Once upon a time, I played a fighting game with my best friend. I chose a character who could teleport so I could jump out of the way when my friend launched a massive attack. Sure enough, when he powered up a big laser, I teleported.
I reappeared with my face exactly one inch from his laser just as he fired.
I don’t trust luck.
The only alternative is to plan. All businesses need at least a basic plan and much as we pretend otherwise, if you want to write for a living, you must treat it like a business. That doesn’t mean you give up artistic integrity, but even art requires vision. So, as a writer, both artist and businessman, I must look ahead.
So, I decided to share my long-term plan with you today. It’s subject to change, of course, but we must all start somewhere.
STEP 1: Ferryman
I’ve talked about Ferryman a lot on this blog, so I’ll be brief (click here for details). Ferryman is a novella I plan to publish for use as a promotional material more than a standard book.
Is this because it’s inferior? Not at all! I worked hard on this book, it’s gotten good marks from beta readers, and I’ve even been told it’s some of my best work. However, the book is short. This works in two ways.
First of all, short books cost less to create (less editing, less formatting, and a lower manufacturing cost–and that’s not even considering e-books). Thus, I can sell it for a low price or even give it away. Perfect for promos.
Second, short books are attractive. People are more likely to give an unknown a chance if they don’t have to commit much up front. Ferryman is less than half the length of an average book, so it’s an easy read.
Low commitment and low cost should attract readers and give them a sample of my style. Once their whistles are wet, they’ll come looking for more.
STEP 2: Patreon
Patreon is a website where people can sign up to give monthly donations which support artists, writers included. This will start slow, but hopefully build to a helpful supplement while I’m still writing.
Donations will be low, between $1 and $5 per month for varying rewards–more details when it’s actually set up. At the moment, my total funding goals are as follows:
Goal A: $100/month–This will help offset costs of editing, cover art, etc., which means quicker releases with better quality (you can’t go cheap with this stuff).
Goal B: $500/month–This amount will allow me to go to conferences, do more marketing, all those things that bring about better books and better returns.
Goal C: $1000/month–This will actively supplement my income along with book sales, which means more focus on writing which means faster turnaround times and more freedom to learn and interact with fans, PLUS free up my own income to support more artists myself.
STEP 3: Self-publish other books
Once Patreon is set up, I’ll start working on other books I have sitting on the sidelines, waiting for attention, such as Rise and Locke Hart. These will be released like standard books.
Why self publishing as opposed to traditional publishing? Well, there’s a good future in self-publishing. Traditional publishers can’t guarantee success, and they want you to be your own marketer. So, if I have to gather my own attention and then have no guarantees of sales, that’s not very tempting.
And then there’s the money. With a traditional book, you get about 10% of your royalties and only 85% of that if you have an agent. By self-publishing, I can get 30-70% royalties. So if I sell a $5 book, I can either get $0.45-$0.50 per copy or $1.50-3.50 per copy. If the big guns take more money and don’t offer good sales prospects, what’s the point?
On top of that, one of my series, Locke Hart, consists of many shorter books, which publishers don’t like. Self-publishing offers more flexibility. So I may as well do it all myself, market my ass off, and take the wins and losses on my own shoulders rather than wait for someone else.
I have no qualms with traditional publishing or anybody in it, but for my projects, self publishing seems like a better road to travel.
STEP 4: More Ambitious Projects
This is where the timeline gets pretty vague. If you’ve read my blog (or clicked either of those links above), you probably know that I don’t want to stop at books. I love writing, but I want to create many things. I have dreams of movies, video games, all sorts of fun.
At some point, when I have some books under my belt, I’d like to start making connections and learning all I can about these other mediums to hopefully dip my finger in those, too.
It seems like a deviation, perhaps, but not really. Books are only the majority of my artistic desires, not the whole, and they’re the only one I can do on my own (more or less). One of my life goals is to create something in 5 different mediums. Ambitious? Yes. That’s why it’s further down the list.
FINAL: Living off of creative projects
I don’t care how long it takes or how hard I have to work, this is the final destination: sustainable income that solely comes from art.
When I can quit my day job and close down Patreon because I no longer need either one, I will have arrived. That doesn’t mean I’ll quit, not at all. I’ll still find projects to create. I have dozens of story ideas in my head and I’d like to see them all come to fruition.
I don’t need to top every bestseller list or make millions in royalties. I just want to live off my passions and dreams, even modestly. If I can pay my bills, save for the future, and help others out, too, that’s enough for me.
I mean I’ll take the millions if you want to offer ’em, but…
So that’s the plan: start with a small promo item that I can use to build a following, gather patrons like in the Renaissance days, reward those supporters with regular, quality content, and grow to bigger and bigger projects until I can can live off my art.
This doesn’t even factor in editing goals and income which I plan to do on the side, and who knows what the future holds? But this is the plan for now.
I don’t plan to retire unless I have to. I want to create until I draw my last breath. I want my life to be full of art.
What’s your plan? Tell me in the comments, even if it’s super short or super long.