The Business of Writing

Business Musings: Sustainability

10 December 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The big topic among successful indie writers in the last six months of 2017 is the possibility of burnout. Writers are slowly realizing that the pace they’ve maintained through the last few years isn’t sustainable.

Worse, it has become clear through data and anecdotal evidence that the more a writer produces, the more her income rises.

But that fact, coupled with the fact that incomes have fallen for indies in the past year or so, has given rise to something like panic among the successful indies. They’re having to work harder or just as hard to maintain an income that seemed to come easier in 2015.

And you know what? That’s normal.

I know, I know. You didn’t want to hear that. Because indie writers saw their incomes rise and rise and rise in the first three years of the gold rush. It seemed like every single thing the indie did increased her revenue.

And then, in 2016, those things didn’t work any more.

. . . .

I am also aware that some self-publishing venues, like All Romance eBooks went out of business, taking a lot of writers’ incomes with it. And other venues, like Smashwords, no longer attract new customers the way they used to.

I’m not talking about those changes, although they did have a major impact on a lot of writers’ careers. I’m talking about the changes in income to writers who were not rushing to every new way of doing something, writers who were not gaming algorithms, writers who were producing a lot, interacting professionally with their fans, and doing everything right.

Those writers received major rewards, both in sales and in income, in the early years of indie publishing. Those rewards have diminished, because we are entering into a mature market.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

What Authors Need to Know About the New Tax Bills

3 December 2017

From The Authors Guild:

It’s a fast-moving target, but our lawyers and staff in New York and Washington are analyzing the proposed tax bills to see how they will affect authors. As we await a final Senate bill, given the amount of confusion, we wanted to let you know where things stand right now.

The principal changes to individuals’ income taxes proposed by both the House and Senate bills are 1) changes in tax rates, 2) the elimination of many specific, itemizable deductions and credits, and 3) the increase in the standard deduction. These changes are intended to streamline personal income taxes by limiting the number of those filing itemized deductions. It will make filing returns simpler for many taxpayers, and will benefit those who rely on the standard deduction. However, it will penalize those who currently have high deductible expenses, such as medical costs, dependent child care, and high local and state income and property taxes.

The types of itemized deductions and credits to be repealed differ somewhat under the Senate and House bills, and those differences are described below. Neither bill, however, would repeal self-employed writers’ ability to take standard business deductions—a source of some confusion since certain individuals who file as employees, such as “qualified performing artists,” would no longer qualify for unreimbursed business expense deductions under the proposed bills.  This provision is applicable only to employees, and not freelancers.

. . . .

Some authors use an LLC or other pass-through corporations to contract with and be paid by publishers and others. There are also proposed changes that would affect pass-through corporations, which are still the subject of some debate. We will provide further updates on those as the bills progress.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild and thanks to Christina for the tip.

The People in Your Office

9 November 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

So, it happened again. A big name fantasy writer made his fans angry because the next book in his series hasn’t appeared in years. And, in a passing remark, he compared the comments fans make on his overdue book to those comments people make to their unemployed adult child about getting a job or to their single grandkid about getting married.

Patrick Rothfuss made the foolhardy decision to let a reporter shadow him all day and of course Rothfuss had an unguarded moment. He said, on the record,

“[The fans] don’t realize this is so wearying,” he said with a sigh when we spoke a few weeks ago. “It’s like asking, ‘When are you going to get married? When are you going to go to law school?’ It’s like, just fuck off. Just die. I don’t need any more of that in my life.”
. . . .

And most [of us writers] spend our time alone in a room, making things up. Writers tend not to realize that their fans are people. Nor do some writers—especially newer writers who have fast success—realize that the only reason they’re going to be remembered as artists is if they have fans of their work.

I have watched writers behaving badly to their fans for years. The worst I ever saw was a big name fantasy writer (maybe there’s a trend?) reduce a fan to tears. The fan brought a well-loved book up for an autograph, and the author held up the book and mused, loudly, rudely, I can’t believe people love this thing. It’s so awful.

Insulting. Rude. Terrible. And that writer (now dead, thank heavens) isn’t the only one I’ve seen treat fans that way. If you can’t properly appreciate your fans—even the ones who lack social skills—then don’t do autographings and stay off social media.

Rothfuss did not make this comment on social media. He made it to a reporter who had been invited to trail him all day at a convention. Mistake number one. Mistake number two was treating that reporter like a friend. Reporters report. I’m sure Rothfuss did not want that comment out, but he uttered it, in public, perhaps thinking he was talking to a like-minded person.

Instead, he insulted his fans.

. . . .

Once you have fans, they will have opinions about what you do. They will also want more of what you do (if you’re doing the job right), and they will be vocal about it.

They have that right.

It’s your job to understand that.

Yes, I know it’s a burden at times. And right now, some of you are scrolling down to the comments section to write me a reminder that it’s a burden you all want.

Well and good. Figure out now how you’re going to handle it.

Because this is one of the biggest career killers there is.

Not because of the fans, but because the writers can’t make the transition from hobbyist to professional writer to famous person.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Freelancers Are Planning For The Future Of Work Faster Than Anyone Else

17 October 2017
Comments Off on Freelancers Are Planning For The Future Of Work Faster Than Anyone Else

From Fast Company:

The freelance workforce is growing more than three times faster than the U.S. workforce overall, according to the annual “Freelancing in America” (FIA) survey by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, released today. The number of U.S. freelancers now stands at 57.3 million, representing an 8.1% jump over the last three years, when the FIA survey estimated the total American freelance workforce at 53 million. By comparison, the U.S. workforce as a whole grew 2.6%, from 156 million to 160 million, over the same period.

At this rate, freelancers will be the majority by 2018. But perhaps more striking is the finding that freelancers seem to be preparing for this future more swiftly than their counterparts at traditional employers.

. . . .

[N]early half (49%) of full-time freelancers told researchers that their work is already feeling the impact of AI and robotics. Only 18% of the traditional workforce said the same.

Perhaps that’s why 65% of independent workers claimed to be staying on top of career prep as jobs and skills evolve and machine learning gets more sophisticated; more than half said they’ve set aside time to brush up just within the past six months. That’s in contrast to 45% of non-freelance workers who are taking similar steps.

. . . .

“Professionals who choose to freelance make this choice knowing that, as their own boss, they are in control of their destiny,” Kasriel explained in a statement. “Freelancers, therefore, think more proactively about market trends and refresh their skills more often than traditional employees, helping to advance our economy.”

Link to the rest at Fast Company

PG says indie authors are freelancers as well and the successful ones “think more proactively about market trends and refresh their skills” in the same way tech freelancers do.

Without demeaning traditional authors, in PG’s experience, many rely on their publishers to advise them on market trends and pay less attention to understanding new technologies and how their readers may be changing. Since traditional publishers are highly resistant to change (see “screen fatigue”), PG suggests such reliance may be unwise.

I don’t actually care about growth

11 October 2017

From Paul Jarvis:

“If this company needs to grow beyond the three of us, I’m out.”

That was one of the first things I said to my ofCourseBooks cofounder when we started the company.

Not because I’m afraid of success, but because “success” to me means being able to get what needs done, done without having to hire a team. If I have to hire someone for support or sales or as a virtual assistant, or anything else, then, for me, it’s not only a failure but also not the type of company I want to have.

For most startups, not growing past 3 founders would be considered an epic fail.

I like being small and scrappy (which is good, since I’m only 5’9, ha). I don’t care about scaling. When I was solely a web designer, I felt the same way. I could have grown (based on the amount of work I was offered) and hired other designers, account managers, programmers, etc — but then I’d have been responsible for them. I’d have to deal with everything that comes with having employees.

I felt the same way when I started making solo products like courses, books and WordPress themes. If they grew beyond what I could handle by myself, then they couldn’t be chalked up as “wins” for me.

. . . .

I think we’ve all been ingrained with this idea of what success should look like: working a minimum number of hours, hiring minions to do our work for us and making all of the monies passively. I see people quit unpleasant nine-to-fives in order to become their own boss, but then they don’t change a damn thing about how they work. They often think that they need to model their routine after the way business has been done in the past or according to what some ‘thought leader’ on the internet told them about their own ‘successful’ business model.

It’s not that growing a company or hiring employees is evil or bad or wrong either. It’s awesome and a great place to be in. For some people. But I know this about myself: I’m better at working than delegating work. And I don’t want to learn how to be better at the latter either.

I work for myself because I can build my business around my life.

Link to the rest at Paul Jarvis

PG suspects more than a few indie authors have similar feelings about their work.

Business Musings: I Spent Decades Developing My IP (Contracts/Dealbreakers)

22 September 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’m conducting too many negotiations right now. I discuss them as if they’re easy.

They’re not. They’re stressful and take time.

But I always learn something.

And yesterday, I gained a brand new perspective.

I wrote the following sentence to someone who wanted to take my entire IP in a series for a pittance:

I’ve spent decades developing my IP.

I then proceeded to explain to that person that I controlled my IP and they would not get their grubby paws on it, especially for a few thousand dollars and promises of future money. (Anyone who could read contracts would know that the company didn’t have to pay me the full up front money in a timely fashion if at all, and there would be no future money…to me…because I would have signed it away.)

I’ve spent decades developing my IP.

I have never said that before, nor have I said it so blatantly. It provided me with an incredible and unexpected perspective.

I was trained in traditional publishing, where writers go begging for opportunity. Writers are taught to beg, from professors (let me into your class!) to critique groups (is my writing good enough?) to agents (will you take me on?) to publishers (will you buy my book?).

We’re not trained to value what we’ve built.

I’ve spent decades developing my IP.

That statement is a statement of power. It’s a statement of value. It says I have worked hard. Respect my work and deal with me like a professional.

Imagine if all writers took that attitude into their negotiations for their work. Or into anything they do for their writing.

Writers would become stronger, just by owning what they have done. By valuing what they have achieved.

I know many of you are frowning as you look at that sentence. A few of you don’t know what IP is. IP is intellectual property. Intellectual property has become so important in modern business that companies are buying it up and sitting on it.

. . . .

Writers are so used to begging to get attention, that they have no idea how to think of their work as something not just important to them, but as something with lasting value.

As Forbes said in the very short introduction to its list of the Top 25 Intellectual Property Valuation firms:

The world has changed dramatically in the past several decades with more and more of a company’s value attached not to factories, machines, or hard assets but rather the companies’ ideas, processes, and designs – their intellectual property.

The American economy has moved from a manufacturing economy to one that makes most of its revenue from businesses that monetize their intellectual property. You know, like film studios. Game companies. Damn near every business in Silicon Valley.

While I’ve been writing about the disruption in publishing initially caused by (ahem) someone’s proprietary design (um, Amazon Kindle), I really wasn’t paying attention to the outside world’s acknowledgement of IP. In the past, if I had written I’ve spent decades developing my IP to someone I was negotiating with, they would have responded with a confused “Whaaaaat?”

Now, they understand exactly what I mean.

Writers need to understand it too. Even if your books don’t sell well.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Thanks to My OCD, I Wrote a Self-Published Best-Seller

6 September 2017

From MediaShift:

Whenever I leave a room, I flicker the lights on and off twice. If any object isn’t exactly where it belongs — a dish, the remote, the clock by my bed — then I need to fix it before I can move on to the next thing, let alone leave the house.

Good writers write what they know. But many don’t keep that knowledge organized. I do, because I don’t have a choice.

I know I have some level of OCD. But at this point, I’m not looking to treat it. That’s because I’ve learned to harness it professionally. Without it, I wouldn’t have written a book during a week-long vacation. I self-published it upon return, made six figure profits within months, and turned down an offer from a major traditional publisher — until eventually selling them the reprint rights.

While most people don’t share my obsessions and compulsions, anyone can learn from the steps I took to write and publish in little time.

. . . .

Make Distractions Impossible

A lot of people who want to write books get too busy with other tasks. I gave myself no choice.

My writing process began on a flight from Sydney to Singapore. I was sitting in a bulkhead coach seat, and had no wi-fi.

I hate flying. But when I work, I get into a mental zone in which the task before me has to get done. So I forget I’m on a plane.

I spent all eight hours of that flight writing the outline. Each folder became a chapter. Within the notes for each chapter, I put bullet points and ideas. By the time we landed, I had a 15-page outline.

. . . .

Know, And Be Established In, Your Market

Specialized how-to business books of about 30,000 words can do quite well. This is particularly true when you sell a book about selling — to people who sell. I knew this about my market.

Just as importantly, I had established myself as a known quantity within my niche: where sales and technology meet. Through my work at Sales Hacker and the big conferences I was running, I had built up the right connections who would help spread the word. And I had a substantial e-mail list that would make initial marketing a breeze.

In my professional community, Amazon is generally the first place people turn to for books. So I hired an editor to format it and made it available on Amazon, as e-book and print-on-demand.

Soon after, I received an offer from a traditional publisher. But I saw no reason to give another company the vast majority of the money.

Link to the rest at MediaShift

I’ve been a self-employed independent creator for 10 years. I don’t recommend it.

26 July 2017

From Medium:

Today marks my 10th year as a self-employed independent creator. I don’t recommend it.

It all started when my boss called me into a conference room. As I followed her down the hall, I noticed she was carrying a manila envelope. I could sense what was coming.

It was a short meeting. She told me I was terminated, and I felt relieved. I got up and thanked her. “July 17, 2007 will be a special day in my life,” I told her, smiling genuinely. I rode the antique elevator and stepped out onto Market Street, walking confidently one more time past the tourists in line for the street car. I descended into the Powell Street BART station.

I felt sure that I’d never work for someone else again. My will to “work” was gone. I cashed out a big chunk of my retirement fund to buy myself some time. After all, I had spent years eating 80-cent Banquet® meals for lunch, saving for this moment.

The next morning, I opened my eyes to vastness. There was nothing but time to be filled, like I was just floating in space. I could do anything I wanted with that vastness — build a startup, write a book, or play Guitar Hero and eat nachos. That was every bit as scary as it was exciting. My mission was to reconnect with my curiosity — that feeling that I had had so many times, alone in my room drawing or reading, the time passing so quickly I’d forget to eat.

I wanted to find that again. If I could just find a little snowball of curiosity, I imagined that I could keep rolling it, it would get bigger and bigger, and it would fill up the vastness. Eventually maybe I’d have my own planet to stand on.

That was ten years ago. I’ve stuck with my mission, but I never imagined it would take this long.

. . . .

The plan was to make as little money as I needed, with as little of my time as possible, and use the rest of the time to discover and pursue what gave me that feeling of “flow” I had experienced as a child.

Since I had spent as much of my savings as I was comfortable with for now, first, I would freelance. My goal was ten billable hours a week.

With the rest of my time, I would explore ways to make passive revenue.

As I made passive revenue, I would reduce freelancing hours, and spend time on whatever I was curious about.

Eventually, what I was curious about would make money. I would use that money to explore the next thing. And, I’d repeat.

. . . .

It’s true that we tend to rationalize things after the fact. It’s quite possible that there’s some parallel universe where I stayed in my hometown with my friends and family, or I somehow mustered the strength to to remain a designer in Silicon Valley. Maybe I’m even happier in those worlds. That’s hard for me to imagine.

I remember early on in my quest, my dad asking me “so, at some point will you decide to get a job?” It’s the kind of question you’d expect from a guy who held onto the same job for 37 years. I thought about it for a minute. A complex web of potential causes and effects unfurled in my mind. Every day, I was learning something new, and each one of those things would branch off into three more things. My answer was a clear “no.”

. . . .

I want to make a living creating. I don’t want creating to be merely a marketing strategy for other things. Is that completely insane?

Link to the rest at Medium

Authors suffer from bargaining ‘imbalance’ says SoA

20 July 2017

From The Bookseller:

The Society of Authors has welcomed the Creative Freelancers report, issued this week by the Creative Industries Federation (CIF), saying several of its recommendations will “chime very strongly” with members who are often “left out in the cold” in comparison with their publishing counterparts, despite being a “lynchpin” of the creative industries. However, the trade body called it “a real shame” that poor industry practices were not wholly addressed by the investigation.

The SoA praised the CIF’s call for better representation for freelancers at government level, its suggestion of a one-stop shop for support and advice for freelances, and its request for short-term relief grants for the self-employed. However, it was disappointed the recommendations didn’t go far enough to tackle issues such as late payment of freelancers, unpaid work or address “rights grabs”, where freelances are asked to sign over all their IP rights.

. . . .

“…Creative freelances suffer from lack of bargaining and negotiating power against those who use their services, often resulting in unequal deals. As well as legislation we would suggest encouragement of collective negotiations to provide codes of practice and minimum terms to protect all freelances and ensure that they are fairly rewarded, properly credited, that they can share in the success of their work and reclaim rights that are not being exploited.”

. . . .

She added she would like to see the department look at issues in the value chain because creators were not being “sufficiently rewarded” for their input.

“With average author earnings estimated at £12,500, we agree that a benefits system that is fit for freelancers is vital,” said Solomon. “Government urgently needs to find ways to adapt existing systems, such as Universal Credit, to work more sensitively for self-employed earners with uncertain incomes.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

8 Top Publishing Lessons Authors Need To Know

6 July 2017

From Digital Book World:

Writing is not the same as publishing. That may seem obvious to most. But picture a young author with a lot to say – This person writes and writes, day after day. Amasses a seven-foot-tall stack of words on paper. This person then thinks everyone would love to read what they wrote.

Why not? They enjoyed writing it. They know it’s good. They send one of their stories off to a publishing house – maybe two. Okay, they send it off to five dozen.

And the answers come back: Not a chance in H. E. double hockey sticks!

Our author is crushed, heartbroken. Vows to never write again!

Quick show of hands – How many authors approach their writing careers in the same way?

. . . .

1. You’ve spent hours writing your manuscript – now what?

After writing your manuscript for more hours than you can count, you’re not finished. Now it’s time to invest in a Manuscript Overview. What’s that? It’s a process whereby you send your work off to a trusted, experienced editor. They read your work and give you professional, genre-specific feedback: tell you what’s good, what needs work, if your manuscript is ready to publish. It can be painful – but it’s a necessary step on the road to publishing. A roadmap to make your work more successful in the marketplace. It’s to your advantage.

2. You’re tooling around on social media – time to get real.

At the same time as the Manuscript Overview is going on, begin strengthening your on-line presence through interactive social media. These days, even Fiction authors need a platform. Facebook is still a good way to do this, so is Instagram. Whatever you do, invite your community into a relationship. The thing to remember is publishers are looking for authors who already have a following that can be motivated to purchase books.

. . . .

6. Say cheese! Get a professional author photo.

What’s needed is a high-res, professional photo to place on your book, stick on your business cards, add to your sell sheets… get the picture?

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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