Monday, July 25, 2011

On Baking Pie

Every so often my wife, who is an avid follower of Dean Wesley Smith's blog, yanks me by the ear until I read his latest post. He is currently running a series on dealing with myths around the writing profession, so it definitely applies to my current efforts to establish myself in the field. His articles are actually pretty helpful, so I recommend reading a few if you've got the time.

His latest post was related to how to make a living as a writer. Obviously with a subject like that, he caught my attention fairly easily. He basically pointed out that a novel isn't simply a single source of income. It can be broken up or combined to create new sources of income in several different ways. Single short stories can be combined to make anthologies, books can be sold overseas to foreign language presses, rights can be optioned to movie companies. By looking for those oppportunities you can turn one property into a fairly stable source of income that far outweighs the time you spend on it.

Of course, the catch is that I have no idea how to spread out that much. I don't have contacts in foreign presses, nor do I have the ear of Hollywood producers who would option my books. I suppose the first step is to get a story out there, but if I want to be serious about writing as a career, finding those contacts, either for myself or through an agent, will be crucial. How has any of you guys gone about doing that? Have any ideas? If so just let me know. Have a good week guys, and I will see you around!


  1. The more I look at it, the more I think this game is a catch 22 no matter what path you take. In order to make a living with ebooks, you have to have a large inventory of books up...which is really hard to produce unless you're doing it full time. In order to get a publisher, you have to get an agent...but in order to get an agent to look at you, you have to have a publisher. Of course, none of these problems are unbeatable, but when you're just breaking in I think it tends to be cyclical. Breaking in seems to be the hard part; once you've cracked the system, that's when you start to have some leverage.

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  3. I kind of liked the article, but it does leave a few things out. For example, I don't have the kind of network to depend only on people I know for income. The key to developing that kind of network would be turning strangers into friends, or convincing some random guy to trust in the fact that my books are worth the three bucks he'll spend on them.

    While I would hope that my writing will help with that, the obstacle I think I will face right off the start is how to hook that stranger in the first place. The same thing applies to those contacts that I don't yet have. If I can sell regularly, they might come to me, or at least will listen with more than half an ear when I darken their doorstep. Until I manage to learn the techniques to hook people, I have this terrible suspicion that I will be on the outside of that cycle looking in.

    Maybe I should look into a business course or two...

  4. I think the key is becoming active in a community of people who would be interested in your work, then writing something good enough that they'll want to share it. It goes back to Godin's "tribes" concept, as well as "permission marketing." But ultimately, I think the best thing you can do is just constantly put out more work.