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More Writers Than Ever Are Earning A Living BUT . . . 10 Ways to Keep Doing it!

There’s always a but.

Not long ago an author loop I am on had a thread titled: “Quitting My Day Job.” Lots of people posted. I found it weird, since the content flood is leveling out sales, but then I thought about it. Most on the loop are indie authors. And indie authors make much more per sale than trad authors (although most of the bigger name trad authors live off advances, thus the relative lack of concern over paltry eBook royalty rates). But for the midlist author, making so much per copy sold equals greater income.

So, cool beans.

Then this past month, a new thread appeared: “Going Back to the Day Job.” How fickle is fate? And how fast the changes in the marketplace. Lot of people are blaming it on Kindle Unlimited. Which knocks down royalty per copy earned. But then you’ve got Authors United (Not) blaming Amazon for everything wrong in the world (yet still selling their books there). But I think the reality is that the content flood is really taking sales away from pretty much everyone as readers have so many more choices. Over 300,000 books uploaded to Kindle last year. Yes, most are schlock, but you know some are pretty good. Your hard core readers who pay our bills, thank you very much, have so many more choices.

So what’s a writer to do in order to keep making a living?

  1. Write
  2. Study craft so you can become a better writer
  3. Have mule-like stupidity, aka Terry Gilliam’s advice to film makers
  4. Understand that everyone else isn’t doing as great as they pretend they’re doing, so stop comparing yourself. You control your career, not anyone else’s
  5. Stay ahead of changes by studying the business and extrapolating
  6. Have a catastrophe plan (separate blog post)
  7. Accept that there will be ups and downs in all aspects; don’t get bogged in the downs; don’t go overboard on the ups
  8. Listen to, factor in whatever truths might be there, then ignore the naysayers
  9. Never, ever, think you have it made; the second you do, it’s over
  10. Write

Remember, Writers: Coffee is for closers.

You did it.  You got the words down.  What now?

Now you have to close the deal.  The film clip in this blog is from Glengarry Glen Ross, featuring Alec Baldwin (in an academy-awarded nominated role) giving his infamous ‘Coffee is for Closers’ speech in a David Mamet movie.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s enlightening (be warned: plenty of profanity).

How did you react?  Most people react negatively to Baldwin.  But he makes quite a few good points:

If they don’t want to hear what he has to say to him, they shouldn’t be in that room.

If they want to make money, they have to close.

If you want to succeed, follow:

Attention

Interest

Decision

Action

backgroundIn Write It Forward I teach the three steps of change:  Moment of Enlightenment (Attention and Interest), make a Decision, and then have Sustained Action.

What do you want to do with your book?  If you’re happy you wrote 80,000 words or so and you’re done with it, then you’ve closed.  Congratulations.  Go get a cup of tea.  But if you want to publish successfully, then put down that cup of coffee.  Coffee is for Closers.

Most aspiring writers aren’t closers. And most lament it’s because getting an agent is so hard, the odds are terrible, publishing is contracting, no one really reads, etc. etc. etc.  Except here’s the deal:  Agents, publishers, readers, all exist to consume books.  They’re the given.  They’re the lead.  YOU have to be the closer.

You have to be the Closer with great material.  By constantly improving your craft of writing.  You have to Close by studying and following the business, by being a professional who wants to be employed in the world of writing.  By following up every possible opportunity you get with determination and professionalism.  By shutting up about the unfairness of it all and doing everything in your power to Close the deal.

I was amazing, stunned, when I heard that less than 10% of writers who were told to follow up a one-on-one at a conference by an agent actually sent in the follow up material.  Essentially, those writers called a client who had expressed interest, talked about the interest, then hung up without closing.  They got the Attention, had the Interest, then made the Decision to quit.  To not take Action.

If you’re going to self-publish, you’ve just become an entrepreneur.  You’re running a business in a very competitive environment.  Yes, we all talk sweet, but they’ll cut ya!

Publishing is a very hard business.  It’s tough to get published in any mode.  Then it’s tough to succeed once you’ve been published.  But people do it.  They’re called Closers.

Write It Forward!

#Nanowrimo Yes, Writers, You Need A Mind

Yeah, you do sort of need one to be a writer contrary to what many who know me think of me.  I’d like to say a little bit more about the mind for two reasons: one is that it is the primary tool you use when writing.  Second, to write good characters, you need to understand the mind because it is the driving force behind your characters’ actions.

As a “machine” the brain is very inefficient.  Physiological psychologists estimate that we use less than ten percent of our brain’s capabilities.  (Rent the Albert Brooks movie Defending Your Life and see how he uses this in his story.)  In many ways, that is what makes writing fiction so hard and draining: you are trying to expand the portion of your mind that you normally use and tap into your subconscious.  A little bit of understanding of that other 90 or so percent is useful.  It is commonly called the subconscious or the unconscious and plays a very large role in determining our character (key buzz word).  Whether you agree with people such as Freud and Jung, it is useful to know a little bit about their theories.  A fully rounded character has a complete brain and while they may only consciously be using ten percent, that other ninety percent affects their actions.

As a writer you will start having dreams about your story and your characters.  That is your mind working even when you consciously aren’t.  You will also run into “writer’s block” which I believe, when real, is your subconscious telling you to hold until you realize in your conscious mind something important with regard to the story.  This is where the “write what you feel” school of creative writing comes in.  I believe what they are focusing on is this very thing:  the power of the subconscious (90% vs. 10%).  It is more than feeling though; it is a large part of your brain and the better you can get in touch with it and use it, the better your writing will be.

There are many experiences a writer should have in order to understand both their own mind and the minds of other people.  You have to remember that you are not the template for the rest of humanity.  Hard as it may be for some to believe, there are differences between people.

I’ve sometimes said the best thing about a writers’ group is not necessarily the critiquing or networking, but rather watching the different ‘characters’ in the group and trying to figure out what is motivating them to act the way they do.

If you don’t understand yourself both mentally and emotionally, you might have a hard time understanding others.  Therapy can be a very useful tool for a writer to dig into their own mind to figure out where they are coming from.  Yes, if you’re a writer, you need help as I recommend in Write It Forward.

After listening to many authors speak of their creative processes I realize they are talking on two levels.  There’s what they are saying and there is what they are meaning.  The saying part often varies, but they almost always mean the same thing.  For example, there is the issue of outlining.  I know writers who swear by outlining and others who say they don’t outline at all, they just write.  However, I’ve also found those who don’t outline tend to do a lot of rewriting, thus the first draft of their manuscript might be considered a very detailed outline.  Those writers who do a lot of outlining tend to not want to do much rewriting.  But in the final analysis, although the two methods seem very different, they are actually the same in creative essence.

Also remember that there are two sides to the brain.  The right side is your creative part while the left is more analytical and logical– this is where the editor part of you resides.  Sometimes you have to silence that editor while creating or else nothing will get done.

Are you left brain dominant or right brain dominant, or just plain nuts?

10 Reasons Why Writers Should Watch TV; Part II

Same Bat channel.  I covered the first five last week. Now the last five.6

 

6.  You’ll have a hard time writing your way to a surprise if you know what it is. A group of TV writers will separate things so that one can add the twist to someone else’s thread–but one writer will always leave a trail of crumbs to that point. So, one person can write a twist but then they have to go back and unwrite how they got there. In Chasing the Lost, I thought I had a great ending. Then I talked it out after the first draft was done with my wife because something didn’t feel right and she said: What if? And the ending blew me away. Two movies come to mind: Best Offer, which is flying under the radar but Geoffrey Rush deserves at least an Oscar nomination. M. Night Shamalyn admits the draft of 6th Sense had Bruce Willis alive. Then someone read it and asked . . .

7.  There’s no difference in hooking a reader as hooking a watcher. Watch the opening credits—they’ll point you to what’s key. Focus on the first couple of scenes. How is everything set up? Always reread or rewatch the opening of a story immediately after finishing and you’ll be stunned what you missed the first time around

8.  Putting normal characters in abnormal situations such as Weeds or Orange is the New Black only works because the characters were only pretending to be normal in the first place, ditto for Walter White. Pretending is OK–inconsistent character development is not.  Manhattan works because fictional people in a factual setting are interesting when allowed to grow naturally within the story and you take the time to present them in many different situations but again keep them consistent. The scientist who ditches the guy’s letter from Oak Ridge also ditches the man who could have loved her in the way she wanted to be loved. She doesn’t treat herself any better than she treats others. Writing consistent characters who do things an observer (often the writer) knows is stupid is difficult but it makes the characters real.

9.  You can learn about our own process—what we shy away from: What made us stop watching something? Why? What can we learn from that? It’s as important to focus on what doesn’t work as what does.

10.  We need to study the television business because it reflects what will and is happening in the publishing business. Two big changes in TV: people are binge watching. Netflix and On Demand lead the way in that. Look what Netflix did with House of Cards. Do readers want to wait a year between books in a series? And direct streaming is the future; bypassing even the cable provider. That does not portend well for publishers.

The wealth of storytelling on TV has taught watchers a level of sophistication about story that they’ve never had before. Watching stories has changed the way readers are capable of reading stories. Watching TV has never been as important as it is today.

We will always need content providers—the rest? Eh?

It’s the best time ever to be a writer because the distance between you and the reader is the internet.

Nothing but good times ahead.

 

Still FREE today:  Duty, Honor, Country: West Point to Mexico

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