It made me think. It made me look at what I was doing in a whole different light. It set me on a whole new path and now my writing business has finally cracked the six-figure mark.
I emailed the author of the article below and she has kindly allowed me to post it here.
Thank you so much Lee. You (and your articles) gave me my start in this business and I thank you for ever.
You're the best. :)
You're Not A Writer. You're A Business
by Lee Masterson(original article published here: http://www.fictionfactor.com/articles/business.html )
"Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money." - Jules Renard
It's silly, isn't it? Honest writers being made to feel guilty if they 'sell out' (otherwise known as compromising art for the sake of money). And yet it happens every day.'
There seems to be a sad belief in the mindset of many writers that in order to be a true writer one must live on almost no income at all, striving day and night for the perfection of his or her 'Art'.
To some writers 'art' is defined by writing a brilliant novel and receiving copious awards for the content within.
For others 'art' means living on pittance until the day the One Blockbuster Novel-Contract arrives thus landing the starving author in the lap of luxury and ending all her troubles.
Neither of the writers in the above examples is earning a comfortable living consistently from his or her writing. They are too busy creating art.
Of course the same starving writers could probably have been living quite comfortably from alternative writing efforts if either of them had thought of writing in general as a viable business proposition. You see just because Starving Writer wants to earn a full-time income from writing fictional novels there is simply nothing wrong with supplementing his or her income with OTHER writing endeavors until that huge contract arrives.
Writing alternative things can actually boost your writing career as well as boost your writing income - all before you've even sold one novel. An editor might become tempted to buy your novel, based purely on the strength of a short story you wrote. Your readers might be tempted to buy your books just because they liked your non-fiction articles. A publisher might be more willing to print larger print-runs of your novels because you already have an established reading audience.
These things all stem from your writing and still don't 'compromise your art'. In other words, writing purely so you can receive money is not a bad thing. In fact it could actually kick-start your career.
This is because writing is a business.
That's right! A BUSINESS.
I'll explain further.
You are not "getting published". You are Selling a Product (your book, article, short-story, etc)
You are not "receiving rejections". You are being told your product is not right for that customer (editor) at the moment.
You are not "looking for an agent". You are seeking the correct business partner, (sales manager) to whom you will entrust to sell your products.
You are not "selling out" if you compromise your art. You are creating cashflow for your business.
Am I making sense yet? Creativity aside, writing as a hobby is a competitive business. Writing for a living is cut-throat. Let me show you...
Your products (books) are competing with thousands of other products, all packaged just like yours on shelves right beside yours.
You're fighting for the attention of one customer (your editor) right alongside your own business competitors (all those other writers who submitted manuscripts!).
You must show your business manager (your publisher) that your products are good enough (selling well) so they will keep producing more.
You must entice a sales manager (agent) to get you the very best business manager (publisher) possible, so that you can sell more of your own product (Your book).
It all sounds so clinical doesn't it? That's because it is. Publishing is a business - like any other. Sales and profits dictate much of the business-activity that comes from the publishers, agents and editors. Why should a writer think of his or her business any differently?
Running Your Business
Now that we all understand that writing for a living is the same as running your own business, let's look at why it's okay to run your business profitably.
All business are made or broken by the amount of cashflow they have (or don't have!). It has been said that cashflow is the life-blood of all businesses - and yet so many people are confused by what cashflow really IS.
Cashflow is NOT profit and it's NOT the amount of money you took out of your account as income. Cashflow is the amount of money coming in from business activity and the amount of money going out on business expenditure.
If the amount of money coming in exceeds the amount going out - then you're making a profit.
If the amount of money going out exceeds the amount coming in - then you're making a loss.
It's really that simple!
The trick is to monitor every amount of money that moves within your business structure - in and out - and then improve on each transaction so that your business grows.
Now let's put Starving Writer into the equation. Let's say Starving Writer gives up her day job to write full time. She knows she's going to write a blockbuster novel and get a six-figure advance from BuckingHuge Publishing House. So she decides to live off her savings until the advance arrives in the mail. Four months later Starving Writer has no savings left and her blockbuster novel is not even finished let alone sold. There's no money left to pay the bills. Starving Writer has two choices to make: return to her regular day-job or marry a rich guy!
In this example, Starving Writer BEGAN her writing business with a negative cashflow. i.e. she had no incoming cashflow but plenty of outgoing cashflow, creating a negative cashflow position for her writing business activities.
Let's create a new writer for our next example. We'll call him Mercenary Writer.
You see Mercenary Writer only writes for money. In fact he'll write ANYTHING for money. He's a happy sell-out, in fact.
When Mercenary Writer decided he wanted to write the Great American Novel he knew that he'd need to have enough time and money put aside to create his artistic masterpiece. He also knew that his current day-job would never allow him the time or energy to complete it.
So he created a business blue-print. He knew that he would need to spend a portion of his time on money-creating writing. Another portion of his time would need to be set aside for business 'stuff' (account keeping, new-market hunting, reprint submissions etc). Yet another portion would need to be scheduled for promotion of his existing pieces in print and another portion still would need to be arranged to sit down and create his masterpiece novel.
Once the finer points of his plan-of-attack had been honed he began writing short fiction stories and selling them to magazines, periodicals and web-magazines. He learned that one of the magazines that published one of his short stories also paid a small amount of money for jokes, recipes and cute sayings. Figuring that writing one of each would only take him a few minutes out of his day, Mercenary Writer submitted some of those too. Luckily he'd already done this same excercise the week before and there were several small checks in the mail box already.
Mercenary Writer learned the value of 'reprinting' and selling different types of rights around the world in as many formats as possible. He also wrote things he didn't particularly like because the pay rate was great and it still got him another published credit to show future editors and agents. He wrote and researched articles.
And then - in his scheduled time slot - he created his masterpiece novel.
In this example Mercenary Writer is still keen to create his 'art' - but he's willing to sacrifice some of his time to establish a viable writing business at the same time.
In this example Mercenary Writer began his writing business with positive cashflow. He worked hard to set aside enough time to keep his cashflow consistent,while still writing his Great American Novel.
Both of the above examples are over-simplified but they do outline the difference between a person who wants to be a writer and a writer who wants to earn a living from writing.Which one are you? ;)
© Copyright Lee Masterson. All rights reserved.