Sunday, November 15, 2009

Writing as an Investment and Opportunity

According to Rick Frishman and Robyn Spizman, who wrote Author 101: Bestselling Secrets From Top Agents, "80% of books that are published fail. In addition, 1 percent of all books sold account for 50 percent of all publishing company profits" (p.6).

This fact shows that publishers are gambling when they put out a new author. Who would gamble with the odds being 80% against success? This begs the question of why bother. Why should we, individual authors, go for it, and why should publishers believe in us?

Well, one word comes to mind--investment.

My brother-in-law and I attended a publishing seminar awhile ago and afterwords I made a comment about how seminars and conferences just seem to drain money, even if they are good. His response was that they are an investment and that any new business would have to put up a similar investment.

Given that he is a successful nonfiction writer and editor, I took his advice to heart. I think the question then becomes one of what kind of an investment are we as writers making. Given the odds, I'm not sure that it is wise to bet everything on the financial investment piece paying off. Perhaps there is something beyond money that we as writers are investing in.

I invest money in marathon events. Why? Because it's a great experience and it makes me a better person. The training and the racing combines to make me a better person than I would be if I did not run.

I think that writing is similar to that. Now, it may be that you want and/or need to make money at writng. Perhaps you even feel a moral obligation to make at least as much money as you have spent on paper, ink, coffee, pastries, and conferences. I sometimes feel that way.

I don't suppose that I have any great answers today, but I am interested to know what you are investing in with your writing if it is something beyond money. Don't get me wrong, money and an author's life are worthy goals, but it seems like there needs to be something beyond that to keep one going when the going gets tough and the money is not rolling in.

What if you did get published, but the amount of money that you made was still less than the amount of money you invested in conferences and the like to get your book out there? Would you still be happy? If the answer is yes, what is it that you invested in that paid off?


  1. Since I am writing commercial fiction, I expect that the copies sold, when I get published, will be enough to make a little money. I wouldn't expect to quit my day job anytime soon, but if I can supplement my income, I will be ecstatic.

  2. One time, I sat down and added up all of my conference fees, airline, hotel bills, etc... from my years of chasing this dream.

    I nearly fell over with sticker shock!

    Still, part of the 'fun' is learning, meeting other writers, feeling a part of something bigger. So, I think it is worth it even if I don't ever make that money back. It counts as entertainment, too.

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  4. I have never made a cent of any of my writings. I usually only want to write something because I have a story to tell. The idea that people will read that story makes me happy. Money is not so much of an issue. But for many people to read a story it needs to be published and advertised. That takes money. And in return money can be made. I see no harm in that.


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