Today I’m going to a post on the business side of writing. If this doesn’t appeal to you, feel free to skip.
I’m going to discuss how to maximize your income potential by saying no to those things that get in the way of being able to do this. Every time you say “yes” to an activity that doesn’t earn you money, you are saying “no” to something that will earn you money.
1. Picking what to write.
The goal is to pair up what you love to write with what people are willing to buy. The two don’t have to be exclusive. Perhaps there are elements you enjoy that can work into a plot or genre that you’d either like to experiment with or are already selling better at.
For example, I started writing Regencies because I noticed those sold pretty well overall in romance. I picked elements I already enjoyed (a marriage of convenience and a hero and heroine who didn’t initially want to be together) and wrote the romance in that time period.
Another example, I am quickly realizing that (for me) contemporary romances are not my better selling books. I was thinking about writing a short story (which would have been about 15-20K words) to go along with a recently published contemporary that wasn’t doing as well as I’ve historically done. But I realized I was about to spend time writing a short story in something that wasn’t doing so well when I could be using that energy into writing a historical western or Regency (which sell better for me). So I made the decision to nix the short contemporary romance idea. Why waste time on a project that you already know doesn’t have a good chance of succeeding when you could be spending the time writing something that might have a better chance?
I don’t know what the situation is for you, but hopefully, the two examples above can help you figure out where you can make the best use of your writing time.
2. What activities to do.
Writing groups are great. They can help us learn and grow as writers. Some of my favorites are conferences which focus on writing fiction. We want to grow as writers. Writing compelling stories with emotionally engaging characters is still (in my opinion) the best use of our time. But in order to do this, we need to keep learning the craft. No matter how much you’ve improved, you can always do better on your next book. You don’t want to stop growing.
But when you choose conferences and writing groups, you need a place that is safe. You need to be able to be with people who are supportive, who care about helping you, who can also benefit from your experience, and who will build you up.
When you spend time around people who tear you down or make you feel like you’re inferior, this weakens your ability to be creative and it hampers your energy when you are trying to get out there and engage with others in a positive way. I suggest staying away from these toxic situations.
3. Non-writing Stuff
Yes, it’s good to have a life outside of writing. You want to be a well-rounded individual. But, if you are making it a habit of spending your time doing too much stuff that doesn’t make you money, you’re running into the danger of limiting your income potential. It’s fine to take a break and spend the day with a friend. It’s fine to set aside a block of time where you focus on your family. It’s fine to catch up on a favorite TV show or do a hobby.
But if you want to make money writing, you need to write. Some writers do make additional income by speaking and consulting others. Some do cover work, formatting, or editing. So you might want to focus on these areas more if they are your greater income stream than writing books. This post, however, has been focusing more on the writer who makes the bulk of their income by selling their books. Or if you want your main income stream to come from selling your books, then you will need to do whatever you can to focus the most time you possibly can on writing in addition to some marketing, but marketing can’t get in the way of writing. The rule I’ve often heard is you need to focus 80% energy on writing and 20% on marketing when you are engaging as a writer in this business. (That’s a ratio you can go by to gauge if you’re doing too much–or too little–marketing.)
I understand if you have a day job, it’s going to be harder to get as much written as someone who stays home all day and can write. But I bet there is some area in your life you can give up in order to write more. Even if it’s getting up an hour earlier to write on the weekends. Or maybe you need to say no to your cousin who wants to go to another movie. Or maybe do some writing or outlining during your break. Or maybe giving up on reading a book so you can write one instead.
This all boils down to opportunity cost. It means that you need to choose one option or the other. You can’t do both. Sometimes you have to tell yourself or people you care about in order to get your work done as a writer. If making money writing books is a priority, you need to make it a priority. It must be first on the list. You need to find time to get it in. Otherwise, it won’t get done because other things keep popping up, and you will limit your potential to maximize your chances for making your dream a reality. That’s not to say it’s a guarantee. Nothing in life is a guarantee. But you can increase your odds of winning if you say no to the right things.