Notes From Another World!

I've been away for a few months. Rather than sending you postcards on my trip, it made more sense for me to seek out new lands to which my Word Nerd Army chums could travel, and get a clear map of the territories, before I shared my findings. Those of you who've been following my column in Writing Magazine will have picked up a few hints and tips, but for the rest of you this may be entirely new information.

Back in the days of From Brain to Bookshelf - My Writing Journey, I had no idea how I would accomplish everything I have, but I knew I would. Back then, I lived on a budget of 50 pence a day for food. I lost over 50 pounds in weight through ... well ... let's call it what it was ... starvation. I continued to write, though, and I continued to dream impossible dreams. Even though there was no way at all that I could hope to achieve those dreams, I believed in them, and I achieved them.

Now, I have more impossible dreams to achieve. This time, though, I'm dreaming them for a group of people. I want to help the Word Nerd Army stay resilient through the coming depression, so that oodles of awesome writing can find its way into the world, regardless of the economy. Here's what I've noticed:

I'm good at predicting cultural change

I can usually tell when there will be a cultural, economic or political shift, ahead of time.

  • I predicted the last recession two years ahead. I've been predicting what is just around the corner since about April 2010. 
  • I called myself a 'nerd' when it was still an insult. Now everyone's a nerd or a geek of some description. 
  • I predicted the changes in the publishing industry when people still saw e-readers as a fad and I worked out it would be easier to make a profit via self-publishing than traditional publishing. Most traditionally published writers end their first year in debt to their publisher (most don't earn out their advance). I was in profit within two weeks.  
I'm pretty good at spotting trends, and ways to do stuff. Generally, people think I'm nuts when I predict things. Generally, the few who think 'she may be nuts, but I'm going to follow her anyway' do rather well.

My Predictions

Next year will SUCK for most people.

It will suck particularly badly for those in the creative fields, because The Arts are at the top of the pyramid of needs. When people are fretting about food, they couldn't give a hoot about The Arts. Now, clearly, I'm not typical. I put writing ahead of eating. Very few people feel that way.

There's plenty of free books online. People don't need your books. When they have no money, they won't buy them unless they're passionately addicted to your writing in particular. In other words, if you are writing a series, and your first book has caused a buzz, you might be okay. If you're writing books that will help people make money, you might be okay. Otherwise, if you're an aspiring author ... you need a Plan B.

If you pile all your hopes into writing novels, and the economy does what it looks likely to do, you're toast. This is particularly the case if you are traditionally published. Look at the rate that publishers are closing. Look at the statistics about first time authors being dropped. How likely do you think you are, in this market, to find another publisher to take you on when your first publisher dropped you?

Here's the solution, as I see it. 

Authors need to be authorpreneurs. This is CRUCIAL whether they are traditionally published, or indies. Traditional publishers are not handing out three book deals with giant advances unless you happen to be a celebrity or an advertising meerkat. If you're an actual wordsmith, with something of value to say to the word, forget anything more than a £2,000 advance. Think you can live on £2,000 for a year, in the midst of hyperinflation?

I set up a blog to this end in the summer of 2010. Here's a post from a month ago last year, where I outlined the predictions that had come true, and hinted at what I predicted for this time this year. See how it's all happening the way I said it would? Just saying ...

It's important to point to the facts, because people are looking at me and wondering what the heck I'm up to and why I'm jumping up and down shouting 'can't you see the sky is falling in?' It's because it is. I'm trying to help people while there is still time. Aside from all that, even if you pocket a relatively salubrious £5,000 advance, or more, you're still going to be in charge of your own marketing. Are you a marketer? Are you an entrepreneur? You have to be. Whether published by a traditional publishing house, or self-published, you ARE self employed.

Authors need to be smart. They need to think ahead. It takes time to write a book, particularly if it is a novel. You must work out ways to pay bills and still have the time to apply butt to chair and get your 60,000+ words onto a screen. A job alone won't do it. You could be laid off. Look at the stats and do the maths. There is no such thing as a 'safe job' at the moment. Even if you are lucky enough to be employed, you need more than that to be resilient.

You need a full dimensional income plan.

You need residuals.

Just trading money for time will not see you through next year. 

Get a bundle of different revenue streams.
  • Analyse your finances. Draw up a list of business ideas that will furnish you with residual income. 
  • Read this month's Writing Magazine, where I talk about writing on a budget. 
  • Brainstorm. Most importantly, forget the idea that being an author is a stand-alone career choice if you are just starting out on this road. It's not. It probably never will be again. 
If you want any advice specific to your circumstances, get in touch through the contact form, or leave a comment below. There's ways to get through all this, and even to do better as a consequence, but you need to keep your head and be very focused to do it. I can help with that. 

It's the end of the world as we know it, but ... I feel fine!

Keep grinning, my Word Nerd friends! 


mrken said...

Hey just wanted to read your stuff as I am interested from our Facebook Attraction Marketing Masters..It may be true that tough times are here for many but we all have choices and ways to excel and prosper in the coming years.. It just takes work.. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It was so great to meet you at the National Achievers' Congress this weekend. You said a lot of amazing stuff to me then that made sense to where I am as a writer, and having read these blog posts, I feel like I have met somebody who I can really trust to guide me through this whole writing process...and finding money to live while I'm doing it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart <3

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