What is Your Writing Worth?

My writing is important to me, but lately I’ve had to take an honest look at what it is I want and need to do with my life. I’ve concluded I want to write. As a result, I am setting aside time to write.

And, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and investing in resources. Connecting with people who write, buying books, attending conferences.

As part of my honest analysis, I admitted to myself that I also need to make money.

This week I came across some very timely advice that I plan to apply to my writing and you might find it useful as well.

I went to Chip MacGregor‘s website because he will be at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference I plan to attend in August. Before a conference it’s a good idea to do some homework and read up on the agents and editors who will be there. Chip is a sought after agent, and the owner of MacGregor Literary. I have also submitted the first ten pages of my manuscript to him under the OCW Manuscript Submission Program.

In his article, Ask the Agent: Is it Realistic to Think of Making My Living at Writing, he caught my attention with this statement:

Set a financial goal, start to work toward it, and look for opportunities to generate some income from your writing skill.

Writers, Chip says, are pathetically underpaid and we seem to think we just have to accept that, but this is not the case. Chip’s idea is we need to take charge of our careers and make sure we are getting paid.

Here are a couple of suggestions from Ask the Agent: What’s the One Piece of Advice You’d Give a Career Writer:

Develop a writing calendar….a document that details what you’re going to write each day.

To figure out what you put into each day, you look at your “to do” list and do some prioritizing. What needs to get written today? What will pay off? What will push your career forward?

…you don’t just write down the goal for each day and stop. You then go back and add in a dollar figure, so each project is seen as contributing to your budget.

Figuring out your writing value isn’t hard — if your goal is to make $36,000 per year at writing, you’re trying to make $3000 per month, or $750 per week, or an average of $150 pr day.

“Write in a dollar figure.” Have you ever thought of your writing in this way? I hadn’t.

This becomes important when you are considering a writing assignment. You estimate how many hours/weeks the job will take you to finish, and then you calculate how much it will bring in and consider if it fits within your overall budget plan. He gives an example:

You’re expecting to sell that book for about $5000, so each chapter has a monetary value of roughly $250.

Let’s do the math. If you are only making $5000 on a book, or another assignment, then, to stay within a $36,000 budget, you need to complete this project in less than two months. That’s probably unrealistic for a book.

If you know it will take you six months of steady writing to complete the work, you need to make $18,000 when it is finished.

Our writing has intrinsic value as it educates, informs, entertains and inspires our readers. But from a practical standpoint, if we want to survive as writers, we may have to become strategic and place a dollar value on our writing.

Thanks Chip MacGregor for the heads up!

Don’t give away all of your marbles

© Krisjacobs | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Krisjacobs | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

If you have been on my site recently you will have noticed that I removed a post I wrote this week. It was a post about a specific resource offered for half price for a limited time. In the post I questioned the wisdom of spending large amounts of money on writing resources.

Although I removed the post because I did not want to adversely affect someone’s business, I still think it is important for writers to realize that our vulnerability can put us at risk.

Take vanity publishing for example. Some publishing companies will ask for as much as $5,000 from an author in exchange for a publishing contract. The author never sees a dime for all their hard work.

Unless you are paying for a limited number of copies outright, remember, the publisher pays you, not the other way around.

An author I know, who has published over thirty fiction books, tells me that $2,500 is typical of what she gets as an advance. She’ll probably get $5,000 total for a book. It’s not a lot of money, but at least it was paid to her, not the other way around.

At a writer’s conference I attended, a speaker in one of the small groups offered attendees a weekend of one-on-one mentoring in her home, along with a month of follow-up that included a couple of hours of coaching twice a week, for the total price of $3,000. Think of it, even if you came out with a book on the market, most of your income would already be eaten up.

There are people out there who prey on the vulnerability of new writers.

As my Christmas gift to my readers I am making my recently published short story entitled 101 Marbles available for free until December 24. Enter this coupon code QU66L to get your free copy on Smashwords.

Please like me. Please follow me.

Last week I took Gretchen Rubin’s  Quiz: Do You Make Other People Happy? | LinkedIn. For those of you who don’t want to go to her site, here is the quiz:

  • Do people seem to feel comfortable confiding in you?
  • Do people seem to drift toward you? Join a conversation that you’re having, sit down next to you at a meeting?
  • Do people whom you hardly remember go out of their way to greet you warmly? Say, the friend of your old roommate, or a former co-worker?
  • Do people seem to want to connect with you — by making plans or by emailing, calling, or texting?
  • Do people seem energized by you? Do they smile and laugh in your presence?

Mixed in with the above questions she has the following:

  • Do people follow your recommendations?
  • Are you a source of material comfort or security for someone else?
  • Do people whom you’ve introduced often go on to have a continuing relationship?
  • Have you recently been involved in the improvement or growth of an organization, group, or process that involves many other people?
  • Are you providing opportunities for other people – job leads, blind dates, contacts in a new city?

Notice the difference between the two? The first group is about how people respond to you, while the second is about contributions you have made. Perhaps by combining the two Rubin was trying to show that people will be attracted to you if they perceive you are making a positive contribution.

As writers we will be regarded for our contribution. Whether or not we have a magnetic personality may make little difference in book sales if our book or blog is loved by its audience.

However, I have noticed that people who are open and engaging do tend to have more “follows” and “likes” on their blogs. Of course this does not mean that those without this level of recognition are less attractive or personable. Perhaps they have not been discovered.

There is a lot to learn about the art of blogging. Recently I have discovered a strategy for gaining popularity that has less to do with one’s contribution as a writer or having a likeable personality, and more to do with effective marketing. Those who take time to consistently “like” and “follow” others, tend to reap the rewards of their labour in gaining followers themselves. While nobody is forcing anybody to follow them, there seems to be a sort of unspoken expectation to reciprocate the compliment.

I love to spend time reading the blogs of others and find that if I am not careful my writing will be neglected in favour of reading. Reading what others are writing is important in order to keep up with information, to learn to write better, and, I believe, also to support other writers.

In the blogging world, however, I have begun to wonder if  “follows” and “likes” are beginning to be distributed like business cards. I spoke with an author at a writers conference who told me she drops most of the cards she collects in the garbage before she leaves, along with all the others that are trashed. How sincere are we in our “likes” and “follows?”

Like everyone else out there, I am saying, “pick me, pick me.” Please like me, please follow me. And if you are just “liking” me or “following” me to direct me to your site that’s OK. It will give me the pleasure of meeting you. Who knows, I might even “like” and “follow” you back.

“From the moment you start putting words on the page…”

I’m still on the subject of marketing yourself. Noelle Sterne shares some insights in her blog, Seven Lessons Reluctantly Learned from Publishing My First Book « FundsforWriters.

The article comes after her success, but I think the first three points are important to consider even before you publish. Like the saying about hindsight being perfect, we can learn from the insights of those who have been there. I have summarized the points here for you.

1. Be prepared to tell everyone about your book. Have your one minute elevator pitch ready.

2. Accept compliments graciously, don’t self-consciously deflect them. You are a writer, after all.

3. Concentrate on your platform. Do everything you can to promote your book before and after publication.

Sterne refers to an article by Christina Katz in Writers Digest entitled 50 Simple Ways to Build Your Platform in 5 Minutes a Day  http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/50-simple-ways-to-build-your-platform-in-5-minutes-a-day. Here is an excerpt which confirms what I have already been thinking:

Writing rules. Self-promotion drools. Isn’t this how most writers think?

But as long as you view your writing as art and your self-promotion efforts as the furthest thing from art, your chances of ramping up a successful 21st-century writing career are going to remain slim to none.
These days, there’s an art to writing and an art to self-promotion. From the moment you start putting words to the page, it’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to share them. And once you begin to see your writing and promotional efforts as equally artful, something wonderful starts to happen: You find readers. (underlines are mine)

Finding and connecting with readers is where it’s at. There is no way around it.

Marketing myself

The thought of marketing myself, or my product sends me into a state of sheer anxiety. Look, I’ll just put my writing out there and if nobody buys it, fine. Just, please, don’t even hint at the fact that I need to promote myself.

I think this fear dates back to my teenage attempts at sales. Back then I had a ‘can do’ attitude. Hey, I once even loaded the back of a pick-up truck with plastic bags of peat moss and went door to door trying to sell them. My brother and I had filled them ourselves. I thought my dad’s land had exceptional peat moss, but it didn’t seem anyone was in need of any lawn or garden enhancer that day.

I used to get easily motivated by motivational talks and fell prey to marketing schemes. Gradually I was cured of this ailment. For years there was a bone-coloured, leather-look carrying case filled with cosmetics and promotional material, sitting in my closet, reminding me of the wide gap between my dreams and reality.

I can see now that my sales pitch tended to sound more like an apology, “This is a wonderful product, but if you’re like me you probably can’t afford it. I don’t want to pressure you. Please. don’t think I’m trying to sell you anything.” And if someone bought something my eyes almost popped out of my head in surprise. Really, seriously?

Then there were the parties, you know, the ones where you invite all your friends and relatives and they are supposed to buy tupperware, or candles or something else they really don’t need for their house. After a few of these I started to respond with a tentative, no, to hosting anymore parties. I think it was because I was realizing pretty quickly how few true friends I had, or how fast I was losing them.

So, the upside was that I learned to assert myself. I didn’t have to buy anymore kits, or host parties, or attend any more pep talks. I began to see the success stories were about other people, not me. No, I wasn’t going to get those cheques they bragged about for selling vitamins, household cleaners, make-up, or whatever, no matter how good it sounded.

But now the old anxiety is returning. If I produce something, I will have to market it, some way or another. And I so hate promoting myself. Even writing an About page almost paralyzes me.

There is, however, one thing I know how to do. If someone has a need I can meet, I’m there. So if I research what people need, what they are looking for, I can respond to that. Maybe I can even present my product in such a way as to help them to see how it is precisely what they are looking for, or what their market needs.

For example, this morning I went to Markets « FundsforWriters. There I found what publishers are looking for. It’s all there, what they need. Now all I have to do is determine what it is in my experiences, knowledge, or research that is suitable. I think I can do this. But like I said, if they don’t buy it, fine. I’m out of there and on to the next one.