It will take time for your novel to earn any return.

An Indie Publisher Investing Plan

Step One: Set a Goal to Publish Something New Every Two Weeks.

— It could be a short story or your latest book. It could be a collection, whatever. Just put into print one new item every two weeks. (I know of very few writers who haven’t been working for a time that don’t have backlist as well to help with this. If you hate the story and think it sucks, put it under a pen name.)

— Give yourself one week to miss, so you will have 25 books, stories, collections up in one year. (Even if you miss for three full months you will have 20 books, stories, and collections up. Not bad.)

— This investment plan will also keep you writing new work.

Step Two: Consider Each Publication a Deposit into Your “Future Investment Account.”

— So instead of turning into an “Author” with every new published item, consider each new published book or story an investment in your future. Just like putting $100.00 into a 401(k) every two weeks. Think of it in the exact same way.

— Just as you ignore your 401(k) statement most months, ignore how your sales are going. Focus on the writing of the next thing.

— And if you really want to use your writing as an investment, just let the money sit in an interest-bearing account as it comes in each month from your sales. You might be stunned at how fast that will grow as you keep writing and publishing. (I know some writers are already doing this with their indie publishing accounts.)

— Take the long-term approach. Think out five and ten years, not two weeks. (I know, impossible for beginning writers to do, but again, you are investing in your future. It’s all an attitude.)

The Results?

So what’s going to happen in five years?

Like I said, my crystal ball is cracked and cloudy. And I have no idea if that 27th story you might publish in year two hits a home run and starts selling like crazy and makes more money than even I can imagine. It might happen.

Or you might just go along selling a few copies per item, averaging anywhere from three to ten sales over all the sites every month. Some books never selling, others selling much better than average. Who knows. It’s publishing. As I have said many times, if anyone, including traditional publishers could figure out what will or won’t sell to readers at any given moment, this industry would be very, very easy. But alas, no one knows what will sell and what won’t.

All we “Writers” can do is create new stories we hope readers will enjoy and then publish them so the readers can find them.

And, of course, you have to price your stuff out of the discount bin and give nothing away for free so that your readers respect your work and each sale actually adds something to your “Future Investment Account.”

But all that said, let me pretend to look between the cracks of the crystal ball out into a future.

And to do that, my crystal ball needs to make a few assumptions.

Assumption #1: Electronic publishing grows to 50-70% or so of all fiction books sold and hovers there for a long time into the future. (Pretty safe assumption.)

Assumption #2: The outlets for electronic books continues to grow and grow (as it is doing now) and becomes even more international in nature, so we are selling books to the world, not just a region of the planet. (Pretty safe assumption.)

Assumption #3: You, as a “Writer” can continue to write regularly for a decade or more into the future and keep publishing your work as you finish it. (Not so safe assumption, since very few “Writers” continue past a few years. They often become “Authors” or “Whatever-Happened-To…?”)

Math Alert!

You get up 25 stories, novels, collections in the first year. Short stories priced at 99 cents to $2.99 depending on length, collections from $2.99 to $4.99, novels at $4.99 to $6.99.

To make this math easier, if you sold one of each item you have up, your average income would be $2.50 per sale. (Make up your own average number depending on your pricing and if you write more short stories than novels and have no collections, which is just silly.)

Ignore all money you make the first year as your list grows. Just let it sit there. I’m not counting it.

End of Year #2: 25 items up for the entire year, plus the new 25 that came up over the year as the months went along. Each sells 5 per month average x $2.50 = $12.50 per month per item x 25 items = $312.50 per month plus the sales on the new stuff.

So by the end of Year #2 you will have made more than $4,000.00 approximately, counting sales of the new stuff as well. Not a living and no “home run” sales like Konrath and others talk about, but still not bad.

Remember, that’s having 50 items priced right in your indie publishing program by the end of Year #2.

So what next???

You are a “Writer.”  You just keep writing, just as anyone working a day job keeps working. And you keep pouring more and more into your indie publishing program, letting it just grow and grow. (You know, like a 401(k).)

The income will go up year after year after year.

Why am I so sure of that?

Two reasons.

First, as a writer you are practicing. You are becoming a better storyteller by writing, and people like great stories.

Second, it is a proven fact in these early days of indie publishing that the more items you have for sale, the more sales you make and the more money you make. Think of it like having an entire section of books in a store instead of one or two books tucked down on a bottom shelf. People find entire sections of books.

It’s All About Attitude

The key for “Writers” is to think out ahead, to keep focusing on the writing and keep getting the writing, when finished, available to readers.

The goal is to drip regularly more and more product into your indie publishing program just as a day job person drips money every paycheck into a 401(k) investment account.

The point isn’t to make a killing tomorrow like “Authors” seem to want to do.

And remember, in the old days of publishing, it took a decade to make any money at all. And that was if you could survive and could keep writing.

Give your indie publishing program the chance to grow. Just as you would any investment account.

For “Writers” it is the writing that is important.

Have the attitude that the money and sales on your finished writing will follow eventually, if you just keep writing and publishing.

And you keep working to become a better storyteller.

And you give it time.

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Copyright © 2011 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
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This chapter is now part of my inventory in my Magic Bakery.  I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

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If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

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90 Responses to The New World of Publishing: Investing in Your Own Future

  1. allynh says:

    “Livia Blackburne on 13 Jan 2012 at 5:29 pm
    Ooh… all the talk of putting stuff up under a pen name is intruiguing…”

    Wiki, John Banville, who also writes as, Benjamin Black, as an example of the power of being many different writers-in-one.

    —-“Banville is highly scathing of all of his work, stating of his books “I hate them all … I loathe them. They’re all a standing embarrassment.”[8] Instead of dwelling on the past Banville is continually looking forward; “You have to crank yourself up every morning and think about all the awful stuff you did yesterday, and how you can compensate for that by doing better today.”[9] He writes only about a hundred words a day for his literary novels, versus several thousand words a day for his Benjamin Black crime fiction.[21] He appreciates his work as Black as a craft, while as Banville he is an artist, though he does consider crime-writing, in his own words, as being “cheap fiction”—-

    Notice, he writers faster, and has more fun, when he is Black, yet needs the snootyness of being Banville.

    Watch this Charlie Rose episode with John Banville to get a clear sense of how Banville sees himself as two completely different writers. Notice how Charlie has no clue what Banville is talking about.

    John Banville author of “A Death In Summer: A Novel”
    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/11784

    Now, think of the pen names as contract writers in your Syndicate. Track down the wiki page for, Edward Stratemeyer. Then wiki, Dean Koontz.

    Stratemeyer routinely used pen names for each style or series, never letting the secret out.

    Koontz used many pen names, then IMHOP, made the mistake of consolidating all the books he thought were “good” under the Koontz name, and then forced the books he didn’t like into OP. In today’s indie world, he could have kept all of his books alive, under the pen names, and let the reader decide. Each pen name would have its own shelf space today.

    Also wiki, Fernando Pessoa. He had at least 70 heteronym’s to play with. I love the concept. I’m building on all this myself.

    Heteronym (literature)
    “The literary concept of heteronym, invented by Portuguese writer and poet Fernando Pessoa, refers to one or more imaginary character(s) created by a writer to write in different styles. Heteronyms differ from noms de plume (or pseudonyms, from the Greek “False Name”) in that the latter are just false names, while the former are characters having their own supposed physiques, biographies and writing styles.”

    As you build pen names, go ahead and reuse them over time; you are building a posse of people to do the work for you. That quirky story that doesn’t fit anything would always go to one pen name, that odd story that is just too funny goes to another, etc…

    Also look at using a pen name for the Editor that publishes Anthologies containing the different short stories that the other pen names in your posse use. Over time, each pen name will fill up their own shelf.

    If you think about, publishing under pen names _exclusively_ gives you total freedom to stop worrying about what you write, and simply write. All the reasons that people give for hesitating to publish, rewriting endlessly, thinking their stuff is crap, having to promote, keeping a blog for readers to find you, all vanish when you use pen names _exclusively_.

    Just like Stratemeyer, have a Publishing House, with Editors, and a stable of writers and authors. That is total freedom to crash and burn on any one title, while the House wins. HA!

    • dwsmith says:

      allynn,

      There is a great book about the Stratemeyer network as they called it, and the company and the many products they started in many ways is still going strong today. Stratemeyer himself was an amazing guy. Koontz ws writing under dozens of names and his decision was a business decision. He only managed to miss a couple Leigh Nickols (sp?) books. I think for the times, his decision was a very smart move. He had his reason for pulling back all his pen names and from what I know of the reasons, they are very set in the time and far too long to go into here. (grin)

      Charles Grant used to do a lot of heteronym fun, inventing entire lives for his many pen names, marrying them off to each other, even having one murder another. It was great fun for years following all his pen name’s lives. The biggest case of a writer ever thinking their pen name work completely sucked was Frederick Faust (spelling again), who worked as a poet for decades, publishing almost nothing. But yet under his hated pen names, he was one of the richest writers of his time and one year alone had eleven movies made from his books. He wrote under dozens of major names, but the one pen name we still read today is Max Brand.

  2. On Tolkien (and other members of his circle and culture):

    Tolkien was a linguist, and the mythopoeic was a hobby of his–a hobby he worked at constantly, to the detriment of his professional reputation, because his fascination with myth was closely tied into his religious life and his cultural identity. He originally started turning his languages into stories because 1) he felt like the Battle of Hastings had robbed England of a cultural tradition, and he wanted to reconstruct what it might have been, and 2) he loved telling his children bedtime stories.

    Until The Hobbit, he made almost no effort to publish–when he did publish The Hobbit, it was basically because a friend of his badgered him into it and introduced him to the publisher’s sun, who went to bat for it. When the checks for The Hobbit started rolling in, he was shocked at the amount of money it brought in, but even so he was heavily resistant to the idea of a sequel.

    Why? Well, as people above pointed out, he wasn’t a writer by vocation. He was a linguist and myth scholar, and he considered his pursuit of mythology an eccentricity (and his colleagues, with the exception of a small circle, considered it childish). Tolkien stands among a number of great writers who wrote great books as a side effect of his other expertise, and in the history of literature from Homer to Hocking, poeple like this are exceedingly rare.

    Far more common among the well-remembered people like Asimov, Heinlein, Dickens, Hugo, Twain, and Poe, who were “hack” writers who wrote their butts off.

    And, of course, not all successful “hacks” stand the test of time. Some, like Lytton, were wonderful writers who, for reasons of taste, style, and theme, were firmly wedded to their time and whose stories didn’t translate forward to later generations. However, these guys still made a handsome living while they were working.

    Neil Gaiman (one of the great contemporary authors that many people consider a genre-transcending auteur) had the best quip on this subject I’ve ever heard. During an interview I read once he was asked about his “art.” He said something to the effect of: “No, you don’t understand. What I do is entertainment. Art is what people are still reading a hundred years from now. If I’m really lucky, I might still be in an anthology somewhere, and that’s not something I can worry about. I just have to make my house payment.”

    -Dan

    • dwsmith says:

      Home again and with a little energy tonight, so let me see how far I can get.

      Daniel, thanks for the great post on Tolkien and others. And yup, I am writing here for those who think along the lines of Neil. So thanks for the great post.

  3. Another great one for resenting the popularity of his “less worthy” work was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, inventor of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger. He considered Holmes to be the lowest kind of hero in the lowest kind of fiction, and Challenger to be merely good fun.

    Legend has it (and I say legend because I’ve never been able to source the story to my satisfaction, even though it is certainly in keeping with his general demeanor expressed in the private letters I’ve read) that he so resented Sherlock Holmes that, when offered knighthood, he insisted that he would not accept it unless it was understood that it was granted in honor of his history of the Boer War, and not for Sherlock Holmes.

    His other most important work, in his own estimation, was his work promoting the now infamous Fairy photographs (later admitted as a hoax).

    And yet, a century on, who really cares about his fairies or his history of the Boer War? Sherlock Holmes is still one of the hottest properties in the world, and it yearly inspires more people to writing, curiosity about police work and cold reading, and just plain keeps entertaining the hell out of people. Aside from the direct Holmes updates, you’ve also got (in the last fifteen years), everything from The Zero Effect to House, M.D. owing the bulk of their DNA to Conan Doyle’s most hated creation.

    Still flabbergasts the hell out of me.
    -Dan

  4. “And if you are so fast on short fiction as to fill pro slush piles, can’t hurt just indie publishing some of them.”

    Heh. Big “if” there. This is all hypothetical right now. I’m nowhere near that productive yet; but I’m hoping I can get there (with a little noodging from you). I know I can do it when I make it a priority. Today I wrote nearly 4,000 words that I think are pretty solid, and I did so while preparing for a flight, at the airport waiting for the flight, and then in the first hour of the flight. At that point, I finished the story AND ran out of battery at about the same time, so I called it quits for the day; but that’s around a thousand words an hour in a very busy day while also checking email and chatting with my First Reader. If I can do that during air travel, I ought to be able to do it in the comfort of my home.

    • dwsmith says:

      Wow, Martin, I have yet to push myself to try to write on trips, even on these estate trips. But alas, if I have to do many more, it’s going to come to that. Well done, sir!

  5. My dirty little secret is writing at conventions. Something about the hopping energy, particularly in the bar when nobody I know is around, just gets me going. I actually have a tradition of doing late-night novel finishing pushes on the last night of a con after everybody’s partied out. The atmosphere is just electric for me.

    That, and when traveling, the change of scenery gives me fresh input. If you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend it–particularly if it’s a lark rather than an obligation, it’s tremendous fun :-)

    -Dan

    • dwsmith says:

      Oh, wrote at a convention early on. Kris and I had a deadline on a novel together, so when one was downstairs in the con, the other would be typing. We switched off every two hours. We hit the deadline. But it wasn’t a hell of a lot of fun. But I do remember it, which is more than I can say for writing most of the other books I’ve done. (grin)

  6. This was a fantastic post, Dean. Thanks! You pretty much nailed my reasons for quitting my day job last August to focus only on writing. I had started writing and indie publishing a couple month before that, but I didn’t have any backlist (for years I’d fallen into the myth of writing a perfect novel) and knew if this was to work as a viable, money-making business I needed to write a ton more stories. And as some have mentioned, when you have a day job you’re limited in how much time you can spend writing. So, I looked at the writing time while still in the day job, compared to no day job and realized (for me), I was much, much better off spending the time focused on writing. Both my husband and I saw me taking the initial pay cut (meaning, no money but lunch money coming in) as an investment. Sure I could work another year as we’d initially planned and buy a house, but I would never get back that lost year of full-time writing. This was doubly important because we were planning on starting a family in the future – and anyone with children knows writing will (and should) take a backseat.

    I’m really happy to say the investment is finally paying off. It took several months and a ton of stories, but everything you’ve said is what I’ve seen. The money is steadily coming in, still growing each month especially now that I’ve gotten a couple novels up. It’s an investment well worth my time – time I plan on continuing to give even around future family obligations (even if it means an hour or two less of sleep). Not to mention how much happier I am finally doing something I love rather than earning a pay check.

  7. allynh says:

    “dwsmith on 14 Jan 2012 at 10:19 pm
    Charles Grant used to do a lot of heteronym fun, inventing entire lives for his many pen names, marrying them off to each other, even having one murder another. It was great fun for years following all his pen name’s lives.”

    Oh, that is so fun. I totally missed Grant’s heteronym antics. I can’t find any specifics online. Hopefully NESFA assembles a Grant book one of these days. I want all the details. HA!

  8. Jocelyn says:

    I was thinking the other day that writing, no matter what I was doing, or how much time I spent on it, even if it was something that even I would never publish, was worth it, an investment in my future. It is a learning experience every time, as you have pointed out before.

    Then I look at my feed, see this new post (well, I just checked today, so it’s new to me, even if it was two days ago), and you’ve got it all laid out as an investment, and I had to smile.

    One of the parts that stuck out to me the most was this part, here:

    Let me say that again. You will never be paid again for those 120 hours. They are headed into the past along with the memory of how you spent the money. And except for the $100 you put in the 401(k), you will never see any more money from those hours.

    But that is not the case with the 120 hours you spent writing and preparing the novel. Those hours haven’t started to earn for you yet.

    That I’m going to keep in mind every time the people around me try and tell me that writing isn’t a real job. It is, even if I don’t see the instant paycheck they do in their medical fields.

    Again, thank you for this and all of your new world of publishing articles. They are extremely helpful and always make me think.

    • dwsmith says:

      Thanks, Jocelyn. That part you quoted is the most important part and yet the most ignored. So thanks for bringing that part back up.

  9. maria grace says:

    I write in two totally opposite and non-complimentary genres:l historical fiction/romance and science fiction/fantasy. Because of the niche I write for historical fiction I already have a community to easily publicize and market with. Not so much with the SF works. I have gotten bogged down on editing the SF because I didn’t really have a marketing strategy for it. Thanks for the kick in the pants to just get it done and put it out there. I needed that.

  10. Joe D'Agnese says:

    Just read Eudora Welty’s review of “The Letters of William Faulkner.” The quotes she picked are incredible because they show WF cranking out work to pay his bills and fretting when editors don’t buy or send checks late. At one point, he was sticking to a schedule of writing two short stories a week. It was killing him, but he had concluded that this was the only way to meet his bills. (He was down to mortgaging his mules and colts at one point.) The Sat Eve Post pays him $1000 at one point, and he mentions he is accustomed to getting about $300 to $400 a pop for short stories, so the $1000 is a rich payday.

    I don’t think he ever considered himself an author.

    • dwsmith says:

      Joe, thank you for that about Faulkner. People never believe me when I say things like that. (grin)

      Brian, sadly, this site doesn’t help in my sales at all, since readers for this site are writers and writers buy very few books. Plus I only have up under this name about sixty or so short stories and four or five collections. I never think of this site and these articles helping any sales. Not why I am here. In fact, if I did think about this helping sales, I’m sure I would never do this at all.

      As for “branding” pen names, I think that’s a good idea, but you do it with a web site dedicated to that pen name and also a different cover look that is consistent over the different name. That helps in the readers knowing what they are buying.

      So, yes, a web site for each name, a different cover look for each name, and then write a bunch under each name. That’s about all you can do.

  11. Brian says:

    Hi Dean &Others,

    I’m just getting started and many other writer-entrepreneurs are stressing how much you need a platform to sell well. Obviously this site must help you Dean a lot but I would love to hear from you and others how much this has helped you sell stories and is it mostly Amazon or? Thanks in advance!

  12. Brian says:

    @J.DeBeers,

    Do you have any tips on how you diversified yourself with multiple pen names withouth hurtin your branding? Assuming of course, you are trying to brand yourself within a certain genre?

    Do you have multiple websites and blogs or?

    Just wondering how others go about this because I’m also interested in different genres and I think it might lead to more effective marketing if you give your readers a consistent message/brand in the particular genre you’re writing for.

    Just found this blog and love it! Would love to hear Dean’s and others thoughts.

  13. Again, sound advice that makes you think. I believe this is as close to a blueprint to succeeding as a writer as I’ve seen – and it’s realistic, as long as you write because you love it, and not just to get your name on the cover and call yourself an author…

    Actually, following this outline, you don’t have to “succeed”, because you don’t depend on a bestseller to climb the charts. You just write, and it adds up over time.

    Thanks again for another inspiring article!

  14. Brian says:

    Thanks Dean. Look forward to reading a lot more on here.

  15. Brian:

    All “platform” means is an audience.

    You get an audience by writing more stories. Period.

    This nonsense about building a platform BEFORE getting an audience — and before having a product — comes from people who don’t understand marketing.

    Platform building is a common thing in NON-fiction. Basically, you get to be an expert in a topic by writing a lot of articles and speaking and such. That gives you credentials to write a book on the topic.

    For fiction writers, the closest equivalent is writing a lot of stories — short or long — and getting it out there.

    Blogging and tweeting and all that will get you lots of writers who follow you — but remember that they are reading you for the kind of thing you post on your BLOG, not for anything else.

    So… Dean’s posts here may get him a few sales to his writing friends, but the only platform he is building with it is for his books about writing.

  16. David Barron says:

    If I’m ever down to mortgaging my mules for champagne money, I’ll know the reason why.

  17. Brian says:

    Thanks Camille. Yeah that’s what I’ve kinda been scratching my head on. I don’t even have anything to market yet, so it doesn’t make much sense to me to worry about that right now.

    And it seems silly to offer any advice on the art and business of writing until I do.

    I can see the importance of getting started in building that, the sooner the better, since it takes time. But in the meantime, I’ll stay focused on my writing.

    Thanks for the comment.

  18. Hey, Marie Grace, hang in there. You’re not alone. I’m a smut writer working on science fiction under another name, but I too tend to bog down because it’s harder to make it pay.

    Regarding Twitter and FB – After reading this post and making my last comment, I took a good look at my friend lists on both networks. I think I’ve identified exactly two readers. Total. They could both be spammers for all I know. Everyone else, the people whose identities I could confirm, was a writer.

    Going forward I’m going to just treat those tools as social networking, not for work. A simple “hey, this story is out now” is as far as I’m going to go.

    Freedom!

  19. Cyn Bagley says:

    I have had as much fun reading all the comments as reading the post and learned some more too. Geez – I was going to do a pen name, and probably will if I write romance like I plan when it is black-night and I am ready to dream. But, it sounds like too much work – really.

    Also, I tried the platform. One of my best friends is a commercial romance writer for Harlequin. As soon as she published her first book, she spilled out the money for a better blogspot/website. She now has someone to do all that type of work for her except for her blog.

    In my defense I do my own website, but I have realized that I do platform work when I am procrastinating. It just doesn’t help my writing at all or my readers either. I hope I have a few readers.

    When I first started writing fiction (I have written poetry for several decades now), I bought into the myths that I needed to study the form. I spent so much time reading books on the art of fiction that I didn’t write a story. When I finally wrote one story, it ended up in a literary magazine. For a long time, when I wanted to write, I would look at that story and then quit. I was published.

    Since I became ill, my attitude changed drastically. I found that I didn’t have another ten years or so. I had today. I might not be here tomorrow.

    I have learned more about writing fiction, by writing it. And, in the last two years I have been extremely prolific. One of the reasons I started with fiction instead of memoir (I have a lot of memoir-type essays around), is because I was sure that no one would believe my stories and would in fact consider them fiction.

    Anyway, now that I realize that my stories and non-fiction stories are not throw-away, I will get that virtual shelf with my name on it.

    BTW I have fourteen ebooks on kindle – most of them I put up in 2011. I hope to have more by the end of 2012.

    Yours,
    Cyn

  20. Beth Pratt says:

    Wow. This just blew me away. Thinking of the math of writing like the drip of money into a 401k is such a good way of visualizing it.

  21. Great post and comments!

    Intellectual property is a beautiful thing. I look at this as creating assets. We have no idea what they will yield, but we know they are worth something.

    Not only that, but it is an asset that doesn’t need to be maintained, but can continuing making money for you over time.

    It’s the Magic Bakery 401(k) plan where you can have your cake and eat it too!

    • dwsmith says:

      Robert said, “It’s the Magic Bakery 401(k) plan where you can have your cake and eat it too!”

      And every time you eat a piece or sell a piece, it magically appears back in the case to eat or sell again and let the Magic Bakery 401(k) just keep growing and growing. Yup, love this business.

  22. Finally got around to reading your article this morning — My mind is blown! After reading it, I went on my customary morning walk and noticed my world has shifted on its axis.

    I’ve been a professional writer for over 20 years. The amount of material I have in my computer is staggering. Much of it articles I’ve written and been paid for by national magazines while retaining the rights. I’ve also written an ezine on living purposeful for over 14 years. My backlog of inventory is huge! Also included are 6-7 novels previously written but rarely even submitted for consideration.

    Yes, indeed, my mind is blown and I thank you DWS for blowing it up. Now, back to writing and publishing — drip…drip…drip.

  23. Doug Kolacki says:

    dw smith wrote:
    >Second, it is a proven fact in these early days of indie publishing that the more items you have for sale, the more sales you make and the more money you make. Think of it like having an entire section of books in a store instead of one or two books tucked down on a bottom shelf. People find entire sections of books.<

    You mean I don't have to run myself ragged promoting the novel I just posted to Amazon/Smashwords, taking up time I'd much rather spend writing??!

    As far as writing goes, I'm glad to say that as we speak I'm working on three short stories and another novel, with an additional novel to polish. Definitely no problems there…as someone who's new to this indie-self-publishing business, it makes me feel like I'm a little ahead of the game.

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