Learning the Business End

I love writing. I love to splash ink (or pixels) onto a page into an orderly fashion that resembles in some way… a story. I’ve been doing it for over 20 years in bursts and sputters and what I’d like to be doing for however many years I continue to live.

In many ways, I can just write and never worry my bald, oversized head about anything outside of just having fun writing. Sharing these stories with friends and family and those few people who come to my site can be where I exist for as long as I last on this planet. And that would be OK.

Yet it isn’t OK. At least that’s how I’ve felt for the past few years.

It was really due to my obstinate, ignorant self that I eventually chose to go independent, giving up in a manner of speaking on the idea that I would be a major writer for places like Random House, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, or whichever publishing house one would prefer. I’ve always had a “damn the man!” mentality and it seemed right to not kowtow to the whims of an industry that, even from my narrow view, mistreated the very people that created their prosperity.

In making that decision I understood that in a lot of ways I was potentially damning myself to a life of being the illegitimate bastard (yes, a pleonasm!) of the idea of what people believe a writer should be. See, back in my youth (and it appears to persist to today), you were only a legitimate writer if you were a journalist, a (traditionally) published author, a screenwriter, a playwright, or some other known quantity that made someone else money.

In part because of wealthy writers like Stephen King, we were deceived to believe that getting published was equivalent to a monetary windfall. At least I had that thought. In reality, Stephen King is the exception rather than the rule.

But I made my decision to go indie long before learning these things. My arrogance in the decision led me to a vindicated cry of “HAHA! SEE?!” after learning the plight of writers in general. When my ego finally stepped away for a moment, the cold realization crept in: I’d have to do everything myself… and I still won’t make any money.

I continue to tell myself that not making any money writing is fine. It is, but only to a point. The fact is that I still want to make money at this gig. I want people to read and enjoy my writing. The latter is more important than the former; however, I don’t want to give away everything that I do. I pay people and businesses to entertain me (either by paying for a product or by sitting through ads), why not get paid to entertain others?

Truth is, earning money is perfectly acceptable. Earning LOTS of money is more desirable than earning just “enough” money, even though earning “enough” is what I am after. Subjective, sure.

For a long time, my thinking was that I was just a writer. As a writer, I publish books, albeit independently. Books were the endgame; they were the final accomplishment of my task. Job done. Let the money roll in! Then, they sat there…

And sat there…

And no money came…

And I continued to tell myself that it was OK. “I am doing it just for the writing! For the art!” Yes. But I’d like to make money too.

Then I learned about this whole idea of sales and marketing. My skin crawled. Being a shy introvert, I was not ready for either of those concepts. I struggle with them to this day. How I deal with them is by continuing to ignore them. Of course, by doing this the being doomed to make no money will persist. “I am a writer, dammit! I can’t be bothered with all this trivial nonsense!”

What I was ignoring was a devil of a detail: I am a writer; I am also a business. As a business, the book (or really, the story) is a product. Writing is the manufacture of that product. Editing is quality control. Cover and interior design is packaging (a part of marketing, but let’s not digress). Beyond those equivalencies, the rest of it matches exactly to any other business.

Knowing this I have a few choices:

  1. I can ignore it, resign myself to making no money, and continue to write with reckless abandon. Whatever happens, happens.
  2. I can choose to contract myself out to a traditional publishing house so that I can work on the writing alone, all the while keeping my fingers crossed that my work becomes a big enough hit to pay me well for it… if they feel fit to hire me (aka, accepting my manuscripts for publication).
  3. Or I can suck it up and treat myself and my writing as though it were a business. I may or may not ever make money, but I would give myself the greatest chance or possible success.

I’ve been leaning on choice number 3 for the better part of the last two years, only with a lack of understanding on how to do it, and thusly being afraid to try.

But the truth is, having spent the last 20 years in varying positions within a corporate business structure, I have been learning what it takes to run a business at several levels. When one is a department head, one is indeed running a business. It’s a business within a business. I know far more about running a business than I have given myself credit for. Sure, I don’t know a lot, but I do know more than I thought I did. I have a foundation.

Like with a lot of things, it isn’t so much what is needed to be done, it is where to start. How do I start a business? Search results on Google or Duck Duck Go are plentiful. There are a ton of resources out there, but really besides the legal aspects of it, one really only needs to begin operating like a business to start one. The rest are details that can be sorted out as time marches forward.

That’s the goal of this year: get my business started. The business of me, of my writing. I know how to get the manufacturing down, that’s no problem. I need to spend more time learning all the other elements and how to fit them into this larger picture. Success may come; it may not. I do not know. At least this way, I am giving myself a shot, and finally taking real control of my story. And that’s what being indie is all about.

Featured Image by rawpixel.com from Pexels

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