Thursday, July 29, 2010

Spending Money to Make Money

I’ve always been a huge fan of Seth Godin, and now that I finally got my act together to follow him on Twitter I can guarantee that many future blog posts are going to be inspired by his words of wisdom. If you’ve never read Seth Godin, do. He’s a must-read for any business owner, and as writers seeking publication, you are business owners.

Seth says it perfectly in his post on Spending Money to Make Money. There is a point in your business when it makes sense to have others do things for you. As writers the most important thing you can do is write a great book. Obviously once you start publishing a lot of things are going to cut into what was once dedicated writing time. Now, in addition to writing and revising in the way you’ve always done, you are also going to have to revise for your editor, review copyedits, review page proofs, work on the proposal for your next book, and write your next book. Add in publicity, marketing, fan mail, and a conference schedule and you’re going to begin to wonder where sleep fits in.

The problem with finding time to do all of this is that the first thing that often suffers is the writing. Your family is still going to have the same demands, and while you might be able to miss a soccer game here or there it’s likely you’re not going to be able to shut them out completely. Your day job? Well, most of you are still going to need the day job and I can’t imagine your boss will allow you to write, answer fan mail, or review your copyedits on her time. The problem is that you can’t let it cut into your writing time either. You cannot allow your next book to suffer. In fact, your next book has to be even better than your last.

Many of you will immediately say that you can’t afford to hire someone to help. Have you tried? Have you even looked into it? Have you considered the fact that if you spent a portion of your advance on hiring someone to do something (even if it’s mailing out your publicity materials for you) you might have made a bigger investment than spending the same amount on bookmarks could ever do?

Just as Seth Godin says, what works is going to depend on how you’re currently spending your money, but it might be worth considering.



Buffy Andrews said...

Another thoughtful post, Jessica. Thanks for taking the time to share with us every day. I look forward to the day when I have this problem (smiles). Keep up the terrific work on your blog and have a super day.

Lexi said...

You've convinced me.

I shall definitely earmark a portion of my first advance for staff.

KO said...

I have just discovered this to be true on a much smaller scale, via the PeaPod delivery. (It's a service that brings groceries to your door.)

I justify it by saying it helps me stick to meal planning and our grocery budget, but really it just ROCKS to not have to slog away at the grocery twice a week.

I realized my time is worth something, if only to me (definitely the 6 dollar delivery fee).

Anonymous said...

I always love your posts. Always. But I have a teeny tiny nitpick about time management.

It's often not your time you have to worry about managing, it's your editor's lack of time management.

I've only had one book pubbed and it's already out of print (pubbed by a big house, in hardback). I know how to manage my time.

The two months I was supposed to have to do my first set of revisions was cut to five weeks, because she got them to me three weeks late. The two weeks I was supposed to have for the second set of edits, turned into only TWO DAYS, because, again, she didn't get them to me on time, but still had to meet the internal house deadline.

I also had to write my own jacket copy, in one night, again, because she "just sucked" (her words, not mine) at jacketcopy, so I had to figure it out right then, since it was due the next morning. (and I don't even know HOW to write jacket copy.)

She didn't want my next book, thank God. I'd rather not be pubbed for awhile than to go through that again. :)

R.S. Bohn said...

I often walk away from Seth's posts feeling slightly bewildered. I usually need a bit of time to process what he's said, because his opinions and ideas are so far from what we've been taught about... anything. He's a forward thinker, he thinks outside the box, whatever other cliches you can come up with.

And he's usually right. It just takes me time to get there. This post, when I first read it, still has me thinking. I own my own business, and people tell me I need to hire others, but, but, but, I can't afford to!

Can I?

Seth would say yes.

Thanks for putting your thoughts about publishing into the equation.

Kate Douglas said...

I need to hear this, but at this point I'm not ready to implement. Why? I'm a control freak--it's my career and the one thing that takes up most of my writing time is the social networking our publishers now demand of us. I might be able to turn it over to an assistant, but the problem is, that same contact with readers is not only something I really enjoy, I also believe it's a large part of my success as a writer. I'm not ready to lose the connection I've worked so hard to build, but I haven't quite figured out the 36 hour day, yet. It's truly a conundrum...

wry wryter said...

I spent my first advance on a pure white German Shepard dog and a used cadillac. Don't all writers tool around in their fancy cars with handsome canines?

The dog bit everyone, including me, and was eventually killed by a pick-up truck. The driver felt awful, I felt relief.
The Cadillac's gas habit exceeded my rent and the book never got published. Thank God I did not have to return the advance.

I was young, stupid and really full of myself.
Now I'm smarter.
My next advance - well, I already have a dog and a 10 year old mini van so I'll opt for 'merry maids',an AARP membership and chocolate covered cherries.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:37,

Everytime I hear a publishing horror story like this, I cringe. At least you aren't with this editor anymore. I hope to goodness out of all the editors in publishing I don't end up with one like her. :(

ryan field said...

This might be slightly off topic from publicity and marketing (which I agree with), but I've seriously been thinking of hiring someone part time to just handle filing abuse forms with book pirates. Maybe a criminal justice student. It's a process that never ends.

Bri Clark said...

Dear Jessica

I appreciate the post. I have been a successful and a learned the hard way business owner for many years. This rule applies to many facets. I think that authors who say they are "control freaks" are not only delusional but also not ready to be published. There comes a time where you have to decide do I want the best, do I want others to meet theses characters, enter this world that I for so long have tarried in or do I want to keep in all neatly controled and in my documents folder. You can keep the integrity of a character and a novel while adapting it to be something an agent and a publisher can invest in. And with success come power therefore control.

Katie said...

Another option if you can't afford someone is to get an intern. It's hard to find positions these days, especially as a college freshman or sophomore, so anything that will get on our resume without costing us too much is appealing. And how cool would it be to work with a published author? It will be even more enticing if you can offer a small stipend.

Eileen said...

Last year I finally hired a college student to do things for me such as update my mailing lists, call book stores and get the name of managers for the YA dept so I can personalize mailings, create a list of libraries, help organize contests etc.

The cost is minimal. She's interested in publishing and loves the experience so it's win/win. It took me years to figure this out, but I wouldn't go back.

Suzan Harden said...

KO said it best. It's the mundane household chores that can be let g with a minimum of money. my husband's already planning on hiring a cleaning person and a yard person once I get a contract.

Levonne said...

What you are saying makes perfect sense. It is all about prioritizing and organizing your time and using the available funds well to advance your career. Easier said than done though especially with that limitation of having only 24 hours per day!

Piedmont Writer said...

Thank you Jessica for posting this today. I have learned so much by reading the comments. Interns, what a concept!

Alli said...

I just scored my first job as a freelance copywriter for the reasons you mentioned. A company was floundering with time for writing their own copy and needed to outsource. Through fate they found me (I just started my business) and woila! everyone is happy.

There's so much more to this writing business than writing and it makes total sense to outsource - what a great post, Jessica. Thank you!

Lauren said...

I've heard of authors having assistants before. Young adult author, Sarah Dessen, has one. Although, she didn't get her assistant until after her seventh or eighth book came out. However, it was also after she had her baby. So I can see why you would need to invest in help when demands at home start becoming bigger.