This is part two of a series.

See Part One


In the first post on this short series, I deal with the types of blocks and mental fallacies that can stop you from writing.   The infamous Writer’s Block.

At the end of the post, I outlined ways to deal with such blocks.  All the steps basically boil down to watching your self-talk and dealing with issues when they arise, so you can try to dissolve them, instead of stuffing them back into your sub-conscious to rise another day.

There is a second strategy you can use that helps in the long term, and that is, well, long term thinking.

Writing as a career and indie publishing as a business are both extremely long term deals.  When traditional publishing was the only game in town, editors and publishing companies expected it would take years for newly published authors to hit their stride and develop a readership.

These days, traditional publishing is only really interested in authors who bring a readership with them, or can hit their stride in the first book out of the gate.

Even indie publishing, though, is infected with the malady of “now!”.  Every guru out there talks about turning around your career and your business overnight.  The right advertising program, the correct (or only) story structure, writing to market, Kindle Unlimited, finding the perfect niche genre, putting out a book that caters to the latest trends (Zombie Detective stories, anyone?) …. Nearly any course or workshop or book out there that promises superior results and a change in your fortunes is focused upon the short term.  A year out, maybe (and sometimes, not even that).

It’s hard to resist the lure of all these promises and usually, we don’t. (Yeah, I speak from experience).

We want success to arrive quickly, and when we look at other authors’ successes that seem to have happened overnight, we envy them (sound familiar?).

But if you dig deeper into any true success story, you will find:

  1. A lot of very hard work,
  2. And a lot of time.

The average traditionally published author was expected to develop their career and their expertise and take years–a decade or more

What makes you (or me) any different?

There really are no short cuts in this business.  Any successes that those shortcuts promise are short lived.  Marketing systems grow ineffective in a very short frame of time.  Trends in stories and genres come and go.  One guru’s perfect story structure will be out of fashion next year, when there are a flood of books written that way and everyone is sick of reading those types of stories.

If you can change the way you think about your books, your career and your success so that you are focused upon the long term, instead of short term pay-offs, a huge amount of stress, blocks and issues will just fall away.  They will flat out disappear.  You won’t have to deal with them, dissolve them, or monitor your self-talk.

An Example

In the first installment of this series, I slipped in the perfect example.  I said about traditionally published authors:

“…chances are good you’ll make far less money than the average indie author in the long term.”

I wondered if anyone would leap on that one and cite the statistics we’re all familiar with, and I did get some emails about it.  Most of them pointed out that the average indie published title makes less than $500 USD, while even tyro traditionally published authors earn at least $2,000 advances, first book out.

And that is absolutely true…if you’re only looking at this year.

So, a little math to demonstrate.  Let’s look at ten years out.

Traditionally published book

Year one:  $2,000 advance.  Book sells average amount and does not earn out.  Taken out of print within six months and remaindered.  Author’s contract pays nothing for deep discount sales.

Year two: $0 as book is out of print.

Year three-ten:  $0

Total earned over ten years:  $2,000

Indie published book

Year one:  Author puts the book out at $4.99, which nets her $3.49 per sale across all platforms (I’m averaging to make the math easier).  She sells a mere 50 copies during the first release month — $3.49 x 50 = $174.50.  Then she continues to sell 2 copies every month for the remaining 11 months:  $3.49 x 2 = $6.98 x 11 = $76.78.  Her total for year one is $174.50 + $76.78 = $251.28.  Yep, well below $500.

Year Two:  If absolutely nothing changes in this author’s business (more about that below), then year two, she makes 12 x 6.98 = $83.76

Year three-ten:  $83.76 x 8 = $670.08

Total earned over ten years:   $1,005.12

___

As you can see, the indie authors looks like she’s made just over half of what the traditionally published author made.  And I made these example numbers very low.  50 sales for a launch and 2 books a month after that is absolutely do-able for any indie author.

Looking at just the single book in isolation is not the full story, though, because both authors continue to write books.  Here’s what the math looks like when you factor in other books (and I’ve also simplified this scenario, too, just to make it easier on myself).

Traditionally published author

Year one:  $2,000 for the first book.  Traditionally published authors generally write only a book a year.

Year Two:  Another book sold, for $3,000 this time.  It also doesn’t earn out.

Year Three – Ten;  Presuming that the author manages to sell a book every year (NOT a guarantee in this rocky publishing world), she makes $3K with every sale. 

The release of her new books do not increase sales of her back-list, as it is no longer available in print and she earns nothing from the eBook sales (that is very common in standard trad contracts).

Total earned over ten years:  $29,000

And I don’t know about you, but $2,900/year is far, far below what I call a living wage.

Indie author

Let’s make this indie author as average as possible for indie authors.  She publishes three other books beside the first one, and each time out, she sells a little more on launch, plus, the monthly sales of all her back-list lift a little, too.

 Book 1Book 2Book 3Book 4 
Month 150    
Month 22    
Month 32    
Month 4270   
Month 564   
Month 664   
Month 764100  
Month 81254  
Month 91254  
Month 1024105200 
Month 11241054 
Month 12241054 
Total170122123208623

This is just the first year.  The first book of a series often leaps in monthly sales once three or more books in the series are out, and I’ve nudged up monthly sales to reflect that.  Also, the general pattern of sell-through for a series is a near 50% drop off between books 1 and 2 and a steady rate after that, or even a mild decline.  I made it decline.

At the end of year 1, she has sold 623 copies:  623 x $3.49 = $2,174.27

And look at that!  She has out-earned the traditionally published author in one year.

But the numbers compound, of course.  Each additional book the author releases will inflate the sales of the rest, and also add to her income streams on its own.

Let’s assume a very mild 15% increase each year:

 CopiesRevenue
Year 1623 $   2,174.27
Year 2716 $   2,500.41
Year 3824 $   2,875.47
Year 4948 $   3,306.79
Year 51090 $   3,802.81
Year 61253 $   4,373.23
Year 71441 $   5,029.22
Year 81657 $   5,783.60
Year 91906 $   6,651.14
Year 102192 $   7,648.81
   $ 44,145.77

The indie author has out-earned the traditional author over the long term by over $14,000 dollars. And I was suppressing the numbers and assuming the author continues to write 4 books a year, and doesn’t advertise, promote or otherwise spike her sales.

Can you see how long term thinking completely changes your perspective?

It’s not just in mathematics, but also in the way you think of other aspects of publishing:

  • So you had a bad year and had to go back to work for six months.  In a ten year term, that’s nothing.  It paid bills, and you will get back to writing full time, because you’re not giving up.
  • If you ever catch yourself saying:  “Man, I only sold ten copies of xxx this month!” celebrate, instead.  This is an income stream, not a poor month of sales. It all adds up over the long term.
  • Whenever you hear of a surefire, never-miss new promotion tactic, think of the long term. Yeah, it might artificially inflate your sales for a month or two, or even six, but after that, they’ll return to their baseline (or maybe a smidge higher).  Is the promotion scheme worth all the money it costs, when you look at the long term effects?
  • Similarly, if you see the sales figures for your recent launch and they’re underwhelming, remind yourself that your book will still be around in ten years’ time, and that makes all the difference. 

There’s the upside, too:

If you look closely at the pathetic sales numbers of the indie author example, above, you’ll note I mentioned that they’re “only” writing a book every quarter.  But that doesn’t take into account boxed series set, boxed sets, collections of short stories, collective box sets with other authors, and all the other ways an indie author can mix and re-bundle their work to create another little trickle of income.

The only long term strategy that absolutely works is to get more books and stories out there.  Period.

And when you’re focused on the long term, the blips and spikes of every day publishing lose their impact.

Productivity wins. 

Long term thinking wins.

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